Thursday, March 30, 2006

Is it Raining?

Bleah, it's been raining way too much. The roof is leaking in the kitchen and I have a big plastic bin under the vent fan where the water is dripping so it doesn't pool all over the stove. I hired a roofer to fix the leak and now it leaks worse then before! I complained and the roofing company said that they didn't guarantee patches, only whole sections. So, I'm coughing up more money to get the whole section re-roofed and re-flashed. I think I've been had but roofers are real hard to get in San Diego whenever it rains. You'd think nobody ever patched their roof any other time of the year (some truth in that). I've patched the same leak myself in the past with roofing tar but I thought I'd do it "right" this time. Hurumph. A lot of good that did me, huh? When it rains it pours....

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Marching for Immigrants

Over a thousand students marched peacefully to protest legislation in the House that would make illegal immigration a felony. There is talk of detention and weekend classes to punish them for skipping class. As for me, I say hats off to them for having the guts to stand up for what they believe in. A little school detention is worth the experience of experiencing democracy and free speech first hand. What a civics lesson! This is what makes America great!

Yes, they could have had vigils at night or on the weekend. They could have done letter writing campaigns and internet blogs. There are lots of things they could have done instead of skipping class. Still, I give them credit for having the guts to get out there and make a statement.

As for me, I don't think I would have had that kind of gumption when I was in high school. I was too busy being the perfect kid to do something bold and out of the norm. These students were not afraid to challenge the status quo and were not afraid to make a difference. If these students are our future, our country is in good hands.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Alone in a Sea of Rocks

I saw a guy sitting all alone in the rocks the other day. Rocks as far as you can see. He was staring at his cell phone, perhaps hoping that someone would call. Perhaps someone special. He looked really down.

I felt bad for him. It reminded me of the bleakness of the early days long before I came out when it seemed like the world was a very unwelcoming place. Cell phones don't help. It's just one more thing to watch, hoping someone will call. That's before you figure out that they are either going to call or not, either going to leave a message or not. Staring at the phone doesn't change a thing. Your leaving messages for them typically just makes it worse. Blaming the world doesn't help either. Sometimes it's better to just chill and be you. Not needy you. Not clingy you. Be "happy with who I am you." Life works better that way.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Grebe-ing for San Diego

The bird shown in the photo is a Clark's Grebe that was hanging out below the Imperial Beach Pier ducking the occasional wave. Occasionally, he would do a blazingly fast dive down below the waves as he dove for fish. It was fast enough that all I saw was a blur; however, one of the photos caught him in the act as he arched up above the surface and literally speared into the water head first.

I have to admit that I am having fun with the new camera. I snapped some 300 bird pictures on Sunday (enough to keep our readersl in birds all year long). The amazing thing to me is that I very frequently find details in the photos that were not apparent to the naked eye in the fleeting moments that the subjects flew by. For example, I captured 5 pictures of a large formation of what looked like slow flying, lumbering brown seagulls. I was tempted to not take the pictures since brown seagulls are nothing to write home about. However, when I looked at the picture, I realized that they were actually a huge V formation of Curlews, long legged wading birds with narrow curved beaks that range all the way up to Alaska. Similarly, in a formation of seagulls and pelicans, I found at the very front of the formation, an endagered Least Tern leading the formation. With the Grebe, the camera froze his dive going into and also under the water, something that was too fast for the naked eye. It's fun in a crazy, youthful, seeing the world all anew kind of way. It's also given me a new appreciation for California wildlife at a time when I was tempted to be totally down on the California crowds and traffic. I think my camera and I will be back at the wildlife refuge for more pictures and I may just cave in and join a birding group. Besides, with digital cameras, the "developing" is free (although I may run out of disc space soon at this rate). Good, cheap, clean fun. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Wipeout at Imperial Beach

Splat and down he went. Still, it looked like fun and I have to admit that the water did look tempting. Of course, those silly wetsuits kept reminding me just how cold the water really was. The weather was a little gloomy as well but that just kept the crowds away, leaving nice peaceful, empty beaches. It was hard to believe you were moments away from one of the largest cities in the United States.

