Friday, July 14, 2006

MySpace Pulls Plugs

I’ve been writing notes to MySpace for several months to stop people from hotlinking to my photos.

It’s not a huge request ... but one that should at some point be acknowledged. I’ve written four notes to them through their online contact info pages and I don’t even get a confirmation email that they’ve recieved my note. If anyone knows an email address that I can use for these notes in the future, I’d appreciate a heads up.

So here’s my problem: so far in the month of July I’ve had 35,000 MySpace hotlinking hits on my domain.

Apparently they like my photos. Not so much my blog ... just my photos.

Even though I have htaccess limits in place, it’s still a drain on my bandwidth, something that I pay for.

MySpace has it well within their coding powers to keep their users from unauthorized hotlinking. It’d be very simple for them to set up a blacklist (that would be populated by the domain owners requests) that would swap the requested image for something that says “please only link to images you have the rights to.”

But no.

Here’s a scenario that could probably get them to change their minds:

Buy a domain and populate it with 200 fantastic and highly-desirable photos for hotlinking. Code the page to make them super-easy to find with Google Image searches. Cute kittens, candy, pretty rainbows ... blah, blah.

Let the MySpacers link away.

When you reach a threshold, then do an htaccess swap and have all the images changed to an image that violates the Terms of Use for MySpace. (Use your imagination ... there are lots of things that would qualify.)

Continue as needed until MySpace gets the message that allowing hotlinking is not only bad for the people who are paying for all the hotlinking - it’s also bad for MySpace.

If you want to hear what MySpace has been spending their time doing instead ... well, you know, it’s all over the news.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:00 pm     Comments (4)

Friday, June 30, 2006

How to Find Something that’s Missing

Here’s is my best tip on how to find something that’s been missing for weeks.

First, look everywhere. You have to.

Mention to people that your item(s) is missing.

Then stop looking and stew about it.

Go back and look again.

Post on your blog that you lost it and can’t find it.

Then go look in the same place you just looked before you posted on your blog.

Your missing item(s) will be there.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:16 pm    

How You Know When You Have Too Much

I lost some candy. Or maybe I misplaced it.

I had two bags of candy that I bought in New York at Aji Ichiban. It was the perfect candy to hang onto for a while because it was all individually wrapped bulk candy. I photographed them and then put them carefully back in their bag, put them in a spot where I wouldn’t forget them and now they’re gone. It wasn’t a lot - but I did spend some time picking it out ... a special trip to Chinatown and about $10.

Then I had a bunch of candy that I didn’t want from the All Candy Expo and I’ve misplaced that too. I don’t care so much about that stuff, since, you know, I didn’t want it and all.

I just can’t figure how I’d lose two different bags of candy. But I have a lot of candy and it’s entirely possible that it’s here and I can’t see it through the din of candy noise.

For the record, I’m hoping to get rid of a bunch of it tonight at the Farmers Market blogger get-together thingy.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:09 pm    

Thursday, June 22, 2006

You Can Take the Girl out of the Internet

Is it wrong that as we’re trying to book a vacation and one of the things I’m most concerned about is internet access?

I mean, some of the places don’t even have PHONES! And we’re talking California here ...

I’m not looking to spend my whole vacation online, but I do like to keep in touch and stuff and of course I have my blogging empire to maintain (fast fiction is sadly neglected, I know).

POSTED BY Cybele AT 4:06 pm     Comments (3)

Monday, May 01, 2006

May Day

Should Los Angeles value its immigrants or its Lakers fans?

There are currently 5 times as many people milling about with a common cause than any given Laker game ... and despite the traffic snarls, I like what I’m seeing.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:04 pm     Comments (2)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Fuss About Steroids in Baseball

I don’t know what the big deal is about steroids in major league baseball.

I think the thing to do is just accept that there will always be some all natural athletes and there will always be some enhanced ones. So go ahead and acknowledge it and move on. Quit wasting the federal government’s time investigating it.

Then we can spend our time developing a labeling system for all players, games and teams.

Just like you can get organic vegetables and hormone free milk, you can opt for an all-natural steroid free baseball team. If people want to see the ‘roidal freaks then they’ll buy those tickets and those teams will experience better sales and a larger fan base. Maybe they’d be different divisions, maybe you’d have integrated teams.

The point is that it’d all be out in the open.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:15 pm     Comments (2)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Camera is Dead, Long Live the Camera

Well, I took a huge gamble on Wednesday. After getting through the first few stages of grief over my Sony DSC-V1 demise, I started bidding on eBay for the next version of that camera, the Sony DSC-V3. It’s not like I was adverse to buying it new, but no one seemed to have a new one and there is no “next generation” for this model. I know I should go with a DSLR, but I’m just not ready yet.

So, I bid on one on eBay and didn’t win. So I bid on another one, and waited. Well, the first one I bid on had the winner back out and they have a “second chance offer” that’s good for 24 hours. Of course I was still the high bidder on #2. An hour later I was outbid on #2 so I took camera #1.

Not only did I get it at the price I wanted, he threw in a 1gb memory stick and free overnight shipping. So there it was, waiting at home for me last night. I was holding my breath, because you never know on eBay if you’re actually going to get what you paid for. This was my 11th purchase on eBay (plus the dining room set which didn’t technically go through eBay because I bought the whole set, not just the table) and I have to say that I’ve never had a problem yet. The only weird thing is that the charger cable was missing, but it included an external battery charger, so that solves that problem. Not only that, but my V1 cable works just fine.

It’s a different camera in many ways than my V1. It’s slightly larger, black and not silver. The controls are in different places, though the operate in pretty much the same way. What’s cool about the new one is that it’s 7 megapixels, still has the great Zeiss lens and has better auto-focus. The LCD screen is bigger than my old one, but doesn’t seem as crisp (but I can live with that).

I’m still fooling around with it and trying to figure out all the different, new settings but I’ve got my little candy photo studio set up and so far things are going well. The extra megapixels will me more detailed candy goodness on candyblog!

