Health Credits

Still tank tops and flip flops on the beach. In the second week of September? As I cycled through the park, where the road borders the beach, I spied a sunbather, fully reclined in a vintage lawn chair, face up with her arms slipped out of the shoulder straps of her bikini top, in order to avoid unsightly tan lines I suppose. She held a cigarette in her right hand, languorously outstretched over the sand and rocks to avoid ash fall on her skin which had been slathered with something greasy. Her eyes were closed. I wondered what she was thinking.

araneus diadematus (aka Garden Spider)
Spider web in acer palmatum (aka our Japanese Maple)

The other day I was working on my bicycle in the garage when I heard a buzzing ruckus near one of the windows. I stepped closer to see a very large hornet in a fruitless struggle to extricate itself from a spider web. The homeowner, not more than ten percent the size of the hornet, was nearby looking on, waiting. The more the hornet struggled the more entangled it got. A minute or so passed and then the spider was on it, engulfing the head of the hornet, causing the hornet to buzz louder and struggle harder. It appeared to me the hornet was trying to turn its abdomen to position it to sting the spider? This also proved futile, eventually the hornet succumbed. Soon the buzzing stopped and its entire form went lifeless. The spider wrapped it up in a silky shroud then retreated to the edge of the web, possibly because it sensed me looking in.

Sistah & HW
Seniors Ignoring Drs Advice (aka Day Drinkers)

My sistah has come and gone, we trust she enjoyed her first visit to the Homestead, and places beyond. Soon after she left to return home, our friends from Colorado arrived for a week-long visit. Espresso and breakfast sandwiches were prepared and served on the front porch, where our conversation turned to the sad state of affairs where we see friends gathered around a table who can’t seem to just talk to each other anymore. Vigorous nodding in assent, “Yes yes, how terribly unfortunate it has become for so many young people, where all their interactions with the world now are virtual.” Then, with breakfasts consumed and the plates licked clean by the dogs, the four of us were back on our screens. The quiet of the neighborhood punctured only now and then by the pop pop of a pneumatic nailer from the new house going up down the street. We’d become the subject of our own judgments, laughed about it together, then moved on to discuss where we would enjoy cocktail hour later in the day 😂

I don’t want to give the impression it’s 24/7 food and drink around here. Never a day goes by without at least a rousing dog walk. Plus two or three times a week I’m out on my bike for a couple hours, or HW the same in her kayak. And then there are the endless chores around the Homestead – forest floor management, tree and shrub pruning, beautification, gutter cleaning, trimming, raking, blowing, sweeping, and what have you. We’re hardly idle. Added to that are the decades of physical fitness credits we’ve banked, which are known to pay dividends later in life. Take our friend Willy up there (next to me). He’s seventy-two years old. In his thirties he hiked the entire Pacific Crest trail, from Mexico to Canada – took him about six months. He enjoyed it so much, a couple years later he hiked the Continental Divide trail, from Canada to Mexico this time. That’s a lot of credits banked in his physical well being! He can probably enjoy a happy hour every day the rest of his life and never spend down that investment. Likewise, HW and her friend Meldyne have hiked and climbed more mountains, etc. than they can recall, and I feel like all the miles I’ve pedaled bikes over the past four decades must have left me a with pretty nice nest egg too. So excuuuuse us if we enjoy a little payback time.

The four of us (plus Harry) one day earlier, still adding to our nest eggs, after a hike through a cedar forest to a mountain lake, 1000′ up

Well Being Investors

Parrot Head

“Some people make the world go round, others watch it turn.” -Jimmy Buffett

Count me among the latter.

