Torito de la Virgen

It’s been too long since these pages featured a nice lizard.

Great Horned Lizard

Here is a fine example of Phrynosoma, the Great Horned Lizard. Native American cultures respected these creatures for being symbols of strength. You can find out more about ‘horny toads’ here and here.

In case you’re curious to trace my previous series of lizard-related material, you can try here, here, here, here and definitely here.

First Strawberry of ’12

Little pleasures can be captivating if you’re paying attention.

Yum

This strawberry is (was) a little smaller than the average commercial raspberry. 2012 is the third year in which this little plant has offered up a little magical taste of flavory goodness.

[Excuse me while I go copyright and trademark that phrase, “magical taste of flavory goodness.” Once Hostess brands gets out of bankruptcy, they’re probably going to line up with my other friends from Nestle chocolates to buy this brilliant bit of intellectual property. That’s a relief; if present trends continue, Ms. May is going to start college in the fall of 2016. It’ll be cool to have her expenses covered.]

Earlier this afternoon I went outside to tend my modest little garden. This beautiful tiny strawberry greeted me. I took this photograph right before I severed the berry and part of the stem from the plant. Inside, I washed off the brilliant bright red berry and gazed at it lovingly under the golden glow of the afternoon sun. After that I bit the berry off of the stem and savored each bit of the marvelous morsel.

I couldn’t help but do a nice little happy dance of joy as the divinity of the strawberry permeated my consciousness. I’m telling you, strawberries make a compelling case for the existence of a loving divine spirit in the universe.

Eclipse in San Diego

You don’t see this every day. Here is an annular solar eclipse.

This is how it looked from Carmel Valley, California at about 6:20 or so yesterday, May 20. Once I was present for a total solar eclipse. The changes in light were gradual until the moment of totality, and at that point it was almost as if a switch turned off the sun. What I remember most about it was how something that dramatic could also be completely silent.

Candy Comparison

Sometimes it is nice to follow one’s own decline – after all, it can be a fun trip! It’s a relief to know that the simpler things in life really are quite fulfilling, and as the years go by I find that this is increasingly true.

With regard to chocolate, I am blessed in many ways. Not only can I afford to buy all I want, that amount is not enough to do me any serious harm. It happens that I am particularly fond of the smallest snack sizes available. Now I am able to bring you yet another public service on these pages – a review of specialty items from Nestle Crunch.

In the above picture you can have a nice look at examples of Nestle Crunch Jingles, Eggs and Hearts. These are seasonal items, only available a few weeks out of the year. Now you might assume that these treats aren’t any good because they haven’t already been eaten. It’s also not entirely unreasonable to suspect that, seeing as how these are not exactly “high end” candies in the first place, it might make more sense to just eat them right away and try not to draw much attention to the whole deal.

Over the years I have come to associate Easter with the best holiday candy. Are the Nestle Crunch Eggs the best of these novelty seasonal items? I’ve always thought so, but this opinion never was put to the test – until now. It required both discipline and a bit of absent-mindedness to keep a few of the bell shaped Jingles on hand and to add a stash of Hearts to the pile that might last until the candy buildup towards Easter.

I can’t avoid making one religious point here, one aimed at any ordained clerics or laypeople on the boards of directors of houses of worship who may stumble onto these few paragraphs. Are you ready? Here goes: Chocolate makes everything better. Last fall I found myself at a Jewish High Holy Days break-the-fast service. They had a big chocolate fountain and a gigantic pile of fresh strawberries waiting to be dipped. Properly marketed, this practice can’t help but be good for membership, no matter which of God’s various franchises is serving up the fresh-dipped chocolate strawberries!

Right. Where was I? Oh yes, the Nestle Crunch novelty chocolate question. Well, I’ve had a chance to engage in some thoughtful empirical tests in addition to visually inspecting these items at close quarters. It turns out that the Jingles and the Eggs are made with the same basic technology. Two halves are fused together to make the whole product, which is then wrapped in foil as illustrated above. The Hearts, on the other hand, are only one piece thick. That leads to a certain physical integrity when the item is bitten. The Jingles and Eggs are likely to split along the seam when bitten, whereas the Hearts will break where bitten.

For what it’s worth, I guess I still think the Eggs are the most pleasing of the lot, all things being equal. I like carrying one or two around in my pocket long enough for them to become soft enough to chew without a lot of give but not so soft as to lose their physical integrity entirely.

There is a way to make the most of the Hearts, however, one that might make that item the best of these three treats. It takes a little work. Get a Heart. Unwrap it. Put the foil on top of a coffeemaker and put the heart on top of the foil. Make the coffee. By the time it’s brewed, the heat will melt the Heart without causing it to run. Lick the heart off the foil and get a delightful massive hit of Nestle Crunch goodness.

Agree or disagree? How do you know if you haven’t compared them yourself? Face it, you’ve got a lot of work to do. Maybe it’s time to get busy.

Incidentally, am I the only one old enough to remember the old jingle they used to use on TV a long time ago? Didn’t it go something like this? “N-e-s-t-l-e-s, Nestles makes the very best chocolate.” Isn’t that right? Sure it is. OK, somebody explain to me what happened to the “s.” Did they take it away at some point, or did the TV jingle contain a misspelling of the product’s name?

1965 Flashback to 2nd Grade

It’s odd to live in a world in which a 45 year-old photograph shows up suddenly, yet thanks to the modern miracle (or curse) of technology this picture arrives unexpectedly, and I get snatched up for a quick trip back in time. Time travel seems to be an increasingly common preoccupation on these pages. You might as well come along, so return with me to the fall of 1965.

My second grade classmates and I are in what is now called the Michael Jackson Auditorium at Gardner Street Elementary school. I am standing to the extreme right of the next-to-back row, an uncharacteristic position. My sister-in-law Debbie is in the center of the same row.

Just a couple of years ago, I stood in roughly the same place in that old auditorium. It looked exactly the same, except smaller.

The Parrots Are Back

I’ve been hunting these guys with various cameras for years. More than 15 months ago, I got a shot of several of these birds on a power wire, but that wasn’t exactly the nice nature picture I always had in mind.

“Birdsong” is not a word that comes to mind when a flock of parrots begins an animated conversation. I heard a loud parrot gossip session begin just as I was sitting down to work. I took three steps out of my office and looked up. Half a dozen of these fine birds were in the neighbor’s tree.  I took this shot by leaning back and pointing the camera up.

It’s nice to see this blog leaning away from reptiles and focusing more attention on birds.

Today’s Hummingbird

Most of us have seen video of hummingbirds flying in slow motion. In real life it’s amazing how fast they are. I’ve been hunting these guys with various cameras for years, and this is the first picture I’ve managed to get that’s vaguely worth sharing.

We think of these tiny birds as being little and cute, but in fact they are mean. Their call is a distinct clicking sound, and they aren’t shy about buzzing people, dogs, or much larger birds who get too close to a place the micro bird is defending. This year there are several active hummingbird nests within 15 yards of the sliding glass door to the back patio.

Dragonfly!

Yet another amazing creature showed up to pose for pictures early this afternoon.

It feels good to be getting back to taking pictures of dragonflies; maybe it means lizards are done following me for now. I’ve been hunting dragonflies with a camera for years, with some great results! Check out these dragonfly centerfolds from July 2007, July 2008, and September 2010.

Danger Is My Business

“Old ex-competitive swimmers are a menace. The ones who pretend that their muscles haven’t atrophied are worse than the ones who are out of shape, and ex-pool lifeguards are the worst of all – those losers weren’t strong enough to be ocean lifeguards in the first place. They should be required to wear life vests when they hit 45.”

That was part of the training I received as a pool lifeguard, way back in the distant past when swimming pools still had diving boards.

Riptide at Kapaau

Here’s a recent picture of me taken at Kapaau, close to the northern tip of the Big Island of Hawaii, during my recent audition for the Darwin Awards. This black sand beach is one of the most beautiful places on the planet for somebody to drown. You’ll notice that I am the only swimmer in the picture, despite the fact that it’s a glorious beach day. Why do you think that is? The National Weather Service has a nice explanation of what rip currents are, how they form, and why you shouldn’t go swimming in them.

Even an untrained eye can see that the waves are choppy and that they’re breaking in different directions at the same time, but who cares? I’ve been swimming for almost 50 years! (This is the kind of thinking the trainer had in mind – Notice how the ex-pool lifeguard turns his greatest liability into some kind of asset? Anybody who has been doing anything for almost half a century shouldn’t get his ankles wet when the surf is this dangerous!)

It’s a good thing that my Guardian Angel hasn’t reached the mandatory retirement age.