tcastleb: (Vulture)
( Apr. 29th, 2009 06:06 pm)
Okay, it's been a while. Zoo's been crowded 'cause of spring break and I was out of town last week, sooo . . .

Went today with a friend from work and his friend and walked around almost the whole zoo.


And it's starting to be baby season. Meet the newest giraffe, only two weeks old.

Giraffe and two-week-old baby

And here's a young yellow-backed duiker.

Baby yellow-backed duiker

And two baby sun bears (up in the tree limbs on the left) which are only the third and fourth sun bears ever to be born in captivity. SD Zoo had #2, also.

Sun bears

And just 'cause this Cuban iguana is one of my favorites to photograph:

Cuban iguana

But the pic of the day lies beneath the cut.

Cut for the squeamish; snake eating dinner. )
tcastleb: (Default)
( Apr. 28th, 2009 04:27 pm)

So, as part of the bargain for getting a print sneak peak at C. C. Finlay's new book, The Patriot Witch, I get to write a review for it.

And, I'll admit, I have a soft spot for the author--if it weren't for Charlie, I wouldn't have gone to Clarion and gotten to meet him in person. So, OF COURSE I wanted his book, and have ever since I saw him mention "witches in the revolutionary war" on his blog the first time. And it's signed, too. Yaaay! I did download the PDF (still available at for a little while at least) but without an e-reader I'm less inclined to spend time reading electronic things.

Anyhoo. Good book. Fun, original, imaginative, and I enjoyed all the little bits of detail (though admittedly that's a lot of my writer brain taking notes on how to use historical detail.) It took me a bit to get into; it starts off with a battle pretty quick, and I was really hoping it wouldn't be just battles and fighting through the whole thing. (This isn't to say that the battle's not interesting or good; [ profile] sartorias liked it, but I'm just not that into battles.) I needn't have worried; it soon moved on to characters and adventures which carried me through the rest of the book. And the climax is really, really good and touching. That battle I liked.

I'll say at this point, Deborah's my favorite character. Strong, determined, but with a flaw or two, and a sketchy past that I'm assuming we'll find out more in the next couple of books. (We'd better!)

Proctor is an all-around Nice Guy, and innocent, and that innocence gets him into a world of trouble. I liked him, but for me he was a little bit too nice. The scenes between him and his mother made me cringe, and I said "Hooray!" for the way he handled the later ones. Proctor does have guts. Plenty of them. I just want a little something more out of him; like, to stop being quite so compliant. But he grows by the end, and I liked him better then.

And because I don't want to have any spoilers--I'll just say, "Hey, there's ______ies! How cool is that, to have ______ies in the revolutionary war!" And I'm generally not into _______ies either, but, dude, these were fun. :>)

(and, hmm, wonder where he got the name for a certain little drummer boy at the end? Hmmm.)

Overall, this book has something for everyone; love, war, good villains, drama, danger. I admit to reading this more with my writer brain than my reading for fun brain, but it made my writer brain happy. A good, solid, well-crafted book, and I truly look forward to reading the rest. Charlie said he feels like it's his best work; I'm inclined to agree.

Don't walk, run to your nearest bookstore or online buying venue. It's worth it. And the next two are coming out in the next couple months so you don't have to wait long to read all three!

Mysterious Galaxy



Read it, read it, read it.
tcastleb: (Pooka)
( Apr. 27th, 2009 05:07 pm)
Now that my brain isn't mush (due to lots of useful feedback and lots of driving) here's a more formal write-up of my sojurn into the desert for a long weekend at [ profile] dancinghorse's writing and communing with horses.

Horse Camp takes place out just southeast of Tucson. I drove out since I'm just over in San Diego (six hours away) though the Tucson airport is pretty darn close if you'd rather fly. Desert. So if you like heat and cacti (like I do) you're in for a treat. Plenty of wildlife, quail, roadrunners, various other birds, lizards, rabbits, and if you're lucky, you'll get to see this guy:
cut for lots of pics and some more description. )

And then there was the writing bit. [ profile] birdhousefrog got more writing done, since she was there longer than I was and had some specific goals in mind. Me, I didn't end up getting any done. I'd done a bit of on-line mentoring with [ profile] dancinghorse beforehand on my novel, and I'd sent her a short story (which was related to the book) just before I got there. So I got the feedback for the story, and ended up thinking over that rather than writing. And petting horses. And digging through some of J's books for writing examples. Lots of good things to think about. And horse camp also includes some one-on-one mentoring, so [ profile] dancinghorse and I had a good discussion about specific writing things as well coming up with some plot and story and worldbuilding ideas for the novel and short story. Good enough that the first chance I got I ran (okay, walked briskly) to the library for some research materials. :>)

Overall, it's totally worth it. I've done Clarion, and Taos Toolbox and gotten an MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, and even this brief little writing weekend is entirely comparable to any of those. The best part is just being able to get away from real life and write (or try to. Or think about it. Hard.) which is part of the attraction of the formal programs. Doing it with a good writing friend makes it even better. The horses make it unique. And J is one of the most knowledgable people I've met when it comes to writing and the business. Totally worth it, especially if the programs I mentioned above are out of your budget or if you know something's wrong/missing in your work and you don't know what it is. Even if you can't get there in person, the on-line mentoring is wonderfully useful as well.

