Friday, March 31, 2006
  Who doesn't love a trip to the shelter?

Puppy, with scabies, originally uploaded by estacey.
I go every now and then. I still obsessively check the website in case Fluffy turns up, but so many of the cats don't have accompanying pictures..
It's always sad.
I've tried to volunteer there. I show up and am told there are too many volunteers that Saturday. Too many people working off community service hours, I guess. In any case, I think I'm going to try to establish some official relationship with the shelter. One whose official description is that I can come in and play with the animals. Maybe take some better pictures of them for the website.
Volunteering to play with the animals may sound silly, but about every other cat I walk by starts rubbing against the side of its cage, doing happy paws. The dogs all start to wag their tails when you just look at them.
I think playtime for these guys is overlooked but very necessary.
  Buy a magazine to support the Blind Cat Sanctuary

QSP/Reader's Digest - The World Leader in Fundraising

I found this Blind Cat Rescue & Sanctuary on one of those iGive sites one day. It's another one of those places that make my eyes well up; I'm so happy to know there are good people out there. It's great to see anyone making unfortunate little creatures' lives as good as they can be, differently-abled or not. (We still have to use PC terms like that, right?)

Anyway, they're doing a fund-raising effort and it's really simple -- just go subscribe to a magazine, or subscribe someone else. You get it much cheaper than if you're buying it newsstand and they get 40% of what you pay.

If you feel like you need some motivation, go check out a couple of the cats' stories on the BCRS website. They're doing really good work.
  Alli's hubby-to-be is finally here!

Luis & Matty, originally uploaded by estacey.

I went down to South Beach last night to have dinner and meet him. And I finally got to try a pisco sour! For the record, they're very good, despite the fact the recipe calls for eggs.

Seriously, since day one that I've known Alli, I've known that she was engaged to a Peruvian fella. Since then, I've learned quite a bit about Luis, seen lots of pictures... And now he's finally here! Since I think it's wow-worthy, Alli must be reeling.

Luis seems like a really nice guy, very sociable. It's eye-opening to see his enthusiasm for being in this country, for the opportunities he has here. Jobs are pretty hard to come by in Peru, but he found one here within a half hour of beginning his search.

Anyway, this is Luis & Matty, a.k.a. Matt C. As you can see, Luis has pretty much hit it off with all of Alli's amigos.

Thursday, March 30, 2006
  I [heart] Pat Hughes.
25 Years of Notably Stupid Conversations well as my personal contributions."
  Pic from a fella in the UK

Foxes Suppertime, originally uploaded by Geoff Penn.

He leaves his uneaten cat food out for the foxes.. and came out one night to this scene.

"Although this looks potentially violent, they adopted this pose for only moments, - I couldn't hear any noise - and the fox on the left then wandered off."

  So I introduced them last night.

Surprisingly, it wasn't a disappointment. When I set them down together, they both completely froze and stared at each other. Then began the head.. well, how to say? It's not bobbing. Let's just say that they were both moving their heads at each other much the way a fiddler crab moves his big claw over his head. Like slow-motion shaking. They did that at each other for 20 seconds or so, then Wailey started to walk away. Bjorn followed quickly. It was really cute.

I tried to figure out today what that could mean, but all the information I find on tortoise behavior only mentions head bobbing. Head bobbing is both a courting and an aggressive behavior. The only way you can tell it's an attempt to mate is that the head bobbing is not followed by attempts to flip the other tortoise. Oh, so romantic! Then again, the females are not exactly examples of hopeless romantics either: "Females show their willingness to mate by staying still. Otherwise, they just walk away."

Bjorn (who I am not sure is actually a boy) is about the size of Wailey's leg, so I don't know if it was really either; obviously Wailey could take Bjorn if he wanted to, and obviously Bjorn is not at the age where s/he is able to lay eggs. So, the head-shaking will have to remain a mystery for now.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Mighty Girl: "One kind attaches itself to the tongue of a fish, feeding off the blood supply until the fish's tongue drops off..."

Parasites always manage to amaze me. In a really, really bad way.
  In this land of eternal summer..

First bluebird egg of 2006!, originally uploaded by lucycat.

It's easy to forget sometimes that the rest of the country is going through a wonderful part of the year: Springtime!

Luckily, I have some great Flickr contacts whose photos let me live through la primavera vicariously. Lucycat keeps us up-to-date on her bluebird nestboxes right up until the time the little ones are getting close to fledging. It's kinda funny, but it becomes a daily ritual, checking on those babies.

So here's a pretty little blue sign of spring!

BTW - for anyone who could help me through comments, please - do my links and archives show over there to the right? Or are they waaaay at the bottom of this page? I'd appreciate knowing how y'all are seeing this! Thanks.

  Cats, tortoises, cats, blah blah blah

tartaruga no peh, originally uploaded by marcia_falcao20.

Nothing worth reporting going on 'round these parts.