In the mean time, here’s my tribute to the wonderful camera that has brough so much photographic goodness to my blogs over the years.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:09 am     Comments (5)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Requiem for Two Cameras

When I was in high school I was planning a trip to Spain and as a gift, my father gave me a camera.

imageIt was a Canon Snappy - a fixed focus camera that took 35mm film and was bright red. It looked like a cross between a PlaySkool camera and a Tonka truck, but I loved that thing.

I took, probably, about 100 rolls of film during the life of that camera. I had it from 1983 to 1991. I took it to class one day when I was in grad school and it just up and stopped working. I was so upset, it was the only camera I’d ever owned and it took such great photos. It wasn’t even that expensive and I probably could have replaced it, but I didn’t.

(The Man later gave me a Canon PowerShot that was super small and took good pictures, but it was film and it was the dawn of the digital age. I still have the camera, but haven’t used it since I got my most recent digital.)

My reason for this post it to relate the recent demise of my beloved Sony DSC-V1. You’ve seen the photos I’ve taken with this camera. It’s an awesome camera and I carry it with me everywhere. It takes great shots, I’ve found it easy to use and of course up until last night, extremely durable.

It’s possible I just plum wore it out. It have taken over 26,000 photos with it. Probably 100 times more than I took with my Canon Snappy before it kicked the bucket.

I spent a half an hour on the phone with Sony to trouble-shoot the camera and they say it’s not covered by a recall on the sensor (because it still shows me the image on the LCD screen, it just can’t record a usable image). Instead they’ll guarantee to fix it for $181.00. I don’t know quite how they arrived at the $181.00 amount, but there it is. The problem is that I can simply buy a refurbished DSC-V1 from their outlet for $299 - which would mean that the lens ring is intact (I dinged mine and can’t use my telephoto lens). Or I can just upgrade to the DSC-V3 which take 7 megapixels shots instead of 5 and uses the same memory sticks and of course is brand spankin’ new.

Those of you who know me, you know that I fear change. Once I get to know people or things, I’m exceptionally comfortable. But the idea of a new camera, no matter how nice a new one might be is causing a fair bit of anxiety. But the idea of being cameraless is even more frightening.

I do plan to upgrade to a DSL at some point. At the moment I’m planning on the Nikon D50 ... but I still want a camera I can throw in my bag and have at the ready.

How nuts would it be to just buy a used Sony DSC-V1? I already have a huge investment in the other stuff - the memory sticks, extra batteries and the telephoto lens.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:06 pm     Comments (5)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Clear, Cold and Dolphiny

(cross posted on blogging.la)

It is so incredibly clear today, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it like this before. I went out on the Voyager this afternoon (I admit it was a bit chilly on the water) and was surprised at the intense detail and visibility.

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Today’s adventure started out a little less promising than our others. No whales were sighted by the morning boat, but they did have a super-pod of dolphins. In the afternoon the wind was picking up so there were some small whitecaps through the swells were only 2-4 feet. The exceptional visibility played tricks on us, as we spotted what might have been some dolphin heading across Santa Monica Bay towards Pt. Dume, but as we turned out and approached, they disappeared completely.

No matter, it was early and we turned south towards Pt. Vicente, stopping briefly at buoy PV10 to look at the sea lions. Continuing south it was nearly 90 minutes into the trip when we spotted a huge bunch of birds off towards the horizon. Captain Gary mentioned that he saw dolphin below the birds and there was a lot of talk in the wheel house about whether it was birds or dolphins making the spashes. Finally the Captain turned the Voyager out towards Catalina to determine what it was. It was pretty clear after only a few minutes that it was a large pod of dolphins. Another ten minutes or so and we were traveling along at about six miles an hour with a huge pod of about 800 common dolphin pointed towards Pt. Dume.

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They were feeding on the way, probably some small bait fish (I never caught site of them). We were in the middle of the group, many rode the pressure wake of the bow, others followed alongside the boat and still other surfed in the wake of the Voyager.

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We followed along with them for 30 minutes, and luckily they were headed in the same direction we needed to go.

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Honestly, I could just go out and watch dolphins all day. But we were already running kind of late as the Captain angled our journey to maximize our time with the dolphins. As luck would have it, we did find one Gray Whale on our way back into Santa Monica Bay, just opposite the wreck of the Dominator and we delayed our return to the slip for another fifteen minutes as we tried to get a good view of him (he was heading west).

Even without the sea life, it was an exceptional day for the views. From off San Vicente we could see Angel’s Gate, the full length of Santa Catalina all the way to the Hollywood sign and the occasional peek of the snowcapped mountains through the clouds.

Read more of my whale watch adventures on blogging.la: 2-12-2006 & 12-26-2005, 7-21-2005, 5-15-20051-30-2005 & 1-17-2005 and of course all the whaley goodness right here on fast fiction.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:25 pm     Whale WatchingComments (2)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Day of the Dolphin

I’ve been out on a few whale watching tours now but I have to say that the best ones always involve dolphins.

Today’s trip out of Redondo Sport Fishing on the Voyager with Captain Gary involved a lot of dolphins.

The weather was absolutely amazing today. Excellent visibility, warm weather, calm winds and clear water. You really couldn’t ask for anything more.

As we got out into the bay I spotted a huge pod of dolphins miles off to the north of us heading towards Pt. Dume. As tempting as it was to go towards them, they were moving away from us, and it didn’t seem that we’d be able to catch up with them. But something happened out there, they must have come across some fertile feeding grouds because they stopped and a huge swarm of birds were building up over the pod. Captain Gary decided we’d turn towards them and take our chances that they’d stay put.

I was so excited! The conditions were ideal for good photos of the dolphins in the water.

We didn’t spend long with the long-beaked common dolphin pod, but that’s okay. It was an amazing half hour. I took about 250 pictures.

