Monday, July 31, 2006

Otter Nap

Hahah. Pride is over and it's back to furry critter pictures. Of course, I have over 300 pride pictures so they may still show up. Hmmm. But not tonight. Tonight is for the otters.

So why are short naps called cat naps, anyhow? Why not call them otter naps? This otter is napping in the sun, all curled up and comfy with his paws over his face. Truly an otter's life.

For those hyper observant among you, there is a second critter sharing the rock. Kudos to anyone that can figure out what it is! I am, of course, accepting guesses as of now...

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Festive Atmosphere

Everyone was in a good mood. Ironically, the hot (100F), sunny weather finally broke and gave us some cloud cover, dropping the temperature down enough to be comfortable. These nice people were kind enough to pose with their very festive balloons.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Are You Proud?

What is Pride about anyhow? Is it about being free to hold hands in public without getting bashed on the head by a 2x4? Is it about having access to civil marriage and all the rights and responsibilities that are associated with civil marriage? Is it about being able to live your life in peace without being harrassed and discriminated? Or is it one big party? An opportunity for politicians to lobby for your vote? An opportunity for companies to ask for your business? An opportunity for charities to ask for your dollars? I suppose it is all of that and perhaps just an excuse to get out of the house and enjoy a nice parade. Everyone loves a parade. Happy Pride.

Happy Pride!

We were walking down the street and the neighors said, "Happy Pride!" to which I replied with a surprised look, "it is?" They, of course, had this appalled look on their face as if I was totally clueless (which admittedly, from a social events perspective, I generally am...). In redemption, I'm packing up Bessie (the camera) and heading down to snap a few pictures for you. This one is from '98. Eek. OMG!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Mushrooms are Neat

It's always fun to see what popped up in the yard overnight. There was a mushroom in one of my pots that seemingly sprang out of nothing overnight. I suspect that the hot, humid weather is very mushroom friendly and this little mushroom was lurking in the potting mix. Whatever the case, it was fun to snap a picture of and quite pretty. It's probably poisonous as a pufferfish; however, any mushroom experts out there are invited to weigh in. The true color is a teensy bit lighter (grin). We'll see if it's still there tomorrow.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Stanhopea Days

Stanhopea flowers are fragrant enough to smell from a household away and are strangely beautiful in a "from outer space" sort of way. They come in all "flavors"; for example, some smell like chocolate mint while still others smell like mothballs. They bloom once a year and last a few days but when they bloom, they work really hard pumping out frangrance. The fragrance attracts the large bees that pollinate them. Each Stanhopea is pollinated by a different bee species and has a different shaped lip to funnel that particular bee past the pollen, having evolved for just that bee. They are fascinating to say the least. Besides, I know of no other single flower that can be easily whiffed at fifty paces. Thank goodness, most of them smell nice.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Patience is a Virtue

It's summer and summer means that my cactus does it's annual splurge and blooms. It blooms a whooping once a year and the flowers stay open for all of a day. Admittedly, when it blooms, it's really something special. This year, it had two HUGE blossoms (bigger than your hand) that are sparkling white with that awesome avocado green starburst center. I suppose it was worth weeding around all those prickly spines although I would have been really bummed if it had bloomed while I was on business travel. Overall, I'd say the cactus still rates two thumbs up.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Fleeting Moments

Sometimes precious things are fleeting, like a dragonfly on a leaf, staying for a moment and then flying away in as fast a blur as they arrived. Life seems that way sometimes or perhaps our youth, at least. When you're there, it seems like an eternity and yet, in hindsight, only a moment. Is it just a trick of perspective or was it really just a moment?

The photo is of a beautiful cobalt blue dragon fly resting on a taro leaf in my back yard early this morning.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Rock Jumping Stunts

I was chatting with a lady at Seven Sacred Pools as I was about to do a backflip off of a rock into one of the pools (pool #2, if you must know). Just before I flipped, I said, "what Mom doesn't know, won't hurt her!". I said it in jest of course. However, she, being a Mom, was not amused as her kids were jumping off of rocks as well(without a scratch I might add)!

These kids in Kihei had a running dare to see who could do the most outrageous thing off of that rock. This one did a handstand. Another did a spread eagle belly flop and the third (seen standing to the right) did a modified belly flop holding his feet and hands together backwards (you'd have to see it...). It made for some good amusement watching but I'd hate to be the one that had to pull one out of the water if they missed.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Another Hot Day

The weather was in the high ninety's again. It was very tempting to stay in and avoid the head. However, I gave the air conditioner a little rest and headed out to the mall for a little bit in search of picture frames and mat. As luck would have it, the $40 picture frames were on sale again for a whooping 40% off. That meant that I could stock up! Shop, shop, shop!

