Sunday, November 30, 2008

Lichen or Not...

Lichen, glowing gold in the late afternoon sun after a Winter rain. Lichen is a pioneer plant, growing on rock that sets the process going towards creating organic matter for other more complex plants to grow in.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Beauty Everywhere

Prickly Pear Fruit, Mission Trails Park. I saw these growing along side the road on the way back from a short hike. The concentric rings on the end of the fruit, likely where the multitude of petals on the prickly pear flowers used to attach, fascinated me as they were highlighted by little concentric shadows by the setting sun.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Turkey, Not Duck!

Two male Cinnamon Teals, Anas cyanoptera. The boys were taking a spin together. Mrs. duck (not shown) was following close behind. I love the way these Cinnamon Teals just glow orange in the setting sun. The beauty of the birds, the quiet and tranquility of it all made a nice end for Thanksgiving and a please post rain break. They say the rest of the weekend will be sunny!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Monja Blanca, The White Nun

Lycaste skinneri variety alba, also know as Monja Blanca, the white nun, in it's native habitat of Guatamala. It was proclaimed the national flower of Guatemala in 1934 by the dictator Ubico and is found in Alta Verapaz, in the northwest of the country. It is fragrant and showy, but difficult to grow; commercial use is prohibited in Guatemala. It is said to symbolize peace, beauty, and art.

It's still raining here. We hit a 100 year record of about 1" which, for this semi-arid climate, is quite a lot. Perhaps it will put off water rationing for another year. Meanwhile, this Lycaste is one of the many orchids blooming in the greenhouse that makes the rainy weather that much brighter.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Birds for Miss Birdie

Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia reginae with droplets from last nights rain. It rained last night and the air smells oh so fresh (for once). No smog in sight. Just droplets of rain on everything, that wonderful, moist, clean air and a fresh, bright new crop of bird of paradise! In the background is my trusty fig tree...

According to our friends at Wikipedia, Strelitzia reginae is indigenous to South Africa where it is pollinated by Sunbirds! When the Sunbird perches on that bright blue spathe to drink the nectar, the spathe opens to cover his/her feet in pollen. How's that for co-evolution. It means that they don't get pollinated here very often. No Sunbird, no pollination. The scientific name, Strelitzia, commemorates Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, queen consort of King George III.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Good Times for an Old Dog

There's nothing sadder than watching your dog grow old and not be able to run along with you. This guy found a nice way to take the aged dog along and still get his exercise. Not a bad life after all.

Monday, November 24, 2008

It's Raining Terns

Caspian Tern, Sterna caspia and Far Eastern Curlew, Numerius madagascariensis. Oh, call me crazy but that long, long beak looks like a Far Eastern Curlew. Probably more likely a Bristle-Thighed Curlew in these parts but hey, you never know. Anyhow, I'm snapping a picture of the Curlew and the Caspian Tern just falls out of the sky right in front of the Curlew. Feeling photogenic perhaps. They exchange glances (like in, hey, nice of you to drop by...). The Tern grabs a little water weed and flys off. Weirdest thing I ever saw. What did you do this weekend?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Willet or Not...

Willet, Catoptrophorus semipalmatus. I saw this Willet ducking under an overpass as the low rays of the setting sun lit the waters at a low angle. It made for a dramatic shot with the water appearing almost black! Now if only I could get him to turn around and smile!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Object D'Art

I was mussing around with the photo editor just for chuckles. Here's what I came up with. I can't say it's prettier than what I started with but it's kind of fun anyhow.

Friday, November 21, 2008

By Special Request

A Great Blue Heron, by special request, for our wonderful Miss Birdie! This Heron was hanging out by the water. It wasn't napping as you can tell by those beadie little eyes that were watching me carefully. It wasn't looking for fish. It appeared to just be relaxing in the sun. I, as you can imagine, used the opportunity to snap some 40 shots from different angles and with different depth of field just to make sure that some of them came out nice!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oooooooooh, Aaaaaaah

Stanhopea candida blooming inside my greenhouse. Spectacular, fragrant, dainty, pure white flowers! They only last a few days but the plant blooms multiple times. Beautiful.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Great Egret

Great Egret, Ardea alba, taking wing at the Mission River Sanctuary. The Great Egrets are beautiful, graceful birds but they are a little photo shy and normally don't let you get close enough for a really great picture, even with the big, big lens!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wouldn't A Pet Osprey Be Nice?

