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Meet Nena, the Newest Addition to the Woodfin-Mah Family!

She’s a Maltese, surrendered at about 13.5 years of age (which would make her the doggie equivalent of 67 or 68 human years, dependent upon which calculator/method you use). Someone shared a Facebook post about her on the 5th of this month. On the 8th, Linda and I went to Orange County Animal Care, adopted her, and brought her home.

And our family has grown by one!

A photo posted by Sharonda Woodfin (@broken_baja) on

Linda had never owned a dog before, ‘though she’s done plenty of dog-sitting. I grew up with dogs, but had never adopted a senior. We knew that Nena would have some medical issues — and she does: bad teeth, missing teeth, skin allergies, and a bad knee. Nena’s first vet visit as a member of our household also resulted in 3x/day pills to ease her kennel cough.

But imagine our surprise when we realized that Nena is housebroken, crate-trained, and doesn’t bark! Doggy parenting doesn’t get much easier than that!

Over the past few days, since we brought Nena home, I’ve watched my wife fall in love with the little dog. I like to tell Linda that her heart has grown three sizes. “Well, maybe not three,” she says. And she’s smiling when she says it.

Meanwhile, I’m less restless, more centered, and far more satisfied than I was before Nena came into our lives. Dogs will do that for you: They give you focus, purpose, and even a schedule. They aren’t just stabilizing influences; they’re grounding. Some of us need that more than others do, else we flit from thing to thing to thing. (See this blog’s category list. I’ve flitted a lot, of late.)

Too much cuteness!

A photo posted by Sharonda Woodfin (@broken_baja) on

Hat tip to Lisa Scarsi for sharing Nena’s story and pics on Facebook! Without Lisa’s willingness to share, Linda and I would have never known about Nena. We might never have transitioned from happily married with too much free time, to happily married fur mamas. Thanks, Lisa! 🙂

I don’t know the details of Nena’s back story. I was told at the shelter that Nena’s previous family surrendered her because they moved and couldn’t take her with them. I know that there’s a tendency to assume the worst of people who surrender their animals, for whatever reason. And while I do believe that judgment to be spot-on more often than not, I also know that people sometimes find themselves in desperate circumstances, that humans sometimes make stupid decisions, and that there really are cases where an animal might be better off at the county shelter than in some situations with their human families.

Nena after her first bath by mama Sam #cleandog #seniordog #rescuedog #rescuedogsofinstagram #maltese

A photo posted by OrangeCounty Gal (@orangecountygal) on

So, if Nena’s previous people are reading this, I want them to know that — regardless of the circumstances which led them to give her up — Nena is fed, loved, and taken care of. They don’t need to worry about her. She looks pretty happy in these pics, right? (And if they’re still worried, despite the obviously happy dog pics, they’re free to contact me via this site’s contact page.)

And the message for anyone else who is considering getting a dog: Adopting a dog — any dog — helps to make room for some other dog who needs the space. There are always more dogs than there are spaces.

Adopting a senior dog means that you might get lucky, like Linda and I did. And it might not.

In the end, what you’re giving up is the work, the energy, and some of the entertainment that comes with puppyhood. What you’re getting is the face in that last pic, above, and the love that goes with it.

And who can resist a face like that?

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Finley Has Risen!

She didn’t stay up long enough for OCEARCH to get her location, but surface, she did, for the first time in over a week! It’s also the first time she’s surfaced since I started tracking her, so — location info or no — I’m pretty excited to see that my shark has risen!

I’m anxious to see where she’ll be when she surfaces long enough to get a fix on her — ‘though, judging by her OCEARCH profile, Finley tends to stay fairly close to the Texas coast in the Gulf of Mexico.

Click here if you’d like to follow Finley, too; or here if you have no clue what I’m talking about.

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Follow that shark!

