Sunday, May 31, 2009


I met up with the same folks, give or take, with whom I went to the bug and globe exhibit a couple weeks ago and we hit the LA Zoo today. The weather was fantastic for walking around in the sun because it was a rather chilly 65 to 70 and hazy most of the day. The sun came out for our last hour or so and I started to notice the heat of it. The zoo is open from 10-5. We met there at 11 and I was thinking it was only 2 or 3, partly due to the late warmth which in my area rolls in around 1 on foggy mornings,, but we left at 4:30. It was surprising to find out how late it was; the time flew.

We really enjoyed the heck out of ourselves. I learned about a bird with a reversible toe, I saw my first live agouti (agouti was the mnemonic for a friend's phone number, years ago), a monstrous silverback gorilla surprisingly dove down a hillside on his belly slip-n-slide style, chimps did a little parade, and the giraffes were entertaining for long stretches. At the entrance, they'd had a warning sign that the animals might seek shelter as it could rain (and they would not give rainchecks or refunds if so). Far from that, the animals seemed to delight in the mild weather and were out and about and far more active - and vocal! - than I usually see zoo animals. I not only got some pictures, I took some brief videos.

A good number of the photos were focused on the enclosure rather than the animal which limits the selection I'm willing to share globally, but not to worry, the odd and therefore interesting ones mostly came through.

The meercats do a good job of sentry duty at the front of the zoo walk.
LA Zoo meercat on alert

Cranky Otter can't go to a zoo with otters and not get a picture of otters, but it was a near thing. They were hiding. There were at least 2 *under* another blanket in a hammock nest. We had all sorts of speculations about what they were up to as they were quite wiggly.
LA Zoo distant view of river otter in ugly hammock

There was a whole family of giraffes. There was one caged up around the corner (there were giraffe-flu jokes floated), but here are the rest, small to large. What was amazing to me was how utterly still the baby was for most of this. The others wandered and scratched and ate and flicked, but the baby just stood close to mom and tried not to draw attention. Didn't work, being cute in a big display and all, but the instincts were good.
LA Zoo 5 giraffes of varying sizes

Later, dad wandered off in search of leaves almost, almost out of reach. Check out that big ol black tongue! And the fractal like edges of the spots.
LA Zoo giraffe tongue sticking straight up

Then he had to lick his lips clean. I got about 12 seconds, but he spent several minute on this before I tried to get the photo. He really whipped that tongue around.

This horned DLA (deer like animal) caught us by surprise when it went over to either lick this rock, or try to giraffe-tongue its way to the overhead leaves or both. But it hung out in this position for quite a while. I think you'll agree he looks very odd. I kept expecting him to move in not so kid-friendly, drunkey "hey baby, wanna dance" way, but he kept it clean.
LA Zoo vertical deer like animal propped upright on a rock
His coloring in real life and in the picture reminds me of either plastic reindeer or fake rocks. I can't get over how fake he looks, but if you need proof, I have pictures in slightly different poses.

Another, more famous DLA, the zebra, had a prominent spot for their herd. This one kept catching my eye though, because he was just so "oh, Pooh, do you think anyone likes me? :sigh:" that I think of him as Eyeore. I think his Eyeore-ness mostly even came thru in the photo.
LA Zoo mopey zebra

After seeing the slip-n-slide gorilla show off his beer gut and stocky thighs, we saw the parade of chimps all taking their dinner from one part of the enclosure to another. I don't think I've ever seen monkeys act in a group like this at a zoo before.

There was a toddler talking to a monkey who seemed to be delighting in talking back to her for long minutes. This was his last small outburst before the mom dragged said toddler to the next display and none of the rest of us seemed to inspire him to hoot.

I think this seal's head looks like a wet daschund.
LA Zoo swimming seal with doggie shaped head and big ol eyes

The flora also had its high points. This was a vibrant burst of color.
LA Zoo bouganvilla and greenery

I liked the texture of these palms framing the newly emerging bottlebrush flowers
LA Zoo flora with red fleurs

On the whole, I don't like graffiti because of the vastness of the damage it can do to someone's stuff, creating disproportionate, usually unreimbursed, harm. A second to wreck it, and all. However, every so often, I find graffiti I like. When I went to Italy, there was a graffiti agave cactus along the "Lovers Lane" walk, carved with years of names and initials and such. It was especially cool because it was pretty much the only mauled plant. The bamboo at the zoo were not as limited in extent, but still eye catching and mostly confined to a small area. [If you want to do graffiti, make the thing you're marking up more beautiful, or make sure your ugly scratches don't matter.] Really, if you're going to mark up something, a fast growing grass kind of tops the list.
LA Zoo bamboo with graffiti

The fencing at the entrance was an art bonanza. Kudos there too.
LA Zoo artful fencing with animals cut into metal

Saving the best for last though:
Who's got the biggest balls of them all?

