News about me, and my thoughts, jokes, and stuff.

Sean's Blog

Cereus Matters

Last fall, we acquired a night-blooming cereus plant (more correctly known as epiphyllum oxypetalum) from someone on Freecycle.  I was told that it had never bloomed in its former home.  We thought, “well, maybe we’ll get lucky”.  So it sat on the porch until the weather got cold, and then it sat by a window in the house over the winter, getting watered once a week or so.

This past spring, we put it outside again, giving it water more often.  Lo, and behold, we discovered a little bloom right around the beginning of July.

Here is the plant with the flower on the right, after 4 or 5 days’ growth:

And a close-up view of the flower:

One of the fascinating things about this plant’s flowers, as you can see from the pictures, is the the flower grows directly off the side of a leaf.  It makes sense, though, when you know that the plant is related to cacti.

The flower opened that night.  Here it is beginning to do so:

Opening much more after dark:

And fully open, shortly before we went to bed:

The next morning, it had mostly closed up again, and it stayed closed until it withered (as these are wont to do).

Will we get another bloom next summer, or even earlier?  We shall see!


Posted by seaking on 08-05-2011 at 11:08 pm
Posted in News with 1 Comment

Piled Higher and Deeper

During the latter half of January and the beginning of February we continued to get a good deal of snow.  Here’s how things looked a week or so ago (just after we’d been out shoveling:

Here’s a closer view of the house:

The snow piled up on the lower part of the roof makes it hard to see out some of our windows:

Here I am, illustrating how high the shoveled snow is piled near the porch:

Note that it is about as tall as me (I’m 6′ 3″).

The bushes in the front yard are well buried:

And (for the second time this winter) our mailbox got knocked off its post by a plow:

Here is the snow on the back deck, now a bit higher than the table:

And the view of the table from inside:

Posted by seaking on 02-13-2011 at 08:02 pm
Posted in News with 0 Comments

We won snow, ew

A blizzard hit us last night, and so we had a large amount of snow waiting to be shoveled in the morning.  3-5 inches were predicted to fall overnight, but it looked like 8 inches when I got up (before 6am).  It was still coming down quickly, too.

Here’s the view of the back deck and the table we have there, as soon as it got light out (maybe 7am):

Note the height of the snow on the glass:

and the deck surface is a few inches below the floor inside the house.

I called in to work to check on whether they were open, and found that the place was closed.  This was very fortunate, as it was going to take a long time to dig out.

Here’s what I found when I opened the side door:

We went out after breakfast to start shoveling.  After a while (about 11:30), we got out a yardstick to measure the depth in the driveway:

Yes, 17 inches had collected, and it was still snowing.

After a bit over 2 hours of work we had cleared only 1/4 of the driveway.  We started to consider whether we could hire someone to plow, though we didn’t know who to call or whether anyone would be available at that point.  After lunch, though, we noticed a truck plowing 2 nearby driveways (one next door, and the other across the road).  We flagged down the driver, and found that he lived in the place he’d plowed across the road, and was willing to plow our driveway for free!

This was very appreciated, and we insisted on paying him a little bit for his trouble (and gas).

Here’s the pile he pushed up, just past the garage:

With the driveway pretty much done, we could turn to the stairs and deck and such.  We usually put birdseed out on the table there, and some of the usual birds (a pair of juncos) came looking for seed while the snow was still there:

We measured the snow back there, which had drifted against the house somewhat:

It was a bit shallower on the table:

There was still a bit of snow falling in the late afternoon when we worked on finishing things up.  We probably got a total of 20 inches altogether.  Here is the stuff we piled up by the front porch, from the section of driveway we cleared ourselves:

And the yardstick going through part of the pile:

Here’s what the backyard looked like after most of the snowfall:

And here is the house:

Posted by seaking on 01-12-2011 at 09:01 pm
Posted in News with 1 Comment

A Night Visitor

Quick post to mention an encounter I had shortly after Thanksgiving.  I was taking food scraps out to the compost pile late in the evening.  I often see various wildlife prowling around the yard and sometimes in or near the compost.  That night, as I approached the pile, I heard something scrambling through the leaves, and then I saw in my flashlight beam that it was fleeing up a small tree.  I took out the old cell phone cam and got a picture of this individual, who had paused at about my eye level:

In case you don’t recognize it, that would be an opossum.  I’ve seen it, or another like it, on several other occasions around our house.  I’ve also seen skunks some of the time, and I’m always glad not to be startling one of those.

Posted by seaking on 01-09-2011 at 10:01 pm
Posted in News with 0 Comments

Face-to-Face with Danger

Earlier this evening, I went out to pick up a few groceries.  As I was driving up the somewhat rural road that leads to our local commercial strip, I saw some cars with their blinkers on just up ahead.  Some of them were clustered just off the side of the road in a field.  As I slowed down, I realized there were people walking around in the field – waving at me and telling me to stop.