I also needed to replace pretty much all of my shoes. My last pair of tennies bit the dust hiking through the a'a lava fields in Kehena, Maui. A'a is the razor sharp, pointy lava where your shoes really earn their keep. Turns out my old running shoes were absolutely shredded by the time I'd been through the lava field twice (but my feet were intact -- a good thing). So, it was off to Nordstrom's rack to check out the discount shoes. Three pairs later (two pairs of running shoes and one pair of dress shoes for work), I was really beginning to wonder if I was going to hate myself come credit card time. Nevertheless, I managed to find one last item in the mall before heading back home and stoking up the air conditioning.

The picture is from the cliffs above Black's Beach in La Jolla, California.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Bat Rays

It was 99F today. HOT. I could hear the whine of air conditioners as I watered the yard this morning. I was hoping the water in the yard would cool things down at least a little bit. We were toughing it out with the windows open but, at 2pm, the power went out. That was the last straw. It was Beach Time!

When it's hot in San Diego, it seems that half the city goes to the beach. Parking is horrible and there are huge mobs on the sand, on the boardwalk and in the water. It's not bad if you get there early in the morning but by afternoon, it's packed to the gills. So we opted for the infamous Black's Beach instead of the more accessible Mission Beach or La Jolla. Black's requires a lengthy hike down a steep sandstone cliffs that can be slippery and trecherous at times. Needless to say, Black's never gets quite as crowded as the mainstream beaches.

I like Blacks because it has more wildlife. In the winter, when it's pretty empty, there are huge flocks of birds and sometimes there are dolphins surfing in the waves. Today, there were Bat Rays. If you stood in one spot, you could see up to 10 or more hovering over the sand within any 20 foot radius. They were about a foot long, probably babies feasting on the plentiful clams and crustaceans in the shallow tidal surge to fatten up before they risked the open ocean. They were actually pretty cute and a lot of fun to watch. You did have to WATCH to make sure you didn't accidentally step on one (major downside of wading with Bat Rays); however, if you were careful, they provided great entertainment.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Pet Egret

The cattle egrets at the hotel in Maui were very tame. You could drive by and they would barely flinch. This one was slowly stalking through the ground cover, every now and then snatching up a fat bug. I followed him for about 50 feet, snapping pictures with my portable camera, watching him dine on tender bees and grasshoppers. The egrets were there every afternoon and were fun to watch. In the morning there were two small quail-like birds who also prowled the parking lot for a quick meal; however, they were pretty camera shy and will not be gracing these pages.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Molokini Atoll

There have been books written about Molokini atoll full of dozens of pictures of myriad swarms of brightly colored fish. Thus, when I went to Maui, it was on the list of attractions I had to see. In addition, I had my little mail order underwater pocket digital camera that I really wanted to try out underwater to see if it made much of a difference over those semi-disposable underwater cameras that they sell at Walmart.

Molokini crater is the last remnants of a sinking volcanic crater just off the coast of Maui. About half of the rim is still above water and the crater slope has turned into a beautiful coral reef. The water, however, is deep and possibly more suited for scuba diving than snorkeling but there are lots of brightly colored fish, if generally at a distance. Given that I grew up in Hawaii, I'm generally comfortable skin diving and spurned those nasty little floats they were handing out to the (other) tourists and dove right in with my trusty little digicam.

The picture above is a school of chromis (and a stray wrasse) that were hovering above a large coral head, glinting in the filtered sun. As for the camera, I definitely recommend digital. As opposed to the disposable where I had to develop each roll, only to find that onely one in 20 or so pictures was decent, the digital probably brought the percentage of decent pictures to around 70-80% and the rest I deleted. The number of truly memorable shots likewise went up. That being said, I suspect that a really good digital setup with external strobe would likewise improve even more above that. We'll see if I spot for a case for the digital SLR or not. They're awful expensive , big, bulky and more suited for scuba than skin diving so I may just live with the budget digicam for now. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hawaiian Delicacies

