Friday, May 30, 2008

Fa-reak Magnet

I like to think that I am a generally friendly and approachable person. In fact, I often engage in conversations with strangers, and have said this phrase “I just met the nicest woman in there…” after leaving the ladies room when I am out. Sometimes I will start the conversation and sometimes a stranger will start the conversation. But when I am participating in the conversation I am careful not to divulge anything too personal or say anything too controversial that will make the person look at me and think “Why do these freaks keep coming up to me?” However, most strangers I strike up a conversation with are not so careful.

There have been times when I could swear that the words “Confide in me” were scrawled on my forehead with a Sharpie when I wasn’t paying attention. I’ve heard more about the health conditions of strangers and about what they did in that bathroom stall than I care to remember.

Years ago I worked for a big company, and sitting at my desk one day. My co-worker sat on the other side of the cubicle wall from me. I was friendly with this co-worker, but because she worked on different projects than I did, she often worked with people that I didn’t know that well. One day this co-worker, M, was on the phone. A woman that M was working with on a project, J, walked up to M’s desk and saw that M was on the phone. J walked around to my side of the wall, and sat down in my guest chair to wait while M was on the phone. You know, because my desk was often confused for a waiting room. Just as I was about to offer J an old copy of People or Reader’s Digest for her to read while she waited for M she began to tell me that she’d recently gone off her meds. I looked up from my worked and flashed her a tight smile—kind of like a grimace if you looked at it from one angle, but an actual smile if you saw it from another—then I focused my attention back on my work. She repeated the bit about her meds again, and I smiled/grimaced (smimaced?) at her again without asking her “What meds were you taking, J?” which was obviously what she was fishing for. Luckily we heard M hang up her phone, and J took off to talk to her. J never mentioned her meds to me again, and you know that I never did ask what she was on. (I have my suspicions, but I won’t get into that here.)

At other times I could swear that someone else has written “Say something wildly inappropriate, racist or ignorant to me” with a Sharpie on my forehead when I wasn’t looking. (Really, I should pay better attention and keep my eyes peeled for this Sharpie wielding vandal.) Just this morning I went to my doctor’s office to get a physical. It’s been several years since I’ve had my cholesterol checked and stuff like that. I grabbed the first available appointment, 7:30, and arrived at the doctor’s office at 7:25. The door to the doctor’s office was still locked, so I sat in the chair and waited. A man hobbled up with a cane, and I immediately stood up to give him the chair. At that point the man with the cane opened season on me, and didn’t accept my open book in my hands as a hint that I’d rather read. He talked to me about his injuries, how they affect his life, and blah blah blah.

The doctor’s office opened and we sat down in the waiting room, I sat as far away as I could from Cane Man. He went on to tell me about how lucky I am that women don’t need a prostrate exam, and I reminded him that women go through other equally invasive examinations. Then he went on to say, and I wish I was kidding:

“Well, at least a gay man would enjoy the prostrate exam. They probably look forward to it,” then he put on a lisp, for my benefit, “Oh, I am getting a prostrate exam! YAAAY!!!”

I smimaced at the guy, and looked down at my book. Then I decided I’ve give something back to the freaks who feel the need to say stuff like this to me. I looked up at the guy and said, “I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I mean, assuming the anatomy of a gay man and a straight man is identical, and the exam is conducted the same way every time, why would only a gay man enjoy it?”

Cane Man smimaced at me, and silently focused his attention onto his newspaper.

Beej 1. Freaks 0.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Back in 2004 I received a letter in the mail from the US District Court which said "You will eventually be called for jury duty. Fill in this card, blah blah blah..." So I filled in the card and mailed it back. I was actually excited about the possibility of serving on a jury and getting the chance to see our judicial system in action. I had fantasies of serving on some ridiculously important case, being sequestered and being able to say to my friends "I am on that jury, I can't talk about this case. No no no! You cannot taint this juror, nosiree!"

Fast forward to 2008, 4 years later, I have finally been called and my summons date is 17 June 2008. Normally my fantasy of being the important juror would have kicked into overdrive, and I'd be pestering Todd with "I wonder what kind of case I'll serve on! Will it be a murderer? A drug dealer? It could be anyone! Will we have to go into the witness protection program because I put a big bad guy away??"

But no, actually I am quite irritated with the timing of the US District Court. I am starting my brand new job on 9 June, and my summons is a week and a day after my first day on the new job. I have been unemployed for the past seven months, and the Court couldn't be bothered to call me then. Nooooooo! They have to wait until I finally get a job, and then WHAMO! they dish me up a summons.

