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Showing posts from June, 2008

Seattle!

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... Robb and I have decided to take an impromptu trip to Seattle! As I'm typing this blog entry, Robb is booking tickets. We plan to arrive Wednesday July 2 in the later afternoon, and return to the Bay Area on Tuesday July 8. We've never been to Seattle, and are looking for suggestions of things to do, places to stay, and people to hang out out with. We won't be bringing the bikes, and Robb still has considerable difficulty walking long distances. We're hoping to visit Point-No-Point, but otherwise have only the haziest idea of what we want to do. We'll have a rental car. Not sure about July 4. Robb's not great in huge crowds, so perhaps someone can suggest a small town fireworks display. Please use the comments feature of the blog to advise us on fun stuff to do! Like this print? It is by artist Patrick Anderson .

Precocious

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... The wildfire smoke finally started to clear out of the air, so Robb and I went cycling. There wasn't a whole lot of nature running around, but we did see this tiny Killdeer family. Killdeer are in the same family as shorebirds like plovers and avocets, but they don't need to live right next to water. Killdeer are rather small birds, less than the size of an American Robin. The babies are tiny ! Killdeer babies, like baby chickens and ducks, hatch ready to run. Unlike most baby songbirds, which are born blind and bald and helpless, Killdeer babies are running around, just as soon as their feathers dry from hatching. They look like long-legged versions of their parents from the day they are born. Killdeer get their name from the cry they make (kill- DEER ! kill- DEER !), and Robb and I were speculating if the babies might be called Kill Fawns. They are about as graceful and gangly as baby deer. We saw this little fellow try to jump up onto a muddy hill. It cou

dreamy...

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... Robb has not been sleeping well lately. He and I were talking about how he often gets up in the middle of the night. He said that every single time he gets out of bed, he is struck with how much better he is at negotiating around the apartment in the dark than he was even six months ago. He's not clinging to the bookcase for support, or grabbing onto the walls. Has be improved physically? Is he more confident? Don't ask me. I sleep right through these miraculous events.

Still Burning

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... We are nowhere near any of the many fires burning right now in California, and yet our air is grey. Last night, we didn't have a sunset at all. The sky faded from pale grey to charcoal grey to black. Eerie. The local government is encouraging people to stay inside, and to avoid strenuous activity. The weather forecast calls for "smoke." This map shows the status of fires in California at 8am on Friday (for some reason, I can't open the image for Saturday). It really is worth clicking on the image, and reading the information. The number of acres burning, and percentage of containment is astonishing. I can't imagine what life must be like for people living near these blazes.

Smokin'

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... California is in a state of drought, and that's on top of our typically dry summer weather. Around here, it is unheard of to see any rain during the summer months. The native trees are adapted to this, and have hard shiny leaves. Our live oaks have leaves like holly, right down to the prickly spines. Nature is tough. Last Saturday morning, Robb and I were out in a park in Monterey and actually heard the pine cones exploding up in the trees. It was that hot! And that same day, a freak thunderstorm blew through, dropping very little rain, but sparking hundreds of wildfires. I have heard that there are over eight hundred separate wildfires burning, as a result of the lightning strikes. Our air quality is, as you can imagine, terrible. I walked out of the apartment yesterday morning, and the neighborhood smelled like a campfire. My throat was actually burning by mid-morning, and I was having a little trouble breathing. This bird has nothing whatsoever to do with th

Slippery When Wet

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... Shortly after Robb came home from his stay the spinal rehab center, we had "grab bars" installed in our bathtub. We bought a shower chair. And my awesome sister sent us some adorable non-skid decals for the floor of the tub. Robb's balance was very bad, due to his neural damage. Because of the disruption in his spinal cord, his feet were not able to send any useful information to his brain. His feet would say, "I'm not standing on stable ground!" His body would decide that based on this information, it would be appropriate for Robb to fall over. It was awesome. Or maybe not. Last September, we went to a letterboxing event in Sacramento . We rented a hotel room, which unsurprisingly did not come with grab bars in the shower. And when Robb would close his eyes to rinse his face, his body would start to fall. Robb mentioned this to me on the drive home from Monterey on Sunday, because he realized that he was no longer spontaneously tipping ove

Another Day, Another Bay

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... We were exhausted when we got home from Monterey last night. I had enough energy to transfer my photographs into my computer, but I haven't messed around with them, yet. This California Sea Lion portrait is unedited. What's cool about this picture is that you can actually see the ears that differentiate sea lions from seals. I never can spot pinniped ears at a distance. These sea lions were not in a zoo or aquarium, but they were amazingly close to us. Monterey was wonderful, and we'll write about it soon. But now, I've got to take a shower and get off to work.

Monterey

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... We are in Monterey, for a weekend of fun. Saturday is a letterboxing event, and on Sunday we plan to bike the coastal trail . This is one of the images I've created for the letterboxing event. The blue background is shop paper that was used during the painting of Eurydice. It was what we put under our work station to keep the paint drips from ruining our floor, and I couldn't bear to toss it out. As we were finishing packing, we got a call from our friend (former Berkeley Rep intern) Kristen who was in town for a wedding. We swung by her hotel, and got to hear all about her adventures as the first mate (and apparently last mate) of the Sigsbsee , a Chesapeake skipjack , which is part of the Living Classrooms fleet in Baltimore. We stopped for lunch in Gilroy, which our car's exterior thermometer said was a scorching 108 degrees. Both Robb and I are used to East Coast heat, which is always accompanied by hideous humidity. Spending the summers in Baltimore

So, Really, How *Is* Robb?

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... Robb has been going through a difficult phase. Doing the simplest things often results in hours and hours of discomfort. The time at the brew pub resulted in an entire day of pain. And not because of the amount of beer consumed, smarty pants! Robb sat for too long, and was in agony the next day. Likewise, the trip to see the endangered terns, which was probably less than a mile in duration was miserably painful. The jouncing ride in the yellow school bus was torture. And the next day, he paid for that outing. He went to the pool, and had a very hard time. Robb said that he was in such bad shape that it seemed like he had traveled back in time. He was barely able to do the things he could do one year ago. We chose to believe that this is a temporary set-back, and so we'll focus on the happier things. "Oh, look! Isn't that squirrel cute? He has a mouth full of pine nuts!" (He was dropping pine cone shards on my head last weekend.)

Love in California

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Last night, after spending half a century together, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin were married by the mayor in a private ceremony in San Francisco's City Hall. What could be sweeter than that?

Legacies

Allow us to roll up our political sleeves for a moment and rant, because this one hits home: We read in an article in the New York Times last night that apparently in an effort to leave some kind of respectable legacy, the Bush administration will be adding new teeth to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Oh well, if you can't leave your own legacy at least you can borrow your dad's (Bush 41 ushered in the ADA in 1989). What's so awful about all this? Well, for one thing it spotlights some silly new requirements: At least half of the holes on miniature golf courses must be accessible to people using wheelchairs. And then there's the Justice Department's rationale for new regulation: the need for an accessible environment is greater than ever because the Iraq war is “creating a new generation of young men and women with disabilities.” It's with this last line that I thought Lisa's head was going to explode. "So, your lasting legacy will be as a

One Good Tern Deserves Another

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I've written, from time to time, about the sometimes uncomfortable intersection of people and animals. Today, Robb and I went on a bus trip to this very intersection. I had been hearing murmurings about a proposed wildlife refuge on the decommissioned Naval Air Base on Alameda, but had never been able to figure out its whereabouts. As it happened, this was no accident. This site is closed to the public, except for a single day a year, when interested bird watchers are allowed to visit the breeding area for the Endangered Least Tern. When I found out about this, you just know that I jumped at this opportunity! Fans of the television show Mythbusters will have a mental picture of the abandoned runways on this naval base. Now, picture this: In the middle of the runway, there are hundreds of tiny fragile birds, sitting on eggs. Since the 1960's -- when the base was still in use -- the Least Terns were using the runways as nesting sites. Can you imagine what it must have

Friends, both old and new.

