Monday, August 01, 2011
I've wanted to go to Monterey for about 30 years now. First I heard about the Monterey Jazz Festival and thought that sounded pretty cool. I've been a fan of John Steinbeck's novels (started with" Of Mice and Men" in school) for a long time. After reading "Cannery Row" and "Sweet Thursday" I felt a desire to know the backdrop of some of his novels. Then I started teaching Marine Biology and I show a video about the rescue of sea otters "A Sea Otter Story" by the Monterey Bay Aquarium as well as one about behind the scenes at the aquarium "Oceans in Glass". It seemed like a unique and fascinating place. It was on one of these videos that I found out about the aquarium's Dive Adventure for children 8-12. Since my DH and I scuba dive and snorkel, we thought it would be a great way to introduce our son Danny to the sport with danger greatly minimized.
So when we found out that we would be going to California for a cruise to celebrate my Great Aunt Julia's 90th birthday, we decided to head out their early to fulfill my dream of going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA from here on out) I thought I would share some photos and experiences with my dear sparkfriends.
The first thing we did was visit the sea otters, where a permanent female resident had adopted a pup that was rescued when it was only hours old. Here she seems to be showing the pup how to wind itself up in the (fake) kelp (that's how they can sleep anchored to the kelp and not drift away with the currents) or to search within its blades for food (forage)
Then we went to the Kelp Forest Exhibit which is amazing because it is the only aquarium in the world that has figured out how to grow Giant Kelp "in captivity". They pump raw seawater into their display, they use real sunlight and a surge machine to create motion, keeping the kelp healthy. They supply the exhibit with the critters 100 feet from the shore, including a small school of sardines which are surprisingly beautiful as they wind their way in and around the kelp, creating figure 8's of shimmering silver. It was mesmerizing. I wish I had thought to take video of it, the still shots don't capture the magic they create in the display.
We then went to see the Giant Pacific Octopus which I have no good pictures of because a flash really bothers her and she moves too fast and it's too dark (for my skills as a photographer). I was however luckier with the sessile (stationary ) organisms. Here are a few cool ones There are a number of sea anemones, you can see their stinging tentacles at the top of the treelike body.
The next picture is a sea squirt which is actually a chordate (close relative) with no backbone
I love these sand dollars (relatives of the seastar)
and the spotted jelly
After seeing about 1/2 of the exhibits it was time for my son's Diving Adventure. We let them know about his ADHD, which is under control when he is medicated, but still can cause problems due to his impulsiveness and lack of attention. They were so appreciative. Apparently many parents hide it as if it were shameful, and there are then safety issues that come up with the mechanics of diving. I must commend them on their patience and understanding regarding their handling of my son. They assigned Andrew to work one-on-one with my son, Danny. He was a real pro, and I can't thank him enough.
Here is a sequence of pictures showing his first dive experience.
Here Andrew is helping Danny get his fins on.
They found a seastar
And a decorator crab
Out of all the kids participating, he was the first one in the water and the last one out...the apple doesn't fall far...
DH said "I'll know this was a success if he comes out of the water exclaiming "Awesome!!!" Here it is...
He loved it so much we let him do it again the next day. I think the young lady who worked with him was named Chris. She was just as wonderful as Andrew. Here are a few shots of his second day diving with Christine
Here is the entire team that worked with Danny over the 2 days. Very positive bunch
Very satisfied 8 year old, looking forward to his cup of hot chocolate
Before the second dive experience we participated in a behind the scenes tour and an opportunity to feed the fish. We also took the time to see some other exhibits. The seahorse display was especially intriguing
Here is the well camouflaged close relative of the seahorse, the sea dragon
Penguins are always a hit
Each day we stored lunch in a locker and ate it on a bench outside. We got a good look at some local wildlife, seals and cormorants
I am not showing pics of the fantastic Open Sea Exhibit because the fish are too fast for me. But the ocean sunfish was AMAZING Okay here's one pic that my DH took, it is the best we could do.
This is a very WEIRD fish. It is the largest bony fish in the world, though this one is pretty small (young) Still, amazing!!
I hope you enjoyed my little travelog, I will try to show some other destinations as well, but this took a long time, so I'm not sure when. Thanks for sharing it with me sparkers, Spark On!!
Sunday, July 31, 2011
I've been gone for about 6 weeks, sorry to abandon you all. I got real busy at work with the end of the schoolyear, curriculum workshop and then packing for a 2 week vacation.
I managed to knock off 3 things from my bucketlist...Monterey Bay Aquarium, Yosemite and my first cruise. We spent a week in California (Monterey/Carmel, Yosemite, LA, Long Beach) before a weeklong cruise with extended family to Cabo and Puerto Vallarta.
In Monterey, we spent 2 days at the aquarium It is the best one in the US which probably means the best in the whole world. My son did their Dive Experience for children which was so fantastic he did it 2 days in a row. And I teach marine biology so I was in my element...literally.
Then we drove down the Pacific coast along Big Sur - BREATHTAKING scenery
We ate at the Mission Ranch which I highly recommend. Its Pianobar was great fun - like old-fashioned karaoke. They pour HUGE glasses of wine. The food is first rate and the atmosphere is priceless.
We drove to Yosemite which was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream - one down on the bucketlist...WOW!! Phenomenal!! Indescribable!! You need to see it for yourself. I recommend Tunnel View, Glacier Point and Mariposa Forest.