This is the shark that I’m tracking for that edX shark course I mentioned several days ago. Her name is Finley, and she’s a mature, 10-ft, 361-lb, tiger shark from Port Aransas, Texas. She’s traveled over 3000 miles since she was initially tagged by Ocearch back in November of 2015, and I hope she continues her prodigious paddling while I sit at my desk and wait for her to move!

All reservations about tagging animals — and tagging methodologies — aside, following Finley looks to be an interesting aspect of what, for me, has already become a ridiculously interesting course.

You don’t need to enroll in any such course to follow Finley, though. You can see the tracks of Ocearch’s tagged sharks (and even one sea turtle) just by following the link above.

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Finding Dory — At the Aquarium of the Pacific!

Activate your blog-reader’s GPS. This will be a long post, with a few twists and turns.

Egg Yolk Jelly at the Aquarium of the Pacific
Egg Yolk Jelly at the Aquarium of the Pacific, June 22nd, 2016.

Linda and I finally saw Finding Dory this past Tuesday night. We’d been meaning to see it since it opened on the 17th. We waited until the 21st because Linda had the 22nd off work, and because Tuesday nights make for less-crowded theaters than Friday nights do. Theoretically, anyway. Plus, Shark Week is coming up! And so is this Cornell meets Queensland course about sharks I want to take at edX! And OMG! Late June is an awesome time to be a fan of fishes!

The first thing you need to know about Finding Dory is that it’s a fun film! Regardless of what you may read online, it’s better than Finding Nemo. Your first clue that this might be the case (particularly if you’re a grown-up), is that Dory garnered a PG rating, versus Nemo‘s G. There were a lot of adults seeing the film when we did, a lot of those adults were laughing throughout the film, and the whole thing — if you don’t count those in-credit scenes; how do moviegoers in the age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe not know that the end of the movie is no longer the end of the movie? — ended with a round of applause. Dory, like Zootopia earlier this year, is an animated film produced with more than just kids in mind.

Moon Jellyfish at the Aquarium of the Pacfic
Moon Jellyfish at the Aquarium of the Pacfic, June 8th, 2013.

And for those of us who have spent time as a caregiver to a loved one with dementia, Dory is going to hit home in a meaningful way.

Another thing that Dory hits upon is Morro Bay. Morro Bay is a coastal California town, just northwest of San Luis Obispo. Dory is from a place she remembers as “the jewel of Morro Bay”, which turns out to be some sort of aquarium (with a focus on rehab and release, if you believe Sigourney Weaver). But, in contrast to Monterey Bay and its Aquarium (which I was aware of before coming to California, even from the landlocked fields and pastures of Southeast Missouri), I’d never heard of Morro Bay. Once I was sure that it was a real place, and a real place with a real aquarium, I wondered why the folks who made Finding Dory chose it over Monterey. Or any other Aquarium with a capital “A”.

The only theory that really made sense to me was that, for whatever reason, someone wanted to call attention to the aquarium at Morro Bay. I can’t actually tell you that this was the rationale for making Dory from Morro Bay, but I can tell you that a quick internet search would be enough to justify that motivation. Colin Rigley’s 2012 New Times SLO article “The aquatic anachronism” — complete with documentation from the USDA and the NOAA — describes the Morro Bay Aquarium as “the saddest aquarium on Earth”. The Humane Society wanted the Aquarium shut down as far back as 2013. While the Aquarium’s lease doesn’t end until September 2018, the Morro Bay city council has already approved a contingent partnership with Avila Beach’s Central Coast Aquarium to replace the Morro Bay Aquarium.


Porcupinefish at the Aquarium of the Pacific
Porcupine fish at the Aquarium of the Pacific, June 22nd, 2016.