Today I called the Jury Administrator to see if I could either have my summons pushed up a few weeks, before I start the new job, or get it postponed. They said I have to write a letter explaining why I'd like a postponement, and then they will decide if my reason is valid enough to get postponed. I swear I detected a hint of snideness in the Jury Administrator's tone, a bit of "Now now, Princess, you have to do this, you can't get out of it." But I am trying not to detect that. I am sure the poor guy has heard every excuse in the book.

But really, I don't want to get out of it. I want to serve on a jury, and I told the guy on the phone as much. I just don't want to serve on a jury one week into my new job and have to say to my new employer "I know that I just started here and all... but I need to take a day off for jury duty... so, um, sorry 'bout that."

Internet, please cross your fingers for a postponement. I am trying to remain optimistic, and don't want to hear any "Yeah right, they won't postpone you for this." No negativity allowed, please. Just humor me and tell me that I will be sure to get a postponement. Please? Pretty please?


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

“Just Fill it With Water--if Water’s Coming in, it Will Also Go Out…”

This was our friend Captain Paul’s advice when we told him about Sabine’s leak at a party on Saturday night. Monday we headed over to the marina to take Paul’s advice. Over the winter we had the full soda blasted so that the paint, the gel coat and all the stuff that makes fiberglass watertight was stripped away, so we hoped that the entry point of the leak would be more obvious.

The thing about boats like ours is that there are several points at which plumbing and other accessories penetrate the hull below the waterline—which means that at each point where these fittings go through the hull is also a point where there is potential for leak. We have through hull fittings to accommodate the fresh water intakes for the inboard diesel engine and the diesel generator. There are also through hulls for the sink drains, shower drain, and the keel mounted cooling plate for the refrigerator. Also, the depth sounder, and speedometer are mounted through the hull, below the waterline as well.

Over the course of trying to diagnose this leak, we never noticed any wetness near the through-hull fittings. We also never noticed any abnormal leaks near where the propeller shaft enters the boat on its way from the propeller to the engine. (Seeing a few drops there is normal.) We have long suspected that the water is entering the boat through the keel, which is the big heavy part under the boat that keeps the boat upright and helps the boat move forward even if the wind is coming from the side. We have never been able to be completely sure that the water is entering through some unseen crack or hole in the very bottom of the bilge. (The only way either of us has been able to actually touch the bottom of the bilge is if we do a handstand in it. And honestly, it’s such a stinky place who the hell would want to do a handstand in there, let alone put a face down there?)

We inspected the hull before we laid out the hoses to fill the water. We noticed that there are thousands of pin holes in the fiberglass which may or may not have contributed to the leak. We also noticed that there is a crack in the wooden mount for the depth sounder which also could have contributed to the leak. While these are certainly interesting observations the only way we’d know for sure is if we can get water to run out of the boat.

The next thing we did, before actually committing the counter intuitive act of filling the bilge in our boat with water, was to test the bilge pump to ensure that we could get the water out of the boat after we complete our experiment. We plugged an extension cord into the shore power inlet, and Todd fiddled about with the electric panel and discovered that we couldn’t get the bilge pump to run off of shore power, and we didn’t have enough battery power remaining to power the pump.

Before it ever got started, our experiment ended with an electrical issue that is now another item on the to-do list. And this, my friends, is the story of our lives with a boat restoration—you start one project just to unwrap the need to complete some other task that is peripherally related to the first project.

And now, on to repair the electrical mystery.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Detouring to this Blog’s Intended Use

Back in 2004 Todd opened this blog so that we could talk about boat restoration. The site was originally intended to be all about our sailboat, Sabine. Then I got bit with the blogging bug, and I went and girled up the joint. I still talk about sailing adventures, because it’s such a big part of our lives, but I haven’t really gotten into talking about the finer points of the boat projects that we’ve done over the last 4 years that I’ve been doodling on this blog.

It’s Memorial Day weekend here in the US, which is the unofficial start of summer and the start of boating season. In the past we have scrambled in the weeks leading up to Memorial Day weekend trying to get Sabine ready for a weekend long trip to Newport, Jamestown or even Block Island.