Admittedly, it might have been more fun without having to lug around a big old telephoto lens but I did get a few stunning bird photos and a few decent surf photos as well. There were shells and bits of crabs and lobster molts strewn all over the beach as well as a plethora of well worn river rocks in redish browns, blacks and tans. The only spoiler was that nasty smell that would occasionally waft over from the Tijuana Estuary caused by Mexican runoff and sewage. Perhaps they'll build a decent Tijuana sewage treatment plant sooner or later...

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Can You ID This Bird?

San Diego has a wealth of shore birds. For the most part, I have very little idea what they are or what they eat. This little bird wandered between picking over bugs in the runoff seep and looking for critters in the wave wash. I think it is a sand piper of some sort or maybe a plover. However, I will defer to any birders in the audience. It was captivating watching him dart up to the very edge of the water and look for food only to step back to avoid getting swept out by the waves. He certainly worked hard for his meals.

Friday, March 24, 2006


Seagulls can be aggressive nasty birds that fight with each other over scraps of food. However, once in a while, they can be really cute. This little guy was standing in the shallow water, bracing against the wave wash with the ocean breeze ruffling through his feathers. He had this friendly, scruffy look to him that just demanded to be immortalized in digital image. Ironically, he was more likely then not hoping that I would feed him. I particularly enjoy how the sun highlights the wind in his feathers.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Friends of Dorothy

After multiple flight delays I am back from Kansas. I am generally none the worse for the wear and, for the most part, enjoyed the friendly Kansas Hospitality.

One of my co-workers brought up Brokeback Mountain at the dinner table and I have to admit that the conversation degraded rapidly into "fag" jokes and other rowdy talk. It didn't last too long, however, and with a little prodding, the topic meandered to old party memories and other slightly off color conversation.

So I have to ask myself, what is it about Brokeback Mountain and other gay-positive media that makes some straight men so very eager to prove they're not gay? It was clear the whole topic makes some straight guys uncomfortable in a way that is not duplicated when there is talk about men in other roles, races and form factors.

If you're straight you're straight, if you're not, you're not. If someone thinks you're cute, take the complement. If they think you're not, well...oh well (grin). Life would be so much simpler if people would get over their hangups.

No, the "cowboy" in the picture, was not in Kansas City. As you might have guessed by the palm trees in the background, he was dancing on a float in San Diego Pride. It just goes to show that you don't have to be in Kansas to be a friend of Dorothy.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

This is a photo of an erstwhile beautiful plant that was growing along the Mission trails river path. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was a Variegated Thistle, Silybum marianum. The Variegated Thistle is treated as a noxious weed in New Zealand due to it's prolific habits and nasty thorny demeanor. In New Zealand, you can be fined for growing, displaying or promoting the Variegated Thistle.

That notwithstanding, it is a stunning plant with incredibly clear and concise white variegation on dark green leaves that are cut in wavy and spiny edges with fine spines that glow in the sun. Ultimately, it is one of the most beautiful plants visible on the trail at this time of year. Thus, one country's noxious weed is another's photography subject.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

SeaLions Have Ears, Seals Don't

This little sleeping harbor seal shows that there are all sorts of differences between a seal and a sea lion. The most obvious is the lack of ears on seals and prominent if small ears on sea lions. However, if you have ever watched trained sea lions, you will note that they still have fairly good use of their "feet", can walk, can stand on all four or two at a time (typically the front two). Seals have flippers. The back flippers on a seal go straight back and act as rudders (as with a fishes tail) as opposed to the back feet on a sea lion that come out at right angles as you would expect from a land animal. The front flippers on a seal are similarly streamlined while a sea lion's front flippers also still resemble feet. As you would expect, sea lions are far more mobile on land than a seal and hence spend more time on land. From an evolutionary standpoint, sea lions appear to be a little closer to their land loving ancestors than seals are.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Even Sealions Snuggle

These two sealions were having a serious spooning moment. It was so cute and cudly I could not help but snap a picture. So, next time you are having trouble convincing your significant other into some snuggle time, tell him or her that even Sealions snuggle! These two do, certainly. Of course, they were having more of a group snuggle but that is a whole other situation, now isn't it?

