Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Panettone 2014

December means panettone at Casa Travelmarx. For pictures of panettone from previous years, see Panettone 2011, Panettone 2012, and Panettone 2013. This year, our little inquisitive friend Midnight Blue Warbler (by Shane Fero) is back to help and sample the final product.

Ingredients for panettoneWorking in candied citrus, currants, and honeyThe dough risingThird rising in the paper moldsFresh out of the ovenA slice of panettone

Upper Row, Left: Ingredients for panettone. Upper Row, Right: Working in candied citrus, currants, and honey.
Middle Row, Left: The dough rising. Center Row, Right: Third rising in the paper molds.
Bottom Row, Left: Panettone ready to bake. Bottom Row, Right: A slice of panettone.

Lenin Says Merry Christmas

When I see the Lenin statue decked out for Christmas I wonder: what would he have thought if he saw it? The photo shows the Statue of Lenin in Fremont, decorated for Christmas.
Lenin Statue in Fremont Decorated for Christmas

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Two Eyeball Creatures in Fremont

I have no idea what these are, but they are kind of cute. I spotted them escaping from a window in an alley in Fremont.
eyeballs in fremont

I realized that one of these creatures was nearby in front of the Fedex store. It looks like they are done in black marker, "marker-dancing-eyeballs".

SAM – Pop Departures

The exhibit Pop Departures runs from October 30, 2014 to January 11, 2015 at the Seattle Art Museum. We caught it last Saturday, along with City Dwellers. I can’t say I really liked Pop, but I liked it enough and learned a few things *. I’ve never been a fan of Pop art, for no particular reason other than it doesn’t move me – whatever that means. In this exhibit, with our knowledgeable guide Kevin, I learned more than I knew walking into the exhibit, so it was a success from that point of view. And, I dare say I liked some of the pieces.

*The silly things I learned from the visit:

  • Andy Warhol called Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg the staple-gun queens. See, for example, the book Pop Trickster Fool
  • Johns and Rauschenberg had a romantic relationship for six years according to the Slate article Is MoMA Putting Artists Back in the Closet?
  • Random, but fun quote on fame from opera singer Joyce DiDonato in a 2013 interview in the New Yorker: “You know the four phases of an opera career? ‘Who is Joyce DiDonato? Get me Joyce DiDonato! Get me someone like Joyce DiDonato! Who is Joyce DiDonato?’ ”

POP Departures Collage with bits of work by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Barbara Kruger
POP Departures Collage with bits of work by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Barbara Kruger

SAM – City Dwellers: Contemporary Art from India

The exhibit City Dwellers: Contemporary Art from India runs from August 30, 2014 to Feb 16, 2015 at the Seattle Art Museum. We took a look at it last Saturday. I admit I was struck by the intriguing image Reassurance, from the series Definitive Reincarnate, 2003/2006 by Nandini Valli Muthiah, which came in the mail weeks earlier. The photograph features the blue-skinned god Krishna looking, well, reassured. The brochure describes the series as juxtaposing “traditional Hindu iconography and mythology with contemporary urban life.”

The two sculptural pieces include the red India Shining V (Gandhi with iPod), 2008 by Debanjan Roy and the gold Scooter, 2007 by Valay Shende. The scooter is made from gold-plated disks.

Left: India Shining V (Gandhi with iPod), 2008 by Debanjan Roy and the gold Scooter, 2007 by Valay Shende
RIght: Reassurance, from the series Definitive Reincarnate, 2003/2006 by Nandini Valli Muthiah
India Shining V (Gandhi with iPod), 2008 by Debanjan Roy and the gold Scooter, 2007 by Valay ShendeReassurance, from the series Definitive Reincarnate, 2003/2006 by Nandini Valli MuthiahReassurance, from the series Definitive Reincarnate, 2003/2006 by Nandini Valli Muthiah

Friday, December 12, 2014

Pearl Jam Mural – Café Torino

By: Adream de Valdivia (
Where: Café Torino bathroom
Description: Eddie Vedder in the center, Torino’s Mole Antonelliana (left), Seattle’s Space Needle (right), and references to three Pearl Jam album covers: Yield (1998) , Rearviewmirror (Greatest Hist 1991-2003), and Pearl Jam (2006) [an avocado].

