Friday, 30 April 2010

Early Morning Songs

Since my last post in early March, many things have changed, as always happens this time of year. Some of the most prominent changes are in the sounds that I hear in the morning upon waking up. As I was preparing to write this blog post, I came across in my queue a post that I wrote on March 5th. Why I did not publish it to Blogger that day has totally escaped my memory. Here is what I had written then:

Two wolf concerts in one night...actually morning...was a pretty impressive showing. We heard the first songs at 2:35, and they struck up again at 5:30. After the early performance, I thought about how great it would be to record the sound. I realized that my camera happened to be upstairs in my room, rather than downstairs on a shelf. I could use the video function to do that, but the wolves seemed to be done. I went back to sleep.

When the second concert began at 5:30, it took me a moment to remember my earlier thoughts. But then it came to me, and quickly and quietly I got out of bed. I went to the window, and reached for my camera on a nearby shelf. I could faintly see the outline of a wolf, out front on the ice near the sauna. "Greg," I said, "They're right down in front!" In the dark without my glasses, I attempted to set the camera on record. In the meantime, Greg went downstairs to retrieve his video camera.

We listened to the wolves, and I could identify three different voices. The first one was the most recognizable, and is usually the one to lead off. A second one chimed in with its own tune. The third added yips to the mix. What an amazing harmony.

Soon we could hear another sound in the distance. It took a moment or two to recognize it, but all too soon it was the unmistakable sound of snowmobiles. To the west we could see two, and then four headlights, traveling east. The wolf chorus stopped, and then I could see three seperate bodies gather. They took off running, also east, but towards our bay. There would be no more singing this morning.

We dressed and went outside to see if there was another kill on the ice. The dawn skies showed us the pristine landscape of frozen ice. A barred owl hooted in the distance, and the ravens tested their morning voices. No sign of the wolves. We'll have to wait until tomorrow to see what the next chapter brings.

Since that time, the wolves have moved on to different locations. Greg has howled every now and again, trying to conjure up a reply, but without much luck. I guess I'll be waiting all the way until next winter for my wolf buddies to return.

In the meantime, the birdsongs have picked up considerably. Before we went on vacation earlier this month, I brought in the feeders, so as not to attract any bears. Even without a steady supply of feed right here, the birds are still nearby...chickadees, nuthatches, crows and ravens. And with the warmer weather, I have heard loons, eagles, winter wrens and white-throated sparrows. There is a lot of comfort in hearing these old, familiar songs. It's almost a signal that things are fine in the world...the natural world at least...when the birds are still singing.

While on vacation, we had the opportunity to hear a most incredible sound in nature: humpback whales singing to each other. We had the good fortune to visit the state of Hawaii, and it happened to still be whale season there. While snorkeling, we could hear the sounds in the not-too-far-off distance. It was amazing! Listening to them, watching for them, and seeing them, were all a breath-taking experience. It reminded me in some ways of my interest in wolf-watching. If the whales were near the shore, I had to stop everything and watch them. If we were driving near the coastline, we kept our eyes scanning the ocean, hoping to see a hump or tail rise out of the water, or to see a water spout indicating that those actions might follow. What a privilege to see one of the largest mammals on earth!

Perhaps someday we will return to Hawaii, and we'll make sure that it is during the time the whales visit the islands. 'Til then, we'll keep an eye out on the woods and waters of Gunflint Lake.


Kimberly-Ann, Clinton Town Dock, April,2010

Coastal Walking Holiday

Our annual coastal holiday takes place June 1 -3, with three days of walking on the north Finistere coast and two nights at the restored fishing village Meneham, where there is walkers' accommodation, as well as an auberge and working bread oven. We shall pass such delights as the dunes of Keremma, the bird reserve of Goulven and the marshes of Guisseny. If time allows we may visit the strange lost church and medieval burial place of Iliz Koz which was buried under sand drifts for centuries.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Come to Florida All Together

Florida is one of the best places to consider when you plan a vacation this year. There are many reasons to choose it: mild climate, sandy beaches and infinite entertainment possibilities for every age make so that every member of your family or group of friends can find something special and unforgettable coming here. Events studied to satisfy curiosity, desire for relax or, contrary, for adventure allow visitors to experiment every day of their stay here new sides of this incredibly multifaceted region in any season. Whether you wish romantic retirement or happy days with your grandchildren, you will find right solution here. Those who like golf, fishing and different outdoor activities find the best conditions to develop their passions. They can benefit from the advises and help of the champions of this or that pastime or sport having their courses in the dedicated clubs. Special praise excite nightlife possibilities that are fabulous fun and give you great services.

