Monday, June 30, 2008

my new water bottles

A month ago, I blogged about my nalgene water bottle being made of plastic that could leach BPA. You can read that posting here.

I was planning on buying a Klean Kanteen bottle, despite reviews that it made the water taste metallic.

At the last minute, a new contender came in and won. Camelbak Better Bottles are BPA-free, cheap, and colorful!

I got three sizes, check 'em out:



I like the different sizes they come in, and they are really lightweight. The screw-off cap is easy to use, and carry, too. I ordered them over a month ago, they were on back-order all this time. They must be getting popular...

I also have the Camelbak hydration pack, which is a stroke of genius. Great for hiking and traveling.

Friday, June 27, 2008

composting

Time magazine has an article on composting, and gives a shout out to San Francisco's curbside recycling program.

Funny to think that there was a time not long ago that I didn't compost. It grossed me out, and I didn't understand the need.

Now composting is easy, fun, and surprisingly non-stinky and not gross.

So why compost? When you throw food in the trash, it will decompose in landfills and then release methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas that effects the Earth's climate. Too much of it is a bad thing.

I got a cute little compost bin at Target, and everyday it gets filled up with food scraps. Every day or two I take it downstairs and dump it in my bigger green compost barrel, which then gets picked up every week by SF's recycling truck. The food scraps don't smell or get moldy, and I know I'm doing a good thing for the Earth every time I throw food in it. Every week my bag of trash gets smaller and smaller, and my recycling and composting bins are overflowing.

I'm still learning, too...my work invited some folks from the SF Recycling Program to come in and train us on recycling and composting. I didn't know that paper with soiled food, waxed cardboard, and tissues you've used to blow your nose can be composted. Cool!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

bat update

I haven't seen or heard Tab in a while.

But SFGate is reporting that a rabid bat was found in the Sunset. Oh no!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Adventures in Tahoe

I went to Lake Tahoe last weekend for some rock climbing and hiking.

I climbed with friends at Lover's Leap, where there are lots of climbing routes to pick from. We did Bear's Reach, so-called for a big "bear's reach" between two holds. It's a 3-pitch climb totaling 400 feet.



It turned into an epic adventure that we were not planning on. We grossly underestimated how long it would take us to finish our climb. We started climbing in the afternoon, and at 10pm yours truly was still stuck on the rock climbing. Darkness!

All I could think was "Darwin Award".

Well, I made it and now I can say I've climbed at night...and hopefully won't have to do it again:)

Lesson learned: *always* bring a flashlight.

We went for a hike the next day, hiking over boulders, through ferns, past lakes, and even through patches of snow! We had the obligatory snowball fight, and I finished the day with a hunk of snow melting inside my shirt.




I was disappointed that we didn't see any coyotes or bears. We heard a coyote howling in the distance, and Sierra the chocolate lab could easily be mistaken for a brown bear. Here he is taking a dip:

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

basil

Last week I planted basil seeds for my windowsill garden...



And one of the pots is already sprouting!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

sarcasm

LiveScience has a great article on sarcasm, and why it's a good thing. It's seen as an evolutionary survival skill.

Interesting. I've noticed that after spending a year in India, I've become much more sarcastic.

Friday, June 20, 2008

bumble bee


This big guy
was buzzing around the poppies while I was out gardening.





He sounded like a small helicopter. He was moving so fast it took me about 20 shots to get him inside a flower.

Thank god for digital cameras...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

sun tulips







I wish my garden looked like this...

(Note: Photo credit for the first two pix goes to Jon Scott Stevens).

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Book Review: Intuition

This novel had a slow start, but once I got into the different characters, I couldn't put it down.

All the action takes place in a science lab--which again, I was slow to warm up to...but once I did, I couldn't wait to see what was going on with the lab mice.

The book centers on four characters and how their lives and relationships are affected when one of them finds a possible cure for cancer. Well, in the lab mice at least. It looks at the moral and ethical implications of doing research for the well-being of the public (similar to Flowers for Algernon), and also how the media's interpretation can influence events.

It takes place in Cambridge, my old stomping ground. It's always fun to read a book and know the exact street, movie theater, and restaurant that the characters are at.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

hummingbird feeder II

I got this really cheap hummingbird feeder for my backyard birdies, but it didn't have a perch for them to feed from.

The poor little things need a break.

So I got me some wire and fashioned a landing for them.

Voila!



Happy birds have a place to feed from now. I'm trying to get a live shot of one feeding, but it's easier said than done. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Book Review: The Lake of Darkness

I'm usually not into mysteries, but I saw this book on display at the library and grabbed it. I like paperbacks because I'm always on the go, and they're easy to carry around.