What did Hawaiian's snack on? One hint is the word pupu which is from Hawaiian but now used in North America as well to refer to a little snack or hors d'oeuvre. Ironically, in Hawaiian, the word pupu is also a general term referring to both seashells and land snails, some of which ended up as snacks or pupus. One of the favorite seashells to snack on is the Opihi (or limpet) as seen in the photo (white w/ black stripes). Just as abalone is considered a delicacy in the mainland, in Hawaii, Opihi is considered "ono" (i.e., really delicious). Thus, imagine my surprise to see these decent-sized opihi on an easily accessible Maui beach, living unmolested. As best I can figure, the mainlanders that have moved in have not acquired a taste for the little algae eating Opihi and thus, these little guys got a reprieve. The purple guys are called wana (general name for the urchin family in Hawaii) and were also eaten although I cannot attest to having tried one myself.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Deer in the Headlights

This little guy is looking up at that surfer like a deer in the headlights, likely hoping really hard that he doesn't get run over by the board. I suppose that is why some beaches have dedicated swim and surf areas marked out. The surfer casually steered around the kid but I think he gave him a good scare. I think, faced by an oncoming board, I would have been tempted to head underwater and hope for the best but then the surfer wouldn't know where to avoid either so...messiness either way.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Play Well With Others

I just returned from the airport parking garage. Generally, the drivers are really nice and very courteous. Tonight's driver was rough around the edges. The dispatch told him several times to wait for 3 more people and he promptly left anyway. I barely got on the van by running to the door just as he was shutting the luggage area. However, 3 unlucky people had a long wait. It didn't help that the selfish-minded guy in the front seat was egging on the driver to leave, likely so he could get home a little earlier. The driver smelled something fierce and drove like a maniac. He looked like he hadn't shaved for a week. When it came to moving a cone out of the way from in back of one of the customer's cars, he just kicked it over to the side. Some people wonder why they can't seem to get ahead in life and never realize that their lack of social skills (and respect for other people) keep them from getting ahead. Everyone's got their problems but it's how we deal with them that separate us.

As for the fish above, as best I could figure out, he is in the Genus Rhinopias, the Lacy Scorpionfish. He looks kind of like a Rhinopias frondosa but, honestly, the more lacy scorpionfish pictures I looked at the more confused I got. While he appears to be pretty gaudy, if you put him in amidst rocks covered in red coraline algae and seaweed, he blends right in.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Leopard Shark

Leopard shark in Kelp. Do you suppose he's hungry? Lucky for me there was a bit of glass between me and Guido.

The heatwave continues. Hot and sticky. It was enough to get me outside and pull weeds in the back yard. I noticed that some of the plants have grown significantly and others appear to be suffering badly in the heat. The plants around the sprinkler are the ones growing and the ones being blocked are, as you would guess, the ones that are shriveling up.

A hummingbird came by to buzz around the water from the hose as I watered the plants. It's amazing how tame those little guys are. I suppose they're used to people because of the hummingbird feeder out back. I'm guessing he/she was thirsty and/or hungry as the feeder was dry and the weather is so very hot, even for them. I filled the feeder back, after feeling sorry for the thirsty little guys enduring this heat. Come to think about it, the bees were all buzzing around the sprinkler heads as well. Even the bees are thirsty!

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Most times surfers roll over the top of the wave to exit. However, every now and then someone crashes and burns in a spectacular way, arms flying, board winging through the air. This was one of those moments, actually one of a series of shots as the surfer fell, board flew up and came splashing down. It looked painful.

It was brutally hot today, with the mercury climbing up to around 105F. San Diegans were flocking to any place cool in droves. The malls, the movie theaters, the beach and in my case, the aquarium where all that cold dark water made for a nice comfy afternoon compliments of the Scripp's Aquarium. I popped by the pier afterwards to see if anyone did anything entertaining and was rewarded with that wipeout up above. Parking, however, was a nightmare with people circling round and round for blocks. The water was still a bit chilly but welcome on a day like today.

Friday, July 14, 2006

By Popular Demand...

Voila, a picture of yours truly under the falls at the Seven Sacred Pools in Maui trying very hard to look studly but mostly managing to look like a limp fish. The water was very cool and refreshing but not icey cold as most Hawaiian mountain streams are. I'm guessing it's because the weather was quite warm and the water flow was a little slower than usual. The falls still made quite a show. The only way to get to the falls was to swim about 100 yards across the pond/lake as the rock sides were steep and slippery with moss. I dare say it was the most fun I've had in a while.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Oh So Friendly

Even the octopi are friendly on Maui. Or perhaps he was just hungry (grin). Or was it a she? Either way, this octopus was being very photogenic and hence brought to you in full color.

