Skip to content

Photographic Breadcrumbs

Friday, 28 Aug 2015, 22:53 UTC

This is nothing new, I suppose, it having been so silent around here of late. But… it’s going to be a bit silent around here for a while.

I don’t expect to lay my hands on a keyboard for a while, and that is a good thing. Nor the fair and industrious Trudy. We shall be on a journey, and if you are interested, you might find photographic breadcrumbs here. It starts tomorrow.

My People Among ‘Em

Thursday, 27 Aug 2015, 00:27 UTC

In the sun, on the stairs, smiling and squinting at the camera, there stood a crowd of people.

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. It’s time for New Power!, the sign read. 

And wait. No wait. Look there, that’s Katherine and behind her Julia and in the shark shirt and oversized hat, that’s Jack, right? And wait. Look. Four or five shoulders away, there’s their mom Jenny Bea and, yes, her mom VJ. 

Let’s see now… Oh wait. Look! It’s my mom. My ever-loving mother. She said she was going, and sure enough there she is. And way over there on the other side, behind some rowdy sunglasses, is that Jenny Evans? Wait. Did I say rowdy? No, he who stands at the back wears the rowdiest of glasses. I’ve seen him behind a boat in those things. They make the thing go faster. My cousin Burt.

A long distance from here but squinting under a familiar sun. There are some of my people standing there among that handsome looking crowd. They work together. They work hard. They do good. And I know some of them fairly well.


Sunday, 23 Aug 2015, 11:21 UTC

We rose early this morning. There was work to do in the yard, tomato plants to cut back, Hackberry trees to hack out, leaves to blow and rake. 

And then we went for breakfast tacos. But I found my attention drawn away from the bounty on the table, because…

Three Minutes and So On

Sunday, 23 Aug 2015, 06:43 UTC


Three minutes until sunrise.  That’s what they said on the radio as morning light slid into the bedroom thru the blinds on the windows behind us.

I’m lying still, she said. I don’t want the dogs barking, yet. But it didn’t last long, because when she rolled over (or was it me?), Mr. Guinness took that as a signal. And in that way the barking and hence the day began.

That was more than three minutes ago, so the sun must be up… somewhere behind the trees, maybe. But it’s still mercifully morning outside. It’ll be hot soon enough, but the air outside is soothing now. I know this, because it caressed me a few minutes ago as I took a bucket of shower water outside to pour on the long-suffering Russian Sage and Zexmenia growing by the curb.


And the air was soothing at the luau last night. It was Dave’s 50th birthday, and there was roasted pig (complete with an apple in the mouth) and real flower leis and tiki torches and hula dancers with smiling faces and fluid movement showing the rolling waves and the winds blowing on the mountains and all those little pearly shells. There must have been something in the water, because I took the prodding that Gregg and Kelley and Trudy gave me and went up when the dancers called for volunteers… I didn’t quite embarrass myself, but let’s just say that my pearly shells were not as graceful as they might have been.


So why the silence lately?

I’m not sure. This stuff flows when it flows, and my suspicion is that the spring from which it comes is filling other streams of late. There’s this project at work, you see. And I suspect that the flow has been going down that side of the mountain.

It has been exhilarating in a way. Software people love their work because at its best it is an act of creation. When you’re building a system from the ground up, everything is new and the sun rises for the first time every time you open a new file. When I open my laptop, there’s this world dawning before me — a world of my doing, my creation.

This, I suspect, is why it’s been so quiet around here, lately.

That and the fact that it’s not so much fun to sit at a computer, anymore. What’s up with that!?

and so on.


That caressing morning air outside calls. And the sun will be coming up in earnest soon.

There is sitting to do on the bench outside.

Let’s leave it there, shall we?

The Explanation He Promised

Sunday, 26 Jul 2015, 21:10 UTC

1. Talking to Alan

I made the mistake, years ago, of telling Alan that I had explained to a roomful of fourth graders that it probably made sense that Pluto’s status as a planet was revoked. It made sense, I told them, because we now know that there are other bodies beyond Pluto, some larger than Pluto itself, orbiting the Sun in the dark, distant recesses of our solar system. I told them that Pluto is one of that vast group.