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Then we headed off towards some Pacific Gray Whales that were spotted back near Torrance Beach. It was a rather odd sighting. The whales were in a bad position as there was a huge amount of traffic in the bay, especially as they were hugging the coast within the bay. There were plenty of times where they changed their direction or breathing patterns because of the boats nearby. As we rounded the point the traffic seemed a bit better and they settled into a better pattern, however, it took them closer to shore and we didn’t get as good a look.

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I’m not going to get to go out again in the next few weeks, so to end my February schedule with this trip was pretty awesome. What’s more, the passengers on the trip seemed equally thrilled with their experience.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:12 pm     Whale WatchingComments (1)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Quote of the Day

I was reading Science Daily and came across this quote:

I set up a null hypothesis and the program rejected that hypothesis using the new data with a probability level of 10 to the minus 17th. In science, you don’t get any more conclusive than that. - Alan R. Templeton, Ph.D, of Washington University in St Louis

Okay, I’m not even sure about what the probability level of 10 to the minus 17th is in relation to other hypotheses that we’re comfortable with as established theories, but in the future I’m using that phrase.

You’re wondering how to incorporate this into everyday conversation?

YOU: What time does the movie start?

ME: 7:25

YOU: Are you sure?

ME: With a probability level of 10 to the minus 17th.

YOU: Word!

Link to New Analysis Shows Three Human Migrations Out Of Africa

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:01 pm     Comments (1)

Monday, January 30, 2006

Ally McGrey

I’ve decided that Grey’s Anatomy is really just Ally McBeal set in a hospital.

Skinny young woman pines for a married man who has feelings for her. (Gil Bellows/Patrick Dempsey)

This grown woman of independent means has a roommate(s). (Lisa Nicole Carson/Katherine Heigl)

The no-nonsense woman of Asian descent has great power over her man. (Lisa Liu/Sandra Oh)

Insecure but sincere man pines for the lead. (Peter MacNicol/T.R. Knight)

They hang out in a bar after work.

Lots of music including on-the-nose narration-style montages.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:30 pm     Comments (1)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Whale Watch - Spirit Cruises

Today was my first voyage on the Pacific Spirit with Captain Tim at Spirit Cruises down at San Pedro’s cute little Ports o’ Call.

I’d never been out on this boat before (though I’ve been booked on it before and even boarded the boat on December 30th before the boat was canceled).

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The weather was stunning today. The air was crystal clear, the water smooth and calm and it was rather warm. Captain Tim took us through the harbor area, pointing out the raft of sea lions near the pier by the fish market and then we made our way out to the open waters, past Angel’s Gate Lighthouse on the San Pedro jetty.

imageWithin about twenty minutes Captain Tim spotted a whale, about a mile further out to sea, a little north of us. We caught up to it and were delighted to find a very cooperative whale. It would surface without much of a blow, but would take five faithful breaths and then a dive and a lift of the tail (it fluked for us three times) and then only stayed down for about three and a half minutes before it would repeat the cycle.

We stayed with the whale for well over thirty minutes, following it south as it made a bee line for Dana Point.

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On its last but lackluster dive we turned further out to catch up with some dolphins seen further out. What we thought were common dolphins turned out to be much more. We first came across a small pod of common dolphins (at least eight individuals) that met up with the boat and surfed in our wake. We continued towards the larger group that appeared to be feeding. Those were not common dolphins, instead they were bottlenose dolphins. They were delighted to see the boat and though it was a small group (probably a dozen) at least three joined in a few times to swim in the boat’s bow wake.

We had a large number of children on board, and they just scream with delight when the dolphins come up to the boat. A few circles in the area and the captain went off to catch back up with our faithful whale. As we headed towards him we instead ran across another small group of Risso’s dolphins. These were by far the most visible of all the dolphins we saw for the day, moving more slowly and showing more of their heads as they came up to breath and moved around. I suspect there were squid that these dolphins were feeding on. They were definitely staying in the same area, and there were plenty of gulls (but no Pelicans, which don’t eat squid).

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I was suprised by the number of Heerman’s gulls. I’ve not seen many of them over at Redondo Beach, but there seem to be lots of them out of Ports ‘o Call. I think they’re very pretty gulls, with their bright white heads, red beaks and waxy gray bodies.

On our way back to the harbor the Captain stopped at one of the buoys to visit with the sea lions. There were two of them on the buoy , both males, and one of them had a huge growth at the base of his flukes. The little kids kept pointing at it and asking about it. I didn’t know quite what to say, since I didn’t think that sea lions had testicles. I’m going to print out a picture and take it into class, I have a feeling it’s some sort of tumor. It was probably the size of a mango - far too large to be a normal scrotum. I hope it’s not an indication of something dastardly going on in the harbor that may affect the wildlife.

The past two trips have had huge varieties of wildlife out on the water, they’re like dream trips where we get to see whales and dolphins. It just makes me so happy that I started doing this whalewatching stuff in the first place.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:58 pm     Whale WatchingComments (0)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Monday Trip on Voyager

Yesterday was an awesome trip on the Voyager’s afternoon trip from Redondo Beach. It was the kind of trip that I think naturalists dream of.

The weather was mild and beautiful. A little chilly, but the waters were calm and the air was brilliantly clear. We set out at 1:30 with a rather full boat with over 50 passengers. I talked with my fellow naturalist, John, and we agreed because of my bum knee that I would take the mic for the whole trip so I didn’t have to deal with trying to navigate around the boat during the ride.

It was the first time I’ve done the whole trip as the lead naturalist, the first time I’ve really had to narrate much at all. I felt pretty comfortable about it, and I think part of it was that I’m more familiar with the material and also because Will was along and he’s always such a good audience. I tried to remember some of the biggest comments I’ve gotten, especially the one to “slow down and not talk too much.”