I did come to a stop, and as I did so, realized that there were power lines hanging just a couple of feet above the car.  I started to back the car up, but saw that another car had come up behind me and was stopped.  Someone then was yelling for me to get off the road, so I pulled over into the grassy field and got out of the car.  Once out of the car, I could see that, across the road, a car had slammed into an electric pole, and the pole keeled over across the road.  The pole had not fallen all the way down – it appeared that it was being held up by the wires – but the top end of the pole couldn’t have been much more than 6 feet off the ground, and the wires were just about that close to the road.

I asked if the police had been called, which they had.  After another minute, a patrol car showed up, and then 3 more arrived in another minute or two.  At that point, the cops were able to take over redirecting traffic, so I and some other people drove past the downed pole area and back onto the road.  I did my shopping, and went home a different way (which I’d been planning to do anyway so I could get gas).

As far as I could tell, nobody had been hurt.  The car that hit the pole seemed to be empty, so I think its drive had gotten out after the accident.  I don’t know how much danger I was actually in – it’s possible that I would have cleared the wires if I’d kept driving, but it was still pretty freaky seeing them looming so close in front of the car.  Definitely the most unusual shopping trip I’ve had in a long time.

Posted by seaking on 11-07-2010 at 11:11 pm
Posted in News with 0 Comments

March in May, not June

This year, my workplace, Holyoke Health Center, registered a contingent in the Northampton LGBT Pride parade, and I was one of the people who marched.  Despite living in the Pioneer Valley for 5 years, I had not before ever seen this parade, mainly because it isn’t held at the same time as in other parts of the country.  Most cities in the U.S. have Pride celebrations in the month of June, but Noho Pride takes place the first Saturday in May each year.  I have not yet discovered the reason they hold it so early, but there you go.

The day turned out to be unseasonably warm – certainly a lot warmer than the days that preceded and followed it.  The staging area for parade groups was in Lampron Park, about a mile from the downtown rally site.  Here are some members of our contingent while we waited to line up:

Other folks around us:

Right next to us was the local shadow cast for the Rocky Horror Picture Show (who perform at the Tower Theaters in South Hadley):

Here’s our banner, which I helped carry in the parade:

After a bunch of waiting, we finally got in line:

We ended up behind a high school gay-straight alliance, but I didn’t catch which school.

Here are some shots of the crowd as we headed into downtown:

People lining the courthouse lawn and steps:

Here’s some of the HHC people while marching:

Saw this drag queen greeting paraders:

And some more crowd shots as we passed City Hall:

As the parade ended, there was a large drum and hula hoop corps performing:

As I got to the rally, the mayor (who is lesbian herself) was giving the Pride Day proclamation:

I stuck around a bit to grab some food and look at the vendor booths, but didn’t stay for the afternoon of entertainment.  I did climb up to the top of the downtown parking garage to take some crowd pictures:

On my way back to the car, I noticed these rainbow sculptures in front of a store:

I certainly had a fun time, though very different from past such events I’ve done.  In the past I’d usually participated in pride marches in areas which were more hostile to queer rights (i.e. the Midwest), and enough years ago that the national political and social climate was very different.  It was interesting not to see anti-gay counter-protestors, and not to have a political purpose to present to the local community and/or politicians – basically, just a big party.

Posted by seaking on 06-26-2010 at 11:06 pm
Posted in News, Politics with 0 Comments

Cutting at Both Ends

On October 4, a couple of ribbon-cutting events were held (along with some other festivities) to mark the completion of new sections of bike trail in Northampton.  I was there, and my report follows.

The first ceremony was held at the bike bridge over Main St. downtown.  It drew a pretty good-sized crowd:



It was originally thought that this section of trail, which parallels the train tracks through town, would be completely done by the date of the ceremony, but as you can see in the top picture, there is still a bit of paving to be done.  It should be finished by sometime in November.

As people were milling about, waiting for the event to start, I spotted local radio and stage celebrity Kelsey Flynn:


She was there putting together a radio story, which can be listened to here.  Here she is recording while people spoke:


Four people spoke on the trail system, the new bridges (over Main and North Streets), and what it took to get to this point.  They also mentioned upcoming projects, such as a trail connecting the Northampton trails to the Manhan trail in Easthampton.  The first to speak was Mayor Clare Higgins:


She was followed by Ward 3 City Councilor Bob Reckman (whose ward we were standing in):


(Reckman is the one with the moustache, not the baby)

Then came City Director of Planning Wayne Feiden:


and finally Ward 4 City Councilor David Narkewicz, who chairs the Council’s Bike and Pedestrian Subcommittee:


Wayne Feiden thanked various groups who were involved in helping realize the new trails, including Friends of Northampton Trails and Greenways, of which I’m a member.  Also present were some people from the Friends of the Manhan Rail Trail.  They said that the sinkhole in that trail was in the process of being filled in, and was more than half done.  I heard this past week that the work has been completed, and pictures can be seen at this site.

Once the crowd broke up there, I went a on a little tour of the Northampton trail with its new sections, led by Craig Della Penna, a local realtor and trail advocate.  He talked about the history of the older trail, and of the railways that used to run along the beds the trails use now.