Osprey with Flounder, Mission River Preserve. I was looking for my favorite Osprey at the Mission River Preserve. He normally hangs out near the overpass, sometimes on a stick in the middle of the river. I was walking back, wondering if he (she?) had left us when, what should I see flapping by with a flounder in tow, but our favorite Osprey. I have to admit, besides being pleased to see him, that I was most impressed that a bird that size can carry a fish that big up into the air. There's some serious strength in those wings!'s a major bummer to be a fish in shallow water, even a decent sized fish! Wow.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pelican Days

Pelican flying low over the river. This pelican was hunting for fish at the surface and would periodically dive into the river with some crazy, neck wrenching, giant splash.

Sometimes it's just nice to hang out and watch the birds. No stress, no craziness, just the sun sparkling on the water and the birds doing what birds do.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Duck and Cover

The ducks are back! It's my favorite part of fall as the huge flocks of every sort of species of duck and waterfowl converge onto our San Diego waterways. Shown is a large flock of ruddy ducks in their dusky fall plummage.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Christmas in November

Christmas Cactus. They are all blooming in a wonderful rainbow of colors. This one was a lovely shrimp-color when I bought it years ago. It turns out that the flowers in the sun are lighter and the ones in the shade, like this one, are darker.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Hot Weather Is Back

The weather is back in the 80s and 90s. The windows are open and it's time to head to the beach! Unfortunately, the hot fall weather brings fires as well and Santa Barbara is having a rough go of it. Still, it's a shame to waste some good beach weather.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Got Elephants in Your Tea?

Elephant teapot. Potter's Guild Show, Balboa Park. There were two of these and they were really cool but...they were around $300 each. In this economy, that was just a little too pricy for my pocketbook. So, the picture had to do. Cute little buggers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

More Potter's Guild; Color Addiction!

WOW! Call me a color addict but this piece of pottery with the pomegranate within just jumped out an hit me with the brilliant colors and intricate patterns. I'm thinking I should have bought this one. Maybe next time...

MSNBC Keith Olberman on Proposition 8

Click here to view MSNBC Keith Olberman on Proposition 8. It is a moving plea for compassion and love.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Potters' Guild

The Potters' Guild had their show in Balboa Park on Sunday. There were all sorts of wondrous and beautiful things. This mug was one of the moderately priced items but with lots of character! There were others with crystals that sparkled gold in glowing glazes or rough textures that looked like wood.

While it was sunny, there was a strong, gusty wind that was whipping up table cloths, knocking over tents and crashing an occasional ceramic. Not the best thing during a pottery show. Nonetheless, I managed to complete most of my Christmas shopping in a whirlwind of pottery shopping. I just need to figure out how to get them to Hawaii!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Little Sun

Phalaenopsis equestris 'Gino' JC/AOS. This is a peloric Phalaenopsis, meaning it is a genetic mutant with three labellums. In the low rays of the setting sun, the dramatic petals make for long shadows that contrast with the rich lavender tones that fly out at you as the dainty flowers drift lightly in the breeze.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Joy in the Little Things

The ducks are back! Meanwhile, Dad's got a firm hand on Junior's leg while Junior feeds the ducks and coots. Otherwise, Junior would probably dive right in! I remember when I was a kid and my parents would take me to the zoo to feed the pigeons. Yeah, they were just pigeons but it was a big thing back then and going to the zoo was free. Good, cheap, fun. We used to bring palm leaves for the petting goats from the Areca palm in the front yard too. Sometimes it's the little things that make life fun.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Sun Shines at the Darkest Hour

Storm clouds over Mission Gorge. The sun has a funny way of breaking through the darkest clouds! Of course, for those days when it does not seem like the sun will ever shine, there are also photo editors!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Simply Splendid

Schomburkia spledida. These orchids come from Colombia and Ecuador in dry montane forests at around 2000-3000 feet. The flowers bloom out in huge balls of color with bright pink bracts and glossy, walnut colored sepals and petals and that bright lavender lip. The only downside is that they grow quite large and the flower spike is even larger, stretching up some 3-4 ft. They are pretty enough to be worth the wait!