When we first saw this guy, he was standing up, scratching his nads, and I thought they were something attached to his fur because the connection seemed sketchy for such a big dangling clump. On further reflection, they've got to be on some bouncy tether or be rather maladaptive to a guy moving by hopping. Here he is, a kangaroo showing off his large, hairy pair.
LA Zoo kangaroo airing out his hairy balls

And the red kangaroo across the way is similarly attired.
LA Zoo red kangaroo with big dangling balls

Upon reflection, the leaping lemur video wasn't as impressive as kangaroo balls, so no zaboomafoo for you. Go to the PBS show, they really leap like that in real life. Just not when my video is rolling.

Hope you enjoyed my day at the zoo too!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cherry Season

It is cherry season at the farmer's market, but I hear the Mexican grocery across the street from work has better prices. I got tasty but expensive cherries last week. This week I got slightly cheaper cherries so I could get some white nectarines too without going over budget. But this week's cherries were too cheap. They were almost all failed double cherries. There's a South Park episode highlighting the school nurse and her dead parasitic conjoined twin and that's what today's cherries look like. I pulled off most of the dead twins because they had the beginnings of rot on the edges, and dunked the remainder in the vinegar rinse. All in all, too much work to save a dollar on insufficiently delicious cherries. I should remember the grocery and try there next time.

The boy keeps calling me from his room and trying to talk softly so he can't be overheard and it just comes out like muddled mush. I think we agreed to go out tomorrow night, and that I can go to his new house chip tile mastic off the tiles I still need to pull up from the kitchen floor because I walked on the edges and loosened them too much. We'll see if that's what we actually agreed to. Or maybe he just was trying to talk dirty and I heard "you can get dirty at my house" a little differently than he intended.

I finally gave up on the book I've been reading all week, which in and of itself is a pretty big clue that it's not drawing me in sufficiently. It started out ok. But what started as irritating quirks that needed fixing showed themselves as bad habits in the hero, and an annoying tendency to look past some really appalling behavior on the part of the heroine and they never got better. Eventually it got to the point where the characters were TSTL, the primary antagonist was both meh and nonsensical and not worth the wait. After a while, I only kept reading for the train wreck factor - until there was an actual train reversing course on the track in front of the hero. And the hero went off on another binge instead of protecting his charge from harm, and the investigative reporter heroine couldn't find him at his last known address after a week of searching for him. Um? No. By that point, I couldn't even make it through the denouement. Yeah, they probably end up together since it's a romance but who cares anymore? Not this otter. I'd been assured that I'd like this author but so far, I am not impressed. The problems were such that I'm not inclined to give her other book on my TBR pile a chance.

So to leave with my three good things for today:
  • It cheers me up to be greeted by name by the hydroponics ladies at the farmer's market.

  • I did good work at work today. And got to take cool pictures. The better pictures will be SEMs tomorrow of today's experiments. But still, I'd managed to scratch the bejezus out of a scrap wafer and it made fun patterns in the next film. It's always the bad stuff and damage that makes for interesting photos and for me takes the sting out of something that is otherwise a failure when it is now art.

  • Bridget's show on the travel channel is cute. I like it and her. She seems solid despite the icky sleeping with HH part - which certainly had its compensations, can't really hold him against her. She just comes off as friendly and has an honest enjoyment of living the good life, like she's always aware that she's having a good time and won't be taking it for granted. Honestly, though, she had me at "dogatonic". Now she's taking a helicopter tour and her first comment about taking off straight up being very cool was pretty much my first comment about helicopter flight too! How can you not like someone who eats deep fried key lime pie?

  • And baby otters!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Fleurs, Old Carpets, Sliders

I got a little time in the glass studio today, made some flowers. Hopefully they will look nice and sell. I have a booth coming up at a local PTA sponsored fair. I only need to sell two to make up my booth fee, so it should be a little relaxing. Ok, so I need to sell all of 'em to make up the studio cost, but fortunately I have a day job. Even so, it was nice having the extra day off the day job so I could sleep for one of them and still do chores and something fun was nice.