Meanwhile, I'm back at work again. Amazing how many things can stack up at the office when you're away. I ran into one of my coworkers at the office who was just back from working out the second time today and was looking quite fit. I asked how he found the time and he said he just did it and the work waits. I suppose we all have our priorities. The question is where does being healthy and happy fit against work? Humph. Where indeed?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Rolley Poli Poli Park

This is a picture of Poli Poli Park. Because Haleakala extends some 10,000 feet above sea level, many different climate zones are supported on the volcano slopes. Poli Poli has rolling grass slopes covered with long needled pine trees. Cool mist rolls in during the afternoons, vaguely reminiscent of Northern California. There is a one lane road leading up to Poli Poli and, at some point, there are two signs that say "Danger, flash floods" and "4 wheel drive required". Having just seen a flat bed tow truck going down the road with an unsuccessful visitor, we turned around at this point, missing the rest of the wonders of Poli Poli. Oh yeah, sorry about the rhyme (Rolley Poli Poli), I couldn't resist.

Maui Beaches

Maui has a lot of beautiful white sand beaches. Ironically, as jam packed with tourists as Maui is, you can still find a deserted beach or two with a little looking. This picture is of Po'olenalena Beach at about 10am in the morning. The back side of the beach is lined with $10 million homes but Hawaii has a beach access law that lets everyday Joes like us visit these spots.

Ironically, Kaanapali, one of the most famous beaches on Maui is just a thin sliver of a white sand beach and the water was washing up to the top of the beach drenching sunbathers. Kaanapali was also jam packed with wealthy, well fed, untanned tourists.

The moral of this story is it pays to look around for an uncrowded beach unless, of course, you're just there to shop.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Nakalele Blowhole

Today we went North along the West coast of Maui past Kaanapali, Napili and Honolua Bay up to the Nakalele Blowhole. The path to the Nakalele Blowhole was downright eerie. The road from the parking lot wound down through rolling sandy hills covered with loose grass and little pancaked stacks of rocks that silouetted against the ocean landscape. At the base of the hills was a large, complex, round pattern done in white rocks that likely had some sort of religious significance. The path then wound through a jagged, carved lava landscape that included large layers of iron-rich red lava, cut into dark caves, and dramatic overhangs. A light salt mist drifted everywhere, replenished by rythmic blasts from the two (yes, two) blow holes. The roar of the surf and the whoosh of air in the blowholes filled the air. The Nakalele Blowhole launched a huge spray of mist into the air in rhythm with each large wave sending plumes up at least 30 feet into the air and blanketing everything with salt mist. The mist was so pervasive, I wiped the lens of the camera with my T-Shirt to bring you this shot.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Nene Goose Handouts

The Nene goose is the Hawaii state bird. They are the result of Canadian geese that were likely stranded in the islands long ago, possibly blown off course by a storm, and evolved over thousands of years. To the untrained eye they still look like Canadian Geese. However, Hawaii had no native goose predators and the opportunistic geese grew used to staying onland, feasting on a diet of native berries (Kukae Nene Berries). As they now live in a grassy, relatively arid environment, they have lost much of the webbing on their feet and can thus be easily differentiated from their Canadian cousins.

This nene goose was one of two geese hanging out by the garbage bin at one of the trail heads in Haleakala National Park. They were both waiting hopefully for handouts, similar to their Canadian cousins who are known to beg for meals when the opportunity permits. They were close to the parking lot and hopefully have learned not to wander in back of cars. They appeared to stay on the grass and away from the pavement so I'm hopeful that they'll have long and healthy goose lives.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Waimoku Falls

If you take the trail from the Seven Sacred Pools and the Kipahulu Visitor Center for 1.83 miles, you end up at the 400 foot Waimoku Falls. The falls are so sheer, you need a wide angle lens to catch them all in one shot. This shot was taken through a cool, light drizzle which caused some haze in the early afternoon sunlight. We were hiding the lens under a backback to keep the raindrops off of the lens.

The hike to Waimoku falls goes past huge Mango trees, a dense, dark bamboo forest and beautiful, non-native tropical foliage. The side of the trail has numerous overlooks over huge aquamarine pools carved out of the lava cliffs and numerous water falls some trickling and others rushing down lava precipices, each covered with ferns and lush green moss. Overall, it was worth doing the Hana drive a second time and a fun, if drizzly, afternoon.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Carefree Spinner Dolphins

There is nothing quite like the joy and fascination of having dolphins alongside your boat. I lay on the bow, looking over into the clear blue ocean, the deck texturing pressing into my skin with my feet hooked over a railing. The spinner dolphins paced the boat, cruising effortlessly through the water like birds in flight, neither swimming away nor being overtaken. Every few minutes, a few dolphins would peel off to the side and jump in rapid spirals into the air, seeming expressing the sheer joy of being wild and free within the ocean. Eventually, the boat stopped to look at the lava formation on the edge of the bay and the dolphins cruised off to investigate a kayak, leaving in as carefree and fun loving a manner as they came, spinning leaps into the air, water splashing into bright droplets as they pummeled back into the sea. As they moved into the distance, I am left with wonder at how they can live so simple and carefree a life, no worries to drag them down, just a certain curiosity and joy for life that makes these creatures so very precious.

