Showing posts from May, 2008

Sure, that's a Shorebird.....

... Shorebirds have have all sorts of adaptations that allow them to exploit the fertile border between land and sea. They often have long, probing bills so that they can harvest the small critters that live in the wet sand and mud at the water's edge. So how does one explain this lot? We were out biking with a ranger from the East Bay Regional Parks, and I spotted these doves, picking their way along the shore between Alameda and Bay Farm Islands. There were four stark white doves, doing nothing I've ever seen a dove do.* Clearly, there's a magician somewhere in the Bay Area who is looking for his doves. And then there's the little matter of bay side crows. We see a fair amount of crows on rocky shorelines. They look so comical, but are probably doing very well for themselves. Crows, after all, are highly intelligent omnivores, ready to explore any possible food source. *We won't talk about the less romantic relative of the dove, the urban pigeon, who seems t


... Robb (and I) will be spending another day in court, but I think everyone will understand that we choose not to discuss anything pertaining to the legal aspect of Robb's case. In lieu of a real blog post, here's a little diversion. Click here . And think good thoughts for us today, okay? Robb was concerned that I may have given the impression that we had been arrested and were facing charges for something-or-other. Ahem. We most certainly are not in trouble with the law. Thank you very much.

Life's Not Easy, But Consider the Alternative!

... I think we give the impression that much of our life is one big outdoors adventure, and that we spend our time cycling and carelessly romping through meadows. Well, that's true, and then it isn't. Robb cycles at least forty miles a week, but that's mostly because if he doesn't, the muscles below his waist seize up in painful spasms that last for hours. We don't fully understand the "whys" but there is something about the rhythmic action of pedaling his trike that lessens his spasms. And as for the hiking, well that's not all it's cracked up to be, either. Robb has limited range, in terms of walking. Because of the neural damage, his muscles don't get the right information from his brain, and they just cannot summon up enough strength for much walking. Also, walking often triggers bouts of painful spasticity. But, on the other hand, if he doesn't continue to walk, he will weaken even further. So, we get outside, and do the best we ca

Why I never, ever leave home without my camera

Years ago, when Robb and I had finished our contracts at the Dallas Theatre Center (never to return again!) we took a little camping vacation through Texas. We stopped in Austin to visit our friend Spencer , and managed to leave our tent in his house. We had stayed up very very late that night, and Spencer's house was knee deep in books and who-knows-what. We somehow misplaced our tent in all the clutter. We were at the campsite, unloading our car, when I asked Robb where he had packed the tent. He gave me a horrified look and said, "I thought you packed the tent!" Robb sort of freaked out, and when I tried to calm things down by reminding him that we were car camping and that we could always sleep in our station wagon, he said something that still makes me laugh. "Stop being so reasonable," he said "I'm trying to have a hissy fit." Once we bought a replacement tent, we had a pretty crazy animal-filled vacation. While we were setting up th

Fake Lawn + Lizards = A Happy Garden

... Remember a while back, when Sheri and I were creating a fake dying lawn ? We bought large pieces of raffia matting and then Sheri dyed it to look like an unloved lawn. We had originally been sent a large sample piece of pre-dyed raffia, as a sample of this material. This excess chunk of fake grass had been migrating around the shop and collecting dust for months. I've been keeping a compost pile in my garden. Most of it is the stuff that I prune or weed out of the garden. I also add veggie waste, some of which comes from home. Robb is pretty sweet about my doing this. Keeping a container of vegetable peels on the kitchen counter would drive some people insane. I love the idea of composting, and truth be told, I don't have anyway of throwing away the garden waste. I suppose I could drag it back into the studio, and toss it in our dumpster. We pay for trash removal, and doing that seems like a really stupid waste of money. What on earth do any of these facts have i

Singing the Same Song, Over and Over Again?

... Lately, I've been having a hard time finding much to write about. "Dear Diary: Robb is still paralyzed. He still works in the pool and rides his trike for therapy, every single week day. We continue to hope for small improvements. We try to keep a good attitude, and hope for the best." I could pretty much write that every single day.

...and that's not all!

... Double-amputee runner Oscar Pistorius has just won his court battle to compete for a space on the South African Olympic team, and if he makes it, he won't be alone. Open-water swimmer Natalie Du Toit will also be representing South Africa. At the age of sixteen, Ms. Du Toit narrowly missed a place on the Olympic team in 2000. In 2001 she lost her leg when a motorist collided with her scooter as she was leaving swim practice. Since that time, she has pursued her Olympic dream, winning five gold medals and a silver medals in the 2004 Paralympic games. Natalie Du Toit is the first amputee to qualify for the Olympic games.

No Limits!

