Monday, December 31, 2007

Amber & Good Times

I officially missed a blog day for the first time yesterday. Sad. But it was because I had such a fun-filled day with friends! I came in Saturday night and had dinner with CRD, James, Alisa, Nick, Matthew and Shelley at Baluchi's whose kitchen was closing as we sat down. Then, I watched a Mary Tyler Moore with CRD, Nick and Tyler which was about Mr. Grant's birthday. Then, on Sunday morning, we went to The Smith and had brunch before running shopping errands at Kiehl's, Ricky's, Sunrise Mart, and Uniqlo.

(Alisa, Jimmy, CRD, Tyler, Nick and Diana)

Then, I had dinner with Harriet & Perry, Diana and Nick at Indochine. I had a fancy snapper that was served whole with eyeballs! Then, we went to visit Kevin in his sick bed. (Feel better, Little Kevin Buddy!)
(Photo By Diana)

Today, Nick, CRD and I had brunch at the Connecticut Country Grill place in CRD's hood. I had a burger.

Next, I'm going to watch programs with CRD before heading uptown for the beginning of New Year's Eve festivities. Whew! Such good times!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Amber & The Suitcase

In 2004, I moved to Madisonwisconsin. This necessitated real luggage for traveling back and forth to New York and other places. I wanted a wheelie bag but they were a little more expensive than I could justify. Luckily, CRD and I found the perfect bag at K-Mart for only $19.95. We had some concerns about its durability, but decided even if it only lasted a couple of trips it would be worth its cost.

I'm pleased to say that the bag is still in great shape and raring to go for my NYC trip tonight! Tonight's plan is to visit with Jimmy and his kitties and drop off bags and then have a nice group dinner at Café Spice in midtown. Then, we're on for programs at CRD's house.

I'm super excited!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Amber & Pre-Flight Checklists

Tomorrow, I am traveling to New York for a year-end visit. Today, I am finishing up my budget for Finance and then going straight to my last night of Zoo Lights volunteering, and then home to plan for my trip. My remaining tasks include:

- laundry (so I have clean outfits to wear),
- cat sitter prep (a note, a check, leaving food and paper towels out, covering the couch),
- packing (including fitting my liquids into smaller containers and deciding on a versatile coat),
- figuring out how to carry my bag of bulky presents (pillows? are voluminous),
- charging my Nano,
- spending time with kitties,
- cleaning out the fridge, and,
- going to bed early.

That last task is because I am volunteering at the ape house tomorrow before heading out for the train. Tomorrow at this time, I'll be raking gorilla-pooped hay, but Sunday at this time, I'll be getting ready for brunch with my NYC friends. Scoopy!

Bye, bye, Zoo Lights and DC!
Still, I'll miss snuggles with my kitties.
(Photos by James)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Amber & The Wildness of Animals

Some readers expressed dismay that I blogged about lip balm yesterday when there was the real noteworthy news of a Code Greened Tiger to discuss. As you've probably heard, four-year old Siberian tiger Tatiana somehow sprouted wings and escaped her moated enclosure, killed a man, and mauled two others. Tatiana was shot while attempting to finish off the third victim. Sad for both the people and Tatiana.In the Koko the gorilla documentary I watched last night, the San Francisco Zoo director in 1978 outlines the zoo-keeper complaint against the Koko project: it denies her of her essential gorilla-ness. This seems to be the complaint of the keepers I volunteer with as well; they don't think that it's right for Koko to live outside a family unit in a trailer and wear a leash. And, it's true that in the film Dr. Penny at one point reprimands Koko for biting Michael, a perfectly normal adolescent gorilla behavior. Zoo keepers recognize that the zoo is an artificial environment, but they try to restore as much "wildness" to the animals as is safe and serves their purpose of education, research and conservation. Of course, the orangs eat cooked pasta and work on computers and the gorillas play with plastic stools, but they try to maintain their "wild" social dynamics without much interference.

