Thursday, December 31, 2015

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Great Basin Sagebrush

Artemisia tridentata

Great Basin Sagebrush: photo by Cliff Hutson
Great Basin Sagebrush: photo by Cliff Hutson

Great Basin sagebrush, Artemisia tridentata, is closely associated with the Great Basin Desert which lies east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  It additionally occurs in the southern Sierra and Peninsular ranges. The herbarium at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden even contains specimens collected in Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties. Neither is the plant limited to the Sagebrush Scrub community. It can be found in, among others, desert scrub, pinyon-juniper woodland, and Joshua tree woodland.

These habits clearly represent a vast range in climate, soil types, competition with other plants, and animals. One of plant’s features that makes for this adaptability is that it has two sets of roots. Shallow roots that lie just below the surface of the soil collect any precipitation that falls. A very strong central root may go as deep as thirteen feet, frequently tapping in to the water table. 

Artemisia tridentata: photo by Cliff Hutson
Artemisia tridentata: photo by Cliff Hutson

Also known as Big Sagebrush, it is an evergreen shrub, although one of my sources described it as “evergray” due to the lovely gray-green color of its leaves. The hairy leaves are, as described in Jepson eFlora, “Generally wedge-shaped, generally (0)3(5)-toothed or lobed at tip”. Aye, there's the rub. The appellation “tridentata” means three-toothed, but on some plants the leaves have no teeth at all. Some may have little lobes that are more bumps than teeth. Another may have teeth that are fang-like in appearance. Keep in mind, too, that sagebrush is not sage, even though it can have a similar tangy fragrance. 

The many-branched shrub grows from a couple of feet in height to six feet tall, and about as wide. Small, or insignificant, yellow flowers in long, loosely arranged tubular clusters pop out in late summer or early fall. The production of edible seeds completes the cycle. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

California Juniper

Juniperus californica

 (Juniperus californica)
California Juniper: photo by Cliff Hutson

California Juniper is a shrub-like tree that is native to California and is found only slightly beyond California’s borders; a short distance into the Great Basin in southern Nevada, northwestern Arizona, and Baja California. Throughout our state it is found in the Peninsular Ranges, Transverse Ranges, California Coast Ranges, Sacramento Valley foothills, Sierra Nevada, and at higher elevation sky islands in the Mojave Desert ranges in Pinyon-Juniper Woodland, Joshua Tree Woodland, and Foothill Woodland communities. It is a member of the Cupressaceae or cypress family

The plant can grow to forty feet in height, but is usually much shorter (10-15 ft.). The leaves are scalelike, and yellow-green in color.  The bark is ashy gray to brown, and furrowed or shredded in appearance. The “berries” are actually cones (7–12 mm) which are described as bluish (although they look greenish to me), with a bloom, and contain one or two seeds. The cones are red-brown when dry. California juniper is said to be dioecious, producing cones of only one sex on an individual plant. But a small percentage of plants are monoecious, i.e., both sexes on the same plant.

Juniperus californica provides food and shelter for a variety of mammals and birds. Notably, it is a larval host for the native moth Sequoia sphinx (Sphinx sequoiae). It is popular species for bonsai; and also has value as an ornamental being drought-tolerant and requiring no water after it is established.

Indigenous people used the wood for sinew-backed bows. South Coast Province people also ground up the cones and molded them into cakes, which were said to taste sweet. It is reported that other groups ate the berries fresh or prepared them as a mush. A medical decoction was also used to treat rheumatism and urinary problems. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Monday, November 16, 2015

Where I Have Been

States I Have Visited

visited 11 states (22%)
Create your own visited map of The United States or Brazil travel guide for Android

You can call me limited in scope if you wish, but I have seen most of what I have wanted to in these United States.

There are three places I still hope to get to visit:

Martha's Vineyard - to stop in at The Black Dog;

Seattle, WA - to see the Filson flagship store, and:

Chicago, IL - my late wife loved this city and wanted to take me there, but I never made the time to do it.

Photo by Cliff Hutson - General Grant (tree) - Kings Canyon National Park

General Grant Tree - Kings Canyon National Park

Friday, October 30, 2015

Wabi Sabi

Wabi Sabi - a book by Mark Reibstein  (Author), Ed Young (Illustrator)

It is hard to explain

Wikipedia tells us that the current meaning of Wabi connotes rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness, and can be applied to both natural and human-made objects, or understated elegance. It can also refer to quirks and anomalies arising from the process of construction, which add uniqueness and elegance to the object. Sabi is said to be beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object and its impermanence are evidenced in its patina and wear, or in any visible repairs.

