Tag Archives: observations

Bike Commute Sensations

I’ve been thinking recently about my bike ride to work, mostly after listening to this awesome podcast a friend made about commuter biking. My sister-in-law is interviewed in it, and talks about how biking made her feel more integrated with her community, because of how she commonly experienced it with all of her senses. I was thinking about this on my own ride to work this morning, and pondering what my favorite sensations are during my commute. So here they are!


There are several groups of naturalized parrots that live along Brighton where I ride, and each morning they’re always flying overhead, cawing and squawking. It feels like riding through some kind of jungle. I also love hearing crows cawing and trilling, mostly because they sound so different from the crows back in Kentucky. At night on the ride home, I love listening to the chirping crickets, though it occasionally makes me homesick for the summer katydids back home.


The world smells wonderful right now because all the flowers are blooming, so that’s a bonus. However, I must admit that my favorite bike commute scents are on the way home from work, when I pass by the homes of families cooking dinner. I feel like I’m riding through invisible wafts of mid-preparation meal scents, and I always try and guess what’s for dinner tonight at this house or that. There’s one place in particular, and I haven’t pinpointed it, that seems to frequently cook over a wood fire. The downside is that I’m usually ravenous by the time I get home.


Burbank is a great place for a bike commute. You get that mild SoCal temperature most days and it’s blissfully flat. One day recently, though, I got caught in a mild rain on my ride home. I was surprised at how peaceful the experience was, and how gentle the rain was as it fell on my skin. I think that when in a car, even light rains can seem much more noisy and foreboding than they actually are when you are outside in them.


Most of my ride takes place on Brighton, which is a quiet neighborhood street one block over from Buena Vista. I love seeing all the different styles of houses and how they keep their gardens. My favorites are the ones with proper desert yards filled with pebbles and yucca and cacti. I’m also still delighted by the common sight of citrus trees in front yards, limbs heavy and drooping with ripe fruit. I really do live in a beautiful place.

So, has my bike commute made me feel more connected to my community? Maybe! It certainly has made me appreciate the beauty I get to experience every day, and what a lovely place Burbank can be.

Walk musings

When Mr. Davis and I go on our walks, we sometimes spend most of it standing idly next to parked vehicles while Davis sniffs them. He has a fascination for license plates and bumpers, and will drain away the minutes sniffing and sniffing with deep intensity. Then we’ll move on to the next car and he’ll repeat the process. I thought this might have been a quirk particular to Davis, but when leaving work tonight I noticed one of the local feral cats strolling through the parking lot doing the same thing. The kitty was so intently sniffing a license plate that it didn’t even notice my approach, which is unusual for the ferals since they tend to be wary and keep away from people.

What is it that they are smelling? What is so compelling a scent that gets stuck to car bumpers? Squished bugs, perhaps? Do dogs do this? Mysterious.

Meanwhile, I’ve started using the time on our walks to practice standing with good posture. It is…difficult. I’ve found that when I stand upright without slouching and hold the position for any length of time that it becomes painful to breath. Maybe this will get better with time and when my back muscles strengthen, depending on if I can keep this up.

Lost Blanket

This morning when I got out of my car, I saw a crumpled up little pink blanket in the road.  I picked it up and shook out the dirt and debris it had collected, noting the torn satin edges and little embroidered bear on the front.  Now, it could have been nothing.  It could have been something someone snagged from Goodwill to pad some furniture they moved.  Or maybe it did belong to a baby and fell from a car while he was being buckled in, and the baby was too young to care or even notice.

But in my mind, all I could think about when I was little and forced my Dad to drive 2 hours back to the lake after our vacation because I had discovered, to my horror, that I had left Doggy behind.  And I’m pretty sure I cried desperately non-stop until I had Doggy back in my arms (thank you, Dad!)

So, this blanket…I was unsure of the best course of action, so I just folded it up and left it on the back of my car, so that it would be in easy view and out of the road.  When I left work, the blanket was gone.  Sure, anyone could have just strolled up and taken it, but in my mind I like to believe I saved a panicky parent from facing a child with the possibility that Blankie was perma-lost.

I hope it found its way home!

