Category Archives: My own little world


I live in my own little world

Back in 1966 when I was under the tutelage of my wise old grandmother, I had a little cactus garden. Nothing but cactus. Little plants with spines and thorns. Lots of owees did I get. They were painful, but nothing that a teenager couldn’t handle. If I could handle grandmother whippings with an oleander switch, heck, I could handle just about anything.

Fast forward 50 years and the closest I get to those little plants with those spines and thorns is about four inches away but protected by the lens of my camera.

Last Friday I went to the Super Succulents Celebration hosted by Waterwise Botanicals in Bonsall, about 40 miles north of where I live.

Since waterwise plants include cactus, there were a lot of cactus on the grounds of this huge plant nursery comprising over twenty not-flat acres. Speaking from experience, don’t try to walk all those acres at one time.

Having been there before, I knew to take my Canon 760D camera and all three of my lenses, a Tamron 18-300m, a Tamron 90mm macro, and a Tamron 150-600mm. There were so many plants in bloom that all I used was my macro lens.

Here are four of my favorite cactus spine and thorn macro pictures:

Macro picture of cactus thorns

Macro picture of cactus thorns

Macro picture of cactus thorns

Macro picture of cactus thorns

If you look closely at the third picture, you can see a few translucent circles at the bottom of that spine. Those are raindrops. It had rained earlier that day, so I got lots of extraordinary macro pictures of raindrops on cactus and succulents. I will share them in my next post.

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post


My Own Little World—Fruity & fresh

I live in my own little world

When Jim, Zoey the Cool Cat, and I moved into our new home last July, I wanted to create a place where Zoey the Cool Cat could safely go outside. At our previous home, she had a balcony high up in the air where there were no dangers to her. Out here in the boondocks we have coyotes, foxes, raptors, lots of aggressive ground squirrels, and even aggressive rabbits. I couldn’t teach Zoey the Cool Cat not to go between the balusters and take off chasing something that looked small from a distance but might be a little bigger than her when she got too close.Zoey the Cool Cat chilling on the lanai

So I took our front porch, which actually is at the rear if you say that the front faces the street, put up huge cat-claw-proof screens, and put a cat door in the single-hung window. She quickly learned that she can go outside and just chill.

We call the new front porch “Zoey the Cool Cat’s lanai.” From her lanai she has a cat’s eye view of all the birds, lizards, bees, squirrels, and rabbits in Wildlife Corner.Rabbit and squirrels

Yesterday, with the temperature at 86°F in the sun, Zoey the Cool Cat was chilling on her shaded lanai. I decided to chill with her, so I got the book I’m reading (“The Demon in the Freezer” by Richard Preston—a true book about the eradication of smallpox) and a new beer that I bought (Shock Top Ruby Fresh Grapefruit), and went out to chill with her.

I haven’t been much of a beer drinker since leaving Texas on April 15, 1993, so I’m always trying new and different beers whenever I decide to have one. O.M.G. Shock Top Ruby Fresh Grapefruit is the best thing since margaritas! I can highly recommend it.

I have really turned into a fruity beer person—Abita Purple Haze (raspberry wheat), Redd’s Raspberry Ale (could be my favorite except that every bottle I have ever had has been flat, and flat beers are just nasty so I have given up on Redd’s), Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat, and so many others. I’m ditching all the others and going with Shock Top Ruby Fresh Grapefruit, especially since I found a store just a mile away that carries it regularly.

Online images show it as Shock Top Ruby Fresh but my bottle actually says Shock Top Ruby Fresh Grapefruit. I probably would not have bought it if it just said “Ruby Fresh” because when it comes to these fruity beers, the name of the beer is what catches my attention, and “Ruby Fresh” would not have done that.

Anyway, if you want to try a new beer, one that is, uh, fresh, try Shock Top Ruby Fresh Grapefruit and let me know what you think.

Here’s the Shock Top car that shows up at all the car shows throughout San Diego County:

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

The story of the honey bees

I live in my own little world

I can definitively tell you that honey bees don’t like garlic. Around 7:00 a.m. on Monday, January 29, I spread some garlic powder around the north pond where the honey bees have been congregating to quench their thirsty little bodies. I specifically put the garlic powder out before the honey bees arrived because the smell will drive them away whereas getting the powder directly on them will kill them.

