Showing posts from November, 2008

Doesn't "arboreal" mean "lives in trees?"

... Robb was opening our garage door this morning, when he cried out, "Oh No! Did I crush him?" There was a little creature right under the path of our garage doors. Now, I had been meaning to sweep out the leaves and debris that accumulate around our garage door, but had never gotten past the thinking-about-it phase of the project. It seems that this leaf litter is the doorstep to the home of Aneides lugubris , the Arboreal Salamander . We entirely failed to take any photos in the morning, before he slipped into a hole in the concrete hole of our garage. But when we returned from bike riding, he was out again. This time I managed to take a couple of Bigfoot-worthy photos before he tired of our company. What's incredible about this little animal is that he somehow has found a way to live on the (tree-less) Southeastern Farallon Island , which is twenty-eight miles offshore from San Francisco. I'm pretty sure that this little guy -- who lacks lungs and breathes

So thankful for everyone who supported us when we raised money for BORP

... Rebecca alerted me to this article in the San Francisco Chronicle. There's a video, too, but for the life of me, I can't figure out how to link to it. So, to see the video, try clicking here . Berkeley shop adapts bikes for any disability Scott Ostler, Chronicle Staff Writer Thursday, November 27, 2008 Cast your memory back to the age of 5 or 6, when your adult helper let go and you wobbled off on your first solo bicycle ride. What was that incredible feeling? Freedom. But what if that freedom was never available to you? A woman named Meida recently contacted the Adaptive Cycling Center at Berkeley's Aquatic Park. The weathered wooden building is known to regulars as the BORP bike house, as in the Bay Area Outreach & Recreation Program. Meida explained that she was born without arms and wanted to ride a bike. She had ridden tandem but hoped to ride alone. She dreamed of someday riding across the Golden Gate Bridge. The problem: Cycles are factory-made for p

Elephant Seals!

Originally uploaded by BGale Gadzooks, but I can be such an idiot. I make plans for Robb and me and Ashley to get together with Sten and Rebecca who are visiting for Thanksgiving, pick and fascinating spot where the Elephant Seals spend the winters, and I bring along many, several pounds of camera gear, because I know how great the day is going to be. AND I FORGET TO PUT THE RECHARGEABLE BATTERY BACK INTO THE STINKIN' CAMERA. Really, I just carry around those lenses as a form of strength-training.

To the Fair!

... Does anyone want to join us at the Oakland Fungus Fair , next weekend? it is also the closing weekend of the always-wonderful Dias de la Muertos exhibit at the Oakland Museum. We went a few years ago with Cara and Hunter , who seemed to appreciate the art more than the spores. I, of course, totally geeked out over the mushroom dyeing. These are Shaggy Mane (Ink Cap) mushrooms that we spotted whilst walking on Friday. The black stuff around the edges is where the mushrooms are auto-digesting. Seems appropriate for the day after Thanksgiving.

On to happier subjects

... Robb and I went down to the lake to see what we could see in Friday. Walking continues to be challenging for Robb. Much harder, in fact than cycling. But Robb keeps moving, and we have the opportunity to chat and notice the world around us. The wing feathers on the gull seem so much like fluffy petticoats. Amazing how such a sleek, streamlined animal can change its shape. Our local lake (which is actually a tidal estuary -- where several creeks drain into the San Francisco Bay) was the first wildlife refuge in the nation . The refuge was established in 1870, at a time when birds were being slaughtered at an alarming rate, to supply the feathers for ladies' hats. These days, Lake Merritt is an overwintering site for thousands of migratory waterfowl. Not bad for a body of water that formerly served as an open-air sewer for the city of Oakland!

