Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Endless Afghan -- Twenty Two Down - Eighteen to go

This block is featured in The Great North American Afghan and was designed by Deborah Newton of Providence, Rhode Island.

It was very easy to knit. I cast on while waiting for our flight from Seattle to San Jose last weekend. I was at the halfway mark when the plane touched down two hours later. I can't knit in the car (I get motion sick) so I had to wait to finish it this weekend at my Saturday morning knit together.

I blocked it Saturday afternoon and this morning I have yet another square completed! Although I am now more than halfway through my goal, there are still 18 more squares to knit. I have been thinking that I may modify my plan and add a large border and keep all the squares on the top of the bed. I 'll have to play with the measurements.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Great Backyard Bird Count

Dan and I decided to fly up to Washington for the weekend. We arrived on Friday morning. Dan immediately started working on his amateur radio equipment. I filled my birdfeeders and set up my camera for the "Great Backyard Bird Count".
The Great Backyard Bird Count is a four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts.
Participants count birds anywhere for as little or as long as they wish during the four day counting period. They tally the highest number of birds of each species seen together at any one time. To report their counts, they fill out an online checklist at the Great Backyard Bird Count web site. As the count progresses, anyone with Internet access can explore what is being reported from their own towns or anywhere in the United States and Canada. They can also see how this year's numbers compare with those from previous years.
A Black-capped Chickadee at the feeder.
This was the first time I had seen a Red Breasted Nut Hatch at the feeders.
A Steller's Jay watches the smaller birds.
And a Spotted Towhee cleans up the spilled seeds.

On Saturday morning I woke before sunrise and dressed for a walk at the Theler Wetlands. The Theler Wetlands covers some 75 acres near Belfair, Washington and the Hood Canal. An agreement between the Wetlands and the Washington State Department of Fish and Game has allowed development of a trail system encompassing 135 acres. Four separate trails are open to the public free of charge during daylight hours, seven days a week. The site is a popular stop for birdwatchers and photographers. There is a wonderful variety of birds throughout the trial system. I arrived ten minutes before the gate was unlocked. When it opened I started down the trail. I saw.......

.........a pair of Mallards........ ......and Northern Pintails.........

........and some Green Winged Teals. I had never seen this one in the wild before although they are apparently fairly common in this area.

Further down the path a stately Great Blue Heron surveyed the trail. .

and overhead -----a sight I never tire of --- a Bald Eagle in flight.

The weekend ends far too soon. Dan and I closed up the house and headed home Monday afternoon. I can hardly wait for Spring Break.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Endless Afghan - The Twenty First Square

I have been working on the afghan as much as I can. I would like to finish it this year but, quite honestly, that may not be realistic. But whether I do complete it or not, I am having a great deal of fun which each square.

This block is from the book, The Great American Aran Afghan. It was designed by Marian Tabler of Cincinatti, Ohio.

The twin cables wander back and forth throughout the square giving the block a "bas relief" look. Best of all, it knit it up exactly at gauge!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Monterey Bay Aquarium

On January 29th, Justin, Kenny, Miguel (Kenny's friend) and I headed to Monterey, California to see the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is located in a former sardine cannery on Cannery Row, is one of the largest and most respected aquariums in the world. It has an annual attendance of 1.8 million and holds 35,000 plants and animals representing 623 species.

The Aquarium has preserved sections of the original cannery as part of its exhibits. Shown here are two of the original boilers.

Among the aquarium's numerous exhibits, two are of particular note. The centerpiece of the Ocean's Edge wing is a 33-foot (10-m) high tank for viewing California coastal marine life. In this tank, the aquarium was the first in the world to grow live California Giant Kelp using a wave machine at the top of the tank (water movement is a necessary precondition for keeping Giant Kelp, which absorbs nutrients from surrounding water and requires turbidity), allowing sunlight in through the open tank top, and pumping in raw seawater. The second exhibit of note is a one million gallon tank in the Outer Bay Wing which features one of the world's largest single-paned windows. The window is constructed of four panes seamlessly glued together through a special process. We were excited because for the third time in the Aquarium's history, the Outer Bay was the temporary home to a juvenile Great White Shark. It took a while for us to spot the shark as it swam in the Outer Bay tank. He wa a dark grey-blue and blended into the background. But once we finally located him, we could see that the Great White had an entirely different build than the Hammerhead sharks and the Galapogos sharks which were also part of the display. He was heavier and his jaws were larger. Twice, as the shark swam by, he stretched his jaws and we could see his teeth --- rows of very sharp triangles. Overall, it was quite interesting to see him. And it turned out, it was also the last weekend he was on display. On February 5th, 2008, he was returned to the Pacific Ocean.