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... Friday was the last day of work for my co-workers with seasonal contracts, as well as for our beloved interns. Of course we had to celebrate the work that we accomplished together. "Work hard. Play hard." That's what I say. We are not a solemn group. Fierce? Definitely! Hard working? You know it! But we never fall into the trap of taking ourselves too seriously. Even though we were at a brew-pub, Robb brought gift-beer for everyone.* I had arranged to meet up with a fellow letterboxer and blog-reader who was in town for a carillon conference. Jen and I had met at a party in Ithaca a few summers back, and she has written some really sweet comments on the blog. Jen and her friends arrived at the bar about the time that the Berkeley Rep crew were heading out. So Robb, Sheri and I moved to a clean table, and the fun started all over again. And here's where things got strange. Ashley (who is props master at Berkeley Rep, and one of the peop

Finding the Delightful

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... I've been thinking a lot about how we are responsible for our own happiness in life. Despite what the movies tell us, nobody is going to swoop into our lives and hand us "Happily Ever After" on a silver platter. It is up to each of us to find what's good in the world, every single day. (And will someone please remind me of this, on the days that I'm feeling particularly grim?)

Character

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... I'm considering re-naming the main characters of this blog. Robb will be the Protagonist , and I will be the Unreliable Narrator . The Protagonist had an amazing time tide pooling. He navigated the slick, irregular terrain like a champion. There's no minimum speed for people walking around looking for interesting marine life, and he could take as many breaks as he liked. I was, not surprisingly, freaking about about the super-slick seaweed that Sheri and I had named the Lettuce of Death. Our hero never once lost his footing. Now, here's where we get into the part of our story, where the reader begins to doubt the credibility of the narrator, and suspects the writer of a certain laziness. Think back to the last time that our Protagonist and the Narrator went out tide pooling together. Remember that cockamamie tale the Narrator told about spotting a bobcat in the middle of the afternoon ? Remember that photo she claimed to have taken, which for all the read

A Sea Side Rainbow

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RED ORANGE YELLOW GREEN BLUE PURPLE I'm just too exhausted to write anything about this amazing week of tide pool fun right now. I'll bore you at some later date.

After the Sea, There's the Sun and Wind

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... After a morning of solitary tide pool adventures, Robb and I took the bikes out to Cesar Chavez park in Berkeley and found a nice spot to fly our stunt kite. It generally takes two able-bodied people to launch one of these kites, so Robb and I have to be creative. I usually do the tossing-the-kite-in-the-air bit, while Robb sits in the seat of his fancy recumbent trike. The ground at this park is riddled with ground squirrel burrows, and if Robb is concentrating on the sky, his balance isn't so great. The only downside is that while on the trike, Robb can't really back up (bicycles are only geared to pedal forward, after all), so he doesn't have the same control over the kite that I do. I'm not sure how we managed to leave one of the kites' tails at home, but it didn't seem to make a big difference. I suspect the main purpose of the tail is to make the kite look really cool when it is looping around the sky. It is really remarkable how fun this

Along the Edges of the Ocean

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... ...There's a fertile zone of amazing life. I got up extra-early (again!) for the crazy low tides that we've been having. I'm never going to become a Morning Person, but the allure of creatures like this is enough to wrench me out of my cozy bed. This is another nudibranch. My Flickr buddy Ken-Ichi (Who took me tarantula hunting last fall) was out on the reef. He and his friend Brenna had found this tiny creature, which was less than a quarter of an inch in length. Here's another, other nudibranch . I found several of this species today and also on Tuesday. This one is in a little plastic dish, which is what's creating the reflection. This is a fairly humble snail. What I like so much about this image is that it is the abuse that this poor snail had endured that reveals its hidden beauty. Seems like there's a lesson or metaphor in there somewhere, doesn't it?

Oh, your pictures are always so pretty!

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... This is a sea-slug's butt. And this is a Gum-Boot Chiton. It was as big as my head. Some people call these Wandering Meat Loafs. Majestic, aren't they?