About 40 minutes out we passed around Rocky Point and caught sight of at least one whale close by and another a bit further out to sea. Captain John pointed us towards the closest whale and we tailed him for at least five cycles on the surface. He was not a regular whale, he didn’t follow the guide books completely. He would surface, sometimes taking his first breath and briefly snorkeling and taking another quickly after that. He did some wonderful fluking and because of the moderate wind we got some very good views of his flukeprints. He didn’t swim in a straight line, he dodged in and out, possibly because of his proximity to the point and possibly because of the other whale nearby. We never got particularly close to him and he probably preferred it that way. His irregularity made it a little difficult to predict where he’d be and how many breaths he’d take. Of course he didn’t stay down for 7 minutes or more like last week’s whales.

After following this lone whale for over 40 minutes our other naturalist, John, called the whalewatch census that pointed out a pod of dolphins a bit further out to sea. We’d seen the glinting of dorsals and a few light blows and some birds and knew they were dolphins, but it was the spotters with their scope that confirmed that it was Risso’s dolphins. I was really excited by this since I’d never seen Risso’s before. Of course I didn’t want to tell Captain John that I really, really, really, really wanted us to go out there to see them. I’m just there to help tell our passengers what we’re seeing. As we got closer to them in our current course I directed the passengers to look for the blows from the dolpins. Luckily John waited for another fluke from our present whale and turned us towards the dolphins. While on our way out there I gave the brief info that I had about the Risso’s which is pretty scant. They’re dolphins, about the size of bottlenose dolphins, 10-13 feet long, but with no real beak. They’re dark grey at birth but as they get older they get scarred and streaked until some are practically white. Their dorsal fins are quite tall and are often mistaken for Orcas, especially at a distance.

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(that’s Point Vicente lighthouse there on the bluff - click to embiggen)

Risso’s, as it turns out, are rather aloof dolphins. Unlike the long-beaked and short-beaked common dolphins and bottlenose that I’ve seen before that come right up to the boat and bow-ride, the Risso’s pretty much go about their business. But it’s pretty cool to observe them ignoring us.

As far as I could tell, there were well over 20 individuals scattered over a pretty large area about a half a mile wide. They appeared to be feeding and worked in small groups of up to four individuals. They’re known to eat squid and though we saw birds around, they were gulls and I didn’t see any Pelicans, which apparently don’t eat squid.

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The Captain powered down the boat and we made several slow circles through the group. With the engine and wind noise gone, all we could really hear were the squeals of the kids on board that were just tickled pink at the dolphins and pointed them out all around the boat and then there were the sounds of the dolphins themselves. They made that poofing sound as they exhaled sharply. If you didn’t see them coming up, you knew where to look just by the sound. The water was wonderfully clear and with the swells we could see the lightest colored Risso’s under the water, darting around in different directions. Sometimes two or three would come to the surface at once, and I even saw two jump partway out of the water.

At that point we were two hours into the trip and Captain John parted with the Risso’s and we headed back into Santa Monica Bay. As we passed the Dominator I prepared to wind up the trip and started my little audio presentation about the patches that we sell for the Whalewatch program and there was a loud bunch of hollering from the passengers and they all pointed at three o’clock as we saw at least two whales speeding along, hugging the coast.

Whoo! More whales! The Captain pulled around to see them, of course he had to turn out and away from them, lest he get to close. I was hoping it was a mother and calf, as they often hug the inside of the bay like that. But it was possibly better, three or maybe four whales. All coming up in close proximity and the light from the setting sun was just stunning. It was a little tough as we lost them in the glare on the water at one point, but after another cycle Captain John positioned us to catch some really nice flukes from two of the whales.

I’m sure we all would have liked to keep following them around the point, but it was time to go back to shore.

Captain John pointed us back towards Redondo Beach, we made a short stop at the buoy at the breakwater to peek at the hauled-out sea lions and then we were home again.

My pictures for this trip are rather lackluster, I’m afraid, as I was concentrating on creating the experience for the passengers. Not a bad compromise at all!
Will blogged about it.
Will posted some fantabulous photos.
I found these photos from another passenger, Josh Young.

I’m booked to go out again this weekend, a Saturday morning boat from Spirit Cruises at Port-o-Call. That’s a boat what there Captain does the mic talk, so I’ll be able to move around and maybe get some more pictures.

Here’s what the whale census had to say:

As of 16-Jan 2006

Southbound Today———————- 18
Northbound Today————————0
Total Whales Today——————- 18
Southbound Calves Today————- 0
Northbound Calves Today————- 0


Season to Date (since 1 Dec 2005)

Southbound—————————223
Northbound——————————0
Total———————————- 223
Calves South————————- 28
Calves North—————————0

Message from the observers: We started the day REAL SLOW. We had two sightings between 9 and 10 am, another sightings at 11:30am and then around 2 pm we started to see whales. Our numbers were greatly assisted by a number sightings on or near the horizon. We had a pod of 4 and two singles with Catalina as our backdrop. We had four sightings after 4 pm, which is when it got a little confusing. There had been a pod of three and they separated, then there was another sightings where the whales were pretty close and the sun was setting, so the visibility was difficult. Dolphin included Rissos, bottlenose and probably common.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:30 pm     Whale WatchingComments (2)

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Year in Review

I wasn’t planning on doing a top ten list or any resolutions.

But here’s a review of the great things that happened (or I made happen) in 2005:

• I saw a blue whale, the largest animal on earth.

• I saw thousands of common dolphins off of the Southern California Coast

• I saw a dozen Pacific Gray Whales

• I saw Elephant Seals in San Simeon (okay, I’ve seen those before, but they were very active this time)

• I went to three weddings (okay, one was a reception): Will & Susan, Laura & Frank and Laura & Terry

• I went to New York City, Morro Bay, Pittsburgh (x2), Hershey, Youngstown (x2), Catalina, Santa Barbara (x2) and San Francisco (x2)

• I visited three candy factories: Jelly Belly, Scharffen Berger & Harry London Chocolates

• I had Jury Duty at Los Angeles Superior Court. I served my one day where I was put on one panel and was dismissed when they got what they needed then dismissed at the end of the day when I didn’t make it on any other panels.