This year we didn’t bother trying to get the boat into the water for Memorial Day weekend, and debated as to whether we’d even put her in at all this season. As you know, we’ve moved house and there are numerous projects around the house we’d like to complete that will get it closer from being an awesome house to our dream house. Over the years we’ve also had a mysterious leak on Sabine, which has only gotten steadily worse over the years until last year when the bilge would constantly fill with water to the point where we were sure it would sink unless we pumped the bilge almost every single day.

We have hunted high and low for the source of this leak, and haven’t found a reasonable explanation other than gnomes boarding the boat and peeing excessively into the bilge. (But the quantity of beer in the fridge hasn’t inexplicably decreased, so we promptly ruled this explanation out. Still, it’s an interesting theory.) We hauled the boat out of the water over the winter, with the intent of investigating the matter further.

Over the entire winter we were saddled with a dilemma. The worst case scenario for the source of the mystery leak is a cracked stern tube—this is the tube that penetrates the boat so that the propeller shaft can extend from the inboard engine, through the hull to the propeller. Replacing a cracked stern tube is way out of our collective boat restoration skill set, and to hire the boat yard to do it would cost roughly the equivalent of a brand new exotic sports car from Italy. (Maybe. Depending on the kind of car we’re talking. Are we talking about a Fiat or a Ferrari? I am thinking more Fiat than Ferrari.) The best case scenario is that the leak is coming in through a fitting that needs to be sealed better, or that it is coming in through the actual fiberglass of the hull, which will mean sealing the hull with epoxy.

So the dilemma is do we get the stern tube replaced and forego the house projects, or do we not launch the boat and do the house projects? To further complicate the dilemma, I was unemployed all winter, and our household has less discretionary income to spend on such an expensive boat repair, or home renovation for that matter.

Not only is the expense adding to the dilemma, it’s the actual time it would take to do these repairs. Will we be spreading ourselves too thin over all the things we enjoy doing in the summer because chasing down this leak will consume us if we do not find it? But then, I cannot imagine a summer without sailing. It’s what we do, and it’s what we love.

At some point over the long holiday weekend we will thoroughly inspect Sabine’s hull, and go over all the entry points that penetrate the hull to see if we can find a source of a leak. If we can find something that we suspect caused this leak, we will determine what it will take to patch it and launch the boat. If we cannot find it, we won’t launch.

By Tuesday we’re hoping that the winter long dilemma will end.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Well-Informed Beagle

In the morning I turn on the Weather Channel as I eat my breakfast and check my email. Then I switch over to CNN after I get the chance to see the animated “Local on the 8’s” update with the bad musak and the that will let me know what to wear that day.

After a few minutes of CNN, I hook the leash on Griffen and we head out for a run. I haven’t been talking about my running goal lately, though I used to keep you all updated with my progress every month. I started 2008 with 1801 miles on my pedometer, and I want it to read 3000 miles by the end of the year—I would have to run roughly 100 miles per month. I used to update you all every month with my progress, and even pictures of my pedometer. But then life got busy. I moved house. I unpacked the boxes. I found places to put things, then moved things to other places only to forget where I moved them and I still head for the drawer to the left of the stove for a spoon instead of the one to the right of the dishwasher, which is where they now live.

The second week of April, after not running for about 2 weeks, I set out to get myself back on track with my running and my goal. (Kinda. There was a bout of laziness and a trip to California that got in the way.) The first thing I needed to do was to find somewhere to run. The street we live on now is a busy street. It is pin straight, and people (myself included) speed on it all the time. It’s so easy to look down and discover that you are driving more than 60 mph without feeling like you are diving that fast. (In fact just yesterday a state trooper blew right by me as I walked out to the mailbox, he was easily doing 70.) Because our street is so busy, I was nervous about running with Griffen on our street.

There is a satellite URI campus just a few miles down the street that Todd and I drove through when we first moved here. It’s a beautiful setting with a working farm, lakes that perfectly reflect the trees on shore, and a conference center in the very back of the campus. In other words, heaven. We stopped in at the conference center and asked if jogging was permitted on the campus. The woman manning the desk said “Yes, we encourage joggers to use the facility, here’s a trail map.” I was excited to find a 4 mile route that was not only safely off the road, but in such a beautiful setting.

After jogging there every day for two weeks, and racking up an impressive 40 some-odd miles, I was stopped by the director of the campus and told that I am not permitted to jog on this campus. It would seem that they hold children’s programs there in the summer and need to keep the (tax paying) riff-raff off campus.

“Well, then I suggest you tell the folks in the conference center to stop handing out trail maps and ‘encouraging’ joggers to use the campus,” I replied, trying very hard not to sound like a smart ass, but sometimes (well, most of the time) I just cannot help it.

