Fiat Slug

It’s the famous Banana Slug (even though it doesn’t have the typical bright yellow color)! Probably the most popular  – or should we say: the only popular  – slug in the world. Ariolimax californicus even beat a much more photogenic Sea Lion in a popular vote on the official mascot of the University of California, Santa Cruz sports teams:

“The chancellor considered sea lions more dignified and suitable to serious play than Banana Slugs. But the new name did not find favor with the majority of students, who continued to root for the Slugs even after a sea lion was painted in the middle of the basketball floor. After five years of dealing with the two-mascot problem, an overwhelming proslug straw vote by students in 1986 persuaded the chancellor to make the lowly but beloved Banana Slug UCSC’s official mascot.”

“The Banana Slug even figured in a court case involving campus mascots. Judge Terence Evans, writing the opinion for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, stated: “We give the best college nickname nod to the University of California, Santa Cruz. Imagine the fear in the hearts of opponents who travel there to face the imaginatively named ‘Banana Slugs’?” (Crue et al. v. Aiken, June 1, 2004)” (UCSC.edu on the Banana Slug Mascot)

Banana slug fan gear is available here - how about some Slug Slippers?

Looking for spring

Pinocchio

Look at this huge pinecone we found on a recent trip to Mt. Diablo! I’m so glad we have a SUV because we couldn’t have brought it home in a compact. In addition to football-sized dimensions and considerable weight, the cone also has hooked spurs that were still pointing outwards when I plucked it from the tree – it looks much less threatening now that it’s opened up. Thanks to the helpful and adorably Comic-Sans-ish page Pining for Pines by J. Zimmerman, Ph.D., I’ve identified it as a Big-cone Pine (well, duh!) or Pinus coulteri. Wikipedia happens to have a fitting name for it as well:

The large size of the cones has earned them the nickname “widowmakers” among locals. (Wikipedia: Coulter Pine)

This is not really an exaggeration because they can weigh up to 10 pounds – which makes them the heaviest pinecones in the world. (The world’s largest tree Sequoiadendron giganteum has disappointingly tiny cones, by the way.)

If We Make It Through December

The 12 Stages of Monday’s Total Lunar Eclipse

Although I think I can see some blue sky right now from my desk, the evening will probably be cloudy in Berkeley and we won’t get to see any of these exciting phenomena. This night also happens to be the winter solstice. That means it’s not only the darkest, but also the longest night of the year. I guess it can only get better from there.

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Californian Girls

Italian Heritage Parade on Columbus Day, San Francisco. And look at those smiles:

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The day I missed my first whale

We were promised the “foggiest and windiest point” of the U.S., and sorely disappointed! (To be fair, everything was covered in thick fog about 15 minutes before I took this picture. We were quite lucky.)

The beach.

Gray Whale migration is typically from December to May. There was one gray whale today, which I didn’t see because I looked the other way for a second…

Build it and they will come

Slurp!

I put my hummingbird feeder up yesterday morning. Today, one of them already had lunch there and  in the afternoon, two territorial males were fighting for the spot. This one’s having dinner, literally an arm’s length from our front step. They are not shy at all. One of them also hovers in front of my window and tries to see what’s happening on my screen (he’s probably planning to sneak in and check out some hummingbird porn!)

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