Category Archives: Uncategorized

Elks I seen

Just a few unspectacular shots.

One Roosevelt elk resting beneath the tree in the center; we completely missed him until we passed and happened to turn around.
Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California
More Roosevelts, just outside Prairie Creek Redwoods
Rocky Mountain elk in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Xmas at the shed

Yesterday I hung some outdoor lights in front of the shed. I took a picture and shared it with a friend, saying “So Christmas.”

He swiftly sent this picture back to me:

Beatles songbook

Found in a giveaway box a few doors down. So groovy.

Shed in progress 4: So close!

Today was D-Day: I put on the door.

It rained unexpectedly yesterday. Fortunately I had finished the roof, but I couldn’t attach the door until I’d finished the trim. It’s still not quite done, because I may need to make some changes to attach a gutter. Other things on the punch list: chicken wire on each side above the roof to keep the critters out, spray foam and silicone sealing, security bolts on the door hinges, lights on the outside, etc.

The view from the landing, with an attractive roll of Tyvek for visual interest.
The view from the rose bushes.
The view from inside the door. The far wall has a 5° slope at the top and 1.5° at the bottom, but the window is level. To the right is the window of my office.
This exterior wall had two all-weather AC outlets that are now inside the shed. The overhead lights are plugged into an extension cord.
Looking back at the door. The roof is made from transparent corrugated panels. No light comes through from above except through the cracks between the boards, but it helps me to see debris or critters.

Shed in progress 3

After a delay for a summer session of statistics (say it thrice) I’ve made soem progress on the shed. I built a wall and then dismantled it, reusing the wood on the other wall. Changes:

• Door moved from the north wall to the front wall. Many advantages: north wall has 1° slope, required double doors, and has a huge drop-off, requiring a deck. Now a single 3′ door can open into a space next to the stairwell, out of the way.

• Two windows, 10″ x 30″.

• 20′ wall is now two 10′ walls — way too awkward to work around and move as one big wall.

North side showing two windows
South side, door and sloping wall
The south wall, 7° at bottom, 5° at top. Diagonal needed to hold its shape while I worked on it on the flat floor.

Shed in progress 2

Much progress since the last post. The shed is now 9′ x 20′. The roof will be metal panels attached to the underside of the deck, and then I will build the shed up to it.

3-foot door on left, 2′ square window.
T1-11 siding and 1×4 trim on two sides
Simplified deck and rear of house. The actual slopes are not shown.
The space as it looks today. A lot of stuff was disappeared.

Shed in progress

Here are three CAD views of the shed so far.

Shed is 8′ x 18′ x 6’10”. On the right, the side wall rests on a low foundation wall.
The roof is three 8′ x 6′ panels, with 36″-wide low-profile metal roofing panels.
This shows the deck overhead. Because the flagstone patio slopes a bit, it will increase the angle of the roof slightly more than shown.
Panels on and doors in. The top of the door is 5’10”, so I’ll still be ducking to get in.

A seam across the sky

We were in San Simeon yesterday, staying at a hotel next to the ocean, when I saw this in the sky. I think it should be an album cover.

What’s happening is that the sun is out of frame in the upper left. It’s perfectly aligned with the jet contrail, creating a parallel shadow. The jet is just entering the clouds in the lower right and the shadow stretches put before it all the way to the horizon.

jet contrail and shadow in the blue sky


Doryphoros is Greek for “spear-bearer.”

A well-preserved Roman period copy of the Doryphoros of Polykleitos in the Naples National Archaeological Museum

The Doryphoros is a Greek statue of a soldier, much prized and copied by the Romans (one of the best examples was found in Pompeii). Sculpted by Polykleitos as part of his “canon,” it was a study in the ideal proportions of a man and is considered as a perfection of the form.

One American folk term for the Colorado potato beetle was the “ten-striped spearman.” The beetle made its way to Europe, where it was a huge pest after World War I, almost wiping out the French potato crop. (The US was accused by several countries of having purposely introducing the pest purposefully.) The French called it a doryphore, because it was once in the genus doryphora decemlineata (“ten lines”; its name is different now).  

In World War II, doryphore became a French slang epithet for German soldiers, who similarly landed like a plague and ate all the potatoes. Schoolchildren were recruited to help carry out a campaign to wipe out the beetle, and carried signs saying MORT AUX DORYPHORES! which amused the French greatly.

Doryphore was also the name a a prototype combat biplane made by LACAB for the Belgian Air Force in 1934. Here’s a postcard from 1935 mentioning “Le doryphore de la pomme de terre menace l’agriculture et l’horticulture.” Clearly, the word had currency in Europe.

(Interestingly, in Russia and the Ukraine the beetle was called kolorady, and in Ukraine that name became “a derogatory term to describe pro-Russian separatists [due to the] black and orange stripes on so-called St. George’s ribbons worn by many of the separatists.”)

The English writer and diplomant Harold Nicolson (husband of Vita Sackville-West) coined the term “doryphore” in 1949:

These Colorado beetles will spent hours searching for a misprint in the Oxford English Dictionary… Although these doryphores may achieve the short delight of proving that an author has made a mistake on page 479, they will never know the slow, long pleasure of writing a large book with continuous application.

Nicolson has the first four cites in the OED, but others used it, including Herb Caen and the editors of the New Yorker (in 1950).

Anyway, after all that fun I can’t find a definitive reason someone called the beetle a spearman, or why Nicolson used the word figuratively. Were copyediting pedants really such a plague that they deserved to be compared to potato bugs or German soldiers?

A bit of shade

A weekend project, if you redefine a weekend as Friday to Wednesday.

I spend a lot of time on our deck. If the weather is at all tolerable, I set up my computer workstation and spend the day there, looking out to the Golden Gate Bridge and watching the array of birds and critters in the back yard. The deck has a pergola that creates some shade, but we’ve always had an umbrella to make it tolerable under the bright sun directly overhead. I’ve been thinking for a while that a deck-wide shade would be much nicer than the umbrella, so I decided to buy some parts and make what’s variously called a Roman or wave shade that can slide open or closed as needed.

Of course, last-minute design modifications and unforeseen constraints changed things a bit, but I’m still happy with the result. Here’s the pergola before:

The above image before I installed the shades but after I’d “cleared” both bays: the lights in the center were moved from either side of the beam, and the lights on the right beam moved on the outside. I also cleared 30 years of nails and hooks.

Here’s my parts list (sharp viewers will note I bought more materials than I used):

  • 3x Coolaroo 15′ x 8′ sun shade
  • 100′ 1/8″ 7×7 stainless cable
  • 12x lag hooks (to hold cable; better than eye lags: no threading)
  • 2x turnbuckles
  • 4x cable crimps
  • 16x 3/4″ x 1/2″ primed moulding boards (for shade ribs; 8 per shade)
  • 34x small eye screws (for shade ribs)
  • 1x plastic-covered hook screw (for shade pole)
  • 144 zip-ties (9 per rib)

First I installed the hooks in the corners and made a square of cable. The result is about 49 1/2″ wide by 20′ long. Here’s a detail:

Next I created the shades. I didn’t take a photo of the construction, but it took three of the four rolls I bought to make two 23-foot x 4-foot shades with ribs every three feet. I used zip ties to attach the ribs to the cloth, 9 on each rib — much easier than sewing.

Top is daytime, bottom is dusk. It’s not as completely protected as the umbrella provided, but I like the lack of umbrella in this space.