Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Move Update

I found on the internet a few years back, source unknown. 
This may come in handy in the near future. 
Things are kinda crazy right now.  Even though all my paperwork (from my side) is finished, Long Beach Housing "process" is going to have me wait at least another week, maybe three, before they send the paperwork on to Sonoma County Housing.  The big issue with that, of course, is that I need to move out of this place in 13 days (no choice at this point), and move into the new apartment in 14, or risk losing the apartment and my holding fee and facing long term homelessness.

Trying to get through to people in the Housing Office has been a nightmare, because they are so rigid in their process, that I apparently MUST go to a meeting to sign a form which I already signed and submitted a week ago because that's just the way it's done, and they won't move forward until it's done that way (since I already signed the paperwork acknowledging the instructions and risks which they are going to discuss at this meeting, WHY am I going?)  I had requested an earlier meeting instead of the group meeting (next week) but apparently there is no one to do the meetings, because the individual is on vacation, and they don't cover that position when she's gone.

So, while everything was ready to send to Sonoma a week ago (all they have to do in LB is issue my voucher, something they have to wait to get the form I submitted last week to do) I have to wait ANOTHER week before they even look at the paperwork.

I think I've found a HUGE contributing factor to homelessness in Long Beach.  This is the SAME kind of delay I was up against when I came here (with all my paperwork in order and my apartment set up) that lead to my being homeless:  they sat on the paperwork until I lost the apartment.  I sure hope they don't do that again, and that my new complex will be understanding of the delay, which will minimize the amount of time I end up sleeping in my car after I have to move out in 13 days.

IF Long Beach doesn't get their act together, I WON'T be able to move in on my move date in 14 days (it takes a day to drive up there).

What I really don't understand is that the people I talk to at Long Beach Housing say the reason it takes so long is that they're so overworked.  Well, if they just issued the voucher now that the paperwork on my end is complete and sent it on to Sonoma, that would be a lot less work than making me jump through hoops and sending my paperwork through three more hands at the office.

I suppose I should stop expecting things to be rational. And I guess I should start looking into shelters in Sonoma County, because I'm not sure I can get my voucher and my inspection done in time for a March 14 move in at this point.  Public Storage has a half off first month rent, so my move in to the storage facility would be $65.50.  I would be able to move stuff out piecemeal in the car, so I wouldn't need to rent a trailer again (that'll be one good thing!) I think that I'll probably have to go to Catholic Charities in Santa Rosa to get some stop-gap shelter until all the paperwork is done, IF there are beds available somewhere in the county, and of course there is the issue with my dog and sheltering.  In all this, I can't spend money that I need for the balance of my security deposit and rent in the new apartment, so this month could become a real challenge for me.

Now I've dealt with some serious craziness with Section 8 before, but NOTHING like Long Beach. The Santa Fe move was mostly a situation of paperwork that one office said was sent, and the other said they never received and it only lasted a few days. THIS has been a week, will likely be another week, and could drag on beyond that.  The chance that this move will go on schedule gets slimmer every day.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

A light comes on over my head (in the closet?)

For a long time, I've talked about treating myself  better... about being my "own fairy god-mother".  The original incident which set me off happened about 6-7 years ago, when my daughter invited me to (literally two hours before the beginning of) a red carpet event at her film school.  I literally had nothing I could wear to such an event.  I had no formal, no semi-formal. The best I could pull off was my ONLY business outfit: a black cardigan with a plaid skirt.  I vowed never again.

There have been times when I've had a fairly diverse closet. The problem is the fluctuation of weight I get trying to balance my issues with hypoglycemia with keeping my weight down. (A rep from my old insurance company once told me I didn't need treatment for hypoglycemia, I just needed to eat more. I weighed a little over 200 lbs.)

One problem is that, despite all my "be my own fairy god-mother" posts, my closet has become a haven for cardigans and stretch pants, but even more disturbing is that it's mostly in what I call "camouflage black".  That's the plain black outfits we fat people wear because we're told "black is slimming".  It also helps us blend in a room, and doesn't call attention to our bodies with bright colors.

The irony in all this is that I frequently claim I feel invisible.

And of course, the fat chick all in black cowering in the back of the room IS invisible, and I've always marveled at women much heavier than I who are beautiful and outgoing and very VERY visible in the best of all possible ways, simply because they are comfortable enough with who they are to by clothes that fit, are modern, and in bright colors.  They also have no fear of makeup, hair color, and flamboyant style.

So yesterday I went out and got a few things for myself: some t-shirts in colors ...which will likely end up under my dark neutral cardigans.

I also washed EVERY SINGLE ITEM OF CLOTHING I OWN, since recently I've begun to suspect I'm allergic to that last laundry detergent I bought.  Having to put EVERYTHING back in the closet the same time was an eye opener, because literally the entire left side of my closet was black or near black.

and this is DEFINITELY not the look I want going forward...

but...

I also am no longer sure how to dress myself, what things say "this is who Kate is" and I end up falling back on t-shirts, cardigans and dark neutral slacks.

Good things happen with inclusivity

There has been a recent event in social media that has had me upset this weekend, and it has me thinking back on how important inclusion is in the lives of our "special needs" children.  If you've been following me for the last decade and a half, you already know my youngest, Tay. If you don't, you may want to take a look at some of the posts about her on my archives site (link in right sidebar).

Tay is on the autism spectrum, and is what some people might call an "autism success story".  She is NOT "cured" of autism, she has, however, adapted well, and is now verbal and mobile, after two decades of hard work.  I did notice that, like many other young people who've had some relief from some of the outward affects of autism, that she has had some increasing difficulties as she has become an adult.