A Black Friday, Indeed

... Wal-Mart worker dies after shoppers knock him down By COLLEEN LONG NEW YORK (AP) — A Wal-Mart worker was killed Friday after an "out of control" throng of shoppers eager for post-Thanksgiving bargains broke down the doors at a suburban store and knocked him to the ground, police said. At least four other people, including a woman eight months pregnant, were taken to hospitals for observation or minor injuries, and the store in Valley Stream on Long Island closed for several hours before reopening. Nassau police said about 2,000 people were gathered outside the store doors at the mall about 20 miles east of Manhattan. The impatient crowd knocked the man to the ground as he opened the doors, leaving a metal portion of the frame crumpled like an accordion. "This crowd was out of control," said Nassau police spokesman Lt. Michael Fleming. He described the scene as "utter chaos." Dozens of store employees trying to fight their way out to help the man wer

Black Friday -- the Biggest Shopping Day of the Year?


In honor of Buy Nothing Day, I'm recycling a rant

... A year ago, I was spending every free moment at an animal rehab facility , trying to do my part to save the lives of the aquatic birds affected by the Cosco Busan oil spill. I think that what I wrote at the time still holds true. *************************************************************** ... The day after Thanksgiving "traditionally" marks the first day of the Christmas shopping season, but this year Christmas appeared on store shelves even earlier than usual. I was simultaneously delighted and appalled by seeing plastic Halloween lawn-display zombies displayed side-by-side with Christmas banners proclaiming "Peace." The perverse juxtaposition (intentional or not) appealed to my sick sense of humor. The thought of all the throw away plastic crap being sold in the name of "celebrating the season" turned my stomach. I would rather be beaten with sticks than venture anywhere near a store today. Frankly, I do best if I stay out of malls altogether


... From The Library of Congress Vegetarians win out at Thanksgiving, because we don't fill up on turkey and thus get to eat more pie! But that's not all we're thankful for. I hope all our blog readers, family and friends have a wonderful day, and find a moment to give thanks for the good things in their lives.

Unlucky Black Cat?

... We often find clumps of black fur on our kitchen floor. It seems that Robb steps on poor Linguine's tail with some frequency. Robb cannot feel his feet to know that he's standing on her, and Linguine is too polite to protest. Linguine must squirm out from under his shoes, and we only realize this has happened by the impressive hunks of torn-out fur. Likewise, when Robb and I are kissing, I often have to avoid being stepped on. Because Robb gets no neural input from his feet, his body often thinks that he's losing his balance and then compensates for this perceived lack of balance by doing a little tap-dance routine. Asking your sweetheart not to step on your feet sort of kills the romance of the moment.


... Robb was at the pool yesterday, same as every single Monday, Wednesday or Friday. And so was half of Berkeley. The place was packed. Robb speculates that this was the pre-Thanksgiving, doing-a-little-exercise-in-advance-of-gorging-one's-self-on-Thursday crowd. I wonder. Does it work that way?

I'll see you in my dreams!

... I still haven't landed back on West Coast time. I've been falling asleep on the couch, and going to bed ridiculously early, and then waking up at 4:30 or 5 in the morning. I am not, it must be noted, a Morning Person. In fact, I'm the opposite of a Morning Person. Robb often wakes up around 4am, because his back is hurting. He gets up, has a drink of water, takes some medicine and works his way back to bed. Neither of us are insomniacs, but we seem to be passing each other in the night. Like that green thing? That's part of a big comforting sweater I'm making.

Spinal Cord Injuries -- Not Just For Humans

... As a way of attempting to combat jet-lag (I'm back in California), I went out for a bike ride with Robb. Robb and I did our regular ride, along the San Francisco Bay Trail, and stopped at the dog park for a coffee break at the Sit and Stay Cafe . That's where we met TeeBone , who had been parked on by a car, and broke his back. TeeBone was wearing the most incredibly doggy leg braces that allowed him to run all over the place, even though he is partially paralyzed from his spinal cord injury. These were custom made by a company called Ortho Pets in Denver, and give TeeBone support and rage of motion. Click the triangle on the photo of TeeBone and see him in action. He is one lucky little doggy!

all we need to talk about still is ... WINE

... Vineyards are ubiquitous in the South of France. The vines are gnarled and carefully trained to grow in a manner that maximizes the production of the best grapes, possible. The grape harvest is past, but the vines still have leaves. Later in the season, the vines will be pruned back dramatically. I particularly like this time of year, because the grape leaves turn such beautiful colors. This isn't an exceptionally good photograph, but you can see one bright swath of red, in a vast field of golden leaves. Lovely. It is traditional to grow a rose bush at the end of every row of grape vines. As I understand it, the roses were grown as a way of monitoring the health of the vines. The roses are apparently susceptible to the same pests and diseases as the grapes, and show symptoms before the grapes do. This practice predates the use of any chemical pesticides or insecticides, and continues to this day.