Perhaps my favorite exhibits in the entire aquarium are the jellyfish. "Jellies" live in virtually every part of the ocean and come in a dizzying array of shapes, sizes, and colors. Some, like the aquarium's box jellies, are no bigger than a thimble. Others, like the Arctic lion's mane, have umbrella-shaped bells that reach 7 feet across and tentacles that stretch 100 feet or more. Jellies often use their tentacles to sting and snare prey, such as small fish, while drifting with the current. Mediterranean jellies are also called fried egg jellies, for obvious reasons—namely, their smooth golden globes on top of their brown bells. But despite their beautiful purple and white colors, these jellies are no treat in Mar Menor, a coastal lagoon in Spain. Fertilizer runoff there led to an oversupply of the plankton that’s a staple of the jellies’ diet. Now there’s an oversupply of jellies, too, threatening fisheries and tourism.

Like a large bird egg cracked and poured into the water, that three-foot, translucent bell is yolk-yellow at the center, with hundreds of tentacles clustered around the margin. The egg-yolk jelly is one of the larger species of jellies commonly found in Monterey Bay. This massive jelly usually drifts motionless or moves with gentle pulsing. Acting like an underwater spider web with a mild sting, an egg-yolk jelly captures other jellies that swim into its mass of tentacles.

Nearly as beautiful as the jellies are the Anemones. Sometimes called flowers of the sea, Anemones are ancient and successful animals. They lack heads, but have a ring of tentacles around a mouth that opens into a tubelike body cavity, where food is digested. Anemones are voracious feeders that eat almost anything. Stinging cells (nematocysts) on their tentacles paralyze small prey animals. Anemones can even ingest small crabs and then spew out the shells.

After we left the Aquarium, we drove along the famous "17 mile drive", a scenic road through Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach before heading back home. Much of this highway hugs the Pacific coastline and passes famous golf courses and mansions. Along the way, we saw sea lions, whale spouts, and sea otters along the shoreline as we drove. All in all, a wonderful time was had by all.

The Endless Afghan - The Twentieth Square (or only 20 more to go!)

Last Monday, our receptionist had the flu but came to work anyway. When Bear found out she was sick, Bear immediately sent her home but apparently, not soon enough. On Friday, I felt the first chills and slight headache. By Saturday afternoon, the fever had arrived as well as chest congestion and stuffed sinuses.
Since it was obvious I wasn't going to be out and about over the weekend, I settled into my easy chair, wrapped up in a blanket, and picked up my knitting. I decided to knit a square from The Great American Aran Afghan.
This square was designed by Barbara McIntire and features Celtic cables as the centerpiece as well as the borders.

As with all cables, it was important to pay attention to the direction the cables crossed each other. Once I got the pattern memorized, the square knit up quickly. It blocked beautifully. Only twenty squares more to go.........

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Road Trip -- Law Office Style

Each year, I try to do something special with my staff to show them how much I appreciate their hard word and dedication. One year we went whale watching in Monterey Bay, another year it was dinner and a show in San Francisco. This year, I flew my paralegals, Bear and Molly, to Washington for a four day respite after the long hours we all put in in December. Our first night in Washington, we were greeted by this clever couple. The raccoons apparently thought that I had filled the bird feeders for their exclusive use. Unfortunately for them, I hung the feeders too high for them to reach. The pair tried for over an hour to crawl up the outer post, all in vain. They finally gave up.

