Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Paso, 7 and Staples

Spending a few quiet days in Paso for the holiday break and 7 decides to run into rocks. These are the before and after pics. The vet in Paso rocks. Big props to Dr. Deb and the whole staff at Paso Vet for Pets. They not only saw 7 on short notice but stapled her nose, gave her antibiotics and medication for her heart murmur for $120.00. To put in perspective, a big city vet would have charged that just for the office visit.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Year of The Creatures

Not the name of a bad 'B' movie but my experience at the Paso Straw Bale House.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Views from my part of the world...

A fire in Morro Bay
and a fiery sunset in Paso

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Can someone tell me what this bug is?

After seeing this,I needed this:

Saturday, October 31, 2009

4 years

It has been four years since the occupancy permit was granted. This is what the house looked like Oct of 2005:

And this is what it looks like Oct 2009:Getting there.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hot and Humid

Harvest weekend has come and gone. The leaves are turning
the tarantulas are using iPhones to stay connected

and as always the sunsets are wonderful
Even with the temprature in the high 80's and humidity in the 70's, the house stayed cool and comfortable.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Harvest Time

Harvest is in full view:
The house is a constant 72-77 degrees this time of year. Which is perfect for just hanging out on the couch and watching the sunset.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 in New York

I am in NYC this week. Remembering events of 8 years ago. On that day 8 years ago, over 3000 people were killed by extremists. Unchecked and unchallenged extremism leads to extreme actions. Fortunately, hope and optimism challenge and frequently defeat extremism.
Hopefully the extremists who yell 'You Lie', spread false rumors about "Death Panels and want to maintain the status quo are challenged and put in check.

Joe Wilson and Sarah Palin can:

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Views from the WebCam

Here are some of the more interesting views from the webcam this year.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Apocalyptic Sky

This was the sky last weekend. One of the more amazing sunsets in recent memory.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Straw Bale Troika

I find it odd that I can walk to two other straw bale houses:
and drive to 2 more within 10 minutes. Not to mention the proliferation of straw bale wineries.

Since straw bale is not the most obvious choice for building it is kinda cool.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


The majority of the landscaping is complete. The design is fairly close to what was designed.

Here is the almost finished product:
for the visually astute, there is a visitor from a previous blog posting in the picture above...

in the lower left corner in the picture above, is the snake from my April 19th, 2009 post.

Here is a closer look:
and here:
This snake is not camera shy...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sometimes I forget...

how much thought went into certain aspects of this house. From the light covered 'cool roof' that reflects a majority of the solar gain and keeps the house cool:
The drought resistant plants and ground cover that keeps the ground cool:
and forgoing rain gutters to allow for run off to water the landscaping during the winter.

In addition to the Low E, reflective windows:

the interior has stained concrete flooring that keeps the house cool, high ceilings to allow for heat to rise and clerestory windows that open to let the heat out at night:
These design features keep the house comparatively cool during the summer. On average the house stays 25F-30F degrees cooler than the outside temp in the summer. When it was 109F+ this weekend, the house stayed 79 degrees.

7/18: Outside 105/Inside 83
7/19: Outside 109/Inside 79
7/20: Outside 112/Inside 80

Overall, the design of the house is meeting or exceeding the expected summer performance.

Let's talk about winter performance in 12/09.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Weather or Not, El Nino is coming....

They say that California does not have seasons. As a Californian I offer that we have two seasons. Drought and El Nino. Here is a description of El Nino from NOAA:

  • El NiƱo is an oscillation of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific having important consequences for weather around the globe. Among these consequences are increased rainfall across the southern tier of the US and in Peru, which has caused destructive flooding, and drought in the West Pacific, sometimes associated with devastating brush fires in Australia
  • El Nino's usually bring heavy rain to the west coast of California with frequent flooding and mudslides. Mostly in the first 3 months of the calendar year.
Why this is of interest to me is because it usually means rain in biblical amounts. At least for California. The average rainfall in the Paso Robles area is between 12-14 inches per year. The past 5 El Nino events produced yearly rainfall as follows
  • 1978 23.38 inches
  • 1983 26.46 inches
  • 1993 23.01 inches
  • 1995 27.95 inches
  • 1998 20.65 inches
This may not look significant but in 4 of those years over 14 inches of rain fell in January and February alone. This causes the ground to become saturated and mudslides occur like this one in La Conchita, south of Santa Barbara:

The recent work on the road here:

should mitigate the erosion and mudslide that blocked the road that in 2005 after 14 inches of rain Jan-Mar.

I sincerely hope this is my only post on El Nino.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Getting Your Fair Advantage

A former co-worker of mine has moved to India for a year. He is finding it to be the adventure of a lifetime and is learning what it means to be a foreigner in a very foreign land. I mention this because he and his spouse recently experienced something that seems to be one of the few behaviors that does not discriminate, is multicultural, and leaves the people experiencing the wrong end of it feeling guilty of who and what they are, what they have accomplished. Not to mention a rather large dose of anger as well.

In short, they were taken advantage of by someone they trusted. While it happens to most people at one time or another it still elicits a range of emotions, most of them negative.