And for me I thought it was really cool to see the parallel between riding and writing, or, really, any art in general. All these things to keep in your mind and practice (breathe, balance, loosen up vs. dialog, character, tension, prose) until you can do them naturally without thinking so hard. I haven't actually written since I've gotten back, just thinking. A lot. Researching. Letting the feedback sink in so when I get going again it'll be that much better.

Anyway. I can't wait to go back; I miss the horses terribly. And food. Yummy food, all the more yummy for someone who lives alone and doesn't cook a lot for herself. Homemade bread. Mmmmm. And for more detailed info from [ profile] dancinghorse, go read her post on How Horse Camp Works.

(and if this sounds like a sales pitch, well, it sort of is. :>) Go visit [ profile] dancinghorse online or in person. You won't regret it.)
tcastleb: (Default)
( Apr. 9th, 2009 04:29 pm)
Went for a hike at Torrey Pines State Reserve today. Have been hankering to get out there again. Kinda needed the UV filter for my pics, though; a lot are kinda washed out. I did get to see lots of critters though, including a dozen lizards, a pair of quail, crows, a hawk, snails, crabs, an anemone, and a rabbit. Walked a long ways. Four miles, methinks.

I do have a few favorites though, and you can find all the Torrey Pines pics from today and January here.


Spiffy white flower

Cliffs and beach



View of beach
tcastleb: (Spock)
( Apr. 8th, 2009 07:21 pm)
I don't suppose there's anyone out there that can tape/DVR Criminal Minds tonight? Evidently it's a LOT like Orossy.

Please? It's on at 9pm PST on CBS, and I can't get that channel. No cable, and stupid blankety blank converter box.

ETA: Crisis averted.  <lj user="seajules"> is my hero!
tcastleb: (Vulture)
( Apr. 1st, 2009 06:13 pm)
It's been a while. Haven't gone to the zoo in a couple weeks. But, anyways, I got to see the tiger cubs, who are now eleven months old. And their keeper was out chatting with visitors, so I learned cool stuff (and sad stuff) like there used to be nine subspecies of tigers, but now there are six, and the zoo has Malayan tigers, and they don't expect there to be any more wild tigers in 20-25 years. The male is a valuable breeder, and one of the females (the second has been fixed) is in heat again and is tired of her cubs becaue three is too many. And mating is, er, rather violent between the big cats. She likes to back into a corner so he can't jump off and get away when he's done. Nice kitties.

Anyway. Cubs! Two girls and a boy. The boy's name is Menderu. He's bigger than the others, but I still can't tell them apart.



And a close up.

stripes close up

And meet one of the zoo's two new resident sloth bears. I don't remember his name. But he totally enjoyed hanging out in the tub playing with his stick.

sloth bear
Hightlights of the day included seeing the flamingos get fed. Okay, well, not terribly exciting, just funny watching the flock follow the keeper around the pen. And listening to two very knowledgeable keepers in the bug house talking about how this one bird-eating tarantula doesn't actually eat birds (it got its name because the guy who named it saw it with a bird, but it's too heavy to actually go after them on purpose) and has dangerous hairs; if you get one in your eye, it'll be swollen shut for two weeks. If you get some in your nose and throat--bad news, dude. And they have five layers of mesh in the cage to protect the keepers from it. I kept trying to think of a nifty SF story or something to use that in.

Anyway. On to slightly less dangerous critters. These are, um, African short-nosed crocs, I think.


lizards and snakes and pythons, oh my! )

Each year, hundreds of words are dropped from the English language. Your job, ‎should you choose to accept it-- save one. Just ‎hit the adopt-a-word link, and go from there. Warning: The desperate little ‎voices may not be work-safe.

I adopted "krioboly," or, the sacrifice of many rams.  I figured since I'm an Aries, and born in the year of the goat, it's a good word for me. :>p  They send you a little adoption certificate and everything.
tcastleb: (Default)
( Feb. 4th, 2009 09:55 pm)
My friend and Clarion teacher, [ profile] ccfinlay, is giving away the first book in his new trilogy FREE, three and a half months before the release date. It's called PATRIOT WITCH. Revolutionary war. Witches. What's not to like?

