Sunday, December 31, 2017

Yesterday... Tomorrow... and in Between.

This is going to be one of those posts that covers a lot of ground. I should probably have broken it down into three smaller posts, but here goes anyway:


Went out whale watching on the Tradition out of San Pedro.  That boat wasn't available last year, it's a smaller boat, and seems to have an entirely different type of passenger. I'm wondering if the ticket price is lower than the Spirit.  It was cold and foggy the first trip, and just cold and wet on the second, but I did get to see a fin whale in the distance just at sunset.  The Tradition is very low in the water, which is cool when it comes to being close to the animals, but when the boat is full, I can't get anywhere near the rail up front, so no good looks (or photos) for me! 

But it was a fun trip, and I did get some non-cetacean photos, including this one, which is shot in color, but it was so misty, it looks like black and white:


Headed to the UU church today, and found that a lot of the people I was afraid left over the recent problems are coming back or had just taken some time away.  I felt a lot more like part of the church today, and talked with a lot of the members, which was a really great feeling.  It also makes it less awful for me to be here while I wait for the apartment in Petaluma, and between that, the whale watching, and Cabrillo, I've actually started looking for apartments here in the area again.

Tonight, and plans for the New Year:

Right now I'm feeling kinda down about being alone on New Years Eve again.  On the other hand, I'm pretty tired and not terribly interested in going out.  I've been thinking about the things I want to change in the New Year, and one of the issues was, as it seems it always is, diet and losing weight.  I'd started changing my diet a little, and today had a low blood sugar episode, so I'm not terribly confident.  I do have some medical options in my future, and referrals to specialists, so we'll see where this goes.

My biggest resolution is to let go of some of the stress, and get some acceptance.  I'm not happy here, and I've really pinpointed a lot of what bothers me:  I feel smothered by the density of population here, and all the litter, violence, and poverty that often comes with the urban setting.  I want space around me, but I also want a sense of community... I want what I had in Santa Fe.

I knew I was making a trade off when I came here, and since I planned on Petaluma, I figured this was temporary. My big problem is that I've actually started building community here, and am involved in things I love, and moving to Petaluma won't be the emotional no-brainer I thought it would.  I've even started looking for better places in the area... out of where I live now, but close enough that I can stay in the church, do whale watches, and volunteer at the aquarium.

I'm not sure where this will all lead, but I want to find some way to do it stress free and with joy, instead of in pain and panic (which is where I go now when I think about where I live)

So my second biggest resolution is to explore my options and find somewhere that I will be able to feel more comfortable, no matter what city it's in, and be happy with my trade-offs.

At this point I have my apartment pretty much how I want it. I'm short a few little things:  I want a jewelry box for my pins and earrings.  I'd like some swag curtains for the living room for summer.  AND... that's about it.  Maybe I'll get a shaker bottle for protein drinks.  DONE.  The only other monthly consumable I want to buy is some Golden acrylic paints so I can do some more painting.

I'm a bit worried about the car. It's leaking coolant again, and I'm afraid if I fix it, that'll be the end of my emergency/ security deposit fund.  I recently received my TAP card, which is kinda a reloadable bus pass for all the bus systems around here, something I got because I was afraid this could happen, so if I'm without the car, I may have a lot of difficulty getting to places I want to go, but I still might be able to go to some of them.  I'd definitely need a ride home from Tuesday night whale watch meetings, but I may be able to take some buses across city lines in the county to get to at least some of the boats and to the aquarium.   I know that the buses to the aquarium are limited, and it'll take me about an hour and a half to get there and an hour and a half back on three buses from where I live.

I'm not sure how I'll get other places, and shopping is going to become a challenge, as well as getting to doctor's offices and back, should the car be "retired".


I was amazingly lucky that one of the rookies canceled their spot on a boat tomorrow, and I'll be on The Indian out of Redondo Beach in the afternoon.  We have a pod of killer whales who've jokingly been called the New Year Whales because they tend to show up on New Years Day (although there is no reason for that to happen on that SPECIFIC day) and if there's even the slightest chance of seeing them, I really wanted to be out there.  Hopefully I'll be posting some terrific photos tomorrow night or Tuesday morning.

a Year-End Message from Conservation International

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Casual and Commercial Misogyny at Christmas.

I'd been toying (no pun intended) with this blog idea for some time, but today a friend posted this comic on FB, and it totally set me off.  Not that the central message was something I disagreed with, but because the imagery was so anchored in patriarchal stereotypes it set my teeth on edge.

You see, at Christmas time, Susie always gets a dolly.

Let's look at some of the lyrics of our favorite Christmas tunes:
Up on the Rooftop:
Nick gets: A ball, a whip, and a hammer and tacks.
Nell gets: A dolly 
Run Run Rudolph:
Boy child: Rock and roll electric guitar.
Girl child: A dolly 
The Most Wonderful Day of the Year:
Jimmy: Scooter
Sue: Dolly 
Jolly Old Saint Nicholas:
Jimmy: Skates
Susy: Dolly
(hurray, btw, for Nell in this song who wants a book and thinks that dolls are "folly")
Now one of the songs that breaks this trend is the song Santa Baby, which features an adult female, acting the gold-digger. Adult women want either (a) men or (b) men to provide them with money and jewels: also stereotypes.

Can't more girls and women in Christmas music be like Nell? Of course girls also want rock and roll electric guitars, scooters and skates. Apparently, however, at Christmas time women only think of being wives and mothers... if the lyricists are to be believed.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

My New Favorite Christmas Song:

Photos from the Christmas Eve Day Whale Watch

from the Matt Walsh...

