Archive for January, 2009


Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

We saw lots of birds while we were in the Galapagos. Of course, we saw the Darwin finches. The problem was that they’re fairly nondescript, and you’d need to examine them fairly closely to tell the differences from island to island. Not being an ornithologist, about all I came away with was that they look a lot like sparrows, particularly the females. The males are darker-colored, as shown in this photo, so they look less like sparrows to me.

Male Darwin Finch

The birds that were both common and more noticeable were the warblers. This is a male (I think), denoted by the red markings. The ones without the red markings are, I believe, the females.

Galapagos Warbler

It was surprising to me that there were flamingos on the islands. It turns out that they’re considered a native species.


We also got to see the Galapagos Mockingbird. This is one that Tim, our guide, coaxed into view while we were on our hike around Volcan Negra.

Galapagos Mockingbird

One of the famous birds of the Galapagos is the Blue-footed Booby. There are actually three species of Booby in the islands – the Blue-footed, the Red-footed, and the Nazca. We didn’t see any of the Red-footed, and saw the Nazca only at a distance. We did, as you can see, get close enough to at least one Blue-footed Booby to show just how blue the feet and legs really are.

Blue-footed Booby

We also saw the Galapagos Penguin, the second-smallest penguin in the world, and the only species of penguin found in equatorial waters.

Galapagos Penguin

Frigate birds are found world-wide. It was getting to be the start of the breeding season, and the males were making their displays. This was on a small, uninhabited island that we passed, not much more than a large rock. It did have a number of birds roosting there, as well as marine iguanas.

Frigate Bird

On the same island, I got my only photo of a red-billed Tropicbird, which has a distinctive long tail. As you can tell, it’s an action shot. I consider myself lucky to have gotten it – I only saw three tropicbirds during the trip, and none of them were posing for us.

Red-billed Tropicbird

Another bird we saw was a Night Heron, which was hanging around a nature preserve. Actually, most of the land area of the Galapagos (about 97%) is nation park/nature preserve. Only four of the islands have permanent population, ranging from about 120 on Floreana to about 10,000.

Night Heron

We saw other birds, such as pelicans, sandpipers, and Calfornia oystercatchers. On one of our inter-island legs (Santa Cruz to Floreana), the boat crew identified some birds as albatross, but they were too far away to get good photos, even with my telephoto lens.

What a deal!

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

I was going through some boxes the other day, and ran across this item ticket from a few years ago. It was from one of the office supply chains, I think. In any case, I suspect the item was marked up to a higher-than-normal price, just so they could claim that it was on sale.

Big Markdown

It took a long time

Monday, January 26th, 2009

So, Marion and I went up to Frisco yesterday to do some X-C skiing. It was beautiful up there, even if the weather wasn’t the best. Most of the time, it was snowing, quite heavily at times. A couple of times, I stopped on the trail, just to watch the snow come down. The temperature was right at freezing, and all the snow was powder. Unfortunately.

Powder is great if you’ve got enough speed going. I have neither the knees nor the money for downhill skiing anymore. The problem was that the snow would clump under our skis and stick to them and the trail beneath them, which meant that we didn’t get much “glide” as we went along. Often, we’d push a ski and have it jolt our leg to a stop, which started to cause me problems later on.

The roughly 7km “Frisco Bay” trail normally takes us a little over an hour. Yesterday, it took just over two. We haven’t gone on the “RJ’s Vista” trail for the past few years, so I can’t say how long I would have expected it to take. I can say that it took us an hour. Well, it took me an hour. My skis were letting me do a bit better than Marion’s let her do; I suspect it’s the fact that I weigh almost twice what she does that let me strip the snow from the bottoms of my skis more easily.

That, and the fact that she missed the turnoff for the lodge and ended up on a black trail.

In any case, we normally try to leave by about 2:30pm to try and miss the Sunday evening traffic going back to Denver. Yesterday, we left around 4pm, so we hit the traffic. Big time.

I think it’s about 8 miles from Silverthorne to the Johnson Tunnel (the westbound tunnel is the Eisenhower, the eastbound is the Johnson). Yesterday, it took us about an hour and a quarter to cover that distance. Once we got to the tunnel, traffic sped up … until we got to Silver Plume. By the time we got to Georgetown, we figured it was best to get off the highway for awhile, so we went looking for a restaurant for dinner. We found the Euro Cafe before we got to the main drag, and decided to give it a try.

It was a good choice. We both had the Hungarian Goulash, and it was wonderful, as was the sweet-and-sour red cabbage. I tried the apple strudel for dessert (I’d just done 3 hours of cardio, remember?), and it was tasty enough, but I don’t think I’d have it again. I’d definitely go back for the goulash, though. Maybe try some of their other dishes. They also had a nice touch in the restrooms that I haven’t seen before… disposable cups and a bottle of Scope. I like that.

After spending almost an hour at dinner, we got back onto the highway. Traffic was moving about 20 mph. We finally got home at 8:30pm, for a trip that normally takes between about 90 and 150 minutes. Bleah. We’ll remember that next time, I’m sure.


Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

While on the Galapagos portion of the trip, we came across dolphins twice. The first time, they were near the shore as we were leaving Floreana Island. Several of the tour members tried to swim with them, but they were largely unsuccessful at getting close to them.

The second time was somewhat later, as we were between Floreana and Isabella. Tim, our tour guide, estimated that there were about 400 dolphins in the pod. I took a number of photos and movies, and I’ll include the best ones. This first photo shows Tim on the bow, with the pod in the distance as we approached them. As always, click on the photo for the full-sized image. I’ve uploaded these at what should be the full 6MP resolution.

Approach to dolphins

We spent about 10-15 minutes following the pod. It may have been more; it may have been less. I’ll admit that I wasn’t paying attention to my watch. Also visible in this first photo are the back of Marion’s head, Pat on the bow, and Natalie in the near foreground at the right.

Among the dolphins 1

The people visible in this shot are, from left to right, Evette, Tim, Pat, and Erika.

Among the dolphins 2

The people visible in this shot are Pat, Erika, and Rosemarie.

Among the dolphins 3

I’ve seen dolphins at sea before, when I was in the Navy, but I’d never seen so many at once. Nor had I seen them leaping – they’d been surfing the bow wave. It was wonderful. Here’s the best movie I took. If you watch closely towards the end (about the 1:10 and 1:24 marks), you can see dolphins swimming past the boat just under the surface.

So, about that dinner

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Some time ago, I mentioned that I’d eaten guinea pig while in Ecuador. Here’s the photo I mentioned. Note that you can not only see the paws, but, if you look closely at the piece on the left, you can make out the ears.

Guinea Pig Dinner

Basically, it was sectioned and deep-fried. The meat was tasty enough (what there was of it), but the skin caused problems – it was thicker than I expected, and tough. Some days later, one of our tour guides said that grilled guinea pig was much better than fried. Ah, well.

There are several things that seemed to normally accompany meals. Popcorn is tossed into soup the way crackers would be here. The roasted corn was quite good to snack on, as were the fried banana chips. They weren’t as sweet as the ones I get here, but they were still good. Probably a different kind of banana – we saw several types being sold in the markets.

Ecuador Condiments

I’m back

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands were great. We were on a tour with G.A.P. Adventures that had us on four of the islands over the course of ten days. We had two days in Quito beforehand, and did a separate tour from Quito to Cuenca and back afterward. More on that later, after I sort through my photos. I think I took about 2000 pictures on the trip … I had two cameras with me, one with two 1GB cards and a 512MB card, the other with a 2GB card and a 1GB card. Lots of pictures to triage.

The bad news is that the day before we flew down, I was informed that my first day back from vacation (Monday the 5th) would be my last day at the job. If they’d let me stay until Tuesday the 13th, that would have marked my 23rd anniversary with the company. Ah, well.

So, I’m looking for work, preferably in the embedded software field (I’m not ready to be a Wal-Mart greeter yet!), and also preferably on the northwest side of Denver. Yesterday’s priority: convincing the cat that she’s not entitled to continual attention, even if I am home all day. Luckily, I have a good resource for resumé cover letters – I wrote about it some time ago.