Berkeley Wildlife: Street Deer


I’ve mentioned several times in the last couple of years–here and here, for instance–that it has become pretty commonplace to encounter deer here in the Berkeley flatlands (and in the hills, some deer are getting ornery.) Still, today’s experience broke new ground. First, during a noontime walk, The Dog startled a good-sized young adult deer–I’m guessing it was a male–that had been browsing the plants along a driveway adjacent to a vacant lot or overgrown backyard on Monterey Street. The deer bolted into the trees and watched us. Then a woman pulled into the driveway. She said she wasn’t surprised we had happened upon the deer. “There’s a family of three living in there,” she said. “The poor things are just running out of room.” She also mentioned that a dead deer was lying on the street nearby. Hit by a car? I asked. “No–it must have been sick. It doesn’t look like it was injured.” She added that someone had called Berkeley Animal Control.

Her description didn’t prepare me for the fawn that lay along the sidewalk two doors down. A beautiful animal. Surprisingly, The Dog wasn’t interested. I took a few pictures, and we continued on our walk. When we get home, I called animal control myself. When someone came on the line, I told them I wanted to report a dead deer on a street in North Berkeley. “Would that be the one on … Monterey?” the attendant asked. “Yeah, that’s the one.” “We already know about that,” she said. “Any ETA for when you might be out there?” “No. We have one officer in the field, and emergency calls come first. So ….”

I wonder how long it will take word to spread in the carrion-eating community of the choice meal awaiting out there.

Berkeley Frost: Spicule Watch


As related in earlier winters , sometimes Berkeley gets cold enough that frost settles over the town. Well, settle isn’t really the right word, since the frost crystals actually grows in what appears to the layperson to be a magical process of sublimation. The crystals are called spicules, which resemble little spikes or hairs when they form on a cold surface.

Speaking of our weather, one of our local TV weatherfolk, KTVU’s Bill Martin, referred to it as “Chicago cold” last night. And not once but twice he advised viewers that they’d want to take action to make sure plants, pets and “the elderly” were protected from the weather’s effects. The elderly? We brought our own resident grandparent in from the unheated shed in the backyard.

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A Stroll in Berkeley, or The Hostile Inebriate

For the late afternoon dog walk, we took a fistful of bills out to mail and walked downtown. We stopped at the PG&E office, then the post office. Then we decided to get what’s going to pass for our dinner tonight at Top Dog, just up Center Street from downtown Berkeley. Lots of Cal fans were walking the other way from the football game; the home team had given the visitors from Washington State an ugly thumping (the score was 49-17, but Cal, coached by a local gridiron millionaire, repeatedly committed stupid personal fouls and during one stretch appeared to stop playind defense).

Anyway. As The Dog and I waited outside Top Dog, a young woman wearing a Cal sweatshirt and seated at the open front window repeatedly sang, “We beat the Cougars! We beat the Cougars!” During her fifth or sixth round, I finally responded. “Yeah — everyone does.” Washington State’s known mostly for the big scores its opponents run up; its unofficial mascot is the crime-scene silhouette. She looked at me and said, “Yeah, isn’t it wonderful?” She explained that she’s from Seattle, which is University of Washington. She loves it when Huskies maul Cougars.

Kate came out of the restaurant and we walked up to the west entrance to campus to eat our hot dogs on the steps up there. It was a nice open-air repast as the sun got lower. Along the drive leading into campus, I heard someone angrily say, “F—!” I looked over, and a wiry guy with long hair and a beard, maybe in his early 40s, was walking toward us. He got to the top of an adjacent set of steps about 30 feet away and asked if we had a cigarette. Neither of us wanted to engage the guy, and we both shook our heads no. “What?” he said, and started to walk toward us. “No,” Kate said. He stopped and looked away. I had taken out my camera to take a picture of the sunlight on the steps. “What’s that?” he asked, and started to walk toward me again. He wasn’t menacing, exactly; more like drunk and challenging. “A camera,” I said. When he got to within about five feet of where I was sitting I put up my hand and said, “Back off.” He advanced another step. “You taking a picture of your dog?” “Yeah,” I said. “See?” I pointed the camera at him and took a shot. Simultaneously, he flipped me the bird, then stalked off cursing. Kate said, “Let’s get out of here.”

