Monday, March 24, 2008

been moving

It has been a while since I wrote anything because I have been busy moving out of my place in Alameda, driving all the junk, and I do mean junk, up to my storage unit in Chico. I finally got all of it out and I am now down at my dad's in so Cal. I will be posting some more as soon as I get some projects done here. I will also be heading to Panama on the 7th of April, so look for some new postings with pictures!!!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Sailing 2: Ensenada to Hautulco

Again - this is from an email that I sent to everyone which I have posted pretty much as it was:

Where to start......First, I want to say sorry for the long email but I haven´t sent anything since the hand incident (it is doing fine by the way) and feel free to skim through this if long emails cause you significant amounts of pain: I feel that way often. Also, I may be off on the dates a little but hey thats the way it goes and the events are all real or based reality, mine that is.

We (Rusty, myself and one of Rusty´s best friends John M. who was the man!) left Ensenada around 3 in the afternoon on the 24 of April for what should have been a 4 day trip to Cabo San Lucas and sailed out of the bay with beautiful skies and a nice wind, sailing south for approximately 8 hours. (I actually didn't write this in the email but when we went to fill up with diesel, we didn't know the caps for water and fuel got switched when the deck was in short, through a closed vent tube, we somehow dumped 40 gallons of diesel onto Rusty's clothes which smelled FOR A LONG TIME).

We drank a toast to the trip and looked forward to the next few days. After my shift at the wheel, I went below for some rest while John took the wheel. Somewhere around 11pm I think, I awake to an incredibly loud bang that sounded like we had hit something and jarred the whole boat, followed by sounds of John and Rusty yelling about and moving around. Apparently the winds had changed and caused us to accidentally jibe due to changes in wind direction (basically, the boom for the main sail which was on one side of the boat tried to swing all of the way over to the opposite side and if it were not for the jibe preventer which is basically a pulley and some rope, the boom would have taken out the rigging (metal wires) holding up the mast. As it was, the event only put a 4 foot crack in the boom which we didn't find out for another couple of days when we finally got out of what the weather people for mariners called the evil front but we didn't know this at the time. For the next 48plus hours we were slammed with 40knot winds, 40plus gusts and up to 18 ft seas, which caused us to lose out steering after around 40 hours (we had a manual emergency control) which we used to limp into a small fishing village off Isla Cedras. However, the port isn't really open to sailboats and we had to call the US Coast Guard and have them call the port to get permission. The marina navy came out armed with M16´s which was a sight but were extremely friendly and guided us into the harbor where we fixed our steering and a few other things while we got some serious rest. We were somewhat popular in the town, one guy came up and offered us soap, I think and manicures from his wife (He thought Rusty might have his wife on board I think), a group of middle school boys in uniform came out to say hi in a 12 foot panga, and we were not sure if they were gonna board us or what, but eventually they just smiled and wanted some candy which we readily gave. We got a full night of sleep and we were on our way to Cabo.

We motored along for about 8 more hours (I think this was around Thursday the 27th) where we hit some more wind and swells but was what we had expected from our Master´s Weather report (this is the service all of the sailing racers etc use) so everything was okay for a day or so but then we started having problems with the voltage in our batteries. I will spare all of you the details of this part of the trip but basically, due to some design flaws in the electrical system and maybe user error one battery became over-charged and was off-gassing hydrogen gas, one battery was dead (the one powering our radar and gps systems) and 4 golf cart batteries were left sitting there fully charged and not being used (we didnt know this till after we got to Cabo). I spent the last 40 hours coming in to Cabo watching the battery systems and switching think around to get as much power as possible while still not causing a fire or blowing up the boat. Needless to say, Rusty was a bit weary, as we all were when we pulled in to Cabo around 11 in the morning on the first of May, I think. John M raced off the boat to catch his plane back to Atlanta, and Rusty went to the boat yard to get an electrician. Eventually, we got everything fixed (a couple new 150lb batteries which we had to install - they were heavy) and the electrician re-wired the system: and left us with a nice wiring diagram.