The harbor seals were back...

smoke from the Thompson fire (now the largest fire in CA history)

feeding frenzy! several species of birds, common dolphins, and sea lions were feasting on small fish near the surface. 

common dolphin in the distance

the Santa Monica Pier from the boat

Saturday, December 23, 2017

When is a dinner plate not a dinner plate?

I came across an article, an older article, in the Washington Post lately called The Nine Inch Diet. It's actually a diet book review, which didn't interest me as much as this one paragraph embedded in the article:
He starts the book with a simple tale. Having just bought a lakeside cottage built in the 1940s, he and his wife went out to stock up on dinnerware. But the plates they bought (regular ones from somewhere like Target) didn't fit, no matter which way he tried to jam them in the cupboards. Slowly it dawned on him that those cupboards had been built with much smaller plates in mind. Further research revealed that while most dinner plates today measure 12 inches, in the middle of the past century the standard was nine inches.
This was something I've long believed. As I recall, most dinner plates were actually 8.5 inches, which is the size of a standard "luncheon" or "salad" plate today.  So it's a little more than three inches more in diameter.  That doesn't seem like much, until you recall that the area of a circle is π times the square of the radius.  So the 12 inch plate has an area of a little over 113sq inches, while the 8.5 inch plate has an area of a little over 56.5 inches, making the new plates almost exactly DOUBLE the area of the old plates.

So today, when mom says "eat everything on your plate" to a kid, and that plate had been full, she's asking her child to eat more than twice as much food as her grandmother asked her mother to eat at the same age.

Let's just let that sink in a while...



I abandoned dinner plates entirely about 9 years ago.  However, recently I went to get some new Corning ware, and found that I couldn't find any of the old six inch luncheon plates anywhere, and ended up buying the 8.5.  Of course, I know I can't fill those plates and still eat in the smaller amounts I need to, so I've only gotten a couple to use for company, and hopefully will be able to locate some of the older pieces in thrift shops.

I've also started eating soups and chili from what we now call "berry bowls" (which are increasingly hard to come by) I strongly suspect that the size of our bowls have also doubled in since the 1950s.

Of course the EASY thing is to say "well, just put the same small amount of food on the plate no matter what size it is." Yeah, it's easy to SAY, but as it turns out, it's not as easy to actually DO.  How the Size and Color of Plates and Tablecloths Trick Us into Eating too Much was published on Forbes Online in 2012, and it's a really interesting look at the psychology of eating and serving. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Why I moved.

One of my kids today mentioned that it seems I move around a lot.  Yeah. I do. I guess, being an adult now, she doesn't remember why.

I moved out because your father was abusive, and I was pregnant.  Then moved again once I was employed full time, and you came home to live with me.  I moved again because I remarried, and again when he hit your little brother.  I got a better job, so I moved again.  And you started asking when we would own a house.  I bought a house, and we moved again.   Then we lost the house when your brother spent about 3 years in the hospital fairly continuously. And we got a pretty nice apartment, but when your brother got out of the hospital, we needed another bedroom, so we moved again.

That's when I went back to school, you moved onto campus, and when I graduated, I got a job out of state, so I moved again. Then the landlords got in some trouble with HUD, and I moved out, unwillingly... and when I got a better paying job in another state, I moved there.  Until I got too sick to work, and I moved again, but the apartment STILL wasn't cheap enough to live in because it took so long to get my disability, so when I ran out of savings, I had to move again. I moved back north then, but got sicker in the bad weather, so I had to move out of my apartment there and into a cheaper one to pay my medical bills, and that's when they told me I had Lupus, and we moved back to warmer weather. 

Then I was diagnosed with kidney cancer, and I decided to move closer to you, so you could watch the girls.  I hated where I moved to.  And when I finally got my disability, and was told the tumors were benign, I moved somewhere I liked.  But it was expensive, and we were on a wait list for subsidized housing, so when a public housing unit opened up, we went there, and when our subsidy went through, we moved into a subsidized unit.  But there the girls had to take two or three buses to school, and it wasn't terribly safe, so we moved into town.  It was nice there.  I was pretty happy.  Then the twins graduated, and one wanted to go to a college that was out of our price range because of the housing costs... so we moved to where the college was.  When the other twin came home, we had a problem, because they both couldn't be on the subsidy after one had left, so someone had to live on their own. Because the apartment was tax-credit, two could live there off subsidy on a lower income, better than one on low income could live anywhere else.  So I took my subsidy and went to senior housing, while the twins stayed in the low income unit.

And when my medical bills got too high, I moved again... back to somewhere I didn't like, and could ill afford, because I got free medical care.  What I don't have is a comfortable apartment, safe public transportation if the car breaks down, heat and air conditioning, or enough space for you or the other kids to fold out the futon if you visited.   So yes, I'm moving again.  I don't know when.

Where?  Well, ideally the place I'd been planning to move to for a couple years before I got here, back when I started putting off medical care when I couldn't afford it.  But that might not be possible, so yes, I am looking at other options, including other states.

and THAT, dear girl, is WHY I've "moved around a lot" over these last 35 years.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Trying to Change the Narrative

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you're aware of some of my health issues.  For the last 30ish years, almost everything that's happened to me health-wise has been diagnosed as "lupus related".  30 years ago I had a soft positive ANA, a positive Rheumatoid factor, and a positive SED rate.  The doctors were pretty positive I have Lupus at that point.  For the next 10 years I struggled with that.  One of the problems was with a diagnosis of a "pre-existing condition" that could do just about anything in my body, everything was blamed on the lupus.  Doctors would say "oh, lupus doesn't do that,  but then I got the bill, which said the insurance didn't cover me because of a pre-existing condition.  I never did figure out how they justified fibroids as lupus related.