Well, Wailey the Redfoot is doing much better - no bubbles! I think I may even introduce him to little Bjorn tonight. I know it will be anti-climactic; animals tend to disappoint in seemingly big moments. Like when Mini's two brothers came over for a visit. They were her womb mates! They were together during the first eight weeks of life! Yet they basically ignored each other.

Wailey is still in the house; I didn't hurry about getting his enclosure done when he was sick. Now he's better and I'm kicking myself. Balu said he'd help me Sunday on it, though, so we'll get it taken care of this weekend. In the meantime, I always have a fun game of Find the Tortoise to play. This morning he was in a canvas laundry sack. Somehow.

As for the cats, and the fleas, I've taken to flea-combing Kitten every night when I get home. She's such a freak. She panics as I'm walking her back towards the bathroom, trying to crawl over my shoulder onto my back.. But the second we sit down to start the combing, she starts purrrrring. Stretches her head out for me so I can get really good under her chin. I think I'm turning her into a busha-busha wh$%#, just like Suki. That would make me happy. :)

Okay, cats, tortoise.. I think that about covers my main two subjects.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006
  Go buy some earrings
Leviticus Jewelry

This girl I originally saw on, Tara. So cute! Anyway, she has a jewelry business and a baby to support, so go buy something.

I mean, seriously, how cute can you get?

I got these here earrings and they're adorable.

I just have a good feeling about supporting someone's business directly. And there are some kick-ass designs there. I love the brass knuckle necklace!
  Better World Club
Roadside Assistance, Insurance & Travel About Better World Club

I've forgotten my headlights on a couple of times, which drains my battery and I come back to a car that won't start. Panic ensues. This makes me a good candidate for AAA, and that's not even taking my exploding tires into account. I keep thinking I should join, but remembered hearing that AAA was an organization that lobbies things we shouldn't support: for sprawl, for more roads, against clean air, against legislation that could help curb global warming, etc. A quick google search later, I found I was correct.

But there is an alternative! The Better World Club is basically the same thing as AAA, but without all that icky stuff. I'm joining this week.
  That's my bag, baby
The Green Bag Company :: Making a Difference

I have a bunch of those little canvas shopping bags. The thing is, I am always stopping at the store on my way home.. and never think to put the bags in my car in the morning before I go to work. This, of course, means that I am collecting plastic bags in the cupboard under the sink like nobody's business. I have the best of intentions, but trying to carry them out in a less than ideally practical way.

But this weekend at the mega Whole Foods, they had these little green bags. For $1.99, I bought one. It zips up so small that it fits into my purse. It came in handy the first time last night, when I stopped in at the local Whole Foods. It was nice to leave there with my cat food in one hand and just one big green bag in the other. Now I wish I would've bought ten and handed them out to friends.

So anyway, something to keep an eye out for!
  good timing

Closeup, originally uploaded by estacey.

(a pic i snapped of a wee snake in perdanales.)

Monday, March 27, 2006

It was just so pretty there!, originally uploaded by estacey.

Austin was awesome. Honestly, I could live there. Even the grackels are awesome there; seriously, we have them here but they just make noise. There, they make music!

We spent the first day walking around Austin, watching birds and turtles, petting strangers' dogs, drinking coffee, and, finally, watching the bat spectacle. (It seems everyone sums Austin up in two words: music & bats. So maybe y'all know about that. If not, read this.)


Saturday we went drivin' into Hill Country. This made me very happy because it was definitely not Florida. Now, don't get me wrong, I love my Sunshine State, but I never go anywhere else. Austin was a breath of fresh air, but most of the scenery could've been anywhere (read: buildings, only with more little stars everywhere - seriously, these are on the garbage cans). But a few minutes of driving outside of Austin and it started to become apparent that we were, well, in Texas. :) We visited Perdanales and Guadalupe River State Parks. At the latter, I saw an armadillo in person for the first time in my life. They're such cute little tank-like creatures, hopping as they make their escape.

Perdanales State Park

There's something about Texas that I like very much, beyond how pretty it is there, and beyond all the country music on the radio. The only bit of Texas I saw that I wasn't too crazy about was when we passed what was surely a canned hunting ranch. Some big multi-horned ungulate was standing in a field beyond a fence, and it was certainly not a native one. I consoled myself with the fact that it didn't know it's just there to be "hunted" for money. Hopefully many months of sun-filled grazing pass before some dope from Tennessee forks over a couple of thousand dollars to shoot it.

Arkey Blue's Silver Dollar Bar

Anyway, Saturday night we went to Bandera, the "Cowboy Capital of the World." We ate at O.S.T. with a bunch of genuine Texans (cowboy hats, boots, western shirts, mullets), listened to some old-timers singing country & western music at Arkey's, then walked around the town for a bit before heading back to Austin. I really loved Arkey's with all the little locals all dressed up for their night on the town. But oh, I'm kickin' myself for not getting a pic of the guy with the spurs on his boots. Mark thought ahead to research these state parks and Bandera, so thank gosh I had him or I would've probably spent the whole weekend sharing Which 'Wiches with the turtles by the bridge.