But right now, this post is about the videos I found while searching for one in particular, and it shows a number of museums, zoos and aquariums which we frequented as a family, and how much pleasure Tay has had in interacting in all of them. In most of these videos, she is verbal, in some, not and in others, partially so.

at a taiko event at the Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles:



at Explora! in Albuquerque:



with her twin at an event at the Mission of Capistrano:



Special kudos to this Walnut Canyon Ranger who helped Tay (and her new friend the owl puppet) recite the junion ranger oath:



At the red lantern event in Los Angeles (note, my son, who is dual diagnosed, is also on the autism spectrum, and while this is as far as they got in the song, it became something we talked about, and built family events around, for a few years ... see our "scary-oke" contest videos)



This, next video is my favorite, and one of the reasons I love being a docent. I wish EVERY child could have a heartfelt reaction like this. This video is from Monterey Aquarium, and you can hear Tay's response to seeing the Mola Mola:



Now I won't say that EVERY interaction we had was like these. I've had people become quite irate (and been asked to leave) zoo events back in Albuquerque when Tay has become non-verbal or windmilling. I remember a particular conversation with our clerk during a recognition event (yes, I was a docent THERE back in the day) where she thought that Tay should leave, and that her behavior wasn't acceptable, and that she was "spoiled" and I should stop "coddling" her. I had her twin stay with her while I pulled the clerk aside and educated her. She was, to her credit, apologetic, and willing to learn.

I wish we had even that in grocery stores and shopping malls.

Children with disabilities deserve to have the same opportunities and experiences as their mainstreamed peers. There have been many times I've taken Tay into a museum, aquarium and zoo while she has been non-verbal and she has left speaking (sometimes non-stop!) because the directed stimulation was something she could focus on.

For anyone reading who might be involved in a zoo, aquarium or museum, here are some simple things to consider:

  1. Just because a child is silent, isn't making eye contact, is fidgeting, or is making noises you are unfamiliar with doesn't mean that child isn't learning, enjoying, or having a positive experience or interaction.  Not every individual is going to react the same way, whether they are developmentally disabled, psychiatrically disabled, or what you might call "normal"
  2. It's even more important to have a variety of learning experiences, including kinesthetic, tactile, and yes, even musical, rhythmic, or anything that engages other senses when possible.
  3. Sometimes it's a good idea to allow groups who have members who may be overwhelmed by large crowds or noise to have a special tour with no background music, and less people in the facility.
  4. EVERYONE who walks through your door deserves the same respect, the same compassion, and the same joyful, relaxing, educational, inspirational and memory-making experience, regardless of ability.
     

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Side-gill

I was delighted today to see some side gill sea slugs in a classroom tank at the aquarium today.  I'd seen a single side-gill at the aquarium (a different species) previously, and had recently asked about them. Pleurobranchaea californica is the species associated with the sandy/ muddy deep water areas off the coast.

one of several side-gills in the tank. 


There doesn't seem to be a lot written on these animals, and I wonder just how much research has been done. I do know that in New Zealand, they have had trouble with their local side-gills, Pleurobranchaea maculata, causing the deaths of several dogs(due to ingestion of the toxic animals) This problem seems to have been first reported in 2009, and was thought to be isolated to parts of New Zealand,  however, in 2015 there is a BBC report of toxic side-gills off Argentina. After reading a number of research papers, I found a recent study that confirmed that these are also Pleurobrachaea maculata, which makes me wonder how widespread the species is, and whether or not we will find a number of separately named species will turn out to be the same species after genetic testing, since these animals are so toxic each one contains enough toxin to kill 4 humans.

Pleurobrachaea maculata look a heck of a lot like Pleurobrachaea californica, and while not all animals that look alike are actually members of the same species, I think I'd want to do some genetic testing and testing for the presence of TTX (tetrodotoxin, the neurotoxin that killed the dogs who ingested the slugs)

It is not known if all Pleurobranchaea contain the potent neurotoxin, tetrodotoxin.

It's interesting to note that unlike other sea slugs who eat toxic creatures and incorporate the toxin or toxic cells into their own bodies, Pleurobrachaea maculata apparently produces the toxin within it's own body.  This hypothesis by scientists in New Zealand was developed during studies of the animals, where they could find no TTX in animals the slug may have eaten.

Q&A at CMA

During mornings I'm at CMA, before the tours, we have docent enrichment activities.  Yesterday we were discussing "Sand Crabs" (Emerita analoga).  There was a discussion about how the female carries her eggs (under the tail) at which point I asked, "So Sand Crabs aren't True Crabs?"

 No one was sure, so I did some reading.

As it turns out, sand crabs are NOT true crabs.  True Crabs make up the Infraorder Brachyura. Mole crabs (Sand crabs) belong to the Infraorder Anomura, and are more closely related to hermit crabs. Porcelain crabs are also in this class of animals.

These animals are also commonly known as Sand Fleas.  They aren't fleas, either.





Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Oh, Petaluma!

Well, I'm back from my first of two pre-move trips I have to make to Petaluma.  The apartment is secured, I've put a holding deposit on it, and now it's up to housing.  I hope they can move quickly, because I have a move out date here of less than three weeks away, and a move in the next day.  I've got my trailer reserved, my hitch ball ordered and paid for, and my daughter and her SigOther are coming out to Long Beach to help.  Things are moving pretty quick.

One thing that really surprised me is how close everything is.  I'd driven it on Google Earth, but never in RL, and it's really all walkable, from the dog park to shopping... it's all right there.  Cinnamon, BTW, made some new doggie friends, and I met some women there who are regulars.

I didn't get a lot of photos, the trip was pretty much a hit and run, with me going up, getting and filling out paperwork (I filled out the application at the dog park, then went to the bank to get the money orders) but I did have a few minutes to stop off at the visitor's center, which is at the train station, which is also where the Petaluma Art Center is located.  Parking was a nightmare.




But I'm really telling the story from the middle out, and I suppose I should start with the trip there, which was an adventure in itself.