I mean, I understand the precautions that the staff needs to take in keeping the children on campus safe. It annoys me that I am prohibited from jogging on a state university campus during the early morning or evening hours when the children are not there. (It’s been about a month since I was banned from campus, and I am still a bit irritated with the situation. I will get over it soon. Maybe. I make no guarantees.)

I’ve since fooled around with Google Pedometer, which is the best invention for road runners looking for new places to go, and set up a new route and have taken to running on my street—which really is not as bad as it first seemed, and am now back to doing 4-5 miles per day. (Not running all the way, yet. But I am working on it. What can I say, there are lots of hills. Big ones that make me very tired.)

Today I’ve hit 2190 miles on the pedometer. By Friday I expect to cross into the 2200’s. That means that since the start of the year I’ve gone nearly 400 miles and am somehow still 100 miles shy of my goal to date. (That’s what happens when you take most of April and May off, after running your ass off January-March.)

There are two side effects to all the running. The first is my jeans are falling off of me. Literally. I can take my jeans off without unbuttoning them now. I’ve lost about 12-15 pounds, depending on the day. Before we left for San Diego I hit up the local consignment stores in town and bought 3 new pairs of jeans, and one of them is already falling off of me. I am in that awkward place between two sizes and the larger of the two is what falls off of me, but the smaller of the two is uncomfortable to wear. That’s what happens when the hips are about a mile larger than the waist—my jeans sag, and dresses cling to my ass while hanging shapelessly over my chest.

The second side effect is that Nemo, the dog I normally leave behind when I go jogging, would be able to display an encyclopedic knowledge of current events if he could talk. I leave CNN on while Griffen and I are out, so he has some noise to distract him from the injustice of being left home alone. As I am implanting my ear buds into my ears to drown out the mournful beagle howl that equates being left home alone to being skinned alive with a butter knife, he eventually flops back onto his dog bed and watches “American Morning” while Griffen and I rack up the miles.

If he could vote, I wonder who he’d vote for in November.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dreams About People I’ve Never Met

Last night I had a dream about the woman who writes I’ve never met this woman and though I read her blog on occasion I haven’t really thought about her all that much except for when I think to click over to her site and read about what she’s been doing. I am a very sound sleeper and I rarely remember my dreams—yet I remembered a dream about a woman I’ve never met whose life is nothing like mine.

In the dream, this woman would occasionally have people over to her house for a salon. Apparently being invited to this salon was a very big deal, and Todd and I were thrilled to attend.

The invitation said that we would be discussing her artwork. We arrived at the house, which was unlike any house I’d ever seen in my awake or dreaming life. Her house had a lazy river that went all through the bottom floor. It started on the front porch, where she encouraged her guests to flop onto an inner tube and float along the current through her home with a beer in hand as they admired her paintings and photographs which hung on her walls at different spots along the edge of the river. Then at different intervals the current in the river would speed up, which propelled a few tube riders closer to other tube riders, presumably to encourage mingling among the salon attendees.

We floated on the river in Casa Dooce, among her Pollock-esque paintings, her photos of farm animals, and her sculptures that were constructed of aluminum foil. We clinked beer bottles with bathing suit clad strangers; we ate finger food positioned at strategic spots along the river.

But, really, how cool would it be to have a lazy river in your house? Want to get a snack, just paddle on over to the fridge. Laundry would be a snap--just toss it all in at the start of the river, and fish it out at the end--lather, rinse, repeat. And you could totally surprise your spouse with a gondolier on Valentine's Day too! It's a win-win proposition!

What the hell did I eat last night?


Friday, May 16, 2008

San Diego, Part 3

“Mmmmppph,” I mumbled, rolling over. “Have a nice time at your conference, honey.” I said, rubbing my eyes.

“Uh, yeah. Have a nice day exploring California without me,” he smiled.

Todd went off to his conference. I put gas in the rental car and headed for the highway. My plan for the next day and a half was to head to Los Angeles to visit with my sister who lives just outside of the city.

Because I’d never been to California I’d never seen my sister’s house, and I could not wait to get there. I drove along The 5 as the Californians call it and checked out the scenery on the way. There is a portion of the 5 that runs right along the Pacific Ocean, and the view was beautiful even though it was a gray day.