• I wrote my fifth novel (I’ve now written over 250,000 words of fiction in the past five years)

• I took over 10,000 photos, probably 5,000 of them of candy (but only about 500 of them were good)

• I started a new play based on my 2004 novel, An Alphabetical Order. It still needs work and a third act, but it’s the first new thing I’ve started in over five years, so it’s progress.

• I’ve been on the radio twice: Good Food and Radio Open Source and that has since been remixed: Universal Passion.

• I started a new blog and have reviewed over 250 candies.

• I moved FastFiction and am starting a subsite for my playwriting.

Next year I plan to travel more, Chicago for the All Candy Expo, a trip to New York City, a vacation or two, a visit to the family back east and of course more whalewatching trips. Another novel, finish the current play maybe write a non-fiction book about candy (well, you knew that was coming, right?). It’s an exciting time.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:51 pm     Curious NewsComments (2)

Monday, December 26, 2005

Whale Watch Training!

Today was the annual traning trip for the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium’s whale watch docent naturalist program.

I was worried that the trip would be canceled for bad weather, after all, we have huge swells hitting our coast from storms far out in the Pacific, but today was remarkably calm. Even though it was raining when I left the house, I called the landing to get confirmation that things were a go. And they were. It was still drizzly as we left on the Voyager but the water was glassy and the swells were rather tame.

Unlike a regular whale watching trip, this one was led by no less than a half-dozen naturalists including: Diana McIntyre, Bernardo Alps, Diane Alps, Alisa Schulman-Janiger and John Olguin. Though the whales eluded us (it’s still early in the season) we did find two pods of long-beaked common dolphins. The first was a large one with probably 800 individuals feeding on some herring (or some other small silvery fish) along with a large variety of gulls and pelicans with the occasional sea lion thrown in.

But you really just wanna see photos, right? Click for larger versions:

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Rocky Point as seen from the boat.

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Common Dolphin pod.

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Long-beaked common dolphin.

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Possibly the same long-beaked common dolphin.

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Palos Verdes Peninsula as seen from Santa Monica Bay

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A Brown Pelican in breeding plumage.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:11 pm     Whale WatchingComments (3)

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas Readers

This was the tree on Christmas Eve. It looks rather different now as all the presents are either distributed or opened.

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(Okay, I photoshopped that hat on her. There’s no way she’s sit there so accomodatingly with a real one. Click on the photo for larger lameness.)

I got lots of candy (shock!) and I’m thrilled with all of it. My father even sent me pounds and pounds (I’m not kidding) of various kinds of Wilbur which means I’ll be making candy very soon because there’s no way I’m eating three pounds of unsweetened baking chocolate. I also got a home photo studio setup for taking, so look forward to both fresh candy and copious photos of it all! My mother also gave The Man and me a wonderful gift this year as she adopted a dozen kids at a rescue mission and got Christmas gifts for all of them - what a wonderful way to spread the joy of the season around.

In other news the waves are still high here in Southern California and they’re calling for rain. Even if the skies are clear, the large swells may keep the boat at the dock so no whalewatching. My hopes are high for Friday though.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:44 pm     Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Card Carrying

I passed my whalewatching naturalist test!

(None of you doubted me, did you?)

So, I get to go out on Monday for the training trip (out of Redondo Beach on the Voyager) and then on my first trip as a veteran whalewatch naturalist on Friday the 30th through Spirit Cruises at Ports ‘o Call.

You can now expect many photos of cetaceans and other sea-related things.

 

POSTED BY Cybele AT 4:07 pm     Comments (1)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Decorative Mood

So The Man is on his way out to buy a Chistmas tree for us.

One problem.

I can’t find the decorations. I have two boxes, maybe you’ve seen them around? One is a plastic Rubbermaid bin with a piece of white fabric gaffer’s tape on it that says CHRISTMAS on it? There’s another file box, too that also has the word Christmas scrawled in black with as Sharpie marker? Anyone see those around the house?

It’s been three years since we’ve been home, so the last time we had a tree was before the kitchen remodel. I’ve looked everywhere they could be ... but the list of places I don’t think they are but could be is much longer. Sigh. Maybe we’re getting new ornaments this year.

UPDATE: I found one of them. The Rubbermaid tub. Apparently that “marking them” thing works much better if you do it on both ends ... or at least stack the tub so that the label is facing out.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:46 pm     Comments (1)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Narwhal’s tusk explained

Marine Biology Mystery Solved: Function of “Unicorn” Whale’s 8-foot Tooth Discovered

After hundreds of years of guessing, Harvard Medical School announced what they believe to be the purpose of the Narwhal’s tusk.

image

The Narwhal is a small toothed whale (member of the Odoncete suborder) that lives in the Arctic and North Atlantic. Males grow to be about 15 feet and weigh about 3,500 pounds and females slightly smaller at 13 feet and a slimmer 2,000 pounds. They are unique in the world of cetaceans in that they have a single tusk, which is a modified tooth grows in corkscrew fashion from their left jaw. Many are up to nine feet long, which means that they may be two thirds as long as their body. Unlike most Acrtic whales, the Narwhal does not migrate south but they do move around in larger groups within the Arctic Ocean from the shores to more open ocean as ice floes cover areas.

Nweeia has discovered that the narwhal’s tooth has hydrodynamic sensor capabilities. Ten million tiny nerve connections tunnel their way from the central nerve of the narwhal tusk to its outer surface. Though seemingly rigid and hard, the tusk is like a membrane with an extremely sensitive surface, capable of detecting changes in water temperature, pressure, and particle gradients. Because these whales can detect particle gradients in water, they are capable of discerning the salinity of the water, which could help them survive in their Arctic ice environment. It also allows the whales to detect water particles characteristic of the fish that constitute their diet. There is no comparison in nature and certainly none more unique in tooth form, expression, and functional adaptation.

