Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas (and Colbert)

Merry Christmas all,
Christmas this year was white. I haven't been in snow for Christmas since living in Tahoe.
Betsy and I are spending the holidays in Pleasent View, UT with her family. This was a shot out the window on Christmas morning! Snow everywhere! Snow in Utah is so light and fluffy!
Christmas was fun. Presents, food, sledding, naps, more presents, more napping. I got tons of gifts and gave many too. It was fun to be with young kids on Christmas morning!

One of my favorite gifts I received this year was a copy of I am America (And so can you). So funny! I remember a time (before the strike) where I would watch the previous night's episode on DVR while getting ready for work. I miss Stephen's quirky views of current events. Almost as fun as Tatanka's point of view. Reading the book over the past few days reminds me that I miss the show. I hope the strike ends soon so I can enjoy new episodes.

Pick up a copy!


The other day at the academy I was trying to finish my thesis. I needed a break and was walking down the hall and came face to face with a giant grizzly bear! Holy smokes. I thought I was done for. For some reason, the bear seemed distracted and was staring to his left.
I moved forward slowly and was sure to not make any sudden moves. Luckily this was before lunch and I didn't have any food smells on my body so I was able to get close enough to snap a quick photo and then made a run for it.
It was scary! I think it saw me running and gave chase. I made it to the hallway and was safe. The bear must have been chained up or something because he didn't make it down the hall.

I can understand why Stephen is so afraid of these things!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tropical Plants of the week!

So I haven't updated my blog since Oct 14, 2007. Holy smokes. I have no excuse. I just haven't had the time or desire to update.
Also, winter.

It is hard to update a plant blog when the dead of winter is upon us. Not so many flowers. Luckily a few weeks ago for my honeymoon I went to the tropical lands of Hawaii. Here is a small sample of what I saw...

First up it the state flower of Hawaii, Hibiscus, a member of the Malvaceae family! This flower is everywhere. You may recognize this flower in its more common form....

another common flower we saw in Paradise was this orchid. People leave them on your pillows, deliver them to your room, etc....

another great thing about the tropics are chance meetings with your favorite fruits. They grow on the side of the road and in plantations, even in the lobby of your hotel. Here are some bananas

and here is a mini pineapple growing in the lobby.

the very rare chocolate covered strawberries grow wild here...

this is a member of the Piperaceae family. Members of this family are distinct because of the large bract and stalk of small flowers. There are hundreds of tiny flowers on that stalk.

Here is a member of Nyctaginaceae, or the Four o' Clock family, Bougainvillea.
members of this genus also have showy bracts but have tubular flowers in a set of three. They are usually white.

a member of Iridaceae...

many of the flowers you have seen here are used in the garden trade. I love the tropics!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

gone fishing

Last week I got to do something completely different for work. I was able to help some biologists do a fish survey. How does one do a fish survey? By using an electrofisher of course. Elecrofishing is used by fish biologists to survey streams and lakes. They make ones for boats as well as a backpack model like the one we used.
Someone is lucky enough to wear the backpack unit and hold the pole with a metal loop on the end. Current is applied to the loop and fish that come into contact are stunned.
The range of the loop is about a few feet. The stunned fish float belly up and are quickly scooped up using a net.
So we find natural pools in a stream surveyed the years before. We string nets across the pools to trap the fish in the pools and do sweeps. All fish are placed into buckets to identify and measure. Measurements include length and weight.

It was a fun time trying to capture fish. I was on bucket duty since I had never done this before. As you can imagine, mixing electricity and water is a bad combination and can be dangerous so we had protective gloves and extensive safety training.

The current is not that strong and is dialed in to stun and not kill the fish. The electricity only stuns the fish and after a few minutes they become active again. I am not sure how they decide how many volts to use but it involves measurements of dissolved oxygen and turbidity and other nerd stuff.

We measured many fish and it was fun to work with them. We kept them in a special cage until we were done and let them go back in their pools. Electrofishing is an easy, fast way to catch fish. I know that some people use this method to fish for sport but is cheating if you ask me. I think someone died using a bug zapper to fish but that may have been in a Simpson's episode.

