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Showing posts from April, 2009

Blue, Blue, Blue

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... There may have been good news for the Double Crested Cormorant , but I just read that there is a mysterious illness plaguing Brandt's Cormorants . Breeding populations -- and success rates -- are at a twenty year low on the Farallon Islands, sick birds are being picked up for treatment , and birds carcasses are turning up on local beaches . Let's hope this is a fluke, and not part of a larger negative trend for these spectacular birds. When Robb was just home from the hospital, after his accident, I saw photos of Brandt's Cormorants doing their incredible mating displays and I just about lost my mind. Partly, this was because I was in such awe of the physical appearance of these animals, and partly (I can admit now) that I never thought we would be going hiking again, or be able to go out to see exotic wildlife like these birds. Something about looking at those photos made me feel pathetically sorry for myself. But that was a long time ago, and thing are b

The Creative Urge

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... I've been home with some unpleasant sickness that manifests itself as wracking intestinal cramps, and a general lack of energy. Although I haven't been able to muster the mental sharpness for laying in bed and knitting, I've spent a bit of time meandering around the internet, and have been enjoying Other People's Creativity. Enjoy, won't you? Yuken Teruya creates a "Corner Forest." An elegant (and amusing) environmental statement. Arthur Ganson's kinetic sculptures make me smile. Dan Reeder demonstrates paper mache as performance art.

Finding a Home in the Bay Area

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... In the spring, Robb and I enjoy a delightful view of Double Crested Cormorants, flying past our apartment window with nesting material in their beaks. Big spooky-looking birds trailing grass or impressive sticks, right outside our living room window. What's not to love? These birds are most likely headed to the islands in the middle of Lake Merritt, where they share a rookery with a number of egrets. It seems that these large fish-eating birds, which are a "species of special concern" in California, also roost on the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge. If I'm reading the information correctly , six hundred pairs roost on the bridge, making it the second-largest breeding colony in Northern California. Since Caltrans is in the midst of a huge project to replace this 1930s bridge, there's work being done to entice the cormorant population onto "Cormorant Condos" on the new bridge. In accordance with state and federal regulation, the cormor

et in arcadia ego

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In between the organizing and the shopping

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... We went bird watching. Both at the egret rookery, and at my secret hummingbird park . What can I say? We needed a break from all the dust. In cleaning out our closets, we unearthed dust bunnies that were older than some of our friends' children.

Happy Feet

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Robb an I went shoe-shopping yesterday. This is always in interesting experience, because Robb suffers from both numbness and hyper-sensitivity in his feet. The wrong shoe (or the wrong fit) will send Robb's legs into painful wracking spasms. And then there's the fact that Robb can't really feel if the shoe fits properly. We tend to shop at stores with salespeople who don't get flummoxed when we ask them to tell us if Robb's shoes fit. They really do know better than we do. For whatever reason, we hadn't tossed out the shoes Robb owned before the accident that used to fit, but now cause instant spasticity. The Goodwill got a big box-full of shoes, yesterday. I bought a pair of Earth shoes that look suspiciously like half the shoes I already own. I really like the " negative heel " configuration, and I think that Robb might benefit from this style of shoes. He still cannot support his own weight on his toes (except in the swimming pool!

Housekeeping

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... Today was a day for clearing out some of the unwanted junk in our lives. Out went the aspirational trousers. Out went the "what the hell was I thinking" clothes. Out went the too-ugly-even-for-paint-clothes. The last two times that Robb and I took clothes to a thrift store, we were rewarded with loads of bad attitude. ("Books? Who wants books? "Who reads Shakespeare?") This time, I decided to take us to small town Alameda, and this turned out to be the right decision. They took all of our stuff, without question, and even thanked us and wished us a nice day. I'm really happy to be getting rid of my excess baggage. I think this is a holdover from being so poor during and after college. I hang onto "perfectly good" but unwanted things because I feel I'm being wasteful if I throw them away. I hate adding to the amount of junk in the landfill. If I can't use something, I should give it to someone who might be able to.

I am, officially, a Crazy Woman.

