Monthly Archives: December 2016

Lil Girl Released to the Sea.

Another post about turtles.

Embryogenesis Explained

Yesterday we attended the hatching of a loggerhead sea turtle named Lil Girl. Lil Girl had been a resident of Gulf Specimen Marine Lab since she failed as a test subject on a turtle exclusion device. She was one of several hatchlings who were taken from Florida, transferred to Galveston Texas where she was raised by NOAA until she was the perfect age and size to stand in as a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle in experiments on mandatory equipment used by shrimp fishermen that allow turtles to be excluded instead of drowned.

Turtle exclusion devices are, in my opinion, the very best of humanity in action. Instead of simply railing at evil of humans who accidentally kill turtles as by-catch a constructive solution was researched, developed and then tested. The problem is solved in a rational and practical way that still allows humans to eat shrimp. This wonderful and incredibly…

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Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid

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After we finished viewing the Moody Gardens Rain Forest Pyramid we again took advantage of the Senior on Tuesday special where you can get into a pyramid for $10 and we took in the aquarium. Unfortunately for us, the aquarium is undergoing a major renovation so about half the displays were shut down. This was disappointing but we still had a great time because the big aquarium, the shark tank, the seal tank and the penguin habitat were open. The penguins are absolutely delightful to watch and they seem as curious about the visitors we we were watching them. They had several different species many of whom were swimming about and more than once they would swim right up to the class to look at us.

I noticed many of the fish in the aquarium were doing the same thing. About half of them just went about their business ignoring us but about one quarter actively approached the glass and interacted with us as if we were entertainment. The angelfish in particular seemed to find us fascinating. The last one quarter of the fish were very shy and could be startled if we moved quickly so we didn’t. They stayed well away from the glass. The aquarium is beautifully designed with many glass insets so you can get right up and almost into the tank.

The seals were also fun to watch. They are so fast and graceful. The seals are rescues who have lost an eye or two and are deemed unfit to return to the wild. How did that blind seal manage to move around so quickly and so easily without bashing into the glass?

The last display was the shark tank. It is a big tunnel the same as the tunnel at Assiniboine Park where you can see polar bears swimming above you. Here is a great white shark about four feet long. Frankly the polar bears put on a better display. The shark just did this random swim looking ominous.

If you are in Galvaston and you qualify as a senior (and then let you decide, they don’t check ID), be sure to check out Moody Gardens on a Tuesday. $5 per pyramid and well worth the wonder. Allow at least two hours per pyramid. There is a lot to to see. And wear proper shoes because it is also a lot of walking although if you need assistance the facility is fully accessible.

Moody Garden Rainforest Pyramid

Another great Galveston deal is that they have a special price for seniors at Moody Gardens. For $5 you can walk any of the big pyramid displays. We decided to do two of them, the Rain Forest pavilion and the aquarium. Now I should start with a caveat here, that being I normally avoid places wild animals are on display for profit. However I heard some good things about the Moody Gardens and I am glad I went.

One thing I really appreciated was that their reptile displays also had separate explanations about why reptiles make very poor pets and how damaging the reptile pet trade is to these gorgeous but vulnerable creatures. We got to see many reptiles and amphibians from teeny tiny little frogs in magnificent colours to huge Komodo dragons and monitor lizards. And there were many matching explanations on how they don’t make good pets. They had a few stunningly beautiful large Amazon parrots and again I was pleased to note big displays about why these long lived birds do not make good pets and how devastating the pet trade is on the wild population especially how many birds die to get one to a pet shop. They included a display on what kind of birds you can have as pets and they recommended only captive bred finches, pigeons and one other domesticated bird.

We also got to some totally new creatures, fresh water rays. We are very familiar with rays from Gulf Specimen Marine Lab but I had no idea there were lovely and beautifully patterned fresh water rays in the Amazon. I love finding out completely new things. We got there for feeding time and I also learned they have a vigorous breeding program. All the animals on display are females. Males are kept in the research areas and used for spawning. This ensures there is no cross breeding between the brightly patterned species types. As is so often the case, the guy doing the feeding knew an enormous amount about the creatures he cares for even if he was not one of the resident scientists.

