Archive for October, 2010

In the back of the zoo (in the public viewing area), in front of the giraffe, zebra, ostrich exhibit area, there is a beautiful guava tree. In the last couple of weeks, it has started dropping guavas on the sidewalk, so they’re obviously ripe, and last week I learned how to “harvest” them: climb up the walled barrier and into the base of the tree and shake the branches for all you’re worth, and hey! presto! you have guavas! They roll down the hill and you can collect them at the bottom.

On Tuesday I suggested getting some guavas for the primates (spider monkeys, gibbons, etc) thinking how nice and tasty the guavas might be– they’re all lovely and pink on the inside and smell divine and (other than the tiny, hard seeds) are sweet. The keeper said it was a great idea and sent me with a diet bag back into the Africa section to collect some.

Cue guava harvesting.

Picture me, braced in a tree in plain view of the public, shaking a tree to make these little yellow fruits fall onto the ground, periodically chasing after them so they don’t roll away. After about the third group of people walked by, I realized that I must look absolutely ridiculous.

Never mind that, I kept thinking, you have your zoo shirt on and no one’s going to question you. This was mostly true, though a couple of people were curious and I explained that a lot of the plants in the zoo actually get fed to the animals. That explained away a lot of the stupid appearance. Something in the guava tree got on my arms and made me a little itchy, but since I’m always being bitten by bugs at the zoo, I didn’t worry about it.

When I got home, I found a couple of tiny, slightly itchy bites on my stomach, so I put some ointment on them and covered them with Bandaids and went about my business.

Fast forward to today. I took the Bandaids off after my shower to check the bites (thinking they’d be gone) and discovered that they’d gotten colorful. Basically each had developed a rather interesting looking rash.

SO I took my happy self directly to my doctor’s office, even though they can only squeeze in so many walk-ins per day… and got lucky– I was the last walk-in of the day. I showed my doctor my stomach. “What in the world were you doing?” she asked. “I was climbing around in a guava tree at the zoo…” I started. There’s the stupid showing again. So I explained a little more, and she got a kick out of my story. She wanted to know all about the guavas, too. Apparently finding the sweet, pink ones is unusual. Oh, and she said I probably got ants on me.

The end of the story is that I’m on antibiotics for 10 days and have some cortisone. Lucky me.

Moral of the story?

Always check the guava tree for ants before you shake it for all your worth and they fall all over you.

For some reason, when I first published this it said that “I’m not on antibiotics” for some reason. I meant to write that I AM on antibiotics.Β  They’re horsepill looking things, too. Yay me.


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The Perfect Bookstore

This weekend while wandering through an area we haven’t explored much yet, J and I found what might be the perfect book store.

The store front looked like any other small (but non-chain) book store, with a huge, light-up sign and a sale rack out front, but the sign on the door said “cell phone free zone” and as soon as we stepped inside, we heard old jazz drifting over the bookshelves and the sidewalk noise disappeared.

The shelves were about ten feet high and close together, spanning in a large U shape around a central check-out counter, perfect for a movie character to topple, domino-style. When we first walked through the door, I wandered to the left toward the children’s books (always my first stop), and was surprised to find large stacks of books on the floor, as if someone had just been looking through them and then leaving them there, one after the other. Old wooden toys and huge stuffed animals were scattered through the section and I had to step carefully over all of the clutter, but that didn’t bother me. There was something charming about it, the way a kids’ section should be. Looking closer at the books, I discovered that while many of them were brand new, many were also used, all mixed together as if there was no difference and simply shelved by author. I even found a treasure, but I’ll get back to that later.

As I made the round past the children’s section and toward the back, the books ranged into crafting, cooking, self-help, history… then the literature, poetry, science fiction, biographies. I found that the whole store had piles of books, not just on the shelves, but in front of the shelves and on tables and on top of other furniture and in nooks and crannies and they all had this wonderful book smell– the new book and musty old book smells mingling– and everywhere I looked I saw things that interested me. Step stools placed strategically helped me more in stepping over and around the piles than in reaching the top shelves (though if I’d wanted, they were there for that, too), and the more I wandered, the more I found.

