Friday, October 31, 2008

Water, water everywhere!

What can be more delightful than to speak the phrase: "It rained!"?
Well, rain it did, first thing this morning, and the day remained cloudy, even threatening to rain again as the trick-or-treaters began their yearly pillaging. The best part of the downpour was the smell; I drove home after dark with the car windows just barely cracked open, for the night was rather chilly. Before long, I had to roll the windows down further, just to get more of the damp air. I wish I could transport the smell of a good rain in Tehachapi and post it like a picture so you all would know exactly what I'm talking about, but that failing, I can only say, it is an awake sort of smell, as something that had drowsed away a long, hot summer was again alert and tense for action. I think it is mostly the tang of rabbit bushes, which can only be described as a very vaguely piney scent, but wilder, if such a thing is possible. There is also a strong, woody tinge of oak, and of last year's grass, that dried early in the spring, and dust slipping off the pavement at last--all in all, it is a thankful sort of smell.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Merely going through a phrase

A customer was in the shop the other day talking about a slide guitar she'd recently acquired. There was something about the resonator, I think it was, that she wasn't crazy about, but she liked the rest of the instrument well enough that she declared she would jury rig a replacement. Jury rig. There's a rare one! It is a nautical term--my 1948 copy of Knight's Modern Seamanship (I knew it would come in handy someday!) uses "jury" as an adjective in several entries. A jury mast, for example, is "a temporary mast. . ." a jury anchor is "a heavy weight used as an anchor". A jury rig (a noun in Knight's) is "a makeshift rig". Nicholl's Seamanship and Nautical Knowledge has a very intriguing paragraph on jury rudders, which are pretty much anything you can come up with, if you should have the misfortune to loose the original rudder. When I can't think of a real blog entry, I have to jury rig one.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Prey Tell

Here are a few snapshots from the end of August. There was a creature on the screen door:
A preying mantis, it was, to be exact. (No scientific name, sorry; I'm supposed to be cramming for a tutoring session. . .No, I'm tutoring, not being tutored, but I put it off as expertly as any student ever did.)

Well, you don't get to take a picture of a preying mantis every day, so might as well get all you can while you can, eh?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

If it ain't broke. . .

Well, I fixed it anyway. I hadn't really thought through the original blog title, as far as checking to see if anybody was using anything similar. . .turns out, there is "The Piper's Cave," an online piping supply store that has been there much longer than this manifestation, and it really did seem presumptuous to take a title with only an article's difference. . .especially when there is so little to do with piping that has been sifting through, from the very moment of this blog's initiation.

So, I have resorted to Chesterton, who was a man of many original phrases; the new blog title comes from the quote at the top of the page which, in turn, appears in the novel "The Napoleon of Notting Hill." If I keep on here long enough we may, at any rate, get to see the thousandth bug, eh?

[Edit: October 27: Weeeel, it seems that despite thorough (?) searching, I missed an existing "The Thousandth Time". . .and a blog, at that! But temporarily, anyway, I shall leave both the address and the title as they stand. Suggestions for a permanent title would be greatly welcomed.]

Sunday Photographer

I like Sundays. After Mass and the weekly adjusting of the world back into its proper place, there is plenty of time for piping and for fooling around with the camera (and, apropos to nothing, I had a lovely cup of coffee this afternoon too). About 4:00 I noticed the leaves of the birch tree in the front yard were well on their way to changing, so I tried to get a few pictures with the sun behind them. Never did get it quite right. . .so today the subject is birch trees, and the manner is quantity rather than quality.
Here is a birch leaf: And here is a tree. They tend to have a lot of leaves:

And, lo! we get a closer look at the branch on the tree, and the tree in the ground (and the green grass grew all around, all around, and the green grass grew all around. . .)

The sun, and the contrast it made, lighting up the edges of the leaves was much more in evidence than the forgoing pictures suggest; below, I managed to sneak a piece of setting sun in, but it ungratefully made a blue spot appear on the finished picture:
And, finally, some leaves which had turned, and which looked mighty nice against the white trunk of the tree:

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Back to the July Trip

The Monterey Maritime Museum isn't vast, but it is nicely arranged with more than enough intrigue to fill a couple of hours. Though it is titled a maritime museum, and has some very informative exhibits in that area of interest, it is also generous with landbound history. Below is a 17th century Spanish sword (the helmet is also from the same era, but I don't know if the two artifacts belonged to the same owner). Along the blade it says: "No me sacques sin rason; no me envaiñes sin honor", that is "Do not take me out without reason; do not sheath me without honor."

Saturday, October 4, 2008

If you like bagpipe music, there is a lovely monthly radio program at The College of Piping Radio. September's program included a few highlights from this year's World Pipe Band Championships. This is a bit of a kick because this year SFU won their 5th world championship. The program--I don't know how much longer September's will stay up, but as of this evening, it is still there--includes an interview with Terry Lee, SFU's pipe major.

Getting away from the band aspect of piping, the show also included a lovely piece performed by Margaret Stewart and Allan MacDonald. They have recorded some wonderful combinations of traditional Gaelic singing and pipe tunes; in this case, the singer presents a Gaelic hymn and the piper weaves a piobaireachd variation into it. I read a short article the other day (the one I give the link to, I believe) which stated that Mr. MacDonald's Master's thesis explored the ties between the Gaelic language and piobaireachd; if that doesn't sound like a thoroughly absorbing scholarly work, I don't know what does. (But I am admittedly prejudiced!)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Not Quite Rain

We did get about 30 seconds of serious rain this past Tuesday, and ever since then, the weather has been promising to do better--with no results, as yet. The here-and-now contrast of clouds and sun is almost as lovely as the hinted notion of a real downpour. When I was going out to the post office on Wednesday, the southeastern end of the Tehachapi Valley was alive with rays of light, falling through the clouds almost as thick as grass on a hillside. It was one of those sights that seems a bit clearer if you look at it out of the corner of your eye, but I had a shot at it with the camera anyway.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Thinking to try something new, and get a bit of practice, I signed up for a calligraphy group's envelope exchange. The theme was leaf prints--a lovely idea in theory, very messy in practice. I was out of envelopes, so I started from scratch. That is why the envelope below looks odd--it hasn't been glued together yet. The flaps sticking out at the sides are to be glued behind to hold everything together. Sorry, no pictures of the finished product; I didn't think it would be a good idea to put the ladies' names and addresses up on web.

I found out several interesting facts in the course of this project, the main one being the sharp contrast between the leaves of the Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) and the Blue Oak (Quercus douglasii). Even when the leaves are closer in size than those pictured below, the shapes are quite distinctive.

Also, while hunting for the scientific names, I ran across the trivia that the Valley Oak is the largest kind of oak found in North America. And, though it does not seem to be as widely known, Blue Oak leaves tend to make very smudgy prints indeed!