Now for the last 10+ years, I've improved mobility and health.  I still struggle with fatigue.  I do better in the sun, and have less of what I've called "lupus holes" in my skin.  I haven't had the malar rash in I can't remember how long.  And I'd begun to doubt my diagnosis.

So I asked for a double strand DNA test, which I'd been told was a pretty definitive test for Lupus.  And it came back negative.  So while I was celebrating the end of my "it's all the lupus" phase in my medical care, I found out that the double strand DNA test is good for looking at a specific antibody which is only present in patients with active lupus with kidney involvement, and that it's used not to diagnose lupus definitively, but to discern lupus from other severe auto-immune disorders in symptomatic patients.

donkey dust.

I'm really no further ahead then when I started.

There are other issues at play here.  Right now all my gastro-intestinal issues are being blamed on my gastric bypass of about 9 years ago.  And while I knew my low blood sugar was caused by the surgery, something I've been struggling with for 6 years now, I didn't think the bile reflux was, but apparently, it could be, so the next step is referral to a bariatric surgeon for a possible reversal of the surgery.

As my blood glucose was 54 mg/dL an hour ago, I find myself constantly reminded that this may be my best option, since the OTHER thing they were talking about was a partial pancreactectomy... which sounds really bad, and risky when it comes to insulin vs glucose... I don't want to be on insulin the rest of my life!

The thing that worries me most about another bariatric surgery is that I'd be staying here in Long Beach a while longer, and would have to pass on an apartment in Petaluma... or I'd have to start over again up there. 

But with all this, with either NOT having Lupus or being well into remission for so long, and with the cause of some of my more detrimental health problems being blamed on the bariatric surgery, it seems that I can stop making everything about my health.  Yeah, I still have to count my spoons most days.  And yes, there is nothing that's going to change the x-rays of my hands showing the basal joint arthritis (stage 4 in my left hand, 1 in my right) and sure, there are those funky tumors, cysts, and calcifications that apparently are just  blips on my imaging studies, and have no real health impact (except for the one in my sinuses, which drives me nuts some days!) and right now I'm trying to cope with a CPAP machine I probably don't need... I'm on the border, and insurance wanted to turn it down, but I have secondary symptoms that have been blamed alternately on (a) lack of quality sleep, (b) migraines, and (c) lupus (of course)

But all this seems pretty trite compared to the lupus diagnosis... and most of it is pretty manageable.

This evening I've taken off my medical alert bracelet.  I'm changing my eating patterns again, and carrying my glucose meter with me again, until I can get that taken care of.  I am not going to continue restricting my activity.  And I'm going back to focusing on health as related to food and fitness, and not on medicine and medical interventions.  I'm hoping if I can get my digestive track back to a more natural state, some of my health problems will be solved.  Certainly I can look forward to less supplements (necessary now because of poor absorption) and hopefully less ant-acids, proton pump inhibitors and H2 inhibitors (did you know that proton pump inhibitors cause fluid retention and weight gain?)

I'll be focusing on three things:  Cardiovascular Fitness (looks like I'll be back at Zumba!), flexibility and strength training, and singing (specifically breath control).  Those are not "I'm sick" health focuses.  Right now the thing I'm most sick of is being told I can expect (this or that) because I'm sick.

New narrative: I'm not getting "well" (from not-well), I'm getting BETTER (than where-ever this is).

Saturday, December 16, 2017

it's not just about whales

Today I was once again out on a whale watching boat out of Marina del Rey.  We're at the very beginning of gray whale season, which means there are very few grays heading down along the coast yet.  It's also the time of year when the larger whales have been feeding to the north, and some will travel through this area... but not quite yet.

Ideally what I do on these trips is spend a few hours talking to the passengers about cetaceans and birds.  We're there to provide an enriching experience for the people on the boat.  But on some trips, there is less to see... trips like today.   And on some trips there is more to do... trips like today.

Today we had some pretty good swells, which means we had quite a few people hugging the rail aft.  I spent more time explaining the importance of being in the back of the boat rather than the front if they had difficulty tolerating the swells, of staying outside in the cool, fresh air, and keeping their eyes on the horizon line.  The other part is just talking.   Once they're stable and their stomachs are empty, that's when the dizziness and headache sets in, and to make sure they don't have to hang over the rail again, the best thing to do is keep them focused on something else.  You get to hear, and tell, a lot of stories in situations like that.  The morning run, the swells were pretty good, and we had only two rail huggers, but it was a small group.  The afternoon we had a good half dozen people who were suffering, even with their patches behind their ears.

Thing is, when you want to keep someone talking, rather than hanging on the rail, you'd be surprised how much you find in common.  We ended up talking about life in the desert southwest and the southern sections of New Mexico, growing up on Lake Ontario, and the difference between the east and west coast, and a discussion of the beaches on the Atlantic vs the Gulf side of Florida, as well as what it's like to have snow in Georgia, and the relative scariness of driving up to various ski resorts.

All of the naturalists know the whales, but I think we come to a point where the whales are the bonus material, and it's really just all about the people.