I went out on a whale excursion this morning. I hoped to snap a few whale pictures with the new camera and telephoto lens. We did see a juvenile grey whale in San Diego bay, apparently unperturbed by the aircraft carriers and sailboat regatta going by. I managed to see some underwater silouette and a little tail. I'll keep that picture for another day just to see if anyone is actually paying attention.

In the meantime, there was a little stormy weather and the waves were a bit choppy heading out to sea. Perhaps a third of the people were seasick and the barf bags were quite the commodity. While I have an iron consitution as far as never getting seasick, I suspect that I will have to find new company to go out whale watching with next time. I'll leave it at that.

Your homework for the day, if you choose to accept it, is to tell us what the difference is between a sea lion and a seal.

Friday, March 17, 2006

In Search of A Better Photo

What do photography and surfing have in common? At first blush, not much. One uses a surf board, the other a camera. One requires water, the other requires light. Yet, both involve a constant search for that perfect moment. The first, to capture an experience on that perfect wave. The second, to capture on film forever, that moment that would otherwise fade. Ironically enough, with new cameras, the pictures are often brighter, sharper and more brilliant than real life! It's art but in many ways more challenging than brush and canvas. For in canvas, you can create the situation from your mind in any combination or form that you wish. In film, you must find and experience the right combination of situation, lighting, background and participants to create the perfect shot. That moment often lasts for just a few seconds and you either have the right camera and supporting equipment or you don't. It's as simply confounding as that.

Hummingbird Buffet

The hummingbirds were out in force today with four of the normally territorial little guys sharing the feeder at once! I've seen as many as six but more typically there is one feisty fellow sitting on a branch chasing everyone else away. After a long, one-hummingbird winter, it must be Spring with all of the migrating birds passing by my feeder on their way to flowers and feeders all up and down the California coast.

Of course, I do put a little extra sugar into their syrup. A full cup per filling to be exact. My motto is regular fillings and a little extra sugar to have the most popular hummingbird feeder in the neighborhood. Sometimes it is the little things in life that make it fun.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Cloudy Days Have Silver Linings

Sunday was by most accounts overcast, windy and cold. Most sun-loving people stayed home in front of the television or headed to the malls to stroll among the brightly lit windows full of tinsel and glitz. I, however, was strolling along the beach running my bare feet through the cold, clear, invigorating salt water, watching the flocks of gulls fight over shellfish washed onto the shore and enjoying the extraordinary vistas, empty of the normal sun-loving, sun tan lotion toting tourists and students. Not that the crowds are a bad thing; they can be fun too. However, having some peace and quiet with broad stretches of open beach helps revive the soul after dealing with hectic, high tech craziness all week long. I suppose, if you're rich enough, you could just buy one of those $3 Million dollar condos along the beach but for the rest of us, an occasional cloudy day is a good start.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Birds of a Feather

These two little birds are called Marbled Godwits. They are reasonably people tolerant and even frequent popular swimming beaches, especially when there aren't too many people splashing around. This picture was taken on Sunday at Mission Beach, San Diego. I suspect they use those long, sneaky beaks to get down into the sand to feast on sea worms and other such delicacies. In any case, they are certainly photogenic.

On another note, one more friend quit work. It seems like most of the people I like eventually leave. On the bright side, new people that I typically like come in to replace them (with a few exceptions here and there) so I suppose it's not all that bad. I am, however, starting to feel like I've been there for an awful long time. It's kind of like being in a roomful of people 10 years younger than you; it makes you wonder if you belong there. Still, if you're having fun and the money is fine, I suppose there's no reason not to stay. Perhaps a reader's poll is overdue. How long at one job is too long? When do the cobwebs start to gather between your ears? I want to know.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Are We Doing Our Part?