Ants and Aphids

There’s a short wall behind my apartment complex where Mr. Davis likes to perch, and there’s often a line of ants coming and going up and over it that I like to watch.  Today, as I watched the ant line disappear under some ivy, something caught my eye.  It was several ants tending diligently to a flock of aphids!

Now, I’d known before about the relationship between ants and aphids, and seen it before on nature shows, but somehow stumbling upon it in my back yard made the phenomenon 100% more awesome.  I watched with wonder as the ants harvested honeydew from their aphid herd in wee little droplets.  Nearby, a large group of baby aphids was clustered on an ivy stem under the shelter of a leaf.  At the base of the stem, two ants were just hanging out, which was weird to see as one tends to encounter ants on the go.  Guard duty, I suppose.

Meanwhile, during my observation, Mr. Davis had hopped down and found where the line of ants picked up through the grass.  He was lapping them up by the tongueful.

Thoughts On the Train

Nick and I decided to take the train up to San Francisco just for the hell of it, because neither of us had been on a proper Amtrack ride before. It was really, REALLY nice. Perhaps you are wondering if you should try out the train on your next traveling adventure instead of flying and driving. Here are some observations that may help you decide.

First, if time is a luxury for you and you aren’t in any hurry, then I’d say go for it! Certainly if you are on a tight schedule it would be way more convenient and not much more expensive to fly from LA to San Francisco (and we are flying back so we didn’t have to take an extra day), but the time it takes is really the only downside to the train. Fortunately, if you aren’t on a schedule and aren’t in a hurry, there are plenty of things to do to fill up that time. Also, there’s no “get there an hour early and suffer through security” that eats up that time. The train shows up at the stop, you give your ticket and get on. Boom, done.

The seats on the train are comfortable and have a million miles of legroom. There are no rules about bags having to be stored overhead, so you can just sprawl your stuff out at your seat (and if you’re short like me and can’t actually reach the footrest in front of you, it’s nice to be able to use your bags as one instead). There are power outlets at every seat. You can get up and wander around at any time. The windows are large and the views are pretty, and it took me back to memories of being little and staring out the car window on any car ride, absorbing the landscape.

In the lounge car, they have even more gigantic windows and seats facing directly out, in case you are into the sightseeing part. They also have big booth tables and free wi-fi, and several people were just at these tables working away on laptops. One lady had even brought her scrapbooking project, and had her crafts spread out on the table. I think she was working on it for most of the train ride. Nick and I spent several hours at one of the lounge tables playing Magic: The Gathering.

The lounge car also has snacks that you can purchase, and either eat there or take back to your seats to eat. The diner car had some decent food, but that’s the only other negative about riding the train – since space is scarce, if you have a party of less than 4, they will seat strangers together to fill up the booths. There is nothing I hate quite so much as awkward socialization with strangers when I’m trying to eat, but if you are an extrovert then this could be really exciting for you.

So, in spite of it being an 11 hour ride, I spent that time napping, gazing, playing Minecraft, Spacechem, Poker Night at the Inventory, playing Magic with Nick, watching a movie, and so on. It was no different than having a particularly lazy day at home, except there was no Mr. Davis to snuggle. When we got to San Francisco at 10:00 at night, I didn’t feel exhausted the way I normally do after even the shortest of flights.

In conclusion, if you’ve never been on an Amtrak trip, and you have some time to kill and are in no hurry, and perhaps have many personal projects that you’d like to get some work done on, then yes, try it out at least once!

Plan of Attack

When times get busy at work, my apartment tends to fall to pieces. Usually it just takes enough motivation to get started tidying and before too long things are in place and my energy restored. I don’t have a huge place, so it never takes too long to clean, but this weekend I decided a different approach was in order. I went around my apartment and inventoried the places that were messy and what was out of place, to see if I can put in some measures of prevention once things get clean again.

Here are the problem spots and some brainstorms for solutions. Any thoughts are welcome:

Entrance Hallway:
This is the worst offender. I have a nice empty to-do crate on the other side of my apartment, and the idea is that this is where I drop mail and stuff to be processed later. It used to work really well before I got Mr. Davis. Now, as soon as I enter my apartment, I am met by the happiest, most affectionate kitty, and snuggle time begins. This means that mail, grocery bags, and anything I carry in winds up on the floor and stays there for days or weeks.