Florida vacation rentals homes and condos offer to the guests all the necessary to their comfortable stay amenities. There are properties meeting every request and desire. Sales and low season's prices make affordable even luxury packages you have dreamed all your life. You even have not to leave your pets home because there are pet friendly solutions here.

Don't hesitate to book and your vacation in Florida. Enjoy this adventure!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

I did say ramble ....

An interesting ramble through the forest of Huelgoat yesterday, with a few unscheduled extras ensuring a good healthy walk on yet another beautiful day. The return along the Argent valley was as stunning as ever - this must be one the best river walks in Brittany. Thanks to all participants for a lovely afternoon, and especially to Jean for her help and support at a difficult time. Photo by Dave.

My Vacation in Milan

The first days of April I passed in Milan and Lugano. I continue to describe these days in my new travel blog, and the first post about it was written on April, 14, Great People of Milan. I would like to see you in this blog and to give me maybe some advices because the paid hosting is something completely new for me. Maybe you know interesting plug-ins to add or you know why some of plug-ins do not work there (Feedjit).

Well, general impression? It was GREAT both: infinite busy emperor style city (I was only there, the sessions of the ritrit finished too late to make tourist trips) and the wonderful places round Lugano. Because I lived till 35 in the cities, their frenetic life is my nature. But the Nature and much-much water attracts me irresistible and I feel in Paradise when I visit that place.

So, I invite you to visit my new blog and enjoy photos I made there.

Milano, Italy

Monday, 26 April 2010

Pictures of the Day, April 23, 24, and 25, 2010

Here are the Pictures of the Day from this last weekend:

April 23rd: The curtain in my office. I thought it looked interesting with a bit of breeze coming in.

April 24th: Most of the pictures I took this day were from a big activity we did with our students to celebrate Earth Appreciation Month. This girl is the sister of one of the students. Both sisters are very cute.

April 25th: The faucets for our washer. We have a solar water heater on the roof, and it's awesome to have warm water.

That's it for now! Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Huelgoat walk, Tuesday 27 April

The walk starts at 2.30 from the car-park by the mairie (off the main square behind the church). We begin with the Trembling Rock - move it if you can - and continue through the forest to the Wild Boars' Pool before rambling off to the east with open views and then returning along the superb valley of the river Argent and through the famous Chaos. Uphill stretches in the first part of the walk, but generally a route for everyone (Level 2, Medium).

Friday, 23 April 2010

Picture of the Day, April 22, 2010

I finished replacing the windows in the Formerly Crappy Casita, but that left me with a lot of glass and nothing to do with it. What better thing to do than to put it into a box and break it with a hammer?!

Sometimes, doing something this simple and destructive is great fun, especially if you do it over and over trying to get a good Picture of the Day. Now I know what those Chicken Soup For The Soul books were talking about.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Picture of the Day, April 21, 2010

These beetles have been invading the country over the last few days... or at least our part of the country. Supposedly they're "avejones de mayo," so they're not due for a few more days. Still, last year they hardly came at all, so I guess April's OK.

The only thing is that they're not too smart, even for insects. In fact, these beetles are pretty appallingly stupid. This was one that was in my office.

Picture of the Day, April 20, 2010

Here's April 20th's Picture of the Day:
Our lovely niece Mariela came over to help us by pulling some weeds in our grass (it was 4/20, after all). She's very nice, and aside from having the tedious task of pulling weeds, she even let me take her picture. So, thanks for both of those things, Mariela!

To everyone else, thanks for reading, and be sure to check out the SeeVida page that we've been working on (you can also see it on flickr). You'll remember that the group's goal is to have a person in every country taking a picture a day. So far, we've still got the U.S., Costa Rica, Bolivia, Germany, and it appears we've added Italy and possibly Russia. If you know of someone in another country with a flickr account who may be interested in participating in the project, please tell me.

Have a great day!

Mon Lei Update

An online acquaintance from Mystic provided me with some information on the Mon Lei he researched last year. Here is what he wrote:

 There is a lot of conflicting information on the history of this boat... probably because Riply is dead and the current owner (or at lease recently current owner) seems to be prone to weaving a good yarn. Here is what I know.

�Dates for the boat's construction range from 1854 (sourced from a 1973 news paper article where the then professional captain claimed it was "119 years old") to 1920. No source that I was able to find put her build date at any thing younger than 1920. None of the sources sound any more or less authoritative than the last, but based on the other news paper comments about the captain who said she was "119 years old", I would give his account the least credance.

