Lee Skywatcher

What fascinated me today was the sky.  On the way home from work in the west was a block of grisly gray from high in the sky to the ground.  On the east was a dust devil.  That just seemed wrong, but what was really wrong was that I didn’t have my camera.  So I got it out when I came home.

Fortunately for me, the sky stayed diverse long enough for me to get tired of taking pictures.

By the way you don’t want to plant eucalyptus trees too near your pool.  They don’t clean up after themselves.  I faced east as I took these first two pictures.  Watch when I turn about 135 degrees.

Gray adds depth and interest to the sky, maybe even to one’s life if you believe the philosophers. As a hair color, and according to my fashion expert and co-worker, Glenn,  gray should not be an option in my wardrobe either.   But it looks nice if the sky is wearing a little of it – in places.

What made this evening particularly interesting was the next turn.  Looking straight south you could almost imagine yourself in another world.

You should neither spit into the wind nor take pictures into the sun. But in the spirit of providing you all with an accurate recording today’s sky display, I did it anyway.   If you live in the midwest or east, these skyscapes may not seem spectacular to you.  But in this area if you have something other than dusky,cloudless,  lifeless blue, you grab your camera and point up.

Relaxing After Work

A technician told me the other day that he didn’t mind driving home 35 minutes from work.  When he had lived 2 minutes from work, he always took a drive out into the country to relax before he went home.    His story inspired me to take you on a drive with me as I relax on my way home from work.

You are seeing rural California at its best.  The temperature is a perfect 80 degrees.  The air smells fresh and clean.  You can open your car windows, forget about air conditioning, and let the wind mess up your hair because you are going home.

I stopped along the way to take these pictures, and walked out into the middle of the street.  I could take my time snapping pictures because there is only evidence of human habitation here – telephone poles, garbage can, and, of course, groves and groves of trees, not so many real humans.

The foremost crop in this part of Tulare County is citrus.  Oranges have just been picked for the most part, and although there are still a few in the trees, they are small.

Without irrigation, this area is very arid.  I took this picture on  May 22, 2012, and the hills are already brown, and there are not even any weeds growing along the side of the road.

This is one of my favorite turns in the road.  It changes season by season, but is always beautiful.  Dark clouds, sometimes a heavy downpour, come occasionally from December until maybe as late as April and create a dramatic skyscape for the snow-capped peaks.  In early spring the white peaks of the Sierra Nevada contrast with a bluer sky.  On a windless mid-summer day dusty air hides the mountains, and in the fall the few deciduous trees turn orange and yellow.

Coming from the Midwest, and later the Northwest I had to develop an appreciation for the color brown.  In the Central Valley of California water comes from wells, reservoirs, and we also import water from the north.  A few years ago many, many trees died because farmers couldn’t get enough water.  Now those groves have been replanted.

You can see the drip irrigation hose wrapped around the first tree and stretches to all the trees in the row.  Some types of groves are flood irrigated periodically instead, but this is the most common method of watering citrus trees that I have seen in this area.

I grew up in cities.  I love them, the activities, the lights, the people, but my technician friend was right.  When I lived there, my family and I always took drives into the country to relax before or after going home.  Now I relax by going home, but have to go to cities  so I don’t turn into a vegetable.  I am blessed to have both in my life.

Central California Bird: Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)

My husband suggested that our driveway Killdeer mama is the perfect Mother’s Day story.  They lay their eggs in such precarious places that we can’t believe that they are not extinct. However, Google insists that they are common.

This mama or dad, they look alike, has been sitting in 100 degree heat all day to cool these four future killdeer.  Her choice of nesting site is the reason we question the statistics on their abundance.  Those rocks are our driveway.

She/he did the Killdeer feigning dance for me until the cat came over to investigate.  I carted the cat safely away, and snapped these pictures one-handed as I left the poor stressed mother/father to get back to work sitting on the now-shaded eggs.

So congratulations on being our top demonstration of Mother’s Day dedication, Ms. Killdeer.

Kalev

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People choose dogs based on their personality.  Those who choose small dogs love adventure and are confident.  Kalev is small and very confident, but how do dogs choose people?   When I met Kalev, she was about 6 months old.  She bounded across a rural highway, laid down at my feet, and said, “Take me home.”