... Anyone who has visited the South of France will remember the vineyards and olive groves . According to what we've been told, olives were brought to the Mediterranean regions by the Phoenicians eight hundred years before the birth of Christ. The particular area where my family lives has olive trees everywhere. The interesting thing is that neither olives nor wine were the primary agricultural product for this region, historically. We were told that before the introduction of synthetic fabrics, Provence was a major silkworm cultivation center . You can still drive around and see stone buildings in the middle of fields, which were where the silkworms were raised and fed on mulberry leaves. Olives supplanted silkworms as a major crop, until a massive frost in the mid-1950's decimated the olive trees. Farmers planted vineyards at this time, because it would take years to regrow their olive groves. This photo is from our friend Mariucca's yard. You can see the original

fungus among us

... Hard to sum up this trip. I've not written about my dad's health, because I'm not sure how he would feel about this. So, for now, I'll continue to write about the flora and fauna -- and fungi. Martha and I were out with our uncle and aunt, on a rather serious errand, and as I walked past someone's garden, I noticed a very strange bright red cage-like mushroom. We didn't have time to linger, but I shot off a couple of photos of the STINKHORN MUSHROOM . My relatives must have thought I was insane. These mushrooms are supposed to smell like rotting flesh, but I did not stop to take a sniff. Remember these tiny mushrooms? They are called Bird's Nest Mushrooms , and yesterday we got to see why. The cylindrical mushrooms are less than a quarter of an inch across, so you can imagine how tiny the "eggs" are. They "eggs" are actually minute puffballs that burst and broadcast the mushroom's reproductive spores. Not at all like the gi

Operation Gecko Rescue

... Martha came up with a brilliant plan for evicting our unhappy-looking gecko friend from Anne's kitchen. We climbed up onto Anne's counters and I brandished the rubber spatula, while Martha held the cardboard box. With a minimum of fuss, Mister Gecko was relocated to the great outdoors. He looks much better outside than in, don't you think?

Birds in France

... The short story is that there are precious few birds in France. Hunting is a huge part of French culture, and because gun ownership was such an important issue during the French Revolution, the French are even more gun-crazy than Americans. (I don't think the French own anywhere near the number of handguns or assault weapons as Americans, but it is very common to see guys walking down the road, shouldering rifles.) We are in the midst of hunting season, and the hunters are literally everywhere. There don't seem to be any rules about private property, when it comes to hunting, so you had better imagine that I was wearing my orange scarf when we went out mushrooming. According to what I've been told, the French hunters shoot and eat anything and everything, much to the chagrin of conservation groups. I'm told that the French eat sparrows. I mean, you've got to expend more calories preparing the bird than you gain from eating it! There's a French express

To Market, To Market!

... My father and stepmother live in Provence, in the South of France, in a "market town." Once a week, there's a farmers' market, and people come from miles around to buy the (mostly) locally produced cheeses, meats, produce and baked goods. I love farmers' markets , because they offer such an interesting glimpse into local life. The veggies are beautiful, and the vendors arrange everything with such care. I'm a total sucker for Provencal textiles. I love the colors, and the patterns, and have to exercise some self-control in not buying up scads of fabric. I still haven't done anything with the Provencal fabric I bought four years ago, so I really can't justify buying anything else. I'm content to enjoy experiencing everything, and owning the memories. How about these polka-dotted flat-fish? And the expressions on the fish in center! Aren't they peculiar? I'm not going to eat them, but I can admire their forms. One of my strategie