I said all this to Alan who was sitting across the dining room table from me. The words had barely left my mouth when his characteristic grin went grim. And his son who was also at the table almost jumped and with a startled look on his face turned to look at his father, waiting to see his reaction.

There was no particular reaction. Alan smiled (although as I recall it, his eyes had widened a bit), and he patiently said, “I’ll have to explain it to you sometime, Dave, when we have more time.”

2. Listening to Alan

Last Friday, Alan sat before the cameras, as he has been for a week, now. He and the New Horizons science team were talking to the press about the things they had learned that day from the most recent images from New Horizons.

They were all science in that press conference. Talking about methane ice and nitrogen ice and carbon monoxide ice. About flowing glaciers of nitrogen. About ice mountains and in-filled craters. About Sputnik Planum and Hillary Montes and Norway Montes. About Pluto’s atmosphere extending out 100 miles from the surface.

01 Stern 05 Pluto HazeNEW
Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute link

And then there was a question directed to Alan that brought up that word, planet. Here is what he said.

You know, there’s been this controversy where astronomers and planetary scientists have largely been on different sides of it. I think that you and the public just like we on the science team can pretty well tell what we’re dealing with.

[At this point, for a brief moment, his eyes sparkled and his mouth betrayed a smile. And then he continued...]

It’s very hard not to call an object like this with this level of complexity, an atmosphere, with potentially an internal ocean, certainly with complicated seasonal cycles, and certainly a big complicated system of moons … uh … a planet.

I think I just got that explanation he promised.

It Was Something

Saturday, 25 Jul 2015, 19:44 UTC

Did you see that moon?

I don’t just mean that half-moon hanging at the top of the heavens tonite just after sunset, although that one casts a fine moon shadow when you’re out late.

I mean the moon that was there a week ago or so. Closer to the sun. Alongside Venus about the time, I guess, of Ramadan. Did you see it? And Venus? And did you see Jupiter? It was there, too. A conjunction it was. Remarkable to look at. Two wandering stars joining almost together and then wandering day by day apart.

They’re still out there just after sunset, Venus and Jupiter. Although the Ramadan moon has left them behind in its daily eastward march. And Jupiter is is fleeing Venus now, or is it the other way around?

The other night we were out at the track, the Fair and Industrious Trudy and I. And we gazed at them, Venus and Jupiter. They made a line segment in the sky. Brilliant Venus on the left. Jupiter on the right. A horizontal line segment in the truest sense.

I just wanted to ask you about that. If you’d seen it. It was something.

Amazing Grace

Saturday, 27 Jun 2015, 07:42 UTC

Several years ago, I sat around a table in the evening with some of the most important people in my life. The incandescent light of the place glowed on our faces as it has so many evenings over the years.

I was talking about an uncertain job and a desire to teach. My cousin was trying to convince me to take the jump. “We have to get you to do this,” she said. But as we talked, I must have said something that revealed a bit of my worldview, my pessimism and cynicism. Because other cousin’s son looked at over me with wide eyes and said, “But David, you’d never be able to tell the children that!”

It was true. And I never took that jump, which is probably just as well, because I am deeply cynical and unforgivingly negative about the system of this world.

But this week. Oh my heavens, this week. The supremes several times spoke in ways that I never would have dared hope for. And there’s talk of the battle flag coming down from some of its many perches in the south. And the president stood before a full Mother Emmanuel congregation and gave an amazing eulogy.

He spoke with no teleprompter. He spoke with and nodded to and smiled at those around him. He spoke his words that made even a cynic stop and listen. He spoke amazing words. 

And at the end… At the end of those words he paused and gazed at his hands on the podium. He stood there quietly for a moment and then several moments longer. Quiet filled the sanctuary. And then he slowly looked up, and he began to sing.

The President of the United States of America stood in front of them, in front of us, and he began to sing Amazing Grace (video).