Meanwhile, I'm getting back into the swing of the things. You know the drill, work, study, sleep, eat. Everyone at work is being quite supportive. After work, I went down to the no on 8 headquarters and it was kind of sad, seeing it empty and dark after all the hustle and bustle. I could become a campaign junkie, addicted to all the excitement and cool people that get together! A doggone shame that it takes such an evil proposition to get all those nice people to get together.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

From Ashes and Twigs Come Hope

I'm a little tuckered out right now after the roller coaster of emotions associated with proposition 8. I really shouldn't be rolled around by these things anymore as the religious right has been throwing these propsitions at us for years without end. I ought to be numb by now but somehow it always hurts a bit knowing that there are strangers who would be so quick to judge us without having even met us. Of course, they don't deserve the satisfaction of causing us grief. They've caused enough mischief for one election year without us giving them any more benefit to their misdeeds.

The flower in this picture is from Mission Gorge Park. It signifies rebirth of hope out of the dry, seemingly lifeless twigs that the delicate flowers faithfully burst forth from each year. Life, you see, goes on and we are but a blink of an eye in the cosmos. Sometimes, it's best not to take ourselves and our politics too seriously. At least, not until the next battle, for it will surely come.

Not Over Until It's Over

The lead that Proposition 8 gained in the generally poorer, less educated, farming focused inland counties eroded last night. We're now at 52% for proposition 8 and 48% against proposition 8. They're still counting ballots from the richer, more educated coastal areas and mail in ballots. It seems unlikely to be enough to overcome two more percentage points but hope runs Eternal.

Still, if there is hope, it is in the overwhelming support of the legal profession, the teaching profession, actors and actresses, sports stars and other highly visible segments of the population. There is hope in the huge amounts of money we were able to raise in defense of our rights. There is hope in a new openness and activism of not just gays and lesbians but of substantial allies. There is hope in the resounding victories of Democrats in political office everywhere. The battle has just begun and the tide will reveal the truth, that discrimination is not right no matter what religious garb you dress it in.

If there is one big disappointment for me, it is the willingness of the Mormon and Catholic Church to throw millions of dollars at a battle to perpetuate discrimination at a time when our economy is in the trenches, at a time when there are far too many worthy people and families going hungry and unemployed, especially in those same poor uneducated areas that most supported Proposition 8. These people do not need messages of hate, they need food, jobs and education. I ask the Church where the mission of charity has gone and when it was replaced by one of hate and vindictiveness, by one of separation and the politics of self-justification. The Church has wandered from her mission of hope, service and salvation. Let us hope that she finds her way back before it is too late, lest final judgment find her sorely lacking.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Polls Have Closed

The polls have closed. The results are rolling in. Senator John McCain has conceded and we have a new president elect, Barak Obama. The vote is going strongly Democrat and the Democrats are likely to hold a healthy majority in both houses of Congress. This is a huge repudiation of the policies of the current administration and a strong comment by the people of this nation on the adverse state of the economy and of our international policy. It provides hope that sometimes the people can see beyond the divisive strategies used by the Repulicans and can rise up for something different.

On the other hand, the very misleading advertising on the pro-proposition 8 campaign has, with a minority of districts reporting, been effective with proposition 8 in the lead, 54% to 46%. The news does not say which districts reported so far. Overall, the stance on proposition 8 has been heavily biased by district with rural districts being generally pro-prop. 8 and urban and city districts being generally against prop. 8. Overall, this one will probably not be decided until late into the night.

