Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Dare to be Different

Be different. Stand out in a crowd. Make a place all your own. This little goldfish was in the midst of a school of Tilapia (most headed the other way, as a matter of fact) in a vast Hippo tank at the zoo. He is notably doing just fine.

Sometimes it takes a little indepent thinking to find happiness or to make your own fortune. Otherwise, short of plain old dumb luck, we remain part of the same, drab group of people floating along through life, never truly happy and yet afraid to strike out after what they care about.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

On Exhibit

Ever wonder what it would be like to be on exhibit in a zoo? There was this area of the catwalk at the zoo where you were looking up at people looking down at YOU. There was fence in between and a big railing. With a little imagination, you could imagine that either you or they were the exhibit.

Spring Time In the Air

Babbies are everywhere. The squirrels have babbies, the seals have pups. Not to be outdone, even the flamingos have eggs. Turns out the male and female flamingos take care of the egg together. One sits on the nest while the other guards it, in this case, from other rambunctuous flamingo parents. Both parents reach down for occasional daubs of mud to build their mud nest up a little higher. Apparently, even flamingos care about view lots.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Always Up For A Good Meal

San Diego has grown dramatically in the past 5 years. You can barely take a stroll without encoutering more people. Ironically, the "wildlife" in San Diego has learned how to take advantage of all these people. In fact, to many of the wildlife, people equals an easy meal. You can see that here with a whole flock of pelicans chasing after this boat as they tossed bait leftovers over board. If you look closely, you can see a sea gull homing in on the food line up above as well. Perhaps birds are not all that different than people after all?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Patchwork Pants

It's cold and dreary out so I figured I'd dredge up a Las Vegas picture and perhaps a little of that desert sunshine. This pirate had the most fascinating patchwork pants. I suspect it had little to do with being pirate-like and more to do with some creative costume-work in the back room. Of course, that's the beauty of Vegas. It's not about authenticity, it's about glitz, sensationalism and light hearted fun.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Amazing Gymnastic Seal

This little seal pup thinks he's a gymnast on a balancing bar. The totally amazing thing is how he managed to get way up on that rock ledge with just flippers and a squirmy body. I think many of us would have trouble scampering up there with hands and feet. I liked the way he was balancing on the rock ledge. Abs of steel. I'm feeling the need to get some exercise and muscle tone prior to the summer beach season. Wouldn't want to scare away the seals after all. Have a great 3-day weekend!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

San Diego Sunshine

I went swimming tonight at 6:30pm. I love the long days. The nights are warm and the sun hangs low on the horizon for an hour or two. I snagged the sunny side of the pool although I actually had the pool all to myself as everyone else had headed home for dinner. The water was almost too warm and the normally frigid shower was actually tolerable for once. If the weather holds, I may just get back in shape before Summer.

As for the beach, it has been horribly crowded with sun-seekers. You can smell the waft of suntan lotion as you go by the masses of partying people. Parking has also been a bit of a bear, especially with college graduations (and hence college parties) in full swing. However, if you're willing to walk or roller blade a little distance, you can't beat the weather, the long white sand beaches and the cool Pacific water that caressingly washes away the blazing sun.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Kansas City Architecture

This is the view out of the Marriott Overland Park of the building next door. The geese were down in the lake in the bottom of the picture. I suppose someday I'll ask what that building is. It really is beautiful in the sunset in any case with the bronze reflective windows and the aged copper roofs. It is a unique fusion of Western and Eastern architectures that, in this case, seems to work.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Case of the Hissing Goose

I just flew back from Kansas City. When I left San Diego, it was raining torrentially and I was doing my best not to hydroplane on puddles on the highway on the way to the airport. After a relatively uneventful flight, I get to Kansas and it's bright, sunny and warm. Bringing the jacket was a totally wasted effort and I'm really enjoying the weather at this point, thinking leaving rainy San Diego for a day or two wasn't all bad.

Of course, it's Spring time and that means baby animals. In front of the Marriott Overland Park they have a nice lake with a fountain in the middle and some nesting Canadian Geese that have taken up temporary residency. While I left the Nikon at home, I had my little pocket cam with me and dutifully crept up to the goslings to take a few pictures. Well, this big "daddy goose" comes walking up, hissing and snapping his beak. He then proceeds to pull up some grass for show. Interestingly enough, daddy goose had a line in the grass. I take one step forward and he hisses. I take one step back and he stops. Fascinating. He didn't chase me back to the lobby or anything un-neighborly. He was just interested in keeping me on the far side of the "goose demarcation line." You can see the gosling in the background wondering what all the daddy goose ruckus is about.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Squash and Such

I woke up early today to drive to the Farmer's Market. The drive confirmed my belief that San Diego has some of the worst drivers around [up there with Boston and New Mexico, LOL]! I had one car buzz right through a stop sign and, had I started to move when my turn came, would have been smeared. He didn't even slow down and I'm not even sure he/she saw me at the four way stop. There were still more aggressive, rude drivers on the highway and a few more surface street shenanigans which I won't bore you with.

