Monday, July 16, 2018

Spice is nice.

Today was a good day volunteering at the Conservatory. We've another corpse flower just about to bloom. It's a sibling of last year's amorphophallus titanum, which bloomed around this time last year as well.

During the build-up to the bloom phase, the titan can grow between approx. 1-3 inches a day. I find that remarkable. This titan's bloom date is projected to be sometime midweek. 

As of today, I think she stood around 2' tall.

I also discovered a couple of really interestingly scented orchids during my shift today.

The orchids in the photo below give off a lovely, cinnamon scent. When visitors asked me what I found interesting in this particular gallery, I took them over to the 'spice orchid', as I referred to it. (I couldn't find a name spike for it, so there you go.)

These sort of weeping willow-looking blooms smelled vaguely of lemon-scented cleaning agent. -not really all that pleasant, to be honest!

But back to cinnamon--I had some really fun interactions with children regarding the cinnamon tree we have at the Conservatory. Well, we have two, actually, but the Ceylon (Sri Lankan) cinnamon plant yields a much larger leaf than that of its SE Asian counterpart & its scent is also more robust. The gardner was kind enough to cut down for me a rather sizable branch of the Ceylon cinnamon. I didn't tell the children in advance from which plant the branch came. I then invited them to choose the leaf they wanted before plucking one off and handing it over. They were told to scratch a bit of the stem with their fingernail before smelling the stem. 

'What does that smell like?' 


One little girl, aged 6, then demonstrated everything I had shared with her to a friend who had arrived a bit later. She'd remembered virtually everything I had told her about the cinnamon & had a great delivery. I was duly impressed. Her mother whispered to me that her daughter suffers from stage fright. I told her, that I thought her daughter was sort of on stage right now! She agreed.

Ceylon Cinnamon leaf, about 6'' in length

Friday, July 13, 2018

St. Mateo and the Mountain

One time, while living in Zurich, I got to chatting with a supermarket employee called Mateo. I write 'one time' because in the three years that I lived in ZH, I think this truly was the only time I got into a casual discussion with a supermarket employee. Small talk, in this scenario, is fairly unusual. I initally approached him to ask where I could find the dairy section. Upon hearing my standard German, he asked me where I was from. I told him that I was from a place called Pacifica in California. As it turned out, we were sort of from the same place as his parents had been living in San Mateo County when he and his brother were born in the 1960s. Indeed, his name is derived from the city of San Mateo. He also told me that his brother, Bruno, is named for the neighboring city of San Bruno. I found this story especially amusing and rather sweet as I have never met anyone here named for either place.

San Bruno is also the name of a small mountain that stretches from Brisbane to Daly City, situated just south of San Francisco. Up until last weekend, I had never visited the mountain, now an official part of the parks system, although I had grown up only some 10 miles away. The mountain boasts a stunning bit of scenery and I can't believe it took me thing long to get up there. 

Here are some photos from the excursion--

From the Daly City streetside entrance--

The mountain is home to some rare and endangered plant and butterfly species. Additionally, massive eucalyptus trees are also plentiful. The eucalyptus were first planted in this area back in the 1850s, and although now known to be an invasive species, the sight and scent of them always remind me of home. 

 -walking along the trail that eventually leads to the vista of the southern portion of San Francisco, bay and beyond.

Coastal scrub in the foreground.

View of SF and Daly City: The famed Cow Palace flanked by a massive parking lot, center of shot. The bay and East Bay in the background.

 --making our way back along the path toward the entrance.

Fern on fallen tree trunk. 

Wind speeds on the mountain can reach up to 30 miles an hour. On my visit, I'd say that the winds were a-whipping something fierce once one reached the far side of the mountain facing the bay. I looked somewhat in vain for some of the rare butterfly species that inhabit the area, but darn it if the wind didn't keep them from venturing forth. Fortunately, I live very nearby, so there will be a subsequent visit! 