�One source indicated that she was built in Aberdeen, near Hong Kong

�The boat is 50 foot, with 3 masts, 2 cabins, a galley and a bar.

�In 1937 the boat was sold to "5 Englishmen", unidentified by name. They sailed her from Hong Kong to San Francisco for the 1939 Worlds Fair, taking 83 days to get there.

�At some point between 1939 and 1946, Robert Ripley bought the boat and renamed her "Mon Lei", meaning "Infinity". He used her for promotional junkets and relaxation, keeping her on the east coast and making as far south as Florida and as far north as New York.

�Ripley died in 1948 or so. At some point after his death, the boat transfered ownership to Mystic Seaport.

�In 1954, Alen Sands York buys the boat from Mystic Seaport. Sands is apparently a flamboyent raconteur, working in advertising and living a lifestyle akin to that which you would see on Mad Men. The boat becomes part party barge and part advertising prop for his business.

�In 1959, the boat is leased by North West Airlines for a promotional junket to advertise NWA's Asian routes. According to an article from time, the boat was in pretty bad shape and required a substantial refit. She is sailed up and down the coast as part of that junket.

�The next mention I can find of her is in 1974, when Sands apparently lent the boat to a friend / client who had her in Florida. The friend also sounds like quite the booze hound / play boy.

�I can find mention of Sands still owning the boat in 2002, and it still being on the NYC waterfront. I don't have any mention after that date.

The articles that indicated the build date as being 1920 were actually about Robert Ripley, with no reference to Alen Sands. Which leads me to believe that they were sourced directly from Ripley. As he was the preceding owner, I would suspect that his data would be more accurate than Sands data. But Ripley was also known for tales that beggard belief.

This seems to make more sense than the stories claiming she was built in the 1860's or 1890's. Also, the NOAA Vessel Documentaion website lists her as being constructed in the 1930's.

NOAA: Mon Lei Documentation

Soundbounder: Mon Lei

Frogma: Mon Lei (scroll down)

Tugster: Mon Lei

Sailing Anarchy Forum: Mon Lei Thread

Glorious day

We could not have wished for a more glorious day by the canal yesterday. Thanks to all the BWs regulars who came to help and to all those who took advantage of our Walking for Health event. We met some lovely people and enjoyed delicious low-fat (or even amazing no-fat) cakes made by Karen and Jean. Dave provided welcome all-day shelter and coffee from his camping car. It was a truly sunny day in all senses of the word.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The Roman Ship Museum

The ship museum in Oslo is not the only museum of the ships. One of them you can visit if you have to pass some hours in the airport of Rome, Fiumicino, where you can see the Roman ships. At the beginning it was built for the ships of the Emperor Caligola, found there in 1929. Those were the palaces on the water because the Emperor liked to organize feasts on the water. The 2 ships were burned in 1944 but actually the museum is open and there are many interesting pieces to see there.

This museum (Via Diana, 15, Nemi, Tel/Fax 06 9398040) is open from 9:00 till 18:00

Naval archeology had different successes in the last time in Italy. They found very rare ships not far from Venice, I know. I'll write about it, if I find more information about it.

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The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo

We have many fantasies about the life in the previous centuries. One of them is the beautiful idea about their homes and trips. Our interpretation of it you can see in the show of "the Celtic Tiger", my new discovery in YouTube. I adore this group and maybe have watched all their shows presented there. This one has a near to me interpretation of the waves (specially at the beginning)

This show remembered me an interesting museum that I would like to visit once: The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. Why I think it has to be so interesting? I was in the historical museums in Finland where there are not only things (original or not) that are signs of the life in the past. What I liked much, there were entire scenes presented in that museums. Such presentations are very useful to make the history something "alive" for us.

In Oslo you can see the real ships of the vikings that were brave sailors, traiders, raiders and colonists. You surely know that they had techniques that are not clear for modern scientists.

By the way, in the BBC's Ancient history in-depth/Vikings there is very interesting collection of the articles about Vikings and everything about them.

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Monday, 19 April 2010

Pictures of the Day, April 15-19, 2010

I was busy last few days while taking quite a few pictures, so let's get down to business!

April 15th: For most of this day I painted the Formerly Crappy Casita. Almost done with the primer. The problem is that as I keep moving along the house, I keep finding small things that need to be repaired or changed, so it's a slow, slow, slow process. But it'll look nice in the end.

As a side note, I'm very happy with this particular paintbrush. I found it somewhere in the Crappy Casita, and it looked about cashed. But I've used it to prime the whole Crappy Casita, and it's still going strong.

