Sunday, November 7, 2010

My (Late) Summer Vacation

For about a decade now, I have been intending to take a trip to the Pacific Northwest. Finally the time had come. I had quite an itinerary planned--arrive in Portland, Oregon; hook up with friends from the Salamander forum (Jennewt from New Mexico and Jacquie from Australia); tour the Pittock Mansion and the zoo in Portland; and then head with my friends to an amphibian education weekend at a beautiful Nature Center called Opal Creek. That was all the first weekend. After that, the Australian and I would continue with a road trip around the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state.
We arrived separately in Portland within 24 hours, and it all went well, except for the motel--America's Best Value Inn Portland; avoid it if you can. And you can, because there are plenty of other low-rent motels. Jen had suggested the Shilo Inn, where we stayed when we returned to Portland. It was heaven. I want to go back to Portland just to stay at that motel.

Here is the Pittock Mansion. (Double click on photos for larger views.)

Other Portland sights we took in included Powell's Books, VooDoo Donuts, and the Hoyt Arboretum.

And of course, the Portland Zoo.

We three had never met, but we remarked, it was just like getting together with old friends. Well, you don't spend hours every week on a salamander forum without learning a person's habits and quirks. So we weren't really strangers at all. I wanted to cement our friendship with a toast, so I got us some Bailey's. But Jen, ever the purist, would only be satisfied by mocking us weaklings who drink such infant formula; when we boasted back that we had tried tequila with the worm, she told us about the home brew she was intending--a scorpion in Everclear. OK, Jen, you beat us.

And off to Opal Creek! Located in Oregon's Willamette National Forest, the actual site we stayed at used to be a mining village (outpost? hardly a village).

Interesting light fixture--refers to some arcane miner humor, no doubt.

Here (below) we are, doing what we came to do. Herp. That is a verb, meaning "to search for herptiles", which are amphibians and reptiles. On the left, Jacquie catches her first ever salamander--I believe it was a Dicamptodon ensatus, or Pacific Giant Salamander.
Here are the three of us, proudly displaying our banner; me, herping in my beloved pink wellies (that sprung a leak and now lie in some Washington landfill); and Jen, wearing the most awesome hat ever.

In case you can't see it well enough, behold: Taricha granulosa sapiens.

and the original, for comparison:

Opal Creek is a beautiful piece of the rain forest. Here are only a few of the many inspiring views of the area. We can't wait to come back to do the "Lichens and Mosses" workshop! April 2012, be there, or be square!

After parting ways, Jacquie and I shot up to Olympia, and then west to the coast, which we drove along for a day.

Next Stop: The Quinault Rain Forest. On the way, we passed the Satsop nuclear power plant. Construction began in 1977 and halted in 1983; the facility was never completed.

The Appearance of a White Buffalo is a Sacred Oracle to many Native Americans. Others prize the Magical White Deer. I, of course, pray daily for the appearance of the Mystical White Otter. In the Pacific Northwest, they hold their collective breath awaiting the rare White Banana Slug.

It was a beautiful area, and we could barely see the outlines in a week. But we saw many beautiful and wonderful things, and I want to go back and see more!

Now I am going to write a bit about the movie Twilight and the town of Forks. We drove through Forks, which, before the movie, was nothing but a logging town. Now, every business in town had Twilight cutouts in the lobby, every retail store identified itself as "Your Twilight Center," and every motel was double the price of the rest of the Olympic Peninsula. There was even a store called "Dazzled By Twilight" (and a sister outlet, in Port Angeles). They offered bus tours of places mentioned in the story, like you might drive around and actually run into Bella Swan or one of the Cullens! There is even a dilapidated old red truck in front of Forks High School where you can go and take your picture.
Consumerism at its....well, you judge. I asked a bit sarcastically at the Port Angeles Twilight store, "So how long do you think you can ride this pony?" The kid working there was a "James" look-alike, and proud of it, with his fake vampire teeth--but you could be photographed with him for free, unlike "that arrogant Edward look-alike" who charged $20 a shot. He informed me, and very nicely too, that the economy in Forks was in the toilet before the movie came out. "All the storefronts were empty. Now look, there is a business in every one." He continued, telling me that even Port Angeles had a significant economic upswing (which is already a fair sized city, for the area). A bit chastened, I felt happy for the locals, and bought a couple bumper stickers, fridge magnets, and other necessities.