But that approval didn’t come until January of this year. In the years that Finding Dory was in production, there were people working toward those plans (see KCBX’s 2014 article “Cal Poly, Central Coast Aquarium eye Morro Bay waterfront”; KSBY’s “Morro Bay Aquarium to change ownership”, and New Times SLO’s similarly-titled “Morro Bay Aquarium may change ownership”, both from 2015.) Whether the motivation for Dory’s geographic location came from the conditions at the Morro Bay Aquarium, the hope for a better future in that location, or someone throwing a dart at a map, I know that I’ve come away from the film far more aware than I was before having seen it. And I’d be willing to bet that I’m not the only person who decided to search the internet for Morro Bay after seeing the movie.

Finding Dory has raised other concerns, though, particularly among marine biologists. These biologists worry that demand for blue tangs as aquarium fish will rise, which could lead to both depletion of blue tangs and damage to coral reefs.

They aren’t wrong about the demand, if screaming children are a good gauge of such.

Giant Isopod at the Aquarium of the Pacific
Giant Isopod at the Aquarium of the Pacific, June 8th, 2013.

On the heels of seeing Finding Dory, given Linda’s day off, and in anticipation of both Shark Week and the online shark course I mentioned above, my wife and I headed to Long Beach yesterday, and we renewed our membership to the Aquarium of the Pacific. Every blue tang in the Aquarium was surrounded by kids screaming “Dory! Dory!” Sure, there were a few little ones screaming “Nemo!” at the clownfish, but the Nemo fandom couldn’t compete with the Dory section, in either volume or volume. Here’s hoping that parents are willing to say “no” when it’s needed, and to maybe channel that interest and enthusiasm toward a positive end, maybe even by helping places like the Aquarium of the Pacific to preserve species like the blue tang — and other, endangered species, too — so that their kids’ kids can see them one day, and not just in a cartoon.

Taking them to the Aquarium is a good start!

Visits to the Aquarium aren’t nearly as expensive as visiting some popular local amusement parks, but — if you plan to go more than once per year — membership makes it cheaper. And even the cool stuff you can purchase from the gift shop helps to keep the Aquarium funded.

The Otters Strike Back t-shirt from the Aquarium of the Pacific.
The Otters Strike Back t-shirt from the Aquarium of the Pacific. Photo by Linda Mah. Used with permission.

I can’t give you directions from where you live (see the Aquarium’s Directions & Parking page for that); but from where we live, in Downtown Anaheim, the easiest way to get to the Aquarium is to hop on the 5 south, take it to the 22 west, and stay on 7th in Long Beach until either Redondo Avenue, Alamitos Avenue, or Magnolia Avenue — at which point the trip becomes a very real sort of choose your own adventure.


1. Go south.

2. Drive toward water (but never, ever into it).

3. Rely on GPS.

4. Take a straighter path than this post.

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Introductory Anthropology Notes – Not Blood, But Globin

Not so long ago, I learned that the red stuff which sometimes spatters the stove in my kitchen isn’t blood. I don’t remember exactly how I learned it, but I think it involved having my wife look something up online while I was cooking dinner. And the gist of what either she or I discovered is that meat, by the time you’ve bought it from whatever big box grocery store meat department, has been relieved of its blood. What’s actually spattered in my kitchen is myoglobin.

I remember, too, how that sounded an awful lot like a technicality, to me. While I wasn’t completely right (blood is blood and not-blood is not blood, after all), I wasn’t completely wrong, either.

One blood component which has been briefly touched upon in the introductory anthropology lectures I’m listening to is hemoglobin.

You see the similarity already, right? -globin, meet -globin. Hemo- and myo- share a root. And they share a purpose, too. While hemoglobin grabs onto iron molecules and uses them to transport oxygen around in the blood, myoglobin serves the same purpose in muscle tissue. In both cases, it’s that oxygenated iron — think rust — that gives both globins their red pigment.

Globins are a subset of proteins; and proteins, to directly quote Wikipedia, “are assembled from amino acids using information encoded in genes”.

So, even when we’re discussing the not-blood spattered in my kitchen, we’re still discussing genetics. We’re still concerned with — whether we recognize it or not — genetics, inheritance, and evolution.

Never mind turtles; it’s genes all the way down, baby…

And even plasma is thicker than water.