The book, Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein  (Author), Ed Young (Illustrator), says that wabi sabi is a way of seeing the world and allows us to experience that feeling by following the journey of a little cat who sets out to find the meaning of her name.

Wabi Sabi - a book by Mark Reibstein  (Author), Ed Young (Illustrator)

In their own words

I very much enjoyed the book, even though I sense that my mind is wired such that I may not fully grasp a philosophy that is so deeply rooted in another culture. But, perhaps, that is wabi sabi in itself.

Anyway, I also suggest watching this short video of the author and artist talking about the process of creating the book.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Food Friday

Two Photos I Really Like

The theme of my Photo-A-Day project this year is "Notice the Ordinary", which was inspired by a quote from Charles and Ray Eames. I had in the back of my mind that it should not include any food photography as that was the premise I used for last year. But, that idea went out the window in a hurry. Then this week I came up with two photos that I think I really nailed and feel compelled to post on this blog.

Vegetarian Noodle Bowl

Vegetarian Noodle Bowl

Vegetarian Noodle Bowl: photo by Cliff Hutson

This is one of those times I am probably feeling too pleased with myself. No recipe was used, I just took what I had on hand and tossed it together in proportions that seemed right to me. It is a real fusion, too. The soba noodles are presumably Japanese, but these were made in China. The soy sauce is a Japanese brand, but the plant is in Wisconsin. And, zucchini and string beans are not very Asian. But, that is OK as I sautéed them instead of doing a stir fry.

Santa Barbara Salad

Santa Barbara Salad

Santa Barbara Salad: photo by Cliff Hutson

There is nothing too imaginative about this; a mixture of Escarole, Endive, and Radicchio lettuce with tomato and Feta cheese. But, I like the lighting and the depth of field. It was very tasty, as well. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

September 2015 Reading List

The books I finished reading in September 2015

The books I finished reading in September 2015
September 2015 Reading: photo by Cliff Hutson

Monday, September 28, 2015

Une Métaphore de la Vie

Une boîte de chocolats

Une boîte de chocolats: photo de Cliff Hutson
A Box of Chocolates: photo by Cliff Hutson

Une très petite boîte de chocolats pour être sûr. Mais encore, "Vous ne savez jamais ce que vous allez obtenir."

Monday, September 21, 2015


Mixed Drinks I Have Known

The Turn of the Screwdriver

Bourbon & Tonic

Gin and Tonic

Screwdriver - Shaken, not stirred

The concoction that helps me hang on.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Friday, August 21, 2015

Food Friday

piatto della pasta

piatto della pasta -  Pasta integrale con gamberetti e peperoni rossi
piatto della pasta: photo by Cliff Hutson

Pasta integrale con gamberetti e peperoni rossi

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

For the Love of Music

"God Only Knows"

Did you miss it? Here's the video that everyone's talking about: 'God Only Knows' by pretty much every single musician you’ve ever heard of.
Posted by BBC Three on Tuesday, October 7, 2014

That is a lot of talent!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Friday, July 10, 2015

Food Friday

Netherlands Breakfast

Netherlands Breakfast - Gouda cheese, unsalted butter, and apricot jam; on white bread
Netherlands Breakfast: photo by Cliff Hutson

Netherlands Breakfast - Gouda cheese, unsalted butter, and apricot jam; on white bread. Goes best with coffee.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Bottle Boys

Billie Jean Remix

You really should listen to this:

Awesome "Billie Jean" remix ! A MUST WATCH
Billie Jean Remix! :DAWESOMEEEEEE <3- Simon Desue
Posted by Simon Desue on Thursday, June 5, 2014

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

June 2015 Reading List

The books I finished reading in June 2015:

The books I finished reading in June 2015
June 2015 Reading: photo by Cliff Hutson

Monday, June 29, 2015

Po Boy

Dining in the Big Easy?

"Po Boy": photo by Cliff Hutson

Another one of my photographs has shown up in an odd context. This article on restaurants in New Orleans uses a photo I took of a sandwich I made as an illustration of a proper Po Boy sandwich.

I have never been to the "Big Easy". But, maybe I should relocate and start my own food truck.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Band of Rubber

Great Product from Field Notes

General-Purpose Band of Rubber
Band of Rubber: photo by Cliff Hutson

The term “General-Purpose Band of Rubber” makes me smile every time I see it.

