Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Heron Family

On Friday I headed out to Bolsa Chica again and even though the weather was cloudy and breezy, I got some great shots of the birds. In fact, I wasn't the only one out there with a camera. At about 5 pm, at least 5 other people showed up carrying some serious photography equipment including huge lenses that required tripods to hold them up. I chatted with one woman with a professional-grade Canon and a lens that made my big lens look puny. She said she wasn't a pro, photography was just a hobby, but she had entered her photos in some competitions and won prizes with them. I asked her if I could hold her camera to see how heavy it was—much heavier than my Rebel! Don't know if I want to carry something that heavy around. She didn't really know much about birds, but she liked to take photos of the wildlife and with that lens, she probably got some fantastic photos.

Members of the Heron Family were out in full force on Friday. These guys are easy to capture in a photo because they are big and they tend to stand very still while they scan the water for something to eat. The first two photos are of a Great Egret, one of the largest members of the family. Note the yellow bill and all-black legs.

Slightly smaller is the Snowy Egret. This fellow has a black bill with yellow lores and black legs with yellow feet. If he is standing in water, you may have to wait for him to lift his foot to tell which kind he is. This species was hunted almost to extinction 100 years ago because in breeding season, he has the most beautiful "feathery" plumes that were in demand for fashion. In fact, the name egret comes from the term for these plumes, aigrettes.

This stout little fellow is an immature Green Heron. When he becomes an adult, he will have a greenish back and a lovely russet brown chest. A couple of us watched this guy for quite a long time as he searched the mud for food.

The patriarch of the family is the Great Blue Heron. He is slightly larger than the Great Egret, sometimes as much as 4 feet tall with a 7 foot wingspan. He is probably the most easily recognized member of the family. I chose this photo of him trying to eat a rather large flat fish because it points out the fact that herons will sometimes try to eat something that is way too big and it gets stuck in their throat. The photographer I was chatting with when I took this photo said she had seen one swallow a snake.

Meet the Reddish Egret. (See the reddish neck?) This fellow doesn't stand still waiting for a fish to come by. He dances, he prances, he struts and flares out his wings as well as his neck feathers to stir up the fish. His glares at the water, daring the fish to come near him. He is a rare bird in California, coming up from Mexico, but not at Bolsa Chica I was told. However, he was a first for me. Number 418 in the ABA area. Now I wished I had one of those huge lenses; he was too far away from me to get a sharp photo. But I really enjoyed watching him!

Last but not least is a photo of a Skimmer. It's not a member of the Heron Family, but I thought it was neat the way he skimmed the water for food, drawing such straight lines in the water as he did so.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Knitting at Last

The combination of cooler weather, finishing other projects, the new Rowan fall magazine (#46) arriving from Sakonnet Purls, and my daughter's prodding has gotten me knitting again. Yesterday I decided to take an inventory of all the projects that have been sitting incomplete. I was surprised at how many there were! Here's a rundown on what's not been happening in my knitting world.

I have some friends who went to graduate school and finished ABD, meaning "all but the dissertation." Well this project is ABB, all but the buttons. I figure that when it gets cool enough and I want to wear it, I will sit down and sew the remaining buttons on. It also needs a final blocking to uncurl the bottom edge and, of course, the part I hate, I need to weave in all the loose ends. (I once sent my brother-in-law a gift with the ends still dangling by mistake. My sister took care of the problem for me. Thankfully, our mother taught us both well.) So here is the Feather and Fan Cardigan, ABB, started last October.

My daughter likes it so much she asked me to make one for her. (That's where the prodding comes in.) Hers will be a lovely green.

I did decide to use that luscious Knit One, Crochet Too Handpainted Ambrosia yarn to make the Bam Boo Girl-Tank in CEY's Make it Modern. Looks like I started this one in February and this is as far as it got. It's a lovely yarn and I will finish this one to wear next spring.

Another sweater started for my daughter is Anya from Rowan Magazine #40. Anya is gorgeous! Or at least it will be when it is finished. I have the back/front done. I need to do another just like this and then the sleeves. Anya was started sometime before February of 2008, but then I put it aside, and then my daughter got pregnant, and then... I have lots of excuses. It will make a great ski sweater, not for skiing itself but for the apr├ęs ski activities. It is amazingly lightweight even though it is fair isle knitting pattern with beads, etc., because it is made partly with kidsilk haze, a very versatile yarn that Rowan is still featuring in its magazines. But it will be WARM! I asked my daughter if I could wear it when I go skiing, but then I didn't go skiing last winter.

When did I start Helon Dress? I don't remember. It's a crochet project and also comes from a Rowan Mag, # 43 to be exact. Sizing problems were the reason for setting this one aside. But it is pretty and I ought to figure out a way to solve my problem, or just rip it all out and start over. (Blogger insisted on turning this photo when I uploaded it and I can't figure out how to turn it back. If you click on it, you will see it with the right orientation.)

And then there's Glade, also in Rowan Magazine #40. Someday...

Monday, August 10, 2009

California Dreams

I took Master C. to the Oak Canyon Nature Center last week and was surprised to find it closed. The gates to the parking lot were locked but there is a pedestrian entrance which we took. A sign was posted at the Interpretive Center saying that the center would only be open on Saturdays. My daughter emailed and called to find out what was going on and was told:
Due to budget reductions the Oak Canyon Nature Center is now a passive site. This means it will continue to be open to the public for use including self-guided hikes but the interpretive center will be open only on Saturdays for visitations.
Oak Canyon is a real treasure which I have blogged about before here, here, and here, mostly talking about the native plants. I wrote a special piece from Master C.'s point of view here. But we have enjoyed going there many more times than I have written about and I am very saddened to hear that California's fiscal problems are causing the city of Anaheim to close the Interpretive Center and end the programs that have been so successful.

Besides an office, the center housed an exhibit room full of fun things including live and stuffed animals, books, puzzles and games, and much more to teach children about science, the canyon, and nature. During the winter hundreds of school children have been bussed into the canyon to go on hikes, do projects, and listen to stories. A lucky few got to pet the snakes or an opossum. I took Master C. to a series of classes for 2 to 4-year-olds this spring where we learned about butterflies, lizards, flowers, and the sun. The books will remain and I suppose the stuffed exhibits, but the live animals will be moved to new homes. And there will be no more classes during the week.

I feel so sad about this that I just wanted to post some photos from past trips to the center to show people some of the things that will be lost.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Vitamin D Dilemma

My dermatologist would have me wear sunscreen every day, slopping it on every two hours, even when I am indoors ("there's light coming from the lightbulbs"). She is a fanatic on the subject. I say, yes, yes, and then do as I please. (I do have a history of being a "difficult patient.") While she is right that I do need to be cautious, my skin is very fair and I have had numerous sunburns in the past, but I have grave reservations about blocking out sunlight to that extent. And I HATE sunscreen. I've tried all kinds and hate them all. I hate putting anything on my skin or in my hair for that matter. When I was young and there was no sunscreen, my mother would make me wear a shirt even when swimming. Yes, she tried.

Low-carbers are also sun-lovers. Vitamin D has become a hot topic and there have been several posts on this subject. It is lately becoming recognized as a very potent force for resisting infection and a deficiency is implicated in a host of other diseases including all kinds of cancers. The BEST way to get your Vitamin D is from sun exposure. They say you can overdose by taking supplements, although it is hard to do, so if you decide to go that route, you need to have your vitamin D levels checked every so often. The 25-hydroxyvitamin D test is the test that is recommended. But you cannot overdose when getting your D from the sun.

Since research into this hormone (technically it's not a vitamin) is very recent, they are still tweaking their advice on how to safely do this. They used to say that you should go out early or late in the day and avoid the hottest parts of the day. That made sense to me. It's what I would think primal man did; only a lunatic goes out in the noonday sun. But now they are saying, and even my dermatologist agrees with this, that it is the UV-A that causes cancer while it is the UV-B that makes vitamin D and causes sunburn. UV-A is stronger in the early and late hours of the day, as well as when it is overcast, because the clouds filter out the UV-B. It seems that the function of UV-A is to prevent us from getting too much vitamin D. It turns off vitamin D production. So now they have switched their recommendation to saying you should go out when the sun is high and expose as much skin as possible to the sun's rays until you get the faintest pink blush. For me, 10 minutes does it.

In his book, Sugar Blues, William Dufty states that if you eliminate sugar from your diet after awhile you will be able to tolerate more sun exposure without burning. I have read a few comments to various blogs where the person said that this was true for them. It hasn't happened for me, yet. I still burn very easily.

Dr. Michael Holick, professor at Boston University, was one of the early researchers into the benefits of vitamin D. I used to own his book, The UV Advantage, but I tossed it out when trying to reduce my "stuff" a few years ago. Now I wish I had kept it. But Dr. Holick is coming out with a new book next spring, The Vitamin D Solution, which I will surely buy. Here is a link to a symposium talk that Dr. Holick gave in 2007 that is very entertaining and very informative. It is rather long and gets technical at the end, but it is well worth the time spent to view it. Another very good source of information is Dr. John Cannell's Vitamin D Council website.