Honey beesYesterday the bee congregation at the north pond was about half what it was the day before while there was a noticeable bee congregation at the new Wildlife Corner pond. Today, I only saw three honey bees at the north pond. I caught their conversation:

PondJim (first honey bee): “Wow! Where is everyone, Andrew?”

Andrew (second honey bee): “I don’t know, Jim. I just got here myself.”

Jim: “What’s that awful smell?”

Andrew: “I think it’s garlic.”

Jim: “Oh, no! Is everyone dead, then?”

Andrew: “I don’t think so. I saw Matt just a couple of hours ago over in La Mesa.”

Brian (new arrival): “Jim! Andrew! Don’t go near the water. There’s garlic on the beaches!”

Pond in Wildlife CornerAndrew: “We know! But where is everyone?”

Brian: “We’re all in back. I came to see if anyone was out here. This guy, Russel, who lives here, built a huge pond for us with all sorts of beaches. He even bought a bird bath and put some rocks in it to make it shallower for us. He’s a great guy! He rescues us if we fall in the water and can’t get out. He’s the reason Mary, Margaret, Dirk, Ken, Mark, and Cary are still with us.”Sea lavender

Jim: “I’m pretty tired, though. I was all the way over in Rancho San Diego today. The jacarandas, lilies of the Nile, and sea lavender all are blooming. It’s paradise, but I sure am thirsty.”

Brian: “The new pond is just around back, about a minute’s flight. Follow me! You can make it!”

I am pleased to report that I did not have to rescue a single honey bee today. Maybe I have enough shallow areas and beaches so that they don’t fall in the water, or maybe the weaker honey bees already drowned in a pool somewhere, or maybe honey bees are capable of learning what to do and what not to do….

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

My Own Little World—Construction of the Wildlife Corner pond

I live in my own little world

I put 12 hours of effort on Friday into creating a pond where my little tired and thirsty honeybees will be happy.

Following are three pictures documenting construction.

All I have to do now is add some little sandy beaches so the honeybees can live the good life and add some plants to provide shelter and shade.

Pond in Wildlife Corner

Pond in Wildlife Corner

Pond in Wildlife Corner

During the 12 hours that I spent building the Wildlife Corner Pond, lots of wildlife came by to see what I was doing. A couple of rabbits watched me from a small hill in the open space preserve on the other side of the chain link fence. Four ground squirrels watched me from an area that I call “Ground Squirrel Hill,” also on the other side of the chain link fence. And seven yellow birds—I have no idea what kind of birds they are but I have never seen them before—sat on the wood fence and in the trees above the fence watching me. I suspect the new water source in Wildlife Corner will draw even more wildlife, especially birds, than I am accustomed to seeing each day.

Two yellow birds watching construction

Rabbit and squirrelsAfter construction was completed and the pond was full of water—and I was inside—lots of birds stopped by. Several curve-billed thrashers, lots of sparrows, a western scrub jay, and many honeybees. The fact that some honeybees already have discovered this new water source gives me encouragement that I’ll be able to coax the honeybees from the front pond to the new Wildlife Corner pond. I think the rabbits and ground squirrels already had gone to bed for the evening so I look forward to seeing how they react when I put out food for them in about seven hours.

All pictures were taken with my smarty pants phone since I’m not taking $2,000 worth of camera equipment out into a construction zone full of dirt and water.

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Does this still life qualify public art?

I live in my own little world

Scott #745, Crater Lake National ParkMany hundreds of years ago when I was but a child growing up in Brigham City, Utah, I joined the Cub Scouts. It was there that I took up philately and became a philatelist, a stamp collector. Eventually I went on to study philately, specifically Railroad Post Office history. It was those first few years of simply collecting stamps from the United States that, I believe, helped me develop a critical eye for art because postage stamps themselves are little works of art.

When I got to high school, I took an art appreciation class. Turns out that I didn’t really have an appreciation for art, especially still life. I thought that a painting or picture of a bunch of bananas sitting in an ugly bowl on an ugly table wasn’t art.

But look at my idea of still life 43 years later:

Still life

Does this still life qualify as public art? Asking for a friend.

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

We moved to the boondocks!

