Sunday, December 30, 2007

Baja Cruise.

12-28-07 SEA OF CORTEZ: I am behind a few days from the busy pace these Lindblad people set. Anyway, we left LAX on 12-26-07 after another two-hour delay on the tarmac. We ultimately did get to Cabo and connected with our bus for a four-hour ride to La Paz to catch our ship. We had a refreshment stop at Los Adobes, a bistro with a beautiful cactus garden. It was dark when we finally got to the 'Sea Bird',the Lindblad/National Geographic ship.

On 12-27-07 the 'Sea Bird' took us north to Isla Coronados, an island further north in the Sea of Cortez near the town of Loreto. During the morning sail we saw lots of dolphins surfing on our bow wave. After lunch we had a hike to the top of a volcano and through two seabed terraces. Judy and I actually did only the first half of the hike. It was quite difficult under foot as the trail, so to speak, was made of loose, round volcanic rocks, which, being round and loose, tended to roll on the steep hillside. We each had a bit of a roll too.

Dolphins in the bow wave, reflection of bow of ship.

Isla Coronados. andesite and basalt.

Soldiering on to 12-28-07 and Isla Danzante, another volcanic island, a bit back to the south, but still near Loreto. We started the day kayaking and had a cruise of the shoreline in a zodiac with a naturalist guide. We saw lots of birds including: pelican, brown booby, blue-footed booby, egret, great egret, sand pipers, gulls, blue heron, kingfisher, grebe. We also got in a quick hike to the top of this island before lunch, a much shorter hike than the previous day. In the afternoon we snorkeled and had a guided hike back to the top of the volcano again seeing the birds, a couple small lizards and a scorpion. The snorkeling was in water with temperature of 67°. There were no coral but rock formations served as home to the mostly small fish. There were a couple of interesting starfish. The swim was, brrr, fairly short even with a wet suit.


Isla Danzante and the 'Sea Bird'.

Cardon cactus and friends.



12-29-07 SEA OF CORTEZ:
In the morning we went ashore to the town of Loreto after docking at Puerto Escondido. Loreto is an early mission colony founded in 1697 and the spot from which Junipero Serra started his string of California missions. The mission church is still there, a Romanesque building now with an attached small museum and courtyard. The rest of the town has a seaport for boats and lot of touristy shopping. We all walked around and some of us bought stuff and some of us showed sensible restraint. The afternoon was on the water looking for whales, but only getting a brief glimpse of some dolphins.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


XMAS 07 LAX: We made it here after another day at the grandson’s home. They got quite a bonanza. Joey is a whiz on the Razor scooter. All the presents needed assembly of some sort. We got two small painting done by the junior artists. In the evening we flew to LA and hope to get out early and not miss the boat. This flight was OK. The flight from Newark was delayed four hours.

Here is an attempt to demonstrate what the city streets of San José look like, open and low density.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

We Know the Way.

XMAS EVE, SAN JOSÉ: Well, another hectic day with Eoin and Joey, a pair of total high-energy grandsons. Just watching them play, and fight, is exhausting. The house construction project is progressing, perhaps a bit slowly, but progressing. It will be great some day. Flowers are blooming up and down all the streets, roses, iris, bougainvillea, but the deciduous trees are leafless, an incongruous effect.

California cities look different from eastern cities. Out here the streets are broad with center islands beautifully planted and building set back from the curb and separated from one another. Cross streets just as wide as main streets. In the east, the streets are narrow and the buildings close together across the street and touching their neighbors on either side creating an enclosed, densely packed effect that gives me a feeling of greater energy and vibrancy. The California feeling is openness, low density and lower intensity. City planning as cultural ethos.

Xmas decorations.

This isn't supposed to happen until May.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Shortest Day.

12-21-07 SHORT HILLS: Tomorrow is the winter solstice. Today is dark, overcast, rainy, but not too cold. The snow that we got last week is slowly melting. The day after tomorrow, the first day of winter, or is it the second day, the weather is supposed to be rainy and warm, possibly up to 60°. We go to San José that day to see Jon, Siobhan, Eoin and Joe. Three days later, we meet Alison’s and Valerie’s families in Baja for a Linblad cruise in the Sea of Cortez until January second.

Friday, December 14, 2007


12-14-07 SHORT HILLS: We did have an ice storm and a lot of branches did come down, but nothing had major damage. When the sun came out today, everything was covered in diamond. By late afternoon much of it had melted and the shrubs had partially rebounded.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Icy Forsythia.

12-13-07 SHORT HILLS: The last several days have been similar, all rainy and progressively warmer until today. Today is colder, snowy, sleety, and rainy with temps of right around freezing. The precip changes, but all of it is sticking to the trees and shrubs, especially the evergreens. When it cools off tonight, it will freeze, and break a lot of branches.