It seems like a bind to me. You want to exhibit wild animals, but by necessity you need to control their reproduction and health and environments. But, there's always that risk that they may become more "wild" than you allow. I don't worry about this with our apes but it's always on my mind; we follow the safety rules very carefully but they are seven times stronger than a person of the same weight and they're definitely very "ape."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Amber & Peach Lip Balm

I'm sure most Amber & readers know that I am very fond of lip balm. Some might suggest that fondness is slightly obsessive, but I ask what is wrong with having concern for the suppleness and sheen of one's lips? Not a thing, I think.

When Jimmy and Alisa visited for Zoo Lights, the bought me a really nice balm from a company called BlueQ. The product is called "Get Real Peaches" and I love it. I love the artificial peach flavor of Peachy-O's but, apparently, real peaches are even more delicious. It's also a solidly performing balm. Thanks, Jimmy and Alisa!

(Photo by James)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Amber & Amy's P.S.

P.S. Merry Christmas!

Amber & Code Green

Santa was up to mischief this year and brought me my first Code Green at the zoo. I was down at Gibbon Ridge with Keeper Becky a little before the goal departure time of noon. We were handing out today's enrichment of cooked pasta with papaya and tomato sauce (my recipe) when we heard a bird keeper call one on the radio. A Code Green means that an animal is out of its primary enclosure. Becky says this happens most in birds, but also in small mammals sometimes. But, it's more rare that an animal gets outside like today's "flighted bird." We listened on the radio for a while as keepers from all areas came to help try to corner the bird. There was even a net gun just in case. The bird was on the roof for a while, and then flew down into a tree, and then was flying around in the valley. At that point, Becky and Lori headed out to help wrangle the bird and I hopped on my bike and headed home.

I sure hope they caught the little guy and brought him back inside!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Amber & The Night Before Christmas

Happy Christmas Eve Day! My employer had last-minute kindness and gave us the day off today, and I plan to use this bonus day to the max. My plans for the day are to...

1. Go to Starbucks and get a decaf misto with the free gift card I got on Friday at Zoo Lights. The cool thing about the misto is that it's not on the menu and it's significantly cheaper than a latte. And it's milky.

2. Go to Safeway for some grocery supplies. I want to make muffins to bring into the zoo when I go to help clean tomorrow morning.
3. Return some movies to Blockbuster. I watched Battlestar Galactica Razor and Rear Window. Reviews forthcoming.

4. Make muffins. (see number 2 above)

5. Pet kitties.6. Relax and wait for Santa.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Amber & Hat Hair

Since August 1989, I have pretty much had the same hairdo: a chin-length bob. It has been different colors and slightly different lengths and of varying quality of cuts (some self-done). Every now and then I decide to get something new. In Madison, the stylist suggested I get "piecey texture." That was bad.

But, for some reason, I always go back to the bob. Recently, I discovered why this is. Apparently, when my hair has layers or style, I get horrible hat hair. This is me post-Zoo-Lights tonight.
According to certain friends, I remember that I like the bob because of hat hair every time I get a layered look in hat season. The worst is that when I brush my hair, it gets slightly better, but still looks like I have a sagittal crest to rival Baraka's.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Amber & Hotdrinks

Kevin taught me long ago that the best way to keep warm during cold weather was to wear a hat and drink hotdrinks. I've recently reduced my coffee intake, so my love of tea has necessarily grown over the past few weeks. DC has a wonderful resource in the Teaism establishment. They have a shop with a delightful selection of loose teas and tea vessels, but they also have an eat-in menu with some Asian-inspired meal items and, my favorite, the ginger scone.

I found the Teaism recipe online and made them for myself and they are just as delicious. But there's something so calming about getting a pot of apricot tea and a ginger scone and sipping slowly while reading about gorillas.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Amber & Terri Beth

I got a very cutie holiday card from Terri Beth this week. Terri Beth is my longest continuous friend. We met freshman year in high school; I was wheezing from hayfever and she offered to let me borrow her inhaler. Terri is beautiful. I have this framed picture of her on display on my bookshelf and she is so pretty that people always think it is the photo that came with the frame.

Terri lived in D.C. at one point and is now a librarian in Hartford. She is smart and reads alot.

I miss Terri Beth and am going to make a point of seeing and speaking to her more in 2008.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Amber & Sushi

Nick is in town and last night we went out for sushi! We used to go for sushi together in Madisonwisconsin and had a favorite place there we called Late Night Sushi and I've since forgotten the real name. Here, we go to a place on the other side of Rock Creek called Tono Sushi. I hadn't been there since Cheetah Class and the menu has mysteriously changed, removing the delightful hijiki salad which had delighted when last Nick was in DC on vet business. But we still got lots of rolls and a nice bowl of udon to share.

Nick didn't try the fish cake, but it's still always nice to see him. Woody was disappointed they didn't get to take Hall Walks together, but maybe next time.

(Photo by James)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Amber & Cary Grant

I love Cary Grant: his perfect dimpled-chin, the dark and dancing eyes, the absolutely bizarre accent. I adore him as the older, presumptuous, rogue bachelor trying to woo ladies into his bed without wedding them first in That Touch of Mink and Indiscreet. I'm tickled by his wackiness in Bringing Up Baby and Arsenic and Old Lace. But he is at his best amidst the tension and mystery of Hitchcock. Among those, Notorious is my all-time favorite.As my former classmate, Cosimo once described, the film is held together by "the kisses...the kisses...the kisses."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Amber & Chronic Sinusitis

It's official: I have my tenth sinus infection of 2007. (Start sending the aluminum and tin.) 2007 has been the year of the perfect storm of health issues for me: stress, allergies, autoimmune woes, a deviated septum and the worst possible environment for someone allergic to mold and mildew. My maxillary sinus on my left (stage right) side of my face is completely filled, despite daily neti potting and use of an intranasal corticosteriod spray.

The current course of treatment is to continue the neti and the spray, but add an antibiotic and get me a referral for an MRI to get a better look at the inflammation and deviation in the passage-way. In the meantime, my face hurts.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Amber & Marie

Even though it involves standing outside in the cold (and wind!) for three and a half hours, I am enjoying volunteering at Zoo Lights. Last night, my fellow ticket taker was a woman from Midtown East named Marie. She comes down to visit her sister who lives in Maryland and they volunteer for all of the special events at the zoo. She was fun to talk to, energetic, and had just returned from a two week trip volunteering at the Cheetah Conservation Fund's center in Namibia.Marie helped out in the office, helped take care of guard dog puppies and walked through enclosures picking up leftover lunch bones where there were cheetahs dozing. She learned that you just can't bend down-- as long as you are taller than the cheetah, it won't consider you pray. I'm not sure how she stooped to get the bones off the ground without getting eaten, but she didn't have any visible bite marks.

I learned all about CCF in Cheetah Class, but Marie really experienced it first hand. I feel lucky to have met Marie and gotten to take tickets with her last night.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Amber & Gorilla Heads

ALH is running around like crazy, so it's me, Amy, guest-blogging for her again. She worked at the ape house from 7 to 3:30 and now has to wash off the lemur poop in her hair, bundle up, and race back to Zoo Lights from 5 to 8:30. It's a very zoo-y day.

She shouted to me as she rushed into the shower that she learned today about why the older gorillas have such high head-backs. It's called a sagittal crest, and it's where the gorilla's powerful jaw muscles anchor. Older gorillas have more powerful jaws, and there's a part of the skull that sort of expands as they get older to allow for the muscle growth.

Silverbacks, the dominant male gorillas, have the most prominent sagittal crests. It's a secondary sex characteristic meant to impress the lady gorillas. Orang utans and my family, the Bili apes have them too.

Mrrow. Look at the head-back on this babe.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Amber & Lazy Saturdays

Hi. I'm Amy and I'm guest-blogging for ALH because she has decided to sleep in today. It has been really hard to wake her up all week; not even the tempting scent of a fresh pot of breakfast congee prevented her from oversleeping this week. She even slept through the flash this morning.

ALH has to wake up pretty soon because she needs to buy cat litter from the cat store which only ever seems to be open on Saturdays and then she's doing another night of Zoo Lights tonight. There was the threat of a winter storm earlier which threatened to cancel the event, but it looks pretty clear outside now. I sure hope she's up by 5.