No whales today, BTW.  We saw about a half dozen dolphin on the first trip, and a smattering more on the second.  Both trips we stopped off to look at a half dozen harbor seals on the rocks... something that's a pretty rare sight in that location.  And there were more Boneparte gulls than I'd every seen in one place out on the water today, although I didn't get a photo of the biggest grouping...

Friday, December 15, 2017

Cetacean Creations

Tuesday was the Cabrillo Whale Watchers' holiday party. One of the big events for the party is the dessert contest:

The first place winners (Squidditch) won this great pillow:

The other big event at the party is the white elephant... and this year I walked away with this:

Which is an item I "stole".  Last year I got stuck with a bag of used bows.  This year I played it safe.

Of course there was also a raffle, great food, a couple other games, and the first boat sign-ups for the official season.  It's a heck of a lot of fun, and something I look forward to every year.

Monday, December 11, 2017

it's not "Godwin's Law" when...

It seems a long time ago, yet it was only a little over a year now, when I drew this comic. Even then I was afraid of what this might become.   It isn't lost on me that now there are crowds cheering as Trump does everything they claimed they were afraid Obama would do:  dismantle government, seize more power, destroy the middle class.

This, by the way was drawn before the infamous Nazi salute at the "Alt right conference"

But we're seeing more and more of the type of oppression and division in the country as we saw pre WWII.   Remember, Hitler's rise in Germany was the product of economic oppression after WWI.  The German people needed someone to blame, and a hero to say "who cares what the rest of the world thinks?  Who cares what we're told we're ALLOWED to do?  We're gonna do what's right for US!"... us, in that case, being the Aryan people. 

and now we're seeing the same kind of blame game.  Trump and his ilk are pointing the finger at immigrants, gays, and Blacks.  Hate crimes, not legitimized by Trumpism, are on the rise.

Roy Moore is just the latest manifestation of all this. Here is a guy, supported by Trump, who not only has "dated" underage girls, but want's to roll back ALL of the amendments to the constitution, save the first ten.

Let's be clear on what that means:
  • This would allow slavery again (13th amendment abolished slavery)
  • This would deny the rights of Blacks to vote (15th amendment allowed Black males to vote)
  • The people would no longer have the right to elect their own senators (as allowed by the 17th amendment)
  • Women would lose the vote (19th amendment gave women the vote)
  • Presidential term limits would be abolished (they were set forth in the 22nd amendment)
  • Poll taxes would return, prohibiting the poor from voting (prohibited by the 24th amendment)
  • The chain of succession to the presidency in case of impeachment, death, or disability would be eliminated (it's outlined in the 25th amendment)
  • Congress can increase and collect said increase in their salaries pretty much at will (prohibited in the 27th)
Moore is not yet in a position where he can do all of this, even if elected, but the fact of the matter is, THIS is an ideology shared by too many individuals in this nation, and perhaps Trump himself, since he's a big supporter of Moore, and very much the direction the nation is moving in as a whole, despite local victories on state levels in several states.

Right now, Trump's approval rating sits at 32%.  It's easy for the left to smirk at that, to assume that this isn't going to give him, or the republicans, any power going forward.  That is a mistake.  It's the same mistake that allowed Trump to gain the White House.  We live in a nation where less than 60% of eligible voters actually vote.  Those who do, generally have very strong feelings, and there is very little stronger than the frenzy of extremism.    Those 32% who approve can drive the nation, if the 68% who don't approve continue to sit back.

I have always wondered how hate and extremism came into power in Nazi Germany.  Now I'm seeing it happen first hand.

There are still protests, still marches, and still popular actions against Trump, but they're losing steam.  The media isn't big on covering them.  They are "old news".  We're putting on our pink pussy cat hats and screaming into the void.  What we NEED to be doing is activating voters.   We've seen a bit of that in the November elections, a change in the tide on state and local levels.   But with Republicans still in control, we can't count on that to continue.  Gerrymandering will put a damper on future elections.

At the same time, we're being hit with a flood of disinformation.  It's starting to feel a lot like 1984.  First we hear that a lot of our social media for the last several years... on both the right and the left side of the political aisle, has been influenced by Russian operatives, then we're dealing with a president who calls every report he doesn't like "fake news" and finally there IS fake news coming out of trusted media outlets, like the recent misrepresentation of the crowd at the Trump Rally in Florida recently.

Perhaps, in many ways, this was intended as an act of resistance, a way to undermine the president. If so, it was ill conceived, because it has only added to the confusion and distrust, and undermines the reality that there ARE large groups of fanatics out there who are willing to put America through hell to purge in some sort of holy fire and make it a white supremacist nation.  The loss of a credible media will only serve that goal. 

In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable—what then?
- George Orwell, 1984
It's important to note, none of this is really new. Orwell saw the possibility in 1949. I was talking about it to a friend in Poland back in the mid 90s.  Honestly, I never thought it would happen in my lifetime, but I did my best to prepare my kids, because I figured it would happen in theirs.

And now here we are.  The poor and the elderly are about to be crushed under a new Republican tax bill that will take money from the hands of the middle class and poor and put it in corporate CEOs pockets.   And now they're coming for Social Security, and Medicare, items that are paid for directly by wage-earners from their earnings as an investment/insurance for their futures.

Considering that most Americans can't rent an apartment on a 40 hour a week job, and NO one can afford a one bedroom apartment at fair market value on 40 hours per week at minimum wage, the loss of programs like medicaid and the affordable care act are going to result in more than inconvenience.  People are going to die from lack of treatment.  More people will be homeless at a time when we already have more people homeless since the Great Depression.  With cuts to HUD, we can expect to see more people who rely on various programs to assist in rent payments or to provide affordable rentals ending up on the streets.

All of this serves to beat down the populace, to take power from the people and put it in the hands of those already at the top: politicians and corporate and religious "donors" who fund them and drive their policies.

It's been a long time since I've written a purely political post.  Mostly because I wanted this blog to be a kind of sanctuary.  Also because I, like everyone else who's been even marginally active in the resistance, am afraid of how far the government will go to silence the resistance.  I've been more than a little suspicious since Trump ordered voter information which identifies individuals and their voting history, especially since the "voter fraud issue" has been laid to rest by multiple investigations.

Of course, I don't have the same level of risk or fear personally than those of targeted demographics.  I'm not going to go out and be shot in the street by police officers because of the color of my skin. Nor am I likely to be threatened because of my religion or ethnic identity, and denied fair treatment in America's courts as a result.  And I'm unlikely to be deported.

And while ICE raids and deportations continue, it's important to look back and see that this is NOT the first time this has happened, and that we are reliving a history we ought to be ashamed of.

I am very aware of my privilege in all of this.  Really, all I have to do is keep my head down and my mouth shut, and I'll get through this.  It would be hard, but it would be doable.  But that's exactly the mindset that allows this all to come to pass the same way it did in Nazi Germany. It's the same way people allow it to continue.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
~Martin Niemöller

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Truth about Trolley Garden Way.

I love to take photos of the cactus in Trolley Garden Way.
Most of my photos are carefully framed and cropped to look something like this:

Especially when they're in bloom, they are quite spectacular.  I have plenty of Instagrams that look like this:

A post shared by Kate Kosman (@katekosman) on

And yes, it is lovely.

But it's carefully shot, because most of Trolley Garden Way looks like this;

and that's just the shot's I'd post, because the dirty panties and needles and condoms don't need to be photographed. It's just nasty.

Recently I'd Instagramed this:

A post shared by Kate Kosman (@katekosman) on

Happy, shortly there-after the sidewalk was cleaned, but the garbage in Trolley Garden Way remains.

Apparently there is some conflict with the city easement and the ownership of the land on either side of the sidewalk, but it's something that impacts the entire neighborhood. 

One of the neighbors (a homeowner) told me that it used to be that a professional came in and cared for the cactus, and the land was kept up, but that was long ago. It saddens me to know that this potential jewel in Long Beach has become a burden to the neighborhood and an eyesore.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

My First Gray of the Season:

(whale, not hair)

the classic heart shaped blow of a gray whale.

I was out on the Matt Walsh out of Marina del Rey again today.  This little gray has been hanging around all week, feeding on ghost shrimp in the soft mud just off the breakwater toward the beach.

here you have a better idea just how close to the beach this whale was

I there was a paddle boarder who had come out to see the whale, and shortly after this video, two swimmers joined them, and the whale approached the group quite closely.

A post shared by Kate Kosman (@katekosman) on

Of course there were plenty of common dolphin (as always, it seems!) and several sea lions, including this raft of sea lions we saw on our way back in:

a raft of sea lions, casually thermoregulating in the waters off Marina del Rey

they look toward the boat and....

I guess they didn't want to have their photos taken!

Well, I feel I should have a dolphin photo, even though none of the photos I took are really spectacular.  I definitely need a better camera for this!  But here is a common dolphin, right at the surface of the water along the boat:

So one thing that was a little different about today's trip is that we were so close to the fires raging in Ventura County.  I can't see the smoke from Long Beach, but we were in the edges of the smoke in Marina del Rey.
this photo is taken in the harbor at Dock 52 in Marina del Rey this morning.  Yes, that's all smoke behind those buildings. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Thursday, November 30, 2017

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

no... not Christmas.

Cautious Optimism

When I saw this image in FB, it really struck home.  These days I'm spending more time trying to manifest the positive.  Now mind you, I don't believe in "the Secret" or "Abundance" or any of that stuff that has you calling on the universe to provide, but I HAVE focused on providing more for ME NOW.

I've been restricting a lot of what I do with my apartment and with my life in general based on the idea that I'm moving somewhere better, and that I probably shouldn't invest too heavily (either emotionally or financially) in where I am now, because that'll all be gone 'soon'. 

Well, 'soon' is getting to be a lot farther off in the future than I'd hoped, and in the mean while, I've let things stay pretty miserable where I am.

Until these last couple weeks.

The Northern California wildfires were a wake-up call for me. I don't know if the huge number of people burned out of their homes in Sonoma County is going to change the wait lists at the apartments I've been longing to move into, but I do know it's changed my expectation.  While I have this huge desire to move and part of me doesn't want someone else to bump me down the wait list, I also am acutely aware that someone else has just lost everything they had to a fire, and needs a roof over their head.

So today I'm sitting in my apartment, cold,a bit damp, sick to my stomach, and bemoaning my 18 inches of counter space, but realizing my car is running, I have a roof over my head and food in the fridge, and I've been able to afford some small things for the kids for Christmas.