The end stops of all of the shelves were different again; they held much older books, some in protective slipcovers and some simply stacked on top of one another, all from the genre of whatever was in the main aisle. Hardbacks and cloth-bindings and peeling leather and gold embossing and yellow spots on paper. Hardbacks of books I love and of books I haven’t seen before in my life and about thirty Stephen Kings nestling under a table, though I wondered if they were acting as a table leg.

The whole place was wonderful. The only thing missing? A huge, squashy chair to sit in and read, but that was because every single space was filled with books, left to right and top to bottom.

I chose one book from the stacks and carried it home without even a bag: a green leather-bound collector’s edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It looks a little worn, but the gold embossing shines and the pages inside are still perfect.

And it’s okay that I only got one book; somehow I think we’ll be back there soon.

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Take a good look at this:

Windshield FAIL

It’s kind of interesting looking. Well, except for the fact that it’s my windshield and that the roundish bit is lined up with (roughly) where my right eye would be. Not cool.

I was on my way to the zoo on Thursday morning when I heard a sound like a (relatively quiet) shot and saw this in front of my face. I didn’t see what hit me, though I’m assuming it was a rock. It looks sort of like a golf ball, but I promise I wasn’t anywhere near a golf course– I was downtown on the H1. That highway is my nemesis. I’m not kidding, either. It’s made me late more times than I can count and you can’t predict travel times (If I leave an hour early, I’ll be ten minutes late, but if I only leave a half hour early, I’ll still be ten minutes late. Always.) and it’s congested with people who don’t know where they’re going because if you follow signs that say “Waikiki” you wind up on the H1.

Anyway, because of traffic, I had to continue all the way to the zoo, drive on past it (and phone in to tell them I wouldn’t be there that day), and then drive all the way back home on the H1 because the company that fixes windshields was back near my house.

So after two hours of sitting in traffic, I finally got to the glass place. In the meantime I’d discovered that Hawaii isn’t one of the states in which windshield replacement is covered under “comprehensive” insurance. I feel like someone should look up the definition of comprehensive because I think they missed the finer points…

I paid out of pocket for new (shiny! clean! pretty!) glass and was thankful they had it in stock and we didn’t have to get it shipped from the mainland (no windshield cave-ins from sitting in the sun for days!) and they even saved my military base stickers so I didn’t have to sit in line for three hours getting new ones. Tiny silver lining? Oh yeah.

So that was the excitement at the end of last week. I hope this week won’t be quite so adventurous.

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This weekend we took a trip to Hawaii, the “Big Island,” and discovered that it’s very appropriately nicknamed. We barely drove half of it in the three days we were there. To be fair, we spent most of the first two days exploring and hiking around Volcanoes National Park, but we definitely didn’t have the extra 2 1/2 hours (one way) to drive to Kona the evening we thought about going over there. You can loop all of Oahu in 2 1/2 hours. That’s how much bigger that island is.

We flew on an early (5am) flight Friday to take advantage of the whole day (and flew back around 9pm on Sunday for the same reason). We rented a car in the airport and drove through Hilo, which was charming and had lots of little shops (not open at 7am, of course) before heading to Volcano and the park. Once there, it turned out to be such a beautiful day we pulled out our hiking boots and immediately started hitting some short trails. We took a short guided hike with one of the park rangers, and I’m glad we did because he pointed out which of the plants (and birds) are indigenous to Hawaii, and which areas of the park looked like Hawaii did before people brought in all of the “rainforest” plants that are everywhere now. The best hike we did on Friday was to Pu’u Huluhulu, which led to the top of an old cinder cone, the top of which provides a great view of the surrounding area, including the volcano that formed in the 1970s. We stayed at a camp (with cabins) inside the park and it got very chilly at night, so we used the fireplace (fun!).

Saturday we got up fairly early and did some longer trails (a couple of 1 1/2 mile trails and then a 5 mile loop). One was to a site where there are 500 to 700 year old petroglyphs that were amazing. We also walked through a very old and completely inactive lava tube, and then down a winding path to the floor of a caldera that about 50 years ago erupted as a lake of lava, but which is now about 400 feet thick of rock with a few steam vents. We walked partway out into the caldera and then doubled back rather than taking the long way back to the car because we wanted to drive around to the side of the island where you can see lava flowing into the ocean.