I live in my own little world

So our live-in-the-sky experiment came to an end yesterday. It lasted 2 years and 3 months. For the first few months it was kind of neat to live high up but then the 45 stairs to get to the front door became burdensome. Sunrises from the home office were spectacular.

Sunrise in La Mesa, California

Sadly, though, there was no wildlife 50 feet up in the sky—no lizards, no snakes, no spiders, no bugs, no birds. Well, alright, one mourning dove did come to visit us in the 27 months we lived there.

Our new homeOur new home is in the boondocks, which is kind of funny since the city of La Mesa had 60,00o people crammed into 9.1 square miles. Out here in the boondocks, we live in El Cajon (ka-hone), a city of 104,000 crammed into 14.48 square miles. So the population density actually is greater in El Cajon, 7,163 people per square mile, versus La Mesa’s 6,592.

Maybe it’s the outskirts, where we lived and live, that is the difference. A-ha! (not the group). Google Maps indicates that we don’t even live in El Cajon. That’s simply the post office that delivers our mail. Google Maps indicates that we live in Winter Gardens, which is a census-designated place in San Diego County. In other words, an unincorporated area. In other words, THE BOONDOCKS!

The Boondocks

We’re at the end of a street, not a true cul-de-sac, but we only have one neighbor. The other three sides are hills. At night it is quiet quiet quiet. We kind of like it since the street we lived on in La Mesa was noisy noisy noisy, even with dual-pane windows. We also have a nice oversized 2-car garage. We haven’t had a nice garage since March 2007.

I don’t know who loves it best out here, me or Zoey the Cool Cat (ZCC). The old place was 684 square feet (we downsized too much) and the new place is 1,440 square feet. Our largest home was 3,984 square feet on 1.83 acres of land, too big for just two people. This new place feels just right for the queen and her staff of two.

ZCC has 14 low-sill windows where she can watch all the wildlife, and after 11 days here (hmmm, same number of days that Scaramucci was employed by Twitler………), she knows where the sunny spots are, the sunny windows, and, of course, the wildlife. There’s a difference between dawn, day, and dusk wildlife, so she has to go to different windows. There are a few billion rabbits, another billion ground squirrels, only a million fence lizards, and then birds of all types, with ravens and raptors prevailing. Sometimes the ground squirrels come to see ZCC.

Following are some pictures of the wildlife and, of course, the queen adjusting to her new palace. It’s all about the queen….

Common garden wolf spider found its way inside.
It was returned to the outside where it could become food for….Common garden wolf spider

….California quail, the state bird.

I built a cat box for ZCC whereby she can go through a cat door
in the window and sit outside while still being protected.
This ground squirrel came up to see ZCC in her cat box,
which is the blurred white in the lower right.
They are just a couple of feet from each other.
Ground squirrelZCC helping me put together our new desks,
although she’s more interested in the tennis match
on our new 49″ 4K TV than she is actually helping me.Zoey the Cool Cat

ZCC exploring the new digs.
Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

ZCC helping me populate the bookshelves.
Zoey the Cool Cat

Like any cat, ZCC likes to help unpack things.
Zoey the Cool Cat

Once all the work is done, of course, one has to sleep,
and ZCC has lots of options for that vital task.
Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Did God help USC beat Penn State in the Rose Bowl yesterday?

I live in my own little world

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Long-time readers know that I’m not much into religion. Haven’t been since 1993 when I spent 11 months studying the world’s great, and no so great, religions to see if there was a place in any of them for a newly out gay male. There wasn’t. Still isn’t. There are some that are, perhaps, tolerant, until a certain Sunday sermon comes along, and then it’s a little awkward to say the least.

Even if there were an all-knowing all-powerful god, if s/he is sitting around watching football, basketball, baseball, hockey, and all the other sports where some person on the victorious team thanks Jesus and God for letting them win, s/he is not the type of god that I would want to be associated with. An all-knowing all-powerful god should be putting an end to children’s hospitals, natural disasters, and accidents that take these people who are “too young to die.”

On the other hand, if God is in Ocean Beach fixing people’s cars so they don’t get into accidents, well, I’m all for that.

God's Garage in Ocean Beach, California Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I took that picture on Monday, January 2, around 10:30 a.m., which makes me think that it was closed because God had gone up to Pasadena to watch the Rose Bowl and help USC beat Penn State…………….

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat