Wednesday, August 30, 2017


The last time I tried growing soybeans, I think I literally got zero pods. This year is better, but only barely. At the moment, these three small pods are the entirety of our crop. But the plants got surrounded on one side by fast-growing parsley and on the other by two big tomato plants. Maybe I'll try one more time next year, and find a better spot for the soybeans.


Found this many-spotted ladybug on our lime tree today.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

memories of Bordeaux

As a wine ages, sediment precipitates out. Much of this is from a process by which some of the compounds in the wine combine with tannins, forming larger molecules that fall to the bottom of the bottle. So if you don't carefully decant a bottle that you've cellared for years, you can end up with gritty bits at the bottom of your glass.

In this case, it was a bottle that we've had for just over ten years now, and which was bottled thirteen years ago. We visited Chateau la Clotte in Bordeaux during our honeymoon. I feared that thirteen years in the bottle might have been too long, but the wine had held up quite well!

Monday, August 28, 2017

how do you like them tomatoes?

(The green one fell off prematurely, but I'm hoping it ripens up off the vine.)

best carrot - so far

I spied what looked like a fantastic carrotin tge garden.

And it was as good as it looked!

Much better than this one from a month ago that faked us out.

There are a few more in the garden that look really good, so today's carrot may yet end up being surpassed this season.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

new cello

Soren just graduated from an eighth-size cello to a quarter-size. Here those two are, along with Anders's half-size and Sigrid's full-size, and a couple of placeholders for three-quarter-size and, um, plus-size cellos.


Two nights ago, I replaced our old and failing irrigation controller with a new and theoretically "smart" RainMachine Mini-8 controller that adjusts watering times based on weather and season. To mount it outdoors, you need a suitable enclosure. I used the enclosure for the old Irritrol Rain Dial controller, after removing the main parts of the old controller. The panel on the right hides the power supply from the original controller, which works for the new one, too.

The new controller is just a bit too wide to fit in the back of the old box, so I glued a bit of a 2x4 to the back of the controller box, and put some velcro on the top of that... attach the new controller to the 2x4.

It's too early to tell whether this new-fangled system does a good job of keeping the yard looking good while avoiding unnecessary watering, but as of yesterday it already had plans (based on weather forecasts) to reduce the watering times today, Tuesday and Thursday. It ended up changing its mind and giving the yard a full watering this morning, but maybe this thing will save us water even during the dry season.

coriander harvest

I'm now letting the remains of the cilantro plant dry.

Once everything dries out, the coriander seed should fall to the bottom of the bag.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Garden 2.5

In December 2015, we basically rebooted our backyard. Fast forward two summers, and things are looking pretty good!

March 20, 2016, for comparison purposes.

December 23, 2015.

What do cows have to do with Glen Park?

That's what I wondered when I saw this. Well, the Gold Rush sparked a need for dairy, and in the late 1800s Glen Park was home to some of the thousands of cows that lived in what are now the city limits.

Solar Totems

Three 12-foot reclaimed redwood logs are standing tall in Glen Canyon Park, in front of the rec center, with their centers carved out. The leftmost log has a spherical lens rigged up in front of it, which focuses the sunlight, burning the log. As the day progresses, the point of focus changes, so that the entire day is recorded as a line, with varying levels of burn depending on cloud cover. Every day, the spherical lens is raised slightly, so that the log will record one year of solar history. Together, the three logs will record three years. The artist, Charles Sower, has more information about his Solar Totems installation at his website.

Thursday, August 24, 2017


Someone is always doing a major project on their house nearby. This is a third floor addition around the corner and a block down from us...

...and these are photos of a project two blocks east of us, taken today and seven months ago.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

back to school

Soren entering the first-day-of-school ceremony...

...and exiting a full-fledged first grader!

Anders (that's him hidden under the blue hoodie) is now...

...a fourth grader!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse, the movie

I wore a head-mounted GoPro and rolled video from before the partial eclipse started until after the totality ended (about 85 minutes total). Having reviewed much of that footage, I've concluded that most of it really is not that interesting. The best part starts just before the total eclipse, when the sun has already dimmed enough that the park lights had gone on. Truth be told, even this dramatic reveal undersells by an order of magnitude the real experience. But you might still find this interesting, at least to hear the crowd reaction and to see the freaky 360° sunset effect.

If you have a bit more time (about 4-1/2 minutes versus about 3), you can watch a time lapse from a bit before the partial eclipse started until after the total eclipse ended.

And if you really have no time at all, here are 3 still frames from the GoPro video, starting with a nerd shot of me setting up the camera at about 9:00 a.m.

The boys checking out the partial eclipse just after it started, a bit after 9:05 a.m.

And the totality (edited slightly to restore the black moon that my GoPro sensor couldn't capture). At about 1 o'clock from the sun, near the leaves, you can see Venus. At the horizon, you can see the 360° sunset lighting. And on the buildings in the distance, you can that the nighttime sensors have triggered the outdoor lights.


I'll start off with my favorite picture (that I took) of the eclipse itself.

The trip was fantastic. Even awesome, in the most literal sense of the word. We made it to our hotel room in Woodburn pretty uneventfully.

After a day of travel, it seemed wise to let the boys get some outdoor time, so we went to check out Centennial Park, where the city would be hosting an eclipse BBQ party the next day. The boys enjoyed this "splash pad," which just opened up a few months ago.

(Thankfully, the hotel had a coin-operated dryer.)

My plan had been to try out an improbable Korean restaurant (Korean Chinese food, really) in Woodburn, but I had neglected to note that it was closed on Sundays. We switched plans and I got takeout from Luis's Taqueria, which seems to be the most popular Mexican restaurant in town. Woodburn is majority Latino, so this seemed like a good option. It was delicious!

(Barack Obama visited Luis's Taqueria on May 9, 2008, while campaigning for the primaries. The Secret Service chose the location based on the long lines, and the restaurant only received 15 minutes notice. Less than a month later, on June 3rd, he secured the votes needed to be the presumptive Democratic nominee, and on June 7th Hillary Clinton conceded.)

On the morning of, the boys had waffles at the hotel. Some eclipse watchers had already set up chairs in the lawn next to the hotel.

We drove to Centennial Park around 8:30 a.m. With Google Maps predicting a drive time of 7 minutes and the partial eclipse starting at 9:05 a.m., this seemed pretty safe. As we passed by the seemingly full parking lots at the elementary and middle schools just before the park, I began to worry. At the park entrance, I noticed cars exiting, and figured this was a sure sign that parking was full. I wondered how long it would take to find overflow parking, and how long the walk back would be. Did we have enough time? About 500 feet into the entrance to Centennial Park, I spotted a perfectly fine, if not exactly legal, parking spot. I decided no one would be towing cars this morning, and parked. Woodburnians are far too polite. (The pic below is from after the eclipse, and you can see that someone else followed my lead.)

We walked out on one of the soccer fields. There was plenty of space to set up. The grass was damp, and the sky was clear, so we chose a spot that was near a paved walkway and shade.

This was the scene about 350 feet away, on the baseball field closest to the bulk of the parking. (That roofed space off in the distance on the left is probably where the BBQ was; we never made it there.)

I set up a point-and-shoot camera with a MacGyvered solar filter on Sigrid's tripod (which barely fit in our carry on) on the walkway.

I'm in my Dinofest tshirt from Drumheller in 2012.

Sigrid's favorite eclipse-watcher pic.

My favorite eclipse-watcher pic.

The boys.

During the partial eclipse, spaces between leaves act like pinhole cameras, creating partial-eclipse-shaped projections among the shadows.

Partial eclipse.

As totality approached, the temperature dropped 10 or 15 degrees, and the light made it seem like dusk. On the horizon, the lighting was like a sunset, except that there was no sun at the horizon, and the effect was visible in all directions, like a 360° sunset.

And then, finally, the totality hit. While the partial eclipse was a long drawn out affair, the totality was brief—77 seconds from Woodburn.

Close-up of the same pic.

Here is a wider shot of the pic I started this post with. This is as the sun was emerging from totality; the so-called diamond ring phase.

During the totality, I wasn't looking at my camera, but I was clicking on the shutter every few seconds. I composited eight frames into an animation, and adjusted the timing of the frames to roughly approximate a 16x sped-up version of the sun emerging from totality.

After the eclipse, I decided I just had to try the Korean Chinese food restaurant on our way out of town. I ordered the tangsuyuk.  Although the reviews on Yelp suggest others might disagree with me, to me it was, well, not so impressive (perhaps I'm a tough grader on Korean Chinese food)...

...but it did yield this fortune, which seems apt for a trip for which I started planning nearly a year ago. (I booked our hotel room on August 27, 2016.)

Although the traffic leading up to the eclipse was never as horrible as we feared it might be, the post-eclipse trek back to PDX was a bit trickier. When we left the restaurant, Google Maps projected a drive of over an hour. As we drove, it kept suggesting revisions to shave a few minutes here and there (which we mostly accepted). I suspect the eclipse watchers were, on the whole, more likely to be Google Maps users than average, so the effect likely was that the traffipocalypse crowd was evenly spread out over all possible routes. This meant that alternative routes didn't save as much time as they might otherwise have done, but probably served the greater good as a whole. Our total trip time to the airport was close to two-and-a-half hours. We made it to our flight with a bit of time to spare, but not everyone was so lucky. Our flight had been fully booked, but ended up being about a third or perhaps even half empty, presumably due to people who were viewing from further south of us (or who didn't use an app like Google Maps, and instead insisted on driving back on I-5, which was much more crowded than our route).

Here is an alternative view of sorts of the eclipse from our rooftop in San Francisco—a graph of our solar production. The shape of the graph as a whole shows that it was cloudy in San Francisco, but the dip from 9:01 to 11:37 a.m. is due to the (partial in San Francisco) eclipse.

Finally, here are some photos from the pros (NASA).  Totality, from Madras, Oregon. (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

The Bailey's Beads, from Madras, Oregon. (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Seven frame composite showing the space station photobombing the eclipse, as viewed from Banner, Wyoming, and a video showing the entire fly-by. (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Sliver of sun, as viewed from Banner, Wyoming. (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Panorama from the roof of the aircraft hangar at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Although the effect is not super pronounced in this pic, this shows the 360° sunset a bit (NASA Langley/Harlen Capen and George Homich)

Composite showing the progression of the partial solar eclipse over Ross Lake, in Northern Cascades National Park, Washington. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Composite of eleven pictures taken at Madras High School in Madras, Oregon. (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)