The rain forest pyramid is set up so that you enter at the top of the canopy and spiral around and down to finally reach the forest floor. At each section there is something special featured. One section had lovely bright orange birds who are very tame and happily pose to the camera. There was section full of butterflies, insects raised right here at Moody Gardens. We saw a pair of monkeys and I got to see a tropical rain forest bat almost as big as my house cat. We have bats at home but they are tiny little mouse sized brown bats so it was fascinating to see these really big ones.

Near ground level they had a lot of pools and streams and waterfalls with fish and turtles in the tanks. The water seemed to be really clear and high quality and the animals looked very well cared for. We even saw some axolotls in sparkling good health. And so I am glad I went. it was well worth the mere $10 we were charged.

Galveston Historical Section Walk

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This is the dog sculpture. The tree had grown around the fence but the hurricane took it down. The paws of the dog replicate the way the tree had once grown over the fence. Many of the sculptures also had whimsical holiday additions.

There are a lot of things to do and to see in Galveston. One I can highly recommend is the historical homes walk. I got the idea from my absolute favourite RV blogger Ingrid at Live Love Laugh who posted about it in one of her blogs. There are many ways to do the walk. There is a company with a lovely open bus with padded seats where you can sit and you are driven around to see every site. We chose the cheap one, the self guided walking tour. The full distance of the walk is five miles. We started at the Galveston visitors centre, a move I highly recommend, and left with two pamphlets. One is a map of all the historical points of interest and one is a map of special tree sculptures.

The tree sculptures have a special history. In 2008 Galveston was flooded and damaged by hurricane Ike which landed as a category 2, near to category 3. Many homeowners lost beloved giant trees. Some of the homeowners arranged to have artists come in and carve the stumps and denuded skeletons in beautiful wood carved memorials.

Each historical house also has a sign explaining who built the house, why it is considered historical and information on the style of the building. One of the things that makes Galveston architecture so interesting is new European immigrants brought their home building styles with them and so you end up with Italian and German and English houses beside each other.

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The homeowners in the historical area take their responsibility very seriously and the majority of the homes were beautifully maintained and had gorgeous yards. A large part of the pleasure of the walk is enjoying the gardens. And many of the homeowners were out and they were all friendly and happy to chat with the tourists.

The walk took us about two and half hours because we took in so much and we quit halfway through. If you enjoy such things I recommend doing it in two sections. Best of all, it’s free!

Wants versus needs.

Staying in a tourist place with lots of trinkets and stuff for sale has really helped me zone in on the wants versus needs dilemma. Everywhere I went I saw lovely items for sale. Being a tourist place they were also for sale at well above the price of a typical retail outfit.

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This hat is a good example of wants versus need. It’s a darling, cute, little hat. The sparkly butterfly is delightful. Everything about it is something I want. The price tag was $32 USD which seems to me to pretty steep for a hat. I put it back even though it fit perfectly. I did so because I assessed my want versus my need. I definitely wanted it. Did I need it? No. I hardly every wear headgear and even less often, a baseball cap. I have three already, all gifts or hand me downs. I normally wear one of my baseball caps when I need sun protection while gardening or painting or doing outdoor work. My caps get dirty fast. I would be upset if this one got dirty so I would probably never wear it. Want? Yes! Need? No. I put the cap back and saved $32 USD. One of the ways I get myself to not purchase something is to set it down and congratulate myself on the money I just saved.

I once went into a fancy jewelry store and saw a gorgeous grandfather clock. When I met my husband at the food court I told him I had just saved us $3000.

He went white and said “What did you buy?”

“I did not buy a $3000 grandfather clock.”

There was a recent news story about how four large retailers got into trouble  because they offered things “on sale” for say $999 with the regular price being advertised as $1299. However they never had offered the item for $1299 so $999 was actually the “regular” price. They dishonestly stated the consumer was “saving” $300 if they purchased the on sale item. And certainly when we say “I just saved $300” it feels a lot better that saying “I just spent $999.”

Now if you turn it around and say “I saved $999 by not buying anything at all, in spite of advertising and intense pressure on all of us all the time to give into our wants, that should feel even better.

Speaking of washing machines, we did buy one. I have my little portable for use in the trailer and I could have just used that at home instead of buying a new automatic washer. I suppose the new washer wasn’t really a “need”. But I WANT a proper washer because I don’t want to spend hours doing laundry every day and there is a point when want and need intersect and if you don’t give in you become cheap. I saved money by shopping around and getting a clearance item returned due to a scratch and dint that legitimately was a sale item at 65% less than buying because someone else didn’t want a scratched and dinted washer. It sits int he basement. Do I care if it is scratched and dinted? Nope. There is a big difference between wanting more time for important things and wanting a sparkly hat with a butterfly on it I would never use for $32USD.

I had a grand time at the Dicken’s Fair in historical Galveston. I saved $32 on a sparkly hat. I saved $14 on a “Parking for Worldest’s Greatest Grandpa Only” sign. I saved $93 on a lovely mermaid motif turkey platter. I saved $352 on a clam chowder soup tureen and matching bowls and ladle that was covered with absolutely adorable Disney style crabs, starfish and sea grass in white with sea green and sky blue trim. That tureen was hard to walk away from. I used to have a lovely tureen like that. I used it maybe three times in twenty years. So that one , as gorgeous as it was, definitely qualifies as a want not a need.

Life is good. It is better when we don’t clutter it up with all kinds of things we want, breaking our budgets, and draining the world’s limited resources, by giving in to those wants instead of simply providing for what we really need.

Having Fun in Galveston

We’ve been having great fun in Galveston. It is very much a “tourist trap” place. The old historical centre is absolutely chock full of silly things to clutter your home and waste a lot of money on. Still it’s great fun to shop. And we did shop until we dropped. We just didn’t buy anything. Well that’s not true. We bought table salt, baking soda, and white sugar which I somehow forgot to pack when we left Alonsa but I don’t think that counts. Okay, so Galvaston merchants aren’t going to make a lot on us. One thing I was very sorry about was missing the Dicken’s festival held every year in the first weekend of December. Imagine our delight to find that due to a bad rainstorm the previous weekend, the festival had been postponed so we got to go anyway! We had so much fun. it was a visual feast of people in costume and doing Dicken’s England “things”. In addition to straight up period costumes in exquisite detail there were also a large number of Steampunk Victorians and other marginally correct folks but it was all in good fun. There were many food vendors selling everything from funnel cake to grilled alligator. We wandering the place feasting on the sights sounds and smells and, I am proud to say, not spending any more money than the $8 entry fee. What a pleasure!

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Not My President! Except he is.

I really hesitated to publish this blog. I am not American. I did not vote in the election. My husband is American. I have all kinds of friends and in-laws all over America. I have been deeply hurt by the divisive, angry, rhetoric that has been tearing apart a great nation. Now that the election is over, I think it is time for reasonable people to stop and think and work for some kind of national unity and healing after one of the most bitter elections I have ever seen. That is why I decided to write this blog.

I have had three American relatives, close relatives, cut us off completely this election cycle! I also had more than three friends cut me off. They decided that Trump is racist, sexist, antiSemitic, and a hate monger, and he is so foul a person that not only is he unfit to be president, but anyone who voted from him (even a friend or family member!) is unfit to call themselves a fellow human being. One close relative told my husband he should move to Alabama and join David Duke and the KKK because he belongs there. That is the last message we heard from her. Such a fine demonstration of progressive tolerance and open mindedness. If it were a one off I think I could dismiss it as ‘she is crazy’. But it happened to us several times.

It used to be the one could hold differing opinions and still have a reasoned discussion when it came to politics, or at least that is how I remember it. It used to be that one could respect the democratic process and agree to disagree. Remember debating in high school where we all shook hands and walked out for lunch together? This time, it seems like the hate and anger is so strong that there is no room for any disagreement.

Both sides in this have been awful. There have been all kinds of vicious rumours from the right on the internet alleging things like Hilary was part of a pedophile ring. As disgusting as these hits on Hilary were it seemed to me that the left was far more likely degenerate into name calling and closed minded cutting off of any opinion that didn’t fit the preset mould, and even outright violent oppression. It was not Trump supporters that beat people up, smashed cars, punched old ladies in the face, and tore down signs and intimidated people. Wikileaks and Project Veritas showed those were Hilary supporters, many on the Democratic payroll.

I also did not have any Republican family cut us out of their life even if I called them on the unsubstantiated pedophile story. I think this is because there is a tradition on the right that everyone has a right to free speech and I might 100% disagree with you but I will die fighting for your right to say what you want. There are no safe spaces in the right. It is the left that promulgates the idea that any speech which offends or upsets others should be silenced, not tolerated, and silenced by force if necessary. So when I defended Hilary, those on the right would generally call me names, laugh at me or present counter evidence. When I defended Trump in any way shape or form, the response from those I knew on the left was to label me with a tag, usually “racist”, and all further contact and discussion ended, often with me being blocked if the contact happened to be via social media. Most of my Republican supporting family members also reported being afraid to voice their opinions and afraid to put up signs on their lawn for Trump and afraid to let people at work know their opinion because of their fear of the severity of the backlash against them. Their fear included acts of violence. Not one Hilary supporting Democrat in my circle has said anything about feeling fearful about merely voicing their opinion because of intimidation or violence from friends or family. Not one.

I am a middle sort of person. I do agree with free speech and I don’t agree with safe spaces. I think government is too large and many government policies encourage dependancy and laziness. There should be consequences for making choices like living in an urban ghetto, breaking the law, taking drugs or not working. Yet, I also think gays should be able to marry and to live free from discrimination. I also think the government should not interfere with a woman’s body and a choice about pregnancy should be between a woman and her doctor and their respective consciences because while abortion is the death of an unborn human, it is also not a black and white issue but has multiple shades of grey that the government certainly can’t handle. I think health care is a right not a privilege. I am, in fact, neither right nor left. So it is really shocking to me to find myself labeled a racist, hate monger, antiSemitic, sexist and being told that I am the one full of hate and being cut off and blocked for simply saying what I think, especially when it is family doing it to me. You really hurt my feelings when you did that. Shame on you.

I do think the mainstream media, CNN, Washington Post, New York Times, to a lesser degree MSNBC and NBC and even FOX were extremely biased against Trump. I listened to many of Trump’s speeches in their entirety and I was constantly astonished at the degree of distortion the media spun on it. I heard the first infamous Muslim speech and I was stunned when it became Trump saying banning all Muslims forever. Did CNN and WaPo and NYT hear the same speech I did? I was also shocked how Trump spoke out against illegal immigrants who come to America to commit crimes and then the media suddenly began claiming he was talking about all immigrants all the time. I was shocked when some members of the KKK came out in favour of Trump but he disavowed them but they are STILL talking about that. Yet another KKK group in California came out in favour of Hilary and that never even made the news. I was stunned when a crude locker room conversation about what woman let you do if you are rich (the operative word being “let”, as in “consent”) suddenly morphed in people seriously stating that Trump was a rapist! I happen to think Trump is a boor, crude, difficult and arrogant, and probably a bully, but he is not a racist, nor is he sexist or a hate filled person and he certainly isn’t a rapist. Democrats calling Trump a rapist was especially hypocritical in my eyes when looking at the man who would have joined Hilary in the White House if she had won. And calling Trump an antiSemite? Come on! The man has more Jewish grandchildren than most Jewish American Democrats do. This was the guy who got Blacks and Jews admitted into exclusive Florida clubs they were banned from, who rode at the front of a parade supporting Israel when no one else would, and who has awards from the NAACP and other community organizations for his good works. If my only news source or knowledge of Trump had been via the sources like Washington Post, I too would likely be living in shocked horror at the idea this evil man had been elected. I just don’t think he is so evil based on what I heard come out his mouth (in its entirety, in context) and what I read about the man outside of what the mainstream media had to say.