Kristiaan showed up on Thursday the 3rd and we were off across the sea of cortez to Puerto Vallarta. This time the trip was great and beautiful as we started feeling like we were in the tropics which technically I think we were after crossing the Tropic of Cancer. Rusty made it to a wedding for his wife´s best friend in Puerto Vallarta by at least an hour. The wedding was in the town of Conchas Chinas Beach (right next to Puerto Vallarta) at a place called Casa Tres Vidas - which I highly recommend if anyone is thinking of heading to Puerto Vallarta.

Rusty decided to get some general maintenance performed on the diesel engine (injectors serviced, oil change etc) which was easier to do at the marina then at sea so we hung out for an extra week during which time Rusty took a trip back to Florida and Cori came down to visit for a few days.

Another friend of Rusty´s showed up in Vallarta, Reb, and while we were waiting for the mechanic to be available we headed about 6 miles away to an anchorage in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle for 3 days. Now my favorite dish so far in Mexico, is roasted chicken with tortillas which we eat any time we find a new place and we have probably tried about 12 places so far. In my opinion, the best so far has been at the little beach in La Cruz where a young girl and her grandpa had a little stand on the beach with spice-rubbed chicken BBQ´d over some fresh mesquite with some great roasted pepper salsa in a mason jar; all of which was washed down with a fresh pineapple fruit that was mashed up with oranges,papaya, limes, and picante sauce which was served back in the pineapple....mmmmm.

Eventually we took off on the the 10th of May from Puerto Vallarta heading south where we stayed one night at Bahia Tenacatita which was beautiful, and then motored down to Zihuatanejo, arriving on wednesday the 16th. We went fishing and had our fresh catch cooked for us on a little beach which was great, did a bunch of laundry and then kicked Reb off (back to Florida) and Rusty and I headed down to Huatulco on around the 18th .

Sailing 1:Ensenada

This is the original email that I sent to everyone from Mexico at the beginning of the sailing adventure in March 2007. For those that don't know, my buddy Rusty wanted to sail his boat from Ensenada (originally in Long Beach) down to Central America, through the canal and home to Florida, all the while, surf a lot and generally have fun. Sailing 1 and 2 are about the original section from Ensenada to El Salvador (February - June 2007). I pasted the email directly and reading it brings back so many memories; hope you enjoy.

!Hola Amigos!

Wanted to say hi to all and let you know what is going on down in has been muy bueno and the fish tacos are killer. Kristiaan came down for 4 days and we all hung out and worked on Rusty's boat....and drank a lot of cervesa, which has been a hell of a lot of fun except for the fact that my left hand has been out of commission since about 1 hour after entering Mexico. Apparently I dont know the difference between a door and a window in Mexico even though it is the same goddamn AMPM station: you would think telling them apart would be easy and not very different from those in Los Estados Unidos but you'd be wrong. This whole incident may have been caught on a security camera by the way, so if ya find it on youtube let me know - just look for gringo, PEMEX AM/PM in Rosarita and window - maybe stupido as well.

To make a long story short, it looked like a door with aisles, people looking like they were walking right at me from the inside etc....trash can on the side of the door (which I used to throw something in), and a clear path right into the store.....except for the 1 inch thick piece of melted silica which by the way I broke with my cabesa, after which the humongous, razor-sharp pieces of death fell onto my left hand opening a one inch wide, 3.5 inch gash on my thumb as well as opening an approximate 1.5 square inch flap on my palm which doesn't sound like a lot but trust me it was enough.......all of which took 22 external stitches and 3 internal (had to stop the bleeders) when all was said and done. And, not really exaggerating at all, I lost about a half a pint at the store and another half or more at the hospital before they sewed me up: I sat there bleeding on this little table for about 45 minutes and went thru at least a mile of gauze.

All of this was very exciting for Rusty and Kristiaan since Rusty saw my hand leaking like a sieve all over the concrete and I was off in an ambulance to the hospital, which they were following at high speed through Rosarita at about 9 pm Friday. The hospital room was very clean and everyone was awesome but about 5 different people came over and split open my hand to look and gawk, as well as laugh whenever I tried to explain what happened in bad spanish..lots of stupido, cabesa, accidente, yada yada yada. And then someone would look at me, point and they would all laugh - so damned embarrassed. Honestly tho, it was one of my better emergency room experiences.