This book was surprisingly good. Not your typical mystery that starts with a dead body and has you trying to figure out who did it. The mystery in this book is how the lives of the two main characters are related. It had me stumped throughout, and it had a...well...interesting ending.

Oh, and there are several dead bodies, if that's your thing.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Book Review: Flowers for Algernon

I vaguely remember reading this book in high school. I love the title of this book, and when I saw it in the library, I decided to re-read it.

I didn't remember much from my high school reading, only that it was a good book, and a tear-jerker. Not much has changed.

Algernon is a lab mouse who has undergone a surgical procedure that has dramatically increased his intelligence. He's much smarter than Charlie, a mentally disabled young man with an IQ of 68. Charlie will be the first human to undergo this procedure. The surgery is a success, as day by day Charlie becomes more intelligent. Soon his IQ is higher than anyone had thought possible...and soon he is the only one to understand that the surgery is flawed. Soon, Algernon begins to deteriorate, and Charlie is in a race against time to find a way to fix the flawed experiment.

This book is heartbreaking as we learn more of Charlie's history and his relationships with his family and friends. It also looks at ethical and moral issues in lab testing and how we treat the mentally disabled. Even Algernon tugs on the heartstrings.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Filoli Gardens and Estate

I drove by a sign for the Historic Filoli Center a couple of months ago along Highway 280.

Curious, I googled it and found that it's a historic estate with gardens from the early 1900's, now open to the public.

I went and checked it out last weekend. The estate has many rooms to wander through so you can daydream of what it's like to live all rich and fancy. The gardens were my favorite part---lots of different flowers, pools, ponds, and meandering paths. It reminded me of a mini-version of the Boboli Gardens in Italy.









Later, we got our picnic lunch out of the car and ate next to a sign saying "no outside food or drink".

We wanted to work off our lunch, so we looked for a hiking path. We found this:


We didn't see any guides around, but we really wanted to hike.

So we took a little peak. The path immediately led us into a forest. Birds were singing, insects were chirping. Ah, nature...

And then we saw this:


Wow, that must have been a darn big animal.

A hundred yards later, this antler:



And a few steps further down the hill, the inevitable skull:


As intrepid explorers, we foraged on. However, our trail abruptly ended in an open field with an old bathtub.


Thus ended my day at the Filoli Center. I recommend that you go and have an adventure.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Best. Purchase. Ever.



Nothing beats a long soak in a hot tub at the end of the day!

It's like a kiddie-pool for adults. Made of comfy green foam, with bubble-jets for massage. And it's right by the hummingbird feeder for bird-watching.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

garden

My family is coming out to visit in August--hooray! My parents keep saying they can't wait to see my garden...which unfortunately has taken quite a beating the past couple of months. First we had 90+ degree weather in April, then high winds. The potential water usage ban isn't helping either.

Overall it looks like an arid desert in my backyard, but there are some bright patches here and there:

A new lavender plant grew, with a single flower!



A fern plant popped up practically overnight:



Nasturtiums: (I know they are edible, but I've never tried them. Have you?)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

mouse in the house

(Ok, technically it's in the backyard.)



I was doing some gardening, and all of a sudden this furry little critter was running around in the leaves.

He seemed kind of lost. And cold.

I thought maybe I gardened too close to it's home or something?

Guilt set in.

I noticed a hole that maybe he crawled out of, so I got a broom and pushed him close to it.

Here he is again:


Too bad my nephew Bryce wasn't here. He would have known what to do...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Review: House

Any fans of the TV show House out there?

My parents recommended this one to me. (They also recommended "Everybody Loves Raymond", but I try not to hold that against them.)

House is a medical doctor in charge of a team of diagnosticians who are stumped by a medical anomaly each episode. House is a brilliant actor---he manages to balance being devilishly rude and arrogant, with funny and likable. The relationships between all of the characters are complex and fun to watch, particularly with House and Cuddy, the hospital administator. As an added bonus, Massive Attack plays the opening theme song.

The season finale of season 4 was a two-part, tripped-out roller coaster ride, with the lives of four main characters dramatically changed.

Season 5 starts in September.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

black cat. my backyard. weird vibe.


My neighbor's cat Charlie cuts through my backyard a couple times a day, using the fence as a path.

He's all black, and never gives me the time of day. I'll call out to him and he'll stop in his tracks, glare at me, and then carry on.

Yesterday he had something in his mouth. A gopher?

This morning I happened to look out the window as I was getting ready for work. And there was Charlie, sitting on his haunches in the middle of my yard, staring up at me.

It's like he was waiting for me. Creepy!

I waved to him and he didn't even blink. In fact, he totally stared me down.

I slunk away, convinced that all cats are aliens, and Charlie is out to get me.