Even with the extra activity (on my feet all day everyday) I still gained 10 lbs on the cruise. DH got seasick and lost a day of eating, so he didn't gain as much.
The food on the cruise was excellent. We were celebrating my Great Aunt Julia's 90th birthday and it was near our 10th anniversary so we celebrated that, too. I think I may have drank excessive calories rather than ate them...at least both were contributors to the unfortunate demise of my weightloss progress. Now I have set myself back several months!
We managed to avoid Hurricane Dora (actually sailed right through it one evening as we slept) we had good weather during our days...but still very high seas. We had a scary moment with my 8 year old when we attempted to snorkel in rough waters in the Sea of Cortez. We tried Snuba another day, but that was too difficult too. We had a fantastic Pirate Adventure on Puerto Vallarta... we got to go sea kayaking and swimming, lots of pirateship entertainment and an open bar
Our only 2 true negatives on the trip - I was stung by Fire Coral which I never even saw - I just noticed the painful results in the shower (freshwater is the worst thing for it). So now I may have a lifelong scar with very little to show for it.
(No scuba/snorkel fitness emoticon!?!)
And for our 10th anniversary, my DH bought me a gorgeous "black" topaz 3 stone ring... that is now a 2 stone ring...that's right, I wasn't even off the airplane before I noticed a stone had fallen out!
So now we're home, unpacking, recovering from our vacation (physically as well as financially) and I am licking my wounds (applying neosporin actually)
Solong to the tropics for now
And back to the scale
and my sparkfriends
P.S. For Emmanyc: Your comment made me curious about aquariums around the world. The first website I looked at listed Monterey Bay Aquarium as the 2nd best in the world. Many of the places you mentioned, as well as others made their top ten list. Here is the site for those who are curious:
Thanks for making me think and inquire. Still, 2nd in the whole world is pretty amazing. Have you been there?
Saturday, May 21, 2011
I can't stand manipulative people.
This week I found out that a very good friend and colleague is being transferred to a different school in the district. And this is a punitive action by my boss. Oh, yes I know the official story is something about needing her to mentor the newer teachers at this school, and she did such a good job with this sort of thing the past few years, and blah de blah, blah, blah! The spin doctors are hard at work blowing smoke up her "glass".
The truth is, well the truth. She told the truth. She refused to lie in order to sink one colleague in favor of another colleague. Had she lied, she would have protected her boss (and mine) from being exposed as a liar himself. He is a liar and a manipulator, as is the teacher he was in league with. I am so disgusted!
So now my friend has been banished. Another friend who witnessed the same event has been fired. He was untenured. He did not testify, nor did another untenured teacher. But his sin was that he was on record as having told the truth in an interview about the "incident". And he was good friends with my friend who got transferred. So, we don't need tenure?
So two of my best friends, and the two people I work most closely with are gone. And I am left to pick up the pieces. Oh, and the teacher who started this whole thing... she's probably going to become an administrator. God Help Us!
Monday, May 02, 2011
Wow! What a weekend....
First: Fantasy - A Storybook Wedding Between a Prince and a Princess.
I was driving to work during the ceremony. I saw none of it except for a few snapshots and video clips. She is a beautiful bride and after seeing some interviews, she seems to be self assured with an inner calm that is appealing. He is the living legacy of his mother, her charisma, her altruism and her love.
I always feel torn about this fascination with the royals. They are just people...no better or worse than you or I. They have just been born into a life of privilege and wealth. Don't get me wrong, I don't waste any time or energy following their stories, but I am fed this stuff by the media and I look on sometimes like a rubbernecker driving by an accident. I am still intrigued by them. I do not avert my eyes when their stories reach me. I slow down and look on in fascination like everyone else.
Second: A Goal Reached on My 4 Month Sparkversary
On my 4 month sparkversary, I reached my first weight goal, which was to lose 20 lbs. I lost the first 13 lbs in one month. I thought a reasonable goal would be to lose 4 -6 lbs per month after that (1.5 lbs per week). That has not happened. My body is taking its sweet time, losing only 7 lbs in the last 3 months. I have hit 3 plateaus (one each month) and I am no longer on track to lose 50 lbs by the end of June. It's disappointing, but I keep telling myself as long as my weight continues to go down, I am happy. I would be happier if I had lost another 12 lbs, but, oh well. Now I know what this emoticon is for...
Third: Ding Dong the Witch is Dead
Osama bin Laden is gone. It feels funny to celebrate a death. Instead, I feel relief. He was an evil man and dare I say it, I'm glad he's gone. My brother works in NYC and at the time was working in a building across the street from the twin towers. He should 've been just walking through the building when the tragedy happened. It was right around the time he got to work on the Path Train...
As fate would have it, my mother was having a knee operation that morning and needed someone to look after my father (with early stage dementia). So my brother stayed home from work that day, my mom brought my dad to my brother's apartment, and my brother dodged a bullet...
My brother might have died that day. I thought I would lose my mind as I saw the towers fall and I could not reach my brother on his cell phone. I finally tried his home phone and found out that he was safe because my mom had torn knee cartilage and my father had dementia. Strange blessings. Or the luck of the Irish.
Many people were not so lucky. My brother was friends with many people at Cantor Fitzgerald. The loss of so many young, promising professionals was quite a shock. I live in NJ and nearly everyone seems to know someone who died that day. At the school I teach in, we have a few students who lost a parent who worked in the WTC. Not everyone was as lucky as my brother that day...
to those whose wounds have been reopened today.
But yeah... ding dong the witch is dead!
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