(Photos by Amy, including self-portrait in mirror)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Amber & Cocktail Hour

When Kevin & Diana visited last weekend, we took shelter from the cold and full bladders in the Off The Record bar on the lower level of the Hay-Adams Hotel. The ladies room has cloth hand towels and Molton Brown hand soap and moisturizer. The bar has cocktails, wasabi peas, and big comfy chairs that made Diana look like royalty as she sipped her "Autumn Leaves" cocktail. I don't remember what was in it, but it smelled good and Diana seemed to enjoy it.
Kevin had an Oban neat with a water on the side. He also enjoyed a brief moment where it appeared, on the bar TV, that the Lions were beating the Cowboys. This is that joyous instant.
I had a whiskey toddy made with CC and served with a lemon in those nice little lemon cloths. I only drank half because in late 2007, I have Self Control.

We were warm and happy when we left the bar for the S2 bus home.

(Photos by Kevin, except the one of Kevin which is by Diana)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Amber & Baby Jymmy

My office does a nice holiday program with the Salvation Army called Angel Tags where you choose a gift tag with a child's name and age and buy that child an outfit and a toy. I selected Jymmy, who is 6 months old. One of my co-workers picking his tag at the same time as me seemed to be selecting his tag very carefully and explained his criterion was for the child to be the same age as his own child. I said my goal was to pick a child with at least two Y's in his name.

Kevin & Diana helped me pick out the gifts. For the toy, I got Jymmy a cloth book with a high-relief dog face on the front and a cloth bone toy to hide on different pages. For the outfit, I got a long-sleeve thermal onesy with blue stripes and a blue cotton pull-on pant.

I hope Baby Jymmy and his mom like his gifts. I just have to run out to CVS and get a gift bag and some tissue paper and then the gift will be ready to go to its recipient.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Amber & Highland Gorillas

There are two main species of gorillas. Baraka and his family group and most gorillas found at zoos are Western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). Rarest of all, with generous estimates at under 700 left in the wild and none in captivity, are the mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) which are a subspecies of the Eastern gorilla. Mountain gorillas are the subspecies studied extensively by my hero Dian Fossey. The distinguishing characteristic property of mountain gorillas is their furriness. They were featured on a 60 Minutes segment with Anderson Cooper. I want to someday see them in the wild too. They're beautiful.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Amber & Koko

I love Koko. I have loved her since I was wee and first read Koko's Kitten. She's a beautiful animal and an excellent ambassador for conservation. I definitely believe Koko is communicating through sign language, and that her view of the world is distinctly gorilla.

The keepers I work with at the zoo tend to frown on Koko and Dr. Penny because they think that Koko's environment and the project are excessively anthropomorphizing. At the zoo, there is no direct contact with the apes-- all feeding and interacting happens through the mesh. Koko watches TV and spends a good amount of time playing with human toys. I disagree that this robs her of her gorilla-ness. It may add some humanity but I think Koko remains a "fine animal gorilla."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Amber & Squirrel Nutkin

This morning when we woke up, Woody and I discovered that Squirrel Nutkin had left an acorn necklace hanging from the door of the dresser!
We knew it was Squirrel Nutkin because he had left necklaces for Diana's class after they gathered acorns and gave them to the squirrels in the park. I'm not sure what I did to deserve my necklace, but I am very grateful that Squirrel Nutkin paid me a visit.

I'm pretty sure it wasn't Squirrel Nutkin who left the clock after Awesome Club. I think that was Squirrel CRD.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Amber & Friendly Visits

Kevin and Diana drove down to DC to come to Zoo Lights last night! They had fun seeing the tiny deer, the holiday lights and eating kettle corn. They also coached me in my exit interviewing, and then Diana awarded a child who completed the scavenger hunt a sticker. The zoo is always looking for volunteers. Then, we had nice conversation and sugar plum spice tea back at my house. Diana has a joyous laugh that makes me happy.

Today, we are going to do stuff of an undetermined nature. I'm sure whatever we do, Kevin won't need his bicycle helmet, but I might need my puff coat.