les champignons

... While my father is resting in the afternoons, my sister and I have been going out on what we've been calling "photo safaris." Yesterday, I wanted to photograph some of the many, many strange mushrooms I've been noticing. I had never been in Provence in the fall, and was unprepared for how lush and green everything is. This is in stark contrast to my previous experiences of sun-baked vineyards and olive groves, fields of lavender and mustard, and huge plantings of rosemary. I've thought of this place as very arid, but I have to revise my thinking. I uploaded these photos to an online mushroom hunting forum, to solicit thoughts about identification. This orange mushroom seems to be oozing "milk" from its gills. Perhaps it is a Milk Cap mushroom. If time permits, I may got back and collect a specimen, and try to make a "spore print." The color of a mushroom's spores offer many clues as to it's identity. Also, take note of the ti

"Age is not important unless you're a cheese." -- Helen Hayes

I'm in France right now, spending time with my family. While the reason for this visit (my dad's health) is very serious, we are still in France, and so my sister, stepmother and I are indulging in a Stinky Cheese Jamboree. Both Martha and I love to wander around grocery stores when we travel, and since I can't smuggle our purchases back for blog readers, I'll give you a verbal tasting. This subtle creamy white cheese is made of goats' milk, and has a lovely sculptural rind that reminds me of the fallen marble columns outside Classical Greek temples. It is called Tomme de Chevre , tomme being a generic word for a wheel of cheese and chevre being the word for goat. This beautiful aged cheese is Mimolette extra-vieille . This style of cheese was created at the request of King Louis XIV, who wanted a French cheese that resembled Edam. I found this delicious cheese very complex and difficult to describe. It is somewhat chewy, and entirely unlike Cheddar, which is


For whatever reason, the Subaru wagon is a common sight around Oakland and Berkeley. We contribute to this by having two of them. (Lisa's is useful for hauling around materials for work, and my recumbent trike fits perfectly in the back of mine). So it wasn't all that noteworthy yesterday when I headed out for a ride with my trike, pulled into a parking lot and found the only available space was a handicap spot right next to another handi-spot occupied by another Subaru wagon–– same model, same year. As I drew closer, what really got my attention though was the recumbent trike in the back of this car. An interesting coincidence. But then the car door opens and a man with a walking stick just like mine gets out. I couldn't believe it. A moment later, as I'm parking the car I notice he has exactly the same bumpersticker in exactly the same place on his car. At this point I was preparing myself to come face to face with my long lost twin. Or maybe my alternate unive


... Saturday morning, Robb drove me to the airport, where I boarded a plane to JFK airport. I met Martha in the airport, and we flew to France. The flight was fairly empty, so we managed to stretch out. However, despite much creative folding, I failed to find a comfortable position, and stayed awake for the entire flight. Our stepmother Anne met us at the airport in Nice. It was an easy, if exhausting journey. We hung out with my dad and Anne, and had a lovely lunch, and then I went to bed until 10pm. I staggered downstairs in time to tell everyone goodnight and have some late supper, and now I'm going back to sleep. This little gecko was up by the ceiling in the kitchen. Not a very good photo of this cute little guy.

A Year Ago

... I was busy with other things, so I did not note the one-year "anniversary" of the cargo ship Cosco Busan ramming into the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge and spilling tens of thousands of gallons of bunker fuel into the bay. If you are interested in reading (or re-reading) what I wrote at the time, click here , and then scroll down to the bottom of the page, and read the postings from the bottom to the top. When you finish with that, click the link on the right-side margin that says " oil spill " and finish reading from the bottom to the top. Here are a few links to articles: International Bird Rescue Research Center Oiled Wildlife Care Network The San Francisco Chronicle Overall, 1,858 birds were found dead in the field. 1,084 were brought in for care at the center where I volunteered. 653 died or were euthanized. And 421 were set free, to live their lives in the wild. The numbers seem a bit grim, but two things are worth noting. First, the oil spill hap