An hour and a half or so after I left I arrived in Margaret’s neighborhood. Awhile ago I had Google-stalked my sister’s address on Google Earth, but from that I could only see what her roof looked like. But looking around in her neighborhood, it was exactly what I had imagined. Margaret is a great gardener, and the shrubs and flowers in her yard were very pretty. It was great to be able to spend so much time with my sister and my niece, Maya. The last time I saw them was at or Grandmother’s funeral, in 2006.

Margaret is 14 years older than I am, and we’ve always been in different phases of life for as long as we’ve known each other. She was a teenager when I was a toddler. I was only 4 when she graduated high school, and was in third grade when she’d finished college and moved back home before setting out to live in Arizona. While I was a teenager, Margaret was in her 20s and 30s, while I was navigating through college, she was navigating through the early years of marriage—then she and my brother-in-law, Bruce, adopted Maya while I was just moving out of home and figuring out how to live on my own. Before I even became a wife, she became a mother.

The difference in life stages sometimes made our relationship a bit challenging. There were times when we couldn’t exactly relate to each other—while she was going through potty training with Maya, I was restoring my first sailboat with Todd. Even though we still live very different lives I think we’ve finally managed to strike up a connection. Which is great and I am very thankful for that.

We picked up Maya from school and ran a few errands before we set out to walk on a trail in a canyon near their house. It was a beautiful walk, and I enjoyed seeing the different kinds of trees and plants. Maya showed me some coyote and deer tracks that were made in a patch of cement, and Nickel—their puppy—chased sticks and bounded through the bush.

Nickel scaling a wall before retrieving a stick.

At the end of the hike we spotted a couple scouring the bushes near the parking lot. We approached them and they told us that they had seen a stray kitten and were trying to catch it. Margaret and I climbed into the bushes while Maya directed us to the kitten from the pavement. I heard the hiss come from the frightened kitten Margaret shouted “I got it! I got it!” She scrambled out of the brush, holding a claws-beared kitten out from herself. She wrapped it up in her fleece jacket and we brought it into the car, Maya, kitten and I in the back, and Margaret fending Nickel’s curiosity off in the front.

Margaret and the kitten, just after she rescued him from the bush.
We had dinner, and discussed what to do with the kitten. They already have two dogs and two cats and Margaret and Bruce were not keen on taking in another animal. Maya, of course, wanted to keep the kitten. What ten year old have you ever met didn’t want to keep a kitten? Heck, I am not a cat person but remember wanting to keep a stray kitten when I was 10. Of course, my mom said “No way.”

“Can we keep it?” Maya asked.

“No,” Margaret would respond firmly. And on it went.

“I’m going to name him….” Maya started.

“You’re not naming him. Be prepared for the possibility that he won’t be here when you get home from school tomorrow. We are not keeping that cat.”

Then Maya emerged from her bedroom, cradling the kitten, “He was lonely,” she said. Already, after knowing the kitten for an hour or two she knew that he was lonely. You have to love 10 year old animal lovers. I wonder if they ever did manage to find a home for the cat.

My dog-nephew, Juneau, age 17.

My other dog-nephew, Nickel, age 1.

The next day Margaret and I hung out and got caught up on each other’s lives some more. Then I set out to meet up with none other than Cece for lunch. Cece had just returned to town from her corporate sponsored drunk fest, I mean company conference. Our visit was short, way too short, because I needed to leave the city before LA’s impossible traffic kicked up and she’d been away for a few days and I didn’t want to intrude on her family reunion time. She and Mister took me to lunch at their favorite Mexican place, which was incredibly good. We laughed and joked with her youngest daughter while we ate. A wonderful time, and way too short. Thanks Cece.

I headed back to San Diego and chilled out a bit before Todd returned to the room. That night there was an event for his conference at the WaveHouse. Free food, free drink, a live band and surfing demonstrations on these giant artificial waves. I got the chance to meet some of the new friends he’d made, and Todd’s vodka and grapefruits were going down pretty easily that we had joked about having to use a luggage cart to get him back to the hotel room. The surfers did these elaborate jumps, the band played a ska-beachy kind of sound—a perfect complement to the free food and booze.

The next morning, bright and early, we returned the rental car and headed to the airport and jumped on a plane headed for reality.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Sounds of Spring

Jingle jingle jingle…

…Snarf farf farf farf farf

Slurp slurp slurp…

…Thwap thwap thwap thwap

Chomp chomp chomp chomp…


Griffen has allergies. Bad ones. A few years ago we noticed that he was scratching himself constantly. Then we noticed his skin was getting raw where he was scratching, and then the raw spots began to bleed. After a few unsuccessful vet appointments we managed to get hooked up with a pet dermatologist.