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... Last weekend, I noticed that someone had cut the waist high grass in one of the vacant lots near my home. More to the point, I noticed that they had bagged up their cuttings and then abandoned said bags along the fence line of the vacant lot. "Hmmmmm," I thought, "compost." Read any advice on urban composting, and you'll be urged to befriend landscapers in order to get a source of grass and leaves. Maybe I'm a bit obtuse, but I haven't been able to figure out the mechanics of sidling up to random landscapers. I work in a very urban environment. There are no lawns in the warehouse district of West Oakland, hence, no landscapers. I think I need to start hanging out at Landscaper Pickup Bars, wherever those might be. I mentioned my desire to swipe some of these grass clippings for my garden to Robb, and he immediately started composing headlines for the local news. Oakland Woman Arrested for Foliage Theft: Details at Eleven. I wasn'

the shift of the seasons

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... Out of nowhere, goldfinches have appeared in my tiny urban garden. I'm particularly delighted, because I think of these birds as rural animals, and love seeing them in the middle of the roughest part of a city. I wonder if they are migrating through, or will stick around for the summer?

Earth Day

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... Take a moment, today, to appreciate the amazing fact of our planet, the fact that it sustains life for so many diverse life forms. We've just got one planet to call our home. So don't be selfish, and wasteful, and don't crap it up.

Health News: A Sobering Study

More people live with paralysis than doctors knew By LAURAN NEERGAARD The Associated Press WASHINGTON | Five times more people are living with a spinal-cord injury than doctors have thought — nearly 1.3 million — says surprising new research that finds many of them unable to afford key health care. Overall, 5.5 million people in the U.S. have some degree of paralysis due to a variety of neurologic problems, from multiple sclerosis to strokes, says a report released Tuesday. The findings will help health authorities finally understand the scope of need in this largely hidden population. "They're not all Christopher Reeves," said study author Anthony Cahill, a disability specialist at the University of New Mexico, referencing the late actor's extensive spinal-cord injury and his highly publicized quest for groundbreaking treatments to overcome it. Not only have less extensive injuries often gone uncounted, but the report suggests that people are living longe

Just another day on the job

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... This is what happens when I lend my camera to my co-workers. Not that I encouraged them in any way. Oh no. That would be awfully unprofessional.

Hummingbirds and their Ilk

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... Today was not one of our super-active days. Robb woke up with the uncanny sensation of having less sensation than usual in his feet and legs. (Let's hope this is one of our regularly scheduled Temporary Setbacks, and not Something More Serious.) We were due for a particularly warm day, so I suggested that the go cycling somewhere that would be shady. Somehow, that didn't really work out. The gravel and eucalyptus pods on the trail made cycling really difficult. Neither of us could get decent traction. I totally failed in my attempts at photographing butterflies. I really cannot fathom how butterfly photographers do it. Attempting to photograph these animals is truly humbling. Actual, all of my efforts at photography were pretty poor, and I managed to get a bit too much sun in the process. The hummingbird photograph isn't anything special, except that it shows the bird's tongue, which always cracks me up. Lilac and Sphinx Moth (No. 6) Originally u

Around the House

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... Robb has been experiencing very low energy and so we spent Saturday at home. Actually, I was at work at 8am, but nevermind that. I finally took the opportunity to divide my over-crowded orchid plants, which was a huge, messy task. Let's just hope that I wasn't too ignorant about my plant care, and that all my orchids don't all drop dead from my attempts at kindness. I made up a little spreadsheet of my orchid plants, so that I could better understand the care they are supposed to receive. I was rather appalled to realize how many plants I own that I can't name. How did I manage to lose so many nursery labels in my own house? How did I manage to lose the names of the orchids Chih gave me, twice ? I'm an idiot. For the last few months, Robb has been on a baking spree. Baking is one of those great activities, that can include a lot of laying down and resting. In our case, both the rising dough and Robb benefit from a little rest. Unlike beer brewing, b

"Those corpses won't be chopping themselves up."

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... Styrofoam "stone" walls. Plus all sorts of texture and "dirt." Equals an idyllic Irish cottage. But not for long. And, yes, they dismember "dead bodies" on stage every night.

Nesting Season

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... I finally had a day to myself. After briefly stopping at work, to check in with the progress of the current show, I got to go cycling with Robb. We packed up the bikes, and headed out to Alameda for some sunshine and wind. The egrets are nesting on Bay Farm Island, again! These normally elegant birds are behaving in a totally undignified manner. It's difficult to tell if what we're seeing is fighting or nookie, but it certainly is a spectacle. And the noise! Robb and I never stop finding humor in these birds' cries of "ob-glob-glob" and what sounds weirdly like "hello" and "I love Robb." We won't dwell on the part where I was crapped on by egrets. Frankly, I'm surprised this doesn't happen more often.

happy easter, y'all

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On the Street Where We Live

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... We live in a city. It's not very urban looking in our particular neighborhood but there's nothing nearby anyone would call "the woods." Which is why, when I heard a raucous gobble outside my window just now, I assumed it was a strange little dog and not a wild turkey walking down the sidewalk. But, of course, that's exactly what it was. Apparently this guy attracted the attention of the local authorities. There was a City of Oakland car keeping pace with him down our block while the driver stayed on the phone, no doubt awaiting instructions on what he was supposed to do.

when motivation isn't what's lacking

... I was headed to a meeting at the theater yesterday, and bumped into Robb's lawyer. He asked after Robb, and I told him that Robb is going through a difficult period, where he is having more trouble than usual with walking. Jeremy was visibly dismayed and repeated an offer that he had made to Robb, to accompany him when he goes cycling. Jeremy thought that if he jogged along with Robb, he could help motivate him and help him get better. While this offer is well-meant, it misses the point. Firstly, Robb cycles faster than a jogging lawyer. And secondly, Robb's issues do not stem from lack of motivation. If hard work alone could cure Robb, Robb would be completely recovered, and running marathons in his spare time. Robb works his ass off, trying to improve his physical condition, but one cannot simply force damaged nerves to regenerate.

Egg-Stravaganza!

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... Thank you everyone who attended our Egg-Stravaganza! I think we had almost forty people decorating eggs. Anyone who missed it will have to keep their eyes open for our next large-scale craft party. (We have no idea when or what that will be.) The food was yummy, the mix of people congenial, and any of the things that were set on fire seem hardly worth mentioning. I think this was our best egg party yet. Everyone grasped the difficult concept of wax resist dyeing and made lovely eggs. The fact that we had a good number of people who were able to teach definitely added to the fun. Thanks to Nick , Star , Jen and Paul! My co-workers were really great about helping me clean the studio for the party. Sure, the studio needed a huge mucking-out, so a party was the perfect catalyst. It was lovely to re-connect with long-lost friends. Star and Nick were extremely gracious about being conscripted as teachers. I am always charmed by the different teaching styles.

How to "Blow Out" an Egg

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... I really feel horrible for not posting this earlier. I've been so tired at the end of the day, that I've completely slacked off. Anyway, here's how to empty the contents out of an egg, whilst leaving the shell intact. You will need clean eggs (DO NOT SCRUB YOUR EGGS -- THIS WILL RESULT IN A MISERABLE EGG-DYEING EXPERIENCE. TRUST ME ON THIS ON. RINSE YOUR EGGS IN WATER IF YOU MUST, AND PAT DRY WITH A PAPER TOWEL, BUT DO NOT SCRUB.) a pushpin, or an exacto knife a bamboo skewer, or a darning needle, or a really, really skinny knitting needle a bowl of some kind the desire to eat an omelet As carefully as you can, poke a hole in both ends of your eggshell. Smaller is better. Pick, pick. Chip, chip. Jab your long and skinny (and clean) implement inside your egg. You are trying to break up the yolk without breaking the actual eggshell. Jab, jab. Poke, poke. Seal your mouth over one of the two holes, lean over a bowl and blow. Really, really blow. Blow unt

What we can accomplish in one single day

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... Do you remember all that scenery that was in our shop yesterday? No? Well, here's what it looked like. And one day later, it is all packed up ready for transport, and we've finished another shop-full of scenery. The brown thing in the front of this photo is the ceiling of the cottage. My intern Mike has been in charge of the painting of the cottage, and today he was applying a layer of dust and soot (painted) to the ceiling. We often have to walk on top of pour painted scenery and that invariably leaves behind unwanted dusty boot-prints. Typically, we take off our shoes and pad around on top of our painting in our socks. And you should see how awful all of my work socks look. Every single pair is covered in paint. Today, Mike wore fun socks that he didn't wish to ruin to work. Mike is delightfully resourceful.

All work and no play?

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... This is the sort of thing that we are given to work from in my studio. The set designer (in this case the ever-delightful Antje Ellermann) does a small painting, and then my painters and I make a gigantic version of this painting. This painting represents a wall of an abandoned warehouse. The color is a little "off" in this picture. My camera interprets the lights in our shop as very pink. And here is how that wall looks in our studio. Clearly, you can't find a truck large enough to transport fifty foot wide walls, so we build everything in pieces and then assemble it at the theater. In this photo, a carpenter works on attaching the roof to our little Irish cottage. All of the boards of the roof were painted to look like aged wood. We always are amused when we paint wood to look like wood. (We've actually been doing a fair amount of painting steel to look like steel, this past year.) Mike is making the walls look dingy and squalid. How doe