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The zookeeper conference this year was in Memphis, meaning a new city for us to explore!
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This is from a letter from my father, which he sent to several dozen people, so I don't think he'll mind me excerpting it here. He gets one date wrong--I moved to Boston in 1987 not 1986, but that doesn't affect the meaning of this piece.

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Skylife

Oct. 4th, 2015 07:58 pm
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Sure, I can find some pest grasshoppers in a city park, but I'll never find wild organisms on the 26th floor bar on a hotel.

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Still, it's a nice view of the ballfield, if you are into that sort of thing.

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Suddenly a visitor alights on the opposite side of the glass. Is it a stonefly? A caddisfly? I'm not sure, but it probably emerged from the nearby Mississippi River (seen at the left corner of the pic with the ballfield), then caught a nice breeze upward. It makes me want to study aerial plankton.
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This is me at the Charleston rest area on the Mass Pike. I'm kind of hungry, but a busload of UNH track athletes arrived just before me, and are creating huge line-ups at all the restaurants.

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I spent the morning with my Dad. Here he is talking on the phone with my brother as we stop for a drink at Jonathan Pesco's.

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We stopped along the Connecticut River to look for bald eagles--didn't find any, but saw lots of giant ice floes.
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It's good to get some pics of the three of us together, since it doesn't happen all that often.

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And then one last pic of something that normal people would think was not worth taking a picture of: an almost perfect disc of moss on a palm stump.
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Busch Gardens selfie with Dad and Andy.

the last few BG photos )
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Meet Eva, a 53 year old retired circus hippo.

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My brother: designated driver for the week, wearing his aloha shirt covered with little aloha shirts.

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I had my first "local beer," from Tampa's Cigar City Brewery (not bad). I posted this pic on instagram and a friend expressed worry that if they call the white beer "Florida Cracker," what do they call the porter? It's called "Puppy Breath," so that's okay.

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And at the end of the day: a Mediterranean house gecko on the hallway ceiling.
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Orlando Science Center is not too different from the Boston Museum of Science where I got my start in animal care. They have a lot more alligators though.

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The conference is taking place at this place--I didn't expect it to be so huge or so nice.

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This is our view when we step out of our hotel room.
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On my way back from the airport, after dropping my brother and father off for their trip together. I am at a stoplight. I will not die for my snapshot project. Sorry purists.

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I'll be darned if I can remember where this is (a short ways from Rancho Palos Verdes) but by gum there was no passing by it without taking a picture. Thank god it was snapshot time too! Otherwise these would be a string of pictures of my brother my father and I in bars and in cars.

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Here is my wonderful entomologist friend [livejournal.com profile] rockbalancer taking us on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Natural History Museum. She's holding an insect with astounding cryptic shape and color making it look like a damaged leaf. These are in the same group as walking sticks--us bug nerds call them all "phasmids."
more NHM )
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Another strange constant of my vacations: going to a conspicuous high place and looking around. Here we are at the Griffith Observatory.

more )
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If you've been following my journal, you know that the night before this picture was not good. The short of it is that I tried to visit with my friend and ran into two road closures due to one serious and one fatal traffic accident. This is the glorious sunset at Ventura Beach, complete with full moon. We stayed in Ventura because we were to spend the next day at the Channel Islands National Park. These islands are across the Santa Barbara Channel from LA (as opposed to within the English Channel, where the other Channel Islands are).

Come to the island )
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Giant pinned beetle! This is at the monstrous mountaintop Getty Center. We walked through and looked at some of the art, but we were really more interested in the grounds of the place, which are well worth the 15 dollar parking. (15 dollar parking, but free train ride, museum admission, and admission to the grounds!)

more Getty, some bladerunner )
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Ever since I learned it existed, I've wanted to see the La Brea tar pits. That alone was reason to go to Los Angeles. This main lake by the road is actually a pit created by humans 100-150 years ago, digging the tar out because it's a useful substance. Native Americans also dug the tar out to use as an adhesive and water-proofing agent. I had the impression before that the animals would sink in tar over their heads, but that's probably not what happened. According to the information in the Page Museum (the museum associated with the tar pits) a large animal got stuck once a decade or so, and predators would swarm in and feed--getting stuck themselves. Fossilized fly pupae and other insects show that the trapped animals were exposed for some time before their remains sunk into the tar to become the most important record of ice age life known.

more tar pit, more museum! )
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The first morning of visiting a new city, I walk around and try to get a sense of what the urban birds are. They are very similar in every city I've been to--there will almost always be pigeons, house sparrows, and starlings. I was happy that in this neighborhood (Harbor City) to hear ravens croaking almost immediately. There were also a number of gulls, and some grackles. Unfortunately I didn't bring a local guide so I don't know many of the specifics. It was easy to identify these penguins I mean pigeons.

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We spent much of the day at Long Beach, where there are lots of touristy things. Dad and I appreciated the moderate temperatures and immoderate constant bright sunshine.

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There was some signage along the walkway identifying some of the creatures found nearby; I think this is a purple sandpiper--it looked and acted like a spotted sandpiper, a species I see a lot back home on fresh water.

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We ended up in a place called Rancho Palo Verde, a beautiful cliff community. People go there to look out at the ocean at whales.

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My favorite thing there was this hummingbird.
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Here's the hot and tired in the car snapshot. Follow to the end to see the nice family portrait.

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This is the family at a pub in Rhode Island, where we had a late lunch after a long day at Roger Williams Park Zoo!
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