April 16th: This picture is Part of a mural at the school in San Jose where I helped administer some interviews today. This school was really interesting, and chock-full of murals. It was also sandwiched between the buildings of downtown San Jose and the Sabana park. Check out the other pictures from that day if you're interested.

I was debating between this picture and the previous squirrel picture for the Picture of the Day for April 15th. The squirrel won out in the end--the squirrel ALWAYS wins out in the end, dammit!--but I still wanted to include this one. It's of a stall door in the men's room with "Guetto Respect" written on it.

April 17th: My coworker/friend/Saturday Arch-Nemesis Monica's feet. She seems to wear interesting shoes to work, but she doesn't like the idea of taking pictures of them. I think she didn't believe me that I was doing a Picture of the Day project. Plus, I told her the straps for her shoes looked like whipped cream (that's a compliment where I come from!), so she was even more skeptical. Here she's walking away.

April 18th: This was a busy day, and I'm posting three pictures that I really liked and wished I could make Picture of the Day. This picture is of my father-in-law Honorio, who had his birthday on April 18. We went with Angela's siblings to wish him a happy birthday in the morning.

This was also taken on the 18th; it's some flowers at my in-laws' house. Really pretty, but I still feel weird making flowers my Picture of the Day. There are many people who do it better.

Finally, on the 18th we also visited our Belgian friends Sofie and Thyss, who we'd not seen in quite some time. It was great to see them again, especially since they had a new addition to their family, little baby Andres! I like this picture a lot, but since I'd not asked permission to use it as Picture of the Day, I thought it was best not to. But thanks again to them for a lovely day, and hopefully we'll meet up again soon!

April 19th: My evening class, with their ideas to help improve the world. It's very nice group, and one of my favorites, actually.
Plus, the guys with the trash can look so earnest and sincere, it'd be impossible not to like this group!

So, that's it for now. Be sure to check out the leftovers for some other great pictures. Have a good day, and thanks for reading!

Mon Lei

I have seen many unique and interesting boats on Long Island Sound, but a 19th century Chinese junk was never one of them. I first saw the Mon Lei this past February when I visited the oyster docks in East Norwalk. Except for a partially exposed transom, she was covered under her winter tarps which prevented me from getting a full view. I made a mental note to return in April. 
At first, I was highly skeptical that this was the 150 year old ship which has sailed the world. Built near Hong Kong, she is 50 feet long and was once owned by Robert Ripley. She also served time with an airline company that used her to promote their flight service to the Far East in 1959. Unable to find much current information on her, I suspected that this ship was either a replica, or simply had the same name (for example, there are lots of boats named Kon Tiki).
The trouble with online research is that misinformation gets repeated just as often as accurate information.To paraphrase an old Chinese proverb: One website tells a lie, and hundreds of others repeat it. While I am not totally convinced, I am starting to believe that this may indeed be the original Mon Lei. It sure would be nice to find out for sure.

Tugster: Other Harbors
Frogma: Mon Lei Photos (scroll down)

Note: Mon Lei means 10,000 miles, and can be used to imply infinity.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Ambro Wetlands Preserve

It's still winter in the marshes. Maybe that is an overstatement, but many of the wetland areas on Long Island Sound are a month behind their neighboring drier lands. This was very apparent when I visited the Ambro Wetlands Preserve which is tucked behind Crab Meadow Beach in the town of Huntington. While the trees along the road were in full bloom, they began to lose their green as I approached the marsh. In a sort of Wizard Of Oz moment, I was met by a brown landscape that had the appearance of early March, rather than the second week in April. Despite air temperatures of 70 degrees,  the water temperature is still in the low 40's.

During my sophomore year in high school, one of the books assigned by my biology class was The Life And Death Of A Salt Marsh. Maybe I was too young, but the book had no impact on me. I am not even sure I finished reading it. This winter, I read it again and was completely consumed.

The chapters devoted to the seasons of a salt marsh were especially clear as I walked along the creek that winds its way towards Smithtown Bay. The low tide had exposed much of the marsh to the strong rays of sun that heated the landscape. But it would not last for long. Within a few hours, the rising tide would flood the grasses with 40 degree water, halting the spring progress for the day.

 In some areas, the high water mark was visible from the heavy rains of the past month. Many of the areas I walked were most likely submerged for days during those storms. There was a line I could see where the green of April met the cold of March.
Spring will come to the salt marsh, but not so fast. As for me, I am thinking of reading the Great Gatsby and Moby Dick once again. I hear they are very good.