Just to be clear, I don’t have a dermatologist. But my dog does. But it could be worse; at least my dog doesn’t have an astrologist, or a therapist. But I always feel like a dork when I tell people that my dog has a dermatologist.

After experimenting with different foods and doses of Benedryl and ketokonizole (the combination of these two drugs actually makes Griffen hallucinate. A dog tripping is possibly one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen—and scary all at the same time.) Eventually the dermo shaved his side and injected Griffen with 50 some odd allergens. It turns out he was allergic to roughly 49 of the 50 some odd allergens. On a scale of 1 to 4, with 4 being the most severe, Griffen rated in almost all 3’s and 4’s in his reaction to all these injected allergens.

He’s allergic to tobacco, weeds, pollen, grass, and even cats. Cats! My dog is allergic to cats! (But at least this was the motivation Griffen needed to finally quit smoking.) Griffen’s dermatologist has since developed custom injectable antigens. She’s had to develop two formulas because he is allergic to so many things she couldn’t fit all the antigens to each allergen in one bottle.

Todd injects Griffen every week with one of the formulas, and it’s been working so far. But in the spring, when the leaves and flowers are blooming and the grass is growing Griffen starts to scratch. And scratch. And scratch. Luckily the antigens have prevented him from scratching until he goes bald and bleeds.

But every spring, like clockwork, the tags on his collar jingles in rhythm with the excess scratching. He buries his snout into his fur and nibbles at some unseen irritant, with a snarf farf farf farf sound. He slurps endlessly at the yeast build up on his lips, which is a side effect of the allergic reaction. His back claws thwap in rapid succession against his snout, and he chomps at another unseen irritant on his legs. Then he flops on his side and groans in response to the Benedryl making its way through his system.

Right now he’s dozing and it is debatable as to whether the drowsy effect of the Benedryl is making him sleepy of it it’s just that he’s the world’s laziest dog that sleeps for 23 hours a day. He’s wearing one of those lampshade collars around his head to keep him from scratching, and he bumps into everything with it as if to say “If you don’t use your thumbs and get this damn thing off of me I will destroy your house and bash the living shit out of your shins with it. Boom! HA HA sucka!” But with the irritation growing on his snout, in the form of raw red sores, we both know that the lampshade is really for his own good.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

San Diego, Part 2

Monday Todd rolled out of bed and checked the schedule for his conference—you know the reason why we went to San Diego—and saw that he didn’t have any sessions he needed to attend. Again we had the whole city waiting for us, and we had to decide once again what we would do.

We got into the car and headed for the San Diego Zoo. There was no way to fully prepare for the vastness of this zoo. We had seen billboards along the highways in San Diego advertising the zoo that had a fictitious character with a lion’s head and wings on it. The caption read “If it doesn’t exist, we don’t have it.” Boy was that the truth. The San Diego Zoo is an overwhelmingly large place. We spent the day walking around with our mouths hanging open. It’s been a week since I was there and I am still having difficulty putting our experience at the zoo into words. I mean, I could spout out some boring nonsense about how the animals’ habitats are beautiful, and blah blah blah. But it’s so much more than that, and I keep trying to find ways to illustrate how amazing the zoo is, and why seeing the pandas literally brought tears to my eyes—but I cannot seem to do it justice. Let me just show you the pictures instead.

Hippo grin

I wish I could have asked this gorilla what he was thinking.

This is my favorite picture from the zoo.

I could have stood there and watched the pandas all day. I could have also sat there and watched the gorillas all day. And I could have watched the hippos all day too.
After the zoo we headed over to Coronado Island. We drove around the island, trying to find a very Beej and Todd activity. We aren’t satisfied with spending an afternoon shopping and we spent the day sight seeing in the zoo—what are the other options on Coronado? We drove by the docks and saw a boat rental company and the answer came to us. We rented a power boat so we could cruise around in the bay for a little while.

We headed out of the Bay and into the ocean just so we could reach out and touch the water—I haven’t touched the Pacific Ocean since I lived in Australia, and I don’t think Todd has ever touched it at all. On our way out I noticed something sitting on the navigation buoys. I pointed it out to Todd and he steered the boat closer to it just so we could see a seal dozing on the buoy. I oohed and aahed over seeing a seal in the wild, and how much better that is than seeing one at Sea World or at the San Diego Zoo and then got back on course for the ocean again. We motored on, and saw even more seals on the next buoy, and even more on the one after that. I think at one point we had seen close to a dozen seals piled up on one of the buoys, including a few baby seals.

