Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ah, bonding like primates.

So I was sitting on C when he noticed a tick crawling around in my hair.  Sucker was hard to catch- harder since I can't see the top of my head, and C refused to touch the tick without protective/obscuring Kleenex.  I'm pretty sure that the following is unrelated.  

One of our friends uses shampoo around once a month and has beautiful beautiful hair.  C and I decided to give this shampoo free lifestyle a try (we never see anyone anyways)  Four days in, I can say that it's probably not meant to work on fine long hair.  I can also say that I've inadvertently joined a scary hardcore movement: try googling "no poo".  

I just keep thinking about the E.B. White essay (Once More to the Lake) where he says that the only change in waitresses since his childhood was, "their hair had been washed, that was the only difference--they had been to the movies and seen the pretty girls with the clean hair."  All this blather about natural oils can't beat my gut instinct that if my hardscrabble Lutheran ancestors brought themselves to buy shampoo, maybe I should stop putting food products onto my head.  

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hello sir, your bathroom deodorizer has made me hallucinate.

All sorts of common chemicals are migraine triggers. I used to get visual auras as all white things getting a mean glow or dancing dots- but apparently I now get weird interpretations of visual cues. Thus, I saw a bug on my windshield turn into a live bird, a person riding a dog, and a car that alternated between being a police car and not being a police car. I'm sure I was a safe driver.

I want to believe it was unplanned.

While I was driving up to my adventure in The Hills Above Pacheco (song name) I drove a narrow curving single lane road full of bicyclists. I thought it might be an spontaneous biking confluence, but then I passed a middle aged woman biking in a cocktail dress. I tried to convince myself that it was not a Bay to Breakers type bike race, but then I passed a man in a purple cape.

Wherein I find that the land and people Kate Wolf sung about suck.

My crummy smells like old man. It's a combination of compulsive bay leaf collecting, the water jug leaking onto the tarp and molding, and linen scented Lysol as a boot disinfectant. I am not a Sudden Oak Death vector.

So I always figured that a young lady traveling alone is exempt from the social rule about picking up hitchhikers. I still feel guilty as I drive by them- I cannot yet package "You understand, dude." into a fleeting glance- but I drive by them. Like a wise woman.

There I was in the hills above Pacheco, playing the most depressing game I know* when I saw a man walking alongside the road. I figured he was just headed towards a friend's house, but he stuck out his thumb as I drove by. In my rearview mirror, I registered that he was wearing dress shoes and a nice shirt. He was maybe 20 miles from town. It was 2 PM.

*I call the game "Does someone live in that shack?" The answer is yes, but they don't speak English.

I couldn't find a place with an out-of-repair fence (best indicator of public ownership), resident landlords, lack of no trespassing signs, or appropriate site qualities. I looked down a couple of other roads, but they led to gated communities. I was not deemed worthy of entry. I turned back down the road, hoping to see something I'd missed. I did not.

I did see my hitchhiker, 14 miles from town, still walking. It was 90* and 5:30pm. No one had picked him up. I entertained fleeting thought about people heading home from work offering him a ride- even though it was the wrong direction. I drove past.

I stopped at a park on serpentine, hiked around looking for non serpentine a little, ate some soup, and gave myself a pep talk about not trespassing. The other moral conundrum in my life is The Work Must Get Done vs. But That Land Belongs To A Person And They Did Not Say You Could. Like the hitchhiking one, I feel bad every time the Work Does Not Get Done, even though I know I'm acting correctly. I read a couple of signs about the local river water; apparently it has both giardia and toxic levels of magnesium. Then I turned around and drove back towards town.

Twelve miles out, I saw him again. It was less than an hour to dark, and he was slowing down. Like a fool, I slowed down too. I thought about how clever a rapist would have to be to walk eight miles in order to get a ride. I thought about how being tired and hot might push someone into behavior they wouldn't normally consider. I wrestled my bear spray into the gap between me and the door, checked my cell phone reception (nothing) and pulled over.

So he'd had a car fight with his wife, and decided to walk to town instead of riding back with her. She's not his real wife, he explained, he's divorced from his real wife. He doesn't like arguments- but he didn't realize how far from town he was. He didn't need any water- he'd been drinking out of the river. (Same river) He was very grateful for the ride- he was very tired. However, his doctor has been pressuring him to get more exercise since he was diagnosed with diabetes, so this might be for the best. He'd been walking since noon. He talked a lot so that neither of us would think about how stupid I'd been to pick up a strange man in the middle of nowhere. I dropped him off at the gas station and we shook hands. I now feel guilty for not picking him up the first time I saw him.

When I got to the motel, I opened the door. The forgotten bear spray fell on the pavement, but fortunately did not go off.


Jane is upset that she has reached the age where contemporaries lose their parents to natural causes.

That is all.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What makes something taste gamey anyhow?

I was working in Montclaire today- in a city park nature area of all things. The other people in the park disappointed me in two ways. One: I was clearly not staying on the main trail and was playing with science related toys yet no one bothered to ask what sort of shenanigans I was pulling. Two: I hunched rustling and swearing in the chaparral over two separate bike trails and no one so much as glanced at me. Where is the survival instinct? What if I had been a cougar? (A cougar who could drive to Montclaire) I would have been a very fat and happy cougar, that's for sure. Also, I wouldn't be waiting for the poison oak I brushed against to make itself known.

