A Rose By Any Name

Plant names are interesting and often insightful. Thunbergia alata, for instance, has a winged petiole. Acer macrophylla has large leaves. Ginkgo biloba has leaves with two lobes. I think you get the point.

Here are silhouettes I sketched of the two species of Washingtonia that exist. One is Washingtonia filifera, the other Washingtonia robusta. Guess the identites.

Well, here are the answers.

Proof that tall and skinny can be robust.

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Fatherhood and Life


The little guy has arrived

The winter and spring have been a busy and rich season. Pam and I welcomed little Dietrich into our family. We attended birth and infant safety classes, read books, sought advice, and prepared for our new arrival. He waited until Spring Training started, then he decided to emerge (a world without baseball is a sad world indeed).

Since he has arrived he has had my full attention for stretches of time. Even when other parts of life demand attention, he has found a way to be involved. I have graded papers, prepared lectures, written an abstract proposal, responded to emails, prepared for a fantasy baseball draft, and done many other mundane things while entertaining him. As he gets more interactive it is fun to see his personality emerging.

He has the tiniest little hands and feet (that are large for his age). When I’m holding him I wonder how he will use those hands. What skills will he have? How strong will he be? How gentle will he be?

I’m caught between wanting to do everything for him and wanting to teach him to do everything for himself.

My prayer is that he will learn to love God and love others extravagantly, that he will seek to defend the defenseless, that he will rest in the security of being loved.

I’m planning to be careful about how much I post about him to protect his privacy. He just might run for political office someday, and pictures of his raucous 1 month-old party might cause a scandal.

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The 2017 Australian Open

Tennis Grand Slam events are wonderful. To me they are the ultimate elimination bracket championship in sports (I realize many will disagree and side with the NCAA basketball tournament, but as someone with strong reservations about “amateur” college sports I have a stronger affinity for tennis). This year I caught small pieces of many matches via Sling TV.

By the time the championship matches arrived this past weekend, there was much talk of the tournament being a throwback. This talk was based on the Williams vs Williams and Federer vs Nadal matches, but it could have included my viewing behavior too. In the 2008-2012 window of time I would watch large amounts of tennis majors–especially the Australian Open. I returned to form this year, watching the majority of both finals in the wee hours of the morning.

In the women’s final I didn’t have a strong rooting interest. I found myself pulling for Venus, since she was such an underdog. But when Serena established her dominance I didn’t mind. The match was entertaining, but not particularly memorable. The story was great; the tennis was okay. I think the women’s matches lose out on a lot by being best of three. There is only so much drama that can fit in three sets, and two set finals are too common.

The men’s final was poetry. I’m a big Federer fan, so his return from injury and success in Australia was a source of happiness. When I get old I expect to tell people I watched the greatest tennis player of all time. I was hoping for a Federer vs Nadal final, since it might be the last championship clash between these titans of the court. Even though Nadal is Fed’s nemesis, I feel nothing but respect for him. In fact, if I’m honest, there is a part of me that fears him. He has a pocketful of kryptonite, derailing Federer even when he was playing otherworldly tennis.

The match did not disappoint. When the decisive fifth set began with Nadal breaking Federer’s serve I was worried. But Federer played inspired tennis. He attacked Nadal’s serve with fury. In the moments of highest tension he came through with a break. And then another break. In a very close match he edged ahead when it mattered most. Masterful tennis from a legend.

Every time I watch tennis I start to get the urge to play again. I need to get out on the court. . .

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Christmas in Montana

Pam and I (and Pip) spent Christmas in Essex, MT with the Crane family. We stayed in a cabin owned by the Izaak Walton Inn.

Essex has no stores, no stop lights, and beautiful open country. The main draw is the Inn and the 60 km of cross country skiing trails.

Prior to this trip I had not cross country skied. Many years ago Jon and I used to treat a set of strap-on cross country skis like downhill skis in the backyard, but that involved bombing down a hill and crashing (for me at least). I got some helpful pointers from Charlie and Nancy, which kept me upright on my final run of the day on green and blue trails. Before those pointers I had several crashes.

The Izaak Walton Inn has the primary inn building, cabins, and rail cars that are outfitted as rooms. The rail cars are a very cool touch. Some of them are along the ski trails, so you could drop right out the door onto the trails.

Traveling to and from Montana, Pam and I took the train. We had a roomette, which is easy to picture: just imagine a small cubicle with two train seats and a fold-down bunk modeled after submarine sleeping quarters. It was a very fun way to travel. We took the Coast Starlight from SLO to Portland (well, we were supposed to do that, a delay caused us to divert to a bus from Klamath Falls to Pasco), then the Empire Builder from Portland to Essex. It was fitting we played Ticket to Ride several times during this vacation.


My travel buddies in our roomette.

Living in a place lacking a winter makes me appreciate cold temperatures and snow when I get it. Essex definitely scratched the winter itch, with snow falling more often than not when we were there, and the air crisp and cold. We were prepared for temperatures below zero ºF, but it stayed in the balmy 10-30 °F range. Perfect for skiing and keeping fingers thawed. I believe we got to Essex at its best. Lots of snow. Cold but not too cold.

During this trip I also got to spend some time at the cabin Pam’s grandfather built in Essex. It is a sweet cabin, with a sweeping panoramic view of Glacier National Park. Plus there is a hot tub on the deck, so you can soak in comfort while taking in the scene.


The view from inside the cabin Pam’s grandfather built, the hot tub is in the lower left foreground.

This trip also allowed the newest Crane cousins a chance to meet again. It won’t be long before they can play together.


The meeting of the cousins, both of them were very quiet this weekend.

It was great to see family, eat good food, drink Montana beer, and ski.


A family picture in the cabin.


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New Chapters and a Visit

Life is not boring. I’m reminded of that frequently. This is an exciting season of life. Pam and I are expecting a visit from our friendly neighborhood stork in mid-February. We’ve been preparing to be a family of three.

The beginning of spring training seems like a good time to be born. I’ve been keeping the baby up to date on MLB collective bargaining and roster moves.

My personality causes me to ask questions and be introspective when I am about to face something new. It’s amazing how much I do not know. One of my recent tasks was compiling a list of things I want to resolve before the baby arrives. What temperature (and for what duration) requires a visit to the doctor? How careful do I need to be about potential allergens? At what decibel levels should young ears be protected? How early should I start building my child’s botanical Latin vocabulary? And on and on. . .

What a fun new chapter of life!

Speaking of chapters, the fall quarter is winding down at Cal Poly. I have one more final exam to give on Friday, then commencement on Saturday morning. This fall I built Plant Materials II, which focused on woody angiosperms. I’m happy with how it went. It’s been a while since I built a class from the ground up–it was a lot of work. Now I have a strong foundation to build on. I’m already looking forward to the improvements i can make next year. I’ll be building Plant Materials I in the spring, which will cover palms, conifers, vines, and herbaceous plants. I’m guessing building a class with a new baby in the house will be a challenge.

One last question, does anyone know if it is customary to tip the stork?


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