I picked her up, carried her back across the highway to the yard watched a lady quickly retreat back into the house and shut the door.  I knocked on the door, dog in arm, and when she answered said, “You’d better keep your baby inside.”

“That’s not my dog.”  Slam.

Ok then… So puppy and I were off to look for her owner.  I knocked at every house on the block and then proceeded on my 3 mile walk, stopping periodically to ask if anyone recognized my new tag-along.  Meanwhile Puppy chased every car that slowed down.

I am addicted to my cell phone, and while I walked, I talked.  My friend Elane finally asked me who I kept talking to as we chatted.  I told her about my uninvited guest, and Elane asked, “What’s her name?”

“I don’t know, Elane, she’s not my dog.”

“Her name is Kalev.”  I spell it like I heard it.  I asked her to repeat it a few times.  “It means dog in Hebrew.”

Ok then.  Puppy had a name, but no home.  I walk almost daily, and that December day was no different in spite of the fact that as soon as I returned our family was headed south because my husband’s father had just passed away, and there were several services we would be attending that week-end.  When I arrived home with Kalev, my husband was not pleased.  I was already in love with Kalev, but he clearly was not.

I made him a deal.  I would fix up a place for her to get out of the cold, and get her some food, when we returned, if she was still there I would keep her.  He didn’t really agree, but I was already adopted.  I got in the car and headed for the store.  Behind me ran Kalev as fast as her puppy legs would carry her.  I stopped the car.  She jumped in, and we rode to the store together with her in her rightful place on my lap.  She seemed to know that the store had food, so she didn’t fuss when I got out.  Once we got back home, I set up a dog kennel with blankets, put out her food and some water, and we were ready to leave.

My husband made a fatal mistake.  “You’d better have Ron hold on to her as we take off or she will chase the car.”  I quickly took her to the neighbor and asked if he could hold the dog for a few minutes, and explained that we were on our way to the funeral and would be back on Sunday night.  I might have told him the story about how Kalev found me.

“Sure, I’ll watch your dog while you’re gone,”  he winked.  When we got home Sunday, Ron called and I went to pick up my new puppy.  Even though my husband did not allow animals in the house this was Kalev about a half hour after she arrived back home.

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The first night I kept her in the kennel in the spare room.  She slept quietly, and so did we.  The next day my husband thought we should get her a little bed to keep in our bedroom so she wouldn’t be lonely.  If you have ever had a dog, has that worked very well for you?

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You can see that the red doggie bed is at the foot of the bed.  Clearly Kalev and Manny preferred the head of the bed.  How does a dog tell the difference between the head and foot of the bed?

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One night Vince was in bed, and wanted to talk to Puppy Girl – she had a nick-name already.  She was not excited about sliding to the head of the bed, but she dealt with it.  That night he made another rule.   The new rule was that she could get out of the bed, but she had to stay at the foot of the bed.  But her bed had been drug to the head of the bed.  What was a puppy to do?

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She figured it out.  Then the rule was that she couldn’t get under the covers.

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Who do you think stuck to that rule?

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Kalev may be about 3 now.  Guess whose dog she is.

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Ok I still love her, too.

Dropbox v Google Docs

Not all technology eliminates frustration and irritation from my life, but for the most part these two applications do.  Although I use Google Docs almost daily, I should be a Dropbox salesperson.  For now, I’ll keep my day job, because I’m afraid that I couldn’t live for very long on my commission checks since both of these products are free.

I could be a Dropbox salesperson.

I often work on large projects with several collaborators, and the way I write, the projects usually need lots of edits.  Before Dropbox I used to email myself work to do at home.  I was thrilled that I could do that!  I would write or edit, then email it back to work, where my secretary/editor would edit.  We had so many copies in our computers that we got lost in the stacks of virtual files.  We created new names, and new files to keep them all straight.  One time the server at the office went down, and when it came back up again there was a new P Drive.  What no one knew was that for some reason I was still accessing the old P Drive, and my secretary was editing on the new P Drive.  Oddly we didn’t catch on to that fact for days.  Hopefully this doesn’t even sound vaguely familiar to you because I guarantee it was frustrating.