What to do? Well, it's summer. Getting enough sun exposure is fairly easy for me at this time of year. I toast myself 10 minutes on a side at, or close to, high noon, using a timer for precision (I don't see the blush until later, when it's too late). If I am out longer than that, on goes a hat, a light long-sleeved shirt, and (sigh!) sunscreen. BTW: I got a sunscreen from my dermatologist that protects better than most against UV-A radiation as well as UV-B. I have taken supplements in the past and may do so again next winter. And I plan to get my vitamin D levels checked.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Time to Catch Up (a Bit)

I know I have been neglecting my blog lately. What can I say? I've been working on other projects and none of them are knitting (although I do have something in the works there). But I have not stopped reading and have found tons of things that I thought might be of interest here. Let me quickly post a few links this morning to try and clear the backlog.

In the Low-Carb world, there is a lot of talk about lipids right now. If you want a primer on fats and especially saturated fats, read this Mark's Daily Apple entry,
The Definitive Guide to Saturated Fats.

Mark has also recently posted about
red palm oil, which is the newest food in my larder. Mine comes West Africa made by Jungle Products. It has a strong taste which I love, especially on chicken and ground meats. but it has also given my calves' liver a wow flavor! Cleaning up can be tricky since it can stain anything made from plastic red, so I rinse out my pan immediately after cooking with hot water.

Other blogs that have recently devoted a lot of space to lipids include Stephan Guyenet's
Whole Health Source, Chris Masterjohn's The Daily Lipid, and Peter at Hyperlipid (you can browse through his labels list for all kinds of interesting stuff).

Of course there's always the Drs. Eades. Try Mary Dan's mayonnaise recipe. It's great! I make mine with 3/4 cup of melted coconut oil and 1/4 cup of a light-tasting olive oil. And leave out the Splenda! Dr. Mike has found Twitter and keeps a running commentary there on whatever he has been reading and he is a voracious reader! Here is a recent post of his on lipids, Low Carbohydrate-diets increase LDL: debunking the myth.

It seems that if you are a low-carb eater, your HDL tends to go way up and your triglycerides also go way down. If that happens then the Friedewald Equation which they use to determine your LDL levels comes out too high. Yes that's right, most routine lab tests do not measure LDL directly, it is derived from the values for total cholesterol, HDL, and triglycerides divided by 5. The equation is:

LDL = Total Cholesterol - HDL - Triglycerides/5

So if your HDL goes up, which is supposed to be a good thing, your total cholesterol goes up (bad). Likewise, if your triglycerides go down (good), then when you divide that number by 5 which is constant in the equation, you get a smaller number. End result, the LDL goes way up (very bad) and it was never actually measured! Dr. Eades provides an equation that corrects for this error. He calls it the Iranian Equation and cautions that it only works for total cholesterol over 250 mg/dl. I'll give it here because it is buried in the comments of his post:
For readings in mg/dl (units used in the US) use this equation:

LDL = (total cholesterol/1.19 + triglycerides/1.9 – HDL/1.1) – 38

For readings in mmol/L (units used in Europe and the rest of the world)

LDL =(total cholesterol/1.19 + Triglycerides/0.81 – HDL/1.1) – 0.98

Of course, you can always ask to have your LDL measured directly, a more expensive test. What you really want to know is how much of your LDL is the small, hard, and more easily oxidized kind (bad) or the light, fluffy, and larger kind (good). One person made a very interesting comment to this blog posting which gives food for thought and that is that when your LDL gets really large, some of the smaller HDL gets counted as LDL. No sources are given, but it does point to the fact that measuring our cholesterol may not be as straightforward as we have been led to believe.

And then there is Dr. William Davis's blog, The Heart Scan Blog. When Dr. Davis wrote his book, Track Your Plaque, he was generally in the mainstream as far as saturated fat and diet goes; he considered a vegetarian diet to be very healthy for your heart. It was interesting to watch, through his blog postings, as he made a complete turnaround and now espouses low-carb eating including healthy saturated fats. He credits his reversal to Gary Taubes's book, Good Calories, Bad Calories. So here is a thoughtful doctor who is well-acquainted with the topic of heart disease, who deals with people with heart problems all the time, and who has recently learned to question the prevailing dogma.

His latest post is on Sun, Fish, and Seaweed, which I intended to be the topic of my next post.

Monday, August 3, 2009


The sky was on fire this morning.

And my plumeria is in bloom early this year. (Yeah, I finally fertilized it at the right time. It also got re-potted last year which it liked very much.)