Sunday was a travel day, so there wasn't much worth mentioning except the enormous, gorgeous Whole Foods Market (thank you for your comment/suggestion, Easternair) where we bought lunch and soap. I've been to a few Whole Foods Markets in my time, but this one was unreal -- so bright and clean and pretty!

Now I'm home and in need of a day or two to rest up!


Thursday, March 23, 2006
  I sure like me some Margaret
Beautiful: "A DJ asked me, 'What if you woke up tomorrow, and you were beautiful? I mean really beautiful. You were 19, blonde, weighed 110 pounds, 5'11' and beautiful. What would you do?' "
  NOT a joke. - The buzz about 'Snakes on a Plane' - Mar 23, 2006

When I first saw mention of this new Samuel L. Jackson movie coming out named Snakes on a Plane, I thought it was a joke. When I saw it had a trailer, I assumed it was one of those things like the Office Space as a thriller project where some clever per takes existing footage and twists it around to makes something new. Actually, wait, that Snakes trailer is fake (there are a few of them out there). Anyway.. it turns out that the movie is, in fact, real. As is its name: Snakes on a Plane. And that really, really cracks me up.

trash house chronicles, originally uploaded by Malingering.

check this photo's description out. malingering's whole photostream is hilarious.

  This pic has nothing to do with the entry

toothless, originally uploaded by MahinthJoe.

Oh, lord, am I one sore girl today. Lifting a glass of water takes effort. This means I was good at the gym last night, of course.

I have to find a thrift store that sells old National Geographics. They're such a lifesaver on the elliptical machine, which is all I ever use anymore it seems. If you can find an uncomplicated article to read, it makes the time fly by. My only complaint is that it seems that the articles are getting shorter. Maybe it just seems that way, though.

Wailey the tortle is doing good. He ate all his food yesterday while I was at work, then apparently explored the house as I found him under the couch when I got home. I had to give him his second injection, which made me feel horrible all over again, but I'm hoping he won't hold a grudge.

I spent 10-15 minutes making a salad for the torts last night. Would you believe it takes that long? Romaine from my salad mix, kale from the freezer, collards from the pot outside, hibiscus flowers and leaves from the bush outside, clover and leaves from the yard, a strawberry, a slice of apple, some baby carrots, some tortoise pellets, all chopped up into tiny little pieces (so they can't pick and choose) and mixed with calcium powder. After all that effort, I realized Wailey could probably eat what I had made in one sitting. Next time, I have to remember to multiply everything by five before I mix it together.

Leaving for Texas tomorrow morning. It's in the 40's there right now! Should be in the 70's by the weekend, though. Yay, bats!

  250 years old. My gosh.
Kolkata tortoise, Clive's pet, dies at 250 years - Yahoo! News: "A giant aldabra tortoise thought to be around 250 years old has died in the Kolkata zoo of liver failure, authorities said on Thursday. "
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
  This guy always has the best pics

Seriously amazing photostream..

  Ethically sound dairy products
The Cornucopia Institute: "Organic Dairy Report/Ratings Arranged by Cow Star Ratings"

As a ovo-lacto-camaro veggie (haha, I just made that up), I try to pay attention to the dairy products I'm buying. Come to think of it, my current favorite snack of yogurt & cottage cheese is traditional - I haven't seen any organic low/no-fat varieties of either that compare with the traditional variety. (Mental note: research this!) Anyway, here's a list comparing organic dairy products. I'm strangely proud to see two dairies very close to my hometown on the 4-cow list. I actually have a friend who works at Organic Valley in La Farge. :)

Someday, I'll get myself some spoiled pet chickens and then I'll really be set on feeling good about my food. :)
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
  Bullying in the name of medicine

Back to Life, originally uploaded by JohnnyLightning.

Ugh, I had to give Wailey his first injection of antibiotic last night. I felt like, well, a bully. Here's this gentle little creature.. and I had to force his arm out from the safety of his shell, then jab him with a needle, pull back on the plunger to make sure I wasn't in a vein, and give the injection. One-handed, since the other hand was holding that amazingly strong little arm. A few more hands would've come in.. uhh.. handy (haha). It just amazes me that he's so.. well, sweet. He has a mouth, and I bet his bite would hurt, but he won't do it. He just makes little sad noises. It's really quite heartbreaking. But, I need to do it to make sure he gets better, so I have to suffer through it.

It's a strange thing to deal with reptiles. There's really no way to comfort them, to make them feel good just by being kind to them, and that's a tough one to wrap your mind around. All the nurturing instincts that work so well with any creature who had a mama taking care of it in the past do absolutely nothing for the reptiles.

On another note, I've been pretty good about going to the gym lately, a few times a week, but haven't been very dedicated to it. And that just makes me be lax in what I'm eating as well; you feel so much more motivated to eat well when you're hitting the gym regularly and seeing results. Vicious little cycle, I'd say. But anyway, since I saw Ed the Triathlete, I've become even more aware of how far I need to go. So, I'm back into a routine. Last night was just Day One, but it felt good to go in there with a plan and get it done. I could hardly walk when I finished, so I did well. :) We'll see how it goes. One good thing is that I should see results pretty quickly. That's the great part about letting yourself go; results come quick when you do get back in gear, even if all those results get you is back where you were six months ago!