I started the trip late Monday morning, knowing I could, should I wish to, make it all the way into Petaluma before my normal bedtime, and wake up with plenty of time to spare before my appointment.  But hotels are expensive in Petaluma, relative to other areas, and I figured I could save about $60 by spending the night in Stockton.

Now pulling in to the Howard Johnsons on Center Street, I was pretty encouraged.  It's across from the park and the river, which had some pretty views:



Well, on closer inspection, not as pretty...


Well, on to finish my riverside walk with the dog, and I was stopped by a woman who was the very stereotype of a meth addict.  I told her I didn't carry cash, and moved on quickly back to the apartment.  At that point, I could see the homeless starting to gather.

Back in the hotel, I discovered two things:  First, my deadbolt didn't work, and second, that someone had used the "clean" towel in my room at some point as toilet paper.  I changed rooms.  My next room had a lock that worked, but the linens were pretty crusty, there was water damage on the bathroom walls, the toilet backed up (but didn't flood) when the next unit flushed, and there was no microwave or coffee maker.  At least I had internet.  And my own soap, because I scrubbed myself A LOT before leaving.  Stockton Howard Johnsons gets a zillion thumbs down from this reviewer.

So on to Petaluma, where I did my apartment stuff, and had a lovely time talking to women at the dog park, and went to the visitor's center, where I mentioned I was in the process of moving and wanted a hard copy of the seasonal event calendar (visitor's guide) and where I got to talk to two lovely ladies who were recruiting me HARD to volunteer for Butter and Egg Days Parade.  I left uncommitted, and pointed out that I'd like to see it one year just as an observer, and that I'm sure they'd still need extra hands next year, when I'd be more inclined to be involved.    I left with a ton of literature, and I can't help but notice that they snuck in a form for Butter and Egg Day volunteers.

As soon as all the apartment stuff was done and I had a move date (EEEK!) I hightailed it home, the intent being to drive straight through and be home between 9 and 10:00 pm.  Considering I'd gotten up at 4 am on Tuesday, I knew that wouldn't likely come to pass, and I really hate driving at night.  My "quick drive" plan was quashed as I approached San Francisco, that had suffered some sort of massive failure in the transit computers earlier in the day, resulting in all the city traffic lights being out.  I assume that may have contributed to the MASSIVE traffic jams my GPS was trying to route me around, some areas had delays of an hour and a half.  At one point my Google Maps lost the signal as I was on a ramp that branched off into three other ramps, and I took the wrong one, and was dumped under a bridge at a place that must have been Oakland's Skid Row:  Block after block of shanties and tents, with one regal red pit bull chained outside one clean tent under a bridge, sitting motionless and staring straight ahead, looking for all the world like Anubis guarding the halls of the Pharaoh.

As whimsical as that impression was, I wanted nothing more than to get out of that neighborhood, and was relieved when my GPS got me back online.

After one diversion, I stopped at a 7-11 and gassed up, and looked at the routes Google was taking me, all the little winding side streets running parallel to the highway, then joining up to the 580 again before taking another exit and another side street.  While it seemed to take forever to zig zag through all that and across the highway, I apparently saved close to 4 hours on the trip doing it that way.  Yes, the traffic was THAT BAD.

I started wondering how far to drive, and tried to calculate how close to LA I'd have to get and still make it to my job at noon.  Then I called and quit, explaining about the move and how far away I was. 

There were no photos on the way home, I just wanted to get back as quickly as possible.

But I was tired.

And I started saying "just one more exit"

and then I stopped saying "one more exit" and got off at the exit just east of Coalinga, and to the Motel 6.  I figured, at that point, what was one more night in a crusty hotel?   But Motel 6 surprised me.  It was clean, and it was comfortable, despite there being no microwave and no coffee maker.  I had to pay for internet (paid for high speed, which, as it turned out, wasn't even high enough for me to play a game on FB) but that didn't bother me, and the price was right ($54 and change) So three and a half thumbs up (out of five) for Motel 6 Coalinga East.

When I went to bed, my GPS assured me I had less than a three and a half hour drive.  When I woke up, it assured me my drive was nearly 5 hours, thanks to LA traffic.

All in all, a heck of an adventure.  I got horrifically sick of eating nut and seed bars. I did grab a couple hot sandwiches, had a cold one I'd packed on Days 1 and 2, but the cooler didn't keep things as cold as I'd like, and by day 3 the meat was looking pretty sketchy, so I didn't chance it.  I'm going to have to pack differently for the next trip. And I'll pony up for the room in Petaluma.

Monday, February 19, 2018

How not to travel

The kids will tell you: for any given trip, I'm ready to leave home by 5 or 6am.

It's 4:30.  I've been up since 3.

I used to say it's because I like an early start. I don't like driving in the dark. I miss all the traffic that way.

But for today's trip, the optimal time to leave will be about 9 or 10, so I thought I'd sleep in.

Let me repeat: I've been up since 3.

The truth is it's not so much about an early start as it is anticipation, whether excitement or terror.  Today it's terror.  I sleep poorly (if at all) the night before. There comes a point where I figure it no longer makes sense to just lie awake in bed.

So I'm sitting here, with a double English Breakfast tea, my bags packed (except for the cold food) and already feeling dragged out before what could turn into an 8 or more hour drive.  Google maps calls it 6-8 hours depending on traffic. I need to stop during that time at some point; long hours driving aren't as fun at nearly 60 as they were when I was in my 30s.... or my 40s for that matter.

Right now my plan is this: To sit here and play a few computer games, then take a two hour nap before leaving.

Odds are I'll be on the road at sunup despite my plan.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Feelin' Appreciated

Last night was the Staff Party for the Volunteers, one of the appreciation events at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. I'll be missing the Volunteer Appreciation Dinner in June, the BIG event with the volunteer awards and so on, so I made it a point to be at the aquarium for tonight's event.