Funny note - people in mexico are obsessed with their cell phones even more than the states (which is hard to believe) - the doctor even answered his about 5 times while he was sewing my hand back up and the 2 guys helping him kept walking away to chat on their phones/ was hilarious and none of the conversations sounded serious or about work. As for the señoritas/señoras, they just kept walking by and smiling and then laughing..a lot of laughing...a little too much at times actually, but overall it was kinda funny. So, after our little stop, we proceeded to dinner in Rosarita and continued on down to Ensenada.

That's about it. Rusty and I are doing some more work on the sailboat after Kristiaan's departure (the guy was a machine working on the electrical system for 3 days - the electrical was working before but Kristiaan installed some great stuff and cleaned up the a lot of the existing wires etc...) and the invitation is still out to everyone to come on down either to Ensenada (the food is great, cheap and the marina is fantastic with hot showers/facilities and within walking distance of the whole downtown area) or at any time on the trip. The boat is great - lots room for guests, beautiful varnished teak all over the deck, and we even have a couple spare sleeping bags and room for more people.

Audios Amigos

Best thing to do to get noticed for Science Articles: Say "Darwin Was Wrong"

Just a note on how manipulative the media can be, even science writers. I just saw this article and find it amazing that the title says Darwin was wrong about domestic chickens (which he stated over 100 years ago), but if you read the article it states " even though most of the genes in domesticated fowls come from the red junglefowl, at least one other species must have contributed.... it is most likely the case that the grey junglefowl was crossed with an early form of the domesticated chicken". So the domestic chicken came from the red jungle fowl, and was later crossed with the grey junglefowl but Darwin was wrong!!! at least it gets your article noticed I guess.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

First Blog: What and Why

Well, I am currently quitting my job as a biologist for an environmental consulting firm in Oakland Ca (have been a professional biologist for over 7 years now) and heading back to grad school to get my PhD in evolution and behavior at the University of Lethbridge, in Alberta. This blog is primarily a way to let my family and friends see what I am doing and a chance to write about some of the trips and adventures I have been on recently (sailing to El Salvador but walking into a plate-glass window first and my next trip to Panama, field work in Canada, Alaska, and Montana this upcoming summer); more on those later.

I would also like to write about some of the projects and hobbies that I have like trying to be a home improvement guru (and failing but it's always on other people's houses so by the time I get my own I will have it down), flyfishing (John Gierach as well as my buddy C2 are my fishing heroes - if my buddy Chris ever decides to write it down, he will sound a lot like JG which is meant as a real compliment or is he more like AK? I don't know).

As I am heading back into academia which I've really missed over the last 6 years, this blog will also be about science, particularly biology, evolution, behavior, genetics and ecology but I have no illusion that I can write as well as some of my favorite blogs such as EvolutionBlog, Pharyngula, Of Two Minds, Stranger Fruit, Greg Laden's or any number of good blogs at Science Blogs. Regarding some of these "popular" science blogs, some people complain that the big blogs are ruining the small blogs, or in it for the ad $$, yada yada yada.... but the people that write these bloggers are writing good blogs and I wanna read them which is the point, I think. And, I learn a lot from reading their posts as well as the comments by people such as Stacy S., Nigel D., Glen Davidson, David Stanton, XYZ, Windy, Pseudonym, Kevin, and AnnaBanana just to name a few), or TalkOrigins and Panda's Thumb (I will be writing more about these later); therefore I hope that their influence eventually shows up in here and I am glad they are around!

There are a few other topics that are important to me and I will discuss at times such as environmental issues (i.e., organic food/farming, global warming, a little about environmental policy once in a while), evolution and science education related issues (i.e., the fact that creationism and intelligent design are NOT science), atheism/theism, hockey (and how great this sport really is - how I can't believe that NSACAR gets more TV coverage), backpacking, cycling (the Tour of California was great - Brian where are those pics?), and the fact that Jaws is one of the best movies of all time (at least in the top 3) - that's some bad hat Harry!