Monday, February 23, 2009

Weekend Adventures and Cooters

Wow, this was a fun-filled weekend!

Saturday morning I woke up earlier than I typically do on weekends. I was trying to make it to a 10:30am yoga class at the YMCA. Unfortunately, even at 10am I'm still struck by the morning sloth syndrome, so I didn't leave the house until 10:20. What made me even later was the fact that I really wanted to ride my bike to the gym considering it's only a 2.5 mile ride and it was a gorgeous day! Well, needless to say, I was zooming through the streets of South Tampa and made it to the gym 5 minutes too late. I would have snuck into the yoga class anyway, but they did the entire class with the lights turned off, so I assumed me walking in, bumping into 2 or 3 people in funny bendy positions, and then un-velcroing my yoga mat, might be a little (just a little!) distracting to everyone's centered energy. So I passed and worked off my frustration by lifting weights in the gym instead. I felt much better after that! I biked north again, stopped at the library (this was a great idea, but those books definitely added some weight to the bike ride), and then headed home. It was about 70 degrees outside and perfectly gorgeous!
Sunday, I decided to continue my relaxing weekend of alone-time, and while Simon headed off to ultimate frisbee, I headed north, in my car this time. I went to the Sweetwater Organic Farm Sunday Farmer's Market where I purchased a few beautiful things (can't tell you, Mom, it's a surprise!) and some amazing mixed greens, yummmm! I swayed to the band playing and watched some hula hoopers before moving on.
Next on the agenda for the day was a little bargain shopping at a place called $5fashions that was recommended by a local blog. The place had somewhat decent clothes, but no dressing room. That's just as bad as shopping from a catalog. I put all the clothes back when I found that out...unfortunately clothes never fits me the way it does on the hanger and I'm not driving back up there to return stuff, because you all know I won't make the trip and then I'll end up with a purple tube top that only fits as a hat. Stop #3 of the day was the Oldsmar Flea Market, recommended to me by Simon's mom Penny. What a cool place! Perfect for this economy. I got there at 3:30 (the produce market closes at 4pm), so I made it just in time for the produce bargains. Everything was $1!!! My final loot from the flea market included onions, mint, tomatoes, mangoes, and three necklaces. Woohooo! I'm definitely going back there. Reminds me of a combination of the small town flea markets/yard sales from Maryland and a mini-carnival (there was funnel cake and lots of stuff no one needs!).

View Larger Map

The final adventure of the day was a trip to the Upper Tampa Bay County Park. I didn't have much time to see the park because I was in a rush to get back to meet Simon to take his parents out for dinner (which was also fantastic!). So I walked around the visitor's center and took a walk to some of the piers surrounded by bay and mangroves. It's definitely someplace I want to go check out again. It's a small park at the northern tip of Old Tampa Bay, but it has some trails and it's a welcome break from the strip malls that surround the area. Here's what I found along some of the trails:
The seedhead from a Bushy Seaside Oxeye (Borrichia frutescens) whose leaves are surprisingly somewhat succulent.

Beginning of a propagule on a red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle). If you want to see more pictures of this plant and others, check out Shirley Denton's awesome photography!

The leaves on black mangroves (Avicennia germinans). The plants grow in salty water along the shores of the bay. How do they tolerate high levels of salt in the water? They have evolved to excrete excess salt through pores on their leaves! Plant, you're so smart!

I typically enjoy the trails more than what the visitor's centers have to offer, but I'm so happy I still ventured into this one because what was inside was really well set up. There were about 10 fish tanks with fish that can be found in the area by habitat and well labeled. There was also one with turtles in it that was my favorite. There were two species in the tank. The Ornate Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin macrospilota) and the Florida Cooter (Pseudemys floridana). That name makes me giggle! But I got my mind out of the gutter and looked it up. According to an entry in Wikipedia, the name "cooter" comes from the word "kuta" which means turtle in some african languages. I'm glad to hear that!

The Florida Cooter (top) and Ornate Diamondback Terrapin (bottom). What a cute pair!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tampa Nightlife

On a crisp night a few weeks back I ventured out on my new bike to try some night photography. My brother and sister-in-law had just given me a really cool birthday gift (thanks!), a remote control for my camera. I was hoping to try some long-exposure night photography from Bayshore Blvd across the bay. The remote control comes in handy because you can step away from the camera and push the button to begin the long exposure without shaking the camera as your pushing the button. Well, since I'm still in the experimental phases with the camera, I've got a lot to learn. According to the fine print on the remote control, you can only use it when the camera is on auto focus. Unfortunately, the photos I was trying to take would only work on manual focus, so I had to scrap the remote control at least for these pictures (don't worry! I'll use it again soon and I'm still really psyched about it!). So instead I put the camera on a delay so it would take a photo after 10 seconds and I put it on 15 second shutter speed. Here's what happened:
What do you think for my first try?

Naked but Green

In what I think was an attempt to clear the Swiss people of their naked reputation (see previous post below), my mom recently sent me a link to another report about the Swiss people. Based on the 2008 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), Switzerland is the greenest country out of the 128 countries that were ranked. Woohooo for the cleanly swiss! So I guess that means that even though we go naked hiking, we're clean in the process. Well, that's probably the best thing you can wish for naked people, squeeky cleanliness!
Streetcleaner in the streets of Locarno, Switzerland (Jan. 2009)

Basically, the Environmental Performance Index is a set of criteria that rates each nation on things like environmental health, ecosystem vitality, environmental politics, and lots of related quantitative indicators. It was developed in a collaboration between Yale and Columbia University. You can see the results in on an interactive map at the EPI website. Switzerland came out on top with a score of 95.5 out of 100!! Sadly the USA sits at #39 with a score of 81.0. The US lost points big points in all of the following categories
  • Ecosystem Vitality (reducing the loss or degredation of ecosystems and natural resources)
  • Climate Change
  • Air Pollution (effects on the ecosystem)
  • Fisheries
  • Emissions per Capita
  • Emmisions per Electricity Generation (greenhouse gas emissions vs. electricity output)
  • Agricultural Subsidies
  • Critical Habitat
  • Marine Protected Areas
Come on USA, we can do better than this! Stop being so greedy!

If you want to read what other people had to say about the EPI take a look at these blogs too:
P.S. Thanks Mom for pointing this out. It's actually much more meaningful than the naked post. Thanks for keeping me on track!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Funny News

I'm a first generation American and my entire family (mom and dad's side) are Swiss. Since I was a little kid, we've taken a trip every year to see the extended family (only my Mom and brother live in the USA). I am so so proud of my heritage! The Swiss people are awesome and the country is extremely beautiful, clean, and breathtaking. I just found a very odd, yet hilarious, piece of news from Switzerland...

Naked hikers face fines in Switzerland

Can you believe that stuff? I find it funny that they blame the Germans too, that's not very nice!

Charlotte County Pine Flatwoods

I had the privilege of going in the field last week to a site in Charlotte County, Florida. It was a beautiful day which started out quite cold, but by afternoon I was stripping off my jacket and scarf and basking in the sun while looking for endangered species on the site. These are not endangered species, but they were part of the beauty I found on the site.Swamp fern - Blechnum serrulatum

Largeflower Rosegentian - Sabatia grandiflora

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

New Direction

When I think about this blog I get excited and I feel like I want to write about everything. But then, that kind of screws up the "environmental" theme of the blog. But, let's be honest, I've never been good with sticking to that theme anyway. So I've decided that I'm going to open up this blog a bit and go in a new direction. I still want to write about things that make me passionate, like the environment. My dilemma is that some days it's not nature or the environment that got me excited, it's something else. Some days it's music, a photograph, a new gadget I never knew existed, or something in the news. I want to be able to blog about those types of things. I'm still going to put up lots of pictures and cool things I find in the outdoors, but unfortunately it's not everyday that I get to be outside and enjoying the beauty of the more wild places.

Oh, and another reason, life is short. Even though some days aren't the greatest and some days I get blue, I want to be able to find something beautiful or exhilerating about every day. Now, that's a really hard thing to do when you're having one of "those days," but I'll do my best. I live without regrets...and not enjoying at least a moment of every single day is something I would regret, looking back on all this.

Ok, enough of the seriousity (new word)!

In the gym today I put my iPod on shuffle and came up with this really fantastic song that kind of describes how I'm feeling (but in a good way!):

Justin Townes Earle - I don't care

(P.S. sorry I can't post music here, or at least, I don't know how to legally, so I'll send you to another site where you can listen to the song and even download it if you want to.)

And here's some info about the guy - I really like his other songs as well. He's only 25 years old (doh!, that means I'm already a year older than him!), and he has an interesting history of troubled days.


Although former President Bush did everything in his power to stall science and refused to admit that climate change was actually happening, we're finally making some progress! President Obama appointed Steven Chu, a nobel prize winner in physics, as our new Secretary of Energy. Let's just say, he's a pretty bright guy. On Tuesday (my birthday!), he had his first interview since he took office. He not only admitted that climate change is a real thing, but he also says it's something that is really going to affect us very very quickly. Within this century, of which there are only 91 years left, he predicts major water shortages in agricultural areas such as the Mid West and California. That's scary considering we get pretty much all of our food from those places. He estimates that 90% of the Sierra snowpack will disappear. Not only is that bad news for tourists and the skiing industry, but, even worse, it's bad news for the major water source for California farms. Now where will we get our lettuce? Either way, I'm really excited that our government is planning to address an issue that I consider to be one of our most important, rather than sweeping it under the rug (eh-hem, Mr. Bush!).Read the whole article here.


So I'm pretty darn excited about our new president. We all have high hopes for him, considering how we're on our knees crying about the economy at the moment, we're still in a war, and our policies and values are all scrambled. I try not to watch too much TV (although it's so darn tempting now that my roommate got us cable), but if you've ever seen MTV shows, you'll find this to be an entertaining and somewhat accurate portrayal of President Obama's first month as a president. Watch this video over at I*Heart*You (a really cute blog I read regularly).

Monday, February 2, 2009

Superbowl Steeler Success!

After graduating high school, I had a loose connection to football and had learned the rules of the game from some very patient friends from Fallston High School and C. Milton Wright High School, but I couldn't pledge my allegiance to any one team. Of course once I started school at Penn State, they became my college football team (and what an awesome team to claim as my own!). As a student at Penn State you had an obligation to pretty much choose between the two major Pennsylvania rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles. And my choice...the Steelers! This came about for several reasons:
  1. some of my friends were big fans and took the time to acquaint me with the players and the amazing defensive line
  2. I really like Pittsburgh as a town and the people are super friendly and hard working
  3. and there were too many nights when really inebriated Eagles fans were up at 4am shouting the annoying Eagles chant "E.A.G.L.E.S, EAGLES" at the top of their lungs just under my bedroom window (that's just uncalled for!)
And thus, the Steelers became my NFL team. And boy did I pick right! The Steelers won the Superbowl this weekend which was coincidentally held in Tampa. Now, although there was no way I was getting tickets to the game itself, I decided that this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity. When would I ever have this kind of luck again...not only was the Superbowl in the same town I was living in, but my favorite team was playing in it. I had to go out and support them. So with a little help from my landlady and a lot of help from my boyfriend and his friend, Rebecca, I made it to a Tampa Superbowl tailgate!! Woohoo!!