Also got a look at flake boy's new house. I don't think it had been updated since it was built in the mid-eighties and they're doing a ton, just a ton, of work on it. It's amazing how blech a house can get. The boy has contracting connections so they have some of the work hired out and are getting very dirty ripping out some nasty carpet. They have some good ideas and it will be very nice once it gets fixed up - which will probably happen before I even get going on my new bathroom vanity, hall closet, clothes closeting... but that's because they're still living elsewhere while the work is going on. And ripping out almost everything all at once. They've already made good improvements in the landscaping so the neighbors are happy.

I wandered over to Claim Jumper for dinner. It was happy hour which means yummy tri-tip sliders, a discount on my fried zucchini, and a Tropical Storm. I can highly recommend the drink if you're staggering distance from home - stay far away if you're driving. One of these years I'll get back to having a Memorial Day picnic. On that note, thanks to the troops for being ready and willing to answer the call of duty.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Risk Aversion

I have all kinds of ideas for new posts, but lack some followthrough and execution this week. Some are even in draft form, but that doesn't help you now, does it? In the meantime, check out this blurb on being risk averse nationally. I was just doing my traffic school and learned that about 6% of traffic fatalities are pedestrians. Only 22% are from high speed divided highways - meaning 72% of traffic fatalities are on city streets and non-divided highways. So pay attention, buckle up, and tell the person on the other end of your cell conversation that you'll be right back but have to pay attention when you cross the street. Wash your hands, wear a bike helmet, wear a condom, buckle up, learn to swim (wear a life jacket on boats), look both ways before you cross the street, and don't worry so much about the rest.

(Keep in mind that one way not to worry about the rest is to take action for something that is important. "Don't worry" isn't the same as "ignore" when it comes to things like energy use and carbonizing the atmosphere. Save the whales and all, just don't be afraid to fly to get to your protest.)

Another idea I had was that our voting system could be leading us to increasingly stronger partisanship. Because it's well known that the more riled up people are, the more likely they are to go vote, the more extreme candidates tend to get the people out to vote and thus win elections. Then the next round, the candidates need to be even more extreme to rile people up. Lather, rinse repeat. Add to that, in the context of this, we basically have a 2 party system. (Maybe with the GOP falling apart at the seams, there will be a third party rising from the ashes in a coming election cycle, but I don't think people are willing to give up the name.) If you vote, you're either voting for a candidate or against them. It's a pretty binary system. Voting for a third party is functionally abstaining, while still voting for someone.

But imagine if we could have ranked voting. Where there are 3 candidates A, M, and Z. A's voters are all riled up lefties. Z's voters are all riled up righties. M has a solid, but less riled constituency who may or may not get out the vote. In today's politics, it's almost impossible for M to win, guaranteeing a polarizing figure in the office. But that doesn't really represent the will of "the people" as a whole, just whoever is king of the mountain today.

Consider though:
While A's voters absolutely want A to win, they wouldn't mind so much if M won. While Z's voters absolutely want Z to win, they wouldn't mind so much if M won.

So if we could set up our voting such that you could vote for anyone you'd be ok with, A voters would vote A,M. Z's voters would vote Z,M. M's voters would vote M.
Let's say A and Z each have 42% of the vote and M has 16%, but 60% each of A and Z's voters would also vote for M. The final tally would be 42 votes for A, 42 votes for Z, and 66 votes for M. Even if all of M's voters also voted for only A or only Z, they wouldn't reach 60 votes. So despite being most everyone's 2nd choice, M is the winner because M most represents most people rather than only representing some people and not at all representing others. A voting system like this would reward moderation, centrism, and hearing both sides of the discussion. And when we lather, rinse, repeat, we get more centrism, more inclusiveness, and leaders who are not foaming at the mouth crazy assed freaks.

That, and we need to allow people to be imperfect and not rake them over the coals for all past mistakes. If the mistakes are big enough, yeah, that can disqualify them, but we scare a lot of good people out of office who just aren't willing to put their families up for the kind of scrutiny that is only looking to punish, not to inform.

Back with more happiness posts soon.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Good Deeds

Or, festive balloon centerpieces make everything shiny.

I'm a member of SWE the Society of Women Engineers. (Yet one more tidbit for someone to store away about me, along with the yak thing.) You know we're engineers or we'd call ourselves the Society of Women in Engineering or Society of Female Engineers, but no. Grammar fail.

Anyhow, one of our activities for community outreach is giving Certificates of Merit to local high school juniors and extra prizes for some Science Fair projects. The goal is to spark that sense of "hey, I could do that!" in girls showing an aptitude for and interest in math and science. It's an evening event. We do an ice cream buffet, an icebreaker, and a centerpiece design competition which gets everyone involved. This year was building a bridge from construction paper and tape that had to hold Kit-kats. The winning bridge held 33 Kit-kats, winning the box of 34 Kit-kats. Then we hand out certificates with a little speech.