1) I clearly need something here right at the entrance to throw my stuff down on, and ideally I would just move my to-do crate right here. However, I still need to keep the entrance from feeling cluttered, and it’s a very narrow hallway.
2) I have my bike bags hanging here, and this is where I store flattened CSA boxes, I can move these elsewhere.

I read books while in the tub, and sometimes make notes or lists. This usually means that the bathroom floor is covered in books and notepads. Next is that I tend to leave stuff like floss or tweezers or nail clippers out on the sink, because my medicine cabinet is narrow and they fall out easily. Next is dirty clothes on the floor. This one is baffling to me, because I have a built-in cabinet hamper right there. It’s RIGHT THERE. I do not know what stifles my motivation to lift my discarded clothes a mere 2 feet vertically and put them into the hamper.

1) I really just need a basket or something to stick the books in, maybe with a towel cover to keep them from getting dripped on. Maybe something with pockets that I could hang from the towel rack.
2) I should probably clear out one of my pull-out drawers by the sink to use for the stuff that clutters there, or just put a small open basket out on the sink that I can lay the things in.
3) I really have no idea what to do about the hamper issue, this might just be a behavioral thing that I’ll have to hammer on. IT’S RIGHT THERE.

For some reason I’m always really unmotivated about emptying the dishwasher. Filling the dishwasher and running it is great. Totally on top of those. But when I’m lazy about emptying it and dirty up more dishes, I get the gross sink backlog. Also, I’m terrible about shutting cabinets. It used to drive my mother crazy, and I’ve never been able to shake the habit. Lastly, my garbage can and recycling can are difficult to get to.

1) The dishes thing might just be behavior, but I could also address the issue by culling some of my dishes, which would force me to wash as I go. I don’t have a ton of dishes as it is already, though. I think easier-to-reach dishtowels would help me wash as I go. I hang them on the oven handle right now and they fall off really easily. I should just hang them on the wall.
2) Is there some device you can put on cabinet doors that makes them push closed automatically? Surely this has been invented.
3) The issue with my garbage and recycling is that there’s not enough room under the sink for both of them, and there’s no other room in the kitchen for them. If I went for a small thing that I could keep on the counter, it might encourage me to empty it more often. Or I could try and find something narrow enough to fit in the gap between my fridge and counter

Living Room
Biggest problem here is the laptop with its cables and accessories dragging all over the place. That and cat toys laying all around the place.

1) I think i can solve the laptop issue by running an extension cord from an out-of-the-way socket around to the couch, so that it isn’t crossing walking space. then I can keep most of my power cable tucked away in the laptop bag.
2) One of my neighbors moved out and didn’t want to haul along their cat tree, so I took it on. Mr. Davis has 2 cat trees now! SPOILED! Anyway, this new one has a cubby at the bottom that he doesn’t seem interested in, so I think I’ll pile all his toys in there

Crafty Area
When I’m not actively sewing, this area stays tidy, but the moment I open the machine to mend something, it explodes with mess. I think that’s because right now I just have all my scrap fabric shoved into a cabinet, so it all spills out when I open it to get something.

1) I can solve this by condensing some things in my chest of drawers and organizing the scrap fabric in the drawers. I can use the rolly cabinet for something else.

Plight of the Pacman Cup

When I was a little girl, my grandma had a pacman drinking glass, this one here. Every day after school, I would walk to my grandma’s house and pour myself a beverage, usually orange juice, and often in this favorite of drinking glasses. I remember peering at the image of the game board on the back, fascinated, wondering where pacman would go next, frustrated at his inefficient pellet collection strategy. Such love for this glass!

One day, in pouring myself some orange juice, perhaps too excited to get to my peering and pondering, I knocked over the pacman glass and broke it. I was devastated! I pleaded with my grandma that we glue it back together, convinced that it could be saved! But no, it had reached its time, and was relinquished to the trashcan. Heartbroken, I moved on with my life.

Fast forward 12 or so years.

I’m working in the theater, living in New England, out shopping for props at the local antique stores, like we do. I was photographing a chest of drawers of some sort, arranging purchase with the shop owner, who was so excited that one of his antiques would appear on the stage (I did not tell him that we would be sawing it in half and beating it with a rasp and hammer. I’m still amused at the relationship between prop shop and antique store, and remain convinced that if they knew half the things we did to their wares, they would never speak to us and would kick us out of their shops.)

