Death Valley Superbloom 2016

posted Mar 20, 2016, 3:33 PM by Jay Lieske   [ updated Mar 20, 2016, 3:34 PM ]

I took a day off of work so that Jude and I could take a (very long) single-day trip to the Mojave Desert and Death Valley to see the “superbloom”.  It was amazing.  This was Jude’s first time to Death Valley, and I was last there on a Boy Scout camping trip in 1980. 

The desert landscape is stark and geologic, the earth-tone colors of grey and brown, red, black, and white.  I was drawn to the forms of the mountains, many of them striped with volcanic and sedimentary strata.  I connected with the landscape much more as a 50 year-old than a 14 year-old.
Jude on Mojave Desert highway in Panamint Valley

Jude captured my joy among the rocks and flowers.
Jay in Death Valley landscape at Townes Pass

In the areas of the superbloom, there is a hazy yellow tint overlay in the washes and alluvial fans.  When we got close, we could see that the land was dotted with desert sunflowers, bright fist-sized flowers suspended 2-3 feet above the ground on wiry stems.
Death Valley wildflowers at Beatty Cutoff

We took a break at the Furnace Creek Inn for an espresso.  One outlying building burned down last year, but the rest of the inn has a quality of old grandeur, with a bit of The Shining mixed in.
Jude at Furnace Creek Inn in Death Valley

More photos on Flickr: Death Valley Superbloom 2016

Music of 2015

posted Mar 20, 2016, 3:19 PM by Jay Lieske   [ updated Mar 20, 2016, 3:19 PM ]

There were a bunch of songs I loved in 2015, but I didn't love the rest of their albums: "Easy Way Out" by Other Lives, "Don't Wanna Fight" and "Gimme All Your Love" by Alabama Shakes, "Lilly" by Toro Y Moi, "Fight or Flight" by Engineers,  "Learning To Relax" by Dan Deacon, "Let It Happen" by Tame Impala.  

I discovered a pair of albums from 2013, though, that have become some of my favorites of all time:

Melody's Echo Chamber, "Melody's Echo Chamber":  Delightful psychedelic pop, a collaboration by French singer Melody and the lead member of Tame Impala.

The Stargazer Lilies, "We Are The Dreamers":  Shoegazer-blues, with beautiful guitar work and singing by former members of Soundpool.

Wildflower Day 2015

posted Apr 12, 2015, 12:59 PM by Jay Lieske   [ updated Apr 12, 2015, 1:01 PM ]

Jude and I took a day trip from Los Angeles to the Santa Ynez Valley to enjoy the April scenery and wildflowers. 
Jay on Figueroa Mountain in April

The ongoing drought has an effect on the landscape, but we saw many special flowers growing on Figueroa Mountain, like these mariposa lilies (Calochortus sp.) in a meadow.
Calochortus on Figueroa Mountain in April

We were also fascinated by the green serpentine outcrops with jadeite-rich rocks.
Jay on serpentine roadcut on Figueroa Mountain in April

April 2015 Flowers

posted Apr 12, 2015, 12:47 PM by Jay Lieske   [ updated Apr 12, 2015, 12:47 PM ]

Spring started early in Southern California this year because of the dry hot weather during the winter.  In a more normal year, our garden and the wild landscape erupt in bloom during early April, but this year that all started in March.  Nonetheless, it is a beautiful time.

I took pictures of the garden at the beginning of the month
The photographer in the April garden

This is the definitely the pink season.
Flowering coral bells, monkeyflower, and clarkias in April garden

Flowering phacelias, poppies, and clarkias in April garden

March 2015 Photos Update

posted Mar 28, 2015, 9:47 PM by Jay Lieske   [ updated Apr 12, 2015, 12:30 PM ]

Our garden has started a beautiful bloom this March.  The flowers seem a little early this year, maybe because we had a dry and warm 2015 so far.  But the December rains were enough to make this year's bloom a hit.  I  updated the garden photos on our Flickr album.

Verdant March garden

I was really excited to see this rare wind poppy (Stylomecon heterophylla) in bloom.  The seeds were hard to come by when I sowed this in the fall, and this plant took root in the rocky roadcut at the bottom of the yard.
Stylomecon heterophylla in March garden

Of course we have new pictures of the pets.


Jay with Lupita and Madeline

February 2015 Photos Update

posted Feb 9, 2015, 12:38 AM by Jay Lieske   [ updated Feb 13, 2015, 11:13 AM ]

I've uploaded some pictures spanning the period from last summer to last week.