In retrospect, this explains why city people are always surprised about the animals we see in nature areas. They are also bad at following pointing fingers.

PS: Have you ever gotten the feeling that a large predator is stalking you? There you are, alone in the woods, gut certain that your neck is about to broken- have you ever felt that?
I usually start singing and holding my arms in the air to appear taller. Then whoever (it's usually a who, not a what) was making the noise pops out of a bush, and I have to decide whether I want to appear cowardly or quirky. Quirky usually wins.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Too long, didn't read

My mom got Facebook, and then half my lab friended me. Pretty much all I can say there is "Jane saw a really pretty flower today."

On bad days, when my job seems bent on giving me an ulcer (or predicating an immune response that weakens my stomach flora enough for Helicobacter pylori to establish itself) or making me drive off the road while looking for a place to camp after another 14 hour day, I figure that if nothing else, I'll leave this job with a fat stack of botany contacts. All I have to do is exert myself and be sociable- not normally my strong point, but after six days of seeking human interaction from gas station attendants, it's not too hard. Except... Except...

Hold on, let me consult with SeƱor C about googleability here.

Right. Pretty much my entire post is a bad idea in terms of google. Also, the first part of this post. Stupid internet. Editing.... editing...

So there's this older botanist I've been working with. He's... very lonely. He never stops talking. Ever. Climbing a 60% slope in the pouring rain? Great time to talk about your heart surgery. Surgeries. Sun going down, temperature dropping below the critical hypothermia point, everyone soaking wet? This is a great opportunity to discuss the validity of our sampling process! Driving out in the gathering dusk on roads that were perfectly safe eight hours ago- oh god, I'm going to give these roads their own paragraph.

So one characteristic of Southern California that creeps me out is all the creek fords. Northern California USFS will spend thirty-forty k turning a ford into a culvert- water across a road is a good sign that you should stop driving on that road. I guess when your creeks (sorry, arroyos) have a binary trickle-flood setting, culverts are either a serious impediment or damn useless. Still, I feel like a sediment spraying, soil compacting, Phytopthera vectoring evildoer every time I drive through shallow water. Of course, it's nothing to how I feel about driving through eight- EIGHT- creekbeds on the way to a site, watching storm clouds move in overhead- checking the other passengers and realizing that they are a man in his 70s with a heart condition and a woman who's been in the US for less than two weeks and used to do all her fieldwork from trains. (Oh my God, isn't that cool? Also, indicative of an insane infrastructure. It's like the kid from Finland who revealed that instead of studying what to plant after logging an area, they'd just consult the chart. Everything you needed to know about how to grow trees on every site had been reduced to a poster sized chart. Pffft, one thousand extra years of civilization.) I was trying to remember everything I could about flash flooding- but it seems my brain had cooked everything down to "Happens. Avoid."

Pause for breath.

Anyways, the arroyos were not any problem at all on the way out. All right, they were significantly deeper, and there was a brief moment when I thought I'd cracked my oilpan- but that sort of paled in comparison to the roads themselves. The roads that look out over beautiful vistas- vistas that seem to involve long steel slopes without any of those comforting trees we get up north. Those "couldn't crash through more than fifty feet of forest anyways" trees. If you're going 15 miles an hour when you crash, someone should be uninjured enough to hike to cell phone reception. The roads themselves are made from ancient slippery adobe clay- just waiting for a little bit of rain so that the top quarter inch soak up enough water to be as slick as ice- a layer that sits on top of the dry powdery soil below and... it's slippery. Ball bearings slippery. Dress shoes on icy pavement slippery. And droning on and on is a discussion of botanical filk musics. I don't think I went faster than seven miles an hour the whole time.

A couple of times we fishtailed badly, my life flashed in front of my eyes, I'd swear miserably under my breath, and then tell my passengers that I'd been distracted for a moment. Please, do go on telling me about that funny parody of the M.A.S.H. song as it pertains to botany.

C and I have an arrangement- I'll call him before eight or he gets to call the National Guard. As we crawled out of this site, I was both slow motion racing against the clock and thanking my lucky stars that someone would look for us. C- being awesome when everything else is not.

Oh, what's that? You want me to concentrate on the South and let the other guy concentrate on the North? Not just no. Not just hell no. I don't really know how to express how much of a no I mean.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Possibly diagnostic

The dining room table has been turned over to plant keying. Normally, Jim thinks of my fragments as green shit that interferes with pettings, but Ribes sanguinium aroused a great deal of interest. Is it diagnostic for cat's piss gooseberry if the cat is obsessed with it?

Typing with Jim on my hands. C says that he thinks that another cat is trying to tell him something- possibly in Yiddish. Other than that- back from the South Coast- really really tired. Fire's got nothing on University salaried work.

Ooo, I went to Catalina Island and hung out with Sarah!. There are many examples of the well known phenomena of island cuteness. I think after a couple of generations, Sarah!'s children will be HUGE and supernaturally cute. Oh, the girlcrush.

Peace, yo.