I visited the Sheppard Foundation web site last night. While I admittedly was too tired to write about it yesterday, it did get me thinking about whether we do enough to prevent anti-gay discrimination. Do we come out to our friends and co-workers so that they can put a friendly, trusted face to the label? Do we volunteer and/or donate to organizations that are friendly to our causes such as the HRC, PFLAG or local GLT Community Centers to help them fight for our rights and protect the vulnerable among us?
There are many of us that are very fortunate and many more where fortune looked the other way. Are we there to stand up for our own? Are we a community united by external bigotry? Certainly, those who would discriminate against us grow more united in their opposition all the time. Get active. Do it soon before it is too late.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Never Too Cold for the Beach

Well, almost never too cold for the beach. There has been a frigid Alaskan storm front in San Diego for the past three days with sleet, hail and cold northerly winds. However, the sun peaked out for a few hours today and a few brave hardy souls, myself included, headed out to the beach get a little sun. For an hour or two, until the evening wind started to really chill things down, it was absolutely wonderful. It was a low tide and the sand was sparkling with tiny exposed clams glittering in bright yellows, orange-browns, steely greys and pearly whites. The gulls were out feasting on sealife washed up by the tide and long strands of deep red-brown kelp glistened in the sun. I even managed to find a few stray sand dollars and an orange-specked scallop that had not been stepped on by the people enjoying the albeit short-lived sunshine. Overall, I'm tempted to say that the lack of the fair weather crowds made for a very relaxing, quiet day at the beach.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Cold and Dreary

It's cold and dreary outside today. There's been cold sleet all morning and afternoon; very un-San Diego-like. The weather report claims 7ft. waves for today so it's not a bad time for surfing. As for me, I've taken it as an excuse to stay home and play massively multiplayer online video games where everyone is beautiful and the skies are never cloudy.

Seems like most people are staying indoors to avoid the cold rain. I bundled up just long enough to get more groceries for next week and some sundry items from Target. Long pants and a pullover sweater were not enough to keep me warm. However, I am home again and the heat put out by that Pentium IV keeps the bedroom good and toasty.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Heart and Seoul

Have you every been to Seoul, Korea? Imagine broad main streets lined with large, deep-green leaved maples and light green leaved ginko biloba trees. Tall skyscrapers go as far as the eye can see and company skycrapers that many workers call home are labeled with the names of the huge conglomerates that own them: DaeWoo, Samsung, Hyundai. Surrounding the main city are lush green hills with cicadas that trill on into the night with high pitched calls to elusive mates. Twisty back roads wind up the hillsides lined with trendy restaurants, antique stores and curio shops. Large, brightly lit hotels rise from the clutter in glass and cement towers surround by packed shopping centers with young urban workers hustling to and fro. Imagine Manhattan but a whole lot bigger and you've got Seoul.

In the Orient, I'd guess that the good citizens of Seoul are some of the most Westernized in all of Asia. Most of the younger generation speak fairly fluent English, watch American movies and live a life not all that different from your typical American urbanite. All this hustle and bustle just mere moments away from North Korea. If you ask a Seoul inhabitant if they worry about a North Korean invasion or some similar threat, they invariably say that it is just a part of life. Life goes on, hustle, bustle, hustle, bustle without a lot of mind for things up North.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

A Little Surf Cheer

It's cold and rainy out again. Nothing much compared to most of America right now but it's nippy for San Diego. In honor of the weather, I figured I would pop in a picture from lovely Waikiki, Hawaii. A surfer staring at the water, no doubt wishing for waves. As for me right now, I'd settle for some warmer weather. On nights like this, all I need to do is think of the maid in Cancun supporting a family of 6 on $45 a week and I'm generally feeling pretty lucky again in a jiffy. Yep, feeling "lucky"!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Finding Humanity in Florianopolis, Brazil

Florianopolis is a beautiful beachside town in Santa Catarina, Brazil. There are gorgeous colorful mansions along the water in all hues of the rainbow. The people have an easy smile and a laid back attitude. Surfer-types wander the streets and tourist shops full of shiny trinkets, gems and amethyst necklaces line the streets. The ocean is a beautiful azure blue and the sea gulls are as friendly as you'll find them anywhere.

