Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sun, Sun, Sun

What a glorious day. It was eye-blinding bright with a light breeze and not a cloud in the sky. After weeks of cloudy weekends, the sun is out in style.

I was torn between going to home depot to fix the faucet (which, by the way, really needed fixing) and going to the beach. Go figure. Leaky, drippy faucet or beach. Hmmmm... Well, okay, so the park and the zoo were in contention too. So, I hop in the car and I am seriously still debating back and forth between Home Depot and the Beach! I'm driving down the road and whoosh, drive past the turn off for Home Depot (as if there was any doubt) and off to the beach. The car is pre-loaded with the beach goodies anyhow (suntan lotion, shorts, beach towel, roller blades) so perhaps it was predesitined. Do you suppose there was ever any doubt?

Turns out it was early enough to get in a good 5 miles of skating along the bay, a quick visit to the grocery store, an even quicker visit to the plant nursery across the street (there were perishables in the car), a visit to home depot (yes, yes, it needed to be done) and a few hours left to fight with removing the old faucet and installing the new one.

The old faucet had corroded bad enough that I had to drill off the lock washer to get it off. I was not a happy camper as I sat curled up under the sink trying to drill, pry and bang off the corroded lock washer. Bits of metal were flying around and I was dearly hoping some stray water would not short out my drill (that would be really bad...). I now have much more appreciation for plumbers as well. Nevertheless, I have a brand spanking new faucet, the leak is gone and the sink and matching water filter are a pleasant burnished stainless. I'm pretty proud of myself. It's been a suprisingly productive day.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Springtime is Finally Here

I love this time of year. The weather is finally warming up. Flowers are blooming everywhere. New growth is showing on all the plants and furry little peaches are starting to grow on my peach tree. What better occasion to head over to the botanical gardens for a little photo excursion. When it gets warm, most people head to the zoo and, alas, the under appreciated botanical gardens gets neglected.

For you camera bugs out there, try the gardens instead. The colors were stunning. Brilliant shades of red, orange, blue and yellow abounded everywhere. Scaly lizards soaked up the brilliant sunshine on rugged tree trunks. Shiny green frogs with chocolate brown spots had their feet up on the lilly pads and kept a wary eye on the crazy photographer. Bright yellow and black swallowtail butterflys danced from flower to flower. Best of all, there were no crowds and I could snap all the photos I wanted at my leisure! One hearty thumbs up for the botanical gardens.

Are You What You Eat?

Found this little guy next to several large tubs of turtles in Nam Dae Moon, Korea. Now, my first impulse was to think of the two pet turtles that I had when I was a kid. You know, "oh how cute, they keep pet turtles..." However, they were next the the vat of roasted silk worm larvae and dried octopus and, at some point, reality just had to set in. They were destined for a pot of soup on someone's dinner table. Now, I'm pretty open minded but I hate seeing the little guys/gals there staring at me. It makes it hard to get the pet-thing out of your head. It's even worse when they are puppies or kittens staring at you. Of course, you can't buy them all and even if you could, what are you going to do with them then?

So, are we right to judge other cultures by what they eat? Do they judge us by what we eat? Pigs are considered filthy and off limits by Muslim cultures. Cows are sacred in India. Shellfish is forbidden in the old testament. If we can eat cows, pigs and lobsters, other cultures have every right to eat turtles and puppies. It's not about who's right. Each culture has been surviving on their local foods for hundreds if not thousands of years. Of course, I can still choose not to eat some of those local foods when I'm there if that meal happens to look a little too much like a childhood memory.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Live Aloha

Aloha in Hawaiian means many things such as hello, goodby, greetings and love. The word is found across Polynesia in close variations. In Tahitian it is pronounced Taroha. In Samoan it is pronounced Talofa.

Aloha is probably one of the most widely known Hawaiian words. When people think of Hawaiian words, they almost always think of the word "aloha". Still, how many people really know what Aloha means? What does it mean to live with Aloha? Better yet, are there places where living with Aloha is still alive and well?

Hilo, Hawaii is one of those places where the Aloha Spirit of days gone by is still alive. Most people in Hilo are not rich. Money, perhaps, is not the highest priority in their lives. They are quick to smile and friendly to everyone, strangers and tourists included. The nice lady in the picture was happy to pose for a picture with those gorgeous flowers that she probably grew and arranged herself. The pot is really just a coffee can wrapped in Ti leaves but it has a certain Hawaiian beauty to it. The point is she was happy to stop what she was doing and put on that big smile just for me. The other people were just as friendly and as eager to help. They were living Aloha.