If things had gone any further than that, I would have called the cops. As it is, I have a nice likeness of my new friend as a keepsake.

We walked toward home, careful to take a different route from Mr. Finger’s. A large, fluffy cloud floated south over downtown. The setting sun illuminated it, creating a soft top-lit glow. Just another evening in the city.


Morning Dew



Saturday evening, he had abundant low, thick clouds scudding in off the Bay. Not unusual. Less common: The air was warm and felt very wet. That gave way Sunday morning to very heavy dew. (The shorthand physical explanation: the air was near saturation with water and when the temperature fell to the “dew point” — in the mid-50s that night, I think — the water in the air was deposited on cars, lawns, and what have you.) On our way back from our usual Sunday morning walk down to the old Santa Fe right-of-way, Kate noticed a patch of grass in one yard on Rose Street, each stalk covered with beads of water. So–that’s where these pictures came from. (Click for larger versions.)

Berkeley: AM Clouds


We at Infospigot Information Services are great fans of the evening sky, but we’re not often out and about to report on dawn-time sky conditions. This morning was the exception to that rule. According to the National Weather Service area forecast discussions, there’s some sort of low spinning off the coast and sending in a stream of moisture from the southwest, which takes shape as unusually high, fluffy, and abundant clouds hereabouts (are typical cloud cover in the summer months is a dense bank of low stratus). It’s also a warm, muggy morning, also atypical of our Mediterranean climatic regime.

Summer Rainbow


I’ve long been a fan of photographic panoramas. Once a long time ago, we went to the farm near Dyersville, Iowa, where “Field of Dreams” was filmed, and I took a series of shots of the baseball field from the farmhouse porch. When I got the pictures back, I spent a while creating a mosaic of the shots, then had them mounted and framed as a present for my dad. I think he’s still got it hanging on his wall. One of the unexpected artifacts in the pictures was a guy who was walking along the right-field and first-base line; he appears in several shots in the “panorama.”

Nowadays, I’m sure there’s some sort of really good software that helps you stitch together digital pictures. Me, I have an application for the Mac called DoubleTake that does an OK job. One of the first things you realize when using it, though, is that it can’t really give you a seamless rendering of more than two shots. Not that I mind–I’m not a pro and I’m taking pictures with a pocket-sized camera.

But every once in a while, I wish I had the equipment, the knowledge, and the other wherewithal that would knit together with my enthusiasm for wide-angle scenes. Case in point: This evening just before sunset, we got an exceedingly rare July rainfall. The sun was below the edge of the clouds, and as soon as the rain started falling–very lightly–I knew we’d see a rainbow. And in a few minutes, there it was: a full arch and a full “double” image. The colors on the descending legs were so bright they appeared fluorescent. I ran in the house and got the beat-up Casio and shot away. I shot away knowing that I wouldn’t capture the real brilliance of the light and that I’d need three shots, minimum, to get the full expanse of the rainbow.

So that’s where that image up there comes from (click for a larger image–the full size is 2400×900-some pixels). To make the rainbow look continuous, I compromised on the bottom edge of the pictures, where you can see some strange things happening with trees and houses.

On to the next experiment. (And if you want to check out a panoramic picture system, take a look at this.)

Usurpations and Abuses


Corner of Vine and Walnut (in front of the Friends meetinghouse, across the street from a Mormon church, diagonally across from the being-refurbished original location of Peet’s Coffee–home of Berkeley’s one true religion).  

The nailed-up candy heart got our attention first. Then the “long train of usurpations and abuses” flyer.