Of course, not everyone in Brazil lives in one of those colorful mansions. Outside the back window of the hotel, I had a glimpse of the middle class housing, stacked onto hilsides, tight as herd of cows. Some were new with fresh gleaming coats of paint and tidy, unmarred roofs. Others, as you can see in the lower part of the picture, showed old, weather worn stucco and tin ceilings. There were no yards. I've also glimpsed the edges of the favelas or slums where people build bonfires in the middle of the street to keep warm and the houses are tin and cardboard.

Coming from our neat, planned American communities, there is a whole different air to these places. These people are not rich nor fancy by any means. Still, they smile at those crazy Americans in a friendly and almost shy, childish sort of way; in a way that we used to smile when we were kids looking at a stranger before strangers became taboo in America. I can't help but think that they seem happier than the average Yuppie in the our great States of America and that perhaps they have found something in routine and simplicity that we have lost in our immaculate houses full of curios and nick-knacks and our rushed, high pressure jobs. Could it be that we lost something?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Are We Just Pampered Americans?

We Americans like to gripe. We gripe about crowded roads, about crowded schools, about pollution, about how expensive everything is and about how lousy the politicians are that run the place. Gripe, gripe, gripe. The country is awash in "half-empty" and it's so easy to just join in the cacophony and gripe along with the crowd.

Still, there is nothing like going to a third world country to give you a sense of perspective. This very nice man was sitting outside of Wat Na Phra Mane Ayutthaya (I dare you to say that correctly 5 times in a row), one of the gorgeous Thai historic temples. He was very congenial and smiled for miles. He was photogenic and put on his best friendly face for me to snap a picture. He didn't speak a word of English but his palm frond grasshoppers spoke for themselves. His deep brown eyes spoke to a warm heart and a good demeanor. The big grins on both of our faces spoke for days. In fact, he was so laid back and congenial, I totally missed that fact that this man is thinner than a rail. I can't imagine when he last ate or how little it must have been. Had I noticed, I would have been tempted to buy all the grasshoppers just to give to the gals at the Hotel front desk. I'd bet even chances he wouldn't have accepted it if he thought it was charity either. These are good people. They work hard but they surely have a positive outlook on life that we could all learn from.

Monday, March 06, 2006

All Things Pretty

You can't own everything pretty. But you can sure try. Sir, sir... I'd like two pea fowl please. Oh, and include a two months worth of fowl food and perhaps a muzzle so the neighbors don't complain about the loud fowl mating calls!

Is beauty just in the eye of the beholder? How much do looks count versus personality? Are there real differences between men and women in how they choose partners? Do men look more at the physical and women at the emotional and intangible? What happens if you have same gender relationships? Do Lesbians have the best relationships of all of us?

Is it better to have pretty but high maintenance or average but of good character? Well, for me, I'd have to admit to having more luck in keeping a relationship with the latter (good character) than the former (good looks). For some reason, the dates that looked average seemed to work harder to make the relationship work. But then perhaps I'm the high maintenance one (evil grin). Of course, sooner or later we all sag and wrinkle while sound character will last the years (or so they say anyhow).

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Swimmers versus Seals

They have this nasty legal fight going on in San Diego over who gets to use the Children's pool. Apparently, it was bequeathed to the City to provide a calm, safe spot for the children to swim. In the intervening years, the sand has built up and the calm pool has turned into a sheltered home for spotted fur seals. Sea lions are pretty common in California but fur seals are not the easiest thing to spot, generally avoiding our crowded beaches and harbors. Having them actually pupping in a public-viewable area is nothing short of miraculous and, in my opinion is a true gift to not just the children of San Diego but to all the viewing public, tourists and all. Today, there must have been some 20 pups visible. Some frolicked playfully in the water. Others were guided through the water by their mothers, ever so gently learning about the ocean. The greater majority nursed and sunned on the warm, white sand beach. Over a hundred-fifty seal photos later I mosied on down the coast and found this diver in shell cove next door. Obviously, there is space for both seals and people, if we allow it. Besides, people have public pools, seals don't.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A Bee Line for Trouble

The sun is back in San Diego and it was bright with a brisk breeze and little wisps of white clouds. It was certainly warm enough to get my toes wet as I walked barefoot along the shore looking for seashells washed up by the surge. I found a nice sized spindle shell, all tawny yellow and orange with a tuft of red-brown seaweed on the top of the spire. It lay in the sparkling white sand, making quite a contrast.

