Sunday, March 25, 2012

More from St. John

Some more pictures from St. John:

B has in recent months become quite the little swimmer. This was exclusively pool swimming (not much open water to be done in NH in winter!). In the last two weeks before St. John, she had mustered the courage and excitement to hold her nose and duck all the way under the water with her goggles. We were hoping that this would mean that, even if she didn't snorkel exactly, she could at least have glimpses of what's under the waves. Alas, try as we might to cajole her (see image above), I think she wore her goggles all of once during the whole trip. (Also, does anyone else find the Land's End children's swimwear cut a little indecently?)

St John, and particularly the eastern end where we were staying, is actually a relatively arid place. To my surprise, cacti are pretty abundant, so are little lizards and geckos. This fellow has found himself a perfect hiding spot.

Us four in the middle-generation made a hike late one afternoon towards Ram's Head, the last bit of a spit of land extending south into the ocean.

As we crossed the beach at Saltpond Bay, we saw a gorgeous rainbow brought on the by the afternoon sun and a downpour than swept over us about ten seconds after this picture was taken.

Blue cobblestone beach, the next quiet inlet south of saltpond bay. There are a couple of moorings here for boats. The rush of the waves in and out of the beach, which really is made of baseball-sized cobblestones, was really something, like ten thousand babbling brooks. Ram's Head itself is the bump in the center background.

Just past blue cobblestone beach is a cleft in the land that allows the easterly wind to come whipping through at ferocious speed. We had at least one hat fly off.

Although our timing was perfect for sunset views at Ram's head, the weather that passed over us earlier obscured the sun and horizon as it marched westward.

On the way back down we noticed that some of the Turk's Head cacti, in addition to some lovely pink flowers, had tiny little pods, too. As it turns out, these are edible, and some folks harvest them to make a sort of jam. The inside, slightly sour, is filled with tiny black seeds. This particular pod is about an inch long.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Creaky Computer

While watching a youtube video the other night, I was struck by the notion that my laptop wasn't handling it very well. It was stuttering, getting hot, and generally have a hard time keeping up. I don't think it was the internet connection itself (but I have my eye on you, Comcast!). But, it couldn't be my computer, right? I mean, it's not like it's all that old.

To remind myself of when I got this computer, I searched through this blog's archives and discovered that, somewhat to my surprise, my laptop is a hair over four years old. Well. Damn.

To be true, the machine has been collecting a few cobwebs. In addition to having difficulty handling a 720p stream from youtube, it also takes quite a while to load some programs. I could chalk that up in part to the some sluggish (by present standards) performance of my 250-GB harddrive, which is 80% full. The battery only provides about 90 minutes of surfing, or perhaps 40 minutes of video conferencing. There's an intermittent problem that's cropped up in the last year where the keyboard and/or mouse will stop responding, sometimes mid-sentence. This is a situation that is almost, but not always, fixed by putting the machine to sleep and re-waking it. It's been increasing in frequency, such that it now happens several times an evening. (I have a suspicion that the flex cable or ZIF connector that connects these components to the internal USB bus is kinda flaky, something that has been talked about on the apple forums, but not with any surefire fix).

But I sense it doesn't want to get on the cart yet. The keyboard/mouse issue could, hopefully, be fixed by replacing the top deck. New, longer-lived batteries are an easy replacement. The hard drive and RAM can be boosted. All of these can be done for much, much less than the cost of a new 15" MBP. We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Cinnamon Bay

One afternoon we ended up at Cinnamon Bay. This is one of the most famous beaches on the island, up on the northern shore. The national park service (about half the island and most of the surround water is national park land) has wall tents and cabanas that you can stay at, all of 50 feet from the beach. My parents enjoyed it when they came here about a year ago.

B loved swimming on St John. Although she is doing very well in her swim lessons with minimal floatation, for this trip we took no chances in the open water: full on life jacket. We even had her on a tether at one point. B didn't mind: the extra floatation made it easier for her to just have fun in the water, rather than using a lot of energy keeping her head up. Alas, despite recent breakthroughs at the local YMCA with holding her nose and ducking her face underwater with goggles, we never once managed to get her to look at the wonders beneath the waves on this trip.

Probably the best picture of B from the whole trip!

When she got tired of swimming, B liked playing in the sand, and counting the pebbles.

Hilary and I took advantage of the abundant child-minders to go for a lengthy swim. We struck out and eventually circled around the small island visible in the other shots - about 2/3 to 3/4 of a mile.

