Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Nature in the City

When I woke up this morning, I could see nothing outside. The sliding door was fogged up, and the whole hillside was shrouded in fog. But I could hear the birds chirping, and they sounded happy. And then the sun came out!

I may complain that we're on the wrong side of the apartment building so we don't have a view of the city, or that we have to walk too far to grab a bite to eat or a drink, but I really am glad I have this slice of nature in the bustle of the city.

Everyday when I see the city in the sunset glow, or the sun shining off the bay, or when I drive around a corner and see the Golden Gate Bridge or the waves breaking on Rodeo Beach, I smile. My goal is to not become complacent with these spectacular views. Even my own piece of grassy hillside. So don't let me complain.

Happy New Year's! I hope you can hear birds chirp wherever you are as well.

And One More Passes...

Matt and I have had a busy year.

I quit one job in March to take another one that was going to be the one I kept, only to quit that job in September. I have basically been unemployed ever since - 3.5 months! - and bringing in only minuscule amounts of money from my "freelancing."

We moved twice; once across town in Albuquerque to a house that I thought had better landlords, and where I enjoyed the front porch but hated the gunshots. Next, across the West to San Francisco, where more than twice as much money did not even come close to renting us another stand-alone. But the scenery makes up for it.

Matt was uprooted from his school again, this time much farther away, when he followed me to the Bay. He traded sometime schoolwork for actual paying work, while his adviser still prods him to finish.

We took trips to exciting places like Pittsburgh and Michigan, but my sister was nice enough to bring me to Ecuador.

My sister and brother-in-law returned home to Phoenix from Europe and are now expecting their first baby. (While my sister says my birthday present is to find out the sex, I think the present will be if it's a girl...)

We had a lovely visit from GLOBE while still in New Mexico, and since being in California, we have seen some friends from New Mexico, my parents, and my sister and brother-in-law (all of whom were in town for some other reason but were nice enough to humor us with a visit - my parents on a brief but out-of-the-way stop between AZ and Vegas).

We also spent Christmas at our own home for the first time ever where we ate vast quantities of Italian food.. Although I saw my family, Matt was deprived of his.

Meanwhile, the world got more depressing. The economy tanked, the safe haven for gay marriage was rendered not so safe, people still died in Afghanistan, sexism still thrived, and my preferred presidential candidate lost.

Here's hoping that 2009 will bring peace to more people around the world, as I have found some peace of my own in San Francisco.

[And despite the fact that I took the time to make all these links, I still haven't taken the time to write my AGU blogs or discuss the great museums I've been to. Maybe one day...]

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Day at the Museum

Most people who know me understand that I am not a museum lover. I am too bored to read the signs, I would generally rather be outside, and I don't want to pay the exorbitant prices to get in. Hell, I sat outside in the park in front of the Louvre and waited there for my sister rather than go in. I am a strange bird. (I did enjoy my recent visit to the DBG, however.)

At any rate, I have been super excited about the new California Academy of Sciences. I have heard much about it, largely because it was designed by Renzo Piano and constructed sustainably, featuring a green roof, loads of recycled materials, gray water, and more. However, it is also awesome. It features a 4-story rain forest, a large climate change exhibit, an aquarium, a planetarium, and penguins!

[Like many other veggies I suspect, I struggle with the ideas of zoos and aquariums. However, all of the CalAcademy's penguins are captive hatched, so they probably couldn't survive in the wild anyway. And I have heard multiple stories from NPS staff who took aquatic specimens to the Academy for a variety of reasons - animals that had to be moved during restoration, ocean creatures brought up when they removed a nasty old net. So I think, that overall, the ability for a child (or me!) to touch a starfish and discover wonder and awe of the natural world, is probably worth it, at least in this case. I totally understand how one might disagree though.]

Anyway, I'm rambling (as usual). Matt's office party involved a trip to the CalAcademy, to which I was invited. After spending a 40 minute commute, partly standing on a crazy, out-of-control bus, I arrived to meet them at the museum only to discover that they were running very late. After threatening to go home (because I'm terrible like that), I decided to wander across the Music Concourse to check out the deYoung Museum as there was a Maya Lin exhibit I wanted to see anyway. So I spent $18 and 1.5 hours in a whirlwind visit to an art museum. (Actually a long time for me, as I got through the Uffizi in just 30 minutes.) I would even go back. There were fantastic photographs, Hudson River School paintings (influential in the establishment of National Parks), an amazing Asian Art exhibit, and crazy outfits by Yves Saint Lauren (thanks so much for letting women wear pants!). Also some Chihuly pieces that definitely did not look as pretty without the cacti next to them, as I suspected.

