My Neighbor Bambi

Unless you live near Nara-koen, it’s not every day that you see a fawn grazing in the yard across the street. It’s not like that where I live either, but this is the second time in a month that I’ve spotted deer right outside of my door:
bambi01.jpg
Can you spot the Bambi?
bambi02.jpg
I kind of wish that there were bears around here to keep the Bambies company. Then again, it’s nice to be able to throw away the trash without worrying about being attacked by large carnivorous animals.

Of Bluefin Wrangling and Otter Observations

This morning, I was able to participate with two other researchers in capturing one of the 30 pound bluefin tuna out of tank #3 at the Tuna Research and Conservation Center. After stretching a slightly too small wetsuit on, we climbed down into the tank, which had been drained down to about 3 feet of water (about 1/3 of its normal level).
Two others herded the tuna into a modified length of blue, rubberized tarp. The tarp, 3 feet tall, was clipped onto the side of the holding pen, and there were 5 foot poles spaced at about 5 feet apart. The poles provided handles with which to maneuver the partition, and provided a surprisingly balanced mix of rigidity, weight (for the bottom of the curtain), and buoyancy (to hold up the curtain to the top of the water).
Once the chosen tuna was corralled into the enclosure, I closed the gap, and the two others began their work. I thought it was going to be an epic struggle between man and fish, but it was all over quickly. Once the fish was maneuvered between Alex and the partition, he gently hugged it and placed it in the stretcher where it was taken to another tank. It was amazing to see the tiger stripes on the sides of the fish when we were doing this. Tuna look so cool!
Changing subjects, a few weeks ago, I saw something that shocked me. I was working on the Derek M. Baylis, a boat under contract with the aquarium, when I spotted a sea otter dragging something that looked like a sea gull around. I took a look through the binoculars, and confirmed that it was indeed a dead bird that the otter was dragging around and playing with. Just to be sure, I asked a crew member to confirm this, and he was also taken aback with what he saw.
Talking to the folks who work at the Sea Otter Research And Conservation Center, I found out that otters will “take care” of sea birds who try and mooch their food. If a sea gull picks on the wrong sea otter, sometimes it will get throttled, or dragged under water where it will drown.
So do otters eat sea birds? Yes, to some extent, though birds are not part of their regular diet. If you put yourself in the place of an otter who is tired of having his food stolen by sea gulls, it is not hard to imagine yourself mauling one. At least for me, it isn’t. Those dang birds used to get into my potato chips and other stuff I brought to the beach when I was playing in the water in Huntington Beach!
The lesson that I took away from this otter encounter was that otters are not as cute and cuddly as they look, unless they are in pelt form. Then, and only then, they are the softest, cuddliest furry thing that you will ever feel.

New Haniwa

newhaniwa01.jpg
After an 8 month hiatus, I am have started to work on haniwa again.
For inspiration I’ve been thinking a lot about my childhood memories, of places I’ve been, of people I’ve met, and of music I love. Places I’ve traveled, movies I’ve watched countless times, and books I’ve read have also featured prominently in their creation.
It’s been a challenge to actually break open a bag of clay and to actually start making something, but once I’m doing it I love the process. It’s like that with a lot of things I find, whether it be cooking, exercise, or reading. In my mind, I know it’s going to be fun, but I still need to push myself to actually do it.
Other notes:
I’ve taken the Komainu (guardian dogs) and reinterpreted them. The ungyo and agyo themes seem to work well as octopi.
I think I’ll do a set of Japanese kana characters. Doesn’t it look like he’s saying “O”?
Patterns from kimono, ancient pottery, and other graphic sources make great sources of inspiration for patterning.
It’s kind of nice working only with clay, and not messing with glazes and such. I’d like to start working with wood burning kilns in order to see what kind of effects that I can get by manipulating heat, ash, and clay mixtures.

Cash vs. Credit

In Japan, I very rarely used my credit cards and regularly carried large denomination bills on my person.
In the States I use my cards more, and only use cash when I have to. Cash is reserved for places that don’t take credit, splitting the bill when eating with friends, and as a reserve plan, just in case I need it.
I like being able to use credit cards everywhere, but only because I am very wary of over-spending on my limited paycheck.
What I don’t like is trying to find a place that will accept large bills. At some places, you can sense the reluctance to accept them. Some places won’t even take them. I can’t remember one time someone wouldn’t take a 10,000 yen note when I was in Japan. It just didn’t happen.
Then again, there were few times where trying to use my credit card was easy over there. Usually, the clerk looked at it as if it were a puzzle to be solved, and a few minutes later summoned other clerks and then the manager who would either apologize that they didn’t accept credit cards (I suspect that some of them may have accepted them, but didn’t know it themselves because no one ever had used one in their store) or would take over control of the register and demonstrate part of why they had risen to the ranks of management.
It’s hard to say which form of payment I like better. On one hand, I can do almost anything I need to with my credit card. There’s no going to the ATM or planning how much I will need before going out. One major benefit is that as long as you report a card missing or stolen, if you lose your wallet the only money you will lose is the actual money in your wallet.
On the other, having to handle money, instead of just signing receipts, makes process of paying for something less abstract. You can actually see your money entering or leaving your possession. Unlike a credit card, thieves on the internet can’t literally pick your pocket.
I don’t know which I like using better, cash or credit. It would be nice to have a lot more cash though.
I’m going to end this post on something a bit off topic:
I really like bartering. Trading something hot off the grill for a beer, trading some chips for some cookies, and trading a book for a CD. It’s been transactions like that which have given me the most satisfaction.
I think we should bring back bartering on a larger scale. Can you imagine paying your taxes in candy, or trading a chef some fish that you caught in exchange for a free dinner? Ah that would be awesome!

Changing Sleep Patterns

I notice that it’s a lot easier to face the morning now than ever before. I never liked waking up, but up until I started high school, I used to force myself to wake up on the weekends so that I could catch the morning cartoons.
Between high school and college, I gave into the urge to sleep in whenever possible. Up until 2 years ago, the sun coming up signaled time to go to bed on days that I wasn’t working.
Now, I wake up an hour before work in order to shower, cook and eat breakfast, and walk to work. Sleeping in means staying in bed until 10:00 a.m.. It’s nice not to feel dead in the morning, and I’m curious to see if, one day, I will routinely rise in time to watch the sun rise without feeling like my head is full of fog.
It feels so strange to not feel weird about going to bed early, and to actually want to go to bed early. I had to train myself out of trying to stay awake for a few years after college. In the end, it helps to live in a community made up of older folks, where there is nothing to do at night time.
Is this what it’s going to be like as I get older? Is it going to continually be like how it was when I finally started to appreciate spicy foods (before I was a teenager, I didn’t like spicy foods), beer (it took me until my 2nd year at UCSB to really appreciate the taste of good beer rather than the entertaining effects of drinking beer in general), or going to sleep early? How many things are there like this? I guess I’ll just have to wait in order to find out.