It started with dinner in the aquarium (lasagna and salad, which is what we've had for every staff/volunteer event and quite a few of the Friends events) where we all got to touch base with staff, and our friends that work different days.

After dinner (and Savannah's famous jello shots) we went on to the auditorium for staff presentations and skits.

This year was a lot more interactive, and there wasn't much in the way of skits.  A lot of what went on early centered around two things: Change in leadership at the aquarium and the Friends selling the docents memberships.

Some of the change in leadership stuff was fun... We got to see some roasts of our incoming "Snail King" and our outgoing "Jelly King":

   

There was also a presentation where they sped up docent "do it do it" demonstrations and put them to music, which had everyone laughing.

And then there were the games:

We all had paddles which had Larry's face on one side, Mike's on the other, which we used to give our answers.
I just want to take this moment to brag that the Tues/Thurday docents annihilated the Wed/Fri docents

We also had the annual aquarists' video, which is always amazingly beautiful (with a healthy dose of humor thrown in) and a few character pieces during games and presentations.



But what always makes it fun to volunteer at CMA is the feeling of family.  It's a place where everyone has a place, where we all belong and work together, and genuinely like each other and enjoy our time there.  This is what, above all else, makes CMA my "happy place".


Friday, February 16, 2018

From the Pier

No matter how awful life seems, I always find something to bring me real joy out at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium.  Today the kids were a lot of fun, but then there was the added joy that took me out onto the fishing pier to take a look.


Photo from the CMA Facebook page
For the last few days there have been whales in the harbor.  Three.  A mom, her calf, and a juvenile. 

They seem to be feeding on the ghost shrimp in the mud of the harbor, and don't seen in any particular hurry to continue their journey up to the Bering Straight and their normal summer feeding grounds.

It's currently Gray Whale migration time, and it's not unusual to see whales swimming by the outer beach, but it is unusual to see them in the harbor, which they usually avoid.   However, it seems over the last couple years there have been increasing accounts of whales in the harbors and near the beaches eating from patches of ghost shrimp on the shallow, muddy ocean floors in those locations.

As I walked out toward the pier (with a number of families I'd gathered discussing the whales, even though I'd already signed out) a flock of docents were coming the other direction.  The whale had moved off toward the break-wall and all that could be seen was a faint blow.   I didn't spot it once I got out the pier, not at first, because the whales had moved... and had come closer!

At a few times, the whales, which were zig-zagging through the harbor feeding, were close enough that you could make out the head or back breaking the water.  Unfortunately, they never got close enough for me to get a decent photo with my little Fugi, which I had stuffed in my purse in the morning in anticipation of seeing these whales.

I did, however, get this photo of a bottlenose dolphin breaking the surface of the water while feeding with a small pod off the outer beach, which I watched for a while before heading up the pier to see the whales:

On the way back, sea lions were barking on the rocks between the outer beach and the harbor, and a number of boats had gathered for some event, looking beautiful with Catalina Island in the background:


For a few hours today, there was no move, no threat of homelessness, no financial stress, and all the horrible news reports seem a world away.  This is my own little Walden.

Tonight, by the way, I'll be back at Cabrillo for the annual staff party for the volunteers: a dinner and entertainment by the staff for all of the many volunteers at the aquarium.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

When is it time to have this discussion?

I'm sick to death of people saying "now is not the time to have this discussion" every time there's a school shooting.  There have been 18 of them this year.  18!  And the discussion has been diverted to mental health... again... not that this isn't an issue, but if you bother to look at the Physicians Desk Reference, or if you happen to have taken any psychology courses in the last few decades, you'll note that "mental illness" is only diagnosed when behavior deviates from the cultural norm.

When we have open shows of force by white nationalists, when you have 3 school shootings EVERY WEEK, when you have kids who listen to music all day about shootings, and play games where the only goal is to shoot and kill as many realistic individuals as possible, then THIS IS the cultural norm.

And we need to change the culture.

Just before writing this I got an alert from UNM (University of New Mexico), near where I used to live a few years back, and my son used to walk through the campus on the way to the hospital.  And there was a man brandishing a gun on campus. OK, in this situation it turned out it was a BB gun, but you have to wonder what someone was thinking to be waving a gun around a college campus right after a highly publicized school shooting.  Was he trying to commit "death by cop"?  Was he trying to do damage but this was the best he could come up with? This guy was up and down Central Ave waving a gun... because THIS is the new normal.

In Parkland, it wasn't a case of a kid who felt bullied. This kid wasn't a depressed loner. He was a member of an alt-right white supremacist militia, and had not only planned out what he did, he was trained for what he did, and he advertised his intent to do it before hand.  This is not mental illness.  This is a young man immersed in a culture of violence.

The militia leader had stated in interviews that the shooter acted on his own behalf, which is, after all, what the militia members are trained to do -- to respond to the threats as individuals protecting their own (supposedly threatened) rights and freedoms, threats that usually include things like laws they don't like and people that don't look like them.

I was not surprised that Trump turned the discussion to mental illness.  Certainly, he was not going to point out that this young man was a member of the same class of Very Fine People he had defended in Charlottesville's white supremacist march.  Certainly he wasn't going to point out that the NRA specifically targets schools, as well as other public venues, as a danger to these "very fine people" in ads like this one:


Is it any wonder, then, that people take up arms and start shooting at those schools, those concerts, those places where people gather and speak out for social justice?

Nikolas Cruz is not mentally ill. He's a normal young man in his culture, a culture which has been promoted by the NRA and the Republican Party, a culture that has been publicly supported by our president, and a culture that has crawled out of the dark recesses of our nation to become mainstream, emboldened by corporate dollars and political support.