Then off to CalAcademy with about an hour before closing time. No time for the rainforest and planetarium, as the lines were too long. We checked out the green roof, the aquarium (yay fuzzy starfish!), the climate change exhibit, and the penguins (really stinky!). We plan to buy a membership so we can go back repeatedly and drag all our guests there.

I highly recommend both museums, even for museumphobes like me. I think even non-science geeks would enjoy CalAcademy. Some day I hope to work there.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Just Watched: WALL-E

I loved this movie! Matt claims it's for kids, but I disagree. It has all sorts of adult-world implications and is heart-warming, just as movies should be in the holiday season. Also check out the short "BERN-E" in the special features. 7 minutes of hilarity!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Remember When Matt Set the Apartment Complex on Fire?

Yesterday morning when Matt was getting ready for the day, he was complaining that the bathroom was cold. Thinking quickly on my feet, I suggested that he turn on the heater. (The heating for our apartment is not central, but consists of three built-in space heaters - one in the living area, one in the bedroom, and one in the bathroom.) We had never turned on the heaters since they are notorious for causing fires. Since Matt is therefore afraid of the heaters, naturally I assumed that he would ignore my advice, and he did not say anything to make me think differently.

Several hours later we were sitting at the airport, waiting for our friends, when Matt asked me if I'd turned the heater off. I thought he was joking. Nope. Unbeknownst to me, Matt had in fact turned the heater on, not told me about it, and then failed to turn it off before we left for the day. Folks, these are not the kind of things you leave on unattended. I started to freak out, but I hadn't noticed the bathroom being hot, so I tried not to worry too much.

However, when we pulled up to our apartment complex, the entrance was blocked by - guess what! - a fire truck! And then, as we parked on the street, along came another fire truck, complete with siren.

Oh my gosh!

Matt really did start a fire!

We'll be evicted from our home and our friends will have nowhere to stay. And they might not be our friends any longer! And we'll have nowhere to live! And what if someone got hurt! Or worse! I think I'm having a heart attack!

The horror!


Okay, not to let you down slowly or anything, but there really was no fire in our apartment. Just a terrible, terrible coincidence.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Just Watched: Last King of Scotland

Despite the fact that I have enjoyed other movies set in Africa that depict quite horrible events (Blood Diamond, Hotel Rwanda, Tsotsi), this movie was too much for me. Scenes I hoped were dream sequences simply were not. The entire movie was very much real, with extremely bad things happening to characters that had been developed and known to the audience. The trauma did not happen to nameless, faceless characters.

I will never watch this movie again. Perhaps we should watch it at least once to get a grasp of the evil still happening in much of the world. But once was my limit. If you do watch it, do not go into it innocently like I did - Oh a silly, young Scottish doctor in Africa who likes to sleep with the ladies. How amusing. It is not.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Science Writing Part Deux

Next week I will be attending part of the annual American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting here in San Francisco. I will be learning about water resources, climate change, likely effects of climate change on water resources, how to communicate this information to the public, and how to better apply science to policy. In addition, I have a press pass, so just for fun I may go to some press conferences on new and exciting topics to me like new information on why the dinosaurs went extinct, what's going on in outer space, peak oil, and the arctic.

Is anyone interested in reading blogs about these topics?

Cut-Throat Journalism

Recently a friend asked me in a (honest-to-god) letter, how my lunch with Frank was, and I realized I had completely forgotten to blog about Frank from way back in September.

Who is Frank? Frank was the environment editor at the LA Times. Although Frank had a bad reputation for being crusty and well, kind of an ass, I totally stuck up for Frank. He was always extremely nice to me despite the fact I knew nothing about journalism. After he got laid off from the paper part-way through my fellowship, another editor who sat near us confessed to me that she'd never before seen the side of Frank that he showed me.