Sunday, July 8, 2018

San Franciscana

My Mother grew up in a place called Little Hollywood in San Francisco. For years, I thought that Little Hollywood was its own district. It wasn't until I was digging around the internet that I realised LH was a small section of the district of Visitacion Valley in SE San Francisco. 

Shaped like a slice of pie!

The origin of the name Little Hollywood is somewhat disputed. My mom always told me that LH was so named because Mae West had stayed in a house in this part of town when she would come to San Fran to perform. Yet my mom also told me that LH may also have gotten its name due to there having been planted palm trees a la Los Angeles during its creation as a neighborhood. It certainly could also be that the style of the homes mimicked those that had been built in the Hollywood Hills. Well, whatever reason, I think the name is kind of fun. 

Initial stages of Little Hollywood, 1915 (Looking south)

Below: Little Hollywood, 2018 (Looking east)

I went looking for the house that Mae West had supposedly bunked in and found it to be probably the grandest home in Little Hollywood by a long shot.

Casa Bahia Loma, Little Hollywood. (Alright, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up.)

Incidentally, I also went by my maternal grandparents' old house and found it to be rather a dump. This area, sadly, hit an economic slump in the 60s and 70s and many of the homes fell into varying states of disrepair during that time. Their home was one of them.  

Also of note: When looking for SF district maps online, I noticed that, depending upon who had created the map, the districts shown would vary. 

Here's a map, ostensibly, for out-of-town visitors--

The entire southern portion of the city is not shown. 

Here's a map showing voting precincts--

I live in District 11.

Estate Agents' maps show more subdivisions--

Down in the SE portion of the map is Bayview/Hunters Point. (Visitacion Valley/Little Hollywood isn't even on this map.) This area of town is probably the most economically disadvantaged in SF. -don't want to buy a home in Bayview because of the crime stats and (mostly) bad press? Well, then, Bayview Heights might just be for you! 

Interestingly, the above map shows that I live in Mission Terrace, a slightly more tony area than that of the Excelsior. Go, figure. 

I will leave you with an image of the irrepressible Mae West--

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Local greenery, local scenery

We worked a job that afforded us this view yesterday--

In winter, this creek is full. Summertime sees a wee trickle of water. There were a few minnows in the deeper parts of the creek. Blue damsel flies were everywhere & we saw one black and yellow swallowtale flitting about.

Above is a snap I took of Lake Merced, a fresh water lake near the Pacific Ocean. It was originally called Laguna de Nuestra SeƱora de la Merced in 1770s by a Spanish explorer. Lake Merced is my jogging spot. It's about 4.5 miles around & affords the visitor some lovely views. 

This massive beast is a red peppercorn tree at another client's house down the peninsula. I had no idea peppercorn trees grew here. The client invited us to take some peppercorn branches home, if we wanted, but they were too high up the tree to grab. -nice gesture, however.

During a walk the other week, we spied a stand of redwood trees is in McLaren Park, the second largest park in San Francisco. The park is about a mile from my house. I'm grateful that I'm able to walk to it whenever I'd like. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillars

Yesterday, I visited the Botanical Garden in SF's Golden Gate Park.  The garden is free for SF residents, but it costs eight bucks for everyone else to visit. That being said, the joint was jumping during my poke around.

Maybe it had something to do with this:


One of many...

Hanging out on his host plant, the California Pipevine.

Possibly the world's oldest Pipevine Swallowtail. :D

I spied the 'old dude' above just chilling on some greenery. He wasn't moving, so I thought he might have been dead. Nope. I small gust of wind came along and, while he didn't lose his perch, his wings fluttered slightly.

Although this butterfly is found in many spots around No. America, the SF population is a finicky eater and, by about five years ago, its numbers had dwindled to very few. A local scientist by the name of Tim Wong set about to turn the tide on these lovely butterflies. Armed with a bunch of California pipevine plant obtained from the SF Botanical Garden and a bunch of caterpillars, Wong was able to create a back yard environment in which this butterfly could thrive. Indeed, the abundance of caterpillars I saw at the Botanical Gardens is due to Tim Wong's conservation efforts. To read a bit about Mr. Wong's butterfly project, go here.

