The Heron Ate My Fish

No, really. A great blue heron has eaten two of my fish from my pond.

A few days ago a friend came by who is a realtor. He had closed on a house and they needed to relocate a couple of the goldfish they had in their pond. One was a fairly large one, almost koi-sized, and the other was a black and very slow-moving fantail with telescope eyes. We put them in and they seemed to be pretty comfortable in their new environment. I was kind of worried about the black one because he was slow and he kept drifting over to the filter net. I’d have to fish him out of there every day, but he eventually seemed to figure it out and stay away from it. His color did help him blend in with the pond, so I thought at least he was well camouflaged.

pondA couple of weeks later, I noticed that the big one disappeared. It was weird. I have seen no signs of raccoons or cats in our immediate area, no bones or carnage lying around, and the thing was just gone.

Then yesterday I noticed some of our water hyacinth was damaged. It looked like something had broken it apart. Even weirder. Obviously something has been hunting in my pond.

This morning Yingwen was in the kitchen and she had this surprised look on her face as she shouted out “check out that bird!”. I missed it, but Max saw it. It was a great blue heron, perched on top of the trellis, taking off. “That’s interesting…” I thought, not putting two and two together.

Just a little while later, Max was out in the backyard and he looked in the pond and said “Where are all the fish?” Oh my god – if that bird cleaned out my pond, I was going to start looking up heron recipes. Sure enough, I couldn’t find a single one of my 12 goldfish. They were all missing! There was a little metal sculpture of a pelican on the far side of the pond that had been pushed onto it’s side. I guess the heron felt a little cocky.

And then I saw the evidence. a pair of long black fins at the bottom of the pond were all that remained of the black one. That sonofabitch had been eating my fish.

Then I thought to myself that the other goldfish had been in that pond for quite some time, with no incidents. Why is it that when I added these two newcomers that suddenly I have a heron fishing in my pond?

I figured a couple of them might be hiding in the crevices between the rocks or under the waterfall, so I threw in a little fish food to see if they would come out. And what do you know, a couple of them did. Very shyly, like they were traumatized and worried, but there they were. And then a few more showed up – darting around the bottom quickly.

For the most part they’ve been hiding in there all morning. They will rarely poke their heads out to see what is going on, and I’m not really able to get a good count of how many are left. I counted five earlier, but they are being quite elusive. I think the big ones are hiding under the waterfall, and I saw some of the smaller ones under an arch that holds up the pot that the water lilies are planted in.

These fish are not stupid. They’ve been living in that pond for as long as they have because they know when to get out of the way when a big giant predator shows up. I need to figure out a way to give them a bit more defense, but I’m impressed that these things are talented enough to do such a good job of hiding.

Update: The rest of the fish are all accounted for, so it looks like just the two inexperienced newcomers became fish food. They obviously have learned how to avoid predators very well. They are still hiding underneath the rocks and cinder blocks though, and acting very cautiously.


Transamerican Fog

The fog returned here today after two weeks of record-breaking heat. It hit 112∫ here last weekend, and higher in other parts of the Bay Area. This morning I awoke to the nice familiar chill of the fog layer creeping inland and cooling our hillside with it’s mist and shade and the smell of the sea. This makes me happy – I like the fog, but heat and I don’t get along so well.

I don’t know how anyone can deny global warming at this point. With the record-setting temperatures in Europe and North America, record hurricane seasons, and massive, state-sized chunks of the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica breaking off, not to mention all that scientific data showing year-over-year temperature increases.

Many of the plants in our back yard are burnt to a crisp from all the sun and hot air. I might be able to save them, but it’s looking grim, and I’m not a plant person.

Normally, Summer isn’t so bad here in the East Bay. Fog from the Pacific creeps in and hangs over us until mid morning, burns off by noon, we get some nice warm summer temps in the 80s or 90s for midday, and then the fog rolls in again in the evening so we can get a little sleep. But when it’s still 104∫ at midnight, sleep is elusive. Welcome back, Fog.

That’s hot. State’s power supply starting to feel strain from record heat wave

It’s been hitting over 100∫F here in the East Bay now for the past three days, and well into the 90s for over a week. Yesterday and the day before, I saw the thermometer hit as high as 110∫, and as I type it is 105∫ outside at 1:10PM. I’ve discussed this with several people who have lived in this area for some time and we all agree that none of us can remember such a long-lasting heat wave, and certainly none of us can remember seeing 110∫ in this area in the past 30 to 40 years.

We have been swimming a lot lately. It’s amazing – even if I just stick my head out of the water, I can feel the hot air and the sun baking my skin.

I went to the grocery store yesterday afternoon and it was eerily empty. There were tons of free spaces in the parking lot. I got there around 7PM and the sun was on it’s way down. I usually plan to be in there for a couple of hours due to my having to read each and every label I pick up to make sure there’s nothing that contains any gluten (for me) or peanuts (for Max).

Wake up and smell the global warming. It’s friggin’ hot!

Your own hard-assed training coach

I still practice my music on a daily basis. Sometimes I have a few hours, most times I have less than one, but I still try to pick up the guitar and the double bass for at least a little bit each day.

When I was in college, I would create detailed lists of the exercises and pieces that I had to practice every day. When the list began to get incredibly long, I had to start budgeting my time and assigning a time limit to each activity, just to make sure that I’d get to it and still have time for everything else. I would sometimes create sessions that would span up to an eight hour period if I could afford the time, and would mix up my routines with breaks and stretching, studying, and even how much time I was allowed to eat. It kind of went over the top there for a while, but the basic idea of creating a structured practice plan has always stuck with me.

Lately as I get more and more into my daily music activities, I have found myself again starting to work off practice schedules. Time could not be more limited. Between working full time, hanging out with my wife and kids, and taking care of all the other daily needs of modern life, I find my available practice time becoming shorter and shorter. That’s why it is even more important to ensure that I have an efficient, timed schedule for everything I need to cover. If you just flop around on the instrument for a half hour, you’re going to go nowhere.

One thing that I had always hoped for was an integrated practice coach sort of software application. Something that would let me list a series of tasks with timed intervals, and it would be oh-so-cool if it would turn into a Dr. Beat or something.

Well thankfully someone has come up with the task/time component. Enter FlexTime. The developer describes it thusly:

FlexTime turns your Mac into a hard-assed training coach for whatever it is that you do.

This is exactly what I needed. I had actually been trying to scrap together something for myself in a more web-2.0-ey vein by incorporating some of this functionality in a PHP/MySQL/JavaScript/Ajax sort of thing, but really this is almost exactly what I need to maximize my practice efficiency, and it’s pretty much ready to go here and now.

Why aren’t you practicing?

Chicken, Bombay Potatoes, and Beer

Chicken, Bombay Potatoes, and Beer

The chicken was coated in egg batter using Namaste pizza dough mix and fried hot. the pizza dough mix works great for this purpose because it has a nice consistency and is seasoned well. The TastyBite Alu Chole Bombay Potatoes came out of a box, but tasted amazing.

However, the special item here is of course the gluten-free beer.

The gluten-free beer is Passover Honey Beer from Ramapo Valley Brewery of Hillburn, New York. This is the first GF beer I’ve seen for sale around here (or anywhere, for that matter). The price of a six pack at Whole Foods was twice the cost of anything else, but obviously I didn’t care. The beer itself is OK, not exactly my favorite kind of brew (I’d prefer a nice hoppy pale ale) but this one does well for being the only kind of beer I can drink safely. It’s the first beer I’ve had since being diagnosed with celiac back in April. Yes, I think I’ll have another… 🙂

No this is not high cuisine or anything. It just makes me happy…