In the last couple weeks, I've decided to make my apartment as nice as possible. It's still a work in progress, but it's likely I'll be here a year or longer.  I've gotten a nice slipcover for my chair, a small rug near the door (so I'm not tramping water over the faux hardwood) and I've got to get some sort of small bedside table since I need to set up my cpap (which arrived yesterday).  I'm planning a rug (runner) for the main room area, one of those tension poles with shelves for the bath, and curtains for the front window as well... and I'm going to TRY to make the kitchen floor look halfway decent (because they smeared the glue laying down the tiles, it looks perpetually filthy)

I always say I'm not a bloom where you're planted type gal. And I'm not.  But I'm not going to wither up and die because I can't find a little plot of sunshine right now, either.  I can catch some rays where I can, and I can dig a little deeper and hold on here until I find a better opportunity.

Monday, November 27, 2017

It looks different from the sidewalk

Perspective is everything.

I post a lot about how Long Beach has two sides (the tourist side and total abject poverty) and how uncomfortable it is for me to live here.  It's no secret that I've seen a creeping rot seeping down the coast from the river toward the OC border, but that there are places in Long Beach that I absolutely adore:  Naples, Belmont, Upper Belmont, Los Altos, Bixby Knolls and even Rose Park top the list.  And it's no secret that following the three murders that occurred in quick succession shortly after I moved here, that I've been calling this area "the kill zone".

Now this IS a hotly contested area.  Is it part of Cambodia town or Zapheria?  And more recently has it become a boundary or battleground between the Rollin 20 Crips and the East Side Longos?

On the other hand, in the immediate area, many of the older homeowners are dying or leaving (not due to murder) and young, sometimes quirky and a bit hipster, professionals are moving in.  I'm not sure if that will in any way change the gang dynamic, but it may change some of the other neighborhood dynamics.

But, yes, I have my concerns living here, and generally I walk no farther than the park (a block away)  and once to the thrift store (3 blocks) Other than that, I've stayed safely isolated in my car, except for the time I had to walk home from the ER at 6am (I was terrified).  But yesterday I decided I needed a few things from the grocery store, and my car was still at the garage being repaired.

The closest grocery to my apartment (besides the corner stores, which are very expensive) is Food 4 Less, which is a little less than a mile away... down Anaheim, which I pretty much view as mainstreet of hell.   I decided to chance it.

Things look different from the sidewalk.

Yes, I started out seeing the homeless in the park, the boarded up industrial complex, which I immediately thought the city should buy and build a low income housing apartment, since it's only a couple blocks from the school, a half block to the bus, and right across 14th (a small, lightly traveled street on that block) from the park and the community center.  It would be a great location for families.  Once I got onto Anaheim itself, I was pretty surprised. 

Aniheim is small businesses on both sides for miles.  Most of those businesses are pretty well covered by security gates, and appear to be closed most of the time.  From the sidewalk I noticed that there were open doors, and that the businesses were open.  I stopped into Fabric Barn.  Where I'd expect an empty store, instead I found customers.  In fact, looking into the other shops and restaurants along the way, I found that they all had a surprising number of people shopping or dining.  Each of these smaller privately owned businesses had a niche in the community.

For a moment it all felt alternately very hip and urban, and very homey.  I could see why people might think Long Beach was a hidden gem... and these little shops and a lifestyle that was very far from one I've been used to (or could even see heading down the road at 35mph).

I still don't see myself staying in Long Beach.  And nothing I've seen resolves the issues of violence and the pollution here, although I'm gaining a new appreciation for some of the neighborhoods I've judged more harshly.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Great American Desert

This morning, I read an article on the EcoWatch website titled Why These 8 States Could Soon Form the 'Great American Desert'

While this is important (people are taking water out of the aquifer quicker than it is replenished) it's also important to note that there are other policies driving the water issue. One is the damming of rivers to allow for homes to be built along them... to eliminate what some people call "unpredictable flooding". That "unpredictable flooding" is also what helps certain native plants grow along the rivers, including the cottonwood tree, which helps anchor the soil around rivers with roots.

Loss of these native species leads to soil erosion, which causes the rivers to become more shallow and contributes to fauna loss and eventually the loss of the river itself. A lot of the flora loss was (and is still) caused by ranchers grazing on the BLM land which often borders these rivers.
Rivers are, of course, the OTHER source of water. Dry up the river, and you're tapping the aquifer.
And lastly, there are a lot of interstate water agreements that cause issues. One is the agreement between New Mexico and Texas. Texas has plenty of water (again, mismanagement of the Trinity River is a BIG problem) but a large amount of Rio Grande water is granted to Texas through these agreements.
Some local agreements become necessary because of this: agreements on tribal water use, agreements on farm use... the old acequias are still in use and official permission is needed to open the gates and allow water to flow through any individual's land, for any purpose. (watch Robert Redford's movie, The Milagro Beanfield War, to get a better idea how this works)

This is a complex issue, and we're certainly not necessarily doomed. Better land and population management can turn this around fairly quickly.
While in New Mexico, I was part of an effort to restore native plants to the river beds. Thanks to groups like The Stream Team (part of Wild earth Gardians) water is flowing in parts of rivers and streams that were previously dry. Laws which state that improvements made by one tennant of BLM lands cannot be removed by another continue to protect these lands from the problems related to clear cutting for grazing, insuring a future for this rivers, so long as the government continues this protection of its land.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Photo Favs from my Desktop Photoshow Folder

Looking though some older photos (again)...

so how often do you get to photograph one that's actually awake?

One of my favorite Grand Canyon photos. I like the tree as much as the canyon.

Commemorating the Battle of Glorietta Pass at El Rancho de las Golondrinas.

Another fav from El Rancho de las Golondrinas: Chip and Champ pulling the plow.

when it really hit me that they weren't little girls any more...