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Introductory Anthropology Notes – How Do You Say…

This is just a quick note on proper pronunciation of a couple of words that I’ve mispronounced pretty much always. You may wonder what these two words have to do with anthropology, but both relate to phenylketonuria, a metabolic disorder caused by a genetic defect; and hell, at this point in the learning process, we—humans, animals, living organisms, all of us—are just vehicles for making sure that our genes don’t die, anyway.

As less-than-uplifting as that concept is, I still had the negative energy left over to be bothered by what the word “phenylalanine” sounds like when a professor of anthropology says it versus what it sounds like when I say it, even if I’m only saying it in my head.

The professor says it similarly to how the fine folks at Forvo say it, roughly “phe-nyl-al-a-nine”. The important segments here are “phenyl”, “ala”, and “nine”. In my head, that’s always been “pheny”, “lala”, and “nine”.

I’m sure you can see why one of those feels less silly to say than the other; and on this pronunciation, I stand corrected.

The other word, however, is “aspartame”.

Admittedly, I’ve heard this word pronounced exactly as the professor says it—and as everyone at Forvo echoes—over and over again: “ass” (i.e., the part you sit upon) – “purr” (what a happy cat does) – “tame” (what your dog supposedly is).

I’ll reiterate: “ass-purr-tame”.

That’s an awful word. It really is.

I prefer “ass-par-tuh-me”.

You’re saying “ass”, either way, but my version brings to mind ancient Greek warriors. The proper version?  Salicylic acid.

Admittedly, the latter is easier to swallow.

But, if you have phenylketonuria, swallowing ass-purr-tame is just a bad idea.


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Introductory Anthropology Notes – Bees, Orchids, and Rube Goldberg

This past Monday, I began listening to the lectures from a 2013 UC-Berkeley introductory anthropology class through iTunes U. The course is taught by Terrence W. Deacon, and the very first lecture was not love, but certainly strong interest, at first listen. I’ve never been much of a note taker, beyond jotting down formulas. I’ve always preferred to actually listen during academic lectures and found that concentrating on writing stuff down took away from my ability to focus on what I was hearing.

But technology changes things. The lectures I’m listening to are audio-only. The class in attendance had the benefit of visual elements in the lectures, while I only get the discussion surrounding those elements. At the same time, though, I can pause Professor Deacon at will, run a search for anything he’s mentioned that I think I might need more information on, and add appropriate links to my Safari reading list.

This series of posts will serve as both an archive and clearing house for those links. As I read their texts, watch their videos, or listen to their audios, they’ll be added to the Anthropology List category of this blog so that I can remove them from my Safari reading list without actually losing the reference.

Hopefully, these lists will also help to make it up to my wife, who is definitely supportive, but a bit jealous that I’m listening to lectures while she’s at work!

Nat Geo Wild: An Orchid’s Trap – This is not the video that Professor Deacon played while discussing life in comparison to Rube Goldberg machines. But it’s close. It helps to illustrate both interdependency between lifeforms — in this case, between bees and bucket orchids — and how living organisms aren’t organized in a way that we humans would consider efficient design.

(See this link if you don’t know what a Rube Goldberg machine is.)

Bees came up again in this early discussion of evolution, given how most honey bees never directly pass on genetic material. And that article from io9 led to this article on Japanese honey bees and their “hot defensive bee ball”.

Who would have thought that, to learn basic anthropology, I’d need to learn so much about bees?

Not me!

I might have balked, had I known, given my past propensity for getting myself stung!

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Levothyroxine, I Hardly Knew Ye

In three days, two weeks will have passed since I took my first dose of levothyroxine. In one day, one week will have passed since I ended up going to the emergency department of a local hospital with tachycardia, facial flushing, and a blood pressure that the triage nurse described as “obscene”. In a matter of four doses plus two days, I went from a sluggish metabolism and well-controlled hypertension to hypertensive urgency and dropping more than three pounds in one day.