Neither Bear nor Molly had ever been to Canada. They were excited to go so we had planned a day in Victoria, British Columbia. I asked my neighbor, Lennie, if she would like to join us and she said yes. On Sunday, January 13th, 2008, we caught the ferry from Port Angeles and headed for Vancouver Island. While we waited in line, I filled out the customs forms for our group and discovered it was Lennie's birthday!
Once we cleared customs into Canada, we headed up the street to do the tourist thing. Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia. Lennie, Molly and Bear posed in front of the Inner Harbour.
One of the prominent landmarks along the Inner Harbour is the Parliment Building. The Parliament Buildings were designed by a 25 year old creative architect named of Francis Rattenbury in honor of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. Construction began on 1893. Construction of the Parliament Buildings utilized, as much as possible, local materials, resources, and expertise. Granite rock foundations were brought in from nearby Nelson Island, the facades were imported from Haddington Island, and much of the brick, lime and Douglas Fir were from Vancouver Island. The Parliament Buildings were completed in 1915.Equally impressive is another Inner Harbour landmark, the Fairmont Empress Hotel. This 460-room hotel was built in the Edwardian style and was recently restored to its original grandeur, complete with antique furniture and luxurious d├ęcor. Considered to be the most photographed attraction on Vancouver Island, The Empress was also designed by Francis Rattenbury. It opened in 1908. This year it celebrates it 100th anniversary.

Molly takes a pictures of the Empress Hotel while Bear and Lennie look on.
We next headed to the Royal BC Museum. The first thing we saw in the lobby was John Lennon's "Yellow Submarine". This car was manufactured in 1965 by the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited, Crewe, Cheshire. The car was fitted with a limousine body by Mulltner Park Ward and finished in Valentines Black. When completed, the Phantom V was then delivered to John Lennon on June 3, 1965. The car measured 19 feet long and weighed three tons. It was originally painted black with chrome trim.
John eventually became restless with the "matt black overall" and decided to paint the car "psychedelic". A Dutch team of gypsy artists did the work. They designed and painted a pattern of scroll and flowers. The newly painted psychedelic car drew public outrage. In fact, an old woman, in London’s downtown, attacked the car using her umbrella and yelling: "You swine, you swine! How dare you do this to a Rolls-Royce." Obviously, the Rolls-Royce is passionately regarded in England as one of the many symbols of British dignity!
The Beatles used the Rolls exclusively in their heyday from 1966 to 1969. After the band broke up, it was donated to a museum.

The Royal BC Museum is one of my favorite museums so we headed there as our next stop. It houses one of the finest collections of totem poles in North America and a wonderful collection of spindles and woven articles.
After the museum, we all decided it was time to eat. Lennie didn't want anyone to know it was her birthday, so, of course, we immediately let the waitress know. Lennies was surprised with a huge piece of choclate cake.

After lunch we headed for the souvenior shops. Bear poses with a Canadian Bear.

All to soon, it was time to head back to the ferry. As we waited to clear customs, this car pulled into line. The car is a 1928 Graham-Page 610 Touring Sedan, an antique beauty with original motor, upholstery and accessories, now decorated with decals from car clubs and museums, the names of the 20-plus countries they've visited, and two signs. One says "Driving from Argentina to Alaska." The other says: "Tres Americas -- Una Huella." (Three Americas -- One dream).
The couple who own the car, Candelaria and Herman Zapp set out from Buenos Aires in January 2000 to fulfill a long-held dream: a road trip through the Americas. They figured it would take them six or eight months to reach Alaska--(the car has a top speed of 35 miles per hour) but instead, have been on the road eight years and have covered an incredible 50,000+ miles.
A poster inside describes the car's snaking route up South America, across Central America and into North America, past New York to Nova Scotia and Quebec, then across the continent to California, most of it traveled on back roads. "America has a lot of dead ends," comments Herman.
The car has no radio, no tape player, no GPS, no compass. "We have only the map of the next place we're going to be," he says. "If we get lost, so what?"
Even more amazing is the fact that they have three young children --- the youngest was just 6 weeks old!Planning next to cross Asia for three years, they're financing their travels in part with a book, Spark Your Dream, which they sell from the truck of the car. Here Bear and Molly get their books and pose for a picture.

And you know what? Lennie and I couldn't resist the books either!