Friday, November 24, 2017

Atheist Holidays

I've pretty much totally divorced the idea of "holiday" as "holy day".  The religious context that different groups want to put on different times of the year are less important to me than the byproducts of those celebrations.  Few Christians now-a'days would even want to argue that December 25th (or January 7th) is the birth date of Jesus. For me, having examined the evidence for a historical Jesus and finding nothing to compel me to believe, it's a moot point.

This time of year finds me at odds with a lot of religious and social issues, mostly resulting from those "purists" who want to promote the agendas that we're so fond of in way to fundamental America:  that Thanksgiving is a time we give thanks in memory of pilgrims and indigenous people coming together to celebrate the harvest, and that Christmas is the birth of our "Lord and Savior".

For me, the entire season is pretty much void of those concepts. After all, people were celebrating the harvest time and the mid-winter all over the world long before Christianity appropriated the celebrations. And my discussion of the relationship between the "pilgrims" and the indigenous people in North America would take another whole blog post... or two... or three...

Instead, Thanksgiving is, for me, the kickoff of a longer holiday season, a time for gratitude and family, and "little lent" (as it's called in the Eastern churches) or "advent" (in the west) is a time of excitement and anticipation for the mid-winter celebration, and it's what carries us through the darkening and increasingly colder days. It is, above all, a time for family and connection, for staying close to the hearth (in a more figurative sense) and for reforging and maintaining our relationships with each other. It's about traditional foods, it's about shared activities and traditions, and yes, on Midwinter's day, it's also about some presents.

So, like my Christian friends, I borrow what I love from the holidays and meld them into my own traditions, which have been carried on by my children.  I didn't notice how firmly they held to those traditions until last night, when I casually mentioned to my eldest that I was out of dish soap, and would have to go pick some up in the morning.  She was aghast at the thought.  Shop on Black Friday?  We traditionally stay home, refusing to take part in the Black Friday consumer frenzy.  "I think I just wouldn't wash dishes for the day,"  she told me.  The tradition is strong in that one.

But for me, at least, traditions have to be functional.  They need to fit with our lifestyles and our values.  So I will be going out today, breaking my own tradition, because I value clean dishes more than I value a tradition, especially since I don't think that buying a bottle of dish soap equates to the kind of rampant consumerism I was protesting when starting my "Stay Home Black Friday" tradition.

Surprisingly, it's my youngest two who are most staunch about following traditions, right down to the foods.  I recall a few years ago wanting to switch up the Thanksgiving menu a bit, by changing the kind of green bean casserole to a cheesy green bean casserole recipe I'd found and thought looked pretty good.  You'd think I'd suggested hot dogs and fries for dinner, they were so opposed to the change.  And this year, two years after my leaving (and cooking my last Thanksgiving meal with them) they posted the VERY SAME FOODS we'd eaten before:  roast turkey, corn, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, and warm rolls.  No changes.

Yesterday we all watched the parade in our respective time zones.  All decorate our trees.  All listened to Christmas music, and all made contact through Skype.  Because SEEING each other and sharing our traditions is important to us.  Family is one thing we DO believe in.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Macy's, The Parade, and Forgetting the Past

I'm watching the livestream of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Comment after comment is flashing along the screen:  "Why Christmas?"  "Why are there so many Christmas songs?"  "This seems like an opening for Christmas, not Thanksgiving".



It is.

I have to keep remembering I'm a lot older than the average person watching the parade via livestream, and that I'm probably a lot older than the commentators on the stream, but even so, it was the generation before me that started the tradition, a tradition that DOES have it's foundation in being the "opening event" for the Christmas season.

The parade has gotten larger and larger over the years, and the roots of Macy's grand advertising event, promoting the arrival of Santa Claus at their store and the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, has been lost in the flash and grandeur of the parade itself.

My family and I have adopted the Macy's tradition into our own.  On Thanksgiving morning, we watch the parade together (or together via the web, as we do this year) and, once Santa makes his appearance at the parade, we turn off the TV, turn on the Christmas music, and decorate our home(s).

For us, at least, this parade still kicks off the season, although not, perhaps, the shopping portion of it.

We have our own Black Friday tradition as well:  Staying home, watching movies, and NOT shopping.

Monday, November 20, 2017

A few pictures from Saturday's whale watch:

Yes, we saw dolphin.  There were loads of commons, and one Pacific white-sided.  No really great photos of the dolphins, but some really nice photos of other things on the late afternoon trip.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Urban Blues

As the holidays approach, I find myself more and more often thinking of Santa Fe.   I loved living in New Mexico, and now the minor health issues (dry skin, nose bleeds in winter) seem minor.  It was always the health insurance that brought me here, and I do have great health insurance and healthcare.

It's also no secret that Long Beach was not my first choice, especially after my last experience here a decade ago. I knew coming in that I wouldn't be able to afford to live in the kind of neighborhood that makes people love Long Beach, and my early experience here with homelessness and seeing the dreadful offerings for individuals with a housing grant only reinforced that.  The day I signed my lease on my tiny apartment almost 18 months ago, there was a huge media coverage of an event involving an officer shooting, a dead police dog, and a suspect that had terrorized the neighborhood.  The parking lot of my little 18 unit apartment was taped off with crime scene tape.

Shortly after that we had two murders of residents, one on the sidewalk of "Trolley Garden Way" and one in the parking lot (the body was apparently used to hold the gate open) We often have police helicopter circling, and now we're having more gang issues again, with a couple different groups painting their signs and some messages on the sidewalk of Trolley Garden Way as if it were some sort of border.  Gang names and ethnicities are often cited, ongoing issues where I live.