  My niece

Macy, originally uploaded by tilson.

Is she a beauty or what? - How to spot a baby conservative: "Whiny children, claims a new study, tend to grow up rigid and traditional. Future liberals, on the other hand ..." Ha, ha, ha!
Monday, March 20, 2006
  Cat / Tortoise Lady
Kitten was stalking Wailey before I took this picture. When she got right up next to him, she decided the leaf he had just passed was more interesting than he was.. Praise jesus that tortoises can't hold cats' attention.

What an event-less weekend!

Wailey was still sniffly when I woke up (early) on Saturday. (Happily, I wasn't; I went to bed Friday night convinced I was getting sick and felt A-OK the next day!) Everything I’ve read about tortoises says to not mess around when they have respiratory problems, so I went on a vet-open-available hunt and found a Dr. Cane in Lauderhill. An unmentionable vet bill later, the poor guy had three injections (and ten more I have to do over the next two weeks!), a nose swab, and an overall very unpleasant experience. He spent the rest of the day smartly tucked in his shell. He’s such a perfect little impenetrable package when he pulls those legs in, it’s amazing.

Wailey seems to be very stubborn when it comes to staying someplace warm. It’s 80 or so in my room anyway, but when reptiles are sick, you’re supposed to keep them extra warm. He won’t cooperate. He keeps hiding under the bed, so I said, “Fine!” and put a heat lamp UNDER the bed. Then he came out. Aggh. We reached a compromise last night when I stuck him next to me in bed and covered him with a comforter. That way, he was at least kind of close to me and could benefit from my body heat but felt like he was hidden away. I can’t wait to get pics of he and Bjorn together but can’t risk it until Wailey feels 100% better.

Saturday I got to play charity case. Ed had a dresser and a nightstand to get rid of and knew I was in the market, so I got his.. Thank gosh. My room was such an unfriendly little environment before. It’s much better now. Phew.

I think that’s about it. I missed out on a good day of diving, but got a much-needed social reprieve.. and was even home right in time for Law & Order: Criminal Intent. :)

  a baby crab says happy monday!

crab larvae saying hello, originally uploaded by nature adrift.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Wailey, originally uploaded by estacey.

  OK, so people suck too

Out of focus..., originally uploaded by estacey.

OK, so Wailey is here. I was sooo nervous opening the box, so worried he wouldn't be OK. But he is! :) Look at those big strong arms! I was going to get some pictures at lunchtime, but left my camera on when I uploaded that blurry picture up top, so my battery's now dead. Darnit.

During my lunch, I decided I'd take Wailey for a walk. I was going to drive him home, but I doubt he cares if he's here or there, especially considering I have a space heater in my office. So I took him to the little patch of grass by the parking lot. That patch is also right next to an apartment building. I was standing there with him.. well, following him as he hauled his little tail around, presumably looking for a hiding spot. Then I noticed that the courtyard of the apartment had much nicer grass. The stuff Wailey was in was a little sandy and there were cigarette butts around (another reason people suck).

So I took him over to the deserted courtyard and let him walk around in the grass and the mulch around the trees. Then some women pulled up and came to knock on one of the apartment doors. "Oh, that's a turtle!" one said. "Yep, a tortoise. He just got here today, so I'm letting him get some fresh air." They inquired as to where his head was (stuck inside his shell) and we made small talk. Friendly. Then I said, "Yeah, I work right over there so I figured I'd let him walk around a bit during my break."

Their demeanor instantly changed. "Well, you do realize this is private property, right?" Um. "Yeah, but I'm just letting him walk around in the grass, I'm not hurting anything." "If management sees you, they're going to say something." "That's fine," I answered. Then the older of the old bags said, "You realize we have an association. And she's on the board," nodding her head to the other crotchety woman. Okay, I thought, so it's a condo. She must be pretty proud of herself for wielding THAT much authority.. on the Board of some tiny condominium association!

I was flabberghasted. I was WALKING IN THE GRASS in a VERY OPEN COURTYARD in what I thought was an apartment building that SHARES A PARKING LOT WITH MY OFFICE. Who the heck cares? It's not as if they have some private, lush paradisical garden or something.. It's a big square of grass that their walkways line. I finally just shook my head and said, "You know, that's what I love about Florida. Everyone is just SO FRIENDLY." Luckily they detected my thick sarcasm and the one responded, "Well, we just wanted to let you know. This is private property." So I put the tortoise back down and let him walk some more, with these women ten feet away from me. "Walk away, little Wailey."

What is wrong with people, anyway?

  Does this mean we'll be TELLING our grandkids about coral reefs?
IOL: No more coral reefs by 2050, says scientist: "Rising sea temperatures caused by global warming could kill off the Indian Ocean's coral reefs in the next 50 years, threatening vital marine life, a marine researcher said on Wednesday."

