Thursday, December 4, 2008

Stealth Bombs!

I had the pleasure of going back to Troy's house last night to see how far along his furry friends are. They haven't gotten much bigger, but they are now fully grown and flying all over the place! Yes, I'm talking about his flying squirrel duo again. The sweetest things you have ever seen have now become not only sweet but lightning fast. They climb up your jeans, hesitant of any newcomers, and leap from your shoulders to anything they think they can cling to, including the wall, which doesn't work out for them so well! I was standing about 4 feet from Troy as he was talking about the little boy squirrel, when suddenly it sprung from his hand to my shirt, in the blink of an eye. Woah, I didn't see that one coming and it kind of surprises you when it first happens! They barely sat still while I was there because it was about 10pm, their prime activity time. But when they do stop to take a breath and you can see their eyes and baby fine fur, it is truly exciting to have the privilege of seeing such a creature up close!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Flying What??

I said I wanted to get more involved with the Native Plant Society and that's exactly what's happening. First the plant sale (if I forgot to tell you, we had a very large native plant society plant sale at the USF Botanical Gardens and I volunteered for it). Here are some pictures from it:
And no, these are not native plants, but they were really beautiful and also being sold at the sale, so I took pictures.

And now, before I knew what was really happening, I ended up on the board! They invited me to a board meeting to see what it was like. It was held at Troy's house and wow is his garden breath-taking! Here's just some of what I saw in there:
And here's what else he had:
Yup, those are BABY FLYING SQUIRRELS! They are the southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans) to be exact. He owns a landscaping business and unfortunately while doing a job one day, his crew cut down a tree with a nest holding these two cuties. And of course, once the nest is down, it's unlikely the mother would return and be able to care for them in the same capacity. So Troy is fostering them until they're big enough to fly free! Of course, I couldn't keep my hands off them and I offered to feed them for him while he showed off his garden. They were the cutest things! I thought about stealing one (perhaps not the best idea I've had), but they seemed really happy in his care and I decided to just get some pictures to remember them by.

Do you see what I see?

I was recently doing some field work in Winter Haven, FL (woohoo! finally some time in the field for work...I live for this!). My field partner, KT, and I were taking groundwater samples when KT looked up and said "oh, my, do you see that snake?". Where? Where? I don't see it!! (can you see the snake hiding in this vegetation?Well, I didn't either. Until she pointed out a nice little snake climbing in the tree about 2 feet from my nose. And here he is! How cute! He was just hanging out and trying to blend in. You can see from above that he really did blend in very well, but once I put a flash on him, he really lit up. How beautiful!
This is a yellow rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata), distinguished by his color and the black racing stripes down his back. Hehe, and check this out - the yellow rat snake is also called a Chicken Snake! Is that because he eats chickens or because he's a scaredy cat?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Honeymoon Island...romantic solo trip

The other weekend I drove up to Lake Shore Camera Exchange in Palm Harbor to attempt to get my Panasonic Lumix camera fixed. It was a gift from two people who are important to me and somehow in my excitement to take pictures at the beach one weekend, I got sand in know the kind, the really fine beautiful Florida sand. Well, long story short, the repair people up there told me that sand is pretty much the end of days for a camera and it'd be easier to replace the camera than to fix it. What a bummer.
Do you know what this is?

Well, luckily, I took along my DSLR Canon Rebel XT, so while I was in that part of town, I ventured over to Honeymoon Island for the first time. What an amazing park! Apparently it is the most visited Florida State park and was voted to have the best beaches in Florida. That is definitely obvious once you step into the visitor's center which is the most elaborate and expensive visitor's center I've ever seen at a state park, but somehow they also constructed it so that it really fits into that landscape, so it's a great asset. I didn't stay very long, but I took a little walk around the bay side of the park with my camera (see collage at top of post) and then ventured over to the beach side to find a couple surfers. And you'll be happy to hear that I didn't get sand in my nice camera and I still salvaged a beautiful day.

Ski Bunny Attack!

This year for Halloween, Simon and I took a road trip to Jacksonville for the annual culmination of the football rivalry between the Florida Gators and the Georgia Bulldogs at the "world's largest cocktail party". This year we stayed out of the rambunctious crowd and had a lovely somewhat relaxing weekend of sipping beers and hanging out with friends. Want to know what I dressed up as??