Yesterday on the boat I was talking to a woman from Long Beach.  She lived on the border of Upper Belmont, and was saying what a "hidden treasure" Long Beach is.  I always wonder how my perception of the entire city might be different if I'd lived in that neighborhood, or if I'd come from an even rougher neighborhood to the neighborhood I'm in now.

But most recently, I've come from Santa Fe. 

Yesterday on the boat, watching the smog roll out to sea to the south of us, out from Los Angeles, and even heavier out from the port and the refineries in Long Beach, I absolutely longed for some clean high desert air.

Of course none of that was the focus of my day, just random things that passed through my mind, but apparently took deep root in my sub-conscious, because last night I dreamed pretty intensely.

In my dream I was apartment shopping, but the whole west side of California looked like a cross between what LA and San Francisco are really like, and the original Blade Runner movie cities.  There was one high rise that I'd wanted to get into in this dream, and an apartment was available.  First they made a mistake, showing me a beautiful two bedroom, which I was in competition for with a friend (but I don't qualify, so she got it) and then they told me there was a one bedroom available, which they showed me in the basement, through the old tunnels for the steam pipes and water pipes, behind a janitorial closet.  It was small and windowless, but I figured I'd take it because I was that desperate. 

The dream continues with me going back to the apartment before signing the lease to take a second look, and find it to be not the same as the one I looked at. It was even tinier, and there was an old woman living there, at least for the time being.  Her daughter and a nurse were there as well.  The nurse explained to me that I'd still be able to move in at the end of the month, because the old woman would be dead by then, and if I wanted to come in now and measure for furniture, I could.

The whole dream felt like I didn't have choices, that I was being confined into smaller and smaller spaces. A great deal of the end of the dream had someone driving me in a car as far as we could go, seeing nothing but buildings and billboards and concrete no matter how long we drove, and me sobbing uncontrollably in the front passenger seat because I missed seeing open spaces.

It doesn't take any kind of training to interpret a dream like that.  My mind is pretty straight forward.

Ultimately I DO feel trapped.  Oh, I love the whale watches and I love the Cabrillo Aquarium, but it's not enough.  I was reminded yesterday in the cold afternoon how painful it is for me to be that cold and damp. I realized I'd also complained about the cold and dry in Santa Fe, and that no place is perfect for weather. 

I stay here for the health insurance, and I want to move up to Petaluma to be somewhere I want to age.  I worry about aging and the possibility of a nursing home in Santa Fe.  I've got some years before I need to worry (I hope), but I am also tired of bouncing all over the country.  I'd thought to end up in Sunrise in Petaluma if that all happens, but there's also a Sunrise in Albuquerque. Right now I'm in a holding pattern, waiting, who knows how long, for the apartment in Petaluma, where I hope being in a senior apartment will give me everything I loved about my home in Santa Fe with all the benefits of being in California.

I'm also in a situation where I've pushed for some tests which will give me a more definitive answer about some of my health issues, including my Lupus diagnosis, which I've had increasing doubts about over the last several years.  If I don't, in fact, have Lupus, and all these health issues are discrete, manageable issues, I may find myself in the same place I was over a decade ago here in Long Beach:  with an optimistic outlook on my health and future, and the desire to go live somewhere I want to live.

After being here over a year, waiting for an opportunity to go to Petaluma, I'm still not 100% sure of whether that's Petaluma or Santa Fe.  All I do know is right now I'm wishing for farolitos and luminaria and some really great biscochitos with hot chocolate.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

a quick check-in...

Back to back whale watches today, a whale watch last night, and last week packed with school and medical stuff.  Looks like I won't be finishing uploading photos until Monday.

Tomorrow I'm double booked again, but not with whale watch boats.  We'll see what I end up doing!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Back to Back Whale Watches.

Today I went out on the Matt Walsh out of Marina del Rey for back to back whale watches.  No big whales today, but common dolphin on both trips, and a single coastal bottlenose on the afternoon trip as we were coming back.

I don't expect to see a lot of whales these days.  The big whales are still up north feeding, although we're starting to see a few drifting south, mostly humpback and fin.  No sign of blues heading south yet.

There have also been a couple sightings of early migrating grays, juveniles, who sometimes don't follow the normal migration schedule as closely, but head down to Mexico early, and sometimes head back late.

Regardless, I did get a couple decent photos, and some photos of other things from the boat:

common dolphin under the water, swimming near the boat

not the greatest photo of a mom and calf with a couple other commons jumping in the background
an entirely predictable dolphin photo
yes, you can see the Hollywood sign from the ocean
Fishermen's Village (seems there's one in EVERY beach town)
pelicans in flight over Marina del Rey

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Excavating the Digital Vault

These days I've been going through all three of my PhotoBucket accounts trying to recover images.  They no longer allow you to link images from there (the reason I got the accounts in the first place) which is bad enough, but any image that's linked now isn't viewable in PhotoBucket, either, so I'm having to go through and move all the files to break the links to see what's in them then download the photos one by one.

Literally 10s of thousands of photos.

So, a major pain in the butt.  I should be able to download whole albums, but that hasn't worked for me yet, and anything in my "bucket" has to be gone through anyway, since I don't need to save old site graphics.

I've found a few gems in there.  And the whole process has reminded me that the internet is NOT forever.

Here's some of my favorites from the last dig:

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