Pearl Jam Mural – Café TorinoPearl Jam Mural – Café TorinoPearl Jam Mural – Café TorinoPearl Jam Mural – Café Torino

Pearl Jam Album Covers: Yield, Rearviewmirror, Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam Album Cover: YieldPearl Jam Album Cover: RearviewmirrorPearl Jam Album Cover: Pearl Jam

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Imperial Valley Miscellany - Food, Flora, Fauna, Fun

Growth in the Imperial Valley: Left: Pumps at the Bernard Galleano Reservoir Move Water Critical to the Economics of the Valley; Center: Solar Panels Sprouting in the Desert – a New Economic Future?; Right: Old Crop and New Hope: Olives in the Valley
Pumps at the Bernard Galleano ReservoirSolar Panels Sprouting in the DesertHopes for an Olive Future in the Valley

Another Thanksgiving in the Imperial Valley and besides our post on the Slab City Tank Farm Murals – Wheel of Kama and Jujube – Imperial Valley, we have a miscellany of other tidbits of information to spew, including information about local destinations, flora, and fauna.

Local Destinations

Nana Dora’s and a Special Quesadilla

Yes, another lunch at Nana Dora’s in Brawley and a special quesadilla. Be prepared for indifferent service when you order, but the food makes up for it. I ordered the folded soft taco with guacamole. I asked what my meat choice was and got a blank stare. “Beef or chicken, but we don’t have chicken.” Okay, I take the beef. The special quesadilla was delicious.

Nana in the name of the restaurant likely means grandmother. In Italian, nana is a female dwarf, which is what I think of when we pull into the parking lot of Nana Dora’s. 

Special Quesadilla at Nana Doras

Bernard Galleano Reservoir

The Bernard Galleano Reservoir is named after one of the Travelmarx grandfathers. Bernard Galleano was a Calipatria area farmer and member of the IID (Imperial Irrigation District) Board of Directors. The reservoir was dedicated in 1991. The reservoir covers 40 acres and has a depth of 21 feet. The reservoir is open to the public for viewing and fishing. Enter on the west side where there is a “gate” and stairway that takes you up to a viewing area.

The reservoir has been on our list of things to see in the Valley – hey we are working hard to drum up interesting things to do there. The reservoir is located at the terminus of the East Highline Canal just north of Niland, at the crossing of Z Lateral with Wilkins Rd (33°16'34.5"N 115°31'30.3"W).

Left: Viewing Area of Galleano Reservoir; Right: Dedication Plaque (It reads “Bernard Galleano Water Storage Reservoir, Imperial Irrigation District, Board of Directors 1965 – 1978, Board President 1978)
Bernard Galleano Reservoir Viewing AreaBernard Galleano Reservoir Dedication Plaque

Looking West Along Z-Lateral
Looking West Along Z-LateralLooking West Along Z-Lateral



Olives in the Valley?

Olives are now being grown in the Valley. The article Famers hope to strike gold with olives, says that olives are just getting going, with miniscule olive production to date; alfalfa and wheat are still the main crops. (Though, I seem to see a lot of sugar beets when we drive around.) The olives are being grown for milling into extra virgin olive oil.

We saw two different olive plantings. One planting, north of Niland, had more mature trees around 10+ feet tall. We spotted olives on a few trees. Another, younger planting, northeast of Imperial off 111, had smaller trees averaging 3 feet tall. What was striking about the plantings was how close together the olive trees are. Coming from our experiences in Europe, we had romantic notions of stately old trees spaced far apart. Not so here. In the article Olive plantings expand into Southern California, Arizona, it mentions that the planting style as SHD - super high density.

We may have to wait a few more years before we see the olio di oliva vergine della valle imperiale, but it may not be soon enough as olive production was decimated in Italy yet again this year. See Blight continues to Threaten Olive Crops in Italy and Amid Bugs, Hail, Floods and Bacteria, Italian Olives Take a Beating.

Left: Olive Trees North of Niland; Center: Olives on the Tree; Right: Olive Trees Near Imperial
Olive Trees North of NilandOlives on the TreeOlive Trees Near Imperial

Tree Shopping

We went shopping for trees that could withstand dry, alkaline locations. We didn’t buy anything, but came away with the following tree candidates:

Dalbergia sissoo
Common names: "Indian Rosewood", "Desert Aspen"
Description: Part of the pea family. Evergreen. It’s currently a popular tree planted in the Imperial Valley.

Cercidium x 'Desert Museum'
Common names: Thornless Palo Verde Tree
Description: See Arid Zone Trees and the Monrovia entry for Desert Museum Palo Verde. For reference, the "normal" Palo Verde is Parkinsonia florida (syn. Cercidium floridum).

Melaleuca quinquenervia
Common names: Paperbark Tree
Description: Myrtle family. Spongy bark. Bottlebrush-like flowers in spring. Evergreen.

Pistacia x 'Red Push'
Common names: Red Push Pistache
Description: A hybrid between P. atlantica and P. integerrima that everyone is praising for its color: the leaves emerge with a red tint, mature to green, and in fall turn shades of red, orange and yellow. See the description at Mountain States Wholesale Nursery and the Red Push Pistache brochure.

