Buildings with vertical lines between the windows, but instead of painting all the way up, they're staggered like static.

They’re in the process of adding another building to this office complex in Torrance. Meanwhile, they’ve cleaned up the existing buildings a bit, replacing the traditional stripe pattern of windows and narrow strips of wall with this broken-line pattern that actually looks interesting.

Originally posted on Instagram. When I imported it here, I decided to use the wider crop and description from Flickr.

The Del Taco sign actually says Free Shavocado (ask inside)

This sign used to say FRESH AVOCADO. But for several years, it’s said something more like FRE SH AVOCA DO. I’m not 100% certain, but I think they may have actually moved the SH further from FRE and toward AVOCADO a few times…and now they’ve finally just added another E.

After I posted it to Instagram, a friend on Tumblr pointed out that the “Free Shavocado” tag already exists. I found a short video of the sign in its “FRE SH AVOCA DO” state, narrated by someone giggling and saying, “Come to Del Taco! They have free sha-VA-ca-doo!” Even funnier: The restaurant updated the corporate sign between then and now without correcting the spacing.

Or maybe that’s when they decided to “fix” the spelling instead!

Last weekend I returned to the Madrona Marsh Preserve to see what our late summer/autumn heat wave had done to the place. The fields of sunflowers I saw in August have gone to seed and dried up, and the pools have continued to retreat. I managed to get a third shot in the same grove as before, where trees grew out of a pool in spring, towered over low ground cover in summer, and now stand alone, waiting for winter rains to flood the grounds again.

The image above is a combination of spring, summer and fall (specifically May, August, and October) views at the same spot.

The higher parts of the preserve are covered with dry scrub, though volunteers have cleared a lot of it out. The broken tree limb I had to walk around in August has been cleared away as well. Deep into the wooded area we did find mud flats teeming with reeds, smaller plants, dragonflies, songbirds and insects. I don’t know if any standing water remains, since we turned back at that point. (Kids have boundless energy, but limited stamina.)

Over on Flickr I have about a dozen photos of the hike, showing the preserve’s current range from dry scrub to muddy grass.

Spring: trees growing out of a pond. Summer: trees with a lot more branches growing out of dry ground with lots of grass.

Finally put together a before-and-after shot!

On the right: May in Madrona Marsh, after winter and spring rains filled up the low-lying areas of the preserve.

On the left: Late August in the same spot, after summer had dried up the pools. Despite the drought, and helped along by a couple of freak summer storms, the ground is still holding onto enough moisture that the floor of the vernal pool is covered with low greenery instead of dry grass.

I know, it’s always better to put “before” on the left, and I tried it with that layout, but it ended up looking better this way.

At the end of August I returned to the Madrona Marsh Preserve. It’s a fragment of the seasonal wetlands that used to dot the western edge of the Los Angeles basin, just inland from the coastal hills. These low-lying areas collect water during winter and spring rains, then slowly dry out over the summer, only to fill up and become wetlands again the next year.

On a hike in May I found extensive pools and lots of wading birds. Trees kept some parts shady. Scrub prevailed on the higher ground.

Returning at the end of summer, I found the area near the entrance looked about the same as it had before. As I got closer to the low-lying areas, the scrub seemed to have grown thicker. The pools were gone, but the ground where they’d been was clearly still wetter than the area around it. Plants were greener, and in some places it was still muddy.

There were also fields and fields of wild sunflowers. Most of the places that had been mud flats in spring were now covered with sunflowers. Some areas I’d walked to get closer to the pools were completely blocked. I saw dragonflies, and in a few places I found bushes that were absolutely covered with clumps of foam from some sort of bug.

Once I reached the tree-covered area, I walked a trail that had been underwater the last time. It seemed to end abruptly until I realized that a tree limb had snapped and fallen to block the trail. It was still attached about ten feet up.

In the lowest, shadiest part of the preserve, I did find pools that were still wet, and still host to a few wading birds. I wonder if I return in, say, November, will they have dried out as well, or is there a last bastion that stays flooded all year (at least in years with normal rainfall)?

I didn’t recognize the spot at first, or I would have tried to frame it the same way, but I did manage to get shots of the same clump of trees flooded in spring and surrounded by dry land and low plants in summer. It was interesting to see the spreading roots without the water.

You can view the full Spring hike (23 photos) and the full Summer hike (8 photos) on Flickr.