We motored out just beyond the point and shifted into neutral. We reached our hands over the gunnels of the boat and dipped our hands into the Pacific Ocean. I tasted the salt from the water on my hands, and touched the water again. We headed back to the dock and returned the boat, keeping our secret of bringing the rental boat out of the bay for those few moments.

We got back into the car again and headed to La Jolla to visit my cousin Anna, her husband Greg and their children Max and Sam. We did dinner with Anna while Greg cared for the boys. On the way to dinner Anna gave us a walking tour around La Jolla, and brought us to a beach where at least 70 seals were dozing on the sand just before the last bit of sunlight died out.

In keeping with my obsession with taking pictures of the underside of bridges, this is the bridge between San Diego and Coronado Island.

Here are the seals dozing on the navigation buoy.

This is Todd, just after we dipped our hands into the ocean.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

A Shout Out to My Peeps

We got home from San Diego late on Thursday night. Our flights were delayed a bit, and we were twitchy from sitting in the plane or in an airport all day long. Our bloated bodies were staging a revolt due to the overdose of Mexican food. We were tired and ready to sleep in our own bed.

I pulled the Jeep into the driveway and pressed the button on the garage door opener. The headlights on the car illumated the assorted stuff that we still have in the garage that needs to get put away, when the lights rested on this:

Todd and I had been talking about getting one of these propane patio heaters to run near the hot tub. While we were away our friends Mike and Sarah surprised us with one as a very literal house-warming gift.

We tried the heater out last night and felt the warmth in our bathrobes when we slid them on after having a soak last night. We could even feel the warmth touch our faces when we were soaking on that side of the hot tub.

Thank you Mike and Sarah for this very generous gift. It was very kind of you and we love you guys.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

San Diego, Part 1

“Hey Dad, it’s me. I just wanted to let you know that we’re at the airport and we’re heading out to San Diego for a week.”

“Really?” he asked. “You have to go to Point Loma,” he said. “Just drive until you run out of road then look at the view. If you look to the south or the west, all you can see is ocean. Then you look to the east and you can see all of San Diego and Coronado Island. Please go there, it’s great.”

He was right. We went to Point Loma first thing on Saturday morning. It was a bit hazy, but we could see all of San Diego. After that, we asked ourselves the question we always ask each other when we are traveling “Which of the 5,000 fun things are we going to do today?”

Here's a ship coming in through the haze, taken from Point Loma:

After Point Loma we hopped in the convertible and drove up the Pacific Highway for a few hours. In the excitement of being in a new town, neither of us thought to bring either of the two bottles of sunscreen I bought prior to leaving Rhode Island. We both ended up burned after the day was up.

Here's Todd in our hot ride, pre-sunburn:

We drove to a beach near Carlsbad, and waded into the ocean, we stopped in Encinitas to poke around in the shops and to get an ice cream.

These are rocks on North Ponto Beach:

Here's the view of the beaches near Carlsbad, and an inadvertent self portrait:

When we returned to San Diego we decided to check out the Cinco de Mayo celebration in Old Town. We took a taxi there, planning on taking advantage of the many margaritas being served, but I have a chip and salsa problem. Really it’s an addiction. If you put a plate in front of me I will eat and eat and eat and eat them until I make myself sick. I filled up on chips and salsa, and was too full to drink anymore. I have issued a chip and salsa moratorium in our house until I can attend a few meetings and get this addiction under control.
I don't know what this guy was doing, but it looks like he just peed in the server's station at the restaurant where we had dinner:

The Mexican food in San Diego, as you can imagine as the city borders Mexico, is spectacular. Even the crappy little roadside taco stands are gourmet compared to what you'd get here in Rhode Island. We went on a week long taco bender, and I am still recovering.
Sunday morning we woke up and asked the “Which of the 5,000 things are we going to do today?” question. We decided to rent jet skis at Mission Bay for an hour. We got on the bikes and rode through the no wake zone until we arrived at the speed zone. I gradually acclimated myself to going faster and faster until eventually I managed to ride it full throttle. I watched the speedometer climb though the 30s, then the 40s. It hovered at the high 40s, and then ticked over to 50, then 51 and finally 52 miles per hour. I strained to hold onto the bike, and felt my cheeks flap in the breeze until I released the throttle and felt the wake catch up to me as I slowed down.