... Robb and I were thrilled to hear that the Court of Arbitration for Sport has reversed the ruling of the International Association of Athletics Federations, and is allowing Oscar Pistorius the opportunity to compete for a slot in the Bejing Summer Olympics. Oscar Pistorius was born without fibulas and had his legs removed below the knee before his first birthday. Since that time, he has gone on to become a world-class runner. He uses carbon-fiber blades attached to his legs. Since 2004, he has been competing against able-bodied athletes in South Africa. Initially, it was ruled that these prosthetic legs gave Mister Pistorious a mechanical advantage over "normal" Olympians, but a study by MIT showed that the metabolic effort expended by Mister Pistorius was no different from that expended by other elite runners. Despite the different gear, Mister Pistorius puts forth the same effort as the Olympic runners. Here are links to articles in the Washington Post , and the New Y

Whew! It's Been Hot!

... Robb has noticed the birds have been panting in the heat. This one seems to be worried that his birdie antiperspirant isn't working.

Fire Walking

... The nerves affected by Robb's spinal cord injury control both the movement and sensation in his feet. And what they tell his feet to do (or not) and feel (or not) can be pretty odd, indeed. It has been very hot here, the last few days. We've all been looking for ways to keep cool. Robb slept -- for the first time since his accident -- without socks on. Typically, the sensation of the sheets sliding over his feet is just unbearable because of the jumbled up messages that his nerves are sending to his brain. But it was just too hot to cover his feet with socks. And how did Robb's feet feel? Like they were on fire. A few days back, he slipped on my flip-flops, which he had worn once or twice before. A said that he lasted all of ten seconds in them before his feet, legs and butt seized up into a mass of spasticity. Apparently, the act of gripping onto the shoes with his toes, which most of us take for granted, was to "active" for Robb. These are the sorts

Lizard Lovin'

... I probably should learn to write my unhappy blog posts, and then delete them. Or not. I think that exorcising one's demons is a good way to deal with them. I would rather face the darkness head-on, rather than let if gnaw away at my insides. Despite the fact that I have my third spring cold of the season (what's up with that?), I'm feeling much better. I'm back to my usual tricks of laying in the dirt during my lunch hour and harassing my local lizard population. It seems to be mating season, because our resident male, who I've named Tip for his missing tail-end, is very busily demonstrating his splendid manliness. Don't all the ladies swoon for a man who can turn his neck-skin blue, whilst doing rapid push-ups? I certainly can't get enough of this sort of display. Doesn't Tip look like he is posing for a formal portrait? I should note that it isn't my practice to name wild animals. This male lizard is named Tip, and all the females are c


... It's official. The San Francisco East Bay, where we live, is going to encourage everyone to ration water. I've never seen things so dry, at this time of year. We are also headed into some crazy heat-wave this week. I would worry about the runners in the annual Bay To Breakers race getting over heated, but most of them will be naked, anyway. And no, I'm not going to share a photo of that. If you must, look it up yourself.


I think I can honestly say I have never been so excited to see a clip from CSPAN before. (That's kinda sad in a way). It's really strange to see a photo of Lisa's displayed on the floor of the Senate. A big Thank You to Zorlack who somehow found this and put it up on YouTube. You're amazing! I remember this day so well. It was a day or two after the spill. We had just been kicked off the beach. A ranger asked us if we had seen the sign. We said we thought "no water contact" simply meant we weren't allow to touch the water. The next day, duct tape covering that part of the sign started appearing on notices all over the East Bay. Lisa here. I just got the chance to watch the testimony, and was really moved by what was said. And, admittedly, it was pretty entertaining to watch the Senator take his place at the speaker's podium, and see a disembodied hand place a large blow-up of a photo I had taken on an easel next to the Senator. What can I say? I


... Things haven't been so easy, lately. Robb has been on edge, and I've been feeling sort of lost. While we've been remarkably even-tempered in the two years since Robb became paralyzed, it was sort of inevitable that there would be a bad patch. We're trying not not take our frustrations on each other. And, I really need to get some kind of emotional jump start. I'm feeling faded and devoid of energy, far too much of the time. Robb's just angry lately, at things that don't matter. Angry with the cat for not taking her medications, or being too unwell to eat her food. He's probably angry at me for being such a useless slacker. I know that this is just a bad phase. It is hard to see the person you love more than anyone on earth going through such challenging times. And it is hard to watch myself (in a weird looking in-from-the-outside way, unable to take action) being such an emotional zombie. I guess that as long as we don't find ourselves l

Out on the Trail

... Robb has been going through an uncomfortable phase, but we'd rather not dwell on that. How about baby animals, instead? American Avocets are large, slender wading birds with elegant long (grey-blue!) legs. Robb and I were out on the Hayward portion of the Bay Trail, and a bird-watching gentleman with a fancy spotting scope alerted me to the presence of this little family. Mom and Dad are still sporting the unmistakable peachy-tan necks of their breeding plumage. The little ones don't look particularly like Avocets at all. I didn't manage to capture a photo of it, but they already have long grey-blue legs like their parents. Their bills have a long way to grow, still. Related to American Avocets are the Black Necked Stilts. Proportionate to their body size, these birds have the longest legs in the animal kingdom. But you wouldn't guess that, looking at this brooding parent. You can see why birds like this are at risk when they are nesting. Nothing's protect

To the Moms!