The CofMs are for juniors who have taken math and science courses all three years and have a teacher recommendation. Which seems kind of paltry to me. But the more I think about it, the more sensible it is. Of course, that could be because I do the speech to introduce it and I want the parents and kids to feel like they came out for a reason, even if the ice cream buffet would have been enough, so I work on ways to talk it up. I even believe what I say! My first year here I was kind of baffled by it which is why I signed up to do the speech and talk it up.

Basically, at some point - usually in high school - girls stop getting encouraged in math and science. Without the encouragement, the tend to drift away from maintaining an interest in math and science, and these fields continually grow on the previous year's work, so getting behind can doom someone who can't catch up. (I had encouragement all the way along and I know it had an effect.) Girls still don't, on the whole, fall into math, science, or engineering by default. So the point of our evening is to get to girls who have stuck with math and science, have an aptitude for it, or show real enthusiasm or sense of science in their science fair projects to realize that they have the skills and the foundation to continue on. It's to get their parents to realize they have the skills and the foundation to continue on. And to give them an award to put on college applications.

It seemed to go well. The parents love to get pictures of their kids shaking hands on stage and the kids have a good time too. My speech was fine, if a little less practiced than last year, and the science fair presenter had good things to say too. We managed to pare the blah out of it more than last year. Parents and girls were grinning when they left. And parents thanked us for "planting that spark". Whew! This is one mission *actually* accomplished. And I feel better every year about doing it.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Tee hee! I just found out that I grew the four tiniest potatoes. They came from a fingerling potato that just grew before I could eat it. Well, actually, that happens to most of the potatoes I buy. Like so.
veggie drawer with very old sprouted potatoes

Every so often I get the urge to plant a sprouted potato, and last year, one took off particularly well. But not getting enough light in my cave, it was a little stringy. So I put it on the patio where it lived until I forgot to water it for long enough then it died. And ever since then, it's been one of those plants where I assume the neighbors walk by and ask them selves why I don't care enough to keep up with it. Until today when I was cleaning the patio.

I was cleaning the patio because I got tile mastic dust all over the dried leaves and the dust already on it. I finally got around to grinding the old mastic off the kitchen floor tiles I pried up in January. It took more effort than I would have expected and was quite a PITA. After I gave up on the chisel attachment and moved to the grinder attachment shown here, it worked better and resulted in this crowning achievement. And 80 layers of dust. (Yes, I was dumb enough to try it inside on the first tile and now I need to evict concrete dust from my carpet and everything else. The vacuum just couldn't keep up.)

backside of tile with mastic ground mostly off

So to anyone wondering why I haven't been faster at finishing the kitchen, this is one reason. The tiles, they are pesky. But for the fact that I need to pry off 5 more and clean 3 of them, I'm done with the existing set. Whew!

And in the cleanup, I decided to toss the old, dead potato plant. I got it to the front door and realized that the dirt wasn't bad (if you have a diseased plant you should toss the dirt, not reuse it), it was just dry. So I scattered it at the base of the evil fern that guards my entrance. And I noticed something that looked like a pod of spider eggs. I got a little wigged out but figured I'd rather pick it up and get rid of it then move spiders around.

Turns out, it wasn't a spider egg pod, but a tiny little potato! And there were more! In all, I found four tiny little, um, toeling potatoes.

4 tiny potatoes the size of a small toe

As you can see, they did not get big enough to be even finger sized despite fingerling parentage. They're like the cutest potatoes evah. And they were still plump like they were brand new, despite the parent plant dying in maybe November. No wonder people like potatoes, they're self storing if you just leave them be. These barely had a chance, and certainly didn't get bigger after the leaves died, but they stayed plump and juicy. I know because I ate 3 of them. I think they even tasted cute.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Go Maine!

Here's hoping for a clean sweep of New England. Voting wise, Maine is actually a lot like Georgia. So for marriage equality to get approval from the legislature and signed by the governor says things are moving forward for civil rights. We're steering that oceanliner of government another nudge toward a better heading.

Suboptimal Prime

I see my allergist every week for shots. (5 shots per week, if you're curious, and I'm currently the only one in the office getting that many.) Every so often he checks in on my other stats. This last week it was weight and blood pressure. My blood pressure is genetically low; I've never had to worry about it. My weight though, trends high. This year I'm the biggest I've ever been. I've been trying to watch it since my surgery, and have super intentions of exercising every day that haven't so far turned into super workouts, but I'm doing more than I was.