Sunday, July 1, 2018


When I lived in NYC, I met someone who was actually from the Jersey Shore. (For UK readers, that's the New Jersey Shore.) 

Snooki, from (New) Jersey Shore

As he said 'Jersey Shore', I actually did not think of that reality show filled with seemingly dim, overly tanned men and women who then went on to garner quite a lot of money endorsing products and such. I did, however, think of summertime, family outings, and carnival games. When I told him that I was from California, he said, "Oh, California! What part? I got a buddy who's stationed in San Diego. I hear it's really nice there. The weather is like always 75 degrees there." When my partner said he had grown up in Colorado the response, less enthusiastic, was, "Uh-huh."

Does it really help to explain where you're from?  People, based on whatever ideas they've received about your home, will think what they like and go from there.

There were a fair number of other college kids from across the USA also living in my German dorm during my year abroad. It was always interesting to note the German students' reactions when us foreign students said where we were from.

"I'm from Wisconsin."  = tepid response/non-response

"I'm from Florida." = enthusiastic response of some sort, so this may have been before the spate of car-jackings on German tourists by Floridian criminals.

"I'm from South Dakota." = same response received as the dude from Wisconsin

"I'm from California." = "Ah, Baywatch!"  "Ah, Los Angeles!"  "Ah, Disneyland!"

Mind you, these three typical responses touch, in no way, my experience of life in California. The weather where I am from is not conducive to rescuing drowning victims in the ocean while looking hot in a one-piece bathing suit. LA is approximately a seven hour drive south from my home town. -sorta like a "double decaf non-fat latte" order: Why bother? It was not until the death of my father, when I was 32 years old, that I thought I'd finally go check out what all the fuss was about Disneyland. Let's just say that the signs posted at entryways for most of the rides should read "If you're over this height, then you'll be bored outta yer fecking mind if you get on this thing."

Summer in Pacifica or This is not San Diego
Turtleneck weather

Summertime, for me, meant overcast days spent at our local beach, Linda Mar, in a turtle neck eating sand-sandwiches cuz it was usually so darn windy out. Venturing out to Coyote Point in San Mateo (another family-outing spot) was much the same experience with just a bit more wind and sand.

Overcast Fog Fest

Early-Fall or Actual Summer 

This time of year in Pacifica often ushered in slightly warmer temps. The fog would have normally burned off by early afternoon, and we'd be treated to a couple of weeks of Indian Summer, our warm weather period. 

Pacifica's annual "Fog Fest", held at the end of September, was hardly ever foggy. I guess the organizers should move the event to anytime between June and early-August for a grayer experience, but, I'd imagine, that they don't want folk not to show up.

Suffice it to say that really no time during the year was the right time to put on a red one-piece bathing suit and bounce down the beach, hair waving in the breeze and warm surf lapping against one's toes. Pam Anderson would have frozen her derriere off if she'd tried to pull that shit at Linda Mar.

March/Rally, June 30

View from the City Hall steps. 

I don't know the numbers, but the march today felt huge. To quote the dipshit in the White House, I should say: YUGE.

I was part of a contingent keeping up the rear of the march. We were just making our way toward City Hall from Dolores Park when our police escort told us that the front of the march folk had already arrived at our destination some 1.6 miles away.

Our march route was this:


There was a podium set up on the steps of City Hall. I'm told that Joan Baez kicked things off with a speech. -sorry to have missed her.

Some of the speakers shared personal stories of family separation. Some speakers talked about how the 'muslim ban' currently affects their families. Immigrant union workers spoke, although I was not sure if forced separation of families at the US border had harmed them, or not.

There were many, many speakers, and, mostly, they went over their alloted speaking time. I can't really blame them. They were speaking from the heart. However, it did mean that many rally attendees had left by the time the last groups of speakers began sharing their stories.

Overall, the march was peaceful, there were no counter-prostestors that I could see, and no B.S.

I took public transit home & was met with this from a clever march-goer: