Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Elephant Seals at Point Año Nuevo

Last Friday was the husband's and my fourth "23rd" date this year. Recap: Last Christmas, the husband and I gave ourselves a day each month to run away from everything.  We don't do much planning for the date other then determine our destination point the night before so we can tell the mama. We get up the next morning and take off. It's nice being spontaneous at least once a month. I  feel like we're courting each other again on these 23rd dates.

This month's destination was Año Nuevo State Reserve on the coast to see the elephant seals. It's about 20 miles north of Santa Cruz. Since the 1970s, elephant seals go the  reserve's shore every winter to give birth to their babies. Once the cutie-pies are weaned, the adults swim off leaving the kids which wait until they have strength to take off. During the spring and summer, the elephant seals come back to Año Nuevo to molt. Last Friday, we saw both pups and molting adults laying about on the beaches.

Cutie-baby sleeping. You can hear it snoring on the video.
It was about a 3-mile round trip hike to see the seals by the seashore. Right now it's a self-guided trip, but docents hang out at the viewing spots to happily answer questions about the animals and the area. One docent even let me go home with a year-old sample of molten elephant seal skin. I'm not sure what I'll do with it yet. Anyway, during the birthing season, the only way you can view the elephant seals is with a ranger.

Sitting across the way is a little island on which sits an abandoned lighthouse keeper's house. Sea lions call it home. Really. Some actually live inside the house. We didn't see or hear any sea lions last week. Randy the docent said that they flock there in the summer. He also told us that the point got its name from the Spanish explorer Viscaino who sighted the point on January 3, 1603. From Monterey, I suppose, because he and his crew never landed at the point. Viscaino was on a mission to find  a place where the Spanish galleon trade ships sailing from the Philippines could rest and repair themselves before heading south to Acapulco.

For more info about the park and elephant seals, check out these links:
Here's a video of the sleeping babes. This video doesn't really do the elephant seals justice. You've got to see 'em for yourselves.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What Day is this Date?

I bought a 2010 calendar last year. I don't know where it is. I only care now because I have work assignments for different clients that I need to keep tabs on.

Don't worry clients, if you happen to be reading this. I know my deadline for each of you.

Some moments, I just feel anal-retentive and wish to have a calendar that's not on my computer (as if I look at that one) but strewn on top of a noteworthy pile on my desk. That's just how I operate.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


What do I like about this movie? Let me count the ways.

Summertime starred Katharine Hepburn. She played Jane, a middle-aged single lady from the United States. Shy and lonely, Jane decided to take a risk and vacation alone in Venice. She fell in love with Venice, as did I, when I saw this movie for the first time.

David Lean, the director of Summertime, seduces me each time with his slow panning of squares and canals, as well as lingering shots of statues and buildings. When I finally saw Venice in person, it was exactly as the director portrayed it. Sigh. I also like how Lean captured the nuances of rapture, seduction, love, fear, joy, and all the range of emotions of the main and minor characters.

What else do I like about Summertime? That Jane let herself go and fell in love with Renato, a local man, who is played by Rossano Brazzi. The scene in which Renato checked out Jane for the first time is so sexy. When I first saw the movie, as a teenager, I didn't get the attraction Jane (Hepburn's character) had for him. But as I grow older, each time I watch Summertime, Brazzi becomes even more handsome to my eyes.

Summertime is high on my list of romantic movies. Maybe in the top seven. My introduction to the movie was on a black-and-white TV. When I saw it many years later in color, it was just even more stunning.

For a synopsis of the play, check out this entry at Wikipedia.

The movie is based on the play The Time of the Cuckoo by Arthur Laurents. You can read the play at Google Books by clicking this link.

And, for your pleasure, here a clip (via YouTube) of that first meeting of Jane and Renato in the piazza de San Marcos.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Today the DSL Modem Died

I learned this about myself today: I NEED access to the Internet.

If you heard a whine in that, then I probably was being a whimpering witch.

It's 3:08 p.m.  as I'm writing this sentence. I haven't been on the Internet for 14 hours. I had big plans for today. I was going to submit my first article to Demand Studios, do research for a writing sample, and update my Web site. OK, maybe not the last bit, but I would have found out what freelance writing jobs are available by now. I also would've been to Facebook a few times to catch up with with friends as well as play a few games of Bejeweled Blitz and Jungle Jewels to keep my hands busy as I thunk out thoughts.  Not to say there may be an e-mail message from a publisher wanting me to do a project for it.


At this moment the husband is setting up the new DSL modem that we bought an hour ago. To help him along, I stay quiet and out of the way until he wants my assistance. Oh, wait. He just asked, "What shall I do?" Without waiting for my response, he said, "I guess I call up the number."  "Yeah," I said, ever the supporting wife. Now, he's about to call the tech guys at our phone service to walk him through the installation process. Hopefully, there will be no glitches.

It turns out that the lifetime of our old DSL modem is no more than two years. So said the owner of a computer shop in town. I guess that is built-in obsolescence for you. How else are companies going to make their money?

Anyway, I am grateful that we did not have to leave town to find a modem, though if we had driven over to the next town, we could've stopped in at a bookstore. Anyway, again, the quest for the modem was fun. I did want adventure today. A couple days ago, I had thought that I would've been zip lining across a plaza in downtown San Francisco today. (A old gal can dream.) I was right though in thinking I would not be on the Internet today. Well, for at least most of the day.

What's that I hear? "Whoo-hoo!" 

The husband got the new modem working without calling any tech guys.

"Yay, the Husband! My hero!"

So, here I am, happily buzzing on the Internet.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sowing Color

April showers bring May flowers. I hope so.

On Saturday, I sprinkled a large bag and a half of random seeds (over 8,000 seeds) amid the mama's organized flower beds. She said I could, even after I said some of the flowers may be vines.

Messy yards drive her nuts. She curses the leaves of other trees in the neighborhood that end up in her backyard, as she sweeps, picks, and deposits them into the green recycling bin almost every day.  In the fall, the mama clucks at front yards full of dead leaves. "If that was my yard," she would say, "I would get rid of that tree." And, if a neighbor happens to annoy her at the moment, she mumbles about the weeds in his or her yard, but only I would be able hear or understand what she is saying.

Why then did the mama allow me to shake seeds throughout her orderly garden? There was a starry far-away look in her eyes at the mention of four-o'clock flowers. I think, though, it's mostly because she has a strong sense of curiosity, especially when it comes to seeds. Will they grow? What will sprout? If she likes the results, can she gather enough seeds to grow them again elsewhere in her yard?

During the first year of the husband and I living here, the mama let me sow wildflower, sweet pea, morning glory, and sunflower seeds in the barren parts of her front and back yards. Six years later, California poppies and sweet peas still come out on their own, and the mama plants descendants of those first sunflower seeds for sprouts for us to eat as well as for tall bursts of yellow to bloom. As for the morning glory, she tore them all out after the third year. They were pretty, but too messy.

So, we'll see how this batch of flowers will fare, especially the four o'clock vines, as they clamber up established shrubs and sturdy plants. No, it won't bother me if the mama decides to pull out the messy looking ones. As the saying goes, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Spring Squash Surprise

"Mama, come quick," I called as the mama came through the door.

As fast as the mama could, she climbed down the steps into the garage, took off her indoor slippers, and slipped into her outdoor shoes. She steadily made her way across the garage to the side door and then out behind me. I bounded ahead to the black compost tumbler by the fence and waited patiently for her to walk the short distance. As she reached me, I opened the compost maker door. "Look at this!"

The mama peeked into the compost maker. I like to think I saw a tiny bit of surprise register on her stoical face. Ever the gardener, she said, "We'll plant them when they're stronger."

Over 20 squash buds had sprouted in the dark, rich compost. Cool, huh?

For the next few days, I'll be trotting outside first thing in the morning to open the compost maker door. That is, if the mama doesn't beat me to it.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Departures is a film directed by Yojiro Takita. It is a simple, but elegant, story that won the 2009 Oscar for best foreign language film. Be forewarned. There are no scenes of violence, crashes, bombs, car chases, or graphic sex, but there are scenes of death. Essentially, the movie is about people and their humanity.

The main character is Daigo Kobayashi. He is a cellist. When his orchestra is dissolved, he decides that he is not talented enough to continue his career as a professional musician. Because they cannot afford to live in Tokyo, he tells his wife Mika that they will move back to his hometown.  Mika supports Daigo wholeheartedly, but she is upset to learn that he had recently bought a high-priced cello without first talking with her.

Finding work is difficult for Daigo because he has no skills besides playing his cello. He reads a newspaper ad for an agent who assists with departures. No experience necessary. Daigo thinks that it may be a job with a travel agency so he applies. It turns out that the ad had a few misspellings. The job is for an "encoffinment" assistant who dresses the deceased before they are put into their coffins. This funeral ceremony is performed before a dead person's family and friends. Although disgusted at the thought of the job, Daigo takes it because the salary is too high for him to refuse. But, Daigo does not tell the wife what he does.

In this movie, departures refer to many things—the recently deceased, of course, and to how loved ones react to the recently departed. It is also about people who abandon their family, as Daigo's father did when he was six years old. Then there is the leaving Daigo takes from his beloved job to one that seems out of the norm to his wife and others. To top off Daigo's troubles, he is unable to communicate his feelings except through his cello, and later through the solemn, graceful, and moving steps he performs in his new job.

Departures is a loving tale of truth that no review or summary can describe or explain. You just have to see it. Trust me.