Then again, they didn't say anything about the Atlantic's. In any case, it looks like I should make diving in the Seychelles a top priority. We may be the last generation that gets to do so.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
  I'm goin' ta Austin

Flowers & Feet, originally uploaded by Blue Dragonfly Girl.

It's official. Next weekend.

Any suggestions on what to do there? Andrew, the one who passed on the free vouchers, suggested a place to see bats. :)

  Cats suck.

lizard with peach and seafoam, originally uploaded by photo707.

This morning, Balu found a 1/4-eaten lizard on the kitchen floor. He went to pick it up to toss it outside and realized it was still alive. When he recounted the story to me, I asked him where he tossed the lizard so I could find it to make sure it had since died. I went and found it and, sure enough, it was still alive. It was the most horrible thing, poor little guy. Just laying there, his hindquarters gone.. Ugh. I said we had to kill it, to put it out of its misery. Lucky for me, Balu did the dirty work. I doubt I could've smashed it; I would've had to put him in the freezer and he would've had to wait until he went to "sleep."

I think the cats are getting collars with bells now. I don't know if it will help the lizards out, but hopefully. And Balu is probably going to start locking them out, both because he doesn't want to have to tend to dead things and also because the raccoon is likely to come back. I don't mind it, to be honest, but people are different about those things. I hate the cats' hunting instinct, but I can't very well keep them inside all the time. They'd be miserable.

At least I'm balancing out our karma; I found a lizard in the stairwell yesterday at work. No one hardly uses it, so he would've died for sure if I hadn't decided to take the stairs. He was all dehydrated - his skin was stiff. So before I let him go, I dripped some water into his mouth from a hibiscus flower. (Is that not just the cutest thing?) He bit onto it, in attack mode, and then seemed to go, "Oh!" and swallowed the water. Cute little guy.

Oh yeah, cats also suck because Fluffy has not yet shown his precious little face around my place. I'm checking the shelters routinely, to make sure he's not wound up there, but I know that most likely someone else has discovered him to be the Best Cat Ever. To prevent this not-knowing torture in the future, though, I'm getting my two kitties microchipped over the next month. I don't foresee either of them disappearing or being adopted by a kindly neighbor, seeing as neither carries Best Cat Ever status, but just in case..

Wednesday, March 15, 2006
  Golldarn fleas!

Flea Circus, originally uploaded by icklebird.

So I treat my cats with that Frontline ($38/3 tx.!) stuff. That's supposed to work quite well. And it must have.. I don't really remember spotting fleas on my cats, other than when it served as a reminder that they were due another dose of Frontline, before living where I live now. Maybe it's because now BOTH cats spend lots of time outside.. I'm not sure, but in any case, I'm getting frustrated.

I gave them each a bath a couple of weeks ago and combed them afterwards. Gave them their Frontline then. Last night, I noticed both of them scratching again. So, I took them one-by-one into the bathroom (they're going to start to hate the bathrooms after all these baths and combings, but maybe it'll help me to break them of the toilet-drinking habit!) to comb them down, paying special attention to where they were scratching. Of course, I was rewarded with some icky little creepy-crawlies. Jumpies. Whatever.

Does anyone have any suggestions for me? I can't just keep giving them more doses of Frontline.. I have some of that anti-flea spray, but I'm scared to use it on the cats. I used it on that tiny infested kitten that someone handed over to me on Thanksgiving, but then combed him down and bathed him right afterwards. I'd do that with the grown-ups, but they're slightly less manageable and have bigger claws.

So please, suggestions if you have them. I'm thinking I'll comb them nightly in the areas that they itch most, e.g. under their chin, on their neck, etc. That's all I can think of that will allow my cats to keep liking me while helping this flea problem. Or maybe I should use the spray and bathe them again. I dunno!

  Sweet Craigslist post
What you get when you adopt from a shelter
  Very, um, weird.
Study Links Ambien Use to Unconscious Food Forays - New York Times: "The sleeping pill Ambien seems to unlock a primitive desire to eat in some patients, according to emerging medical case studies that describe how the drug's users sometimes sleepwalk into their kitchens, claw through their refrigerators like animals and consume calories ranging into the thousands."
  This is the tortoise that is coming to live with me

This is Wailey, who may be coming to live with me as early as this week! See that perfect little heart on his shell?

From Rebecca, his mama, about how she named him:

"I forgot to explain about his name. Before I got him, I had read Terry Pratchett's "Wee Free Men," in which there are beings called pictsies that speak in a thick Scottish accent. It's very silly, but when the pictsies get upset, they say "Oh waily waily waily." When I would see Wailey in the store window, trying in vain to push his head through the glass, he would look at me and I could just hear him saying "Oh waily waily waily," because he couldn't get out. You are, of course, more than welcome to change the name. He doesn't know it is his. (But he'll always be Wailey to me!)"

I really like this woman. :)

  Saturday Night Live - Natalie Portman raps

I heard this was good, but by the time I went to watch on YouTube on Monday morning, NBC had it pulled. So watch it on their site instead. Funny stuff.

I like Natalie. And I think I may actually go see V for Vendetta, breaking my ridiculous-months-long streak of not going to the movies.