Garden Cycle 2014-2015 has pictures of the yard, starting September 2104 at the end of the dry season and progressing through the peak of the rainy season now in February 2015.  I'll add more photos as garden continues the cycle through green winter to flowery spring and subdued summer.
Jay working in yard Madeline and Lupita wildflowering

People and Pets 2015 is where I'll upload pictures this year of family and friends (feline, canine, and human).
Monty, Pema, and Nigel

People and Pets 2014 is updated with some new pictures of family gatherings.
Mom and Dad at my cousin's wedding

Garden 2014 is updated with some new pictures from the end of last summer, particularly the striking bloom of the pink floss silk tree in our yard.
Pink floss silk tree

Music of 2014

posted Jan 1, 2015, 10:59 PM by Jay Lieske   [ updated Feb 27, 2016, 11:05 PM by Jay Lieske ]

Even through I've continued to buy lots of tracks and albums from eMusic and iTunes, the last couple years haven't offered many albums that got me excited.  That changed in 2014.  My favorite records ths year:

Spoon: "They Want My Soul"
Full of great songs that sound better the more I listen to them.

Temples: "Sun Structures"
Perfect psychedelic rock: great melodies and hooks with trippy feel. 

The Horrors: "Luminous"
The songs have great atmosphere, with sounds that sustain and shift and hook me in.

Medicine: "To The Happy Few"
A great comeback.  The guitars, drumming, and singing both take me back to 1993 and exist perfectly in the present.  (This actually came out in 2013, but I didn't know about it until this year.  How many more albums don't I know about from my favorite groups?)   

Music of 2010

posted Jan 1, 2015, 10:24 PM by Jay Lieske   [ updated Jan 1, 2015, 10:24 PM ]

This was the year I finished my conversion to digital music: I bought 6 CDs and downloaded 55 full albums from eMusic, iTunes, and the late, lamented Lala.


Arcade Fire — The Suburbs
Somewhat disappointing.  Their debut Arcade Fire EP and full-length Funeral were among the best releases of the mid-zeros, but the two followups have been a bit dull, though well-intentioned and not without some highlights. I liked the new "Sprawl 2 (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" enough to play it at Laura's and Stephan's reception, but the rest of the album lacks the beautiful eccentricity that they used to have in songs like "I'm Sleeping In A Submarine" and "Crown Of Love"? 

Autolux — Transit Transit

Broken Social Scene — Forgiveness Rock Record

Devo — Something For Everybody
A nice return after two decades.

The New Pornographers — Together

Soundpool — Mirrors In Your Eyes

Spoon — Transference

Vampire Weekend — White Sky

The Besnard Lakes — The Roaring Night

Blonde Redhead — Penny Sparkle
Stripped down to pretty surfaces.  "Love or Prison" has worked itself into me.

Deerhunter — Halcyon Digest

Department of Eagles — Archive 2003-2006

Here We Go Magic — Pigeons
A very listenable progression from their debut.  Though nothing is as perfectly catchy as last year's "Fangela", it has a bunch of subtle, pretty songs.

Albums from earlier years

Depeche Mode — Sounds of the Universe and Playing the Angel

Portishead — Third


Portishead — "Chase the Tear"

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club — "Bad Blood"

The Chemical Brothers — "K+D+B"

Songs from earlier years

Franz Ferdinand — "Live Alone"

April 2014 Pet Photos

posted Apr 26, 2014, 2:04 PM by Jay Lieske   [ updated Apr 26, 2014, 2:04 PM ]

The cats and dogs want to let you know they are doing well this spring.  I've uploaded an album to Flickr.

Madeline and Lupita
Madeline and Lupita

Pema and Nigel
Pema and Nigel




Spring 2014 Garden Photos

posted Apr 16, 2014, 11:51 PM by Jay Lieske   [ updated Apr 26, 2014, 1:45 PM ]

Despite the terrible drought, our garden is in wonderful bloom this spring.  I've posted the pictures to a Flickr album.

Former driveway, now garden

Most exiting to me is the new garden we planted by the kitchen.  We pulled out part of the driveway and set up slightly raised beds.  I planted perennials and sowed annual wildflower seeds last fall.  With regular watering, it's turned into a lush, lively space.  We can watch the insects and hummingbirds out the kitchen window — such a wonderful improvement from looking onto asphalt!  Wildflowers in bloom include claytonias, gilias, layias, phacelias, nemophilas, and collinsias.  Perennials include iris, heucheras, penstemons, eriognonums, and mimulus.

We made a special effort to deep-water our trees and shrubs, and that was enough to keep our Wildflowering LA hillside in color.  Lots of flowers are visible from the street: poppies, clarkias, phacelias, and claytonias.  

Some of my favorite pictures this spring:

Poppies and Collinsias
Poppies and Collinsias

So many shades of green, yellow, and grey
So many shades of green, yellow, and grey

Gilias and Layia
Gilias and Layia


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