Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lions and other wild animals

Today was sunny and beautiful for a safari in the Wild Animal Park. We spent most of our time in Africa. Finally, I saw a gnu -- Lenny's photo.

Our safari vehicle was the usual electric-powered tram with 6 cars and many rows of seats, and we stayed on the pavement outside the fences. A special photography tour allows guests to ride into the animal enclosure and feed some of the animals. The young giraffe below is waiting for the tourists to hand him leaves.

We walked through the Hidden Rain Forest also. The many colors of the birds are striking.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Aromas of La Jolla

As I walk around near our home in La Jolla, I'm impressed by all the scents. I enjoy the garlic aroma from the pizza oven at Piatti, so far our favorite nearby restaurant. The little restaurant row also produces smells from Mexican tortillas and salsas, french fries, coffee, and hamburgers.

Flower aromas are everywhere. Eucalyptus oil vaporizes from the trees that are planted singly and in wooded spaces. In salt marshes, sage and many other dune plants combine with tidal mud in a special aroma. Kelp, fish, and bird smells dominate the beaches. Today the wind was strong, and plumes of spray were blowing off the waves, and the wind smell was fresh and salty.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Along the coast to the north of La Jolla are a number of lagoons and low-lying marshes formed by streams meandering into the sea between the high ridges of hills. We explored several of these today, along with some of the beaches that fringe the lagoons. Len took photos of the marsh birds that wade and swim in the tidal pools and mud flats.

The three main locations we visited were Buena Vista Lagoon, Bataquitos Lagoon, and San Elijo Lagoon.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My favorite words from Obama's Inagural Address

I am enthusiastic about his description of what government and the American people can and should do:

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply.

The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.

Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.


For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies.

It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break; the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours.

It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new, the instruments with which we meet them may be new, but those values upon which our success depends, honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old.

These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.

What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

He's President!

Obama arrives

Inauguration in my living room

Monday, January 19, 2009

Scripps Aquarium

Seeing fish in an aquarium creates a different impression than seeing them while snorkeling. Aquariums feature the exotic and unusual species, as well as creating realistic environments. For example, dragon fish are amazing small fish with leaf-like structures that make them look like water plants -- but they swim. I wonder if it would be at all easy to pick them out underwater, but in the small aquariums they are totally easy to notice.

Jellyfish are extremely beautiful as they open and close their balloon-like parts. Tanks of jellyfish usually illuminate them against a dark background to obtain the most beautiful effects.

Other rare, nocturnal, unusual, or shy fish that we saw in the aquarium today included sea horses, starfish, octopus, eels, and soles and rays in shallow enough water to see them even though they had assumed protective color patterns.

The most impressive display in the aquarium is the giant tank of local kelp and kelp dwelling-fish, that shows what it's like to be underwater offshore from La Jolla.

The aquarium building sits on a cliff far above the Scripps Pier -- thus offering a different perspective than I have had while walking on the beach underneath it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Walking Six Miles at Los Penasquitos Canyon

Mountain bikes, hikers, dog-walkers, horse-back riders, and ordinary walkers share the trails through the remarkably preserved Los Penasquitos Canyon. Though housing developments surround the canyon, and large homes are visible on the ridges of the canyon above the trail, this area has been beautifully preserved with small streams and pools, attractive trees, vegetation, and lichen-covered rocks.

The trail parallels the creek, which at this season has some water -- but not enough to block the route. Today was sunny, and a pleasant temperature for going the length of the canyon. We sat on the bank of a rocky little dry stream and ate our sandwiches at mile 2. Our turn-around point was a hilltop overlooking a little canyon with cascading water.

The little canyon is closer to a different park entrance than the one where we started -- as a result, I suppose, many people were wading in the water there.

Coming back, we sometimes chose the narrower trails that hug the sides of the stream, or occasionally occupy the dry creekbed. Little boardwalks span the deeper waters of the stream where needed. During storms and their aftermath, the trails are closed.

An American Pioneer Story
The earliest European inhabitants settled here on a Spanish Land Grant to Captain Francisco Maria Ruis, commandant of the San Diego Presidio. Archaeologists have excavated a ranch house built for him in 1824. Another house, from 1862, is now the park headquarters. We didn't visit these buildings, but only hiked.

John Joseph Eichar was a cook at the ranch that once occupied the canyon, and is buried beside the trail where we were walking -- his marble tombstone, as shown, is smooth and perfectly preserved. Eichar's great grandfather was a younger son of the prince of Eichstadt, Bavaria. In 1750, the prince and his wife left Germany; along the way, they died, leaving two young sons. These sons were then raised by quakers in Pennsylvania.

Their descendant John Joseph Eichar was born in 1825 in Greensberg, PA, as it says on his tombstone. The details of his life appear to be obscure, except that he seems to have been a ranch cook, and died of TB in January, 1882. The information appeared on a plaque beside the well-tended grave. We were somewhat surprised to see this little remnant of history.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Faces of the San Diego Zoo

Len took these pictures today at the zoo.