Category Archives: Castle Willett


Seen soaring above our house a couple days ago. Obviously a raptor or hawk of some sort, but doesn’t appear to be a red-tailed hawk. We get a ton of red-tails riding the thermals on the edge of the San Fernando Valley (i.e., the “hills” in “West Hills”) and they’re pretty distinctive. This guy had a different cry, different body shape, and a much different tail shape.

Poking around on the web I think it might be a Cooper’s hawk, but someone with more experience and knowledge than I will have to confirm that.

I did see that he ended up landing up near the top of one of the tall trees just down the hill from us, so with luck I’ll get more chances to see him, perhaps even getting some better pictures for ID later on.


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New House

It has been mentioned by friends in distant places that while MUCH has been written in the past few months about the efforts to actually move, I haven’t show much, if anything, of the new house itself. I can solve that.

I can’t wait to get the telescopes back out of storage – instead of having that honkin’ big hill to our west, we’re pretty much on top of that honkin’ big hill to our west.

So far we’re really loving it here.

There are still boxes stacked everywhere as I unpack (and the paper’s still down to protect the hardwood floors as I move heavy stuff around) but the kitchen’s starting to get into shape.

Out in back there’s a wonderful yard (with lizards) and a view off the back of the hill down toward the east. I put the chairs out there near the edge – it’s a fantastic place to sit and watch the world get dark and the lights turn on in the evening.

There are trees that partially block the view – but they’re also filled with squirrels and hawks and crows and hummingbirds and sparrows and god knows what else, so I’m more than happy to let them share the view.

From the chairs, looking back across the yard at the house – it’s light and airy with skylights and lots of big windows. I think we’re going to really like it here.

Especially after we get unpacked and settled!


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No Context For You – June 09th

Life is indeed too short to drink bad wine.

If you’re going to advise others to do “A” instead of “B” simply because “A” is “safe…”

If you’re going to tell others not to settle for “good enough…”

If you’re going to recommend that others live their lives with passion, fervor, and gusto…

Then you should bother to pay attention and do those things yourself as well.

Shouldn’t you?

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Filed under Castle Willett, Dogs, Photography

Off In The Distance

From the really nice back yard of our new house, you can look off through the trees across a good chunk of the San Fernando Valley. It’s not quite a completely breathtaking, spectacular view over all of Creation – there are other hills around and plenty of trees – but it’s not half bad.

One thing that stands out is this white, six or seven story building:

What bothered me a day or so after seeing it was that there aren’t any six or seven story buildings like that anywhere in that direction or anywhere near us.

Now, I’ve lived in this area for well over twenty-five years. Not only do I drive everywhere, but between the practices for the Avon Walk a few years back and the training for two marathons, I’ve seen just about everything around. There are no six or seven story buildings in the area, especially ones that look like that.

A little to the left of this view you should be able to see Warner Center, which has a handful of buildings in the 25 and 30 and 40 story range, but they’re all black glass and there’s a hill in the way. The direction is wrong.

Nearby there’s the West Hills Hospital, and it’s got a couple of four and five story buildings, but that’s also in a different direction and they’re different architecture.

I knew which direction this is – but there’s nothing like that to see.

Until I saw this:

It’s not a six or seven story building. It’s the top six or seven stories of a twelve-story building.

The one I work in.



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Freds & Bubbas

At the old house there was a growing population of California Alligator lizards, who I had collectively named “the Freds.” (See here, here, here, here, etc.)

It didn’t take too long to realize that there are lizards in the yard here at the new yard as well. Today was sunny and hot, so I got out the camera with the big lens (these lizards are a bit skittish, won’t let me get as close as the Freds did, but then again, the Freds knew that something was up as we were moving out) and did a quick survey of the back yard.

Some look a lot like the old Freds.

Some have similar body types, but much different colorations.

Some have significantly different body types, thicker through the body, shorter tails proportionately.

Look at this brute at the top! He’s built more like an iguana!

And his partner is much, much darker than all of the other lizards.

While some are almost sandy or a light green color.

Depending on the sun angle, some seem to almost be iridescent.

Some are possible hybrids, with thicker bodies than the original Freds but not like the brutes, but longer tails than the brutes while not being as long as the original Freds’ tails.

And they’re all very nervous, darting away and into the bushes at the drop of a hat. The presence of so many crows and hawks may up here may have something to do with that.

I’m figuring the thick-bodied, short-tailed lizards are related to the Freds, but some sort of different subspecies. I’m also figuring that we’ll call them Bubbas instead of Freds.

Finally, I’m figuring that neither the Freds nor the Bubbas will care what I call them, as long as I leave them alone. Which, other than taking pictures, I intend to do.

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The Houseplants Knew Something Was Up

There’s a houseplant out on the porch that I’ve tried for years to kill. It hasn’t been a deliberate attempt. I’ve actually been working hard from time to time to try to figure out how to keep it alive, and sometimes that’s worked. Often it hasn’t. But the brave little plant somehow struggled along, sometimes with a couple dozen leaves, sometimes with just a handful.

By March, again things were looking grim.

Our brave little plant was down to just three leaves, and they were looking pretty sickly and yellow.

I watered and fed, but it wasn’t any good. By the end of March, there was nothing but the long, ropy stem with no leaves at all.

It stayed that way for almost two months. I probably should have just thrown out the pot and the plant and the dirt, but I was just plain stinking busy through April and May.

The houseplants knew something was up, and they weren’t at all sure they wanted to be part of it at all.

Then, when I was making the final big push to get out of the old house, my daughter and I noticed something. On that ropy stem, against all odds:

…there are two or three small leaves starting to poke out. The plant has decided once more that it wishes to LIVE, despite my best efforts to save it and keep it alive.

So it got moved last weekend. I’ve found a nice spot for it out on the new back patio, where it’s in the shade most of the day but gets a tiny bit of direct sun, but mainly just lots of light and air. I’ve fed it again, kept it watered, hoping for the best.

As Dr. Ian Malcom said, “Life finds a way.”

Or maybe this particular little plant is just one tough little son of a bitch!

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No Context For You – June 01st

So much for June.

And I had such hopes for it.

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