Yes, the Republicans send their "thoughts and prayers"... with hands clasped around NRA and alt-right donations.  What they do NOT send is hope.  They do NOT send their votes to end the ready availability of assault rifles.  If  Nikolas Cruz had only access to a BB gun, it's unlikely there would have been any deaths.  If he had access to a gun that fired fewer rounds, then it's likely there would have been less deaths.  Our society enables the likes of Nikolas Cruze, and it's time we started, as a nation, standing up to the bullies in our society who feel that it's their right and responsibility to take up arms in order to oppress people who have darker skin, or who point out the evil of their actions.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Oh, Petaluma! Things to do in Sonoma County

I started posting a lot of these links to Facebook, then realized I'd never find them again.

After doing some research, yes, there is whale watching along the Sonoma Coast, but boats are for small groups and tend to be expensive.  I can, however, stand on the land and watch, much like I would at Point Vicente here in LA County [Whale Watching Along the Sonoma Coast] The article mentions volunteer educators, so I may have a possible volunteer gig with whales once I get out there.  This is about 37 minutes from my new apartment, so not much farther than I travel to Cabrillo now, and a shorter distance than what I drove out to board the Matt Walsh!

One of the things I was bemoaning is that I would miss the Artisan Cheese Festival in Sonoma County, figuring I wouldn't be out there for the end of March.  Now it looks like I might.

And apparently the Bodega Marine Labs have public (drop in) tours during certain times of the day.  Sounds like fun!

In April I can head into Santa Rosa for their big Earth Day on Stage Festival, or head over to Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vinard for the Bubbles and Blooms Festival on Earth Day.

And that's JUST March and April activities!  And of course, there are always any number of wine country and food tours through out the area.

If Cary and Cailin help me move, I'll probably take them up to whale watch from the coast, and maybe do the Marine Labs, if they're interested.  I want to make the trip fun for them, too!  and of course, on the front end of the trip, if they come up early, we can do some stuff here in LA County.  Cay has a friend who lives here, and I'm sure they'd love to see each other!

Other than that, I'm not sure if I'll make it to the Cheese Festival (although I DO love cheese!) only because I may be exhausted and broke from the move.  But that's the joy of the move: there is always next year for the things I miss this year, and I've yet to do Butter and Egg Day  (in Petaluma, April 28th) and Rivertown Revival (in Petaluma, July 14th)

One of the things I love about moving to Petaluma (and one of the reasons I picked it) is that there is no shortage of festivals, events, and things to do.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Everything GOOD about Star Trek Discovery

It's going to be a very short post.

I wanted to love this series.  It had finally started bridging some of the issues of the first Star Treks.  It took until DS9 to have a Black human captain.  It took until Voyager to have a female captain, and finally we have a main character who is Black AND female, and NOT a captain, which makes the story a little more interesting.

It's also nice to see a better non-human bridge crew, since it's the United Federation of PLANETS, not the United Federation of Humanoids.

Now knowing all that coming into the series, there were those of us old schoolers who had high hopes for the series to represent the kind of values and examine the same kinds of social issues unearthed in the earlier series, especially TOS.   And yes, there are TREKKERS (as distinguished from Trekkies) who are very serious about canon and the timeline.  I don't consider myself an expert, nor a rabid fan, but I don't like to see glaring differences in history and discrepancies.  If they don't want a set of stories bound by the Star Trek universe and timeline, make Discovery about some other, unrelated universe.  Just change the names of the aliens.  Considering how far the stories have wandered from the "canon", no one would even think it was a Star Trek rip-off.

Or, and this is  my first thought, why not just say "Kelvin Timeline", because using the reboot as the basis of Discovery instead of saying it's the same timeline as TOS means just about anything goes, and the hardcore fans can't say boo about it, because it's NOT unwriting anything.

And unwriting is the cardinal sin when it comes to fandom.

I understand that once again, ST wanted to pick up new fandom.  The story lines are extreme in Discovery, the characters sexy, the ship sleeker than it should be for that era.  That's all kind of forgivable.  But there was really no reason to pretend (for the sake of the old school fans) that this was TOS timeline, when we have the Federation acting with reactionary violence at every turn . If it were Kelvin, we could say that the Federation ideology had been fractured as a result of Nero's attack and the destruction of the Vulcan home world.  It would make sense after such a devastating event that The Federation would suffer a crisis of faith. But for some reason, Discovery clings to their TOS timeline claim.

Now it seems after a simply awful first season which has reduced me (and other fans) to mere hate-watching, we find ourselves simultaneously insulted and intrigued by the season 2 teaser in the last moments of the season 1 finale:  the distress call and appearance of the NCC-1701... the USS Enterprise under Captain Christopher Pike.  Part of me is just aghast at such an obvious ploy to engage the old school fans.  Other parts are curious about how they'll deal with casting first officer Spock, considering the ongoing movies.

Mostly, however, I am already skeptical that this plot device will be anything other than the disaster the previous plots have been, and I almost wish the whole current story Federation had been destroyed by the Klingons, and a new story line or alternate universe born where Klingons, in control of the entire quadrant, find themselves struggling to reunite the houses, which have begun to develop different strategies for tapping into (or subverting) the diversity of cultures which they have now conquered.  THAT might have made an interesting (albeit still NOT a TOS) timeline.

As it is, the story has failed to live up to the promise so many of us saw in the casting. That makes for a terribly short list of things that are good about the series... and makes me very skeptical that things will get better next series, especially when they have to drag Pike into the mix to try to hook viewers.  The stories SHOULD be able to stand on their own.   Yes, we love the little nods to the other stores, but they can't be the totality of the series... not if they want to have loyal fans from any generation.

Monday, February 12, 2018

a twist on mindfulness

If you've read my last post, you know I'm not big on some of the pop psychology mind numbing exercises that are supposed to keep us Prozac-happy without drugs in the face of the ugliness of the world.