Still, after a mildly exciting drive to the market, I had lots of fun at the market. There is always a riot of color, especially in the Spring. It's perfect for a camera nut to just go wild. The delicate crepe-orange, squash blossoms at the produce vendor were just calling to be photographed. The cactus man had all sorts of bright rose-pink flowered cacti in bloom. The Australian plant vendor had his usual myriad of Proteas and furry red and orange Kangaroo paws. The flower vendor had big 5 gallon buckets of newly opened, white calla lillies. I was was in a smorgasbord of color. Add an orchid purchase, a home made chocolate truffle and a back massage at the massage booth and it made for a really nice morning. It was totally worth the drive (wild drivers and all).

Shopping at the Farmer's Market

It's Sunday again. Time for the Farmer's Market! Wonderful strawberries, fresh from the field. Fragrant, tree ripe peaches and all sorts of really cool flowers. This brilliant red protea was one of many different Australian flowers for sale, all fascinatingly different and bizarre in their own way. The Farmer's Market also has one of those massage stations where you can get a quick chair massage (I call them budget massages) and forget about the rough week you've been through. Happy Sunday!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Squirrel & Moose?

Well, I caught a picture of the squirrel anyhow but no Moose; too bad Natasha... There were the cutest baby squirrels in La Jolla the other day. They're part of the Spring crop of new babies (in addition to the seal pups down below in the cove). They were really tame and were coming up to eat out of people's hands. There were some big, round, mama squirrels in the background too but the little guys were the cutest. They were living in burrows in steep, precarious sandstone cliffs along the side of the road. Seems like a tough way to make a living but the handouts are good anyhow.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Fat Boy

Do you ever read graffiti? Although modern usage for the word graffiti typically refers to defacing some public structure with writing, pictures, etc.; the term graffiti derives from Greek "graphein" to write. Most typically, you'll see names, nick names, statements of love and occasional political messages. This one was left by someone called Fat Boy M. Or perhaps, it was left by Boy M and someone came along and added Fat later just for chuckles and grins. I suppose only FBM will ever know for sure. Of course, if you were called Fat Boy, would you want to engrave it into rock for perpetuity? I suppose it might have some sort of sentimental meaning or perhaps it's there in protest? Either way, the sandstone will eventually turn into just so much more California beach sand and Fat Boy will be replaced by Joe loves Sara or some other message of the moment. If you could carve a mesage, what would it be?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A Pair of Clams

The picture looks like a pair of bean clams; however, if you look really closely, I suspect that the holes in the sand are actually the siphons from many other bean clams burried beneath the sand. These little guys come in very conceivable color including sky blues, yellows, oranges, whites and reddish browns. When I snapped this shot, the shoreline was covered in bean clams as far as the eye can see, some so thick they were all on top of one another and washing up and down with the waves.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Spoil Sport?

Here is a picture of the culprit that unscrupulously chased away the huge flock of plovers I was taking pictures of the other day. At first I was pretty annoyed since it was such a totally amazing, huge flock of plovers and since I was so entraced watching them chase the waves back and forth in swarms. However, after thinking about it, I remembered all the times, as a child, that I had the temptation, the unstoppable urge, to see a flock of birds go flying up in a surge of wings. What is it about chasing birds that just brings out the child in us? Have you chased a bird lately?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Photo Contest Winners

I know that some of you really like photos a lot. I thought I'd post the link to the web site with the photo contest winners. I included the thumbnail of "Dragonfly", the Best of Show, by Benjamin R. Miller which was, in my opinion, well deserved although the thumbnail does not do it justice. If you want to see the full size picture, click through to the link.

Ben was standing by his photo answering questions and said that he woke up early in the morning when it was cold and dewey (California mornings are like that due to the marine layer that comes in at night). He went down into Rose Canyon to walk in the reeds. The dragon flys hang out there and get very lethargic when it is cold, allowing you to snap photos ad nauseum. He managed to catch this particular gold dragon fly with dew on it wings in excruciatingly beautiful detail.