Godspeed, Jimmy Buffett. Thank you for being a world turner. 🦜

A fitting farewell tribute? I want to think he’d agree

Experience Matters

No, we are not running an AirBnB. Although you might think we were for all the friends ‘n family who’ve come to visit us since we moved here (with more in the queue). The latest: our good friends from Colorado, Dave & Cindy

The last time we saw these two was on my 2014 bike tour in Alaska. Time has been good to both of them. Yesterday, we tootled down the beach road on our bikes, paused at a picnic bench for a photo-op, then hopped back on the bikes to pedal back to the homestead, stopping along the way for “refreshments.” Other than some haze from Canadian wildfire smoke the day could not have been more perfect. The next day, while we devoured multiple species of oysters, we discussed, without sneer or avarice, the plight of those who must continue to work for a living. For context: Dave, the most experienced among us, retired seventeen years ago, the same year HW and I were married 😲 Cindy worked many years in corporate for Big fast food, where she provided best-practice guidance on setting up new franchise stores, especially how to staff them. After that journey ended she worked part-time as a phlebotomist in a hospital, throughout the pandemic, where she experienced the best and worst of humanity. There were co-workers and patients who were grateful for her service, yes, but also the most odious expressions of mental health failure. For example, a furious patient contemptuous of Fauci, blurting between spasms of dry cough that COVID was a hoax intended to take away our freedums, right up to the point a ventilator was fastened around her pathetic head to prevent respiratory failure and death.

I rarely recap details of my professional work. Mostly because people are not interested in what I did day-to-day. And not just me. The vast majority of roles, regardless of where one works or what ones status was, as anyone who’s worked a typical 8-5 job will tell you, involve considerable mundanity. Not the stuff of a Ted talk if you know what I mean. Which is not to say that what one has experienced at the office, accomplishments and misfortune both, can’t be spun up into an enthralling story and delivered in such a way to hold an audience rapt for thirty minutes. But tell people the story of how oil and gas is found, not the mind-numbing detail of ancestral sea dynamics, or sound wave analysis. Or, OK, you’ve turned beds in hotel rooms for thirty years, snooze alert. Yet tell me a story of all the curious items you’ve collected, left behind by guests all those years, and I’m all ears. Want to know why Steve Jobs was such an interesting speaker? Google it. Of course, audiences may be enthralled by nonsense, too. But that says more about the gullibility of the audience than the quality of the storyteller.

While I do enjoy true stories, I love fiction, especially with a dash of satire and a sprinkle of hyperbole. Personal taste. Though it sets me to wonder: what is it exactly about a given story that keeps me enthralled? It can’t be prose style alone – there are many fine works in literature, beautifully written, where I’m like, meh. It can’t be merely connection with and empathy for the characters, or even the clever arc of the plot line (sometimes there isn’t one). I’m sure there are many examples in literature where one or the other of those features are evident in spades, yet the overall story does not compel me. So what is it? The obvious best guess is it’s all of those features rendered in just the right amount, and in just the right order, to create the perception in my brain that associates with the feeling of pleasure. No different, I suppose, than how the many features of any work of art come together to activate our pleasure center. For example, a painting – I feel soothed while staring at American Gothic. And this is a good place to propose that pleasure, broadly defined, is a driver of well being, and quite variable in its expression, ranging from the oxytocin-induced sexual arousal variety, down to the simple feeling of equanimity. And given that pleasure is experienced subjectively, it makes sense that some people will be enthralled by a given story, others will not. OK, so, literature is art –> art activates pleasure –> pleasure is good (I want more) –> I keep reading (stay enthralled). Hardly a stop-the-presses conclusion, I realize, yet it suggests a causal link between words on the page and neurobiology. Even so, the direction of cause and effect is likely fuzzy – do you like the story because reading it causes pleasure, or is a feeling of pleasure driving your conclusion the story is good 🤔 I can conceive of an experiment that might tease out the answer.

Anyway, all this set me to thinking about the discussion around generative AI (e.g. ChatGPT), its capacity for generating stories, especially what some people claim are good stories. While it is true that every good story (e.g. book) may be reduced to just words on a page, in a unique order, unless the author himself has also been “trained” on human experience (has grown up in the real world), his words, sentences, and paragraphs may not conjure in the reader’s mind an authentic human experience. And thus will not activate the reader’s pleasure center, even a little bit. In fact, the reader may feel duped. And there’s one thing every good writer wants to avoid: not telling the truth. Fiction isn’t a license to lie.