Jumping off of Rocks

Where there are rocks, there will be jumping. We went up to see the Iao Needle and there were kids jumping off of the rocks into the pool below. Frankly, there were kids jumping off of rocks at the beach in front of the hotel and also at the seven sacred pools. Hmmm. Let's see. Rocks + Kids = jumping. Chuckle. Well, okay, I jumped off a few too. It's fun. You should try it. I wouldn't recommend Iao though. The water looked way too shallow although admittedly nobody got hurt.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Happy Fourth of July

Happy Fourth of July! We spent the morning skin diving among huge schools of fish in Makena, made a dash for the shade of the aquarium in the afternoon and spent the evening dining and watching fireworks in Lahaina. Overall, a very busy day. The camera was very busy as well. This little Green Sea Turtle seemed to have a hankering for my lens and was being very photogenic.

About Makena, you need to walk over a somewhat trecherous lava field to get to the tide pools and small bays that people skin dive in. The lava is all pointy, sharp "a'a" (aptly named) so it's worth taking it slow and with a clear head (no colds, no hangovers). There are really cool anchialine pools along the way that are filled with greenish water with tiny red lava shrimp (opae ula, about the size of a pencil tip). They don't photograph real well from above but they are fun to watch. Once you get to the pools, don't let the small size of some of the tidepools fool you. They are full of myriad, brightly colored fish and sea creatures. Ironically, the best fish and schools are a little further out but the quietest, bubble/surge-free water is in the inner pools which makes for clearer pictures further in.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Seven Sacred Pools

It's the third of July and there were a lot of people on vacation this week, myself included. Many of them showed up at the Seven Sacred Pools outside of Hana. Some of them even tried their hand at Cliff diving. The fellow in the photo was jumping off of a 15 foot cliff into a deep pool of cold mountain water. Admittedly, the water was really refreshing, being not exceedingly cold and nor excessively warm. I even tried a wayward jump or two myself!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Kihei and Kahoolawe

This is the view off of the beach at Kihei, Maui looking out towards Kahoolawe (pronounced Ka Hoe O Lav A) with the Molokini crater in the foregound. Kahoolawe is famous for having been a Air Force bombing range that has since been reclaimed by the native Hawaiians as one of their ancient sacred locales after much protest. Molokini is a sunken volcanic crater that is host to an amazing coral reef and is also a booming diving destination. I hope to get out there with the camera while I'm here. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Kihei Bound

It's off to Kihei, Maui for some fun, sun and lots of photography. Hold on to your seats. There is nothing like lugging two cameras and multiple sets of batteries to make you wish that camera gear was lighter and smaller. If I'm lucky, I'll catch some decent turtle pictures. If not, we may have to make do with the landlubber snaps. Cross your fingers.

Zebra Tang

I love staring into salt water fish aquariums. They had a pretty large tank (perhaps 100 gallons) in the flight lounge at Beijing airport. In it, was this large zebra tang who would periodically puff up his fins and make quite a show.

There was also a very nice lady working there that brought me a plate of grapes and cherry tomatos as well as some orange juice. I could seriously get used to all that wonderful service. I wrote her a nice note to show to her boss for being so helpful. I suppose waiting for flights isn't all bad.

Art in the Simplest of Things

Here is a tank of shrimp destined for some lucky Chinese dinner table. Shortly after this shot, some Chinese guy in a sweat-slick, thin white t-shirt, shorts and flip flops graps a big net and carefully scoops out a wiggling mass of around 50 shrimp for one of the tables.

I really love this picture. It's not because it is particularly focused or artistic per se. It's because I could watch those shrimp swim around for hours [the local Qing Dao'ers probably thought I was some weird tourist staring at their food, but hey, who's to know either way]. It's oddly peaceful and graceful. The light glimmers through the thick green glass in a calming, reflective sort of way as the water from the tanks above gently overflowed the rim of the shrimp tank, giving it that "shot through moving water" look. The sheer number of shrimp swimming, crawling and otherwise just hanging out in that tank is amazing.