  Ha ha, cute idea!

my first sighting!, originally uploaded by Malingering.

I could use a few of these. Then again, I'm pretty sure people could use them back on me.. but my car's too small to actually BLOCK another spot or anything.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Ghostly coral bleachings haunt the world's reefs - Yahoo! News
  Awww! Photo Galleries :: Odd couple: "Cairo, an Italian mastiff puppy, was introduced as a playmate to 10-week-old Koza, a lion cub whose twin died, at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. The idea is that lions are social animals, but there are no other lion cubs at the park for Koza to interact with. Cairo is the next best thing."
  Turnpike cats

Where cats live, originally uploaded by estacey.

Sunday night, I was driving home from camping on the Turnpike. I slowed to pay a toll at the Bird Road plaza and noticed a little grey kitty by the plaza service station. A woman was standing outside, talking on her phone, and didn't seem to notice the cat. The cat was on the sidewalk all of five feet from where cars whiz by as they go to pay their tolls. And she had a bit of a belly. Obviously, I was concerned.

After I paid my toll, I pulled over into the parking lot right after the toll booths and walked behind the building to go back to where the cat was. On my way, I noticed two more cats - both small, one calico, the other looking very much like a relative of the first grey cat I saw.

Assessing the situation, I realized that they must live there. To go west, they'd have to cross six lanes of traffic. To go east, they'd suffer a 30-foot fall into a large body canal, as seen in the picture. Obviously, neither are very likely. So they live there! At a toll plaza! How sad!

Isn't it strange where cats take to living? In the past, I've seen cats living in the outdoor/garden section of stores, on two occasions (once at a Target, once.. or was it twice? at a Home Depot). Somehow the cats ended up hanging around these places and were lucky enough to be "adopted" by the employees. Both cats I saw had food and water dishes behind the outdoor cash register area. They spent their time hanging out amongst the pots of plants and trees for sale. Is that not just the sweetest, cutest thing?

Back to the Turnpike cats. There's is a row of bushes lining the, um, how to say... well, the big piece of cement you'd have to crawl over to jump into the water. There are a couple of little islands of grass with trees in them. There's a long, gravel-filled alleyway on the east side of the building. Not ideal, for sure, and it was loud there - but I guess if they got used to that, it wasn't such a bad place.. Assuming they were finding a way to eat, of course.

I went back to my car to scrounge for cat food (yes, as a cat lady, I keep tins of food in my car for precisely this situation) and found one. I went back to where the kitties seemed to be hanging out and looked around, trying to figure out where I should put the food down. Then I saw a big food dish and a freshly filled water dish.

Another emotion joined the sadness I felt for the kitties for living at a freaking toll plaza; a teary-eyed gratefulness for the kindness that people are capable of. Someone, whether it's a toll booth operator, a state trooper, or a turnpike-commuting cat lady (who knows?) is taking time out of their day to fill the food dish and give those kitties fresh water every day. It's part of their daily routine, helping some unfortunate little critters. That makes me happy.

I'll make sure I stop by to do keep tabs on that grey kitty's belly.. Hopefully it's just the kindness making her belly fat, not kittens.

In other animal news, Balu caught a raccoon eating out of the cats' dish last night - in the house! I ran out in time to see it beeline for the back fence, pausing to look at back at us while standing on its back legs, assessing if we were enough of a threat to climb that fence, I'm sure. Uff, those are some cute little creatures!


Don't mess with Texas, originally uploaded by Jay Dubya.

This feller named Andrew, who came out sailing with us before but now lives in Australia, emailed me to let me know he had two ticket vouchers for round-trip travel from Southwest Airlines. Did I want to use them. The catch is I must redeem them by the end of the month.. and this weekend is blacked out. So that leaves next weekend. Good thing I didn't have anything planned but a cancellable dive in Biscayne! We'll see! It sucks to have to cancel - after all, Alli's fiance was going to come out on the dive with us so we could meet him and the Hoes were having a BBQ afterwards.. but I don't often get to travel, so I am trying to think if this trip could be worked out, Friday-Sunday.

So I may just get to go to Texas. I've always wanted to, and as a self-respecting country music fan, think I should. Austin maybe?

Texas! I may get to go to Texas! :)

Monday, March 13, 2006
  Albatrosses are friggin' huuuuge

For Helen, originally uploaded by Antarctic M.

  Camping at Elliott Key
Saturday we got geared up and headed off to the Biscayne National Park headquarters to catch our boat out to Elliott Key. I went to register and the lady at the counter said that no one else had showed up and, seeing as how it was a 49-person boat, they wouldn't take just us two out. Uhh. I started in with, "We planned our whole weekend around this." Just as my lip began to tremble, the lady said to not give up yet, that we had 20 minutes until the boat showed up; maybe some more people would show.

I went and told Mark this, who was waiting by our gear. He was appropriately annoyed/angry. A while later, he went and talked to the lady himself and, as it turns out, the owner of the operation happened to overhear. He agreed he'd make a special trip just for us. Two more people ended up coming out with us, so it was just four of us on the boat. They have an 8-person minimum.