Nudity Prohibited

Those of you familiar with Black's Probably recognize this old buoy. It's floated around Blacks beach, having moved quite a ways North. In the old days, it was painted a bright lavender with a bit of a gay theme to it. I'm not sure if it had anything written on it but it was a bit of a landmark on Blacks, in spite of the storms that seem to carry it around the beach.

It's still there, some ten years later, but someone seems to have painted it orange with big gold letters that say NUDITY PROHIBITED. I'd say that the gold letters certainly add a bit of flair to the old buoy and to the message. I don't know if the park system did it as something humorous or if one of the myriad, colorful denizens did it. There is a small, tactful brown sign next to it that says that nudity is prohibited in the state park system. Best I can tell, the people that sunbathed on the beach didn't seem to care one way or the other and there was still the occasional naturalist here or there. The buoy was looking somewhat photogenic so here it is in all of its glory. Maybe next time they'll do polka dots.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day!

I came upon these striking Calla lillies at the farmer's market this morning. There were both bright orange flowers and fuschia ones as well. Certainly, there are many flowers that are orange and many more that are fuschia (hence the name of the color, right?). However, Calla lillies don't come in those colors. White, yellow, lavender-purple but not flourescent fuschia and vibrant tangerine. No, these Callas were dyed. Still, they were striking enough to lure me into snapping a photo; at least until the shop keeper gave me the eye. You'd think they'd be happy to get a little free advertising but then these were dyed Callas after all so maybe not.

For you Mom's out there, both real and aspiring and perhaps even those of you who are mom-like to the rest of us, have a Happy Mother's Day! Admittedly, the rest of us shouldn't need a special day to remind us to tell you thank you for the years of unconditional love and caring, for the bandaged knees (and then some), for the chaffering around town, for putting up with the colds, mumps and measles and for just being there when we needed you. Thank you Mom.

Dog's Day at the Vet

The picture is of a Phragmipedium lindenii, a South American slipper orchid that typically grows in the jungle along streams. This particular species is missing the slipper or lip that makes slipper orchids and orchids in general unique. In the place of the lip/pouch is a third petal, thus having reverted back to a more ancient form versus the other species in the genus. The petals are very long, with furry reddish tips that reach for the ground and wiggle in the lightest breeze. Unfortunately, the length of the entire flower dictated that I crop the picture, the petals paying the price.

The dog, meanwhile had vet day. She went in to visit the vet for another innoculation. She so hates the vet. She spends most of the time trying to get back out or trying to hide her head under my lap. Goodness, you'd think they were doing something really awful but having had an operation at the Vet's office in the past, I suppose a little vet-phobia is understandable. To make the day further undignified, she also had a bath today. Big, soaking mess with fur everywhere and me nearly as wet as the dog. It was certainly quite the day for the dog.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Excited Flamingos

When they told me about the birds and the bees, it didn't really sink in that birds do it too. These two flamingos were part of a little group of about 6 flamingos that were getting downright excited in the far corner of the zoo pond. With a little telephoto action, it really makes for beautiful, if somewhat fluffy picture. I cannot attest as to what the other two flamingos (see heads on lower right) were up to but I'll leave the rest to your imagination. One other fun detail. They have they're eyes closed. ;-)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Strutting Flamingos

Well, at least the flamingo thought so. There was some serious feather waggling and flamingo woopie going on at the zoo. I had no idea they could puff up that big. They were all big balls of fluffy pink and white feathers looking like colorful dandelions strutting through the pool. Heheh. As for the woopie pictures, well, maybe in another post.

Meanwhile, I'm back to swimming. They have a nice little pool at work and I've discovered that I don't get wake burn from the swimmers barreling past me if I swim after work when the pool is a little emptier. Admittedly, it's not as social but I get to set my own pace. Definitely more relaxing if slightly less motivating. I also get less stares as you head back into the office with the fresh from the gym look.

Caught the Photo Bug

I've caught the photo bug. The fun thing about taking photos is you can capture things that are so incredibly fleeting such as bumblebee in a flower or a hummingbird at a feeder. I dare say I snapped another hundred or so seal pictures and squirrel pictures on Sunday and still more pictures of birds and shells and such.

That brings me to the question of the day, what do you, the audience enjoy or want to see more of? Crazed discussions about politics, discussions about life and people? Pictures of animals, scenery, flowers, shells or far away lands? All of the above? Curious minds want to know. Send email. Write comments. Tell me please.