On the way home I saw a tarantula crossing the road. I guess the males are out and looking for mates. He was crossing the road and he was sooo big!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


My favorite new NPR show as of late is Radio Lab. I heard it on This American Life a few weeks ago and downloaded the podcast. I love it. They only make 5 shows a season but they are so good. The episodes are funny, smart and entertaining and have great sound effects!

The premise of the show is they take a topic and explore using science. Today I listened to 2 shows at work, Placebo and Sleep.

The Placebo episode explores the history of placebo research. One of the stories explores when a solder in war gets shot their pain levels are less than when a person in society gets shot. Listen to the episode to find out why.

The Sleep episode explores the evolution of sleep and sleep research on animals. Did you know that dolphins rests one half of their brains at a time. so cool

So download the podcasts and listen when you get a chance. I am sure you will not be disappointed!

Friday, September 14, 2007

wait, you have a blog?

well then why was your last post way back in August? Why are you slacking on your blog? How come no sweet plant photos? What gives?

I am busy. Simple as that. I have been working long hours in the field, helping to plan a wedding, and over the past few weeks have been hunting for an apartment. From the look of things, so has the rest of the San Francisco. I have never visited craigslist so frequently on a daily basis in my life. Apartment hunting is a full time job in itself, with remembering open house dates, phone numbers, rents and realty names and addresses. Whole weekends were lost driving to open houses jut to find out they were dumps, and still 25 people were fighting over them. Morale was low. We got so sick of getting passed over we created a rental packet, complete with a generic application, credit reports and a cover letter with our contact info on it, all bound in a nice report folder.

If anyone out there is searching for an apartment, this is the way to go. People are impressed you went through the trouble and the rental packet makes you stand out. I don't want to jinx anything but I believe by Monday, our search will be over. More details to come.

I hope things slow down soon so I can update my blog more regularly in the future. I believe that it will.

so this weeks PLANT OF THE WEEK is the sunflower. I know, I know, i knew this one already but I did not know this flower is Helianthus annuus which is native to California. This flower is a member of the Asteraceae or sunflower family, with all members having a composite of smaller flowers. This family is the largest in California but the second largest in the world behind Orchidaceae.

I took this photo in a huge field of sunflowers. They were pretty. This flower is another great photography flower because of the contrasting colors. I need a digital SLR!!!

Monday, August 20, 2007

The office

Thanks again Cindy for another great online quiz! you rock! I think the description is true, I am a bit awkward sometimes. I need to work on that!

Which Office Character Are You?

You are part Michael. Deep down, you are caring and good-natured, but you often express yourself in insensitive ways. Though you always try your hardest to make your talents be seen, you could use a little more self-awareness to avoid being awkward.
You are part Jim. You are personable, easy-going, and always socially aware. Your great sense of humor and impishness soften the blow of what might otherwise be a dark, cutting cynicism.
Find Your Character @

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Many plants this week...

Life has been crazy! I have been working long hours in the field (10+) and have not had a chance to update my blog. We are busy and I have been shuttling around the bay area which is good since the one site I was at last week was devoid of plant life.

I did find this small mustard, Lobularia maritima, an introduced plant native to the Mediterranean. The common name is sweet alyssum and is supposed to have a sweet smell to them which is where they got their name.

Brassicaceae can be a hard family to key out if you do not have fruits. The first major key break asks if the fruits are longer than wide and goes from there. Luckily there were fruits on the plant and the rest of the key was easy. I forgot to smell the flowers to see if they are in fact sweet.
My next plant is a member of the pea family Fabaceae. Lotus corniculatus or more commonly, birdfoot trefoil is also a non-native plant in California. This plant hails from Eurasia and is found throughout California on account it is used for livestock feeding and crop rotation.
I have seen this plant all over the bay area but was also afraid to key it out. Fabaceae can also be a hard key to work on account of the sheer numbers of plant species but I was bored one day watching construction workers so I gave it a shot. Not that bad at all.
What separates this plant out from the hundreds of other Lotus species is the distinct leaf. The leaf has 5 leaflets but 2 reduced and stipular in position. This means that the 2 bottom leaflets are found at the base of the leaf and not on the petiole. Very distinctive.
One of the last flowers I have encountered and collected this week is one of my favorites. I collected this plant in a shady riparian area at one of the work sites. I love this area because it is shady and cool while the rest of the site is hot, hot, hot. In this little oasis, the native (finally) Mimulus cardinalis grows in abundance.