Don't we look hard core!

Our friends enjoyed their own chance to kick back and enjoy the waters on their own.

Their daughter consented, with great suspicion, to be held by Hilary while her parents splashed. Without the bottle in her mouth, she would scream quite a lot if any of the rest of us held her.

No better way to spend a sunset!

Friday, March 16, 2012

More of St. John

Here's another batch of shots from St. John:

This cool cat is all SPF-50'ed and ready to hit the beach.

Swimming at Saltpond Bay. The water really and truly is this color. It's a hard life.

A quiet moment on the rocks at Nanny Point.

A skeleton of fan coral.

A fragment of brain (?) coral.

B had the loft of our tent all to herself.

Contemplate the coconut!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Will it Crab?

Each of the tents at Concordia comes with a 1", 3-ring binder of information, instructions, etc. This may seem overly complicated for people trying to relax, but it is not immediately obvious how some of the eco-features of this place work. For instance, how does one fill the shower tank for best results?

One thing the book explicitly told us about was that we could toss most kitchen scraps to the hermit crabs. As it turns out, there are large numbers of them skittering on the scrub slopes between water and summit. Our friend steve was taken aback the morning after our arrival when, when stepping out of the tent to the bathroom, he discovered a dozen of them, each the size of a lemon, milling around just off the boardwalk.

Taking the book's advice to heart, we tried them out on lots of different foods over the week, and here are our findings:

Orange peel? It eventually disappears, but they don't seem to love it.
Rum-soaked limes? Not so much.
Mango and pineapple peel? Gone within an hour.
Tomato and Pepper flesh? Delectable.
Avocado skin? It goes faster the more avocado you leave on it.
Coffee grounds? Call all your friends because we are having a party!

B got a huge kick out of feeding the crabs each morning (and, despite the potential for disaster, no nightmares about crabs attacking in the night). We looked at it like appeasing the gods.

All in all, this seems like a much faster and more efficient way to deal with scraps than composting. Alas, I don't think that they would do well in New Hampshire.

If you don't understand the title's reference, try here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

St John

For those who didn't hear about it beforehand, the Mooses went on a wonderful week-long trip down to St. John, in the Virgin Islands, last week. A week of warmth, swimming, snorkeling, good food, good friends, and relaxing on island time! Here's the start of a recap.

It took us a good long while to get down there. We arose before dawn on a Saturday and drove down to a relative's in Boston. She provided us with a safe (and free!) place to leave our car for the week, and even delivered us to Logan airport. From there, a flight down to St. Thomas.

Next: a taxi van across that island to the ferry terminal at Redhook.

After a brief way, we had a calm ride across the water to Cruz Bay, the main town on St. John. The three of us were the first of our contingent to arrive. Our friends from Chicago were arriving on the next ferry with their 11-mo old, and M and Deen on the ferry after that. Eight people, two child car seats: we ended up with two vehicles, which also provided good flexibility in making plans around nap times.

Once we all arrived in Cruz Bay, got the two rentals, and stocked up at the supermarket, we drove across St John to the far southeastern corner, to the Estate Concordia, the eco-resort we'd be spending the week. This was our first experience with driving on the island. The gist of it is this: you drive on the left side of the road, but in american cars (mostly Wranglers and pickups); the roads are few, narrow, steep, and twisty. The close quarters make the average cruising speed of 30 mph seem like slaloms on a formula-1 racetrack. All this, and in the dark, for it was just past sunset when we set out.

The Estate Concordia is a cluster a semi-permanent wall tents and small studio apartments. The "tents" are wood-framed, split level buildings that sleep six in close quarters. The walls and roof are made of a plastic-fabric laminate with abundant zippered screens. Each has plank floors, attached porches, a small kitchette and fridge, solar lighting, solar hot water for the navy-style showers across the way, and composting toilets. These are perched on a steep hillside overlooking a spit of land running south to the ocean.

To the east: Drunk Bay and water all the way to Africa.

A 15-minute walk to the south and west: the calm inlet of Saltpond Bay, where there is an excellent beach and accessible snorkeling.

All these buildings are connected by many flights of stairs and boardwalks. Here's a view from the south:

More to follow.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Chocolate Milk!

In a glass bottle, no less. God bless the farmers' market!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Monday, March 5, 2012

Our View

Here's the view from our porch currently.