There is no way on this green-blue dot that I'll stand in line at the Social Security office or the Office for Human Services and be "mindful" in counting my breaths, feeling the air go in and out of my lungs, and be grateful for the wonder of being.  That's not me.

If I were to be brutally honest (and I am at times, especially days like today, where I'm on my 4th straight day of less than 4 hours sleep because of my health issues) those times I'm under that much stress it seems that breathing in and out isn't worth the effort, and that failing to breathe in and out is probably the most viable long term option to the struggle for food, shelter and healthcare which is my life.

Perhaps at this point I need to introduce some recent backstory, and if you're a regular reader, you might skip it if it's too long:

Right now I'm up against the possibility of homelessness again. My landlord is increasing the rent in May by a few hundred dollars.  Housing won't even look at the rent increase until my annual contract in July, and there's no guarantee they'll approve it. I am still waiting on Petaluma.  My eldest-youngest (the older twin) wants me to return to Santa Fe.  I have no idea where I'll live May 1st, and have to have some sort of plan in place to retain my housing voucher or face long term homelessness. 
I'm also having health issues which cause me a great deal of pain (and some blood loss).  My doctor told me to go to the hospital. When I go to the ER for this, I get medicated and sent home.  And it happens again the next night, and the next, so I just don't go. If they were to actually hospitalize me, I don't know what I'd do with my dog.  On top of all this, because the last time I went to the ER I was on my old insurance, I don't have a copy of my old insurance card to send to the city for my ambulance bill, although I'm not sure why they really need it because it wasn't the first time I had to call 911 over this, and they HAVE copies of my insurance card. 
I'm also waiting for testing, the idea being if I reverse a previous surgery all the problems with my blood sugar and my reflux and hernias and other digestive issues will be reduced if not go away.  The new surgery would be an open surgery, so a lot more dangerous and a higher recovery time, which is likely to intersect the move (or homelessness).   
Oh, and I'm trying to find the money for the move, which currently involves a fun (but somewhat risky for my health) part time temporary job, as well as cutting my already meager food budget, because that's the only part of my budget that isn't fixed by someone else.
Now it's pretty obvious with all that going on that there is a lot more struggle than joy right now, but merely breathing is not enough.   And that is exactly why I do things like volunteer, whale watch, and create art.

It's also why I have my own brand of "mindfulness" which is not internalized, but externalized.

And finally we get to the point of this post.

This morning I was walking Cinnamon (my dog) in the park (no, picking up poop, while vital to our ecology, is not the joy this morning).  As I walked down the path to her favorite poop spot wondering if I should try to get laundry done before it rains, and if I should call Housing this week or wait until next week, and whether I really felt well enough to go to the aquarium this evening for the "Birds and Bees Under the Seas" program, I heard this odd kind of knocking/ grinding sound.

(this is where I interject that my own special brand of "mindfulness" is a blend of awareness and scientific curiosity)

So Cinnamon had to pick a new spot today, while I scanned the treetops for the source of the sound.  It was a raven, and it was making a series of rapid high pitched knocks followed by one or two low pitched knocks, fairly quiet noises for a raven.   I wasn't sure exactly what the sound was, so I stood and watched it for a while, then decided to record it with my phone, but when I lifted my phone up, the bird started cawing instead.  A car alarm had gone off a couple blocks away, and the caw sounded a lot like that.  After a while, the raven stopped responding to the car and started clicking again.

Then there was a moment of silence.  The raven turned, and cawed.  There was an answering caw.  They cawed back and forth a few times, then there was silence from the second raven, and the first went back to clicking.  The difference this time was that he flew back and forth between a few trees between clicks.  I gave up trying to capture it on video, and turned to leave, when the second raven flew into the trees near the first.

It was interesting to watch them approach and avoid.  They were making different sounds now, raven #1 making snapping sounds by clicking it's beak, raven #2 tapping it's beak on the suspension insulators on the overhead wires.

For about 15 minutes, there was no housing crisis, no food crisis, no health crisis.  There was only two ravens and the questions they generated.  Was this social behavior? Mating ritual? Some more complex communication? Are these usual sounds for ravens to make (I'd never heard some of the knocking/ grinding vocalizations before)?

When I got home, I was still marveling at the wonder of nature.

And it's moments like THIS, moments when the attention is turned outward toward the grand variety and complexity of our world, that fill me with awe and joy and the will to continue to breathe in and out, even when waiting in line at the Social Security office.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Abundance?

I'm not a big fan of Abundance.  

At least not as the word is being used these days:  a movement, a worldview, where what we need is available to us in abundance, the problem only comes in when we want the wrong things.  I'm pretty sure this has grown out of the Gratitude and Mindefulness movements, and their bastard love-child is just as vacuous IMHO.

In church today, our bridge minister spoke about abundance, and how there was enough in the world for everyone, and that we are being liberated by our advances in science, technology and society which allows us to pursue meaning in our lives, doing the work we would do for free: volunteering to share our knowledge and our art and our talents.

As an example of how we are "freed", he spoke of his youth and how his family could afford an encyclopedia, something not every family could, but now information was free on the internet (he cited Wikipedia, but I'll leave THAT issue for the moment) and that people have smart phones and computers in their homes and free access to computers in libraries...

And that's about where I started having to bite down HARD on my tongue.

Because, yes, here in LA there are a LOT of neighborhood libraries, and they often have computers.  After school, you can wait for literally hours to get on a computer, because not everyone DOES have a computer in their home... and yes, you can get a smart phone (one per household ) for free if you're low income in California, but you don't have the bandwidth to do homework on it, and not everyone lives in LA or anywhere in California.

There are people who live very far from libraries.  But that there is an "abundance" in free information is something so taken for granted here that even our social justice leadership seems ignorant that it could be any other way for others.

