Terra Nomad

Every day is like survival. You're my lover, not my rival.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Zoos and Aquariums

I don't remember the first time I went to either the Minnesota or Como Zoo, but I'm pretty sure it was in the eighties. But I have now been to 21 other zoos or aquariums: Shedd Aquarium (Chicago) 1993 and 2005, St. Louis Zoo 1994, Grant's Farm (St. Louis) 1994, California Academy of Science (San Francisco) 1998, San Francisco 1998, New England Aquarium 1999, Underwater World 1999, Columbus 2000, Cincinnati 2000, Newport Aquarium (Kentucky) 2000, Henry Doorly Zoo (Omaha) 2002, Blank Park Zoo (Des Moines) 2003, New Orleans Aquarium 2003, Fort Worth 2005, Lincoln Park (Chicago) 2005, Great Lakes Aquarium (Duluth) 2005, Santa Barbara 2006, Bioparco (Rome) 2007, Berlin Zoo 2008, National Zoo (DC) 2009, Atlanta Zoo 2009

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Southeast Road Trip Day 9

Since Mike didn't get much sleep, we cancelled the hotel in Nashville and stayed in Atlanta another night. While he rested, I took the truck to the Atlanta Zoo to see some more Giant Pandas. On the way to see them, there were Flamingos, Elephants, a pair of Southern Ground Hornbills, Lions, Meerkats, a Rhinoceros, Giraffes, Zebra, Ostriches and a Waterbuck. A guy by the meerkats told his daughter that they were "meekrats" and a woman told her grandson that the rhinoceros was a hippo! The guy could have been kidding, but the woman was serious. Even though you couldn't see the rhino's head because it was laying behind a log, there was still at least two signs on the exhibit. The Waterbuck was easy to spot when I first walked up, but I sat down to check the map and he hid behind a tree for the rest of the time.

Next there was a Bongo and two Kori Bustards, then the Gorilla enclosure and then The Living Treehouse housing lots of birds. Adjacent to the treehouse are some Black-and-white-ruffed Lemurs who were all resting, unlike the Ring-tailed ones we'd seen in DC. More primates were next door, in an enclosure shared by Drills, Mona Monkeys and Wolf's Guenons. The Mona Monkeys were running around chasing each other and I noticed that one was missing a back leg, but was able to keep up with the others just fine. I tried to get a good view of the Asian Small-clawed Otters, but they were all huddled up against a door. The Orangutans were not as shy, there was an adult male and a baby climbing on the structure in their exhibit and another male relaxing in full view of all us gawkers. The last two animals I saw before the Giant Pandas were a Red Panda, who was sleeping in his box that resembled a bird feeder, and the Komodo Dragon who was perfectly positioned in a window so people could place their loved ones in front and snap pictures.

Time for Giant Pandas! First up outside was Yang Yang, the male who walked around for a bit and then sat down to inhale bamboo. Also outside was his daughter, two and a half year old Mei Lan, who alternated between laying on her stomach and laying on her back lazily chomping bamboo. Then inside Yang Yang's son, seven month old Xi Lan, was climbing on a branch, entertaining all the kids and adults squeezed under the canopy to watch him. His mother Lun Lun kept an eye on him while scarfing bamboo. Back outside, Yang Yang paced around some more and then decided to cool off in the water.

I stopped for a snack and then went over to see some big cats. The Sumatran Tigers were easy to photograph, but Moby the Clouded Leopard was very elusive. The next area had more birds, including a pair of Milky Eagle Owls, a King Vulture and a Cassowary. All of the Kangaroos were resting, but they kept a close eye on any nearby humans. Second to last was the Petting Zoo with Kunekune pigs, three kinds of goats and sheep, and last was the Giant Tortoises.

I headed back to the hotel to check on Mike and he was tired but the pain had subsided, so I drug him out to dinner at Carrabba's.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Southeast Road Trip Day 8

We had the good breakfast again, booked a night at the Wingate in Atlanta and checked out. Instead of heading straight for Atlanta, we doubled back into South Carolina and went out to Hilton Head Island. I was picturing a small town with a bunch of houses, hotels and little shops, but there are 33,000 people in Hilton Head, so it's bigger than I expected. I used Google Maps to find a public beach, so we ended up on Burke's Beach. It was too cold for swimming, but we waded out into the waves. It was the first time either of us had been in the Atlantic. There were lots of small holes in the sand, and when a wave would wash water over them, the animal below would siphon sea water and sand out of the hole. We tried to dig down and see what they were, but we never found anything. There were gulls and pelicans flying out over the water, and we started digging some small holes in the sand. When we walked away from the area we'd dug up, some gulls came down to investigate. As we were heading back towards our shoes, we saw what looked like a footprint, but it had an odd pattern to it, like an insole had been left behind. I flipped the "insole" over only to discover it was a sand dollar! We didn't want it to dry up on the beach, like another we'd seen, so Mike brought it back into the ocean. As I was trying to get my shoes back on, I fell into some plants, and when I got back up there were cockleburrs on my jeans. I was not careful enough getting them off and I got several slivery things stuck in my hand. We stopped at a Wal-Mart on the way back to the mainland (cheap souvenirs!) and then took 95, 16 and 75 up to Atlanta. By the time we reached the hotel, Mike was feeling sick. He thought he was getting a bad cold, so I grabbed us dinner from KFC and got him some medication at Walgreens. It turned out he had a kidney stone, so he didn't get much sleep that night.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Southeast Road Trip Day 6

Breakfast was the only thing we really did in North Carolina, since there was just 20 miles left before we got to South Carolina. We perused the atlas and our guidebooks for a good place to see the ocean and we settled on Charleston, specifically Fort Sumter. So we headed southeast off of 95 and took 26 into Charleston. We parked at Liberty Park and went into the Fort Sumter Visitor's Center, a building on the mainland housing artifacts from Civil War Era South Carolina. There we got our tickets for the ferry that brings you out to Fort Sumter, since it's on an island that was constructed over a sand bar at the entrance to Charleston Harbor. As we waited to board the ferry, we saw several boats traveling through the harbor and some that were docked, including a cruise ship and one that looked like a pirate ship to my landlubber eyes. Off to the left there was the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge over the Cooper River, the longest cable-stayed bridge in the western hemisphere.
We took seats on the top floor where the wind sliced right through us. I had to put up my hood and was still freezing! As we pulled away from the dock, some gulls followed the ferry out to Fort Sumter. A few passengers threw bread for them as they screeched and dove. I took video of them, and I would guess they are Bonaparte's Gulls, but I'm not really sure. There were a few pelicans and other birds around as well. Out in the harbor we saw Fort Moultrie, Castle Pinckney, USS Yorktown, a Custom House, and some great views of Charleston. There was a narration on the boat telling us about the harbor and the events leading up to the first shots of the Civil War, which took place at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Once we arrived at the Fort, the ranger gave a more detailed talk about the dealings between Anderson and Beauregard, as well as explaining the six flags that flew overhead. He explained that the tree on the South Carolina flag is a palmetto and the crescent shape is from the caps of South Carolinian troops that fought in the Revolutionary War.
Then we were let loose to run around the Fort, visit the museum and stare out at the ocean for about 45 minutes before the boat brought us back to the docks. The gulls accompanied us again and the cruise ship passed close enough that we could wave at the passengers.
Since we'd been in view of the Ravenel bridge the entire time, Mike really wanted to drive over it, so we took the long way out of town, over the bridge and around Charleston on 526 before meeting up with Highway 17. There are lots of signs proclaiming it the Savannah Highway, so we knew we were headed in the right direction. We giggled as we passed the US Vegetable Labratory and got to the Wingate in Savannah just in time for sunset, dinner at Sam Snead's steakhouse and the first half of a two-night domino game.

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flock of gulls

flock of gulls
Originally uploaded by soelo

These birds followed the ferry out to Fort Sumter and back. Some passengers threw bread for them as they screeched and dove. Some would rest on top of the boat and others landed on the water.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Southeast Road Trip Day 5

This morning we checked out and drove around most of Maryland trying to find a post office! We finally found one and then drove into the city headed for the National Zoo. After a bit of trouble finding the parking lot, we got there just a few minutes before noon. The Giant Panda exhibit was at the other end of the zoo, so we decided to head there quickly and then take our time coming back. As we headed up, we saw the Przewalski's Horses and the Orangutan. Then we came to the Giant Panda exhibit! They were all three awake and walking around their enclosures. I think the first one we saw was Tian Tian (his name means "more and more") and he was eating bamboo. He'd had enough of us staring, so he went up towards the building after I got some good video. Then we walked up the bridge and saw Mei Xiang, who was resting towards the top of her enclosure and lastly we saw three year old Tai Shan, who is nearly the size of an adult.
We continued on and saw the Red Pandas eating, the Asian Small-clawed Otters sleeping in a pile, a Fishing cat and the Clouded Leopard, who was soon to be a father! Check out the clouded leopard cubs that were born at the Zoo just four days after we visited. We went inside the Small Mammal House and saw lots of Golden Lion Tamarins, Golden Lion-headed Tamarins (I guess there is a difference), Elephant-shrews and Naked Mole Rats. I think my favorite small mammal was the Prehensile-tailed Porcupine. There was a zookeeper in the enclosure and she was reaching out to them. They were moving really slowly towards her, like sloths or something.We saw the Sumatran Tiger and the male African Lion, who grunted and growled as I filmed him. Lastly, we saw Prairie dogs, Cows and Alpaca before leaving.
When we left, we drove on Rock Creek Parkway past the Watergate Hotel, the Kennedy Center and the Lincoln Memorial. We drove over the Potomac again and went by the Pentagon and the Air Force Memorial before hitting rush hour traffic on 395. Traffic stayed bad onto 95 and most of the way through Virginia. Once we hit North Carolina, all we saw were signs for hotels and outlet malls, I guess because it's on the way if you drive to Florida from just about anywhere in the Northeast. We got to our hotel in Lumberton, North Carolina after dark.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Southeast Road Trip Day 4

We took the Metro into town again and had breakfast at Johnny Rocket's in Union Station before getting back on the Tourmobile. This time we went to the Museum of Natural History and saw the Dinosaur and Fossil Mammals. Then we went through the Sant Ocean Hall and the Mammal Hall, which was just like the Field Museum with tons of stuffed animals on display. There was a Giant Panda, a Fennec Fox and a movie playing about the earliest mammals. It explained that the first ones were very small shrews during the time that the dinosaurs were the dominant aniamals. Somehow the shrews survived the meteor and became dominant. Even though it was geared towards kids, I still learned quite a bit.
After that we went down to the basement to visit the gift shop and have lunch. Then we went up to the Geology Hall and saw lots of cool rocks and minerals before going inside the little room that houses the Hope Diamond, the largest blue diamond in the world, and some large meteorites. The day at the museum had tired us out, but I insisted we go out see the Jefferson Memorial, so we got back on the Tourmobile. I'd always thought Jefferson was sort of hunched forward because I'd only seen it from behind, but he's standing straight up. As we were leaving, we saw more helicopters over the Tidal Basin like we had yesterday. Lastly, we grabbed some gelato back at Union Station and headed back to the hotel, where we played dominoes and booked our next three nights, one in North Carolina and two in Savannah.

My Flickr Pictures from March 19th

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Seeing the Southeast

On Monday, the boyfriend and I are setting out on a thirteen day road trip. Places we plan to hit are Savannah, Louisville, Washington DC, Atlanta and maybe Nashville. Although I have done plenty of reading, map-staring and bookmarking, we aren't being too rigid in our plans. We figure we will just plan each day the night before. I think we each have some specific things we want to see, and apart from that we will just go with the flow. My must-sees are the National Mall, Giant Pandas (probably in D.C., maybe in Atlanta), the historic center of Savannah and at least the outside of the Parthenon in Nashville. A riverboat ride would be cool, too, and it seems like most of the big towns in the South have them.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cute animals, but not the ones you're thinking

No cats or dogs here. A baby hippo was born at the Berlin zoo on November 29th. Scientists have discovered hundreds of new species in Mozambique, including the olive sunbird.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cute Things Falling Asleep

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Russia's Grizzly Coast

Russia's Grizzly Coast
Originally uploaded by soelo

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

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Mere katfight

Mere katfight
Originally uploaded by soelo

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Local Openings

Grizzly Coast opens June 7th at the Minnesota Zoo

Several Sonics will be opening in Elk River, Savage in August and on Suburban Ave in St Paul in 5 days!

The Star Wars exhibit runs from June 13th to August 24th at the Science Museum.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Germany and Prague - Day 4

Wednesday March 26 - Berlin Day 1

I got up and headed back to KurfĂĽrstendamm. I bought the transit half of the Berlin Welcome card and then headed over to KaDeWe, a big department store. I was looking for an adapter and some food, so I went up several escalators to the electronics department. There were no adapters in sight, but I did find a wall charger (with a Euro plug) for mini USB devices. Both my Blackberry and digital cameras are mini USB, so I grabbed it. I went up one floor to the food department. Wow! I got to see the hundreds of varieties of cheeses with my own eyes. I grabbed various things and went up to a register, but the woman said I had to go to register by the soda, since she couldn't ring up beverages. Okay, I guess. The guy ringing me up by the sodas gets annoyed that I have something electronic in my basket and tells me I have to buy that down on the electronics floor. Hmm, this is less like a store than a mall. Anyway, I head back to my hotel and have some lunch.

The Welcome card is both a 48 hour transit pass and a discount book, but I have to go to a Berlin infostore to get the discount book. I stop at the one in Neues Kranzler Eck to pick it up before heading over to the Zoo. It gets me 3 Euros off the 12 Euro admission.

Inside the Berlin Zoo, I wandered around looking at the outside animals, like elephants, goats, water bucks and giraffes and then went into the Primate house. Monkeys and Apes can be fun to watch, but I always like the lemurs the best. I can see the Gedächtniskirche from the southern end of the zoo, and get a few more pictures. I finally come to the Giant Panda, named Boa-Boa. This was my initial reason for coming to Berlin, to see a Giant Panda, and nearly every vacation I take involves a visit to a zoo or aquarium. Boa-Boa was pretty underwhelming since he was sleeping. Who can blame him? Being that cute must be exhausting. The enclosure can be viewed from 3 sides so while my first few pictures just look like a pile of fur, the ones from the other sides show a definite Panda shape. There is a picture of Boa-Boa wide awake here.

The Panda exhibit was attached to the Predator building. Inside there were wolverines, mongooses, meerkats, lions and my favorite, jaguarinos. I can't seem to find the English name for them, but they look like domestic cats that can tear you apart. I went through a bird building, past the sea lions and then out to see the Polar Bears. No, Knut wasn't out. I finished off with the rhinos, tapirs and hippos. Here are lots of other people's pictures of animals at the Berlin Zoo and here is my picture of a hippo. The oddest thing about the zoo was the number of adults I saw feeding or trying to feed the animals. One man was feeding the birds some seed and a woman was trying to get the tapirs to eat hay out of her hand.

Day Five

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Panda Trivia

There are only four cities in America that have Pandas on display in their zoos: Washington, DC, San Diego, Memphis and Atlanta. The only other cities outside of Asia with Pandas are Mexico City, Berlin, Vienna and Madrid. If I go through either Berlin or Vienna on my way to Prague, I'll try to see one.

There are two subspecies of Giant Pandas, Ailuropoda melanoleuca melanoleuca which is the most common, and Ailuropoda melanoleuca qinlingensis, which only live in the Quinling Mountains.

While Giant Pandas are classified in the bear family, the Red Panda is not a bear, but is more closely related to raccoons and is considered the only living member of the Ailuridae family.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Italy Trip - Day Fifteen

Wednesday May 30

I woke up at 8:20, packed everything in sight and checked out of Giovy after breakfast.
I left my luggage at the Termini and hit one of the stores in the attached mall. I got some flowery perfume for my niece and some mango vanilla stuff for myself. I always visit the zoo on vacation, but I hadn't seen it listed in any guidebooks, so had to look it up online. I got off the Metro at Flaminio and walked about a mile through Villa Borghese to the zoo and paid 8.50 Euros for admission. There is a public dog park adjacent to the zoo, and the nearest enclosure to the park is the hyenas! I wonder how many dogs go wild after hearing or smelling them. I saw a peahen with lots of chicks roaming free around the zoo, as well as two peacocks. The zoo has a big habitat built for the bears and in it they have comparison pictures of what the exhibit used to look like. It was basically just a bare room, so it's nice to see the improvement.

After the zoo I walked by the Modern Art Museum and took a bus back to the Metro, which brought me back to the Termini. I went online a bit more, got my luggage out of storage and took the same 6 Euro bus back to Ciampino. I got there about 7:20, since my flight was at 10. In the airport, I got some perfume at the duty free shop and popcorn for a snack. I didn't see popcorn much in Italy, and this package said "Popcorn not fried" and called it Air Corn. It was real popcorn though, not those puffcorn kernels.

Ryan Air started the boarding call at 9:30, changed the gate from 8 to 4 and then back to 8. I sat on the floor at times since there were hardly any chairs around the gate. Most of us ended up standing for almost an hour before getting on the buses to bring us out to the plane, so it was a mad dash for seats. It was a short flight and the line at UK Immigration looked shorter then the first one.

It was shorter, but it did not move nearly as fast. It took over an hour to get through. I had a ticket for the Stansted National Express bus, and I nearly missed the 1:05am because I couldn't find the stop. But, I hopped on just in time. When the driver asked me if I was going to Victoria Station, I said, "Si", because I was so used to saying it in Italy. At Victoria, a guy asked us if we wanted taxis as soon as we got off. I thought he was going to hail one, but it turned out he was a gypsy cab. He got chided by the police on the way for going too fast or running a red light, I don't remember. I saw the London Eye, the pickle, Big Ben and the full moon as we drove to my hotel.
I got there about 2:30am and fell into bed.

Day Sixteen

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

California Road Trip - Day 6

Today I went to the Santa Barbara Zoo. It seemed to be full of mothers and children. There is one of those vending machines where you can get goat feed for a quarter and one of the little kids says to another, "You have to pay to feed them. Do you have that kind of money?" I take a nap in my hotel room and then do laundry. On the way back from laundry, I take an aimless drive up a big hill and then up along the coast. One of the nice things about being by the ocean is that it makes it almost impossible to get lost. I have a late dinner at Taco Bell and pack up before sleeping.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

California Road Trip - Day 5

In the morning I checked out of my hotel and hit traffic on the way to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. Inside I went through lots of exhibits, but my favorite part was the boardwalk/patio part where you can go out and watch the ocean. After the museum, I took Highway 1 south toward Big Sur. This is quite the drive: tons of turnoffs, hills you won't believe, beautiful vistas and plunging cliffs. The road gets very crazy at the San Luis Obispo city line.

One of my goals in California was to have a unique wildlife sighting. As I am driving past what looks like a regular turnoff with parking lot, I decide to stop. To my surprise, this is an observation area for elephant seals. There is a beach with 50-70 seals that are sunning themselves and grunting occasionally to the delight of all the watching tourists! There are also lots of crows and squirrels who find the place very inviting, so inviting that one squirrel actually approaches me looking for food. I didn't have anything to give him, but I held out my camera to take a close up. He actually reached out and his little paw on my camera! So, I felt as if I had reached that particular goal.

I stopped for more groceries in Arroyo and then got to my hotel in Santa Barbara very late.

Day 6

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

I had a dream last night...

I was in an unspecific Russian city for work and had to meet this grey haired man at the end of the day because I had no idea how to get back to my hotel. He drove up on a golf cart type thing and asked why I was waiting in this lobby, and I told him it was because I was all turned around. Then, a Chinese woman leads me across the lobby towards a big wall, but before she gets to the wall, she goes down a steep set of stairs that I had no clue were there. It was an optical illusion so you couldn't see them until you were at the very edge of the floor. We went down the stairs and then had to like slip under the floor onto another set of steep stairs, and I remember thinking, "My grandparents could never have done that," because it was a tight fit. But then my grandmother was at the bottom and hurrying me along. I was surprised that she had made it down the stairs, but she just rushed me through a door and up a ramp. We were in a zoo watching a tiger exhibit, which had a big pool and a few rocks. The landing we were standing on seemed too close to the tigers, but then I figured they wouldn't build an exhibit the animals could easily escape. But all of a sudden one of the tigers did get out and came toward us! My grandmother and I, along with a few other zoo visitors, backed up along the ramp and I tried to close a door to keep the tiger in, but it was too late. Now the tiger had turned into an alligator and was coming towards my grandmother and I, so I grabbed her and hung off the side of the ramp, kicking at it when it got too close. Finally, zoo security released a long, brown dog onto the ramp and it like herded the alligator back into it's enclosure.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Fears and favorites

My number one fear is sharks (my name is Sarah and I am selachophobic) but some of my favorite marine animals are skates and rays, specifically the order Rajiformes. Imagine my surprise in finding out that Rajiformes are closely related to sharks, yeesch. Well, it's not that surprising, but the main thing that differentiates them in my mind is that most rays have weird little square mouths, not huge gaping jaws with scary knives jutting out of them. I remember being in a zoo in Ohio with my mother and seeing a tank of rays that were trained to slap one of their fins on the water. I don't know what species they were, but I think they were young and about the size of an adult's hand.

It turns out there is another genus called Mobula that have the same general shape, and there are some that leap out of the water. Read about them at The Flying Mobulas of the Sea of Cortez and don't forget to read the last page that talks about the evils of Bycatch (unwanted or unintentional catch) and how one in four marine animals caught in nets are thrown away for various reasons. Remember dolphin-safe tuna? Well there are still many other animals affected by the fishing industry, including whales, birds, turtles and even sharks. As much as I dislike and fear them, I don't think they should be killed.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Dreamt last night

I am in the audience of some kind of live variety show and a stunt with bats goes wrong. A guy has to climb up a wooden ladder to rescue his daughter who was so covered in bats that I couldn't tell she was there. The guy is mad and says he and his family are leaving, so the cast decides that the whole weekend is cancelled.

I am with my niece, uncle and Jessica Simpson. We are disappointed about the cancellation because we're staying at a hotel and are trying to figure out if they will let us check out now instead of staying all weekend. We are playing in the game room and realize it is 3:30pm, too late to check out. Jessica says we should see if we can trick them into letting us check out even though my niece is still in the room and we haven't packed. I tell her we would have to give them the keys and would not be able to get our luggage if we did that. Then we try to figure out how to drive my uncle back home, since we are in Duluth and his house is on my way home.

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Friday, August 19, 2005

Cute Animals 2

I babysat for a couple who owned a hedgehog, and it was really cute when it yawned. But I had no idea how cute they are when they're babies.


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Cute animal alert:

Two new species of lemurs have been found.


Friday, July 01, 2005


Tuesday I flew into O'Hare, landing at around noon. I rode the Blue Line downtown to my hotel, but it was too early to check in, so I left my suitcase there and headed over to Grant Park. I perused my Not For Travelers book and decided to take a free trolley to Navy Pier and get some late lunch. That turned out to be the one and only time I rode the free trolleys, since they had no air conditioning and were always way too full. I had a 3 day transit card, making the busses as free as the trolleys, so I got off at the next stop and walked north over the river. I caught a bus that brought me right to Navy Pier. I checked to see what was playing at the IMAX theater, which turned out to be Batman Begins. I had thought about seeing it while I was in Chicago, since I always see a movie when I am on vacation. It was very crowded, they had assigned seating and it cost about $22 after ticket soda and popcorn. Despite all of that, I loved the movie, especially Liam Neeson and Gary Oldman. I headed back to the hotel after stopping in the Crystal Gardens. It was very hot and humid while I was in Chicago, but as long as you could get into the shade, it wasn't that bad. The wind from the lake keeps you cool. I waited a bit too long to head out for dinner, since it was about 8:30 by the time I headed back into the Loop to find a restaurant. I ate at a bar and grill called the Exchequer, which looked like it could have held a few Mafia meetings in it's heyday.

Wednesday was my 28th birthday and I went to the Field Museum since I was disappointed I'd missed it last time. Although the Maccu Picchu exhibit was gone, it was still an eye opening place. They have a hall of gems with all kinds of precious stones, metals and even replicas of famous diamonds. There is an entire section of jade artifacts, a mock up of a whole African village, and more stuffed and mounted animals than you can imagine. They even have the skeleton of a black right whale on the ceiling. I was resting on bench when I overheard a security radio someone to call 911 and then a man yelling, "I just had to use the washroom." and "I just got out of jail." He was the same guy who had tried to sell me copy of the Onion by the jade stuff earlier. The special exhibit that I picked was the dinosaurs from China. They had about 15 skeletons of dinosaurs that ranged in size from eagle to horse that were all found in China. Behind most of them is a mural depicting what they think the animal looked like when it was alive. The best preserved and most complete T-Rex skeleton ever found, "Sue", is also at the Field. It is freaky to look at something that is not only so ancient, but was also alive at one time.

In the gift shop, I came across a book called 'What Every American Should Know About the Rest of the World'. I expected some partisan slant, but it has turned out to be pretty neutral while pointing out that most of the world's woes are related to oil, religion or the arbitrary borders and leaders that were inflicted on each country in the last century.

For dinner that night, I went to a place downtown that is 3 Italian restaurants in one building, and I went to the one in the basement, La C.... I had some of my favorite foods: scallops (with tomato, garlic, pasta and olive oil), Chianti and cannolli.

Thursday I went to the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is free and located in, you guessed it, Lincoln Park. They had an entire building filled with smaller primates, including sugar gliders and colubus monkeys. The polar bears and seals both have an underwater viewing area where you can watch them swim, and they seem to put on a show for the visitors. The big cats were all inside due to the heat, and most of them were sleeping, except the tiger. The weirdest animal was probably the Sand Cat, which looks like a regular housecat with a slightly larger head and more muscles. As I was heading back downtown, I saw the same huge group of tourists you see everywhere waiting for the free trolley and looking jealously at those of us who got on the bus instead.

Friday I went to the Adler Planetarium and the Shedd Aquarium. At the planetarium, I saw a show called The Stars of the Pharoahs, which was the best part. They discussed what the Egyptians thought of the sky, some of their legends about the gods as well as the many ancient buildings that are aligned with various constellations. The other exhibits seemed geared mostly towards kids, but also seemed to bore most of the kids I saw there.

Sitting in front of the Shedd Aquarium is one of the most vivid memories I have of my trip to Chicago in 1991. It was just as I remembered, and all week I had been enjoying the view of the Lake from the Museum Campus, which juts out on a peninsula. When looking back to the Loop from the campus, you see some of the tallest buildings in the world right next to a calm, picturesque lake. I got some good pictures of some jetskis playing around near the harbor.

Inside the Aquarium, I ran out of room on my digital camera that holds about 250 pictures. I had to delete some duplicates every once in a while. The coolest animals are always the rays, Skate and Sting, in the Caribbean reef. There is a hallway that is set up like the Amazon, complete with different tanks showing the varying water levels and reptiles in the Amazon. I saw poison frogs, a caiman and an Amazonian Python that was so big you couldn't find it's head. I saw a show with Pacific White-Sided dolphins, which look like the Atlantic Bottle-Nosed but have a big white stripe on their side. They also had Beluga whales, sea otters and a huge sea lion in the Oceanarium section. The penguins were being fed and monitored when I saw them, and a tour guide walked by and explained how penguins cool themselves by raising their wings. He also said that a penguin is full grown by the time it is 3 months old, so it's hard to pick out the younger ones. As I headed out to my hotel near the airport on Friday evening, downtown was getting more crowded by the second, since Taste of Chicago had started that day. That was obviously the reason I couldn't find a hotel in the city on Friday night.

My camera is being fussy about sending the pictures to my computer, so I can't upload any of them right now. I'll post them as soon as it behaves.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005


I had the following dream on Saturday night:

There were two brown recluse spiders, a male and female, loose in the apartment where the dream took place. The male was the size of a human hand and looked like a white crab instead of a spider, and the female was tiny. She was made up of 3 or four tiny brown things shaped like toilet plungers, but they were only about a half an inch long. I knew they were dangerous, and my sister's grey kitty was trying to attack the female, so I shooed the cat away when the female bit me on my left hand. In the dream, I knew it was a fatal bite, but someone told me I would be okay, and it was no worse than a bee sting. I looked on my hand, which was hurting by this time, to see a big slash, two teardrop shaped wounds and two puncture wounds. We kept trying to trap the two spiders, but they kept escaping out of the cups and jars we'd catch them in.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

On the Road Again

Last night, I returned home from six days in Dallas, visiting my sister and brother-in-law with my mom. We missed our flight back because we stopped for some food at the airport, but American got us on another flight pretty quickly. I half expected them to tell us we had to buy new tickets, since it was our fault, but we got standby tickets with no argument.

We went to the Fort Worth Stockyards, the Fort Worth Zoo, and White Rock Lake. On Saturday, I met a friend for lunch and we went to see Sahara, which was exactly what I expected. He tears it to shreds here, which is a much more technical review than I would have given, but it expresses my thoughts of the movie pretty well. I don't usually go for the action/adventure dramas, but I give them a chance when the locale and actors sound like they won't put me to sleep. We did get a very nice view of a Tuareg city, and some highly inappropriate butt-rock songs.

This friend is someone I have been talking to online for about 4 months, and this was the first time we met in person. Meeting new people is not high on my list of enjoyable things, but this time it was well worth it, since we had a great time despite the movie.

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Monday, March 28, 2005

Persian Kittens

This one, also named Molly, is my favorite, but you should check out the whole photostream.
Originally uploaded by Anders Viklund.

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Thursday, February 10, 2005

Endangered Species

I went grocery shopping today and was surprised to see that you can now buy endangered baby snow leopards and endangered baby giraffes for only $1.99 - and they keep them at the checkouts. I saw the price tag on the shelf and looked around for them, but I only saw candy bars.


Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Road Trips 2003 #1

Des Moines - I was gearing up for my big trip in April and May and
needed a few days out of town, so I took off for Des Moines on a
Wednesday night. Priceline got me a suite at Chase Suites in Clive and
I got there late Wednesday night. I visited the Capitol building and
took pictures of the tallest building in Iowa. I also went to the Iowa
arts center, which is a very interesting building. They have a good
variety of media (sculpture, canvas, even a room of shadow boxes) and I
saw one of my favorite paintings ever, 'Bridge on a Snowy Day' by
Hassam. It has people in the foreground rushing around in the snow and
a blurry image of the bridge in the background. I want to find a print
of it for my house. I went to the Blank Park Zoo, which was
disappointing to say the least. The cool part was the wallaby/emu
enclosure. You can walk right in among them, but they don't get very
close to you. The rest of the animals were either not on display
because it was too cold or were very hard to see. I guess I am spoiled
by having the Minnesota Zoo so close. I went to a mall and saw the
movie 'Old School'. On Saturday morning, I was going to head out at
10am, but I woke up at 3 and couldn't get back to sleep. I ended up
watching a movie about kids at a private school cheating on some test.

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Road Trips 2002

Omaha - In April, I had five days off of work and nowhere to go. I
checked some last minute deals but didn't find anything I liked, so I
decided to drive somewhere. From the Twin Cities, there aren't a lot of
places within a day's drive that I haven't been to, but I decided on
Omaha. I got a great deal at the Clubhouse Inn And Suites and hit the
road. I know I was doing 90 miles an hour at some points and I got
there in about four and a half hours. It is supposed to take six. I
went to a movie, 'The Scorpion King', did a lot of shopping, saw the
band Audiovent at a local club and went to the Henry Doorly Zoo. I had
forgotten my camera, so I bought one disposable and only took pictures
at the Zoo. I also won 50 dollars at the casino on the Iowa side of the
Missouri River. On my way into Omaha, I stopped at a visitor's center
to pick up some maps and brochures. One of the things I picked up was a
map of the US. I was looking at the map in my hotel room and decided to
mark the states I had already visited, which was 26 (plus DC) at that
time. I saw that the rest of them were mostly concentrated along the
east and west coasts, and remembered how much fun I had driving down to
Omaha, blasting my music and going at my own pace. I decided to visit
the rest of the states that I hadn't been to yet, except Alaska and
Hawaii. I started to plan a trip around the country for the next April.
I planned to keep a week of my 2002 vacation and use 2 weeks of my 2003
vacation and take 3 weeks to do it. More on that trip in an upcoming