This was our first view of Elliott Key.

The main campground was very busy, but we took a 5-minute walk to the ocean side of the Key and found a completely empty campground. This is where we set up.

Two more tents ended up joining us on the ocean side, but the other campers mostly stayed away that night, until they went in their tents.. so it was like we had the campfire and the ocean all to ourselves. It was awesome. And, thanks to the breeze and the fire, the bugs stayed away!

To rewind a bit, after we set up our stuff, we ate our lunch by the ocean (all alone! not another person in sight, if you don't count the boats) and then went down to the water to go snorkeling.. This pic was taken just before. The water was cold, but there were an amazing amount of fishies to see, just in the swimming area.. Parrotfish, angelfish, snook, even a blenny! I took my camera the next day, but unfortunately the viz was horrible that day, so I couldn't get so many pics and none are too great.

A blenny! :)

Sunday morning, we managed to sleep in until 8:30 or so, then got up and had our little breakfast and headed back over to the Gulf side for more snorkeling. Even with my shorty wetsuit, the water was just too cold to stay in for long.. well, I could've, but the viz was so bad it didn't seem worth it. So we got out, dried off, then headed off for a wade along the shoreline. We saw some little critters - crabs, snails, and, on the way back, about a dozen little trunkfish in the shallows.

These are the fish we kept seeing in calf-deep water.

This is what the walk the view on the walk/wade was like..

Very pretty, nice time. There were the usual annoyances - had we been camping on the gulf side, we would have had to listen to blaring music coming from the boats.. People left their trash everywhere.. beer bottles littered the shoreline.. Disheartening, but if you tried to put it out of your mind and just enjoy the place for itself, it was very nice.

You can see all the pics here.
Or watch a slideshow here.

I have a horrible sunburn on my back now.. oy. That walk was a lot longer than I expected, and I think the wetsuit rubbed off a lot of my sunscreen. Whoops.

In other news, I got an email from the woman with the tortoise in MT, and she's going to send me the tortoise! I gotta start preparing for that! Little Bjorn is going to have a big brother! :)

Friday, March 10, 2006
  friday! bye!

Our Resident Reptile, originally uploaded by Old Shoe Woman.

this little fella is a gopher tortoise. our neighbors have two! i stand on the fence to catch a glimpse all the time, occasionally throwing a strawberry at them. the chickens always come over and steal them away, though. (yes, my neighbors also have chickens.)

i thought for sure they were gopher tortoises, a native "species of special concern." but certainly, you don't keep gopher tortoises as a pet. i found out the haps from balu the other day: some guy the neighbor knew got a permit to relocate the resident tortoises from a construction site. he said screw it, but you can take some if you want. so the neighbor took two and the fate of the rest is unknown. :(

the bigger of the two tortoises successfully burrowed under the neighbor's fence and is, at present, living it up, liberated-style. i saw the tortoise digging the burrow over the course of a few weekend.. rather, saw a very dug-out space. surprised the neighbor didn't think to do something about it.

there's a lady in MT i saw on a mailing list i'm on for redfoots that needs a new home for hers. i wrote her and she wrote back, saying florida would be a great place for him, but she's not comfortable shipping him. i haven't heard from her again.. but am hoping to. it turns out it's a 10-inch (grown-up) tortoise that she's had for a year... and it's a wild-caught. there's nothing i'd like than to give that tortoise a life as good as it would've had in nature as possible. but the lady has to write first! :~(

okee, off to get my oil changed!

Thursday, March 09, 2006
  Help save the manatees!

Manatee Drinking Water, originally uploaded by ecocentrikGuy.

Please go sign this. Remember: the manatee population right now is only between 2-3,000. How could anyone consider offering them less protection than they have now when they're being killed in record numbers? Unreal.

"The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is recommending that manatees be downlisted from endangered to threatened status on the state level.

Last year was the second highest manatee mortality year on record. Just in the last five years, 1682 manatees have died in Florida waters and of those, 398 were killed by boats. That is almost an 18% increase over the previous five-year period. Furthermore, state scientists estimate the manatee population could drop by half in the next 50 years because of habitat loss, red tide poisoning and boat collisions. The population is far from stable.

Manatees are poised to be downlisted regardless of how they are faring in the wild because of a calculated effort by special interest groups opposed to boat speed zones and restrictions on development.

Later this summer, the FFWCC will vote on this issue. If the commission approves, restrictions that have kept in check boat speeds, seawalls, docks and waterfront home-building could be diluted or eliminated. Urge Governor Bush to take a stand and keep protections for the manatee in place!"

  The power of Flickr

Goodbye Harvey (1991-2006), originally uploaded by lucycat.

I gasped when I saw the title of this picture, and am now sniffling & dabbing my eyes for a kitty I never knew..



Kitten Jeffy and "Uncle" Harvey, originally uploaded by lucycat.

  Wolf eels

dillon_rock_20050909_20, originally uploaded by jsuw.