He spoke of the advances in robotics that "free" us from unfulfilling labor... of harvesting machines and self checkouts and robots that build things.  And all I could think of was the wasteland that was once a booming auto and steel city: Lackawanna, NY, near where I'd owned my home. Does the cashier, the field hand, the auto-worker feel "free" with the loss of their jobs? Are there enough jobs to move on to other things? Can we live in abundance because we are now all teachers and artists and poets?

We all know that creating scarcity to increase "value" is a problem in our society. Telling people who have nothing to be happy with nothing (an updated telling of the old "The best things in life are free" line) doesn't take into account that while we are physical being on this earth, our bodies have certain needs.  Abundance is a concept related to self-actualization, the highest level of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.  Many people who are NOT food and shelter secure, are still sitting at the bottom of Maslows, and are in no place to "consider the lilies of the field" or any other religious or socially motivated version of "shut up and be thankful for what you've got"

If you are in want for food and shelter, it's a lot more difficult to devote your time to pondering the beauty of the clouds and teaching kids music and dance.  That's NOT to say impossible, because for many of us at the bottom of the pyramid, that type of thing is what gives our lives enough meaning to continue to struggle to live it. 

There is an innocent naivete about thinking that everyone up and down the pyramid want, at their core, the freedom to share and help others.  Up top, where you've got food and clean water and a roof over your head, sure... you aren't risking much.  But down at the bottom we're NOT talking about abundance, we're talking Plato's Prisoner's Dilemma.

For those who don't know, the Prisoner's Dilemma goes like this:  You have two prisoners who can't communicate. They are both told, "if you rat out your buddy, and they don't talk, you go free, your buddy's going to do time.  I can't let you both off, though, so if you both rat out the other, you'll both have to do some time, though not as much, and if you're both quiet, I'll lock you both up for that, but I can't make the original charge stick."


You'd think that, if we are altruistic by nature, we would always choose NOT to rat out our buddy.  But we also count on our buddy to understand the same, and know if we double cross them, we get the maximum benefit.  There are a number of game shows that have been based on this, including Golden Balls, The Wall, and the notorious 2012 game show, Take It All.

The thing about this is that the risk is not equal for everyone, which seems to be Plato's original supposition.  Say prisoner 1 is 20 years old, and his family members have a history of living well into their 90s.  Perhaps 5 years is not so much as hypothetical prisoner B, who is dying of cancer and only has a few more years to live.  To him, a year could be half his remaining days, and 5 years is a life sentence.

The same is true with money.  If you don't have enough to provide for your basic needs, altruism means a great deal more self sacrifice than if you are being generous with your second vacation funds.

Perhaps there is some value in the privileged talking among themselves about this "abundance"... because there IS an abundance of housing in the nation. There are more empty houses and apartments than there are homeless, and it's only the greed of the land owners and municipalities that keep the rents high, waiting for the rich to rent, or the richer to buy, maximizing profit over the lives of others. 

There is plenty off food in the world, if we care to distribute it.  We can also eat healthier and more sustainably... if we chose to not over indulge in our privilege.  (and for goodness sake, PLEASE help food pantries and soup kitchens distribute a better variety off food than day old bread and government surplus cans)

The one good thing about the abundance concept is that it preaches that we have what we need on this planet. It doesn't, however, teach us how to use it responsibly, which is the issue.  People gather, people horde, because they believe they advance by having more, by creating scarcity to drive up the value of what they have.  Like the prisoner, they want to risk as little as possible, but have no awareness (or, in some cases, care) of what the risks are to others.  There are times that I fear that the one thing we DO have in free abundance is greed, and that that greed is the product of our idealism which ties personal worth with financial worth, something I've blogged about extensively in the past.

And when we talk about abundance, we should be very careful to understand that the things the privileged want (freedom, expression, sharing) is often very different than the needs of those without privilege (food, shelter, clothing).

We don't all have computers in our home.  We won't all feel "free" losing our jobs to robots and self checkouts.  We don't all have the luxury of time, energy, or health to volunteer or create art.  Abundance is for the Eloi.  When people talk about "abundance", all I hear is "let them eat cake."

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Harbor Breeze Whale Watch: Part 2: The Whale Watch

Once upon a time I went on my very first whale watch ever. It was oh, a dozen years ago, which seems like a lifetime.  It was with Harbor Breeze, and I saw TWO BLUE WHALES swimming side by side... 

and I was hooked.

Today I knew I wasn't going to recreate that.  I hoped for a Gray, maybe a fin, and expected a few dolphin.  This is one of the larger and faster boats, so I knew there would be something out there, and I also knew this boat had a decent galley (which I likely wouldn't make use of) and the best heads (bathrooms) on any whale watch boat I'd been on (which I likely would make use of) 

The Triumphant, my whale watch ride du jour


So, first thing we came across was a small pod of Pacific White Sided Dolphin.  Of all the dolphin photos, I don't have a single decent shot of this species.  this is about the best I get:

blurry, but at least you can clearly identify the species. 


Next we came across a northbound Gray (presumably he/she got bored with Baja and decided to head back early) I could see this whale fluking a long way off, so was hoping he'd be active when we got up to him, and sure enough, he was fluking on most of his dives.  


Starting the dive....

and FLUKE!

Next we came upon a pod of hundreds of common dolphin.  I took a lot of photos, but deleted most of them because I have so many photos like the ones I took.  I like this one because the focus is better, and you can identify the species as Long Beak Common Dolphin very clearly in the middle dolphin.  The dolphins played along the boat for a while, and I took (and erased) a lot of photos leaning over the front of the boat with the dolphins just under the surface of the water directly below me.  I have a zillion photos like that.  Here's one of the dolphins surfacing off the side of the boat. 