Continuing our coastal drive, we came to the very northwest tip of Washington.

This was one of the highlights of the trip, Cape Flattery. You park the car and take a short hike, and this is the view that rewards you. Here is a normal banana slug for you to compare.

A rugged land, an open land, where there is plenty of time for contemplation. Bards spend months thinking up just the right names for the topography.

What's up with the Correction Center sign, you ask? Remember, I work in a prison. The thought that I could move out there and not miss a step in the career ladder is...inspiring.

Our last day in Olympic Park, we drove--in 40 minutes--from sea level at Port Angeles, up to here, Hurricane Ridge. Amazing.

One more zoo--Port Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, Tacoma, WA.
This trip was everything I'd hoped it would be. It was such fun to meet my "long-lost friends." Jacquie turned out to be the best road-trip companion I ever had (i.e. she let me be the boss of everything!), and I met two women that I wish lived....much, much closer.

Otters dogged me wherever I went. Otters at the zoo, streets named after Otters, even an otter-shaped cloud threatened to rain on me! What more could you want from a vacation!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Skunk & Possum: A Kayaking Experience

(double click for larger view)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

White Katrina

On Friday 2-26 I woke up to a yard of snow and no power! A yard, horizontally AND vertically.

(click on pictures for larger view)

It took about three hours to dig myself out. I do have a snowblower :o) , but, it's electric :o( .

Next, I had to go check on my Mom, who will be 80 later this month and lives alone. I had been calling and calling her, and there was no answer. So off I drove.

Supermarket, closed. Everything on the main drag, closed. But I found a deli on the way that had a generator, and got her a cup of hot coffee, a loaf of bread, and a box of doughnuts. I would have gotten milk, but it was all gone. The guy on line in front of me had the last container.

downed line near my house.

Because my mom has a 260 foot long driveway, she has a contract with a plowing company. But when I got to my Mom's, there had been no plowing done.

It couldn't be plowed. There were too many downed trees.

In fact there were downed trees everywhere. That's what caused the power outages, not a major grid failure or anything. No yard with a tree was unscathed.

I parked at my Mom's neighbors' house across the street, and hiked to her front door. Parts of the hike were 4-foot drifts, so I arrived out of breath. I sat on her landing breathing heavily and unable to speak. All she could say (over and over) was "What's the matter? What's the matter? What's the matter? What's the matter?" And I couldn't reply, but I could think: "Shut up Already! I'm just trying to catch my breath!"

Curse You, Optimum Triple Play

Why didn't she answer her phone? It wasn't working because she has cable phone now. It's a bundle package with her computer and internet. I had forgotten. I thought she had decided against it. I had repeatedly told her that if the power went out, she would have no phone if she got that package. Well, my words came true. She was sorry now, but she never listens to me. For example, I'm a nurse. I told her not to take Lipitor, her cholesterol wasn't that high, but she had to get muscle weakness for herself before she told me that "her friend told her that she shouldn't take it because of that." Her "friend" isn't even a nurse. No one ever listens to me; especially her. But I'll stop my stomp down that angry road; don't get me going about my mother.


After I left her place, I saw the supermarket was open; they had acquired limited power with a generator. No lights, but the all-important cash registers were working. You could even pay by credit card.
I got some of those gigantic chocolate chip cookies; no problem is so big that chocolate chip cookies and ferrets can't mitigate it.
I didn't really need any other groceries; ironically, I had just gone grocery shopping the previous day. One of the things I had gotten was a hyacinth; I love to get one in the late winter to fill my house with the smell of spring. Though this particular hyacinth became, instead of a harbinger of joy, a mocking reminder of my discomfort.

As I drove away from the supermarket, I saw the jewelry store next to it had a big smash-hole through the door. Outside the jewelry store there were about five police cars, and the Indian owners of the store standing there looking very unhappy. Someone must have decided that with the electricity off, the alarm system would not be working! I guess I never realized how tempting those Swarovski Crystal creatures can really be. And this is where I get the title of this blog--only one day, and not even a natural disaster, and we have looting. People, get (legal) guns, that's all I can say.