I was a 70s ski bunny and Simon was Reverend Run
Here's the relaxing part:

America's Wang Moving in the Right Direction

So this is my first election for which I voted as a resident of Florida. The first presidential election I voted in was in Pennsylvania in 2004 for the Kerry vs. Bush election. It's pretty exciting to be voting from a swing state. I feel like my vote actually counted more than if I had been living in a very Republican or Democrate biased state. So I marched my little butt out to the polls on Nov 4, 2008 at 6:45am...a time of the morning that normally finds me very grumpy...but yesterday I could barely sleep through the night I was so excited to get up and go mark my very own scantron in favor of my candidate of choice.
Then, yesterday evening, I picked a barstool from which to watch the results at one of my favorite stomping grounds - Yeoman's. Everyone in the bar was really amped up and anxious to know the potential of our next 4 years in this country. And boy were we excited to find out the winner...OBAMA!! Yay! My vote actually counted and it appears so did a lot of other people's in crazy ol' Florida!! What a victory!

Check it out!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

Just after the race for the cure, Karen and I stepped onto a beautiful 38 foot long Catalina sailboat with Captain Bill Sharpe at the helm! We were fortunate enough to be invited to join him on this amazing adventure leaving from The Vinoy Marina. We sailed from St. Petersburg, FL to Treasure Island, FL on Saturday and returned the same way on Sunday. This was my first time on a sailboat of such size and with such large sails. On Saturday we had a full boat with three guys on crew hoisting the sails with Captain Bill keeping us on course. One of our crew members was Chris Ross, a seasoned sailor who really knew what he was doing.
He even got us on keel (is that the right terminology?) going about 8 knots with the main sail almost parallel with the water (this means our boat was tipped over at about a 30 degree angle)! This was amazing! Did you know that ovens in the cabin of true sailboats have a thing called a gimbal that keeps the oven level with the horizon even if the boat is tipped over? This has got to be one of the coolest things ever invented!!
We sailed for about 10 hours on day 1 and on the way back we sailed again for 9 hours just barely beating a very heavy thunderstorm. Along the way we lost a few crew members when we docked at John's Pass Marina and gained a few at the same time. Coming into John's Pass, we gained access by calling the bridge keeper at the John's Pass drawbridge. Have you ever gone under a bridge that stops traffic and opens just for you? It kind of makes you feel like a king! Here is the crew:

click on this image to see the pictures better

Also, we had a pod of about 10 dolphins sidle up to the boat and swim along with us for a few minutes! They were jumping and playing in our tiny wake.On the way back to St. Petersburg (when I was manning the jib!), we also spotted a school of thousands of stingrays (maybe the Atlantic Stingray) swimming on both sides of our boat out to the Gulf of Mexico. They were so graceful, gliding along and occassionally flapping a wing out of the water to wave us along. So peaceful! Thanks again Bill for a fantastic trip and to the entire crew for guiding us through safely!

Running for boobs!

This is after the race, so please forgive the sweaty exhausted look!

The weekend of October 4 was a busy busy busy one! Somehow, my roomate, Karen, convinced me to run a 5k race. When she told me it was for breast cancer research I immediately said yes without really thinking about the fact that I'm not a good runner nor do I really enjoy the act of running. But by then it was too late. I was registered and on a team (with the Jolly Roger Hash) and the date was approaching. I decided that if it was too hard I would just walk it instead. So that morning, Karen and I awoke at the crack of dawn, drove to St. Petersburg, parked semi-illegally (the town was packed with hundreds of participants and not so much parking space!), grabbed our pirate hats and power walked to the start in Vinoy Park. Vinoy Park is an amazing place in and of itself, but I don't have much appreciation for such things at 6am, sorry! We got our team t-shirts, took some pictures (I have to get these from the team yet, so hopefully you'll see them soon), and before we knew it the race was beginning. Karen started first because she decided to bravely run the 10k. I was sticking with the 5k race and I knew even that would be difficult for me. 30 minutes later, the 5k race began. We all lined up at the start. They label the starting line with big signs that say something like "6 minute mile" all the way down to "20 minute mile". You are supposed to stand next to the sign that corresponds to the pace you think you will be running. Well, I started walking back to 10 minute mile, when my teammates pulled me all the way back up to the beginning of the starting line...apparently no one pays attention to those signs, so if you go that far back, you'll be stuck behind lots of people walking. Glad that I was there with people who had done this before. Well, to make this story a bit shorter, I ended up running the race in 29:12 minutes! Can you believe it? I ran 5km in under a 10 minute mile! That's a big deal for me! Granted, I almost passed out afterwards and I couldn't really focus my eyes for a good 10 minutes, but I felt really accomplished. Throughout the race, I definitely thought about giving up and lungs burned and my feet hurt...but as I was running I realized that this run really had nothing to do with me. It had everything to do with those people battling breast cancer and going through extremely grueling treatments. So who was I to minimize their struggles by quitting a race that really wasn't that long because my feet hurt a little bit? That just didn't seem respectful. So in honor of the fight against cancer that both my aunt and my mother endured for the past year and their bodies are continuing to fight into the future, I pushed myself to keep running. Thanks to the women in my family for never giving up and going through with the brutal and taxing treatments that will hopefully keep them in our lives for many years to come!Aunt Monika was the person I honored for others to see on my back while I ran. Mom, you'll get a sign on my back too when that race comes to town!