I also made a point of reading the Wikileak’s Podesta collection. It was a lot of slogging through a lot of unimportant detail but it did prove to my satisfaction two things about Hilary Clinton. I am convinced she lied about the email server both in her intent for having it and the content of what went through the server. Comey may have been right that there was not enough to justify charging her but there was, in my opinion, more than enough to make me decide she was a liar and therefore unfit to be president. I do not accept “All politicians lie” as an acceptable defense. I also think the Podesta collection of emails showed enough about pay to play for me to decide she is probably also corrupt. And I have no doubt whatsoever that her rapist husband is a far worse sex pervert than any “she let me do some pussy grabbing” Trump may have been guilty of. That is my opinion. I am allowed to have an opinion even if you don’t like it.

Given a choice between the two, Trump, imperfect as he is, was the lesser of two evils. If I had a vote to cast, which I did not, I would have cast it for Trump. There is even  a possibility he might be good for America. And now, like it or not, recounts notwithstanding, popular vote versus electoral college, enough people in the USA voted for Trump that he is going to be president. President Donald J Trump will be President of the United States of America, duly elected by the rules of the American’s Republic. Get over it! Adapt!

So now what?

I really think it is time for the Trump haters in the USA to stop their incredulous fussing and start dealing with the reality of President Trump. Remember all that stuff Hilary said about how the election process is the bedrock of your democracy and we must all abide by the outcome? Even if she said it when she thought she was clearly going to win and she was directing it at Trump and his supporters, it was true then and it is still true today. If you are both horrified about President Trump and a reasonable person (and the unreasonable ones would have long since stopped reading and blocked me by now anyway) then you owe it to yourself and to your country to try to understand just why people voted for him or chose not to vote for Hilary Clinton.

Even if you disagree with their reasons, you really need to get past simply slapping on the label of sexist, racist, white, male, middle aged, blue collar worker, and walking away from us. I assure you, there just aren’t that many sexist, racist, white, male, middle aged, blue collar workers with no education in the USA to explain the Trump win. And Trump did win. I am sorry if you are living in a bewildered state of disbelief and horror. I am sorry you are worried about how the country to going to hell in a hand basket, and racism and sexism, and antiSemiticism, and hate have just become mainstream and how Trump is going to get mad at someone and push the button and blow us all to Kingdom come. I am merely asking you to consider that maybe, just maybe, you might be wrong about Trump. Maybe, just maybe, you were fed bad information and maybe just maybe, there is something about the man worth respecting. Even if you can’t find it in you to respect Trump the man, at least find enough respect for the office of President of the United States that you can stop hating half you countrymen for voting for the man and respect President Trump.

And if you are one of those Hilary supporters who cut off a friend or relative like their opinions were nothing more a bunch of offensive infectious filth you are better off without, I ask you to please reconsider. Consider apologizing to them for the incredibly horrible things you said to them when you called them racist, sexist, antiSemitic and hate filled ignoramuses. Even if you can’t bring yourself to apologize to them for being a cruel ass, at least call them back and say “Okay, Trump won but we are still in this together. It’s time to move along and be a family or friend again.” And if your Republican friend or family member tells you to take your racist, sexist, antiSemitic, hateful labelling of them and go jump out off the nearest Trump Tower with it, at least any ongoing hatred won’t be your fault anymore.

I miss you. In spite of how horrible you made me feel, in spite of the foul names you called me, I miss you. Can we start again please?