A grownup BI (biological intelligence) has real world experience, AI doesn’t. This is an important disadvantage when it comes to writing good stories for pleasure seekers.

Pleasure seekers slaying oysters


What troubles you? What gets your worries waxing? Nuclear annihilation? The welfare of people whose grandparents haven’t been born yet? Fearless criminals? The death of an Orca? Job loss? Climate change? Vladimir Putin? Growing ignorance among mankind. Government corruption? tRump? Asteroid impacts with earth? A loved one’s cancer diagnosis? North Korea? Racial inequality? The next hurricane? Judgment day? Going to jail? A skin legion with margins? The looming depopulation crisis? What happens after you die? The solvency of social security? Identity theft? Blood in the stool? Existential risk posed by AI? The plight of women and children in Afghanistan? Malevolent alien life? Homelessness? Hunter Biden’s laptop? The duality of light? Taylor Swift’s final performance? The Cascadia fault? Rising mortgage rates? The horror of war? Screen time? Trees? Fake news? Travel delays? The Bucks aging roster? Overstaying your welcome? +/- of micro-dosing psychedelics? The next pandemic? Inappropriate pajama bottoms? Adultery? Getting caught?

Now ask yourself, what might save me from all my troubles. Consider

The Law of Averages

Did you hear the one about the blonde and brunette standing together in the forest? The blonde says, “Hey, look at that dead bird.” The brunette turns, looks skyward and says, “Where?”

A glorious day here! Or should I say week. No, I should say month. And then some. Now, we are in a strong El Nino, so I tell myself don’t get used to it. I alluded to this the other night when I mentioned to our dinner guests that it’s never wise to move to a new place in summer. Why’s that they wondered. Because it’s all fun ‘n games when the weather is nice but at the same time unrepresentative of what the climate is on average. Sure, we don’t experience average temperature, but my point is to the extent your mood and overall quality of life in a place correlates with the weather there, then if your expectations are set by your first impression of five months of summer, you’re potentially setting yourself up for a big disappointment come December. Now, if you’re like HW, the logic is reversed – for her, moving in summer is the right thing to do because she can see right away how bad it can be, being she can get a little “prickly” when temperatures soar (🤣) to 80º or higher. Still, I love this woman more than I love myself.

Now, one of our guests, Jean – she and her husband are long timers here – in apparent agreement with what I’d said, was quick to caution, “You’re right, we do get winter here. And sometimes the snow turns to ice, which can hang around for, oh, I don’t know… [Jean nudges her husband to get his attention…’Dear, how long did we have ice in our gutters in 2021, two days was it?’]. Anyway, winter can be nasty here,” she said.

I lock eyes with Jean, resisting a smirk I feel coming on, “Wait, did you say two days, Jean?”

She’s on to me. “Well, of course I don’t mean it’s like Alaaaaska.”

We enjoyed a laugh together then returned our attention to the Marcona Almond crusted halibut on our plates. Paired with a rib eye that I’d mindlessly overcooked to well-donenness on the Traeger (not an error I’m known for 🤨), and a side of red & yellow baked beets topped with feta. For desert HW had made a delicious ricotta cheesecake topped with a black berry compote, made with black berries she’d harvested near the beach, just down from our home. Several bottles of fine wine were emptied.

Yes, we moved here in summer. It’s all we’ve experienced so far. So I hope I’m not setting myself up for disappointment when I conclude, What’s not to love?

Real Men

I read a piece in the NYT about how tRump presently is crushing his republican rivals. The article refers to a recent poll of republican voters, conducted, in part, to understand why so many of them still support this loser. A reply from one such voter caught my eye (emphasis mine)

“He might say mean things and make all the men cry because all the men are wearing your wife’s underpants and you can’t be a man anymore,” David Green, 69, a retail manager in Somersworth, N.H., said of Mr. Trump. “You got to be a little sissy and cry about everything. But at the end of the day, you want results. Donald Trump’s my guy. He’s proved it on a national level.”