We got to the lava viewing area around sunset and discovered that the only way to see lava is to pay (a lot) for a tour to have a “guide” walk you out to it. That seemed a bit much, so we stayed in the main area where you could see the steam clouds rising above the spot where the lava is apparently gushing into the sea. We did see (at a loooong distance) a bright speck that was a lava burst waaaay up on the hillside, but that was about it. The stars out there were amazing, though.

Sunday we left the volcano area and drove back to Hilo, where we toured Mauna Loa Macadamias processing plant and visitor center, went to the Pana`ewa Rainforest Zoo and then went to about four or five waterfalls. It was beautiful. On the way back from the northern-most waterfall, we saw a detour that said “scenic drive,” so we took it and found the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, which was gorgeous, and full of tropical plant species from all over the world. It went down into a valley and eventually to a steep part of the coast with big waves crashing.Then we finished the drive and wound up back in Hilo for dinner, returning the rental car, and our flight home. The Big Island is, I think, the most beautiful island I’ve seen here. ^_^

(edit: apparently this post didn’t completely publish, and I don’t remember what I was saying, but at least I finished that last paragraph. Weird.)

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Ineffective workout partner

I’ll write about the weekend trip, I promise. Photos are uploading as I type this, and then I’ll caption them and then I’ll write a blog post about it. Really.

But at the moment, I would like to explain why cats (especially Caspian) make ineffective workout partners.

  • Head-butting my forehead is adorable, but when he feels the need to do so every time I do a pushup, it kind of messes up what I’m doing.
  • Stretching on the floor is nice, but apparently makes my lap a little too accessible and I can’t seem to explain to him that I’m not there to make it more convenient for him to sit on me.
  • If I’m doing sit-ups, it’s apparently the perfect time to lean on me and go into full-extended-kitty-stretch mode, while balancing with his back feet on my side.
  • If I’m doing cardio, he stands at my feet and yells at me. Rather than being motivating, it’s more irritating and I’m kind of afraid I’m going to step on him. If you’ve ever been on the phone with me and heard that irritating yowl, you know the one he’s using.
  • Squats are not a good time to wind between my feet.
  • That green mat I keep sitting/standing on seems to be mistaken for a personal “biscuiting” mat– he kneads it because it’s squishy, but it leaves little picks.
  • Bath time in the middle of the floor can wait. I promise.

Anyway, at-home workouts are nice, but the audience is definitely challenging. Maybe I need to sign him up for cataerobics…. or just stick him in the guest room for an hour every morning.

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I’m going to give you a leg up on the average zoo visitor today and teach you about this animal:


Well, on a typical day while cleaning/feeding around this animal, I hear the following on a regular basis:

“Look at the monkey!”
“I love it when that howler monkey yells!”
“(Name of small child), what does the monkey say?” “Ooh ooh aah aahh!”
“Oooh, it’s a baby gorilla! I didn’t know they had gorillas!”
“Look at the chimpanzee!”

There are others, but that’s the usual. If I have time, I’ll tell people what those animals really are (there are two of them), but I don’t usually have time. I wish there was a good sign, but this zoo is (in my opinion) seriously lacking in the sign department; signs are either tiny and faded (like the one on this exhibit– it has one, but people don’t notice it and so don’t read it), or they’re entirely too wordy and most people (especially with kids) don’t have time to read tiny font.

Anyway, let’s look at this animal and what people say about it.

“Look at that monkey!”
First of all, look closely at these animals’ bodies. Do you see a tail? No. This is not a monkey. Just because it’s a primate, doesn’t make it a monkey. It’s sort of like you’re calling a lion a wolf because they’re furry and have four legs and eat meat. Sound silly? Well, primates are in the order Primate (surprise surprise) but after that, they’re subdivided into different families before we even get to genus and species. Lions and wolves also share an order (Carnivora) but are, like apes and monkeys, not in the same family. See? Not as silly as you think. A more obvious example? Moths and butterflies are in the same order, but clearly not the same animal. People don’t usually get those confused, so why do most people call all primates monkeys? I blame Curious George (but I’ll get back to that).