Next there were HUGE blows in the distance.  Two for sure, maybe three. Two seemed closer in, and the boat made it's way in that direction, where we came upon two fin whales. I was trying to get a clear photo of one whale ahead of us, when this one surfaced right off the side of the boat and just hung below the water:


But I did get a couple nice photos of the whales as they start their dives (fin whales do not fluke when they dive)



I particularly like the next photo as an educator, because it so clearly shows the fluke prints (which you can also see in the right side of the photo above) which indicates where the whale's fluke rose just under the surface of the water on the upstroke.



All in all, a fantastic whale watch, but we did have to head back into shore.  Here are some of the photos from the trip back:













Harbor Breeze Whale Watch: Part 1 : en route to the boat

Generally I like to make my whale watch posts about what happens on the boat or at the landing, but today, and perhaps in part because I'm leaving Long Beach in a short while, I wanted to get some photos of other things... mostly the Aquarium of the Pacific's expansion.

But my trip doesn't start there, it starts with my plan to use my TAP card (bus pass) to save money instead of parking down at the waterfront, where I'd assumed parking would be about $9.  The plan was to go down to Cherry and catch the 21/22 bus downtown, then get on the Passport (free tourist bus) to the aquarium.   It's a 15 minute walk, but I knew I'd (a) be tired and (b) want to go pick up groceries on the way back, so I got the brilliant idea to drive down to Cherry and park on the street near the bus stop.  I left to give myself about 10-15 minutes at the stop before the bus arrived just in case parking was difficult.

Parking was difficult.  Of course I ended up picking a street sweeping day for this brilliant plan of mine.  But I did get a parking spot right on Cherry (I'd tried to park on 15th) just a short 1/2 block from the bus stop, and I had about 5 minutes before the bus was due to arrive at the stop two major intersections away, so I should have an easy 8 minutes...

was what I was thinking as the bus whizzed by.

Rookie mistake #1:  Long Beach buses come whenever the heck they want.  Trains run on schedule.  Buses take schedules and suggestions, and basically have no issue thumbing their noses at them.

So, OK... I'm going to have to pay for parking after all.  As I recall, it's $9, so yeah, I've got that left on one of my credit cards, so DRIVE.

Which I did. And stopped right outside the parking structure when I saw what the ACTUAL charges are.  So I'm sitting there with my hazard lights on, calling my daughter to Paypal me some money for parking (She did. She's a saint) before going in...

On my way out, I took some photos of the Aquarium:


the Long Beach Aquarium from the parking garage

concept art on the wall along the street

a closer look


I really like how the sunlight shines through the scaffolding to highlight the new aquarium in this mural
(is it possible it was planned this way?)

the construction to the main entrance

So obviously I won't be in Long Beach to see it finished, unless I come back to visit.

As I headed to the landing, I passed the tidal display.  There was a young gull sitting on the cement of the display, and his mottled grey-brown coloring matched the cement so exactly I thought he was actually part of the display, until he flew away.  A short ways around the pool, another gull (an adult) sat above the paintings of the gulls on the cement. (it was real as well)



Next on to the boat, but not before realizing I'd made Rookie Mistake #2 and left my sunscreen home.  Good thing that $9 was still in my bank account, because I had to stop into Pierpoint Landing (a little bait shop by the lighthouse) and pick up some or end up seriously burned.

(continued in part 2)

Monday, February 5, 2018

Busy Busy Busy... Fun Fun Fun

This last week has been all sorts of crazy.

Not necessarily in a bad way.

First off, check out my new do.  I had my ears lowered for my new job.

Yup. Just got the WORLD'S BEST TEMP JOB which will (a) provide the money I need for the move,  (b) be absolutely fun and (c) give me the best benefits I could imagine.

More about that at the end of the post.

Note: Yes, that's not the lighting. There is some seashell color in my hair today: a purple temporary wash over some of the grays.  Because my job is that cool.

So back to the rest of what I've been doing:

First off: all the hassles:  Taxes, recertification papers, all that.  Almost done.  I need to fill out some forms and drop off the recert, and it's OVER.  Also have to drop off my rent, which I probably should have done yesterday, but I was at church, then a really great Super Bowl party (yay, Eagles... yay anyone but New England!)

Getting all that stuff ready meant that I missed the Blood Blue Supermoon, and the really low tides which I'd hoped to enjoy at the tidepools near Cabrillo Beach. I did, however, get to see the salt marsh at king tide, probably the highest tide of the year, where the island in the center was almost totally under water:



While we (the Thursday docent crew at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium) were there, there were a few raccoons watching us beyond the fence waiting for their chance to get into the salt marsh.  At low tide, you can see all the raccoon footprints in the mud at the bottom of the marsh, but today that was well under water, and all the only probable evidence was this:


Eventually one of the raccoons got brave enough to go under the boardwalk and sneak past us:



So I've been so busy, and battling despair over the move finances, and sad about missing the low tide, and I get this notice in one of my feeds of a job that matches my interests:  a temp job with an agency I worked for oh, two, three decades ago, FOR CIRQUE DU SOLEIL.

I just about flipped, because I adore Cirque, and I seldom get to shows anymore because I can't afford them, although I did see Toruk when it was here because I'd won tickets from The Long Beach Press Telegram on Facebook.  The job is only 4 weeks, with the possibility of 6 weeks if the show is extended, and it's working in the merchandise tent for the shows, which means probably 4-5 hours for 4-5 shifts per week...  possibly doubles on weekends.   That'll give me the money I need while not being too difficult on me physically, and it will not interfere with my housing, Social Security, or my plans to move.  The BEST part is the benefits:  Discount on merchandise (guess what everyone in my family is getting for Christmas and birthdays?)  AND A FREE TICKET TO THE SHOW!

So this afternoon I go get my photo badge for the job, and I'm just about dancing around the tiny apartment today with excitement. 

In case you haven't seen my Facebook page and seen this posted, this is the official video preview of the show: