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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Coachella Valley Days 2 & 3

We had a pretty chill day on Tuesday. Sophia made crafts at the resort rec center while I did an exercise class in the pool. We went to lunch at Native Foods Cafe in Palm Springs and absolutely fell in love with the place! Yes, everything on the menu is vegan, scratch made, and organic when possible, but besides that, it was some if the tastiest food we've ever had! I had African Peanut Soup and Ensalada Azteca with a watermelon drink. Sophia had "chicken" nuggets & fries with lavender lemonade. We shared a ginger pie and an oatmeal creme pie, and it was too much to finish.

From there, we drove to Shields Date Gardens in Indio so I could stock up on a variety of dates. We picked up a few other specialty items to try there as well. Sophia is looking forward to trying the date syrup on her morning waffles. We stopped at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on the way back to our condo and relaxed with some seasonal coffee drinks, made with almond milk, of course.

We were at the resort only long enough to change into some warmer clothes before heading back to The Living Desert for their Wild Lights display. There were zillions of lights and the park looked beautiful, but we discovered that we are weather wussies. It was 56 degrees and we were freezing! We are official Cali Girls. 

We got to meet an opossum, an African hedgehog and a tarantula.  I passed on petting the spider, but my animal-loving darling daughter did it. 

When we couldn't stop our teeth from chattering any more, we headed to Yardhouse in Rancho Mirage. Sophia loves their Gardein buffalo wings and I love their spicy roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce. We also shared some chilled edamame, roasted Brussels sprouts and hummus. We took the leftovers with us and ate them for breakfast. 

We ended the evening playing the longest game of Crazy Eights ever. I was so tired that I'm not even sure who won. 

Wednesday morning, after finishing off the Yardhouse leftovers, we checked out. I had promised Sophia one game of pool at the red center, and the. We were on our way to the Indian Canyons. 

We timed our arrival to catch the ranger talk at the Trading Post. He was a handsome Apache with a Mohawk and long salt and pepper braided ponytail. He taught us about the Agua Caliente Indians, the canyons and history, and answered questions. He also told us this riddle:  when an Indian lights up a cigarette, what is he about to do? (Answer at the end)

We slathered on some coconut oil, grabbed our binoculars & water, and headed down the path to the Palm Canyon trail.  I shared my knowledge of the desert plants and their specialized adaptations and pointed out some geological highlights. Ha! There are always homeschool opportunities with us!

We were in the canyon for almost two hours and ready for lunch when we returned to our car. I had picked out another vegan restaurant to try, but we both just wanted to return to Native Foods. This time I had blackened tempeh tacos--the best tacos I ever had--and super slaw. Sophia had a bacon cheeseburger (seitan) and we shared a peanut butter parfait. I bought one of their cookbooks and we WILL travel to Encinitas soon to enjoy anotheR Native Foods meal. 

We spent the next two hours walking along Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs and browsing the shops. We picked up a few small gifts for Christmas and enjoyed another coffee treat at The Coffee Bean And Tea Leaf before heading back up the Pines to Palms Highway. 

It was a short trip, but we enjoyed ourselves. We hope to find time to return before Spring and ride horses in one of the canyons. We love the Coachella Valley!

 Answer to the riddle:  He is about to text.   DO YOU GET IT?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Late Fall in the Desert

Our 3-day visit to the desert started out brilliantly! We took our preferred Palms to Pines route to the Coachella Valley and stopped at the overlook on Highway 74. Sophia stepped over the low wall to retrieve a recyclable bottle and called out to me, " Bighorn Sheep, Mom!" 

I made my way downslope to her and sure enough, right before my eyes was a pair of the magnificent animals. One looked up at me at the moment I focused my phone'so camera on it, and then I was able to capture them in a short video in my phone as they grazed on the native shrubbery. I have been visiting the Sonoran Desert for over 30 years and have never seen a Bighorn in the wild, despite countless hikes off the beaten track, and here were two of them, between ribbons of busy highway!

We shared our find with a couple of other travelers who were taking in the view from above. They scrambled down to meet us and we're thrilled at the sight of the pair of sheep making their way across the slope. Once the sheep were out of sight we filled a bag with recyclables then drove the rest of the way down to the desert floor. 

We made a quick stop at the Visitor Center then continued to our first destination, The Living Desert. We ate lunch there, let some goats, fed a giraffe, and saw many desert animals from around the globe. They had a new female Endangered Mexican Wolf that was recently introduced to her potential mate and we watched her explore her new habitat and chase the male around while whimpering.

We checked into the Welk Resort around 4:00 and Sophia went for a swim before dinner. What a dinner it was! I researched vegan restaurants in he area online before we came. The first one on my list was India Oven. It was a small, clean, place with a menu to satisfy everyone. We opted for a full meal platter to share, plus an order of vegetable pakora and channa masala. The platter consisted of a large samosa, basmati rice, garlic naan, Indian pickle, daal maharani, kidney beans and bell peppers..all. Old and delicious. I asked for the channa masala medium, but that was a mistake. It was much too hot for Sophia--it tasted sweet and delicious and then suddenly--I WAS BREATHING ACTUAL FIRE. we left feeling very full.

Back at the condo we watched Guardians of the Galaxy, then hit the sack early. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Where did my love of Sci Fi Come From?

I've been asked many times why I am a Trekkie and why I love  Sci-fi.

There are actually 2 very different answers to these questions.

I don't know when I first started liking science fiction, but I know what happened to seal my love for it: MUSIC! It was the 1976 and my eyes were filled with a cute guy who filled my ears with Rush 2112. It was true love (the album, not the guy). The rock opera about a future society touched my imagination, even as the music moved my spirit. The next guy (a longer-term relationship) was also a Rush fan, and expanded my horizons with Alan Parsons' I Robot and Black Sabbath's Iron Man, and then there was Hemispheres. A few years later I even counted Thomas Dolby's She Blinded Me With Science and Billy Thorpe's Children of the Sun as favorites. Of course I also loved Elton John's Rocketman and David Bowie's Major Tom, but I think the love affair began with Rush (Sorry Robert Plant...I swear I'm still all yours).
I cleaned a lot of weed with this album jacket back in the day...and I did a pretty respectable Geddy Lee impression, too!

I had a remote control Lost in Space Robot when I was a kid. Sure wish I had it now!
I know that I watched Star Trek, Lost in Space and The Jetsons as a kid, but I also loved The Monkees, Gilligan's Island, Bewitched and I Love Lucy. I can't really remember being Sci-Fi focused. I read the usual little girl books in grammar school: The Laura Ingalls and Marguerite Henry books as well as the mystery series that was in stock at our school library. I don't remember reading science fiction as a child.

I do remember being extremely excited when I went to see a movie and saw a preview for Star Trek the Motion Picture. I do remember going to Star Wars (That's all it was called back then!) in the movie theater with my boyfriend when I was in high school. I probably even liked it back then.
I remember sitting on the edge of my seat during Alien. I don't know why, but I hate admitting that I don't think I ever saw any of the Apes films in the theater, but I know I watched them on TV.  When something like Westworld or Twilight Zone came on while channel surfing, I'm sure I stopped turning the dial (yes, we had to get up off our butts to change the channel back then). When our local PBS station started playing Doctor Who (Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor) on Sunday nights, it became a tradition. By then I was in college.

Now, why am I such a hardcore Trekkie? Star Trek does what much of science fiction does, but it does it in a special way. The original series broke many rules, knocked down many barriers...all while thumbing it's nose at censors and network executives that didn't even realize it. Or did they? Think about all that Mr Roddenberry and his team got away with! Interracial integration, women and minorities in positions of authority, interracial and even interspecies intimate relations. They tackled social issues like racism, slavery, social strife, and war. Sure there was some inconsistency, but there were also many different writers, and our own society was in a strange state of flux during the production years. There were some brilliant episodes, and some campy ones, but the point is, subjects that were normally taboo were included in the series, and social commentary was often snuck in because the setting was a fictional society on a fictional planet. Rush did the same thing with songs like The Trees, and, well, most of their music.

I just read Clockwork Angels, by Neil Peart and Kevin Anderson, which tells the story of Rush's album of the same name in a beautifully illustrated (by Nick Robles) graphic novel. I can't help seeing a parallel between this story and some of what Star Trek was telling us. "What do you lack?"
The Watchmaker loves us all to death
(By the way...I'm still waiting for a 2112 Movie! Someone needs to make this happen...or at least a graphic novel!

Star Trek is not unique in it's ability to spawn questions about our own society and beliefs. I just love the way it does it.

Oh, and Captain Kirk.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Amazing Spiderman 2 wasn't even on my radar. Probably because of the last series of Spidey films, I was never a Spidey fan. MacQuire's Peter Parker was a total wuss. I knew so little of this film going in, that I didn't even know Orci and Kurtzman were the EPs and writers for the film. That alone would have kept me out of the theater.
Well, shut the front door! I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed the film! I felt there was a good balance between action and story (rare these days) and I have no major complaints with the writing. I liked the production design, FX and the acting was top class. I thought Sally Field was powerful and her Aunt May in tears gave me mom feels. Andrew Garfield played a warm and personable Parker, who was written well.
My brain only distracted me briefly wondering a) does Spidey leave sticky webs hanging all over the downtown buildings? (eeww), b) where did Electro get that rubbery suit and how did he get it through the conduit? and 3) Why does Max have a huge gap between his front teeth and Electro doesn't?
Without being spoilery, I just gotta say that I thought about what happened in the clock tower in my head as a "would be a better ending if....." and then that actually happened.. WTH?! I agreed with THOSE writers' choice? Amazing.
Also, I noticed the glaring Star Trek Easter egg, but didn't get why it was there. As soon as the credits rolled and I saw the writers' names I KNEW why....

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Art of Vacationing

During the night I had a painful sore throat. It felt like I had a softball stuck in my gullet! I slept in until 9 and skipped my workout...the first time in months that I've missed one. We finally arrived at The Getty Museum around 11. It's an interesting setup. Parking is underground at the bottom of a huge hill. Trams take guests from the parking garage to the museum grounds on the top of the hill. Again, I was blown away that the admission was FREE. (Parking was $15,  though)

We explored the galleries in the West Pavillion first. We posed with C├ęzanne and Van Gogh paintings, admired sculptures, wondered what people see in the Jackson Pollock Mural, and learned all about hatching techniques.

After a refreshing lunch at the cafe we looked at the temporary exhibitions. One was Ansel Adams, which I enjoyed very much. I've always loved his black and white prints of natural landscapes. Another was called "A Royal Passion: Queen Victoria and Photography." Photography was invented two years after she inherited the throne of Great Britain and She was the first British monarch to have her life fully recorded in photographs. Evidently she had a passion for collecting photographs. There was also an early movie camera on display with a film of her Jubilee parade. The third was of Hiroshi Sugimoto's work in photographing waxworks, habitat dioramas and tintype negatives. It is said that Hiroshi Sugimoto has used photography to investigate how visual representation interprets and distills history, but I didn't get that out of the exhibit. The exhibits were interesting, but the camera nazis would not allow photos in those galleries. 

Treklet visited the Sketching Gallery, where she sketched a lion from a painting. I found the "Life of Art" exhibit interesting. It was an interactive exhibit utilizing ipads which taught about how pieces of art are preserved, studied, and catalogued.  Just outside that gallery was a ginormous painting of King Louis XIV by Rigaud. I couldn't stop looking at it. Kinda like art porn. We wandered through the rest of the galleries where we saw Rembrandt and his contemporaries (would it kill them to use a little color?), a lot of religious paintings from Europe (why does David look like a girl version of the boy with his finger in the dyke?), ugly French tapestries and European decorative arts, which we found to be gaudy and quite ugly. Hey, what do we know? We're not Art Majors. At least Eugene found a sexy cow to ogle at.

My favorite part of the Getty was the Central Garden, a living sculpture commissioned by the museum and designed by Robert Irwin. The 134,000 square foot garden contains 500 varieties of plants, meandering walkways, arbors, a stream, a maze and spectacular views. The clean lines of the modern architecture juxtaposed against the perfectly placed and groomed colorful flora was breathtaking. 
THIS is art!! 

A visit to the giftshop netted Treklet some new art supplies. She bought a pouch of fresh pastels and a new sketchbook and I got a set of three small books about the Getty Collections, Architecture and Gardens. 

Back to the hotel to relax so I can be well-rested and recovered from this almost-sickness for Wondercon tomorrow.

Life's a Beach!

Our first stop today was Venice Beach. We got there around 10 a.m. and it was overcast and quite chilly. Treklet got a small henna tattoo on her wrist, and then we walked along the boardwalk. I bought a long-sleeved dress because I was freezing. After about half an hour of looking at the vendor and artist booths, and inhaling lots of pot fumes, we headed out across the sand towards the shore. I sat on the sand with Eugene T. Spacecow and Treklet dipped her toes in the brisk Pacific.

My friend Mikki came out to visit with us for a while, and as soon as I saw her, I stood up to meet her...but then something caught my eye. Dolphins! A small pod of dolphins were frolicking in the surf! I snapped some horrible iPhone photos and took some videos as we watched them ride the waves. Wow, what a thrill!

After that excitement, we visited a while on the sand, then made our way back down the boardwalk where we watched a very entertaining, but slightly long break dancing show. I'll have to edit together my video clips from that and post later, as I'm writing this at midnight and need some sleep. I guess the highlight of that show was being called a sexy cougar after contributing a donation.

Next we bought some fresh fruit and a shave ice and wandered to Muscle Beach where Treklet tried out some of the gymnastics equipment. Unfortunately, there were no bodybuilders on the weight equipment.

We said our goodbyes to Mikki and headed up Pacific Coast Highway towards Malibu where we met our friends David and David. The kids boogie-boarded in the frigid water for a bit as the adults swatted sand flies and caught up.

Soon we were on our way to Pieology, an interesting pizza joint where you design your own pizza Subway style. I'm still regretting eating my entire veggie-laden pizza, but we didn't have lunch and I was ravenous!

We went to the movie theater and saw Rio 2, hugged the Davids goodbye and went back down the 101 to West Hollywood. It was a long day, but filled with wondrous dolphins, kind friends, colorful sights, and unique entertainment.

Keep your eye on my YouTube Channel, starfleetmom1, in the coming days for videos of street performers and dolphins!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

An Educational Endeavour

Today we visited the California Science Center. By the way, Siri was seriously smoking something illegal when he was giving me directions.

Once we finally arrived, I was amazed to find out it was free! It cost only $2 each to see the space shuttle Endeavour, and the rest was donation-only (yes, we donated). We opted not to buy IMAX tickets, since we can see Lemurs in San Diego.

The Ecosystems Exhibits are divided into several galleries by type. We first visited the Island Ecosystem gallery, which had several interactive exhibits and did a great job explaining such concepts at niche, microevolution, adaptation, and generalists vs specialists. This stuff is right up my alley!
Our next stop was the Endeavour exhibits. First there is a large gallery with displays about California's connections to the shuttle (her construction, mission control, etc), how astronauts eat and go to the bathroom in space, mission control, how Endeavour was transported to LA, and a motion simulator that Treklet enjoyed. I thought it was interesting that contest was held for schoolchildren to name the shuttle and that it was named after the explorer Captain Cook's ship, hence the British spelling of Endeavour.

Then it was time to see what I really went there for: Endeavour's Hangar! I was overwhelmed with emotion, and so was Eugene T Spacecow, the moment we entered the hangar. I wondered how big she would look up close, and I really felt that Endeavour didn't seem quite as big as I thought she would from the pictures and videos I had watched of her being driven through LA City streets on her was to Exposition Park.  All along the walls of the hangar are signs with information on every shuttle mission, in order. The are numbered STS-# for Space Transportation System. Each sign had a photo of the mission crew, or payload, and a short description of the mission objective, and the names of the crew members. I read every single one, and cried when I read the names of the Challenger and Columbia crew members that had perished in STS-51 & STS-107. I bought myself a clever evolution sweatshirt as a souvenir and a freeze-dried ice cream sandwich for the kid.

After a snack break on the patio, we explored some more exhibits on ecosystems, such as rivers, kelp forests, and rot, then looked at a few aerospace and transportation technology displays before fighting the LA traffic back to the hotel. 

All in all, it was a great mix of biology/ecology and outer space today. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Great Day In LA

We are on a mini-vacation, just 100 miles north of home. Treklet and I are in Los Angeles for a few days, doing the tourist thing.

Our first day was tons of fun...and educational, too! After a mom-daughter workout and soak in the jacuzzi, we ventured on up the 5 Freeway to the Page Museum and La Brea Tar Pits.

The museum is just right. Not too big and overwhelming, yet informative and interesting enough to hold our attention for a couple of hours. After perusing the exhibits, we walked across the street for lunch and then returned for a short docent-led tour of the park.

We learned that the tar is not actually tar, but asphalt. We also learned the difference: Asphalt is decomposed organic materials while tar is man-made. We learned that methane and hydrogen sulfide from the decomposition rise from underground to cause the bubbles in the lake. The lake is man-made by siphoning water away from the many excavation sites around the park.

We learned that the pits were predator traps. For every herbivore excavated from the asphalt, there are 9 predators. The goo would have been covered in leaves, sticks, and other debris, as well as water, so animals probably wandered into it unawares. At that point they would be hopelessly stuck. A depth of asphalt of only two inches would be enough to trap a mammoth (12 ft tall and 7 metric tons)! There is a story of 2 Asian elephants that got loose from a traveling zoo in the 1930s that were stuck in just a couple of inches of asphalt, but were pulled out by humans, and that is how they know this. Once the prey animals were stuck, they were seemingly easy pickings for the predators, who then also would become mired in the muck. In just this small area over 3500 Sabertooth cats have been found!

We found our hotel, the Elan, only a few miles away and settled in. We've got free WiFi (a primary factor in booking this room over our second choice), a comfy room, and a courteous staff. I packed a cooler full of healthy vegan food which I transferred to our in-room mini-frig, and unpacked before we set out again.

The Grove is only one mile from our hotel! I told Treklet that we wouldn't have time to go to the American Girl Store because we had our itinerary planned to explore places she has never been. She was pleasantly surprised to learn that we could pay a visit to her favorite store, and we also had time to see the latest Muppet movie there, too.

After our long day she turned in while I squeezed in my second workout and a shower and here I sit blogging. Tomorrow we will explore the Science Center. Eugene is along, and is excited to see the space shuttle Endeavor.