Sometimes, when I get back to San Diego I wonder if Aloha was ever in California? People are rushing everywhere. Frowns and stares are everywhere. Cars are quick to cut you off on the highway, especially if you put on your turn signal. Everything is business and money. We are all symbols on corporate balance sheets. Where is the Aloha? Is it here? Is it anywhere anymore, anywhere outside of my beloved Hilo. Perhaps someday I will find it. Until then, Aloha Kaua (May there be friendship between us); Aloha 'Oe (May you be loved).

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Top of the World

Have you ever been to the top of the world? I snapped this picture in Trondheim, Norway in the Springtime. We flew by jet into Copenhagen, Denmark. Then, in Copenhagen, we boarded a medium-sized turbo-prop and flew over the tundra and snow to Trondheim. It's an odd and somewhat disconcerting experience to see ice and snow from horizon to horizon for nearly the entire flight. Everything is bitter cold and you realize that this fragile propeller driven plane is all that separates you from the barren cold Northlands. Then, in a blink of an eye, you near the warmer water of the Fjords and the land defrosts and green hills, freshly painted, multi-colored buildings, towns and roads appear. It's almost as if you are in a whole different world. It's still cold, especially in the mornings but nothing you couldn't handle with a decent jacket.

Everything seems to have a new paint job. The buildings abound with fresh paint in a rainbow of colors. I asked why everyone kept their buildings so freshly painted and they told me it was so they would survive the very cold winters. Compared to America the houses are small and very close together. The hotel rooms are little more than a bed, a tiny desk and a TV and the view was of the alley behind. Still, the people were warm and friendly and everyone at the hotel gathered for their free make-your-own waffle breakfasts. They had a waffle iron that made these sweet, thin and chewy waffles that kind of reminded me of a soft version of waffle cones. The smell of sugar and vanilla was everywhere. They ate them with some sort of soft, sweet, goat cheese. Well, that and these funky pickled herrings that seemed to stare back out of the jar at me as I walked by. I stayed with the waffles. Yum...

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Some Days You Just Wish You Were in Waikiki

There are those days when you just wish you were in Waikiki, wading in those warm, calm waters or along those long white sand beaches. Well, this picture's for you for all those days when you wished you were in Waikiki.

Yeah, it was another really hectic day at work. Meetings back to back all day long with some double or triple booked. It's a heck of a way to make a living. People calling on the cell. People calling the desk. People leaving messages on the answering machine. Email coming in at about 100/day. Some call that job security but admittedly, it's a far far cry from Waikiki. I wish I was there right now. I can already feel the sand between my toes. Now if only I could feel the plane ticket between my fingers (grin).

Monday, April 24, 2006

Beach Days On the Horizon

Lots of people think that San Diego is warm and sunny all year long. While there is some truth to that relative to the rest of the United States (barring Hawaii and Puerto Rico), Winter can be still be a little nippy. This is caused by the cold Alaskan current that circles down past Washington and along the California coast. This same cold water also causes the arid, sunny weather that San Diego and the Baja is reknowned for. Unfortunately, it makes swimming mainly a summer affair except for the more hardy among us.

Thus, it is with great anticipation that we wait for June through September where the water enters the high 60s and 70s and we can actually swim at those incredibly scenic coastline beaches. Beach going is fair game most of the year and so is surfing with a wetsuit but if you want the full experience you have to wait until summer. Of course that's only a month or two left to get back into swimsuit condition and shed those Christmas leftovers!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Pelican Fly By

Pelicans are like the C47s of the sky. They litterly lumber through the sky, sailing the air currents looking for a place to roost. It is especially impressive when they fly directly overhead, slowly gliding into view and as slowly gliding out of view. Sometimes you'll find them by the bait dock begging for food but not nearly as often as you will find gulls and egrets. For the most part, Pelicans are a stately lot, preferring to catch their own food in their own due time. The rest of the time, they spend hanging out on a rock watching the pounding surf and cruising the coastal updrafts.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Aspiring Towards Nirvana

This statue is one of many found in Buddhist temples throughout Thailand. Technically speaking, at least according to the Wikipedia, "a Buddha (Sanskrit, Pāli) is any being that has become fully enlightened, has permanently overcome anger, greed, and ignorance, and has achieved complete liberation from suffering, better known as Nirvana. Certainly, the statue has a certain grace and serenity to it. The temple itself was dimly lit by candles with graceful trails of incense drifting in the breeze. The tapestry behind was said to be absolutely ancient; however, you could barely see the amazingly detailed city landscapes in the dimly lit room unless you were within a few feet of the it as it rose up towards the shadow-draped ceiling.