This is a totally cool adaptation as far as I’m concerned. Much like a lizard or snake uses their tongue to taste the air, this discovery about the sensory sensitivity of the Narwhal’s tooth must makes their adaption to their habitat all the more admirable.

UPDATE: Amazingly detailed article from the NY Times now up!

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:11 pm     Whale WatchingComments (1)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Novel Update (writing day 10)

I took off from work about 30 minutes early and headed over to Sabor y Cultura for my final session.

I had very little clue how I was goign to bring this thing to a close within 5,000 words, but I think part of the lesson of NaNoWriMo is giving up on those plans that one might have at the beginning of the month. I might have though that I was going to write a road trip, a dark comedy about a poor downtrodden fellow who never gets a break.

What I ended up writing is a novel that never quite gets there. I throw a lot of crap at Daniel and he seems to bear it well, but not as well as I thought he would (what do I know?). But that’s okay, it provides drama.

So, what was supposed to be a story of Daniel, who loses his family in a series of terrible tragedies that he seems unable to prevent or mitigate yet he maintains a sort of loose life affirming demeanor. He works as a sort of character/production assistant on a wee-hours-of-the-morning TV show. The morning that he loses his latest apartment in a house fire (and manages to save the landlady from certain death) he ends up getting the assignment that will promote him to the next level. He’s going to be the remote producer for a “road trip” where he is to pick up a family (brother from St. Louis and parents from South Carolina), document their trip and then return them to Pittsburgh for a reunion/re-enactment for a Christmas tree cutting.

What ends up happening is that Daniel hasn’t borne these tragedies as well as I thought he would. He’s much moodier than I’d thought he’d be, but luckily the cameraman I sent him on this trip with also happens to have gotten copious therapy for his traumas during the first Gulf war. He guides Daniel through accepting his inability to move past his inability to change anything. Blah, blah, blah. Anyway, so I abandoned the road trip when they got to St. Louis, had them turn around and come back. Happy ending.

time…...running tally….words…words/minute
6:00 PM…....45,101….......0…....0
6:15 PM…....45,772….....671…...44.73
6:30 PM…....46,427….....655…...43.67
6:45 PM…....47,069….....642…...42.80
7:00 PM…....47,634….....565…...37.67
7:15 PM…....48,224….....590…...39.33
7:30 PM…....48,835….....611…...40.73
7:45 PM…....49,516….....681…...45.40
8:00 PM…....50,137….....621…...41.40
8:15 PM…....50,758….....621…...41.40
8:27 PM…....51,178….....420…...35.00

25 hours 29 minutes of writing
33.47 words per minute average
5,118 words per session
51,178 words total

Anyway, it’s all done. My worst novel to date.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:11 pm     NaNoWriMoComments (3)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Novel Update (writing day 8)

Since it’s Sunday, I figured Sabor y Cultura was a good bet. Parking is always easier over there on Sundays because there’s no time limit. But I forgot about the Hollywood Christmas Parade. No parking on Hollywood Blvd. today. No matter, I found a spot in their parking lot instead of on the street.

time…...running tally….words…words/minute
1:30 PM…....36,008….......0…....0
1:45 PM…....36,533….....525…...35.00
2:00 PM…....37,175….....642…...42.80
2:15 PM…....37,810….....635…...42.33
2:30 PM…....38,409….....599…...39.93
2:45 PM…....39,026….....617…...41.13
3:00 PM…....39,565….....539…...35.93
3:15 PM…....40,223….....658…...43.87
3:30 PM…....40,778….....555…...37.00
3:45 PM…....41,227….....449…...29.93
4:00 PM…....41,823….....596…...39.73
4:15 PM…....42,374….....551…...36.73
4:30 PM…....42,915….....541…...36.07
4:37 PM…....43,164….....249…...35.57


Session summary:
38.27 words per minute average
7,156 words today
3 hours and 7 minutes

To Date Summary:
21 hours 40 minutes of writing so far
33.15 words per minute average
6,836 words left
3.44 hours of writing left on pace

This date in History:
2004: 42,108
2003: 34,512
2002: 35,482
2001: 42,589

Happily there was no recurrance of food poisoning either, which means a normal length writing session. I still need another long session to finish up my 50K, possibly two to bring the story to a close. I don’t really want to talk about where I’m at with the actual story, but I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how my characters might score some crack for their drug addicted travelmate. Luckily they know as little on the subject as I do and the fumbling around produces thousands of words and a very, very, very long and wordy argument.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:25 pm     NaNoWriMoComments (5)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Mysterious Sound Identified as Minke Whales

I was watching some documentary a year or so ago, I think it was about submarines. It was talking about hydrophones and sounds of the deep and mentioned this mysterious boing that no one could identify. They’d been hearing it on hydrophones all over the Pacific since they first started using them. They’d often suspected it was whales, but it’s really hard to prove such things.

Well, they finally figured it out. It’s minke whales. Probably male minke whales breeding. Making this boingy noise that reverberates across the whole ocean, to impress the lady whales, or at least tell them where they can find a good mate.

You can even hear the sound here and read more about it.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:47 pm     Whale WatchingComments (0)

Novel Update (writing day 7)

It’s a long weekend and it’s quite a nice feeling to have all the socializing and obligation out of the way and know that the rest of the weekend the tasks at hand are laundry and writing.

I set out for The Silverlake Coffee Company again, because it’s been serving me well. My nerve/muscle spasm problem with my left forearm seems to have dissipated, hopefully because I switched my mouse buttons on my laptop and of course I mouse lefty at work, too. I’m a little troubled by the ergonomics of The Silverlake Coffee Company because of the table height and I might revert to Sabor y Cultura again tomorrow.