More info on Charlie's post here.

Download the book here.
tcastleb: (Vulture)
( Jan. 9th, 2009 06:09 pm)
Went to the zoo the other day. Got to see a zookeeper and a vet trimming the beaks on the Galapagos tortoises. The zookeeper would scratch the tortoise's neck to get his head out and the vet had a dremel (sp?) to sand down the beak. Pretty nifty. Mr. 100-year-old tortoise didn't like it much though.

Saw this nifty frog. I think he's new. I don't remember what kind he is though.


And, hey, look, a lizard! This is an iguana. A Cuban iguana, I think. Through the mesh of his exhibit.

Cuban iguana

And this is a spiny-tailed lizard. I think he's fairly new too. I should know these critters by now.

Spiny-tailed lizard
tcastleb: (Default)
( Jan. 6th, 2009 07:38 pm)
So I had today off and decided to try something new. I went to Torrey Pines State Reserve, home of the rarest pine in the US--the Torrey Pine (and right next to the famous golf course that the US Open was at last year.) There are lots of hiking trails; I did close to four miles of them, I think. And I'm really out of shape. There were all kinds of folks jogging up and down the hills, and I was huffing and puffing and getting mad at myself for taking the longer trail back to the parking lot. I made it though. Yaay!

Here's a torrey pine:

And, hey, yucca! I think this is near the aptly-named Yucca Point.

And, dude, check out the views. Just . . . dude.

And there's a trail that goes to the beach.

Though one does need to be careful around the cliffs; there have been rockfalls, and people have gotten killed. Not often, but there was one last year.

And that darker rock in front is actually a large, flat rock separate from the cliffs. People had to figure out very creative ways to get between flat rock and the cliffs to the other side of the beach, because there are some knee-deep parts (that green water there) around flat rock. There's a skinny trail on the cliffs, or, if the tide's out, you can go between flat rock and the ocean. Or a few climbed the rocks.

I uploaded 60+ photos. They're over on my flickr page as usual.
. . . my zoo love gave to me:

Twelve handsome oryx/gemsbok,

(Went to the Wild Animal Park" tonight and got to ride the tour bus at night and see the critters. Got to see a few gemsbok right up next to the fence, including a year-old juvenile who was very cute. This pic is from earlier this year though.)

Eleven )

And thus concludes the 2008 12 days of zoopics. Thanks for stopping by and enjoying them, and I will now return you to your normal, non-whacked out weekly zoo pics. (Unless I manage to get my hands on a copy of photoshop; then all bets are off. Bwa ha ha ha ha.)
. . .my zoo love gave to me:

Eleven Nemos (er, false anenomefish) swimming,

(okay, yes, there are more than eleven. But they're cool. Took these at Epcot at the end of the Finding Nemo ride. There's a whole aquarium at the end. It's nifty.)

Ten )
. . . my zoo love gave to me:

Ten nifty beetles,

(I love bugs. Y'all should know that by now. These were taken at the National Zoo, and are part of a, um, mosaic of sorts making up a very big beetle.)

Nine )
. . .my zoo love gave to me:

Nine koi fish,

(These are from the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park. This is actually a new batch; sadly, their older ones died because of a filter malfunction last month. Poor fishies.)

Eight )
. . . my zoo love gave to me:

Eight sable antelope,

Seven )
. . . my zoo love gave to me:

Seven giraffes and friends:

(There's two Nubian Soemmering's gazelles lying down on the left, they're hard to see, but I swear they're there.)

Six )
. . . my zoo love gave to me:

Six creepy turtles:

Fiiiiiiiive )
It rained today. All day. And I figured out the best way to get the zoo to yourself is to go when it's raining. It was fun. Barely any people. And the hyenas were (for once) up and walking around (they stared at me. Creepy.) and I got to see the New Guinea singing dog puppies again. Found out the biggest, ugliest camel is named Mongo (which totally fits.) Popped into the nursery, and the lady had the baby Wolf's guenon (a monkey) in her arms and was walking around, but stopped long enough to let me get a look at him. Awww.

The birds were happy. See? These are Lorys in one of the aviaries. They just got fed. This is looking down from a bridge, as it's a multi-level aviary.

. . .my zoo love gave to me:

Fiiiiiiiive of [ profile] birdhousefrog's Chickens!

(Or, at least, their eggs. Mmm. French toast with freshly laid eggs. Yummy! Okay, yeah, so I know these aren't zoo animals, but since I live in a concrete jungle they're exotic to me so you get chickens today.)

Four )