It was enough to bring tears to the eyes of even this cynical wretch.

The Rains We Had

Wednesday, 03 Jun 2015, 22:49 UTC

1. Baling Water

In the morning on one of those days, between the rains of the night before and the rains there were about to come, the fair and industrious Trudy and I stood beside the galvanized tub in the backyard where our leeks and watermelons grow, baling. We took plastic cups, the two of us, and baled the two inches of water from the top of the soil in that tub, soil that was so saturated that the water would not drain out of the leaky bottom.

The tomatoes plants had given up blooming. And the cucumbers. And the Engelmann Daisies And the Coreopsis. Trudy picked a couple of the leeks to put them out of their misery.

We stood there in the morning in our work clothes picking leeks and baling water out of the galvanized tub.

In comparison to the death and destruction wrought on poor souls just south of here, it was of course less than nothing.

3. French Drain

On one of those rainy days, as the water fell from the sky in torrents, I stood at the front door and watched the water run down the gravel of a french drain we put in a couple years ago.

It’s something I’ve taken a liking to when it rains hard: watching the water begin to run across the stones and disappear down into them where the perforated pipe lies hidden. Many days of digging and shoveling went into that, and confess that I find some pleasure in seeing it work.

So I stood there as sheets of rain swept across the street and the gutters filled faster than the downspouts could empty them. And I watched the running water sink into the stones until the pipe would take no more and the stones turned into a creek of water rushing around the corner of the house.

I took a picture of that moment and sent it to my brother, to which he replied, “Wow.” And the rushing creek got deeper. And it got deeper. And still the rains kept coming. 

I went into the garage to see if the water was starting to creep under the door. It had come in about a foot.

And just then, the rain let up for a moment. For a few moments. But long enough for the rushing water to go around the corner of the house. Long enough for the water to recede back out from under the garage door.

And as a measure of our fortune if view of so much misfortune around us in those days, that was as bad as it got for us.

2. The Fallacy of Linear Extrapolation

A year ago by now, the heat was upon us. We had long since given up on the hope of more than a handful of tomatoes because of the heat. The daytime temperatures were already consistently climbing into the mid nineties, and the nighttimes were no longer cool enough for fruit to set.

The ground underfoot was as hard as rock.

Heck, less than a month ago, I extrapolated linearly on the wonderful rainfall we had had. And I quipped sarcastically that we only needed that wonder to continue apace for another year and a half in order to restore the water to Lake Travis.

But feast your eyes on this snapshot of the lake levels:


You might guess from that plot which regime I was extrapolating from. 


Trees and Toads and Roaches

Sunday, 17 May 2015, 20:00 UTC


The rain continued to fall, today. Hours of it. Delicious hours of it. Half the day. Delicious. At least the trees are likely of that opinion.

On the other hand, our neighbors a block down the street might see it differently. Runoff there tends to course down the center of their block, racing thru backyards on days like this, assaulting patio doors and flowing out the front if they’re not careful to construct passive (and active) waterworks to divert the torrent.

And Bill across the street probably doesn’t see it as deliciously as the trees, either, as the saturated ground forced us to call off our planned posthole-digging, fence-moving party today.

But the trees. (And it really is always about the trees, isn’t it?) The trees must find the rain that we’ve had to be a relief from the brutal drought of the last many years.


Bang. Slap! BANG!

A loud slapping-swatting sound came from down the hall.

“Oh, oh,” I said. 

I heard a mumble come from the fair and industrious Trudy and the sound of triumphant footsteps crossing the living room floor.

“Was that what I think it was?”

Another mumble. “Yes…”

Then from the dining room, she added, “I don’t understand why those big roaches won’t just stay outside.”

Probably because they are fleeing the rain the trees find to be so delicious And probably because they are fleeing the toads whose song we can hear out back at this very moment.


Friday, 15 May 2015, 21:34 UTC

Oh you’re gonna miss me baby
And I’ll be so far away
Oh you’re gonna miss me baby
And I’ll be so far away