As I padded closer for a look, I felt a searing pain in my toe. I searched for the offending jellyfish or man of war and, instead, found a bee in the sand that I had inadvertently stepped on. The sting hurt more as I walked further so I made a "bee line" for the cold, clear pacific water. As I rubbed my toes through the sand and cold brine, hoping to remove the stinger, the pain lessened. So, I made a day of it, walking up and down the beach through the froth, basking my toes in the chilly water.

Meanhile, I had some fun with the new digital camera, snapping passing birds, sea shells, wave froth and an occasional surfer. It was relaxing, bee sting and all, and I managed to get a decent bird shot or two and some really cool pictures that I'll keep for another day.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Grousing About Growth

Copper mountain has really grown since I lived in Denver. It used to be a sleepy place with one lodge building and a young, fun crowd. There weren't too many screaming kids (due to the relative paucity of green slopes and Keystone being nearby). Now, Copper is jam packed with people on the weekends with long lift lines and condos all around the slope (admittedly Monday was much better). I suppose nothing really stays the same forever, especially nice places to hang out. Sooner or later everyone else finds your favorite spot, moves in, develops all kinds of real estate and poof, it all looks like urban Los Angeles. Well, maybe not that bad; but it does seem to be a nasty side effect of growth. Of course, we can't all the "the last" person to move in, now can we?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Musings from Little Rock

Little Rock's actually a nice place. The people are friendly. There are some beautiful period architecture buildings. The restaurants are mostly reasonable and the servings are extra large. Furthermore, depending on your political leanings, Bill Clinton was from that neck of the woods.

When I arrived the weather was unseasonably warm, making for some seious Mardi Gras partying scenarios as well. Unfortunately for me, the flight arrived late and after a Little Rock-sized helping of Angel hair pasta for dinner at the Hotel restaurant, you could not pry me out of the hotel with a crowbar, even with promise of festivity and social mayhem.

What did catch my attention, however, was a conversation with a man at the Little Rock Airport on the way out. Glancing at a group of 18-ish year old men (and one women), most with shaved heads and headed for marine boot camp, he stated, "18 year olds are all good for nothing". Now, nothing gets up my curiosity more than someone with a strong opinion so I proceeded to ask him why he felt so strongly about 18 year olds. He promptly claimed they were always asking for something (typically money), always thought they knew more than their parents and never expressed any gratitude. I asked how old his children were and he noted that they were in their mid-thirties. I suggested that they must have gotten reasonably independent by that point to which he responded that they had but that his grandchildren had taken up where his children left off (ie., asking for money). Having been there, I have to admit that there was some kernal of truth to what he said although I would claim that the process of weaning oneself away from one's parents is really where you learn to appreciate everything they have done for you. For example, the first time you do your own laundry and have something run, turning all the rest of your clothes hideous pinkish-brown, you realize that Mom was an Angel all those years! Besides, growing up is something we all go through and a certain amount of sympathy and understanding is due all around.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Springtime in the Rockies

It was downright toasty on the ski slopes and the warm weather day skiers were out in droves. The layers of clothing were giving way to t-shirts and funky hats and there was a bit of festive mardi gras mood in the air. Strands of brightly colored irridescent beads and a stray bra or two graced several of the trees along the lift route.

Meanwhile, the sky was a clear crystal blue with a few wisps of clouds refracting in every color of the rainbow as the bright mountain sun reflected off of the high altitude ice crystals. The slopes started off a little crusty in the mornings as it has not snowed for a week or two. However, by afternoon, the bright sunshine and warm weather resulted in snow that was soft and forgiving, making for wonderful mogul skiing and enabling graceful traversals across the intermediate slopes with long, sweeping turns that send the snow flying in graceful arcs just like you see in the movies.

On the ski lifts, riders were in a pretty chatty mood. Most of the skiers were stray Denver residents up for the day, but there were also people from all corners of the globe, making for interesting lift talk and passing the time quickly. Overall, the skiing was good and the warm weather made for a warm and comfortable skiing experience.