Native Plant Society Plant Sale

So this weekend I volunteered to help the Suncoast Native Plant Society with their big fall sale at the USF Botanical Gardens. I arrived, bleary eyed and barely on-time (without coffee), at the gardens at 7:30am on Saturday morning...yes, that's crazy early for me on a weekend, but I didn't want to let them down. We immediately started unpacking a box truck filled to the max with all kinds of great native plants. Our area, which was right smack dab in the front of the event, had hundreds of really beautiful native plants which we labeled with growing information.

Once the customers started streaming in, we were pretty busy helping fill their wagons. Apparently, well seasoned customers know that the best way to carry all the plants they want in their garden is with a wagon, push cart, or luggage carrier (some people were very creative!). So I was able to help customers pick out the plants that would do best in their yards, would look the best with their gardening vision and see their smiles as they carted off healthy native plants. I also got a chance to check out some of the other booths at the event (though many of them did not have the native plants that are so important for this area) and got some great pictures:

Here are some of the booths at the sale. There was an amazing variety of things to look at and purchase at this sale, including exotic fruit from the Rare Fruit Council of Tampa!

Are there any plant sales or other fun fall events going on in your area?

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Black Widow Blues

So I recently had the opportunity to get back in the field for work. Yippeee!! I was so happy to be out and about and not staring at the gray walls of my cubicle that it really didn't matter to me what I was actually doing in the field. I was happy with whatever was thrown my way. And boy was this an "interesting" site. It's a contaminated site up in Panama City on which we were sampling groundwater for a list of parameters including VOCs, SVOCs, lead, TRPHs, and PCBs. We had twenty wells to sample for groundwater level. Below is a picture of what a well casing looks like. The well is the white PVC pipe with a cap on the top to keep things from falling into it. And the rusty metal thing around it is a box to keep the well protected and locked if you so choose. Since this site is only sampled once or twice a year, some of the local creatures have taken up residence in the wells. I was excited when I opened this well and found some really cool egg sacs...

I was excited when I opened this well and found some really cool egg sacs...
Here's a blow up of some of the ones inside the casing lid. There were probably about 15 of these spacey looking sacs, so I called over my coworker and asked her to come take a look at them. Good thing I did! She identified them as Black Widow spider eggs...YIKES! So then we started looking for Mama...we found her in the corner, somewhat scared, but still very dangerous looking all decked out with her red hour-glass marking on her underside. I didn't get a picture of her, but she looked like one of those sweet old ladies with a dark past! And of course I didn't want to kill her, so my coworker kept an eye on her while I reached my hand down into the well to take the cap bites!Here is a picture of what the actual Black Widow spider looks like. Here are a couple more. And according to this site, even the egg sacs contain poison! Wow, glad I didn't take a specimen!

Oh, and we also found a dead scorpion in another well and a very large bee's nest in another. I'm not sure what kind of bees they were, but they looked much larger to me than a normal honey bee. I'm hoping they weren't the Africanized Honey Bees (aka African killer bees which established in Florida around 2005)! Can you tell the difference? Either way, we didn't get stung, but we did have to kill them to get to the well...sorry bees!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Kayaking (#6)

For the past week my Swiss cousin, Gian Marco, came to visit me in the USA! Yay!!! I love having family in town! Gian Marco is an amazing, multitalented guy from Switzerland who is not only my super smart cousin, but also a famous Swiss rapper and techno DJ...yes, I said Swiss rapper. Check out some of his music collaborations here and here.

So I wanted to show him all the cool things that I like to see and do in the Tampa/St. Pete area. It was a crazy whorlwind of a tour for him. I didn't realize that the stuff I did was so physically active, but in his words "this has been a very sporty vacation". One of the things I did with him was to take him kayaking at Weedon Island Preserve. We rented kayaks from a pretty cool local kayaking center called Sweetwater Kayaks. There's a really great, very well marked kayak trail at Weedon Island that took us through some cool mangrove tunnels and got us a little more sunburned too.