One of the things we can count as a blessing to come out of my injury is the strengthening of my relationship with my mom. I guess I thought I already knew about her love and concern, her generosity and determination, her kindness and thoughtful consideration, but there's nothing like a crisis to cast all these qualities in a new light. She's helped me through the hardest times and I know she'll be there for me in the times ahead. So, today and everyday, here's to the Moms!


... What are a couple of long-time vegetarians doing in the kitchen with a turkey deep-fryer, medical tubing, and an awful lot of aluminum foil? Are we trying to stop the mind-control waves that are sent out by the secret wing of our government that colludes with the Space Aliens? Well, not this time. Robb is just brewing up a batch of pale ale. I'm knitting what I hope will be a cute tank top. I knit this strange and wonderful nubbly yarn into a different tank top a few years back, and was amazed and dismayed by the garment I produced. Who knew that I could make a shirt that would make me look flabby and bony at the same time?

That Gawky Teenage Phase

... I think my recovery has entered its gawky teenage phase. I've been fairly clumsy up to now, what with the medications and poor balance, but lately my ineptitude is soaring to new heights. This morning in the kitchen I started losing my balance and deposited a heaping tablespoon of coffee grounds neatly on the floor in front of me. I tried to save it and spilled the sugar. (I later discovered most of it went in my left shoe). Yesterday, while brewing beer, the sound of "clatter, clatter, BANG, damn!" emanated from the kitchen so often, I'm surprised Lisa offered to help every single time. But she did. Two days ago saw the sort of clumsy display you just have to embrace for all its accidental choreographic splendor. I was picking up a bag of groceries when it tipped over and spilled out on the floor. Unfortunately, I was in mid-step and a box of oatmeal rolled under my foot as I put it down. I didn't feel it under my foot and wasn't aware of it until a

Look for me on C-Span!

... As you know, I'm a huge fan of the website Flickr , because it has introduced me -- via photographic images -- to like-minded nature-lovin', art-makin', bird-watchin', planet-savin' people. Say what you will about other aspects of Flickr. The community aspect of this site is unparalleled. Today, through Flickr, I got a message from someone who works for the office of New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez . They wanted to know if I would allow use of my photographs of the San Francisco Oil Spill when he speaks out, on the floor of the United States Senate, against a proposed effort to expand oil drilling off the Atlantic Coast. You KNOW what my response was: HELL YEAH, you can use my photos! For more on the Senator's views on this topic, click here . I particularly like this: "Senator Menendez recognizes that we cannot drill our way to energy independence, and he will not sacrifice our environment or New Jersey’s beaches to those who think we can."


... I was on the phone the other day, and as is my wont, I was talking and stalking around my studio. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw an irregular dark shape, underneath an electrical conduit. I took a closer look, and saw the tell-tale red hourglass marking on the back of a large black spider. Anyone who knows me will not be surprised by my reaction. I wanted this spider out of my studio. But I also was thrilled at the chance to see this animal. And I was desperate to get a photograph of the black widow. I realized that my macro lens was at home, so I left the spider alone for a day. Considering the pile of dead flies under her web, I figured, she wasn't going anywhere. Today, Sheri and I teamed up to re-locate the black widow. My job was to don the gardening gloves, and transfer the spider into a container. Sheri would take charge of standing over my shoulder, jumping up and down, and flapping her hands at the wrists and going "oh! oh! oh!" Since I couldn


... Robb was out riding his recumbent trike the other day, and next to him on the service road was a beautiful vintage Porsche. When Robb finished drool-gawking at the car, he noticed the expression on the driver's face. This man was drool-gawking at the trike. Even in the famously weird Bay Area, Robb and the trike turns a lot of heads. We were out on the Bay Trail on Sunday. Robb had stopped to powder his nose, and I was watching our stuff (and this milk-moustache crow who was eating spilled ice cream). An elderly couple who were just about to get back on their bikes were checking out Robb's trike. Robb has a lot of style, but getting back into his seat is a somewhat awkward maneuver, which prompted the woman to ask him if he had an artificial leg. A lot of people are curious about the gear, and about Robb's situation, but often people aren't really sure what questions are all right to ask. Often, this can be a bit awkward for all parties involved, and I suspect

The Pinnacle (or Nadir) of Letterboxing

... Today we went to a wonderful letterboxing event. Since letterboxing tends to be a fairly solitary hobby (you're looking for tiny hidden artworks, and trying to not let curious passers-by in on the secret), it is always fun to engage in this activity with a large group of like-minded people. As we often do, we decided to cycle at this event, but there were a lot of spots we really couldn't get to, due either to the roughness or steepness of the terrain. But because we were out with friends, they obligingly helped us retrieve any hidden treasures that Robb was unable to reach. Normally, this sort of retrieval techniques is dismissed as "slack boxing." The slacker follows behind and scoops up the booty retrieved by others. We broke new ground in slack boxing today. Because Robb was so exhausted, he adjourned to our station wagon, and had a little lie-down in the back. The rest of our group eventually met up with him, and Robb made prints of the stamps they had