Yesterday, when it was warmer, the forsythia started to open. Every year they seem to get trapped by a small warm spell followed by a cold snap. Of course, there are only a few flowers open, and most buds remain tightly wrapped. I suppose what seems foolish on the part of the plant is a way to catch early pollinators, and after all, nothing is better at survival than forsythia. It blooms early, stays in leaf late, spreads itself, and has no major pest problems. Pruning every decade of so removes dead wood and renews the shrub, or you can cut it into balls and cubes if you like. I prefer it natural. You can run it over with a bulldozer, and if a bit of root and stalk are left, it will be back in business.

Winter forsythia.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


12-6-07 SHORT HILLS: Is it just me or do others think that the revelation about Iran’s innocence is so the Bush Leaguers can save face? With no troops and no national will for a war with Iran, they just decided to fix the NEI so they can say no action is necessary now. No need to nuke them after all. We still can’t trust them or talk to them, but we won’t blow them up, for the moment anyway. If the report is true and the information available back in August, why did we have talk of World War III when we “knew” they were out of the WMD business? The facts and the behavior just don’t jibe.

And another thing, I’m sick of all this god talk. Why is it necessary for all the politicians to suck up to the evangelical element? I don’t care what religion they follow. I would vote for, and even support, a politician who says, “My religion is personal and none of your business.” Or even a politician who said she/he didn’t believe. Do they really believe prayers are answered? That’s reason enough for them to be certified, not elected.

In a 2004 movie, “The Big Bounce”, Morgan Freeman says to Owen Wilson, “God is an imaginary friend for grownups.” How can we have fallen so far so fast from healthy skepticism like that?

I pray the nation recovers from this obsession with god and religion. Thank goodness for Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins.

And the guns—another armed crazy commits mayhem in Omaha and no one asks, “How did he get a gun? Why was he able to get a gun? Why wasn’t another emotionally unstable jerk prevented form arming himself?” Why doesn’t anyone take on the NRA and the gun manufacturers? I guess those politicians are praying for an end to gun violence or maybe God likes guns.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

It's cold in December, what's with that?

12-4-07 SHORT HILLS: The snow did disappear within a day or so, but now it’s cold, windy and wintry. We walked the dogs around the block, and everybody seemed to be in a hurry. It was a race to get back in the warm kitchen. There was no dawdling over interesting scents and no long pauses at street signs. We had a brief flurry. The standing water is frozen.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

First Snow in Short HIlls.

12-2-07 SHORT HILLS: First snow of the year in this part of NJ, only about 3 inches of wet stuff, but enough to keep us from visiting Brooklyn for fear of traffic tie-ups from accidents and stuck vehicles. It looks pretty on top of the leaves that are still on the trees. The birds seem happy with the feeders. It will probably all disappear tomorrow.

Hungry Friends.

Interesting contrast of black, white, red and green.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Vermont is colder than New Jersey.

11-29-07 SHORT HILLS: The weather is definitely milder here than in Vermont. Nothing is frozen, not a hint of snow, and some trees—oak, beech, Japanese maple and dawn redwood still have foliage—it’s as if they are considering the option of not going deciduous this year. That foliage is, of course, not green but is still mostly on the tree.

The minimum temperature in Vermont has been as low as 15°, but in New Jersey our minimum has been only 25°. In NJ only four days this month have had minimums below freezing, but in Vermont, only four days have had minimums above freezing. December both locations will probably be more alike.

Perhaps this why it's called a red oak.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

More Thanksgiving.

11-25-07 VERMONT: The weather has gone from foggy and warm to cold, windy and partly cloudy which gave us another nice sunset. The moon has been full and with snow on the ground, the nights are incredibly bright. The Koreys, Katz’s and Nelsons came to dinner last night, and tonight we meet Denny and Laura-Beth at Murphy’s. Tomorrow back to Short Hills.

There's a full moon in there.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Foggy Day.

THANKSGIVING-07 VERMONT: We got about three inches of snow on the 20th. With snow cover, I burnt the brush pile in the pasture quite successfully—nothing left but about a quart of ashes. The next day I tried to repeat that triumph by burning the pile of prunings in the woods, but only got it down by half. Snow on the ground means animal tracks become visible. We have had a lot of deer activity in the pasture and even near the house. That’s probably why the dogs, mostly Sam, have been so restless after dark.

Today is foggy, warm, in the forties, drizzly and damp. The winds are calm. The snow is melting, and the ground is thawing leaving puddles in every low spot. The frozen pond is melting. It’s not a bright sunny day, but it’s not a bad day, just a different king of good day. In the country, one is more aware of the weather—hot or cold, windy or calm, west wind or east, rainy or snowy, or sunny, clear and dry, or foggy and dank. We get combinations from that list, and we get sequences. In some way, every day is, thankfully, unique.

A lot of the shrubs still have some leaves, gray or brown or even with some autumn color hanging on. It’s as though they were caught off guard by the fairly abrupt change from warm to wintry. I suppose they’ll figure it out. One month to go until the winter solstice.




Monday, November 19, 2007

Let It Snow.

11-19-07 VERMONT: We arrived yesterday afternoon after an easy drive and had about an hour of daylight left before a clear sky sunset. Today I cut down all the garden plant stalks to clear the beds for the spring and to get rid of mildew on phlox and peony leaves. The job seems to get longer each year. It took six cartloads to move all the discards to compost piles and all day. The beds all look so tidy. The trees are bare, leaves mostly blown away, pond frozen, mountains white, temperature in the twenties all day—bring on the snow.

Snowy Mountains.

Sleeping Gardens.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Arrival of Autumn.

11-17-07 SHORT HILLS: After the few cold nights, we got down to 30° here and 20° in Vermont, the change in leaf color is dramatic. The dawn redwood, red oak, beech, Norway maple, burning bush, baldy cypress have all gone from mostly summer color to autumn color in the few days since the first frost. The trees must respond to temperature change as well as photoperiod. We do mushrooms popping up all over the yard. I guess they count as new blooms. We saw more deer on today’s walk. Vermont tomorrow.

New Mushroom Bloom.

Fox Hill Reservation.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

First Frost Finally.

11-13-07 SHORT HILLS: We finally had our first frost, minimal to be sure, but the tenderest plants have shut down. Today we had a bit of rain. Maybe next year we will get to Thanksgiving without a frost. Sam knows how to deal with a rainy day, actually not much different than how she deals with most days.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Berry Red.

11-7-07 SHORT HILLS: The weather is finally cooling off a bit, but there has yet to be a frost in this part of NJ. The leaves are turning and falling in the usual sequence—ash first and oak last. The trees must respond to the amount of daylight, photo period, more than to temperature. In addition to the leaves, there is color from fruit and berries. Here is some red. Can you match the pictures with the names?

Barberry, Burning Bush, Crab Apple, English Holly, Viburnum.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween on Garden Place.

HALLOWEEN, GARDEN PLACE, BROOKLYN: Usually we go to Val and Steve’s for the Halloween scene in Brooklyn Heights. Their street, Garden Place, is closed to traffic and is the busiest T&T street in the hood. It is packed from 5 to 7:30 and then deserted except for the parties. On her stoop we gave out about 4,000 pieces of candy in that two and a half hours. The costumes included the usual witches, fairies, pixies, pirates plus crusaders, Marie Antoinette, a gas pump, an ATM, Darth Vader[s], cats, dogs, a chocolate chip cookie, Bush[s], Elvis and Super mom, a Hershey’s kiss and a pink dragon, and Britney. The stoops and houses are all ghoulish and the crowds enormous.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Congrats to the Sawx.

10-29-07 SHORT HILLS: The Sawx did it. Everything Terry Francona tried worked out fine because the Boston pitching was nearly perfect. Even Manny didn’t hurt them in the outfield too much and Ortiz was fine at first.

Clint Hurdle, the Rockies Manager, was one of the most popular player-coaches the year I was at Mets Dream Week in ’88 [gasp, twenty years ago]. The first night at dinner, he made a point of going around the room and greeting all 100 or so Dreamers. He gave a couple funny talks and toward the end of the week, while we were doing morning calisthenics, which he was leading, he said to a guy on his team with a big schnooz, “They offered me a lot of money to come back here next year, but I said I just wanted your nose full of nickels.” Nobody could do any more crunches for laughing.

We saw this guy, an 8 or 10 pointer, while walking the dogs.

Stag Party.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Where's the frost?

10-26-07 SHORT HILLS: We have been back here for a few days, and it has been raining, on and off, the whole time. The plan to not pick up leaves is underway. The gardeners just mow which chops up the fallen leaves. It is the end of October, and the ash trees still have a few leaves. The lowest minimum temperature for the month so far was 43° and the average temperature is 58°.

The Red Sox, or ‘Sawx’ as they say in Vermont, look pretty strong. They certainly do not need my support, but I can’t help pulling for them because it seems to irritate the Yankee fans so much when the Sawx win.

