Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Last Saturday afternoon I went on a bay/ocean cruise where we headed to a couple of uninhabited islands to shell. Sand Dollar Island was a bust as far as its namesakes were concerned -- a few were found offshore but on the sand it was mainly bivalves and angel wings. I did find a cool skate egg case. Our next stop proved a bit more fruitful although unbroken shells were few and far between. I found a (mostly whole) fig shell and a slipper shell, more angel wings, a bright yellow coquina and one I couldn't identify -- either some kind of murex or whelk.

In my closets, I have boxes and boxes of shells that I've collected over the years so I didn't bring too many home. This morning (Tuesday) I was unpacking my travel tote and put my plastic bag of shells on the kitchen table. Not long after, Jack came into my office and said, "Your shells are making noise and moving." Naw! But I went into the kitchen and opened the sack, moving the shells around. Nothing. Then I saw the murex/whelk wiggle. Pulling it out of the sack, I was just in time to see little hairy claws retracting into the curled recess.

Yep, the stowaway was a hermit crab. He's very shy -- but probably very hungry and thirsty! I carried the shell out to try to take his picture -- unlike Miley Cyrus, he wasn't interested in exposure! We took him over to our grandson Alex who is the animal kid in our family. Then we took Alex to the pet shop. Thirty-five dollars later, we have a terrarium, sand, soil, a water dish, water conditioner, food, sponge, spare shell and an instruction book for the free crab! What a deal!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Wet and Wonderful

Just a quick note to share a photo I'm very proud of. I've been in Apalachicola, Florida for the past several days -- having a marvelous time -- but now I've got a lot to catch up on, including sleep. I've been up about 20 straight hours now and I'm fading fast. One of the highlights of the trip was a bay cruise with Justin McMillan and Journeys of St. George Island. The dolphins in the bay like to body surf in the boat's wake and Justin's dog, Blue, likes to dolphin watch. I think I got this one just right!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Getting High -- Part 2

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I love it when I get comments on my blog but I haven't figured the best way to reply. So -- this is for Mell who asked a very good question about my ballooning experience -- "How did you get in the basket?" The answer -- "With great difficulty!" Because I am short -- and quite round. There are foot holes in the side of the basket but not close enough together for me. I got the first foot up but it took a couple of strong people to hoist me high enough to get the next foothold. There was major shoving on my posterior region until I was able to get one leg over the side of the basket, then I sat on the side and slipped down. I believe there are several unflattering photos of the whole process. I haven't seen them and I don't think I want to. Getting out was just as unattractive -- just in reverse. Next time I want a ladder!

A Museum=A Muse eum=Amuse eum

I just finished my article for next Sunday's Edmond Sun and got excited all over again about the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. My plane arrived in Albuquerque at 7:30 in the morning and there were no scheduled press tour activities until afternoon so my time was my own. I planned to visit the NMMNHS, the art museum and the atomic energy museum -- and I did -- but almost didn't. I couldn't get myself away from the science museum! What a treat to have leisure time in a great museum. Usually we're limited to about 45 minutes before we're on to the next venue. I spent HOURS there and could have spent longer. This museum is really best for elementary school ages and up -- lots of hands-on things but such great information and graphics that adults won't get bored, I promise.

They have a model of the Mars Rover and a great exhibit on space. I spent a lot of time with a device designed to estimate the chance of intelligent life in the universe using Drake's equation - N=R(x)fp(x)Ne(x)fl(x)fi(x)L. R=the rate of formation of stars like our sun; fp=per cent of suitable stars with planets; Ne=number of planets and moons per star capable of sustaining life; fl=fraction of moons and planets on which life actually develops; fi=fraction of planets or moons with intelligent species developing interstellar communication; and L=the typical lifetime of advanced species on a planet. Of course, there are no definitive numbers for any of the variables! Putting in my guesses (influenced by the range of guesses by scientists) I came up with 375 advanced alien civilizations in our galaxy. Makes you feel less alone, doesn't it?