I’m still behind targets, and at this point I think I’m going to have to take one evening next week to finish up, as I doubt I will even attempt a 14K day tomorrow. There’s no need for me to finish early this year, as I have no party to plan, just my journey to the homeland of NaNoWriMo, which will be on December 1st.

time…...running tally….words…words/minute
12:45 PM…....29,714….......0…....0.00
01:00 PM…....30,246….....532…...35.47
01:15 PM…....30,758….....512…...34.13
01:30 PM…....31,316….....558…...37.20
01:45 PM…....31,875….....559…...37.27
02:00 PM…....32,366….....491…...32.73
02:15 PM…....32,910….....544…...36.27
02:30 PM…....33,106….....196…...13.07
02:45 PM….....break….......0…....0.00
03:00 PM…....33,780….....674…...44.93
03:15 PM…....34,284….....504…...33.60
03:30 PM…....34,935….....651…...43.40
03:45 PM…....35,407….....472…...31.47
04:00 PM…....36,008….....601…...40.07

Session Summary:
32.28 words per minute average
6,294 words today
3 hours and 15 minutes

To Date Summary:
18 hours and 35 minutes of writing so far
32.29 words per minute average
13,992 words left
7 hours and 15 minutes of writing left on pace

This Date in History:
2004: 35,175
2003: 34,512
2002: 35,482
2001: 40,388

The bulk of the text today took place in the past as I gave an account of how Daniel got the nickname Tragic at college. He leaves tomorrow for St. Louis. I really think he’s going to hit the road. Really.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:21 pm     NaNoWriMoComments (0)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Dream State

I had a dream last night with George Clooney in it.

It’s not what you think (unless you have an imagination as strange as my dreams).

I was at work. Not the place I work now, someplace with a long rambling building that was very white and bright and had lots of cubicles.

I was visited by Mr. Clooney, who said he was filling in at the HR department and that he wanted to talk to me about my 401k plans and any rollovers I might make should I change companies. We talked a bit about the options and he decided that I was handling my portfolio well and was happy to hear that I was taking full advantage of the company benefits pacakge.

Then I asked him why he was working for the HR department, and he said it was something he liked to do every once in a while. Then he gave me his card, which looked like something he fished out of the trash and was for a tire store. But he took it back and wrote in his real contact info and said, “I go by the name Lori, just so you know.”

He handed the card back to me, which I put in a drawer and then thanked him.

The dream went on. But that was the most interesting part. If you could call it that.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:54 pm     Curious NewsComments (0)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Novel Update (writing day 6)

Since yesterday was reasonably successful, I ran some errands this morning (including going to the mall to get some See’s for a candy swap with a great Candy Blog reader in Israel) and then stopped back over at The Silverlake Coffee Company.

Since it was round lunchtime, I ordered a Turkey and Cranberry sandwich with Swiss cheese and a cup of the organic coffee. They apologized profusely that they needed to make a new pot of the organic and it would be about four minutes. Oh no! Really fresh coffee! How could I aruge with that?

I got down to business. I intended to make two sessions today, but now I’m totally wiped and am in the middle of spot treating one of the upholstered chairs before Thanksgiving company, so today’s tally will have to suffice. I still have next weekend and the most important thing is that I barrelled through the twenties because I really don’t like them much.

At some point I’m going to have to make up for the 5K weekend days with an additional 10K day or something. I’ll figure it out later.

time…...running tally….words…words/minute
01:00 PM…....24,663….......0…....0.00
01:15 PM…....25,108….....445…...29.67
01:30 PM…....25,483….....375…...25.00
01:45 PM…....26,109….....626…...41.73
02:00 PM…....26,622….....513…...34.20
02:15 PM…....27,208….....586…...39.07
02:30 PM…....27,700….....492…...32.80
02:45 PM…....28,408….....708…...47.20
03:00 PM…....28,944….....536…...35.73
03:15 PM…....29,493….....549…...36.60
03:22 PM…....29,714….....221…...14.73


Session summary:
35.57 words per minute average
5,051 words today
2 hours and 22 minutes

To Date Summary:
15 hours and 20 minutes of writing so far
32.30 words per minute average
20,286 words left
10 hours and 30 minutes of writing left on pace

This date in History:
2004: 16,855
2003: 28,857
2002: 30,672
2001: 21,030

I’m so close to getting the show on the road, literally. Maybe next weekend I can get my intrepid group to St. Louis. Or maybe get Hari arrested. Or maybe both.

I have to say that I’m proud of my writing pace this year. I’ve learned to enter my sessions with a full mind and at least a plan for what to do with the characters, some conflicts and unfolding the backstory. I was hoping to bring my novel in at 24 hours of writing time. But I should definitely be able to hit a 28 hour target.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:04 pm     NaNoWriMoComments (2)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Novel Update (writing day 5)

I’m in a serious funk lately. I know it doesn’t have anything to do with anything in particular, but it probably doesn’t help the novel much.

However, in true “write anyway” fashion, I did get something accomplished today (besides my final wrimo radio interview). I might celebrate with a trip to See’s. Or maybe I’ll console myself with a trip to See’s.

Today I decided to steer clear of Sabor y Cultura, even though I don’t think they’re responsible for my upset tummy last week. Instead I stuck to my own neighborhood and gave The Silverlake Coffee Company another try after boycotting them for two years. I was pleased to see that there were happy writing campers there (the tables against the wall were coated with laptopped folks) so I found a little table tucked next to the milk & sugar station across from the espresso machine. They were playing music, but I didn’t mind, as it was The Who’s Tommy (the original band version, not the soundtrack to the Rock Opera or movie version).