I will post some pix that couldn’t get up-loaded at the last posting. The Google operation of these Blogs is almost as good and competent as the TSA or FEMA are under the Bush administration. Half the things the blogs are supposed to be able to do don’t work and the other half work occasionally. The Google folks must be too busy watching their stock options go up to take care of the blogspot operation.

If you get up early to let the dogs out, you might catch the pink.

Speaking of pink, these leaves are for you, Lucy.

Leaving leaves lay.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


10-23-07 VERMONT: I got all the clean up done that can be done now. The unusually warm weather has kept has kept several flowers green and blooming past the expected time for dormancy. There has been no frost in this part of Zone 4 in Vermont to date. What could possibly be causing that?

Today we are getting a chilly rain, but the thermometer says 68°. Today for the second day in a row, I saw two grouse feeding behind the pond but they are too cautious to pose for a picture.

Yesterday I blew the leaves off the north half of the yard which took about four hours. The day was warm. I didn’t take a break in order to get it done. Well, we went out to dinner. I was getting a lot of muscle cramping during dinner. After dinner, I got up from the table to walk off the cramps and had a syncopal episode and ended up in the Hitchcock ER. The two Hanover Fire Dept. EMT’s, Brian and Larry, were great, both sympathetic and competent. The IV saline I got in the ambulance pretty much did the trick. The ER staff is always competent, but also friendly, helpful, sympathetic and caring. I have been in a lot of ER’s as a doc, as a patient and as a concerned family member or friend and can say that it’s not always that way. Plenty of places the ER staff can be hostile and antagonistic and look upon the patients as the enemy. Of course, there are no short or quick ER visits. Ultimately we got home and crashed. Judy was great in the emergency, as always. Today I’m fine, and the rain gives me an excuse to take the day off.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


10-21-07 VERMONT: So far I have pulled and stored all the flower bed barrier guards, removed all the flower stakes and supports, put away the beetle traps, took down the veggie garden fence and tomato cages and pulled out some of the veggie stalks, weeded the north terrace beds and started cutting down dormant flower stalks. That has taken two busy days. Both days were warm enough to be comfortable outside without a coat. Friday night we got another 1.2 inches of rain in an intense storm and had another shower yesterday afternoon at quitting time. Yesterday the sun was in and out all day changing the vistas from bright to dark and lighting up distant hillsides in sequence as the clouds motored by. Today looks all sunny, and the seventies are predicted.

The pond is full again, and I will do another barley straw treatment before we leave this visit. The barley is supposed to clear algae and sediment, but the jury is still out on its effectiveness.

I have the camera in my pocket all day here are a couple of yesterday’s pix with the interplay of light and shadow. A stranger showed up yesterday with a big Nikon and tripod and asked permission to shot the red maple and pasture.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Red Glory and New Neighbors.

10-18-07 VERMONT: We came up this afternoon to a sultry, hazy, warm late October [?] day. I was walking around in shirtsleeves and sandals. Lots of flowers are still in bloom: phlox, chrysanthemum, asters, monkshood, bee balm, hydrangea, helenium, boltonia, sedum, geranium, and witch-hazel to name some. I was hoping to do the garden cleanup, but usually do that after everything is dormant which it is clearly not. We have 1.4 inches of rain since the eighth. Even the tomatoes are still trying. The red maple is indeed.

New blooms: cimicfuga.

Phlox and Helenium.

Indeed Red.

Our New Neighbors at Home.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Climate Change.

10-15-07 SHORT HILLS: The weather forecaster on ABC-TV yesterday said that so far this fall every day has been above normal temperature, and that brings us back to climate change or global warming. October 15, 2007 is the day for all the Google Blogs to feature a climate change entry. I thought I would try to give an answer to the question people ask about ancient climate, “How do we know what the temperature was before people were around to measure and record it?”

One technique, used to estimate ocean temperatures in ancient Eras, measures the ratio between oxygen isotopes. Most of the world’s oxygen has an atomic weight of 16. Some small percent of naturally occurring oxygen has an atomic weight of 18. The heavier oxygen molecules have two extra neutrons in the nucleus. The ratio of O16:O18 is fixed and constant for all the earth’s oxygen and has the same ratio in water, H2O, as in the air. The ratio is reflected and preserved in seashells from ancient times. In other words, a brachiopod fossil, say, from the Devonian Period will have the same ratio of O16:O18 that the ocean did when the creature lived and made the shell.

The O18 containing water molecule is about 10% heavier than an O16 water molecule, and being heavier is less likely to evaporate from the surface of the ocean. Ordinarily water evaporates from the ocean and condenses in the atmosphere and then precipitates as rain. Some of the rain falls on land and is ultimately returned to the ocean by rivers and streams. This circulation of water from ocean to atmosphere to land and back to the ocean is called the Hydrologic Cycle. In the winter, snow remains frozen on land until the spring thaw and then the melt water runs off in the streams.