What is amazing to me is that this seems to be a human phenomenon, not a cultural one. A trait of being homo-sapiens. The anthropological/cultural reasons for this to exist and be so similar across cultures and geographies is fascinating to me.

Could it be as simple as risk vs. reward. In high order primates, taking advantage in small ways is not punished severely if at all. It is theorized that keeping the social fabric together is more important for survival than ostracizing only the most egregious transgressions. While this is an oversimplification I think it plays out in how people learn to take their 'fair advantage'.

I have come to the conclusion that understanding how people assess risk vs. reward is key to long term working partnerships. If there is very little risk in someone getting their fair advantage, rest assured they will take it. The book Freakonomics has a great chapter describing the risk vs. reward aspect of taking advantage"

"Levitt, the author of Freakonomics, caught teachers cheating by analyzing all the individual answers of every student in the Chicago public school system. What he found was that after students had turned in their tests, teachers were going through and changing their answers. Not every answer, mind you, but enough to boost scores. In his example, he shows how in a class of 22 students, at least 15 students had the same string of six correct answers. At first glance, this seems a little suspicious, especially since the string comes towards the end of the test, where the harder questions tend to be. Not only that, but several of the students who got these answers correct left at least four of the questions in the same section blank, showing they probably could not have answered the earlier questions correctly. To add to it, these were poor performing students who did not have strings of six answers correct anywhere else on the test. The students made huge leaps during this year, however, the next year they sank back down to their low level. Obviously something was amiss."

The motivation was obvious. Teachers, who are notoriously poorly paid anyway, needed the money and were willing to engage in unethical behavior to acquire those bonuses. The teachers did not do this solely because they are unethical, they did it because they realized there was little risk involved because no one was minding the store. A system was set up with no checks and balances.

The community at large is one way to mitigate this. Find out their standing in the community and use your intuition. If you feel like you are helping someone out, perhaps they need help because of how they conduct themselves. If they are going out of their way to help you out, ask yourself what reward are they looking for and what are they risking by helping you.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Fer Sizzle, my rizzle...

It is a bit hot at the ranch today:

But what is impressive is the dramatic change in temp, 3:30 pm, 111 degress.:
but 1 hour, 39 minutes and 88 miles later. 66 degrees:

In other news the road has been regraded and a fresh load of decomposed granite dropped and compacted.

Work to minimize erosion of the road entrance was also done. Mari Landscaping once again came thru and did a great job.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

84 years

When my grandmother was born:

My grandmother died last week. This has given me the opportunity to reflect on how much has changed and yet how little time we take to appreciate the changes that define each successive generation.

84 years is enough time to see societal norms shift, to see technology begin to supplant human interaction and to see what was once thought impossible, become routine.

I only hope in the next 50 years the change I see is as beneficial as the change my grandmother experienced.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Strange Views This Weekend..

A few months ago while watching the webcam, I saw two dogs run through the courtyard. A yellow lab and a chocolate lab. The did not hang around, just cruising through. Strangely enough I so them again today. Both had collars and looked healthy if not a bit dirty from their adventures. What I don't understand is why people let their dogs roam. Not only are there coyotes but there are mountain lions, deer, and people who would not hesitate to shoot them.

Another strange view I saw was this:
The really odd thing is that there were two people riding in it. They looked no older than 18-20. Was someone filming a Wells Fargo commercial? Yaaaaah!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Visitors to the House...

This weekend I had several guests visiting the house.

Allow me to introduce my good friend Lizard Large:

His partner in crime Fuzzy Spider:

And Mothras' Evil Twin:
Brought to you by 104 degree weather:

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Moths, Meritage, and Me

The title pretty much sums up the past few days. I have seen moths the size of small birds,

tasted at least 20 different wines at the 27th Annual Paso Robles Wine Festival
It only took me 9 years to finally go and I really wish the fashion police were there.

Visited with several friends from the Bay Area and the U.K. and lastly enjoyed the sunsets
Nothing major or earth shattering but it was good to get a few days away from it all after all of the travel and long hours.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Earth, Fire, Ice and Sweat

While winter afforded me the opportunity to install shelving in the kitchen, install webcams, and finally get the utility bath faucet running correctly (No thanks to Harvey Plumbing), spring offers the opportunity to more ambitious projects. A few items on the list:

I lean towards landscaping as it softens the view on the house, the landscape contractor does great work and is a nice person, and I don't have any baggage associated with it. Here are some of the sketches he has produced for the back of the house.
A fireplace would make a lot of sense in this corner due to its' proximity to the door:
I could break down and install Air-Conditioning. The house is very efficient and does not vary more than 10 degrees 92% of the time, the 8% of the time it does get to hot makes me want A/C.

And lastly, this blog, this story has been ongoing for almost 5 years. When I started this blog I could not have fathomed the journey I embarked on. I did not know how much blood, sweat and tears it would take get to this point. Oddly enough the my life has been influenced more by people totally unrelated to this project and for that I am thankful.

Here's to another 5 years of blogging, living, and learning.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I think this snake must be French as he has effectively blocked the road. Must be protesting the lack of mice to feed on.

And ya know, this is a really big friggen snake!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sunrise and Sunset

Today marked a momentous occasion. I was up for the sunrise and sunset. Enjoy the view...