Monday, May 08, 2006

One of Those Entrancing Moments

Spring time is migration season and San Diego is prime stop for birds heading North to Alaska and Canada for the Summer feeding season. As opposed to local birds that show up individually or in small groups, migrating birds show up in amazing numbers. These plovers were in a flock of probably 100+ birds and were absolutely mesmerizing to watch. They would all run rapidly in unison, following the water as a wave receded and then dashing up the beach when a new wave came in. They did all this while keeping an eye out for stray persons, the odd photographer or two and passing hawks.

In fact, a hawk did fly by looking for a quick meal (silly me forgot to snap the picture of the hawk...). It was slowly riding the air currents above the ocean edge, hovering hungrily over this admittedly huge flock of plovers when they spotted it (actually before I spotted it) and exploded into a mass of wings zig zagging in amazing unison over the ocean. It reminded me of the pictures of huge schools of fish that all, amazingly, turn in unison. How they do that without careening head first into one another eludes me. However, if people ever figure it out, driving to work will sure be a heck of a lot safer.

Happy Monday.

Violas For You!

Just a little viola picture for the readers to thank you for reading my little blog, for the great comments and for the wonderful email. I hope you're all doing well and having a happy Monday!

The violas, by the way, were growing along side the sidewalk in La Jolla [I was off to take more seal pup pictures]. It shows that there is beauty in the ordinary if you take the time to look. Try it sometime. Turn off the labels [v-i-o-l-a...] and actually look at the colors, textures and forms. Perhaps, even stop to feel the surface [rough, smooth, cool...]. It's fun and you'll notice all kinds of things you've never seen/experienced before. For example, ever stop to feel the bark of a tree?

Pictures do something similar for me. In pictures, you can freeze things that are otherwise transitory/ephemeral and for animals, in particular, you end up noticing different characteristics, habits, species, just all kinds of fun things.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Ever Wonder What It's Like to Fly?

The Paragliders were out in force today. The sun was strong and there was a light, cool ocean breeze that the parasails floated on every so lightly. As I looked up, they reminded me of giant, brightly colored jellies floating through the sky. The sun lit up every varicele and every rope like intricate membranes. There they sat, gently floating back and forth along the cliff. I don't know if people will ever know what it feels like to be a bird and have true flight but floating in those paragliders has got to be an absolute riot!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Photo Contest Results

It was fun to see the contest winners and listen to some of the photographers/judges talk about what it takes to snap a really good photo. Ironically, much of what they talked about was not about technique. It was about having the perserverence and tenacity to get the shot. That could mean getting up really early in the morning to snap a dragonfly before it warms up and is capable of flying. Or it could mean taking a particular shot at a particular time of day to get the right lighting. Sometimes it's having the audacity to ask a subject if you can snap their photo. Other times, it's just the blind luck of having your camera gear there when a particular photo moment comes up. Sometimes it means camping out in a spot where wildlife frequent to let them get particularly close to you.

In looking at the winners, I'd have to say that there were a few that really jumped out and grabbed me as those once in a lifetime moments. However, I'd have to admit that a very good number of them struck me as above ordinary but certainly within reach of the occasional circumstance and the persistent photographer. Overall, I'd say it was encouraging to realize that taking awesome photos is in reach for pretty much all of us as long as we're willing to invest the time and effort into capturing those "photo moments."

Friday, May 05, 2006

Off to See the Winners

Tomorrow is the big day when they display the winners of the nature photography contest at the Museum of Contemporary Art. As I have not heard boo at this point, I'm assuming that I am among the masses of the not so talented but appreciating public. Of course, when I looked at the sample photos that were on the contest web site, I quicky realized that there is a difference between really nice pictures (that we all sometimes take including myself) and the extraordinary pictures that win these things or that we see hanging in museums of art. There is something about the wow factor in those pictures that just jumps out and grabs you by the arm. Of course, being a relative photo neophyte (albeit with a nice camera), I suppose I have time to figure it out and perhaps someday, snap pictures that jump out and grab people by the arm as well. In the meanwhile, I'll keep torturing you, my faithful audience, with my photos with the hopes of sharing a little of the beauty and magnificence of the world around me.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Does Money Corrupt?

For the picture fans, this little otter was splashing next to the waterfall along with his snuggly otter family who shortly thereafter doggy piled onto the rock.

So the question of the day is, "does money corrupt?" Recent headlines suggest that it does. There is the Cunningham bribery scandal and the Tom Delay money laundering scandal. This is all on the heals of the Enron trial. Here in San Diego, the City seems to be sailing towards bankruptcy while they bill for water and sewer and slip the money into other departments through deceptive cross billing while the sewer system remains badly in need of repair.

