The 2014-2015 Academic Year Come to a Close

I’ve conquered the piles of grading, attended commencement, and wrapped up the loose ends–the academic year is finished. While that is good news, now that the summer is here the research pressure ramps up. Right now I’m doing planning and purchasing to get things in order, and I’ll be setting up experiments soon.

A commencement selfie. #CalPoly

A photo posted by Benjamin (@barre7) on

Here are a few quick thoughts and notes:

  • I went on a weekend camping trip with friends (and grading) to Sequoia National Park a couple of weeks ago. Good times. . .

The river near Buckeye Flats. Camping in Sequoia National Park.

A photo posted by Benjamin (@barre7) on

Hiking in Sequoia National Park on Saturday.

A photo posted by Benjamin (@barre7) on

Left: The current (6/16/2015) Fan Graph Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for American League 2B All-Star Game candidates.  Right: The current (6/15/2015) leaderboard from the voting (players with no vote totals failed to make the top five for the position).

Exhibit A: (Left) The current (6/16/2015) Fan Graph Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for American League 2B All-Star Game candidates. (Right) The current (6/15/2015) leaderboard from the voting (players with no vote totals failed to make the top five for the position).

  • I’ve been vocal about my dislike for the current form of the MLB All-Star Game. I hate that it determines home field advantage for the World Series. I don’t like the way the voting works. Interleague play has removed the novelty of stars from the two leagues meeting, since it happens weekly now. All Star voting is a popularity contest, and many fans lack the baseball intelligence to cast a responsible vote. Check out the AL 2B current vote count as Exhibit A.
  •  My email inboxes, both personal and work, are in terrible shape. I usually keep them clean and sorted, but this year that fell apart. If anyone has emailed me this year and never received a reply I am sorry–your message might have been buried.

Enjoy the summer!

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The Pacific Coast Highway: Santa Cruz to San Luis Obispo

Last weekend Pam and I met some family members in Oakland for an Athletics game on Saturday night. After the game we went to Vallejo. On the return trip on Sunday we drove the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Cruz to San Luis Obispo. It was a grey day. The drive was much different from my last trip down Highway 1.

The Pacific Coast Highway in Central California.

The Pacific Coast Highway in Central California.

Miles and miles of curvy roads and beautiful sights.

Miles and miles of curvy roads and beautiful sights.

A bridge on the Pacific Coast Highway.

A bridge on the Pacific Coast Highway.

Sunlight sneaking through the clouds and hitting the Pacific Ocean.

Sunlight sneaking through the clouds and hitting the Pacific Ocean.

We stopped in San Simeon to see elephant seals. They are such strange and fascinating creatures. The large males were not around, but the females and juveniles were plentiful.

Elephant seals sparring.

Elephant seals sparring.

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An elephant seal scratches an itch.

An elephant seal scratches an itch.

Elephant seal negotiations.

Elephant seal negotiations.

Negotiations have broken down.

Negotiations have broken down.

After the seals I got a picture of Hearst Castle and the San Simeon Pier.

Far off Hearst Castle sits by overcast skies.

Far off Hearst Castle sits by overcast skies.

The San Simeon Pier gets a little sunlight.

The San Simeon Pier gets a little sunlight.

It’s a beautiful highway to have so close by. I’m sure we’ll be back to Big Sur for more exploring.

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2Cellos and The Piano Guys at the PAC

This year Pam and I have gone to shows by 2Cellos and The Piano Guys at the Performing Arts Center at Cal Poly. Both are acts that rose to fame via YouTube and now are signed to deals with Sony. Both prominently feature cellos, which is predictable with 2Cellos but might be a surprise when you see the name The Piano Guys.

We saw 2Cellos first, on March 21. The tickets had a warning printed on them that the show was a high volume event. I noticed that a substantial portion of the packed house appeared to be elderly and refined, dressed for a classical concert. The opening song was Benedictus, which is hauntingly beautiful and mellow. And in that moment it seemed like a classical concert.

But that only lasted for approximately seven minutes.

And suddenly Benedictus turned to Where the Streets Have No Name (at high volume). It was now a rock show. Here is a YouTube clip of that transition (but you miss the grandeur of the concert hall swelling with the sound.

And it just went on from there. My personal favorites were the AC/DC songs, with Back in Black and Thunderstruck at the top of the list. By this time many of the refined guests had found the exits, appalled at the classic rock.

The banter between Luka and Stjepan was entertaining, filled with double entendres and ironic rock star pandering. It was fun to watch these masterful musicians perform.  I thoroughly enjoyed the concert.

On May 13 we saw The Piano Guys. This was also a very fun show. It featured more interaction with the crowd, more processed backing tracks, and less classic rock, and lower overall volume. Jon and Steven showed a polished showmanship that was enjoyable. I didn’t see anyone walk out of this show. The set was considerably longer than the 2Cellos set.

The percussive elements of The Piano Guys were elaborate and fun.

Each show had its merits. I’m glad I went to both of them. I must say, however, that the classic rock made me smile a bit more than the pop songs and classical music. Cellos are wonderful instruments.

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An Engagement Anniversary on the Beach

IMG_2904Last year on Pismo Beach under the stars I asked Pam to marry me. As I recall I played it rather cool, all composed and stoic. I even have a picture to prove it. Okay, so I might have smiled just a little bit.

Pismo Beach has hosted all sorts of fun and good memories for us. We go to soak up the sun, play beach games, hit the water, or stroll along the coast. When family and friends visit us we always take them to Pismo Beach.

A few months after getting engaged we returned to Pismo Beach for engagement photos.

Engagement-5

I decided to walk our path along the beach and visit our engagement site tonight, on the one year anniversary. Though Pam and I are on different continents right now, it was good to remember that evening. I’m so happy we have each other. Life has been richer and fuller with her. I took some photos as I walked and reminisced.

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Intimacy

Together,
Silent harmony,
Separate but combined,
The lovers quietly embrace.

Darkness,
Impaired sight,
Heightens the effect
Of a gentle caress.

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Tomato Mania 2015

The 2015 Tomato Mania sale at Cal Poly is underway. I serve as the faculty advisor for the project. Yesterday much of the set-up took place. This morning I got to campus before the sale started to make sure things were on track and to lend a hand (and buy some tomatoes).

Preparation for the sale.

Preparation for the sale.

The calm before the storm.

The calm before the storm (sale begins in minutes).

Sale in progress.

Sale in progress.

Sale in progress.

Sale in progress (the guy in the center is wearing a very appropriate shirt for a tomato sale).

It was a good day. I also managed to sow tomato seeds for a grafting lab that I’ll teach later this quarter. When I left the sale I purchased five plants. The sale continues tomorrow: 10 am to 4 pm at the Horticulture Unit on campus. Come on out and pick up some tomatoes! I recommend ‘Artisan Purple Bumblebee’ if you want an interesting cherry tomato. There are all sorts of options: ‘Bloody Butcher,’ ‘Mr. Stripey,’ ‘Banana Legs,’ ‘Alaskan Fancy,’ ‘Chocolate Cherry,’ ‘Mortgage Lifter,’ and ‘Red Robin’ to name a few of the 67 available (well, it started with 67, some have sold out already).

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