During periods of glaciation, cold periods obviously, the snow doesn’t fully melt in the spring, and each year more of the snow accumulates on land, and that frozen water is locked up in the glaciers. That ice has more of the, lighter and more easily evaporated, O16 water. With more of the O16 water out of circulation, the ocean becomes richer in O18 water and the ratio of O16:O18 is shifted. The change will be reflected in any fossil shell of the period, and lets us figure out what the average temperatures were at that time.

Climate change is happening now because the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, CO2, is rapidly accumulating in the atmosphere. The CO2 comes from the burning of fossil fuels by humans. The CO2 levels have risen rapidly over the last 100 or so years. The CO2 acts like an atmospheric quilt and prevents the earth from losing heat. Now, the earth has been much hotter and much colder at different times in the distant past, but when those changes have occurred, they have happened slowly, over thousands or millions of years. The plant and animal species living during those periods of change have been able to adapt to the slow changes and evolve and thus survive. Rapid changes like this one will lead to many species extinctions. Here is a picture of the melting Arctic Sea Ice:

Monday, October 08, 2007

Fall Color.

10-8-07 VERMONT: The color is improving, but we go back to NJ tomorrow. We had Bob and Chris for the weekend and sent them back to South Orange tired but happy. We took them to the Norwich Farmers Market, Pomfret, Woodstock, Barnard, Strafford, Stone Soup and Thetford seeing the sights and leaves.

The first few days here were warm, but now it’s rainy and cold. Actually we had another 1.2 inches of rain the last couple days. I blew the leaves yesterday. It was quite a job. [Make your own puns.] Today we put away all the benches, the boat, the hammock, the rockers, the hoses, and I put up the storm doors. We also got in a visit to Charles McL. and the Koreys.

We have new neighbors. Judy saw them out for a walk on the road, and then we visited them back in their barn.

All the colors look richer in the Fall. I think the lower sun angle accentuates the red end of the spectrum—more of the blue light is reflected off the atmosphere—like the sunset.

No new blooms.

Norwich Farmers Market.

Fall Color.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Back to Vermont.

10-4-07 VERMONT: We came up yesterday to a tropical Vermont. Columbus weekend used to be the peak for leaf peeping, but lately that weekend has been too early and it seems that way now. The ash trees are bare, but the maples are still mostly green. The horses left for home today. We found a few tomatoes worth bringing in among dozens rotting away. The apples are ripe and some are delicious, but not Delicious. Most of the flowers that we left in bloom are still hanging on. The good news is that we got 4.15 inches of rain for September, and the ponds are on their way to being full. The bat proofing was done.

Today I repaired a sagging barn door, emptied the mousetraps, vacuumed the cluster flies, found the “Posted” signs, and got the car inspected.

New blooms: witch hazel, asters, boltonia.

Here are some of the asters.

Monday, October 01, 2007

House Warming.

10-1-07 SHORT HILLS: Another hot September is over, hot except for the Mets, who seemed to enjoy their utter collapse. Hang a sign out at Shea, “New Arms Needed.”

While the NJ garden is inactive, this week we go back to VT for Columbus Weekend and hope to catch some leaves. Actually, for the last few years, this point in the fall is too soon for peak color. The summer season in VT has become longer. This is probably another sign of climate change in action.

Speaking of climate change, there is a story in Geotimes about an Arctic expedition to collect ocean bottom cores. Analysis of the material reveals two periods in the early Cenozoic when Arctic Ocean temperatures were tropical—imagine what the tropics were like then. Here’s the link:

Another quick WWW visit, see a comet blasted by a solar flare:

We had a great dinner Saturday night with Bill, Dave, Gail, Leesa, Lynn, Rob and Roger to celebrate a new house. There’s nothing like the warmth of old friends. Sorry I didn’t think to take a picture.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Weekend in San José.

9-24-07 SHORT HILLS: We’re back from a weekend in San José. Jon and Siobhan’s house is getting an expansion of two bedrooms, bath, new kitchen with breakfast room, and small porch, but now they are camping in three rooms with no kitchen. It’s hectic. We decided not to stay there on our visit.

Saturday we took the boys to the Monterey Aquarium on a rare rainy day in September. I think everyone else in California was there at the same time, but they loved it. Saturday dinner was at the Sonoma Chicken Coop, which was not bad, but you can guess the nickname the boys gave it. After a busy Sunday, we came home on the red-eye.

The Monterey Aquarium was almost as crowded on the other side of the glass.

We had fun even if it was raining.