Yes, it was "sporty" but I think Gian Marco had a good time. When's the last time you saw a kayaking rapper?

Surfing (#51) attempt

Photo: Wikimedia

Karen and I went surfing the first weekend I was back in Tampa at St. Pete beach. Hurricane Fay was heading across Florida and bringing us some swell. Ryan taught us some tubular moves and Mike and Amy were kind enough to host the event. It was Karen's first time and my second time. Things went pretty well. The waves were pretty calm, but big enough to ride, until a few storms came through and then it got a little crazier. The rip tide was pulling us to the north a bit. I even got up on my knees on one ride...rad! Anyway, we were going to try again this weekend with waves from Hurricane Gustav, but once we got to the beach to survey the situation we saw that the ratio of surfers to number of ride-able waves was about 40:1. Yikes! So we got sunburns on the beach instead. (No pictures from me...too much sand!)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Hash #1

So the Hash was amazing!! Much more than I even dreamed of. Nothing to be nervous of, just a whole lot of people out to have fun. What an ingenious idea too, who came up with this? Drinking and then running...never would have thought the two could go together without lots of time vomiting in the bushes, but it can be done. And the people are great...that's what it's really about. I will be going to this pretty much as often as possible. (Wow, my legs really need a tan!)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My first Hash!

So today I will be attending my first ever Hash (#1 on the List). If you don't know what that is, then check out some more information about the Hash House Harriers here. I'm excited and nervous at the same time. It seems to me that I may be the butt of some jokes as the newbie, but that's to be expected, I just hope they go a little easy on me. Luckily one of coworkers is involved in it, so he gave me a little heads up about what to expect.

So far I've been told "bring shoes that are old and can get wet". When I asked why, the response was "in case we run in drainage ditches"...WHAT?

Wish me luck! I'll give you all an update when I get back.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tampa Escapades - THE LIST!

Here is the list, in no particular order, of things that I hope to accomplish while living in Tampa.

The MASTER List (updates can and will be made)!!

  1. Hash house harriers runs
  2. Adventure runs
  3. Martial arts
  4. Yoga
  5. Rock climbing
  6. Kayaking
  7. Sierra club
  8. Audobon Society
  9. FNPS field trips
  10. Camping trip
  11. Volunteer at Moffitt Cancer Center or the Red Cross
  12. Volunteer at animal rescue/big cat rescue
  13. Volunteer at a nature center
  14. Take guitar lessons
  15. Biking on florida greenways
  16. Massage classes at Cortiva or get a message
  17. Take some non-credit classes at a local university
  18. Tai chi on the water/beach
  19. Drum circle
  20. Work at a brewery
  21. Brew my own beer
  22. Volunteer at organic farm
  23. Volunteer with a farm at the St. Pete farmer’s market
  24. Kayoga
  25. Become a kayak guide
  26. Organize a fundraising pub crawl/scavenger hunt
  27. Do photography at any events/outdoor thingy
  28. Go to the drive-in!!
  29. Go to a crochet meeting (Sacred Grounds Coffeehouse)
  30. Go to pick-your own fruit orchards
  31. Take classes at the Hillsborough extension office
  32. Hike the barrier islands
  33. Join the coast guard auxiliary
  34. Cooking/dinner party
  35. Cocktail party
  36. Book club/used bookstore
  37. Volunteer at botanical gardens
  38. Work with USF to create searchable database for native plants
  39. Go visit the springs in florida
  40. Fishing
  41. Join a search and rescue team
  42. Scuba diving
  44. Find an independent movie theatre
  45. Volunteer usher at Tampa Theatre
  46. Go to the Thai Buddhist Temple in Palm View on a Sunday for the Thai Market
  47. Get involved in local sports
  48. Swimming at free pools
  49. Join the Tampa Bay Couch Surfing crowd for an event
  50. Dance lessons
  51. Surfing
  52. Blues jams/jazz lounges
  53. Meditation
  54. Young professional get togethers
  55. Bowling – big lebowski style
  56. Wine tastings
  57. Be a representative for a alcohol company
  58. Be a nude model
  59. Go to the comedy club
  60. Habitat for humanity!
  61. Watch rugby
  62. Film festival
  63. Woodcrafter’s club of tampa
  64. Go to bingo nights or host a bingo night at the house or have a bingo night at the bar for charity
  65. Florida Nature Conservancy events – VOLUNTEER
  66. Get a boat captain’s license
  67. Become a master naturalist
  68. Become a master gardener
  69. Beerfests – volunteer
  70. Music festivals in the area or far away
  71. Join the Davis Island Yacht Club sailing team
  72. Become a weekend dog walker!
  73. Go on a cruise
  74. Become a wine-rep/wine tasting person
  75. Be a local tour guide in Ybor or St. Pete
  76. Go to Tampa indoor shooting range
  77. Buy a sewing machine and make clothing
  78. Make jewelry
  79. Learn web design/html
  80. Join Tampa Bay Grotto – go caving!!
  81. Go to local wine tastings
  82. Attend fishing seminars
  83. Volunteer at FWRI
  84. Get a fishing rod and start going out!
  85. Go to florida sportsman show
  86. Take classes at NATA – Natural Areas Training Academy
  87. Go to Lebowski Fest
  88. Go to the beach theater – st. pete indi movie theater
  89. Go to a film series event at the Salvadore Dali museum
  90. Tampa Museum of Art – Art After Dark program
  91. Artists Unlimited Gallery
  92. Florida Museum of Photographic Arts
  93. Hyde Park Jazz Festival
  94. Do one ESRI self-study module every 2 weeks
  95. Go to the everglades
  96. Go to Miami
  97. Go to Key West
  98. Go to New Orleans
  99. Bike to work
  100. Make a large map of all the preserves and public lands in SWFWMD district
  101. Volunteer with Tampa Bay Watch
  102. Volunteer at the Ocean Conservancy
  103. Check out some local restaurants
  104. Go see more local music!

