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Friday
Jun042010

Happy 100th Birthday, Jacques Cousteau!

We went to Nightlife at the Academy of Sciences last night, for the debut of Ocean Voices and to observe the 100th anniversary of Jacques Cousteau's birth.  When I read about this event on-line and that two Cousteau grand-kids (Fabien and Celine) would be on hand to introduce the special show in the Planetarium, it was a done deal.  I know I'm not alone:  I can only imagine that my generation of kids -- those of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s -- was pretty universally glued to Cousteau specials on television, grew up wanting to be him.  He is definitely a hero of mine from early childhood, so it felt like a necessity to be there, particularly in light of this madness with the oil spill and following on the heels of our dreamy morning tidepooling at Duxbury Reef last weekend.

Having been to Nightlife a few times now, I feel like I have the system down.  My timing was pretty perfect in arriving.  We were first in the Members line.  I know that's utterly meaningless, really, but I enjoyed knowing that  my feet would be the first in the door, guaranteeing that I'd be able to snap up tickets to Ocean Voices (done), then head downstairs champagne in hand, to enjoy the quiet, empty Aquarium.

And dream come true: the giant Pacific octopus was on the side of her tank, eye-level, in all her glory.  This tank is my first stop *every* time I visit, the sight I most crave. To be able to stand in that dim room, just Joe and me, and look at her eye, watch her breath, observe the tip of one tentacled leg slowly curling and unfolding, was such a treat.  And moments later, we were joined by someone in an orange Academy coat who regaled us with info about this particular animal and her kind generally.  Oh, other than being underwater, that is so my favorite!

So many of the creatures we saw in the Aquarium last night seemed so much more active than usual, or than I've ever seen there before.  The flounders were cruising around, eels, too.

I've decided that I'm not the target audience for Nightlife.  I do appreciate the lack of children and strollers --that's Genius, really.  I like having an experience of the Academy that is not about it being a playground.  And there's something wonderful about looking into brilliantly-colored displays with a drink in your hand, especially before it gets crowded.  But Nightlife is its own form of playground, for grown-ups, and I'm not sure it's the experience I really want to have, either.  I wonder whether there needs to be so much going on at once in one night: really, do we have to have two DJs and the Crucible with their fire stuff happening outside and in the center area and the usual theme-based tabling, not to mention all of the regular Academy happenings, the volunteers pushing around carts of skulls or bacula?  I'd be happy with just one thing, and maybe a jazz trio for example.  Maybe a quieter version of Nightlife, just once, so that I could avoid the feeling I had in the Extreme Mammals exhibit last night, around 9pm, that I was back in high school surrounded by tipsy idiot girls in party dresses.

But, no matter what, I was so glad to be there, to be in the same room with Cousteaus, to dedicate the great excitement that I feel when I see marine creatures back to the person who first unveiled this universe to my eyes: back to the original Zissou, Jacques Cousteau.  Long may we honor all that you gave us!

Wednesday
Jun022010

I [heart] David Attenborough

We've been watching the utterly remarkable Life of Mammals series (full episodes available via the link, hosted on youtube).  I have loved and revered David Attenborough since I saw him on some PBS show years ago, on hands and knees, intrepidly digging for eggs in a crocodile nest.  The Life of Birds changed my life.

The Life of Mammals series only strengthens my long-held desire to be David Attenborough when  I grow up.  I can't imagine a fuller, better life than the one he leads, roaming around, talking to animals.  There is simply something so exuberant about him.  I am always inspired by his example, cheered by his choice of words, deeply moved by his narration.  I am grateful to still be learning something new every day, especially when David Attenborough is the teacher!

And what great preparation for the introductory mammalogy class I'm signed up for in the Fall.

Here's the first episode in its entirety for those so inclined.  Echidna and platypus: enjoy!

Tuesday
Jun012010

It's little, but still: it's *something*

Any work-day that follows a blissful four-day weekend is bound to be a let-down.  Today was sucky enough just by virtue of comparison to the freedom and fun of what had gone immediately before, and then made worse by an absurd payroll-service problem that resulted in a gross error on my boss's paycheck.  She emailed me from Italy to ask if there had been a mistake, unaccustomed as she is to being paid $12K net every two weeks.  Uh yeah, unaccountable error on the payroll-service's part that ate up most of my afternoon.  But I fixed it.

I was delighted to get home to my clean house and darling dog.  Since it's Tuesday night and Joe is out with his team, this is a night that I love since I have the house to myself for a while.