“I love it when that howler monkey yells!”
Okay, we’ve already established that it’s not a monkey, so I won’t say it again. (I’ll admit that in my head is a voice yelling NOTAMONKEYNOTAMONKEYNOTAMONKEY!!! quite a bit, though.) This one bothers me for two reasons. The first is the assumption that because this animal is very vocal (and they do have a loud, distinct call) that it’s a howler monkey. I know howlers are on Animal Planet all the time for being extremely loud, but there are a lot of other primates that are very loud, too. An example would be the family (again with classification) that includes all of the gibbons (and hey! these animals are a type of gibbon!). Here’s an example of a gibbon calling in the wild. Here’s an actual howler monkey sound. And here’s a video of the same type of animal pictured above. See? Lots of noisy primates. Second point: when an animal is making a loud noise, it’s not because it’s excited to see you, or is showing off, or is “putting on a show” (I hear that one all the time, too). Usually these animals get worked up when there’s a huge crowd of children all yelling at them and they feel territorial (their exhibit has viewing on all sides so they can be “surrounded,” which is poor exhibit design, but just the way it is), so they yell. They also yell when it’s close to food-time (which is twice a day) and first thing in the morning. It’s a territorial display, not a “show” for you.

“(Name of small child), what does the monkey say?” “Ooh ooh aah aahh!”
(NOTAMONKEYNOTAMONKEYNOTAMONKEY!!!) Okay, I get that you’re trying to get your child engaged and interact with you at the zoo, but teaching the kids to roar at the lion or make monkey calls at the primates isn’t teaching good behavior. The sounds people teach kids at zoos are usually the animals’ loudest sounds that, guess what, are the aggressive sounds. Are you sure you want to teach your kid to make aggressive noises at animals? Maybe not such a good survival strategy. On top of that, monkeys don’t make that noise anyway. That’s a chimp sound.

“Oooh, it’s a baby gorilla! I didn’t know they had gorillas!”
Well, the zoo doesn’t have gorillas. They’re not anywhere on the map. Of course, these guys aren’t either, which brings me back to this whole signage issue (someone should really do something about that), but they absolutely don’t have gorillas at the zoo. Besides that, other than it having black hair, do those animals seriously look like gorillas??

That’s a gorilla. If you’ve ever seen one, you know it’s HUGE and doesn’t look like the animal I’m showing at the top, except for the color. Again, similar to looking at a rhinoceros and saying “Look at the elephant!” because they’re both large and have gray skin. And baby gorillas? Baby gorillas look like babies. Not like another primate that has black hair and happens to be smaller than a gorilla. There are LOTS of primates that fit this description. Points for not calling it a monkey, though; gorillas are apes, though they are great apes and these are lesser apes, it’s at least a little better.

“Look at the chimpanzee!”
Almost there! The ones that say this (I’m assuming) realize that they’re looking at an ape and not a monkey (unless they think a chimp is a monkey, which is very likely since most people on TV call chimps “monkeys” NOTAMONKEYNOTAMONKEYNOTAMONKEY!!!), and that it’s too small to be a gorilla. The thing is, if you’ve ever seen a photo of a chimp, then you know it also looks nothing like this animal. There’s also the fact that the zoo does have chimps (nine of them!) and they’re in a totally different section of the zoo AND clearly marked on the map (being popular animals).

On a slightly separate note, if you know anything about chimps or gorillas, do you really think we’d have them in a smallish, WIDE OPEN exhibit like that? Does that make any sense to YOU at all? Didn’t think so.

So what is that animal?
Glad you asked. It’s a siamang! There are two of them at the zoo, and they’re loud and can be very active. They’re lesser apes (a type of gibbon to be specific), and are found in Asia. They have these big throat pouches that they fill with air to make the loud call I showed you in the video, and they love to swing and flip around in the trees. Not monkeys, gorillas or chimps, but especially not monkeys. No tails. Plus, they walk more upright than on all fours and have a relatively large head compared to their bodies, which are all hallmarks of apes. Monkeys have tails, walk more using all four limbs equally, and have relatively smaller heads compared to their bodies.

Knowing all of that, what is Curious George? The books, TV shows, etc, call him a monkey, but he is, in fact, an ape. Oh, George, you silly primate.

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