I'd have to admit that the Thai people were, for the most part, some of the most warm, welcoming and serene people I have ever met. Even those who appear to be flat out starving, working for meager amounts, have a calmness and grace about them that is downright saintly. I don't know how they do it; however, I think I could use some of it at work. Heck, we could all use some of it.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Do We Have To Grow Up?

The world is a wonderous place when you're a child. Everything is new and an adventure. The tiniest bug or the bashful hermit crab becomes a revelation. When do most of us lose that wonder and amazement with the world? When does the world turn into a maze of labels and stereotypes? Is it our search for consistency and order? Is there truly a need for black and white?

Just say NO! We are not mere labels and neither is the planet around us. The world is a wonderous, diverse place and every grain of sand is beautiful in it's own right. Every soul, every beast and every flower has a place on this planet and we need never lose the ability to appreciate every iota of this experience. All we need to do is slow down for a moment and open our eyes. Try it and discover the world anew.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Cleaner Wrasse

The Cleaner Wrasse is so named because it creates a station on the reef where other fish come to have their parasites cleaned. The other fish stay very still and typically open their mouth and gill flaps for the hungry Cleaner Wrasse to nip out worms and small parasites. The amazing thing is that many of these other fish would otherwise and could easily eat the cleaner wrasse as a quick snack. Every more amazing is there are many other cleaners in the sea including other species of fish and some amazing peppermint-striped Cleaner Shrimp. The Ocean is an awesome place.

Some people are like cleaner wrasses. They spend their days fixing other peoples' problems, nipping out issues and irritants. In fact, some people, such as ombudsmen, make careers out of fixing issues. Every ecosystem has their sharks, their herbivores, their chain of carnivores and their cleaners. Every wonder where you fit in the ecosystem?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Blink of an Eye

Sometimes it seems like life moves so fast that you'll miss it if you blink. Everyone is always in a hurry. Rushing to work. Rushing home from work. Rushing from meeting to meeting. Rushing through conversations. Does anyone ever take the time to tell the people they care about that they love them or that they matter? How about just saying thank you every now and then? Maybe a friendly neck massage or a foot rub? Best not to wait too long as they may not still be there when you're finished winking.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Are Any Relationships Forever Any More?

Two of my best friends are breaking up after ten years of being together. Looking back, there were signs of them growing apart. They spent more time apart or with other people. They wanted different things out of the relationship. These were gaps they never closed.

No matter what the signs or the reasons, it is hard to imagine two very loving, caring people who you have always known as an item no longer together. It's hard to know what to say or how to be supportive. It's hard to lose the stability and familiarity of having them together. I suppose time will heal all sooner or later.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Another Crazy Work Week

It's another crazy Monday. Cell phone was ringing all day long. All kinds of requests and a nasty email or two. You would think people would chill out having just spent Easter with the family. Must not have been a very nice Easter. Goodness. Days like this make you wish you could just hang out at the beach or anywhere where nobody is chasing you around for urgent things that they wanted yesterday. Craziness. I just remembered yet another thing somebody wanted. Argh.

Meanwhile, I've been looking wistfully at Hawaiian Oceanfront Condos, wishing I could afford one before the interest rates go even higher. I suppose sometimes you have to just do it. It's a dream I have to get away from the high tech craziness and set up shop in Hawaii. Someday. Hopefully someday... For now, a trip once in a while will have to do.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter

Happy Easter! While a dark and cloudy morning threatened to dampen the Easter festivities, the sun crept out from behind it's veil to bring us a truly glorious afternoon.

Admittedly, I haven't done the Easter egg hunt thing in more years than I care to count. Last time I remember doing the egg hiding, the cousins and I hid an egg in my Aunt's grand piano and forgot it there only to be discovered via a very pungent odor two weeks later. Needless to say, the egg hiding was moved outside in future years and pretty much came to a halt once Grandma passed away, likely because none of the other Aunts wanted eggs hidden all over their houses.

However, in the theme of practicing random acts of kindness, I stopped at the store to pick up a dozen chocolate bunnies to celebrate having deposited my taxes at the Post Office. Admittedly, the bunnies were a big hit at the office and my only regret is that I didn't buy more. Have a Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Glory of the Sea

Conus gloriamaris or the Glory of the Sea Cone was once thought to be exceedingly rare. It was so rare, specimens used to sell for over $1000 each (back in the early 1900s when $1000 was huge sum of money). They were so pricey that an enterprising Japanese craftsman made two near exact duplicates out of rice paper. Ironically, the duplicates are now worth far more than the shell itself. In fact, the live shells are now found fairly frequently in the Philippines, given the advent of modern diving equipment and no longer command the high prices they once did. They are still every bit as beautiful, however. This photo was taken on top of the back side of a white bird of paradise leaf in natural lighting.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Do We Grow Up to Be Like Our Parents?