At any rate, the news isn't as bad as I thought. I porked up when coming to CA, but I only porked up by 3 pounds since last year, which for me is within the weekly noise. The groovy part is that my current weight is a prime number. I think I'll set a weight goal of a lower prime number and see if I can hit that next month. (I mean new year to be healthy about it...) From there I'd like to get to the prime number that eluded me during SEAL camp training - I plateaued about 2 pounds over it for 8 months.

That's what's been on my mind recently. Now to come up with a better plan than "go to the gym tonight".

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Mighty Mouse

Some of my best friends in the world moved to Seattle the same time I moved to SoCal. We haven't lost touch as such, but what with them having another kid and living in another state and me having a washing machine, we don't see or talk to each other as regularly as we used to when I did laundry at their house. But we do get together at Disneyland. And it was so great to see them, and so comforatble it reminds me why we are such good friends, even if we're boneheaded about keeping in touch.

This trip was a family-friend reunion and so I got to see everyone I usually only hear about and some I haven't seen since their wedding a decade ago. My friends, their brothers and SILs, kids, nieces, nephew, and other friends from seattle who are our Disney enablers. The family volume also means we took off for a family friendly dinner - my friends, their 2 kids, her dad, her brother, his wife, son, and father-in-law. We descended on Sam Woo's and it turns out that it's not only my family that can devour like a plague of locusts.

chinese food on big lazy susan

The stuff right in the front is the remains of a huge appetizer platter of meat with duck, chicken, pork, jellyfish, and sausage. The rest of the food is the first round of entrees. The jellyfish looking things on the left are bundles of taro noodles on bok choi and mushrooms, there's also some chicken and veggies, the red bin of rice, shrimp... and this is after we devoured peking duck and before they brought the giant fish. The only thing left over was a bit of the meat platter, the veggie/noodle plate, and rice.

After dinner, my friend and I returned to Disney for the fireworks and a few rides and closed the place down. We got off the Pirates of the Carribean ride at 12:03am. And realized that the Matterhorn ride is very funky and extra fun after dark. Our friends got us fastpasses to the buzz lightyear ride and a Frontier town rollercoaster, so we got in several rides in the 2 hours we had available to counterbalance spending most of the day doing kid friendly stuff. (In Fantasyland, I kept getting distracted by how he fake painted mountains at the back edge made the real sky look fake while at the same time reminding me of the real looking fake painted sky in the Venitian in Vegas.)

Disneyland is a place that is very aware of the reputation they need to live up to, and they set out to exceed it. It's my second visit and I remain utterly impressed. Like Vegas knows how to get you to gamble away your money with a smile on your face, and puts on a show unlike any other, Disney is similarly on top of their game. You go for a runty little nightly fireworks show and they amp it up to 11. Tinkerbell flies over the castle (how cool is that job!), fireworks that look like cannon shot, around the square, overhead, Catherine Wheels - the whole nine yards and a little more. They theme it up which could come off like advertising, but instead feels more like an over the top round up of everything you enjoyed throughout the day.

And knowing that things are pretty much going to go how you expect gives you great freedom to enjoy the people you're with. Usually I avoid faces in my blog, but these pictures are too joyful to hide.

almost the whole gang at Disneyland in front of the castle

the rest of the gang at Disneyland in front of the castle

Friday, May 1, 2009

Three Letter Animals

One of my less known idiosyncracies is, for reasons probably related to a beloved childhood story, I have a thing for yaks. Big ol hairy Mongolian cows if you will. If I was not such a city/condo dweller and moved to the country, after acquiring a dog (top of the list is a Portugese water dog, how odd that Bo Obama is one of the only dog breeds I know about. Now they'll prolly get more expensive. Sigh.) oh, yes, the yak. After a dog, I want a yak. Or since they don't like being lonely, several yaks. This is kind of a latent desire. I actually know very little about yaks except that they have horns and lots of hair and I want one. While I hear they're stinky, it turns out their meat is not.

I'm a little on the fence about the appropriateness of food meat being pets or vice versa but this writeup didn't weird me out as much as I thought. Probably because yaks fall into the "barnyard" grouping, not "household" grouping. Not sure if I could ever have a pet pig due to love of bacon and ham.

I found Weird Meat via a link to this photo, which cracks me up.
ostrich face closeup
Is not yak, is emu.

Photo Credit Oleg Volk