I first saw this flower growing in this creek bed way back in May and every time I walk thorough this area the plants are still flowering. There is plenty of water in the creek and it is nice and shady, a great place to grow! I finally collected some this week.
My last plant of the week is a fake mum. At the windowsill on the 6th floor of the academy, someone brought a few fake mums in and placed them by the window. I was bored from working on my thesis so I took a few shots.
we have a great view of the city from the 6th floor...

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Plant of the week... slim pickings

For the past few weeks I have been working in Pacifica. Our site does not have a wide diversity of plant life which makes my plant segment hard to do. Luckily I found this shrub.
Ceanothus thyrsiflorus or blue blossom. This big shrub is a member of the Rhamnaceae family.
One way to distinguish this shrub from others out there is the prominent veins characteristic found on the underside of the leaf. As seen below, there are 3 major parallel leaf veins which are raised and distinct.
Ceanothus flowers are also distinct and can aid in identification. They usually form a panicle and are often blue. The stamens (male parts) are opposite the petals which you can see from this photos I stole from the Internet.
Here is a photo of a cluster of fruits. Not that exciting but like I said, there is not much growing out there. Luckily I can stare at the ocean!
Hopefully this project will be done soon so I can find a site with a diverse flora!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I stopped at Ocean Beach on the way home from work yesterday. It was almost a nice day. Kind of cold due to the fierce winds but perfect for kite flying!
I have not flown a kite in quite some time. I thing there has been some breakthroughs in kite technology because the flier had a two handle contraption. Also, long tails on the kite. Perfect for doing tricks!
There were about 4 kites going. They were all moving around and it was fun to watch. I am glad I went home this way!
also, I think I want one!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Potter Mania...

Friday night bets and I headed to the Castro to procure a copy of the new deathly hallows...
First we needed some nourishment in the form of a large cup of hot chocolate.
Sweet inspirations has all you could ever want, cake, pie, gelato, and other various treats.
We realized that it was 11:15 on Bets phone so we left Sweet inspirations for the bookstore. Bets has a nice phone!
Books Inc. was having a Harry Potter Party and I was stoked because I wanted to see dorks in costumes. In SF one really doesn't need to wait for Halloween to dress up. Why anyone can dress up as any current event...
Here was dolores umbridge walking around giving detention to all the bad people in line...
luckily we were sorted into Hufflepuff house so we did not get in trouble. I was stoked to be sorted in this house because, duh, botany.
Bets was bummed. She wanted Slytherin because, evil.

We waited in line for about 45 minutes in a hot stuffy store that was totally crowded. it sucked I had to say and at times we questioned our plan to get the book on opening night. I am sure they are everywhere now and no lines! Luckily there were other books around and we passed the time.
At 12am, pandemonium hit. people went nuts, but there was no stampede! We got our books and walked home to read chapter 1! The wait was over.

I finish the book last night. So good. anyone want to talk about it?? send me an email.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


The other day as I was leaving the Academy after working on my thesis (yes, back on track) I came across a magnolia tree in bloom. If you have ever seen a magnolia tree you know what a treat to see the flowers are. They are large, leathery, and showy. They have numerous petals and reproductive parts. They are favored in the horticultural trade and are NOT native to CA. Magnolias are one of the oldest floral lineages. They are also well photographed!
The tree was small but there were a few flowers on them. I love how the light reflects off each petal creating different lights and darks. A perfect subject for any budding B&W photographer!
like I said these flowers are HUGE! This is my normal hand next to one for scale. Holy smokes!
I gorilla keyed this species via the Internet to Magnolia grandiflora. A total guess and I am sorry but there is no key for the ones found in California. This species is the most common so I am sticking to it! Go out and photograph one of these flowers if you get a chance!