Of course, prosition or not, the bigotry will not stop overnight. The vitriol behind this proposition proves that discrimination is alive and well in Amercia, even in California. Still, there is hope to be found in the amazing degree of support for the gay and lesbian community shown by our political and corporate leaders in one of the most expensive proposition-related political campaigns in U.S. history. There is hope in the support shown by our youth voters and by our educated and professional classes. There is hope in the strong Democrat majority in the State and in Congress. There is hope in the growing awareness of gay and lesbian issues. This proposition will be a nail biter into the night but perhaps the real battle is being fought every day as we make people aware of the bigotry and injustice faced by gays and lesbians. Progress is slow and always hard won but I can atest that, even in my lifetime, attitudes have changed dramatically and proposition or not, that march towards equality will continue.

Back to the Fuschia

California fuschia, Epilobium canum. This was blooming in the parking lot at Mission Gorge Park. It was really nice to see any wildflowers blooming during this hot, dry time of year. That being said, it rained today for the first time in months (of any significance anyhow). Traffic was slow and packed on the highway. I'm not sure how it affected the voting crowd. The polls will tell later tonight.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Vote No on 8

Voting day is upon us. I would be remiss if I didn't remind our California readers to please vote NO on Proposition 8. Someone asked me, why does the "word" marriage matter if gays and lesbians already have domestic partnerships? There are two answers to that:
1. If the word "marriage" doesn't matter since gays and lesbians already have domestic partnerships, why are the conservatives so up in arms about it? Why not let gays and lesbians marry just like everyone else?
2. Words do matter. Clearly there wouldn't be such a big fight if they didn't. Gay and lesbian teens have a much higher suicide rate. Think of how hard it is to grow up in the closet knowing the people around you, often the ones you love hate gays and lesbians just like you? No wonder gay and lesbian kids run into issues with depression and suicide. What about the married people and their spouses that suffer for years in marriages where one spouse was gay but married to avoid the stigma. The whole family suffers. What do you think it is like to think that your parents, spouse, kids and friends hate you or, at least, this one very important part of you, IF ONLY THEY KNEW? Having separate but different labels, domestic partnership versus marriage, only perpetuates the belief that it is just fine to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

Please, if you live in California, vote NO on proposition 8 and help make this world a little kinder, gentler and saner.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Stenoglottis Blooming Faithfully

Stenoglottis (longifolia x fimbriata). Stenoglottis are terrestrial orchids from South Africa where they grow in humus or on mossy rocks at around 1300 meters. This one is a hybrid but looks very much like its parent, Stenoglottis longifolia. They are deciduous and loose their leaves each year causing a bit of worry only to pop back up shortly thereafter for the following year. The rest period in California is somewhat shorter, likely because I have them mixed in with the tropical epiphytes and the water doesn't cut off like it would in their native South African habitat. My plant has bloomed faithfully for years now, a present from a friend in the AOS judging system.

There are clouds and cold breezes today. It looks like rain. Perhaps it is a nice break after all the heat although the sun was indeed nice. Where was the rain yesterday when the out of state (and in-state) proposition 8 supporters were congregating in the stadium? I don't understand why people that oftentimes have never met an out gay or lesbian can be so vitriolic in their discrimination and hatred. Or, perhaps that is the precise problem. The gays and lesbians in their own families and among their own friends are suffering silently in hiding, allowing the bigots to go on believing that they don't know any of "those" gays and lesbians. Or, maybe, they, themselves, are deep in denial. Could it be?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Pumpkin Cheesecake and Chocolate Mousse!

The neighbors had a Halloween party tonight. I put on my little plastic suit of armor and a long plastic sword. What would we do without plastic anyhow? Of course, the suit of armor gives an instant muscular physique that's tough to beat! Everyone had a nice time and I'm feeling a little plumper now after nibbling on the wings, pumpkin cheesecake and chocolate mousse. I am ready to do battle with Win Vista 64 again (slow as molasses after the last update). Hope you all had a nice Halloween.