A wolf eel was shown in the Imax movie we saw last weekend. It's a weird, weird-looking creature. And it can eat sea urchins whole! I did a Flickr search for it and, whatdya know, almost all the pics that weren't taken at an aquarium were taken by our own Jan Sitchin.

  "Mall Crawlers Summer Camp"
I just talked to my sister, who told me about my niece Amanda's trip to Orlando. She mentioned that the Disneyworld one-week park-hopper ticket cost nearly $300, so Amanda wasn't getting to go to summer camp this year. "She wanted to go to mall summer camp, but now she doesn't get to." Mall summer camp? "Yep, they go to a bunch of different malls."

With the help of Google, I discovered that it's a GIRL SCOUTS camp. The Girl Scouts are sponsoring weeklong shopping excursions. What a nightmare!

"Mall Crawlers

6 days/5 nights
Entering grades 7 - 10
Sponsor: Valley View Mall, La Crosse

Look out Mall of America—here you come! Bring your best walking shoes, because your feet are going to hurt. Your mall crawl will begin on Monday and end on Friday. Multiple malls in five days will be your goal. When you’re not shopping, you will spend your nights at camp or at state parks. You’ll also dine at the Rainforest Café and complete a mall scavenger hunt.

July 23-28 - Your Fee: $367.00 Actual cost: $476.00"

I am completely horrified, that anyone thought this was a good idea and that a bunch of little girls want to spend a week of their summer visiting the various Claires and Limited Toos at malls in the region. Especially considering they have a bunch of awesome programs, involving water skills, sports, canoeing, and horseriding.

Ahh, 13-year-olds.
  It makes me happy that these people are out there
Rescue raises concerns

They're trained to disentangle whales from whatever discarded fishing gear they've encountered. Can you imagine? Trying to get a big whale to cooperate with your rescue effort? It's awesome that they're successful.

Can you tell I have a "whale" google alert set up? :)
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
  I'z goin' campin' this weekend!
I had this burning desire to go camping in Bahia Honda this weekend. I checked the website and, of course, all the spots to camp at Bahia Honda have long been reserved. And they're reserved for some time in the future. I lamented this to Mark, who suggested other places to camp (e.g. Big Cypress), but I really had my heart set on something beachy. Brilliantly, he found something.

"Elliott Key is a state park located in Biscayne Bay which features a visitors center, rest rooms, camping facilities and a harbor on the bayside of Elliott Key. The reefs offshore this barrier island are teeming with fish, lobsters and healthy coral populations. Just south of Lewis Cut on the ocean side is an inner reef known as Bache Shoal. Here the reef rises sharply from 20 to less than 3 feet. Look carefully for distortion of mixing water -- there are fresh water springs here.

"Just to the southwest of Bache Shoal the remains of the cement barrel wreck can be found. This 1850s ship was bound for Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas beyond Key West loaded with cement. The wreck lies with her bow pointed southwest just west of Hawks Channel on the grass bottom. It's 11 feet deep around the wreck and cement barrels are only three feet below the surface in the wreckage. Lobsters, tropical fish and eels are found among the corals now formed around the ship's rotting timbers."

So, it's $35 (round-trip) to hitch a ride out to Elliott Key on the boat that Biscayne National Park uses to take snorkelers out, and $10 for the campsite. Going from Saturday until Sunday afternoon. I'm thinking we'll get to snorkel from the boat.. and there should be some snorkeling off the shore there. This means I have to actually find my snorkel (I never use it to dive) and get some new lycra socks for my fins!

This is where I'll be camping. It sounds like there's just another four or six people or something staying at the campgrounds, so it should be nice and quiet. Even if it's not, camping in always-busy Bahia Honda was awesome, so this should be too.

Don't worry. I'll have my camera. Excited! :)

Elliott Key Harbor. Beautiful, eh?
I'm Stacey. I'm a 31(!)-year-old Wisconsin girl living in sunny South Florida. The highlights in my life are my lovely boyfriend, my aloof cats, my adorable/adoring stepdogs, my two lumbering tortoises, select family members, being outside, being underwater, taking pictures, yadda yadda. Stay tuned for lots of babbling!

Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States


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Making a difference

A small boy lived by the ocean. He loved the creatures of the sea, especially the starfish, and he spent much of his time exploring the seashore.

One day the boy learned there would be a minus tide that would leave the starfish stranded on the sand.

When the tide went out, he went down to the beach, began picking up the stranded starfish, and tossing them back into the ocean.

An elderly man who lived next door came down to the beach to see what the boy was doing. Seeing the man's quizzical expression, the boy paused as he approached. "I'm saving the starfish!" the boy proudly declared.

When the neighbor saw all of the stranded starfish he shook his head and said: "I'm sorry to disappoint you, young man, but if you look down the beach, there are stranded starfish as far as the eye can see. And if you look up the beach the other way, it's the same. One little boy like you isn't going to make much of a difference."

The boy thought about this for a moment. Then he reached his small hand down to the sand, picked up another starfish, tossed it out into the ocean, and said: "Well, I sure made a difference for that one!"

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