I started with a cup of organic coffee and the much heralded Espresso Banana Smoothie, which was thankfully not too sweet. Then later I had a bagel & cream cheese and several ibuprofen and a fill up of coffee.

time…...running tally….words…words/minute
12:08 PM…....19,642….......0…....0.00
12:15 PM…....19,789….....147…...21.00
12:30 PM…....20,231….....442…...29.47
12:45 PM…....20,753….....522…...34.80
01:00 PM…....21,315….....562…...37.47
01:15 PM…....21,686….....371…...24.73
01:30 PM…....22,283….....597…...39.80
01:45 PM…....22,660….....377…...25.13
02:00 PM…....23,015….....355…...23.67
02:15 PM…....23,543….....528…...35.20
02:30 PM…....24,151….....608…...40.53
02:45 PM…....24,663….....512…...34.13

Session summary:
31.78 words per minute average
5,021 words today
2 hours and 38 minutes

To Date Summary:
778 minutes of writing so far
31.70 words per minute average
25,337 words left
13.32 hours of writing left on pace

This date in History:
2004: 16,855
2003: 28,857
2002: 30,672
2001: 21,030

I feel like I should probably have continued writing today, but I’m not that far off-pace and maybe I can get another 6 or 7K tomorrow to get me back on track for the big push next weekend. I still get the feeling that the novel is supposed to be about 75K as I’m a few scant words from the midpoint and still not out of the city for the supposed road-trip that this novel is supposed to be about. But hey, maybe it’s not supposed to be about the road trip at all.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:21 pm     NaNoWriMoComments (1)

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Novel Update (writing day 4)

Today was another day of not much writing getting done. I’m way behind even my modest targets.

My intention was to go over to the Farmers Market for the afternoon, write either at the book store there or at the Farmers Market itself and then catch up with some other food bloggers at 5PM at La Loteria.

Well, things didn’t quite work out. My battery has been acting up, so I needed to plug in but couldn’t find a spot. And my tummy’s still a little unhappy from yesterday, so the smells were not helping.

I ditched the place and headed towards Rocktitlan on Fountain and Wilton in hopes that I could catch a few thousand words there and then head back to my early dinner thing. No such luck. They were closed, perhaps for good?

I then went all the way back to Silverlake and got some nice soothing eggs and toast and sat down to get productive. And I was. For about 45 minutes, until it was pointed out to me that The Coffee Table no longer offers electricity to its patrons. ALL of the outlets inside and on the back patio are inoperative (apparently as a choice, not bad wiring).

So, I packed up, went to Trader Joe’s to get some consolation candy and came home. Probably a good plan as the tummy is still unhappy but I’m sad I’m missing the blogger thing.

Here’s the specs for the current session:
time…...running tally….words…words/minute
2:30 AM…....15,632….......0…....0.00
2:45 AM…....15,955….....323…...21.53
3:00 AM…....16,485….....530…...35.33

This day in history:
2004: 11,862
2003: 14,069
2002: 16,340
2001:  9,371

Maybe I’ll try to write some more now.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:49 pm     NaNoWriMoComments (3)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Novel Update (writing day 3)

I had high hopes of 6K or 7K today. Plenty of time, lots of thoughts as I’ve had all week to build up a whole session’s worth of writing.

Unfortunately, somwhere along the way I ingested some sort of powerful, um, food poison or something. So the session only lasted two hours or so. But productive ones.

Anyway, the novel is still stuck in Pittsburgh. But I did a lot to get things on the road and I think my MC might get this novel on the road. He leaves “on Saturday” and I know that the novel is on either Wednesday or Thursday.

time…...running tally….words…words/minute
11:15 AM…...11,417….......0…....0.00
11:30 AM…...11,835….....418…...27.87
11:45 AM…...12,283….....448…...29.87
12:00 AM…...12,696….....413…...27.53
12:15 AM…...13,221….....525…...35.00
12:30 AM…...13,759….....538…...35.87
12:45 AM…...14,170….....411…...27.40
01:00 AM…...14,793….....623…...41.53
01:15 AM…...15,254….....461…...30.73
01:30 AM…...15,632….....378…...25.20

Session Summary:
31.22 words per minute
4,215 words in writing session
2 hours and 15 minutes

To Date Summary:
475 minutes of writing so far
32.91 words per minute average
34,368 words left
17.41 hours of writing left on pace

This day in history:
2004: 11,862
2003: 14,069
2002: 16,340
2001: 9,371

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:19 pm     NaNoWriMoComments (1)

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Novel Update (writing day 2)

Today I went back to Sabor y Cultura in Hollywood. Parking was a little easier, as it was Sunday and all street parking is free. It also happens that the little lot behind the building has free spots on Sunday that are available if you ask.

The plot is progressing, though today’s chapter seemed a bit slow and involved a little too much setup. I suppose it’s all stuff that’s relevant to later stuff. I also spent a little time fixing stuff earlier in the novel so that I could insert new stuff. I only added word count, though of course it makes things go slower. This explains my slow start for the first half hour.

I found a better table today, too. The one I was working on yesterday was a little small, wobbled and a little high, which mean that my arms were at an awkward angle. When working hours at a time, ergonomics are kind of important. I had another Mexican mocha. They were out of croissants so I had an unsatisfying slice of Manhattan cheesecake.

time….running tally….words…words/minute
2:00 PM…....6,487….......0…...0.00
2:15 PM…....6,704….....217…..14.47
2:30 PM…....7,027….....323…..21.53
2:45 PM…....7,448….....421…..28.07
3:00 PM…....7,986….....538…..35.87
3:15 PM…....8,690….....704…..46.93
3:30 PM…....9,140….....450…..30.00
3:45 PM…....9,833….....693…..46.20
4:00 PM…...10,196….....363…..24.20
4:15 PM…...10,787….....591…..39.40
4:30 PM…...11,417….....630…..42.00

32.87 words per minute average
4,930 words in writing session
2 hours 30 minutes

At this rate, I’m on track to hit 50K in 19.15 hours more of writing sessions.

On this date in history:

2004: 0
2003: 4,009
2002: 7,988
2001: 4,853

POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:00 pm     NaNoWriMoComments (1)

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During November it's all about me writing a novel. Sometimes it's about whalewatching. You know, and then there's other stuff.