Why this list?

So I've decided to expand this blog a bit. It will no longer be about just playing in the mud and enjoying nature, but it will also be about experiencing life. Having moved from Tampa to Baltimore to be with my mother while she went through cancer treatments (she's doing great now!), I realized that although I had lived in Tampa for almost 2 years, a lot of the things I wanted to do there didn't happen. Why not? Well, you know how life gets when you get into routines or you get stressed out! So now I'm getting a chance to go back to Tampa and I feel like it's my second chance to live in this interesting city and actually do all those cool things I always wanted to. So I made a list!

I will post it shortly...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tampa Escapades List Description

So, as most of you know, I've been away from Florida for the past year...and let's just say I'm antsy. It's been really great being up in MD with Mom and seeing the family a lot and everyone's support has been amazing! (Mom is doing well, if you haven't heard!) BUT...the time has come for me to get back to all the debauchery that most people in their 20s partake in daily.

Looking back on the 2 years that I spent in Tampa (2006 and 2007) I realized that my weekly routine gets a bit, well...routine! I work consistently during the week, play on the weekends, wake up Monday morning and start it all over again. It's not that I didn't have fun, probably too much fun, but in retrospect, I still haven't done all the things I want to do in Tampa. Can you believe that I lived there for 2 years and I've never been to Miami, Key West or the Panhandle? I've gotten involved lightly in some volunteering activities and local groups, but heading up an initiative I'm passionate about is what I'm really striving for. There should be an efficient way to combine my social life with building myself into the person I want to be. This has been a lot to think about. So, I had to get organized.

I've created a working list of about 100 things I want to do when I get back to Tampa. These are things in all aspects of life. And most of them are pretty fun! I'd love to have my friends (you all) involved with whatever strikes your fancy. Who wants to start on my list of Tampa Escapades?

If you think you want to help me accomplish some of my goals or just come along for the ride, then please leave a comment and let me know!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Port Canaveral Field Day

I recently had the opportunity to go down to Port Canaveral for some field work and boy was it fun to be out of the cubicle!! I felt like a fugitive who had just escaped a horrible prison, as if I had to keep looking over my shoulder to make sure my bosses weren't running after me with unfinished reports and expenses.

The pictures from the day turned out ok, but don't really capture the full feeling of it. It was overcast, but in my mind, any day in the field is just beautiful.

Part of the project was to field verify some seagrass mapping. This is a thick area of Shoal Grass (Halodule wrightii). Also present in significant amounts but in slightly deeper areas was Star Grass (Halophila engelmannii). Here's a great website for seagrass ID.

This area, known as the Banana River, has lots of bird rookeries and we saw everything from pelicans, osprey, terns, and more.These pelicans felt the need to guard the property. They just wanted us to know we were on their turf, fair enough.

And this dolphin has obviously been fed by fisherman over the years. He actually came up alongside the boat and begged for food by doing tricks and then look up at us!

We were threatened by thunderstorms all afternoon, but never saw any lightning, so we just kept plugging along with work and got a good long day of field work in.