We ditched our wet bathing suits in the trunk of the car and headed for Sea World. The weather began to drastically cool down, and we bought some fleece sweaters from the gift shop. We took in the Sea World attractions, but the one that amazed me the most (not that dolphins jumping into the air isn’t amazing, because really it is incredible) but the Pets Rule show was spectacular. Sea World had rescued 50 some odd dogs, cats, birds and even a pig from local shelters and trained them to do this incredible show. They had cats scaling the underside of the high wire, dogs playing jump rope, birds flying here and there—all on command. I have never seen anything like it. And I would love to say that my dog is trained to open the fridge and help himself, but sadly he came up with that one all on his own.
Here's a cat that is scaling the underside of a highwire. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen a cat do and I wonder how on earth this cat was trained to do this. It's not like you can say to a cat, "Seriously pal, trust us. You won't fall. Just hold on with your paws like this..."

If you've never seen dogs jump rope, now's your chance:

We took in a few more of the exhibits and then headed for the Shamu Rocks show after dark. It’s the usual enormous whale hijinks but it is set to music and a light show. We ended the day watching the fireworks over Sea World, contemplating the 5,000 activities we will have to choose from on the next day, and the remainder of the week.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Can I Ask You a Personal Question?

I have come to hate conversations that start with this sentence to the point where I have begun fantasizing about saying “No, you may not” when somebody asks me that. Usually when that question is asked a very inappropriate question is asked very shortly after, and usually a person who asks me that question is not somebody I’d share the answer with anyway.

A few years ago a conversation with a co-worker began with that question. This was a woman I’d only met once prior to her asking that question, and obviously not someone I’d be likely to share the answer with. In that instance she’d asked me if I was pregnant. I said no, and she persisted with “Are you sure?” My mouth hung open as I debated on whether or not I would tell her that Mother Nature herself had just demonstrated I am not pregnant the week before, and then decided that it was too much information to share with a stranger. She concluded the conversation with “Oh, I thought for sure you must be. You look heavier than you did when I saw you in October.” Um, thank you?

Years later Todd’s sister had a baby boy and we traveled to Vermont to welcome the little one into the world. We were in the kitchen at my in-laws house talking to one my sister-in-law’s friends who had also come to see the new baby. After knowing this woman for roughly 13 seconds she turned to me and said “So, when are you and Todd going to have a baby?”

“Well, now that’s a very personal question,” I replied. Which I figured was a nicer way of saying “Listen here you rude cow, that’s none of your damn business.”

She shrugged and said “I suppose it is.” Then she paused for about half a second and said “So, when are you guys going to have a baby?” I muttered something about how we’re trying to decide and immediately left the room, shocked that she would still ask after I put up a barrier like that.

Yesterday I was talking to a dear friend of ours who had just had her second child about a month ago. She was telling me that she’d gotten an infection and had to go on antibiotics to fight it. She’s had to discontinue nursing her son, because of the antibiotics now swimming around in her body. She went on to tell me that people have asked her “So, do you feel guilty about not nursing anymore?”

Since when is it OK to ask a question like that? Since when are pregnant women and mothers open season to personal questions like that? When I hear something like that it just enrages me to the point where I need to sit down and blurt it all out on my blog--now that’s some rage, my friends!

So, Internet, listen up. Here are the rules about personal questions, and other rules related to manners:

1. Do not ever ever EVER ask a woman if she is pregnant. If she is it will become obvious soon enough, or she’ll tell you when she’s ready. (However, whispering your suspicions about the pregnancy to others is perfectly acceptible, as well as making bets on it. Just as long as the woman in question doesn't know until she's the one who's spilled the beans.)

2. Do not ever ask anyone when they are planning on having children. For all you know, that person could be infertile and very sad about it, or they could have just suffered a miscarriage, or maybe the couple is arguing about the right time to have a baby. You just don’t know what’s going on in the couple’s home, and you’re better off not bringing it up.

3. If you see a pregnant woman or a parent with an infant do not touch the woman’s belly or their child unless you know these people and know that it’s OK to do so. It is rude to cross that personal space barrier and touch a stranger’s belly or a stranger’s baby. Keep your hands to yourself until you are invited.

4. Have you heard the expression “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one?” Well, I have another expression regarding assholes “Just because you have one, doesn’t mean you have to be one.” Keep your opinions and your judgements to yourself unless you are specifically asked for your advice.

Do you have any other rules to add? Post them in your comment now.