My first impression was: he says this like it’s a bad thing (men wearing women’s panties). And then I read it again, more slowly: “your wife’s underpants?” Did he mean the underpants of the wife of the pollster he replied to, or did he mistakenly say your when what he really meant was their (wife’s underpants)? The latter makes more sense, because what I think Mr. Green may have meant is that married men who are brought to tears by the things tRump says, these men are wearers of women’s underthings, and as such are weak-minded, i.e. pantywaists, sissies, milquetoasts, pansies or cowards. And as such aren’t real men. But my question is, how is a husband’s enjoyment of donning a pair of his wife’s panties, to experience the luxurious feel of satin lace against his skin – amirite men! – inconsistent with demanding results of his elected leaders? You should try it for yourself Mr. Green! Sad!

Like It Was Yesterday

“He’s touching me!”

That’s my good friend Jim and his family, surrounding HW, and Black Dog for scale, on the lawn at the new homestead. Again, the last time we’d seen them daughter Lily was one year old, Ike was minus one. But to hear us talk, you’d have thought it was only yesterday. Everyone seemed to enjoy lunch, and there was even time left for me and Jim to head to the beach for a craft beer, where he made good on our bet. As we drank we reminisced mightily. For instance, there was that Canadian bike tour, 1999 was it, where at the top of some hideous climb, I rolled up on my bike next to two elderly women taking in the grandeur of a massive emerald lake set against a backdrop of snow covered Rocky Mountain peaks. I’m talking a real postcard view here. Nearby, Jim and a few others noted my arrival, and just as they had, I said to the women (something like), “Excuse me, I heard there’s an awesome lake up here somewhere that I should see, could you point me to it?” Incredulous, one of the women raised a wrinkled finger and pointed, “Why sir, it’s right there.” Jim recalled he and the others busted a gut.

By the time Jim and I returned to the homestead it was time for the family to go catch their flight home. A couple hours later I get a text from Jim, “Uh, due to faulty coordination…etc etc, we missed our flight. Any chance we could return to casa de Nibbe and stay the night, we’ve been re-booked on another flight tomorrow?” Of course! Back they came, and by midnight everyone had settled in to their appointed sleeping quarters. Peace prevailed. The next morning HW and Shelly made waffles, which everyone (Chester too) enjoyed, except Jim, being he fasts until noon. Then we were all off to Vancouver to take in the market at Granville Island. We’d gotten another whole day to spend with our friends!

A silo wearing a man bag? That’s a first. I Googled it and discovered it took over 1400 cans of spray paint to finish all six silos. The artists were twin brothers from Sao Paulo. HW was creeped out at the site of it. I found it kinda novel, borderline nifty. Now this on the other hand…

…was full on creep factor for all of us. According to the adjacent description, the sculptor intended the boy to represent a “new generation of families moving forward,” or something like that. OK, sure, but couldn’t our “representative” be just as bold and forward-looking in a Speedo. For chrissake. If that had been a young girl in her birthday suit I imagine the artist may be in jail. Moving right along then…

We split up and took in some shopping, Gelatto eating (Stracciatella for me plz), and just strolling about the venue people watching. It was pretty crowded – parking was annoyingly difficult – and, I noted, our fellow market-goers were disproportionately Asian. Mainly Hong Kong Canadians? 🤷🏼‍♂️.

By mid-afternoon we’d had enough, hugs were exchanged and we promised ourselves we’d stay in touch and strive to get together more often in the years ahead. Old friends moving forward, feeling renewed! And fully clothed, thank you. 🤨


HW’s Handiwork
The start of something special

Whatya think? I find it perfect for its color and simplicity. And, of course, the rendition is so bespoke, handmade by my bride. It’s funny to me to hear people knock before entering, as if I’m a real doctor, the kind that helps people. There’s still a couple changes I’d like to make in my office. One is changing out the shoddy, Venetian blind for one of those cellular type shades with a center pull. And since I removed the utility lights from the ceiling, I want to put up a few of those faux wood beams, which I think will give it the vibe of a cerebral sanctuary, a place for pipe smoking and deep thoughts, think Churchill, Truman and Stalin dividing the spoils after WWII. Although I don’t permit smoking here (or Stalin). With that, other than an additional wall hanging or two, I’m ready to call it done. Over time I feel like I could get some good work done here, we’ll see.