The old Northampton Bike Path goes through the village of Florence, and there is a new section of trail heading through part of Leeds (both Leeds and Florence are sections of the City of Northampton).  At the end of the new Leeds trail, the Leeds Civic Association was hosting the second ribbon cutting, as well as other activities. Here’s the scene at that end:


Most speeches were given by the same cast of characters as earlier (Higgins, Feiden, Narkewicz):




I actually got a halfway decent shot of the moment the ribbon was cut this time:


The mayor had a local kid assisting her for the cutting.

Once that was over I had to head home to make dinner.  It was nice to have almost uninterrupted trail to take me all the way back to the center of Hadley from Leeds.  I got home in just under an hour.  I didn’t have much time to take pictures of the trails themselves, but hopefully I can do so on a future excursion.  Meanwhile, construction is starting soon on the trail down to Easthampton – can’t wait until they finish that!

Posted by seaking on 10-18-2009 at 10:10 pm
Posted in Biking, News with 1 Comment

Training: Gimme Some Sugar

My first training ride for the MS event involved going to visit a spot that I’ve been meaning to hit for a couple of years.  That would be Sugarloaf Mountain in Deerfield.  I rode North through Hadley, picking up Route 116 and taking it through the town of Sunderland, and then across the river into Deerfield.  Here’s a pic I took of the mountain a couple years ago:

Technically there are 2 peaks: South Sugarloaf and North Sugarloaf.  Pictured above is the South peak (seen from the river bridge), which is the one that has a road climbing it.

Having never been up that road before, I didn’t know what to expect.  It turned out to be a somewhat steep climb.  Thus, I had to stop and rest several times (maybe 7 times before I reached the top).  My legs were definitely up to the task, but I’d have to stop after a relatively short stint of riding because I’d be short of breath with my heart pounding.  A few minutes’ rest (and some water – I brought plenty) would leave me ready for the next stretch.  It had taken me 45 minutes to cover the 12 miles from my house to the mountain – it was another 30 minutes to climb the not-quite-a-mile to the top.

As expected, though, my efforts were rewarded by the view.  There’s an observation tower at the summit, as you can see here:


I climbed up, and took a look.  Here’s the view looking Northeast, toward Montague:


This is East into Sunderland center:


South, down the river:


Southwest, into Whately and Hatfield:


And West, into Deerfield:


Looking South, one can see some of the other mountains I’ve been on.  Here are Mt. Norwattuck (left) and Bare Mountain (right), which are near our house:


How close are they?  I could walk from home to the summit of Bare Mt. in about an hour if I wanted to (in fact, I should do that sometime).

Here’s Mt. Holyoke on the right (look for more about it in a future post):


Then this is the Mt. Tom Range, located on the other side of the river (West side, same as Sugarloaf):


Coming up Sugarloaf, there is a point where the road splits, so that there’s a loop going around the summit.  So heading back down, I was initially on a section of road I hadn’t travelled on the way up.  Some of that proved to be scarily steep, so I played it safe and walked my bike to the end of the steep part, and around the sharp turn at the end of it.  Riding the rest of the way down was fast, but not uncontrollably so.  My total time down the mountain was only about 6 or 7 minutes.

From there I headed West and picked up Route 5, which I took down into Northampton.  I then picked up the Norwattuck Rail Trail, crossed the river and headed back through Hadley to home.  Total distance: 30 miles.

Next: The Big Reservoir

Posted by seaking on 09-06-2009 at 01:09 pm
Posted in Biking, News with 1 Comment

He’s at it again

Most people who know me may remember my fundraising bike ride in 2007, which I did to raise money for MS research.  Well, I’m going to be doing that ride again this year.  My reasons remain the same – knowing people with MS and wanting to help out in some way.  The last time I did this, I set a low goal, and ended up getting quite a bit more in contributions.  So this time, I’m more ambitious in what I think I can raise: my goal is a cool $1000.

I’m riding 50 miles again, a distance I have not tackled since that previous MS ride.  Once again, I need to work up to it, so I’ll be posting here about my training rides.  I also expect that I will be able to live blog some of the event this time (I thought I could last time, but my cell phone wasn’t up to the task – I have a better device now).

I have a page setup on the National MS Society web site where you can make contributions, though you can also contact me to pledge and then pay later.  If you have any questions, please do e-mail me.

Posted by seaking on 08-31-2009 at 10:08 pm
Posted in Biking, News with 0 Comments

More Young Ones

In an update of my previous post, the 2 little mourning doves did not live.  It’s possible that they were already dead when I photographed them – it was hard to tell.  But later on there was no movement, and the parents seemed to abandon the nest, so I eventually climbed up and cleaned out the gutter.

Other denizens are thriving, though.  We knew that there was a groundhog living underneath our shed, but just this past weekend, I spotted some smaller ones with it:






I also spotted a little baby rabbit last night, but didn’t have a camera handy before it hopped away.  Of course, the downside to these little ones being around is that there are that many more mouths that might chomp on our flowers and vegetables.  We have to be vigilant…

Posted by seaking on 06-22-2009 at 09:06 pm
Posted in News with 4 Comments

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