Noodly Appendages

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... This is a nudibranch. Nudibranchs are hermaphroditic gastropods, although they can only rarely impregnate themselves. One set of its feelers, the flanged rhinopores, smells the ocean, while the other cephalic (or head) tentacles and allow the animal to smell, taste and touch. The colorful spiky bits are intestinal protuberances, containing the stinging nematocysts of their foods. So, nudibranch can eat anemones, and harvest and utilize the anemone's stinging power. If you are going to have external intestinal organs, they may as well be useful. Useful and pretty, right? We spotted two nudis when we were out tidepooling on Tuesday. The first one was a little over an inch in length. The lower one, which was clinging onto a snail's shell was about half that size. Our tidepool guide, John found some even smaller , but had set all his nudis free just before we arrived. We did not disturb the hitch hiker nudibranch, but we did scoop the large one into a plastic b

Crabby!

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Sheri and I spotted this fine fellow as we were leaving the beach on Tuesday morning. She shot the photo of the crab in his fighting stance. Lined Shore Crabs are feisty. John, my expert on all things tide-pool, tells me that their claws can slice through clothes like a hot knife cutting butter. He was horrified to see my photo of someone (not us) holding this crab. Robb and I had seen one of these a few weeks back on the day we spotted the bobcat. We were really amused by the way the crab kept trying to hide under my boots. Clearly the crab mind didn't make the connection between the huge scary humans and their footwear. And, frankly, I'm glad that the crab was scooting around under my feet and not Robb's. Robb might have lost his balance, and I might not have been able to stop myself from laughing. I'm a terrible person. Tuesday's crab sought refuge under my beach bag. Multi-legged arthropod beasties have to look out for one another!

Wiped Out!

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... I'm exhausted! After getting up far, far too early to catch the super-low tide this morning, I went out cycling with Robb this afternoon. And then we did our civic duty, and voted in local elections. (This wasn't tiring at all. I love our local polling place, it has the best dinosaur carpet you've ever seen!) Robb is fast asleep on the couch, and it is just after 8pm. I'm going to make him go to to bed, and then join him. Most of the tide-pool photos will have to wait for another day. For those of you who can't image what tide-pooling is all about, here's a photo of what the ocean reveals when the tide goes way out. A sea anemone closes up around the mussel it was eating, and waits for the water to come back. This particular seaweed was the most prevalent on the rocks, but there were many varieties of seaweed, some of which was very very (scarily) slippery. Also slippery are exposed anemones. It is virtually impossible to avoid walking on them, an

By the Sea

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... Every single time I do something fun without Robb, I feel horribly guilty. This morning was tide-pooling. Without Robb. Which, he frankly wouldn't have been able to handle. But still. I feel like a jerk. We are having a few days of exceptionally low (and high) tides, so I decided to take a vacation day, and go hang out with the squishy invertebrates that live along the water's edge. Robb had planned to come along, but the huge cycling day we had on Sunday plus a terrible night of sleep put an end to those plans. It was really weird, actually. This morning, Robb was walking as poorly as I've seen him walk, since he came home from the hospital. Sheri and I left the house before 6am, and were down on the beach before seven. My Flickr buddy John Albers-Mead, who had alerted me to the extreme tides, had been there since six. We all teamed up to see what we could see. John's photos are amazing. Click here to see them. Mine are pretty cool, too, but I'

Fast Food

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... These baby barn swallows are enjoying the best kind of fast food. Both mom and dad were zooming around, hunting flying insects. It was hilarious to watch the nest. When the little ones spotted an incoming parent, they would gape their huge mouths open and stand up as tall as they possibly could. One bug in one mouth. And zoom! Off the get more food. Swallows aren't also called "swifts" for no reason. Robb and I saw this happy family at Coyote Hills Regional Park, which we have visited many times before, both prior to and after the accident . Each time since the accident, we took a wheelchair . This time, however, was the first time when getting around the park wasn't a huge ordeal for Robb. He zipped around on his trike, and we had a wonderful day. The bay-side hills were pretty brutal, but we conquered them. And afterwards, when we were exhausted and ravenous, we enjoyed a delicious Afghan meal in Fremont. Robb and I never eat fast food.