On the right: Discs of hydrophobic wonder afloat on water (aka Olive Oil). Starchy legumes loom below, like shape-sorted stones in a river bed (aka White Beans). Extra credit if you can explain the magnification in the oil droplets 😉

A good friend and his family arrive here tomorrow. HW and I haven’t seen Jim & Shelly in ages, 2006 in Boston was the last time I think. They’re visiting candidate colleges in the area their daughter is interested in attending. Last time I saw her she’d just been born. Where has the time gone. Plus Jim lost a bet we’d made, so he owes me a beer. He and I have cycled hundreds of miles together, starting way back in the mid 90s. All of us will have a lot of catching up to do I imagine. I fear we won’t get to it all during their brief visit. I hope they all enjoy the white beans, pork tenderloin, tri-tip, and grilled veggies on tortillas we’re making for lunch. And a hummus plate for Lily!

Red-Tooth & Claw

Pseudacris regilla (aka Pacific treefrog)

A superb day on the front lawn. I’d awoken from a short nap on the grass to resume my place in the wicker chair, which is when I felt the first tickle of something at my elbow, and who should it be? Why, Pseudacris regilla! He meant me no harm, of course, merely got sidetracked during his search for shade, and in the ideal a modest puddle of water therein to moisten and cool his suction cup toes. At night there is this amazing chorus of what must be thousands of frogs at the nearby pond, and I wonder if it’s not the grownups of this same species. HW said she’s seen a plague-like number of these guys, even smaller ones, in migration across the lawn to who knows where. Probably that pond. I’ve even spotted one or two in the garage. You’d think catching one to give it its freedom would be simple, and you’d be wrong.

Erythemis collocata (aka Dragonfly)
Dryocopus pileatus (aka Pileated woodpecker)

Last week as our house guest sat in that same chair, Erythemis collocata came to rest on her shoulder. Did you know Dragonflies are expert hunters of mosquitos? Which may in part explain the near absence of said pests here. I was curious to know more, e.g. was this bug more often a winner or loser in the game of life, so I dialed up on my phone (Google’s implementation of an AI chat bot), uploaded this photo and submitted it along with the following prompt

Is the insect in the photo more often prey or predator?

This is what Bard responded with, verbatim

The insect in the photo is more often a predator. Dragonflies are predators, and they eat other insects. They are fast and agile fliers, and they have sharp jaws that they use to catch their prey. The white cloth in the photo is not a natural habitat for dragonflies, so it is likely that the dragonfly was sitting there after catching its prey.

However, it is possible that the dragonfly is not a predator in this case. If the dragonfly is a captive insect, it may have been placed on the white cloth by its owner. In this case, the dragonfly would not be a predator, but rather a pet.

Without more information, it is impossible to say for sure whether the dragonfly in the photo is a predator or not. However, the fact that it is sitting on a white cloth, which is not a natural habitat for dragonflies, suggests that it is more likely a predator.

OK, so most days your average Dragonfly is killing it, ridding the environment of pests, some of which pester us (humans), thus making our co-existence on this planet a textbook example of Mutualism – in a single act of predation the Dragonfly enjoys a snack and we’ve one less bloodsucker to swat.

Other times, it can go very badly for our Dragonfly

Oh, I almost forgot, the woodpecker! I’ve never in all my life seen a ‘pecker that large (no giggling). Right outside my office window, which is why the photo’s a tad blurry, I snapped it though glass. Probably a boy because if you zoom in enough you can barely see the red feathers on the cheek beneath the eye, the mark of a male woodpecker. He was pokin’ and probin’ at a hole in that abandoned cedar trunk, where on other days I’ve seen giant slugs emerge from.