I loved the display of minerals -- kind of stuck in a corner and not as large and impressive as the exhibits in Dallas and Houston -- but there were some really unusual and beautiful specimens which I hadn't seen before.

As much as I enjoyed these exhibits, the Walk through Time blew me away. From the Big Bang to the Big Freeze, I moved from room to room past great exhibits -- a fabulous tour of geologic change and biological evolution. New Mexico was home to some of the coolest dinosaurs -- T. rex, Pentaceratops, Brachiosaurus, Parasauralophus! Exhibits on the Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction were fascinating.

WARNING: Soapbox ahead. I really worry about our education system kowtowing to fundamentalists who insist on injecting religion into science. I happen to believe that God created the heaven and the earth -- and the amazing information scientists have been and are discovering confirms this for me. My problem is with literalists who insist that these discoveries must be denied or contorted to conform with their interpretation of the Bible. Questions of the big Why? are for philosophers -- leave the How? to the scientists.

Photos: This turquoise nugget weighs 152 pounds -- parts have been polished. The museum was given permission by the Jet Propulsion Laboratories to build an exact copy of the Mars Rover. In the "Age of the Super Giants" -- the Jurassic Period -- huge animals like the Saurophaganax and the herbiverous Seismosaurus roamed ancient New Mexico.

Friday, April 11, 2008

High Times in Albuquerque

Wow! With an altitude of 5280 feet above sea level, visitors to Albuquerque start out high. With the Sandia Mountains, you can quickly get even higher. But the ultimate way to get high in Albuquerque has got to be in a balloon. Our flight was scheduled for Monday morning -- we met at 6:45 a.m. to get to the field where the balloon trucks were assembled. It was cold -- in the low 40s -- and we huddled together waiting for the final decision on whether or not we could fly. Rainbow Ryders has a great safety reputation and they weren't going to jeopardize it by taking off in iffy conditions. The winds were light on the surface. Several small balloons were released to see what direction and speed they would travel. Is this the origin of the phrase "trial balloon?" The signs were not auspicious. The sun rose -- we didn't.

Next morning, we tried again. This time conditions were right. How lucky we were because April is Albuquerque's least predictable month and the days following turned windy and chilly. There were five balloons up on Tuesday so I got great chances to shoot balloons from our balloon. There were twelve of us, including the pilot, in our gondola -- we were literally cheek to cheek! The ascent was as gentle as taking a breath, the flight amazing and the landing smooth. A perfect day, a perfect flight! On the ground, we shared champagne with other balloonists and raised our glasses to pilot Mike Collins' toast:

"The winds have welcomed you with softness,

The sun has blessed you with his warm hand.

You have flown so high and so well

That God has joined us together in laughter

And set us gently back into the loving arms of Mother Earth."

Saturday, April 05, 2008

On the Road Again -- Almost

What a busy week!!!! Lots of catching up to do and a quick trip to Stillwater where I visited Woodland Park Winery -- they'll be featured in my first Sunday in May Edmond Sun column. I've also spent the week trying to recover from my foodie trip to Fredericksburg, Texas. Fredericksburg was always fun but they have really kicked it up a notch in the culinary department. I went to two cooking classes, sampled cheese, wine and sausage, ate at some exciting restaurants and delved into one of my not-so-secret passions -- chocolate. Fredericksburg is the home of Quintessential Chocolates. Lecia Duke learned the secret of enrobing liquid in chocolate. I don't mean thickened liquid; I mean pure-dee liquid liquid, most of the alcoholic kind. My favorite was toffee liqueur in dark chocolate. The non-alcoholic black cherry was pretty yummy, too. Visit Lecia's store, Chocolat, on Main Street and check these amazing confections for yourself. I'm off to Albuquerque in the morning -- oh, the tempting Mexican food. If Fredericksburg was dangerous to my diet, Albuquerque could be disasterous. Wish me self-control.!
Photos: Before being enrobed in chocolate, the liquids are encased in a thin sugar shell, or zuckerkrust. In addition to making the liquid-filled chocolates, Lecia also creates other chocolate treats.