"White Katrina," I know it's an exaggeration, but the name amused Grumpet so much that he blew yogurt through his nostrils, so I had to stick with it.

I spent the rest of the day shoveling the sidewalk, knocking snow off the gazebo, and making calls for my mom (trying to arrange for someone to clean her tree debris, and then notifying her plowing service about that). I had an early dinner with my next-door neighbor at a village eatery that cooked with gas (like the supermarket, though, also no lights).

Guess what I had? Aaaah, a cheeseburger and fries.

The Dorchester Motor Lodge

When I bought my house in 2003, I was assigned a phone number that I soon learned had previously belonged to the "Dorchester Motor Lodge." The phone calls gradually petered out until I would only get one or two around graduation time from parents of students at West Point. When I asked where they got that listing, I was told the Dorchester was on some list of alternate hotels for the extremely desperate; West Point is about an hour south of here.
Well, when I got home from my Mom's, without an answering machine to screen my calls, I started answering the phone whenever it would ring (who knows when my Mom's power would be restored, maybe it was her. She promised to call as soon as her phone was working again.) At this point I decided to call in to work; it was almost time to go in, and I still had snow removal to do (my gazebo was covered with snow, and despite the slats, it was bowing. I took a stick and spent two hours knocking snow off it).
I must have received about 25 calls over the next few days for people looking for a room at the Dorchester Motor Lodge. "That place has been closed for over eight years! Where did you get the number?" I asked. People told me -- and I later discovered it was true-- that "The Yellow Book" had inexplicably run that business and number again. The place was razed almost a decade ago to build a Circuit City! I'm going to have to deal with these calls all year now. And people often don't believe me, and call a second time. I am considering suing. Any lawyers out there, think I have a case?


I have a bird feeder in my front yard, and without cable or internet, I spent a lot of time peeking at them and trying to get their pictures. I will alternate more of this story with birdie pictures to keep your attention.

Anyway, I was exhausted after this long day. I went to bed when it got dark, around 6:30 pm as I remember, and slept until 7:30 am the next morning (Saturday).

On Saturday, there was actually a newspaper in my driveway--with yesterday's newspaper wrapped up inside it.

No yoga today, though. But the day had its own quest. Mom asked that when I came back, would I bring her other food. Not just any food--she had to have chinese food. "OK, if I find some."
I had breakfast at the village eatery where I'd been the previous evening (ham and cheese omelet--I knew it would be the highlight of my day, and it was. It was all downhill from there.)

There were still hardly any businesses open, though somehow, the supermarket had gotten lights. And a few other restaurants that cook with gas were open for business, including a few chinese restaurants! While I waited for my order, I looked through their phone book--the local Yellow Pages-- and confirmed the 2010 listing of the Dorchester Motor Lodge.
I got to my Mom's neighbors' house, filled up a knapsack with two gallon containers of water (Mom has a well, and so no water, since it comes up with an electric pump), and carried two buckets (so she could melt snow to use to flush the toilet), one filled with --of course--the chinese food, and the other with a thermos of hot coffee. When I entered her front door, there she sat in cozy comfort with heat, lights, and water. "Why didn't you call me and let me know that your power was restored??"
Guess what? even with power, her stupid cable phone still didn't work! Curse you, Optimum Triple Play!

Ferrets, of course

There is truth to the phrase, "Powered by ferrets." They certainly are what kept me going. Sitting in my house with the power out, cold and wearing three layers of clothes, including fingerless mittens, I was still smiling. Why? Look at this face.

"Look at me, Momma, I have fursonality!"
"Yes, you do, my little Milky-Duddy, in spades. Give me a little kiss, won't you?"
*>little lick<*

I played with the ferrets for a long while. This is what you do when you're at home with no power and three cats and four ferrets--you put a leash on the ferret and attach it to the cat and see who determines locomotion.

But still, I was so tired of being cold. It was getting really old, really fast.
On the other hand, camping was never so good.

Free ice for my soda, a flush toilet, a real bed, ferrets, cats, and all my books, all the stuff I really miss when I'm camping for real.