Are we a product of our genetics or a product of our surroundings? How much does our upbringing contribute to who we become. Perhaps our genetics contributes to both our potential and our limitations, setting boundaries to what we might or might not become. Arguably, some of us will never have the height to be a professional basketball player or the mass to be a professional football player. However, within the context of our genetic foundation, we are still impacted by early fetal development, early childhood exposure and the wide range of experiences along the way to adulthood.

If you assume that the above is true, how then can you explain why we grow up to be so much like our parents? Is it a figment of our imaginations that we find ourselves thinking and saying many of the same things that our parents do? Is it genetics that causes us to end up susceptible to so many of the same foibles? Or is it just that we grow to appreciate so much that our parents were and taught us and, in belated fashion, repeat their lessons in our lives as a form of tribute to their years of care and companionship? I, for one, think my old man was an amazingly compassionate, generous and upstanding guy and I am happy for every bit of moral fiber that I may have derived over the years, whether learned or genetic.

Surfperch Search

Ever wonder how fishes get their names? Why is a Perch not called a striped silver dollar or a surf poodle? Why is it one word (Surfperch) instead of two (Surf Perch)? Honestly, I have no idea where those common names come from but this one is, as best I can tell, a Striped Surfperch. Of course, the drawings in those fish ID guides are always a little tough to ID off of unless you've seen the fish a bunch of times.

There was a guy fishing off of that creaky old Imperial Beach Pier. I was hunting around for photos to entertain our gracious audience just as this little Surf Perch comes flying out of the water, wiggling for dear life (and no doubt hoping to fall back in). Being the photo bug that I am, I had to have a picture of the fish. I suppose I should have gotten the fisherman in the picture too but he seemed content with just the fish hamming for a pic.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Eiffel Tower with Palms?

Leave it to the designers in Vegas to snap up some of the most gorgeous concepts in the world and recreate them in glitzy Las Vegas. I couldn't resist snapping this picture of an Eiffel Tower duplicate, complete with restaurant that was glistening and beckoning, palm trees and all. They also had scaled down recreations of New York, complete with a city facade and a firefighter memorial, a golden pyramid (Luxor), the Venetian complete with canals and gondoliers, Belagio with gorgeous fountains and Romanesque statues and much more. It's a fun place if you enjoy a little wackiness and glitz and aren't hung up on being historically pure. I had fun anyhow.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Wood Duck Spring

How much wood can a Wood Duck duck if a Wood Duck could duck wood? Doesn't quite work? Oh, chuck a duck! That's just ducky.

What is it about ducks anyhow? They are full of character and provide all sorts of entertainment as we watch them splash and roil the otherwise tranquil water and chase each other like duck-maniacs. Sometimes they stop and scratch in the weirdest contortions with such vigor you'd swear they would lose feathers. Perhaps they remind us of ourselves in an odd sort of way.

This male Wood Duck, resplendent in his Spring plumage is doing everything he can to get that female duck's attention. Of course, it is finally Spring and that means that it is "boy's night out!" These two ducks were oblivious to the photographer (aka yours truly) as they darted around the pond. We can see who's in control here (girl duck by a long shot). It's amazing what a boy duck will do for a little duck tail. As for me, I'll be back to snap pictures of the ducklings shortly.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Orchid Diversity

Orchids are the most diverse plant family in the world. Some, like this Anguloa, have exotic shapes, colors and smells. This one looks like a dove inside of a nest. Another smells just like Andes mints. Still another smells like licorice. It's all pretty fun but a little addicting. They will fill up your home if you let them.

Of course, that's true of any hobby that involves collecting things. Sooner or later you run out of space unless you accept the fact that you just cannot have everything. Failing that, you could become a museum curator.

I suppose that the same thing is true of people. There's much more to people than looks. Some have interesting smells and shapes. They come from all over the world and show great diversity in character. However, you don't have the time or space to have them all in your life.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Tax Time Again

Just one more week time before taxes are due. I spent all day sorting through files and tabulating amounts. It's about this time every year that I resolve to go one step further and not just dilligently file everything but also put all the information into Quicken or Excel to speed things up. I get more proficient each year but each year there's something new to figure out. That's why accountants make the big money I suppose.