Even simple games take time to develop.

Dropbox and Google both store documents on the web and have different benefits, but personally I prefer Dropbox for most uses because of the following reasons.

1)  Dropbox uses whatever software you are using.  I use Microsoft products, and Dropbox stores all my documents as Word docx.  Google has good products, but they do not have all of the flexibility that I have spent years learning in Microsoft.

2)  Most people say they receive and can open up a document that I send them from Dropbox.  I have had people complain that they couldn’t open a Google Doc.  That may not be the problem with Google Doc, but with me the techy-less wonder, or even possibly the techy-less friend to whom I am sending a link.

3)  I can open up Dropbox without even being on the Internet, do my work, and as soon as I turn on the internet, the work syncs to the cyber cloud.  You have to log in to use Google Docs, and on my pokey computer, that can take more time that I want to spend.  I’m not in the twitch generation, but I have become  accustomed to instant.

4)  This makes me happy.  Everyone with whom I have shared a Dropbox folder gets a little message every time I make a change on a document.  People say, “I got lots of notifications that documents have been changed.  You must work REALLY hard.”  Did you hear that boss?   Actually I’m never satisfied with what I write, but they might also be seeing all my secretary’s  or one of my collaborator’s hard work instead.  I just smile, the project is active!

" 9 files have been synced."

5)  Using Dropbox you don’t create multiple versions of documents that get in your way all the time.  All of the revisions are saved, but you have to click on a tab to locate them, so they are not in your face all the time.  With Google I seem to end up with revisions with the same name as the original documents.  It doesn’t take much to confuse me.

6)  Another problem I have with Google and other cloud-only applications I blame on my internet provider.  Rural America where I live is internet-challenged, and the monopoly service I use puts the brakes on the internet speed when I have loaded too many megabytes of information during a 24 hour period.   When I am using Google Docs and that happens, I  type a few words, and wait for Google to catch up with me.  Sometimes Google completely has left out part of what I typed.  That was so irritating that I quit composing in Google, and did my work offline, and then uploaded it to Google later.   I have not had that happen since I learned to manage my download bytes, but trust comes back slowly so I still do most of my writing on Dropbox offline for that reason.

7)  Finally, there doesn’t seem to be a size limit on the document that can be uploaded to Dropbox, but I have exceeded my megabyte limit on Google when uploading a document containing several pictures.

However, in spite of my love for Dropbox, there are some things that Google does better.

1) For example, if you are collaborating in real-time, you can see the edits instantly, and you can chat as you write.  So it’s like you are thinking out loud as you write.  You can have several people online all doing the editing and chatting at the same time.  Confusing, but doable.  With Dropbox the changes are not visible until you save and sync your document.  Even then, your collaborator is still seeing the old document, until they close, and reopen it.  This is not convenient when you are working in real-time together, even when you are all in the same room.

2)  I had an another experience in which several of us were taking notes on an agenda created in a joint Dropbox folder.  My notes wrote over someone else’s notes, and his were gone, and all Dropbox had to say about it was “Marsha’s corrupted copy”  Both of us were red in the face that time.  Mine was embarrassed.

3)  I have nearly run out of space with Dropbox.  If you get your friends to use Dropbox you earn more space.  I like that.  If you want to open up another Dropbox account with a different email account, you get more space, but you don’t have the same convenience as you do with your primary account that is downloaded to all your computers.  You have to go online to Dropbox.com and log in with a different email account, and that is a hassle.  I think it is better to have all your files in one account and bite the bullet to buy more space than to have all your files spread over different accounts.  Saving space by using multiple accounts is bad when you forget in which account you stored the minutes to the meeting,  and the meeting just started, and it’s time to read the minutes.   I have never run out of space with Google Docs.

When I was a middle school student, my mother learned to drive just so she could bring me the homework I forgot to take to school.  At least that’s what I thought at the time.   Moms of the”igeneration” will never understand that chore.  Homework is accessible from everywhere and even the dog can’t eat it.  Thank you technological cyber-geniuses.  That’s one less problem for moms in the 2012 world.