- In June, my youngest cousin on my mother's side graduated from high
school in Vancouver, Washington. My mother and niece had been out to
visit my aunt and uncle twice before, and I was determined to go this
time. My mother, grandfather, grandmother and I decided to drive out
together in their van. I had to fly back separately, since I couldn't
take more than a week off of work. We set out on a Saturday and stopped
at the painted canyon in Theodore Roosevelt Natl Park before making it
to Glendive, Montana. Traveling in a minivan is so much nicer than a
car, especially when you have more than two people! The next day we hit
Ft Peck Dam before stopping in Cut Bank and decided to find a hotel
there instead of going on to Browning. This was June, and there was
still snow on the ground. The next morning we headed for Glacier Natl
Park. There's a road that goes through the middle of the park, but it
wasn't open all the way through and we could only go about 14 miles in
before we had to turn around. I had borrowed a friend's digital camera
and got some great pictures. Once, after coming around a corner, we saw
a perfect rainbow in a valley. After visiting the park, we headed south
towards I-90 and passed a field full of llama. My mother pulled over
and we watched them for awhile. A guy came down from the house across
the road and started telling us about the preserve. It belongs to Montana Large Animal Sanctuary and Rescue.
He told us about how they rescue livestock that are being abused or
neglected and let them live their lives out in peace. We drove through
Idaho (the skinny part) and got to Spokane that night. The next day we
drove on to Portland. We went southwest until we hit I-84, which winds
along the Columbia River Valley. There are some spectacular views along
that stretch of highway, including the approach to Mount Hood. We spent
several days just hanging out in Portland and Vancouver. My cousin
graduated on Friday, and her brother, their cousin and I stayed up very
late and drank around the fire. The next morning, we all set out for Mt
St Helens. That is a great trip! There are visitor's centers all along
the road leading up to the summit. At the top, there's a movie about
the eruption and at the end, the screen raises up and you are looking
at the top of the mountain. I had no idea how it changed the area
around it, and how involved Weyerhauser was in the recovery. I had to
fly home on Sunday and got a one-way flight on America West through Las
Vegas. It was the first time I had flown since 9-11 and I had never
been to Vegas. I had 2 hours on the ground there, so I decided to hit
the strip. I couldn't ditch my carry-on anywhere in the airport and had
to take it with me. I took a cab to Caesar's Palace. I had 20 dollars
on me and I won at least 40 on a slot machine right away and spent the
rest of the time gambling it away and checking out the Forum Shops. I
headed back to the airport with my original 20 and got some food from
Burger King. My flight was delayed for an hour, and I gambled the rest
of my 20 away. I had a red eye flight back to Minneapolis. It was a
plane with three seats on each side, but there was no one in the middle
seat in my row, so I had a seat and a half to sleep in. I had added six
states on this trip, so I was up to 32.

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Friday, January 09, 2004

Trips of 2000

2000 - Orlando - In February, I was sent to Orlando for two weeks for
my job. It's not as nice as it sounds, since in the 16 days we were
there, we only got 3 days off. The rest of the time was spent working
11 or 12 hour days. But, we stayed in the brand new Crowne Plaza hotel
in one-bedroom apartment sized suites. I never had a desire to visit
Florida, but now that I've been there, I will go back. I spent all
three of my days off at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. I
bought a two day pass that was valid in both parks and spent the whole
first day in Islands of Adventure. That's an awesome park. The Jurassic
Park water ride and the Dueling Dragons coaster were the best rides
there. The next day I started in Universal Studios. I liked the Twister
ride the King Kong one. For some stupid reason, I went on the Jaws
ride. I have an extreme fear of sharks, but I figured it's a fake one
so it won't be a big deal. I sat next to a father and son who probably
think I am crazy. The shark comes at you three times and I had to cover
my eyes and ears each time. During one part, you are in a boat house
and the water is green. Suddenly, the shark starts hitting the building
and it sounds like it's going to collapse. That was one of the most
scary experiences of my life. Sad, huh? I spent the rest of the second
day in Islands again. I rode the Jurassic Park and Dragon rides for a
second time and went through the Dr Suess part, which was cool. The
third day we had off, one of my coworkers and I went to Citywalk, which
is a mall they put between the two parks. We shopped a bit and then
went in to Margaritaville. We drank and ate and drank some more. That
night the whole crowd went to a lobster buffet. I don't eat lobster or
prime rib, but I tried clam strips and decided I liked them. I need to
go back to Islands of Adventure and I would like to visit the Space
Coast and Busch Gardens, and maybe a Miami/Keys/Everglades trip, too.

- My spring trip in 2000 was to Ohio. I got a lot of strange looks, but
I wanted to see Columbus and Cincinnati. My mom came with me this time,
although we booked our flights seperately, but we met up in Columbus.
We went to the Zoo and to a good restaurant called Spagio's. We drove
down to Cincinnati and hit the Zoo there and also the Newport Aquarium
across the river in Kentucky. I had to run through the tube at the end
where you walk under the sharks! In both Zoos, we saw manatees, which
are so funny looking. I wondered how they can stay so fat while only
eating lettuce and plants! The Cincinnatti Museum Center is like three
museums and an omnitheater put together. I saw a movie about the Amazon
here. They had a big exhibit in the local section on World War II. Not
about the overseas stuff, but how things were here while it was going

Yosemite - Labor Day weekend I went to visit my friend Mike
who moved out to Berkeley. We went into San Fran one of the days and
ate at the Stinking Rose, a garlic restaurant. We drove over the GG
bridge and through the beautiful hills on the other side. Then over the
weekend, we drove out to Yosemite Valley in the Natl Park. On our way
there, we repelled down into a cave. That was so much fun! I want do it
down the side of a mountain. We saw El Capitan, Half Dome and Glacier
Point (speaking of repelling!). The scenery was breathtaking. Mirror
Lake was too shallow and cloudy to reflect anything, but Lower Yosemite
Falls was quite the sight. While entering the village, we saw a family
of deer on the side of the road. We stopped to take a picture and
anther one came bounding from behind us. We turned to see a coyote
chasing it, but when he saw us, he stopped and ran away. On the last
day, he had to work, so I went to the UC Berkeley campus in the morning
and hung out and had lunch before taking the BART back to the airport.

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Trips of the Late Nineties

1998 - San Francisco - It had been 3 and a half years since I had been
on a trip and I had vacation to burn. I decided to visit San Francisco,
all by my lonesome. I stayed in a cheap hotel right on Market street. I
didn't rent a car and spent the entire week in the city. I planned on
going to Berkley or Oakland, but I was busy enough with the things I
found on the peninsula. My mom said she half expected me to call home
to say I wasn't coming back. I rode a trolley to Fishermans Wharf and
went to the Embarcadero, The Palace of the Legion of Honor, The Palace
of Fine Arts, The California Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park,
the beach near Seal Rock (my first ocean sighting), The Golden Gate
Bridge, Twin Peaks, Haight-Ashbury, Union Square, Lombard Street, the
Zoo and Yerba Buena Gardens. Like most large cities I have visited, I
so wanted to move there.

- Boston - For my next trip, I decided to visit the other coast and
headed for Boston. I went far too early in the year, as a storm hit on
my way from the airport to my hotel. I was taking the subway, since I
wasn't going to rent a car until the middle of the week. I think this
was the first year I got pneumonia, which is not fun to have when you're
travelling. I went to the Boston Tea Party Ship, Harvard, the Isabella
Stewart Gardner museum and the Museum of Science. I shopped at Quincy
Market and went to the New England Aquarium. I rented a car and drove
down to Plymouth to see Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower and a cranberry
bog on the way. I had planned to drive out on Cape Cod, but time was
short and I had to get to my hotel in Providence. That's a nice city
and I took some pictures before heading out in the morning. I couldn't
be that close to Connecticut and not visit, so I hopped across the
border and ate at a Wendy's. Than I headed back towards Boston via
Worchester, where I stopped at an outlet mall. I would like to visit
again, but this time in the summer!

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Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Road Trips of the Early Nineties

As I mentioned earlier, I take a lot of road trips. It all started in high school marching band (This one time...). I was in it for five years, and four of those years I went along on the big trip. From 1991 to 1994, we went to Chicago, Washington DC, Cheyenne and St Louis, and also to every moderately sized town in the State of Minnesota. We took a coach bus on all of the out of state trips. I have vague memories of visting relatives in Lincoln, Nebraska when I was like 3 or 4 and there are pictures of me and my sisters in the Black Hills, but the high school trips were the ones that told me I loved travelling and that driving is the way to do it.

- Chicago was the first time I had been in a large city other than
Minneapolis and St Paul. I was captivated by the skyline, the bustle
and the general feeling of being there. I remember going to an Aquarium
that was right on Lake Michigan and then sitting outside afterwards. It
was cool how the tall buildings gave way to a blue and tan coastline.
The view from the top of the Sears Tower was unforgettable. We also
went to Six Flags Great America and rode the rollercoaster that went

1992 - Washington DC was a different experience. It's
an odd layout because no building can be taller than the Capitol, but
it still feels like a large city. We marched in the Fourth of July
parade, which marked the 500th anniversary of Columbus sailing for
America (not the day, just the year). I was surprised how little our
nation's capital seemed to celebrate Independence Day. We went to the
Natl Air & Space Museum, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Wall and
I'm pretty sure we toured the Capitol (and laughed at the sign
'Majority Whip'). We saw the Iwo Jima Memorial and went to Arlington
Natl Cemetary to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Eternal
Flame over JFK's grave, as well as RFK's next to him. As we were
driving through Pennsylvania, I saw a turnoff for New York City. I
wished we could take it and go there as well as DC. I remember staying
in a hotel in Maryland that was under construction. I also remember
feeling very wierd in Indiana, probably due to lack of sleep. But
things got wierder when the bus driver turned a seat around so that
four people sat facing each other. I'd had a dream about that a few
weeks before. Then, we stopped at a rest stop and looked across the
freeway to see ... the exact same rest stop! Okay, so all of those
things aren't really that odd, it was just the timing of it all that
freaked me out. I never liked Indiana after that.

1993 -
Cheyenne, WY - We drove through South Dakota and went to Wall Drug,
Wind Cave, The Badlands and Mount Rushmore on the way. I think we even
drove past the Sitting Bull memorial, which just looked like a big rock
back then. We marched a parade in Cheyenne and went to a rodeo. My
friends and I went to the midway of the fair that was across the street
instead of watching the cowboys. I remember the distinct smell of
cowpies, even downtown. Then, we took off one day to visit Rocky
Mountain Natl Park near Estes Park, Colorado. It was the first time I
had been on a mountain, and Estes Park was a beautiful city.

- St Louis - I don't remember very much about the city from this visit,
just visiting the Arch and going to Grant's Farm, which is a great
animal park. We also went to some mall that used to be a train station
and to a dinner cruise on the Mississippi.

Later that summer, my
mother and sister and I took another road trip, back to St Louis, on to
Memphis and then down to hit Texas before we headed back north. We
tried to go to Grant's Farm again, but you have to make reservations.
We did go to the zoo and to the Botanical Gardens and up in the Arch
again. My mom was surprised to find out it was built in the late
sixties. We didn't make hotel reservations for the first night and had
quite an adventure trying to find a place to crash. We hit some bad
neighborhoods and finally ended up at 'The Airway'. My family still
uses that term for any fleabag motel. We heard some gunshots right
before we ran into our room. We piled furniture in front of the door. A
few days later, we were in a Subway and saw an undercover cop take a
large gun off of a kid in the parking lot. My sister said the kid had
been inside the restaurant when we first got there.

We drove
down to Memphis, going through Arkansas where it rained the entire
time. We visited Graceland, because my sister has always been a huge
Elvis fan. It's a great tour, except you that exit into a gift shop
every time you leave an exhibit. Once, while we were driving on the
freeway, there was a big metal door in the road! When someone would hit
it, it would fly up so cars were swerving around it. We couldn't swerve
and ended up hitting it, but the car survived. We saw the hotel where
Martin Luther King was when he got shot and Beale Street. We also went
to Mud Island, which has scale model of the bottom half of the
Mississippi river. We started towards Texas, again through Arkansas,
and again it rained the entire time.

I had always wanted to go
college in Texas, so when I saw how close we were going to be, I said
we had to go. We went to Texarkana, which is on the border between
Texas and Arkansas. The main street divides the states and the City
Hall building straddles the line. We drove back to Minnesota through
Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa. We thought Tulsa was pretty, but
ended up getting lost in Omaha because of a freeway detour.

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