Wikipedia: Jerome Ambro

Friday, 16 April 2010

Callahan's Beach

This is one of the more impressive town beaches I have visited. Callahan's Beach in Smithtown resembles a small state park in many ways. Most of the property sits atop a high bluff that provides sweeping views of Long Island Sound. There is a large picnic area, and camping is allowed here as well. A wooden stairway leads down the bluff to the beach below.
Some repair work was taking place on the stairway, so instead of walking along the beach, I walked the edge of the bluffs. I have a fear of heights which forced me to stay back a good distance. At least three times, a sense of weakness and dizziness came over me and I had to move away. The photos above make it appear that I was much closer than I really was.

Walking for Health, April 20

We have a Walking for Health (or maybe Walking for Non-walkers) event on Tuesday, 20 April. We will be based all day (10.00-16.00) by the Pont Daoulas over the Nantes-Brest canal (2.5kms south of Carhaix on the Motreff road) to welcome anyone who cannot walk far for health/medical reasons but would like to get out in the fresh air, meet new people and have a little stroll in beautiful surroundings. Refreshments, information about walking to improve fitness and health, and friendly strolling companions will all be available. The towpath is suitable for wheelchairs. So come along for a few minutes or hours, as you like! You'll be very welcome.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Huntington Harbor 7:36 AM

Huntington Harbor, April 15, 2010, 7:36 AM

Picture of the Day, April 14, 2010

We had one of our lights in the living room crap out right before we went to Colorado in December, and we finally changed it yesterday. Here's it's replacement. Pretty nice, and a lot brighter than having no light.

More "New" Old Pictures

The archiving continues...

Today I uploaded quite a few pictures from Costa Rica that I took in 2006. They begin when I first moved here. If you've been following the blog since then, then your name is Phylis Sitzman, and you've probably already seen most of the pictures in the set. If that's not the case, though, and you're interested in checking them out, you can see them by clicking here. There are also some pictures from a trip that I took to Colorado at the end of 2006 to visit my family. You can see them by clicking here.

And as usual, if you're in any of the pictures and don't wish for me to make them public, please tell me and I'll get them down ASAP. Until then, though, enjoy!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Picture of the Day, April 13, 2010

Here's the Picture of the Day from yesterday:

This is some sort of miniature kettle or incense thing that Angela was burning in the kitchen yesterday. I'm not sure if there was oil, wax, or something different inside, but it was starting to smoke a bit. Whatever it was, after I took this picture I can't quite remember what happened, and I woke up three hours later on the living room carpet, with a large gash on my forehead and my pants pockets turned inside out.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Picture of the Day Update, April 6-12, 2010

It's been a week since my last Picture of the Day update, so here we go with the most recent pictures:

April 6th: My shirts hanging in my closet. I liked the colors.

April 7th: A coffee plant on our front porch started flowering a bit earlier than we expected.

April 8th: Today I got some glass to make new windows for the Crappy Casita. A lot more complicated than I thought it'd be, and the small cuts from nails and glass hurt my pride more than my hands. But I'm learning, slowly but surely.

April 9th: A watermelon. April 9th was a slow day for photography.

April 10th: Some Go-Fish cards at work.

April 11th: Vicky and Arnoldo. Arnoldo is one of my brother-in-laws. The two of them were showing me a new property they bought in Berlin. They'll possibly be using it for their kids when they're older.

April 12th: This is a bug I saw on our steps late on the night of the 11th, so I hung around for 32 minutes to make it a Picture of the Day for the 12th. Aside from the strange but interesting bug, I also like this because of the narrow focus. Thanks for selling me a cool camera and lens, Brad!

So, that's it for now. Hope there was something you liked. Until next time, be sure to check out the leftovers by following the links directly below. Thanks for reading!

New Creek In Westport

Sherwood Island is sometimes known as Connecticut's first state park, but that is not entirely accurate. As early as 1914, the state began acquiring the first 48 acres of shoreline property here, but opposition and a lack of access prevented the park from opening until 1937. Hammonasset State Park meanwhile, opened in the summer of 1920.
The combination of ponds, salt marsh, and creeks that surround Sherwood Island had been altered as early as the 17th century. The Sherwood Millpond attempted to control the flow of water with a series of ditches and dams. By the early 20th century, the New Creek along Sherwood's eastern border was dry much of the year. Access to the proposed park was possible by crossing over from Burial Hill Beach. In 1929, Westport officials (opposed to the park) altered the flow of water once again, in an attempt to sabotage access by dredging and widening the creek.. It took another eight years for the state to purchase additional land and provide access to the 234 acre state park we know today.

Friends Of Sherwood Island: History
CT Coastal Access Guide: Sherwood Island State Park
Friends of Sherwood Island: Map of original 48 acres