People doing corrupt things with money doesn't necessarily mean that it was the money that corrupted them (i.e., it could be non-causal). Perhaps they were corrupt to begin with and the money just amplifies tendencies that were already there. Still, we've all heard stories of people winning the lotto and having their lives filled with people they haven't heard from in years all angling for money. There are the people that marry for money and still others that divorce for money. Recently, today's NPR interviewee pointed out that one of the few stable, progressive democracies in the Middle East was in a country with no oil revenue. If I were to guess, I'd say that money certainly has something to do with all this messy behavior.

So what is it about money that causes seemingly decent people to betray their friends and family or the constituents that trust them? Is it the need to have more money that corrupts? Is it the desire to show off things that money buys to convince others that you are somehow better than them through the strength of your bank account or the cost of your car? I'd like to think that money is just a tool, something that makes bartering unnecessary. However, something in the way many people equate status and success to money, Americans notwithstanding, seems to cause otherwise decent people to abandon their moral values in search of more greenbacks. What do you think? Does money corrupt?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Love Affair with Nature

I've always loved the myriad forms and colors found in nature. The picture above is from an Epiphyllum or Jungle Cactus that just opened in full glory this morning. The petals sparkle like diamond dust and the stamens sweep out from the flower like white lace dancing in the wind. Alas, they are fragile and seldom last more than a week but they are worth the yearly wait. Better yet, with enough different varieties, you get flowers for a month or two in a riot of red, orange, yellow, purple and white. As a bonus, the plants are hardy, grow outside in subtropical climates and easily sprout from cuttings. What more could you ask for?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Of Logic and Faith

Before I get on with today's musings, a tribute to you travel buffs out there. The picture is from the seaside in Florianopolis, Brazil. I was told that these very large and colorful houses along the ocean typically belong to rich Europeans and are used as vacation and retirement homes. Curiosly enough, the locals appear to admire rich foreigners and consider them a pretty decent date without nearly as much attention to physique, age parity and general looks as in America. I suppose, this is also true in many other countries as well where a good income still gets you respect. Of course, it's true in America too but the income considered good is perhaps a little higher and gets you even chance of admiration and scorn.

Today's topic is faith versus logic. Webster's defines logic as, "a science that deals with the principles and criteria of validity of inference and demonstration : the science of the formal principles of reasoning." I interpret that as making inferences and conclusions based upon formal reasoning and demonstrated facts.

Webster's defines faith as, "(1) belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust." I would claim that the two definitions are related in that one typically accepts one's religion based upon trust, typically without hard proof and demonstrated fact for the statements and claims that are made by that religion.

So my question then, is can faith and logic co-exist within the same human framework? Can a person be both logical and adhere to faith without intellectual conflict? I ask this question because I have seen this in action. In particular, I have friends who are extraordinarily logical, intelligent and well educated. However, in matters of faith (typically social matters, as opposed to say engineering or science), they suspend logic, at least when it opposes faith, and hold to precepts of their beliefs.

For example, a friend of mine stated that killing is wrong. Specifically, that all killing of children and innocents is so wrong that it should never ever occur. However, when questioned about a child killed in battle, in Iraq, for example, possibly as collateral damage to a military operation, that same friend said that the death of innocents was now acceptable. In my mind, a statement is either absolute or conditional, it cannot be both based on convenience to the argument or no logical conclusion can be drawn. I can certainly understand the temptation to change the rules as you go along to suit your argument but I had hoped that most of us left that bad habit in elementary school. As it turns out, my friend is living proof that adults still change the rules to suit their desires du jour. In fact, they do it all the time! However, adults are just a little craftier about it. In fact, some of them have gotten so crafty about changing the rules to suit their desires that even they are fooled into thinking that they are being logical.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Thumbs Up on Life

I snapped this picture out of the cab window in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Admittedly, there are lush parks, lavish restaurants and huge shopping malls. However, what I enjoyed the most was the friendly, happy atmosphere. One of their favorite signs in Sao Paulo is the thumbs up. It's kind of like the Shakka Brah sign in Hawaii (yet another posting for another day). It's a unassuming way to pass along greetings and a smile even if you don't share the same language. The people were warm and open and generally treated you as if you were an old friend.

The amazing thing is that Sao Paulo has car hijackings at gun point, armed robberies, extensive slums and security guards with bullet proof vests at the shopping mall and, still, the people have managed to keep chipper about it all and remain friendly and undaunted. Needless to say, this was a very pleasant surprise for this American who is used to drivers cutting you off in traffic or giving you the bird, if anything at all. Perhaps happiness is all relative and it really is our personal choice to look at the world as half full or half empty...