I made myself something simple to eat and started flipping through the local paper.  I started reading something that sounded familiar, then realized that it was a piece I'd sent to the Marin IJ in late April.  I'd received an automated reply, but nothing else, and had frankly totally forgotten about it.  I squeaked, "heeeeeeey!," and jumped out of my chair for a second.  Surprised and delighted.  Then read it and wished I'd edited it better.  But still, delighted.

It's a really small thing.  It's just the local paper, which generally I bitingly criticize for reporting all major news 48 hours late and for devoting way too much space to the Grateful Dead.  [Side note: I keep forgetting to start my project of counting the number of days between mentions of Jerry or Phil so that I can prove that no more than 14 days can ever go by without their appearance, front page and above the fold, but until then, it's pure conjecture on my part.  Educated conjecture, but conjecture nonetheless.]

But still, though a small thing, being published in our local rag represents something bigger to me: that I'm really serious about this direction I'm taking, that I think it's working, that through constant attention and commitment, one foot after another, I will most definitely make this change I crave.

I'm doing it, dang it.  And so glad!

Monday
May312010

June is Freecycle month, at least for me

On impulse, I decided this morning that in the month of June, I am going to freecycle one item for every single day.  Yes, I will get rid of thirty things or groupings of things that I don't use, but which could serve someone else just fine.

For those who don't know about freecycle, I first started jumping around about it in November.  I've been a little less enchanted recently with the volume of emails I get every day, especially when people don't follow the rules (naturally they don't, naturally that bugs), BUT am feeling re-energized by this little task I've set myself, which accomplishes something I really want to do: streamline, create more space, clean out crap gathering dust.

None of it is really crap at all.  Just unwanted.

For a start, I posted 5 things that I pulled from the linen closet.  There's more in there, but I'm trying not to go too utterly insane, knowing that I have to sustain this for another 25 days.

- two hall runners, perfectly serviceable, but that I just am not crazy about.  They've lived in the closet for over a year, probably 5, who knows;
- misc. bag of cleaning supplies, including carpet cleaner (can't even remember when or why i bought this);
- two book lights;
- a bottle of Pantene shampoo that wound up in our shopping bag after a visit to Long's Drugs (RIP), paid for and probably sorely-missed by the man ahead of us in line;
- marbles and "gems" for floral arrangements (who WAS the person who bought that crap), and some floral foam.

Within twenty minutes of my posts, 4 of the 5 items are spoken for.  I love it that I actually know one of the people coming by for driveway pick-up - such a tiny world we live in.     


It is amazing how much stuff accumulates in a life, and how when you have space to tuck it away, you can just forget about it.  I never forget it's there, though, and feel its presence even when I can close the door on it and walk away.  So great that there's a way I can pass useful but unwanted items on, putting them up for adoption by a self-selected new loving family.  I will probably never have a garage sale again.  I'd so much rather give it to someone who actually wants it, than stand around trying to hawk miscellany for pennies on the dollar anyway, steadily building a head of steam as people haggle me down from $1 to 25 cents.

Thanks to Sally, Judy, Fran and Elizabeth for taking this stuff off my hands.  Thanks for freecycling!

Monday
May312010

I blame the Giro

I was planning on going to yoga this morning at 9:30, but then realized, as I was walking Jasper around the marsh near our house, that I am basically cross-eyed with fatigue.  No yoga for me today.  Hopefully no driving anywhere either.  I think we have enough food in the house to get through the day, but basically I do feel like I'm wasting a day off by being so tired that all I can think of is taking a long nap and sleeping the daylight hours away.

For this sleep-deprivation, I blame the Giro d'Italia.  I could blame the Tour of California but that was only 8 days.  The Giro was 3 solid weeks of TiVo'ed action, which simply had to be watched on a daily basis, even when I was getting home from work and yoga near 9 pm.  Juggling the Tour of Cali and the Giro for the 8 days of overlap was a challenge.  And to think there used to be no coverage, ZERO, even during the Tour de France.     Incorporating this abundance, complaining about this abundance, is a pretty funny thing.

Such great stories in all of this cycling, so many great examples of overcoming obstacles, going to the very limit of your endurance, staying smart, working as a team, shining when it's your moment.  I love every second of it.  And cry when winners of a stage cross the line, especially when they've never won one before, no matter how old they are or who they ride for: just reveling in their triumph and glory.

And Ivan Basso?  Coming back after suspension for doping and winning what sure seemed to me like the hardest EVER, most brutal ass-kicking grand tour ever -- pure awesome.  Impossible to take my eyes away.

Even if I knew I'd eventually pay, stumbling around the neighborhood cross-eyed on a holiday morning.  It was all worth it.

Bring it on, Tour de France!  I'm sleeping plenty now, knowing that I'll lose it all over three weeks in July.