The Angel is from the top of one of the buildings in Hillcrest, San Diego. I was out snapping pictures and couldn't resist the sun glinting off of the gold leaf. Your guess is as good as mine regarding the occasion for trumpeting but any occasion is probably good enough. ;-)

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Equal Opportunity Pirate

The Sirens won the day or maybe the pirates did. It all depends on your point of view. Nevertheless, in the interest of equal opportunity, as the Sirens won top billing in my last posting, I'm including one of the pirates for you pirate-loving fans. Overall, there was plenty of excitement, no matter what your preferences are.

Speaking of preferences, what is it that convinces so many "straight" men that being gay is a preference and not something you're born with? I was tortured with dinner conversation again with a cohort insisting that gay guys all had distant dads. I vaguely remember Freud saying something like that but, honestly, don't put much faith in Freud or his scientific methods (or lack thereof). The cohort's argument was that a genetic recessive trait ought not to occur in as large a percentage of the population as 10% and hence it must be environmental. However, it seems that his argument is flawed and that non-fatal recessive traits ought not to be impacted in the same way that fatal genetic factors are; for example blue versus still occur very frequently in spite of brown eyes being dominant. Furthermore, based on the twin studies done a while back, a child being born gay is probably a combination of genetic and in-womb factors. Similar population percentages show up with left-handedness which suggests that in-womb factors strongly affect fetal brain development for many other things as well. That being said, why should it matter anyhow? Why can't people just accept each other as they are? Go figure.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Steamy Sirens

I'm back from Las Vegas. Admittedly, it is not the more G-rated Las Vegas I remember. The Treasure Island pirate and British Frigate battle has been sacked in favor of a steamy battle between some very hunky pirates and some slinky, writhing sirens. It was quite the scene, complete with some suggestive dancing, a bit of pyrotechnics, some mild kink and fireworks to top it all off. Overall, it was quite a production, especially considering that there's no admission charge. Hat's off to all the slinky actors/actresses for braving the very cold weather, some of them while wet to put on the extravaganza. However, as they say, the show must go on.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Beware of Killer Duck

If you were this guy sitting on the bench minding your own business and you saw this killer duck heading straight for your head, what would you do? Weirdest things happen when you're out hanging around with the Nikon. In case you're wondering, he didn't even flinch and the duck swerved to the right. As for me, I would have probably "ducked", chuckle.

So I'm off to Vegas (for work) and I'm bringing the camera. Wish me luck and hope I don't get mugged. I think it will be fun.

What Fish See

Ever wonder what fish see? What do they think about big gangly people clumsily swimming around chasing them with cameras and nasty barbed spears? Do they think we're just big fish? Or funny pale colored arthritic seals?

I noticed as I bobbed above the coral that the fish ran away if I moved but if I floated as so much flotsam in the waves, they came right back and I could snap as many pictures as I wanted. Funny thing that. It was the motion that scared them. I guess they didn't think we were seals after all.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Turkey Tales

Newt says the Republicans have lost their way. Essentially, he says they are talking the talk but not walking the walk. They have spent us into a hole and gotten us into another thankless war. Worse yet, they have stirred up a hornets nest of hatred for Americans worldwide. Some foreigners still differentiate friendship for our citizens from hatred of our policies but, after electing Bush Jr. to a second term, the lines are starting to blur. I'd like to think, in spite of all the government corruption scandals and the wanton pork barrel spending, that we still have one of the finest democracies in the world. The recent student protests related to the tightening of immigration laws gives me hope that democracy still works. Yet sometimes, I think we need to have another look at the practical ideals on which the country was founded and get back in touch with the citizens of this good country.

Entering My First Photo Contest

I'm entering my first photo contest. Well, okay, I entered an employee photo contest way back when but this is the first one with lots of entrants and certainly the first in many years. The local newspaper is hosting it and the theme is nature photography. I've taken over a thousand nature photos in the last 3 weeks. Thank goodness you don't need to pay for developing with digital cameras or I'd be in the poorhouse. The camera already set me back pretty bad (sooo hungry... LOL).

I popped in one of my photos here just for chuckles. It's out of my shell collection. Pretty neat huh? Sometimes it seems like nature is so much more beautiful than anything we puny humans can create on our own.

I've been up all night resizing pictures to the required sizes and typing up entry forms. The hardest part was identifying what the heck I snapped pictures of. I've been going back and forth between shell books, bird books, fish books and the Internet. Tiring but really fascinating. I just figured out that there are many different types of Seagulls, some common, some not and most, hard to differentiate (of course). If I can't figure it out for sure with the bird book right in front of my nose, I suppose nobody else will either. Go figure.

I'm getting pretty sleepy about now and the chocolate can only hold me so long. So, I'm hitting the sack. Hope you liked the picture. Wish me luck!