I heated up a frozen dinner on my camp stove, and used my battery operated air bubbler to put some air in the only tank I have with a fish.

I went to bed at 5 pm Saturday and slept till 5 am Sunday, when I had to get up to go to work to do a double shift. I was never so glad to be at work-- heat, microwaves, lights. Happily, when I came home, power had just been restored.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Trip to the Museum of Natural History

This past week, Grumpet took me to NYC to the Museum of Natural History. I haven't been in about 8 years, and he hadn't been in a while either, so it was a fun way to spend the day. We took the train to the city, and the subway to the museum.

The subway car we were on was sponsored by Holland Air, and there were copies of Dutch Masters and this interesting bench and wall decor. This is all just design stuck on top of the usual plastic subway furniture--no fabric, no wood, a clever illusion.

Here we are at the Reptile and Amphibian exhibit. Models of salamanders walking.

This part of the exhibit had to do with amphibian defense and toxins. The T. rivularis is doing her unken yoga, and above the models were hanging these chemical models.

Here is the chemical model of t-toxin (my clever way of getting around spelling it out...)

I never thought about this before, but perhaps those who know more than me can explain: when the same species is neotenic like this, is the head really so much bigger? That neotenic Tiger sal has such a huge head, and the terrestrial form of the animal is so much tinier. Or are the models misleading me?

A model of the giant Japanese salamander. Grumpet called me over to see it. "I've seen those in real life," I said.
"Oh, yeah, sure you did, this is a mythological creature, it isn't real," replied Grumpet.
"Yes it is!! I saw them in the zoo!"
"No you didn't."
"Yes I did....oh, ha ha."

Model of Hellbender and its skeleton.

Whoa, aren't these exhibits lifelike? You'd swear they were real animals floating in a pond. (Not.)

Model of Fire Salamander and its skeleton.

Look at this gigantic turtlesaurus! See how big it is in relation to the people you can see through the glass? You could get a saddle and bridle and ride the darn thing!

I thought this was a nice transition between the herp part and the rest. These dinosaur egg layers are cute as newts. (Click on photos for larger views).

Here we have the skeleton of a dinosaur that could have come directly from a Lovecraft story. May I present: The Bones of Cthulhu.

People have been saying this to me my whole life and now I finally get to apply it to someone else: "Nice rack!"

A diorama of an ancient undersea world featured these cool creatures.

And now for the world of mustelids. A sea otter diorama with a scene painted in the back. Or maybe it was a blown-up photo, I forget.

If I was a cavewoman, this would have been my pet: the ancestor of both kitties, otters, and ferrets. That would be fun to have a pet that rolls them all up at once.

That stuffed weasel is both cute and hideous at the same time. To the right, an otter; in the middle, an ermine, and on the left, I believe it was a mink.

A native of some western hemisphere culture, I believe. But some things are universal, and I can just hear her: "WAIT TILL YOUR FATHER GETS HOME!"

Look, I'm not the first person in the world to have some Shoes of Joy!

Birdies for my friend A.S.

More birdies

Here is some (primitive) art of Bali. I think of it as a sort of yoga-masturbation crossover genre. But the frogs, I don't know where they fit in.

On to the primates. Smile for the camera!

Or not. I like this comparison between the skeleton of a monkey and a toddler. Though who donated their toddler's skeleton to the Museum of Natural History, I wondered.

No trip to that museum is complete without homage to the Big Blue Whale. I remember that from when I was a kid, my first visit there with my Dad. A true classic.

If I had to spend the day with some of those screaming kids that were ubiquitous in the museum, I'd be looking for the hanging station too.

addendum: Riddle:
What goes *>THUMP<* ... "Waaaaaaaaaaaaaah!" ?
One of the MANY kids who would be running around out of control and would run into one of the many glass cases covering the exhibits! They were worse than birds flying into windows!

~ The End ~

Put ♥ this ♥ on ♥ your ♥ status ♥ if ♥ you ♥ have ♥ the ♥ most ♥ beautiful ♥ FERRETs ♥ in the ♥ world ☆•*¨*•.¸¸❤❤¸.•*¨*•☆☆•*¨*•.¸¸❤❤