I love my friends super much. (Photos by James Felder.)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Amber & Farm News

From the latest Karl's Farm CSA Newsletter:

I'm sorry to say we no longer have excess eggs for sale. It always happens, we build up a flock, orders flood in and then the hens either stop laying or get themselves eaten by unforeseen predators. We lost three of our best layers to a neighbor's dog a little while ago. The neighbor had no idea his dog was a killer and has kept him confined since I told him, but we are still down by three laying hens. Them our four oldest hens have gone into a moult-- if you have never seen a moulting chicken I would advise you to keep it that way-- ugly just doesn't do justice to it. Moulting hens do not lay eggs. We have a plan-- we are building a new, larger, chicken house and will be getting more chicks.
Which is sadder? The loss of the chickens or the eggs?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Amber & Hazel & Snow

I am not alone in my love of snow-- Hazel loves it too. This was Hazel's first snow since she became a toddler. Wee Baby Hazel certainly experienced some last year, but I doubt she full grasped its meaning at age four months. This year, Amy & David, have a back yard with which to collect the stuff for Hazel's investigation.

I'm sure snow will be one of the topics when next I visit with Hazel in Brooklyn on New Year's Day. I haven't see the young miss since her parents' wedding this summer (which was the nicest day) and so we have quite alot of catching up to do. Other topics will likely include walking, eating raspberries, and being on the big kid side of daycare.

(Photo by Proud Mother Amy Borrell)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Amber & Wool Pants

I love wool pants. I broke out my charcoal wooly pants yesterday during the snowstorm and spent the day appreciating both their warmth and their fashionability. I'm not talking about wool dress pants-- I'm talking about warm, wooly pants that look like they're fresh from the sheep. Donegal Tweed is my favorite.
My awareness of wool pants developed back in the early 90's when Kevin bought a pair of German WWII woolen army pants from Sierra Trading Post. They were great. They had fastens around the ankles and pockets and a button-fly. Kevin loved those pants, although I think they ultimately succumbed to a wool moth invasion. They looked something like these below.

Ahhh, good pant times.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Amber & Winter

It's snowing today in DC!

There are several things I love about winter. I love winter clothing: sweaters, long johns, fleece, puffy coats, hats, scarves, mittens. I love winter beverages: hot chocolate, tea, mulled cider. And I think snow is the prettiest. I find the experience of walking in falling snow to be very grounding; it reminds me that I am a tiny person on a huge planet and there are these epic weather patterns that are bigger than me. It's downright magical.

But at the same time, I have poor ability to generate body heat and hate being cold. This winter, I've actually been quite comfy outside with my layering strategy. But, in my office all day I shiver and freeze. Today, I am wearing long johns, wool pants, a t-shirt and a sweater along with the oft-mentioned puff coat at my desk. And I am still chilly. I'd be better off lying down in a snow bank outside.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Amber & Bones

My favorite program in current rotation this winter is Bones. I love those science-filled forensic procedural shows, but CSI: Pick A City is a bit too prurient for my TV-viewing tastes in its interest in all the lurid details of the corpses. Bones promised to bring the science and great characters and take place right here at the "Jeffersonian Institution" in Washington, DC. The first season was great. As a forensic anthropologist, Dr. Brennan delt with bones. Although there were gruesome murders, the analysis of the bones was, well, as clean as a bone.

Season Two has gotten more juicy. They added a coroner to the cast who now enables them to deal with more fleshy bodies. And, there are scarier serial murder plot lines! But I love Dr. Temperance Brennan and Agent Seeley Booth. And I love all of the squints: Zack and Hodgins and Angela. Why can't there be more clean science and less gore?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Amber & Layers

This weekend was my first volunteering at Zoo Lights. I am working the registration area, collecting tickets, handing out programs, and answering visitor questions. I love greeting the public and the zoo is very easy for me to be enthusiastic about. But, all of these activities are done outside, so dressing appropriately to stand around for three-and-a-half hours has been challenging!On Saturday, it was incredibly chilly and I wasn't dressed quite warm enough, but last night I got it right. I wore midweight long johns on top and bottom......a pair of nylon pants with a pair of rain pants over them...
...and on top I wore my very cat furry fleece jacket...
...and then my puff coat (featured here with Amy & David, who I did not wear last night)...

...and my rain coat.To finish off my look, I wore my Madisonwisconsin boots and carried a novelty umbrella. (Tthe importance of an umbrella was suggested by Kevin during a consultation before the event.)
I was completely cozy and fashionable!