Frank, as it turns out, moved to New Mexico just before I left. He'd been in contact with me because he wanted to see me and discuss, as he put it, the sorry state of water and the even sorrier state of journalism. Naturally I was eager to meet with Frank, although I had hardly any free time left before I moved. After all, he had been my mentor as I entered the dark and scary world of journalism. I assumed he was planning to continue his role as mentor while I also contributed some information on the New Mexico water world so he could have some background for future articles.

Well, I met Frank at a quiet little Mexican restaurant. After about 5 minutes of me answering Frank's questions about my future, Frank pulled out his reporter's notebook and proceeded to grill me about any and all possible story ideas that could come from the NM OSE, my lovely employer at the time. Although I would in a heartbeat agree that the OSE is inept, most of what I knew about the agency certainly didn't merit investigative journalism. Frank continued to think that I was holding back, and assured me that I could get in contact with him again after I left the agency if I felt more comfortable. Those were basically his last words to me as he dropped me off back at the office.

So after I'd stuck up for this guy through his last days at the paper, he had the nerve to try to use me. No offer to help find me a job. No nothing.

And that is why I've always been suspicious of journalists. And why I've never wanted to be that kind of pushy journalist, or the kind who has to run out after the speaker at a conference to get the first interview, as I was reminded at NASW. No wonder people think the media can't be trusted. Some of them obviously give us a bad name. Too bad it had to be Frank.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Just Watched: The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

I confess that I saw this movie before reading the book. For some reason it didn't occur to me until just now that maybe I should read the book. Somehow, despite the fact that the entire movie (nearly) is about the book, my mind glossed over that fact. Anyway.

This movie is about Jean-Dominique Bauby, former editor of Elle, who suffered a stroke but after waking up from his coma with locked-in syndrome, proceeded to write a book through dictation by blinking one eye-lid. He died of pneumonia just 10 days after publication of this book. However, I was worried that the movie might be a touch, well, boring. I mean, watching a guy blink one eye-lid over and over? Come on.

However, I was pleasantly surprised. The movie, filled with many beautiful women, all of them loved in some way by Bauby, was quite inspiring and beautiful in and of itself. The sequences of lustful imagination, the precious moments with his children, the lovely relationship with the woman taking his dictation, and the gorgeous seaside. All fabulous. I was at times confused by which woman he was fantasizing about, but Matt was able to keep better track, for some reason... I didn't even find the somewhat blatant sexism offensive, as, if that is all you have to live for, well then, go ahead. More power to you.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Just Visited: Chihuly The Nature of Glass

My more cultured family members suggested we go check out this exhibit at the Desert Botanical Garden over Thanksgiving weekend. The artist, Dale Chihuly, apparently has "revolutionized" the art of handblown glass. Some of you may be familiar with the ceiling sculpture at the Bellagio?

I will say, straight up, that if I saw these pieces in a standard museum setting, I would have thought they were quite gaudy. However, mixed in with the beautiful desert plants, the exhibit was really pretty fascinating. It's certainly not something you would see every day.

Tickets are 15 bucks and require advance reservations, and there are people everywhere. But if it's a nice day, I would check it out.

Just Read: The World Without Us

It appeared from the boarding pass I found in this book, by Alan Weisman, that the last time I had picked it up was on my trip to Michigan this past July. It's a dense book, full of well-researched examples from all over the earth, about what would (or will?) happen after the human population is gone. I recall finding it interesting, but obviously I went nearly half a year without picking up the book again. (In my defense, I have been on one of the longest fiction kicks of my life.)

So while I was stuck in the airport for several hours, waiting for my flight home from Thanksgiving weekend, I finally finished the book! What's the message? We've done a lot of crap to the world (no surprise), some of it will outlast us for eons and some of it won't, and at least some of the other species will probably adapt to whatever crazy world we've left behind. Weisman's only hope seems to be that if each woman only had one child, we could actually improve our situation.

We all know that I agree with that concept. There are plenty of kids out there needing homes if you really must raise more than one chilid. But, to each his own. Maybe we're doomed anyway, so what's the point? Isn't that a bright note!

Bottom line: interesting read, but not I book I plan to keep on the shelf for posterity.