First Blush

Reflections and sightings from [almost] daily jogging at dawn

Monday, July 31, 2006

Sunrise 6:12: Wordplay clues

This morning, the Dawn Joggers came upon what looked like the remnants of some kind of workplay game near the back of Roble Gym. There were at least a half dozen clues posted on posts and walls. Playing games with words seems to be once again spiking in popularity with whole websites devoted to the pursuit.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sunrise 6:11: Sunday art

On a day with pleasantly warm temperatures, the Dawn Joggers and Cassie chose "short" Portola for their Sunday outing. To their surprise, the high clouds brought a few sprinkles. The male DJ kept occupied by taking a lot of close up shots of the flora, mainly in black and white, which showed off the contrasting light. But the bright orange and green hue of one long manzanita branch prompted a quick switch to color.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Sunrise 6:10: Back to the Dish

What a difference a week and 20 degree temperature drop make. While the morning overcast had already burned off by the time the Dawn Joggers headed out for their Saturday Big Dish route, it was still cool enough to make it enjoyable. And there was lots of activity with one of the charity training groups using the Dish area as a tune up to some upcoming run. An oak at the base of the Dish itself framed the coming and goings of the walkers and runners. Later the DJs encountered a Palo Alto Fire Department training exercise. Funny how fire trucks retain their fascination throughout the years.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sunrise 6:09: Suburban priorities

Part of the Dawn Joggers' amusement on their early morning outings is watching neighborhoods transform. It's compounded for the female Dawn Jogger as she rode the same Menlo Park streets on her bicycle growing. She's noticed it's not just the big things - tear 'em down and build a mini-mansion - that changes a neighborhood's character. It's also the small - like where did all the fruit trees go? Some of the streets with deep lots - Hobart, Cotton and Hermosa between Middle and Santa Cruz - had backyards that were mini orchards, complete with bee hives and an occasional chicken coop. Her father planted berry vines, and peach, apricot and cherry trees in his Hillview Drive backyard. Whether growing backyard crops was a residual of coming of age during the Depression or just a joyous expression of escaping city life for the "country," she's not sure. But she pondered the loss when she spied some ripening fruit (on maybe an ornamental fruit tree) in a Bay Laurel front yard.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sunrise 6:09: Cycling mania

The Dawn Joggers weren't surprised last year when the New York Times, quoting venture capitalist Randy Komisar, proclaimed "cycling is the new golf," at least in Silicon Valley. For the nine months that the connecting road between Santa Cruz Avenue and Junipera Serra and Alpine Road was closed, they got used to sharing their jogging path with early morning cyclists who roam Silicon Valley in massive packs (known as a peloton in cycle speak). It is not unusual for tech workers who live in the City to pedal the 30 to 45 miles to work in the Valley and back. One peloton shot by them this morning as they were crossing Sand Hill Road.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Sunrise 6:08: Peninsula air conditioning

The female Dawn Jogger, on a rare solo outing, quickly saw that relief was on the way. At least on the Peninsula, the worst of the heat was over, thanks to the coastal fog which had made its way inland. The midpeninsula in particular is blessed with a near perfect climate, out of the wind that hits north of highway 92 and out of the heat further south. The area is perfectly air conditioned by the fog that either hangs on the western hills or creeps in each morning, only to burn off by midmorning.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Sunrise 6:07 am: On horses and motion

Along one of the Dawn Joggers' routes on the Stanford campus is a state historical monument marking the development of motion pictures. It's near the one remaining working horse barn on the campus, which is appropriate. Leland Stanford, owner of the Palo Alto Stock Farm (now the univeristy) had met the English photographer Eadweard Muybridge and hired him to settle one of Stanford's claims - that there was a point in a horse's full gallop when all four hooves were off the ground. Muybridge got the proof in 1878 using, according to the marker, 24 cameras fitted with electroshutters (some sources say it was 50 cameras). The motion picture study, "The Science of the Horse's Motion," made the cover of Scientific American.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Sunrise 6:06 am: Stanford told to stop

The Dawn Joggers set out just after sunrise this morning with the temperature a cool 72 degrees - much more like jogging in the Midwest or East than Northern California. But after two days of temperatures over 100 - and lots of 90 degree plus days before that - it seemed almost crisp. One of the first things they spotted was a newly-posted sign on the practice golf course construction project. Could Stanford really have begun something without the right permit? More intriguing, if that is so, who'd bother turning the university in? It was greeted with glee by one walker who said during the day the dust and heat combination has been awful.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sunrise 6:05 am: Rare ground

By the time the Dawn Joggers awoke this morning after a late night birthday celebration for friend Cathy (for which the male DJ put together a fabulous Cuban dinner along with friend Barb) Cassie was already panting, and the temperature was once again quickly rising. Sanity prevailed; the three were grounded for the day due to heat and humidity. The temperature was just under a 100 in the shade; the garden thermometer registered 110. Very unusual conditions for the San Francisco Peninsula.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Sunrise 6:05 am: New look at familar things

As the Dawn Joggers presumed, heat, humidity and a later weekend start time precluded the usual Big Dish Saturday run. Good news for Cassie who joined them on a shady loop walk over territory that was once familar but is now visited less frequently.
They'd all undoutedly passed this bay tree along San Francisquito Creek a hundred times, but it's interesting hollowed up center with multiple trunks had never registered.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Sunrise 6:04 am: An arty Big Dish

Maybe it's the heat and abnormally high humidity for the Bay Area that's propelling people out of bed. Whatever the reason, the Dawn Joggers contnue to have lots of company at sunrise. Tight schedules prevented them for heading out to their usual Friday Arastradero run, so they did 'reverse Dish' to get in some hill work. Even early, it was a warm pull up the hill from the Junipero Serra gate to the top. There "reward" was a different than usual Big Dish position, which translated to an arty shot from its base.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Sunrise 6:03 am: Lots of dawn activity

Sunrise and the time the Dawn Joggers take off in the morning is getting closer as the days get shorter. But the activity level of the dawn community may have been at an all time high this morning. The Dawn Joggers and Cassie first encountered Paul and Patches. Paul is in the final stages of training for the San Francisco Aids Marathon, which he is running with his daughter, and is wearing leg weights as well as an identifying badge. After passing Devon and his mistress, the DJs headed to the lake to see a dwindling group of Revenue Generators being extolled by their leader to "step it up." There were more than the usual number of solo joggers around the lake and most surprising of all, a number of small frogs still hopping about.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Sunrise 6:02 am: Proliferation of bikes

The Dawn Joggers are vexed by the proliferation of bikes tethered randomly along their jogging route. The white black (top), which used to be a black bike until its seat was stolen, has been a fixture on one side of the other of Sand Hill Road for over a year. It was joined a couple of weeks back by another bike (middle) that's taken up residence about 50 yards from the white back at the bottom of Avy Street. Then on Monday, a new bike (bottom) appeared at the edge of Stanford's Arboretum adjacent to one of the hospital parking lots. They waited until today to confirm that these were keepers and recording new pictures. The mystery of the bikes remains: why are they where they are and who ones them? Part of what baffles the DJs iss that given the many bike racks in the area, particularly on campus, why these bike owners have chosen to tether them elsewhere. The male DJ has begun to studiously examine the locks to gauge if the bikes get moved during the 24 hour period between dawn jogs.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Sunrise 6:01 am: Clues to a mystery

Just after crossing the bridge over San Francisquito Creek by the Stanford golf course this morning, the Dawn Joggers and Cassie saw that another phase of the mysterious construction project was underway. A wider area had been tilled and leveled just since yesterday morning. A little detective work unearthed a map of current university constuction projects and revealed this as the site of a new "Golf Practice Center." What that will be made up of - i.e. will the driving range so loved by the female DJs father be moved to this new location? - remains to be seen. It's slated as a year long project.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Sunrise 6:01 am: Fab house

The Dawn Joggers agree about many things but differ about the merits of a house built beside San Franscisquito Creek near the bike ridge. The female DJ is thinks it's just about perfect - not too big, constructed of lovely wood panels and flag stone, lots of windows that face out the to 'wild side' of the property. And, of course, she fancies its very steamlined, angular lines. The male DJ calls is a 'moon prison.' Both have long been curious about the interior - and when the landscape will be added., (The construction of the house was completed about two years ago.) It does provide them an ongoing point of discussion each Monday and Wednesday when they pass (this morning joined by a jaunty striped cat).

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Sunrise 6:00 am: Pretty posie, rattling poser

The Dawn Joggers and Cassie headed out to Portola Valley late morning and opted for the shorter loop, as the day was quickly heating up. The last couple of days had been so rich with posers (wildlife scenically positioned), they were on the lookout for today's publicity hound. It revealed itself by rattling a warning. The female DJ and Cassie were first to give the small rattlesnake coiled in the grass adjacent to the trail a wide berth. By the time the male DJ approached, the rattling had reached greater intensity, and he gave it even wider berth and passed on the idea of snapping a photographer. A much friendlier subject was an isolated stand of pink wildflowers, particularly vibrant against the golden grass.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Sunrise 5:59 am: Cavalcade of posers

After 25 years of marriage, the Dawn Joggers agree that they are amused by "posers." (They also realize that words creep into their vocabulary that aren't exactly in the dictionary, for example, "poser," a noun referring specifically to an animal who is scenically positioned.) Today's Big Dish run yielded a bumper crop of posers, following on the heals of yesterday's bunny encounter. First spotted were the Belted Galloway cows near Alpine Road. The female DJ doesn't take Alpine as frequently as she once did so hadn't seen them for quite awhile, but frequency apparently has little to do with spottings. The male DJ drives Alpine twice a day on the way to work, and he hadn't seen them for a sometime either. Next up was a ground squirrel who was nibbling grass seed with much determination. Finally a pigeon hopped along beside them just before they tackled the dreaded wedge hill (a couple hundred yards at 10% grade that comes towards the end of the circuit).

Friday, July 14, 2006

Sunrise 5:59 am: A little art, a lot of bunny

It seems to the female Dawn Jogger that they've seen a lot more wildlife at Arastradero when it was overcast than when it was sunny, a theory she posited as the DJs and Cassie set off on their Friday run in the Preserve. There was as much low fog as they'd ever seen there, providing good atmosphere but yielding few wildlife sightings. The exception was one young bunny, who seemed extremely curious about the humans and dog (who was kept well back from the action). It paraded around in front of them, inching closer before finally heading back to to the brush. While charming to watch, this behavior probably does not serve well in the wild. The "art shot" of the day was moss-covered scrub oak.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Sunrise 5:58 am: Devon joins the dawn community

Some months ago the Dawn Joggers and Cassie started regularly seeing a very exuberant Weimaraner pup and its owner, who was always very considerate about rounding him up when they passed. Today, they officially met, learning his name is Devon. The DJs have always thought that Cassie has a particularly joyful countenance, but Devon is a good match. His youthful body is always in motion, and he just exudes enthusiasm for life. Evidently Weimaraners were originally developed to track large animals, such as bears, a pursuit that would take stamina and determination.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sunrise 5:57 am: Mysterious moon movement

The almost full moon was still up when the Dawn Joggers took off this morning. It's position in the sky has been a source of amusement for the DJs over the years. When they leave their driveway, it's in one place. They think they then jog at a right angle toward Sand Hill Road, but when they get there and cross the bridge onto Stanford land, the moon is now in an entirely different position. Clearly, what feels like a right angle is a larger arc.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Sunrise 5:57 am: Of birds and saints

The Dawn Joggers saw lots of what they refer to as clumping this morning. The Revenue Generators were jogging around the lake, and the ground squirrels were so numerous and so active on one large field, it looked like a prairie scene. Then they came upon some birds on a wire near the horse paddocks that the male DJ thought looked like notes. That got the female DJ thinking about the song "Bird on a Wire." According to Wikipedia, Leonard Cohen began to write it while emerging from depression during the 60s. He was living on the Greek island of Hydra at the time, and the phone lines upon which the bird sat were new. A quick Google on the song title netted Cohen's thoughts on saints that begins, "What is a saint? A saint is someone who has achieved a remote human possibility. It is impossible to say what that possibility is. I think it has something to do with the energy of love..." A reading of the full text provides much to ponder.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Sunrise 5:56 am: Change the fuel, change the world

The Dawn Joggers, accompanied by the female DJ's college roommate, Chris Cullen Wallace, headed off this morning in search of The Big Green Bus. They'd read it was going to be making a local appearance as one of the participants, Brian Hendrickson, is from Menlo Park, and sure enough, there it was parked in front of his parent's house. During the female DJ's and Cullen's college era, a big green bus powered by vegetable oil would have been considered a hippie bus. But today it's a serious endeavor by a group of 12 Dartmouth students "committed to promoting the use of alternative energies through education and example." The 10,000 mile journey across the U.S. is fueled by waste vegetable oil that they pick up from restaurants on the road. The SunPower SPR-215 solar panel, mounted on the roof of the bus, helps power a fuel warming system, required to keep the oil from thickening in the fuel lines. The solar electricity also charges the student's laptop computers and digital cameras. The Green Bus team is believed to be the first using solar technology in this type of application. The bus will be in the Bay Area through July 13. More details can be found here.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Sunrise 5:55 am: Two Cullens visit

The Dawn Joggers and Cassie led the two Cullens on a walking tour of Stanford this morning, including a stop at the New Guinea Sculpture Garden. The female DJ's UCLA roommate, Chris Cullen Wallace, who she calls "Cullen," is here for the weekend to drop her teenage son, Cullen, off at the Digital Media Camp being held on campus. The guys later headed off on a pilgrimage to Fry's, a traditional that the male DJ started with older son, Andrew.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Sunrise 5:55 am: Good weather art

Both of the Dawn Joggers began their careers at daily newspapers at a time when each of their respective publications was at its heydey (or probably more accurately, one of its heydeys). The female DJ was the Los Angeles Times during the period that publisher Otis Chandler was tranforming it from a local newspaper into a national voice; the male DJ was at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner when one of the great newspaperman of the 20th century, Jim Bellows, was at the helm as editor. How does this tie into their Saturday Dish run? It was warm today, particularly along the concrete stretches, and the drinking fountain on the Dish property was particularly welcome. Standing there, the female DJ, thought, "Perfect 'weather art' shot." 'Weather art' was an assignment given to a photog (as they were called), usually, but not always, when it was very hot or very cold to go out and shoot something that showed the weather. The classic weather shot is children playing in water from an open fire hydrant. Being the professional photographer he is, the male DJ trumped the female DJ with a more interesting 'weather art' shot of a homeless man enjoying some shade near the Stanford community garden. Note: the male DJ has recently uploaded a selection of his black and white portfolio; those from the 70s include two 'weather art' shots.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Sunrise 5:54 am: Golden glory

Arastradero Preserve was showing off it golden glory this morning. It was the first time in a couple of weeks that the Dawn Joggers and Cassie were treated to sunny rather than overcast skies. The hills just glistened, more so, it seemed because of the tall growth of the grasses. Animal sighting of the day was a baby hare, a first for the DJs (there's always an abundance of baby cottontail rabbits...).

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Sunrise 5:54 am: Duck status report

Lake Lagunita continues to dry up a little bit each day. From the vantage point of the path around the lake, there are only two large puddles remaining, although the Dawn Joggers think there may be water that's not visible in the reeds. Last Thursday they'd seen the first ever baby Coot.Today there was a large family of almost fully-grown ducklings. Looks like the water is going to hold out until their maturity.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Sunrise 5:53 am: It's a dog's life

There are quite a few fountains on the Stanford campus. As much as Cassie loves dipping in water, she could never convince herself to cool off in any of them as, unlike a puddle or the lake, she wasn't able to determine how deep the water was. And she's a dog who much prefers wading to swimming. That wasn't the case with a Golden Retriever spotted by the Dawn Joggers this morning near the library. He was enjoying fully chasing balls in the circular fountain.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Sunrise 5:52 am: Faith and the 4th of July

As the Dawn Joggers and Cassie walked the flag-festooned streets of suburban Menlo Park (still cheered by the convivial atmosphere of last night's picnic, New Orleans-style jazz, and fireworks at Frost Amphitheater as shown in the 'last blush' photo), the female DJ couldn't help reflect on the state of the union. Like many of the generation that came of age during the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war, 'celebrating' the 4th of July was not always comfortable. Celebration seemed the wrong action when your heart ached about what your country was doing in the name of freedom - FBI-ordered wire tapping of both student and civil rights leaders and pumping billions of dollars and sacrificing young lives in another country's civil war, all justified by the "threat of communism." On the other side, those who were troubled, perplexed, or maybe uneducated, by what the two movements were protesting against, shouted back the admonishment, "my country right or wrong."

Now 40 years later, it appears to the female DJ, we've fallen into an even more precarious situation. While there are many instances of the current administration's efforts to curb freedom - here and abroad - in the name of the "threat of terrorism," there is little outrage. Today's San Francisco Chronicle's lead editorial, a call for patriots to awaken, wonders if the silence is due to "lingering shock" post 9/11 or the result of "the complacency of a half-century of growing affluence." Others have suggested the cause, particularly in regards to the war in Iraq, is due to the fact that, unlike the 60s, there is no draft.

The female DJ thinks there may be another factor, namely the absence of a pervasive faith-based call to question the morality of the current administration's actions and its cloaking of these actions as what God is directing them to do. In the 60s, it was the churches and synagogues, allied with the secularists, that led the civil rights and anti-war movement. But somewhere along the way being a religious person, a church-going person, a person of faith became marginalized within progressive circles. The result, as Illinois Senator Barack Obama points out, is a growing suspicion between religious America and secular America, a gap exasperated and exploited by religious leaders on the right. Has it also stymied faith-based calls to seek peace and justice? Barack's far-reaching, keynote speech to a progressive Christian organization is a plea for all of us to start listening to and having conversations with each other. No one gets off the hook. As such, it provides inspirational reading for this year's Independence Day.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Sunrise 5:52 am: An hour makes all the difference

The Dawn Joggers were an hour later than usual on their Monday run across the Stanford campus this morning. And what a difference that hour makes. They spotted two large groups making their way to classes: a group of teenage girls who said they were there for computers and technology (maybe the Digital Media Academy which was checking young people in nearby?) and another group that appeared to be the Revenue Generators. The DJs realized that never seen this group 'dressed' before, meaning anything other than workout clothes. It's back to the Stanford campus this afternoon for picnic, concert by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and fireworks at Frost Amphitheater.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Sunrise 5:51 am: Yet another mystery project

Starting last week, the Dawn Joggers noticed a group of large trucks containing pumps, generators and coolers, taking up residence on Roble Field. The male DJ was intrigued - what are they pumping and why - and today they took a detour from their around-the-lake walk for a closer inspection. Their purpose remains a mystery.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Sunrise 5:51 am: Getting a physics lesson

This morning the Dawn Joggers did 'reverse Dish,' running up the hill from the Junipero Serra entrance near Campus Drive East rather than their usual start from Alpine Road. They'd taken this route a number of times on Friday mornings during the winter months when it was too dark to tackle Arastradero, but this was the first time they'd done it in a long time with the sun fully up and its heat in effect. When they got to the top, the female DJ mentioned that it seemed to her that this approach was a more difficult climb, implying a better workout and more energy (= calories) expended. There ensued a physics lesson from the male DJ: as the altitude achieved was exactly the same, so was the energy expended, even though the climb was steeper and the workout more intense. Newtonian physics dictates it's always the same amount of energy to lift a body to equal height. Her thinking corrected, the female DJ was comforted somewhat by the fact that the Junipero Serra approach is two-tenths of a mile longer (oh, the virtues of Gmaps Pedomter!).