Roadside Nightshade

Walking along some solar fields (yes, like olives, another new development in the Valley) we saw these tomato-like plants. After a little poking around on the Internet (doesn’t every trip with a camera end up like that?) we believe they are indeed in the nightshade family (Solanacae) like the common tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). The plants we saw – and are pictured below – are likely Solanum elaeagnifolium, called silver-leaved nightshade.

Solanum elaeagnifoliumSolanum elaeagnifolium


Sandhill Cranes

We saw Sandhill Cranes (Gru canadensis) near Osterkamp Ranches. There is a field (32°53'58.9"N 115°28'50.9"W) with water flowing through it and a viewing area with seating and a barbeque. (A private duck club? What goes on that bbq?) The cranes were landing in and around the field, along with other birds. The most obvious feature of these birds when you see them approaching from a distance is their call which has been described as a loud trumpeting sound. We never got close to them, so you only get a photo of them here in flight.

Left: Cranes in the Sky Over Imperial Valley; Right: The Cranes Page from the iOS Peterson Birds Guide
 Cranes in the Sky Over Imperial ValleyThe Cranes Page from the iOS Peterson Birds Guide

Burrowing Owls

We saw burrowing owls, Athene cunicularia, subspecies hypugaea according to California Partners in Flight Desert Bird Conservation Plan. The 2012 Burrowing Owl Report from the IID states that 70% of California’s burrowing owl population is estimated to be in the Imperial Valley.

As we walked along the perimeter of solar fields we noticed stacked hale bales, which are placed to protect occupied burrows from project activities. Make’s it easy to know where to look for the owls, though they seem pretty shy and we didn’t get that close to them.

Left: Hay Bales as Protection for the Owls; Right: A Burrowing Owl
Hay Bales as Protection for the OwlsA Burrowing Owl

Kukulcania arizonica Webs

We’ve written about these spiders in the past (Kukulcania arizonica – Arizona Black Hole Spider (Would the Real Phyllis Paddit Please Come Out?), and we continue to be fascinated by their webs, which really do cover everything. (No night time hunting for spiders this trip.)

Kukulcania arizonica WebKukulcania arizonica WebKukulcania arizonica WebKukulcania arizonica Web

Friday, November 28, 2014

Slab City Tank Farm Murals – Wheel of Kama

It’s been four years since we visited Slab City. Back in 2010, we stopped to see Salvation Mountain. This time we were drawn deeper into the slabs to see the “tank farms”. We heard that the tanks were covered with murals and that was all we needed to know. As we made our way to the tanks, it was clear that there was a lot more to see. How did we miss East Jesus or the Slab City Library?

These tanks likely held water when the Slabs were Camp Dunlap from the 1940s to the 1950s. For more information about the history of the Slabs, see Slab City, Then and Now on the Slab City Website.

We photographed two tanks. The first tank (33.253277, -115.467664) is covered in murals of a political nature. In the images below, we call this Tank 1. The second tank (33.253010, -115.468961) has murals of an erotic nature and has the title Wheel of Kama, referring to the Kama Sutra. In the images below, we call this Tank 2.

The murals are slowly being covered with other art and graffiti. Compare the pictures we show here with how beautiful the murals were in 2012, as documented at L.A. Taco The Circular Murals of Slab City I and The Circular Murals of Slab City II. Curiously, at the bottom of the L.A. Taco post (Slab City I) is a comment that gives some information about who might have painted the murals.

Tank 1

Bomb Series
Bomb SeriesBomb SeriesBomb Series

Dinosaur Series

Dinosaur SeriesDinosaur SeriesDinosaur Series

Four Characters and a Jeep
Four Characters and a JeepFour Characters and a JeepFour Characters and a Jeep

Reptilian Brain Series
Named for the bird-like figure on the tank gate. Note the spent shotgun shells that make up part of the image.
Reptilian Brain SeriesReptilian Brain SeriesReptilian Brain Series
Reptilian Brain SeriesReptilian Brain Series

Tank 1 Far Away Shots
Tank 1 Far Away ShotsTank 1 Far Away Shots
Tank 1 Far Away ShotsTank 1 Far Away Shots

Writing on the Tank Wall
Left: Boeing; Right GE, Freddie Mac, and Nike
Writing on the Tank WallWriting on the Tank Wall

Tank 2

Left: Erotic Yogis; Center: Curvature of the Tank and the Chocolate Mountains in the background; Right: Wheel of Kama Title
Erotic YogisCurvature of the Take and the Chocolate Mountains in the backgroundWheel of Kama
Tank 2 Against the Blue Sky
Tank 2 Against the Blue Sky

Around the Tank – Wheel of Kama