Rubber bands by Field Notes
Bands of Rubber: photo by Cliff Hutson

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Everything Old Is New Again 

Timeless Fashion
Timeless Fashion: photo by Cliff Hutson
In Everything that Rises: A Book of Convergences, Lawrence Weschler writes about how the work of photographers and other artists seems to harken back to to the works by those who came before them. The book starts off by comparing images taken at the World Trade Center site after 9/11 to paintings by Dutch masters and Civil War photographs. I am only about half way through it, so I don't know his final conclusion. But, so far, he seems to waver between this being deliberate or that it could be attributed to “something in the water.” 

This kind of came home to me this past weekend when I took an unposed photograph at an event where people were picnicking and some had dressed up for the occasion of celebrating “Champagne and Croquet”on a Sunday afternoon. Honestly, my first thought when I saw this guy was, ‘that reminds me of a French impressionist painting’, and I tried to frame the photo to replicate what I thought I remembered seeing sometime in the past.

The next day I spent a little time doing Internet searches to find the painting I had in mind, but could not find anything very close to it. This very famous painting by Georges Seurat, thanks to the figure in the lower lefthand corner, kind of works though. 

Georges Seurat - A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte – 1884
This got me to thinking that the convergence is not the artists duplicating each others work, but that people naturally arrange themselves in a certain manner. Whether it is a man lounging on the ground at a picnic, a woman smiling enigmatically, or a group of men taking a break after battle or sifting through rubble for bodies there are only so many poses that the human form will take. Thus, the photographer is merely capturing what is before them, not mimicking someone else. It is like they say about about writing, “There are only seven plots in the world and the ancient Greeks knew them all.”

Monday, April 20, 2015

Blackwing Slate

New Notebook

Blackwing Slate
Blackwing Slate: photo by Cliff Hutson

I really did not need another notebook at this time. There are already a few in my stash waiting to be used. But, they tossed in two extra pencils, a Blackwing and a Blackwing Pearl, into the deal so how could I refuse that offer?

Three Palomino Pencils
Three Palomino Pencils: photo by Cliff Hutson

The Palomino Blackwing Pearl is said to be softer than the Palomino Blackwing 602 (which comes bundled with the notebook), but firmer than the in the Palomino Blackwing. I guess that the Pearl should be the one that Goldilocks would prefer. Now that I have all three, I should probably do some sort of a side-by-side comparison. But, I am not sure if I have enough discrimination to do a bang up job of that.

Places One Might Find a Blackwing 602
Inside Cover: photo by Cliff Hutson
The back page of the journal is kind of interesting. It caused me to hunt down my 30th anniversary edition Jaws DVD. Sure enough, there is what looks like a Blackwing 602 clutched in the jaws of Matt Hooper (see #16) in the scene on the dock where he identifies the first shark.

My plan is to use the Slate to take over from the "What Did I Eat Today?, A Food Lover's Journal" which was such a disappointment. The Slate may not be "guided", but I am certain that it is going to serve me a whole lot better as a journal.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Brie and/or Apples

Take Your Pick

Brie and French Bread
Brie and French Bread: photo by Cliff Hutson

I have to admit that I still get a big kick out seeing photographs I have made being used on the Internet or in print.

It may be vain, but what the heck. 

Bowl of Apples
Apples: photo by Cliff Hutson

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Common Monkeyflower

Mimulus guttatus or Erythranthe guttata

Common Monkeyflower
Seep-Spring Monkeyflower: photo by Cliff Hutson
The Common Monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus)also known as Seep-Spring Monkeyflower, is a variable plant ranging from spindly and tiny to large and bushy, between one and three feet tall. The two-lipped yellow flowers have red, or reddish-brown spots and can range from about one half inch to almost two inches in length. Described as a plant that likes to get its feet wet, it is found in moist places through out most of California below 10,000 feet and flowers from March in to August. It thrives in many habitats - Coastal Strand, Northern Coastal Scrub, Yellow Pine Forest, Red Fir Forest, Lodgepole Forest, Subalpine Forest, Foothill Woodland, Chaparral, Valley Grassland, Pinyon-Juniper Woodland, (many plant communities), wetland-riparian.

My field guides place it in the Scrophulariaceae (Figwort family). Newer references, such as Jepson eFlora, have it in the Phrymaceae (Lopseed family). The name monkeyflower comes from the supposition that the flowers look like little faces when viewed from the front. I have never seen a monkey’s face. However, based on my experiences leading wildflower walks, those participants under nine years of age seem to see it quite readily. 

These are not just plants lovely to look at, monkeyflower leaves were eaten as a salad. The stems and roots were brewed as a tea and used to treat diarrhea and kidney problems. 

Common Monkeyflower
Common Monkeyflower: photo by Cliff Hutson
Recent molecular analysis seems to indicate that almost all Mimulus species in western North America should be reassigned to the species Erythranthe and eventually Mimulus guttatus will be called Erythranthe guttata.

Monday, April 6, 2015


Lasthenia, spp.

Goldfields: photo by Cliff Hutson

The color theorist Josef Albers (1888 – 1976) remarked that, “. . . the nomenclature of color is most inadequate. Though there are innumerable colors - shades and tones - in daily vocabulary, there are only about 30 color names.” Therefore, in a departure for from my usual commentary when describing wildflowers, I am not going to quibble about the name of this month’s plant; and instead just revel in its beauty. Goldfields in large populations, growing from one to two feet in height, can bloom at once in the spring producing the carpets of yellow on hillsides and in meadows that lend the plant its common name. However, in the days of the Californios, young women knew it as si me quieres, no me quieres (love me , love me not), using its petals as petals of daisies are used.

Lasthenia is a genus of the family Asteraceae. As a member of the sunflower family, each flowerhead is actually made up of many individual yellow flowers. The 7 - 15 outer ray flowers look like petals while the numerous inner disk flowers are tiny and shaped like a tube.The genus is named named for the Athenian girl Lasthenia who dressed as a boy in order to attend Plato's classes.  It has been noted that this genera is plastic and difficult to really separate. Many species names have been applied and it can be confusing.

When I took the accompanying photograph, I identified it as L. glabrata, or yellow rayed goldfields. It is endemic to California, where it is a resident of vernal pools and other moist areas in a number of habitat types. The epitaph “glabrata” means somewhat glabrous, I.e., free from hair or down; smooth. I don’t see any in hairs in the photo, that is my story and I am sticking to it. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Friday Favorites

General's Cedar Pointe Pencils

General's Cedar Pointe Pencils
General's Cedar Pointe Pencils: photo by Cliff Hutson

Every time you make a typo,
the errorists win.

We are all prone to making typos, and many escape detection by spellcheck applications and human editors a like. Certainly my share has made it into publication. But, I still get a good laugh at the misfortunes of others. So I was bemused by the Remodelista listing for General's Cedar Pointe pencils. It is not really a typo. They ran the wrong photograph. The website shows the right pencils. But, the photo in the book seems to be of the Badger pencil. I am not sure what that mistake should be called, but the errorists win again.

General's Cedar Pointe pencils feature a natural finish, black imprint, black ferrule and black eraser, as shown in the photo I took of three of the two dozen I have on hand at home. I like the feel of the wood. And, it has a faint, lovely smell of cedar. However, some may find that during extended use a painted finish might be more comfortable. The black eraser erases cleanly. The lead is smoothly consistent and doesn't wear rapidly. These pencils may cost a little more than some garden varieties, but seem to be worth it.

Cedar Pointe Pencils
Cedar Pointe Pencils: photo by Cliff Hutson

But, don't just take my word for it, check out his review from Wood & Graphite:

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Monday, March 30, 2015

National Pencil Day

March 30, 2015

General's Cedar Pointe Pencils
Cedar Pointe Pencils: photo by Cliff Hutson

Each year, March 30th is National Pencil Day. Presumably because on March 30th, 1858, Hyman Lipman, a Philadelphia inventor, patented the first pencil with its own eraser.

The implement we recognize as the wood encased pencil goes back at least as far as 1565, and many of us today use pencils without attached erasers. But, this is a good as day as any to celebrate such a useful implement.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Favorites

Tivoli Audio Model One Radio

Tivoli Audio Model One Radio
Tivoli Audio Model One Radio: photo by Cliff Hutson

One of the first things I did after I started to make some real money as a teenager in the 60s was to buy a decent stereo sound system. The basis of which was a pair of KLH speakers. The K in KLH Audio was for Henry Kloss. While noted for his loudspeakers, he also gave us the Tivoli Audio Model One radio.

The Model One, based on the KLH Model Eight from 1960, was introduced about 2000. I have had mine since 2002. While I can not say that it has seen daily use, it has been close to it. The sound is full and rich. The tuner brings in most stations with little trouble. This radio is decidedly one of the best purchases I have ever made. Remodelista sums up its list entry with, "discreet design, big sound." That says it all.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Fun with Words


Sometimes Wordle works for me. Sometimes it don't. This example was generated from a very small sampling of my Plant of the Month articles.

Wordle is a tool for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. It should also work from a RSS feed, but that was not cutting it for me tonight. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. And, it proves out that when one writes about the native plants of California, the name of the state will be very eminent.

You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to your own desktop to use as you wish.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Favorites

Calphalon Tomato & Bagel Knife

Calphalon Tomato & Bagel Knife
Tomato/Bagel Knife: photo by Cliff Hutson
This entry is a cheat. The Remodelista favorite (number 77 in the book) is actually a Wüsthof knife, and I do keep a set of them on my kitchen counter which are used on a daily basis. But, as I started to write this item, it came to me that my favorite kitchen knife, over the last ten years, is this Calphalon® Tomato & Bagel Knife.

While Alton Brown may prefer multi-taskers, I find the focused purpose of this knife to be appealing. And, Alton might approve of it as well - it does do both tomatoes and bagels. What a tool! Throw in an onion, then all I need is lox for a complete meal.

The serrated edge allows the knife to penetrate tomato skin without crushing the flesh. You can, of course, cut tomatoes with any properly sharpened knife, but the serrations are definitely a help. My Calphalon also has a forked tip to aid in lifting the tomato slices after they have been cut.

The serrated blades of bread knives also enable them to cut soft bread without crushing it. I certainly can't do as good as job on a bagel with a straight blade as I can with this one. So, it has to go to the top of my list of favorite knives.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Alan Turing’s Lost Notebook (And Other Million Dollar Notebooks)

There was a really interesting post over at the Pencils Blog today. A handwritten notebook kept by Alan Turning, the British codebreaker and father of computer science, goes up for auction in April.  It should go for about million dollars.

Less Than a Million Dollar Notebooks

I have, off and on over the course of my life, kept a variety of notebooks that could be construed as diaries, journals, logbooks, or simple task lists.  Since I retired, I mostly maintain what is basically just a "To Do" list. Writing down the things I intend to accomplish each day, and ticking them off as I go along, in an inexpensive "reporter's notebook". Having a daily record like this helps me to stay on target and get things done. But, much like David Allen, I find it too awkward to carry around and just keep it at hand in the house.

Moleskien cahier
Moleskine cahier Journal: photo by Cliff Hutson

My go to notebook when I am out and about is a pocket-sized Moleskine cahier journal. It is great for daily use. I always have one in the vests I wear at the botanic garden filled with information about plants, notes on touring, and what have you. There is also one, or one of another size, in all of my camera bags, messenger bags, and the cab of the truck at all times. Moleskine notebooks are functional, but the company's marketing has made them just a little too "precious", to the point of parody. So, I keep looking for alternatives.

What Did I Eat Today?
Food Journal: photo by Cliff Hutson
One of these is a bit of a disappointment. Last month I switched to a medical plan that actually cares about my health. I was asked to complete a questionnaire and was a bit embarrassed when I difficulty answering questions about what, and how much, I was eating on a day-to-day basis. So, I decided that it might behoove me to start logging that information. It just so happened that I had a coupon to use at Princeton Architectural Press which was offering "What Did I Eat Today?, A Food Lover's Journal". Lovely to look at and delightful to hold, it has too many frivolous pages for the likes of me. But, I am off to a good start and once it is completed I will just move on to a regular ruled notebook. One that I am sure no one will ever want to buy at auction.  

Monday, March 16, 2015

Artisanal Pencil Sharpening

A New Advocation

"Sharpened Blackwing"
"Sharpened Blackwing": photo by Cliff Hutson

Some books have literally life changed my life. Two would be "Stranger in a Strange Land" by Robert Heinlein and "The Last Temptation of Christ" by Nikos Kazantzakis, both of which I read as a teenager. This past weekend, I added "How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical & Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening for Writers, Artists, Contractors, Flange Turners, Anglesmiths, & Civil Servants "by David Rees to that list.

Artisanal pencil sharpening is a way of finding beauty and harmony in a world wherein perfection may not be possible. However, I think, we must acknowledge that the striving is worth the effort. Rees writes -  “Putting a point on a pencil—making it functional—is to lead it out of Plato’s cave and into the noonday sun of utility. Of course, life outside a cave runs the risk of imperfection and frustration. But we must learn to live with these risks if we want enough oxygen to survive.”

So, now that I have an introduction to the philosophy, tools, and techniques of pencil sharpening I feel inspired to attempt to master the craft and enter into it on my own. Not only will it allow to improve upon the pencils I use in my life, it may afford me the pleasure of sharing what it means to use a properly sharpened pencil with others. And, if I can make a few bucks in the process, what is the harm in that?

"Wing-Nut Sharpener. Perfect for anyone with a workshop, or a pencil. Or both.”
"Wing-Nut Pencil Sharpener": photo by Cliff Hutson