Anyway, after taking some measurements and notes, I looked up, and there it was. A pacman glass! Just like my grandma used to have! It was sitting among an arrangement of vintage clutter, easily overlooked by the average passerby. After hopping around in a little dance, I purchased it in a heartbeat, relaying the sentimental story to the shop owner. Once again, pacman glass was in my life!

When I had it at home, I sat down to make an important decision. Would I use this glass for drinking? And chance another accidental knock-over? Or would I use it as a pen holder, a much safer occupation where it could be constantly in my view. I chose the latter, and pacman glass held my pens and sat on my desk through many adventures and moves.

Fast forward 7 more years.

On his nightly play romp, Mr. Davis miscalculates the angle of his leap from dresser to cat tree, and pacman glass falls to the floor, shattering.

I’m contemplating trying to glue it back together.

Thoughts on Home

One of my secret guilty pleasures is managing my monthly budget, which, I suppose there could be worse guilty pleasures. This month I hit my savings goal to get home for Christmas, so I can now start planning that trip.

It’s tricky to plan so far ahead, since I haven’t even done my first trip home slated for October, and since it’s inconvenient for most friends in the area to know what they’re going to be doing 5 months from now.

Last year I doubled up and went home to Louisville for Christmas and then to Pittsburgh for New Year’s, which ended up being a fantastic trip. This year I’m less certain of my plots, especially since I’m already worried about who’s going to catsit for Mr. Davis in October, let alone for 2 weeks in December when most everyone I know in LA will be out of town anyway (and I’ll need a fishsitter then, too)

I’ll figure it out eventually, I’m sure, but in the meantime, here’s a list of things that I miss about Kentucky:

1) Lightning bugs, as was previously established (thank you Eric for the video)
2) Thunder storms, even though they cause me pain. There’s nothing quite so soothing as napping safely inside while it’s storming outside. Except for the pain part, that is.
3) The smell of season transitions, which we don’t really get out here.
4) The greenness, which is something that Josh observed when he flew out to drive me across the country, and which I didn’t really understand at the time. Now that I’ve been in the desert-pretending-not-to-be that is LA for a year, I understand completely.
5) Katydids and tree frogs at night in the summertime
6) Autumn and trees changing color
7) Cardinals, pileated woodpeckers, and robins (there are supposed to be robins out here, but I’ve not seen any)

Church trap

Every morning on my way to work, I pass a little church on Buena Vista which, like many little churches, has a sign out front with a new message every week. This place, however, has the most bizarre, quippy, and humorous messages I’ve ever seen on a church sign. It’s to the point where I eagerly look forward to passing it, to see what weird or witty message is up.

Some favorites:

“I love the smell of chaos in the morning”

“It’s not about the shoes”

“Avoid churches” (which was followed by a bible verse, Matthew, I think, I cant recall it)

I’m intrigued to the point that I might stop in one Sunday and see if the sermons are as snarky as the board sign.

Internet Power

Most of the time, when I get mail from the former residents of my apartment, I just toss it in the shredder. But occasionally I get something that gives off the “important” vibe (something from the IRS, packages, etc) in which case I turn to the internet.

There’s something fun about tracking down a stranger on the internet at finding a means of contacting them, be it email or myspace message. Every time this has happened, the person has been very grateful of my snooping so that they can be reunited with their important documents.

Last week I had my first incident since moving to LA – a suspiciously important looking letter turned out to be a check for $130 for one of my unit’s former residents. Lucky for me, she had a unique name, so google turned her up pretty quickly (though I did have to make a Plaxo account to get her email address). Anyway, it turned out she still lived in the complex, but in a different unit, and was EXTREMELY grateful that I’d tracked her down. I went over the next day and taped her letter to her door.

Today when I got home, she’d taped a little thank you note to my door, thanking me again and saying I could call on her if I ever needed anything. So nice! Physical thank-you notes are the best thing ever.

Anyway, it just goes to show that having all of your personal information floating out on the internet available to anyone with decent google-fu can lead to good, afterall.