I had stopped taking the medication two days before the hospital visit because I had also had four days of sitting-specific leg pain intense enough to keep me from being at my desk long enough to get any work done. It really was more comfortable to just keep walking. To the point that, last Wednesday, I just kept walking for a cumulative five or six miles and had a bit of a panic on an overpass because traffic, and heights, and Oh. My. God. TOO MUCH T4? T3?? TOO MUCH SOMETHING!!!

And that was on a dose of only 25 micrograms per day.

I don’t know enough about hypothyroidism to go on a nice, angry rant like I might if this were a diabetes-related post.

In fact, I don’t know if my hypothyroidism is due to Hashimoto’s disease, or some other cause. I don’t know how, or if, my TSH and free T4 levels changed from the time of the test which prompted my starting levothyroxine to the time of my visit to the emergency department. I don’t know what my free T3 level – which was in the normal range the last time it was tested, back in March of 2015 – was on either of those occasions.

What I do know is that the doctor in the emergency department didn’t seem to want to treat my elevated blood pressure. (We aren’t talking 140/90, here, kids. I can’t remember the specific diastolic number, but at one point in triage, my blood pressure was 221/11x.) And that it was only actually treated after I asked if I could at least double-up on what I was already taking.

I know that this same doctor advised me to go ahead taking the levothyroxine, despite the sudden elevation in both heart rate and blood pressure, because he didn’t think that the medication was the cause.

I also know that, given another day or so for my levothyroxine level to drop, my blood pressure is back to hovering mostly where it should, sitting at my desk doesn’t cause leg pain, and my metabolism is safely caved away in hibernation mode.

More importantly, I know that not one more dose of levothyroxine – or any thyroid hormone replacement, synthetic or natural, prescription or OTC – will enter my system before I know a hell of a lot more than I know now.

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Do You Know About Downtown Anaheim’s Outdoor Gym?

The sign welcoming you to the Downtown Anaheim Community Center Fitness Zone.
The sign welcoming you to the Downtown Anaheim Community Center Fitness Zone.

Situated between the Downtown Community Center (250 East Center Street) and the Downtown Youth Center (225 South Philadelphia Street), Downtown Anaheim’s outdoor gym is fairly well-hidden. But, if you have exercise in mind, it’s definitely worth finding!

Formally titled the “Downtown Anaheim Community Center Fitness Zone”, the gym includes 10 stations (some of which are wheelchair accessible), all from Greenfields Outdoor Fitness.

The view of the Fitness Zone from the north side.
The view of the Fitness Zone from the north side.

Those stations include:

  1. 2-Person Accessible Chest Press
  2. 2-Person Accessible Lat Pull
  3. 2-Person Accessible Vertical Press
  4. Combo Butterfly & Reverse Fly
  5. 2-Person Back & Arms Combo
  6. 4-Person Leg Press
  7. 4-Person Lower Body Combo
  8. 2-Person Incline Sit-Up Benches
  9. Pendulum, Abs, & Dips Station
  10. 2-Person Cross-Country Ski

Each link in the list above includes a basic description of the station, a diagram of the station’s target muscles, and a video demonstration of the station in use. But the stations, themselves, come complete with instructions, diagrams, and a QR code for accessing that particular machine’s demo.

Instructions for the Combo Butterfly & Reverse Fly station.
All machines come complete with instructions for how to use them.

It’s really hard to get good selfies while working out, so my lovely – and helpful! – wife agreed to let me use a few pics of her working out in order to make this post both more demonstrative and more personal.

My wife getting her lift on at the chest press station.
My wife getting her lift on at the chest press station.

We both love living in Downtown Anaheim because of how walkable the neighborhood is. We love being able to walk to the grocery store, the pharmacy, the library, a comic book store, our favorite sushi place, and now, to a free, publicly accessible gym!

Linda doing butterflies.
Linda doing butterflies.

The Greenfields machines in the Fitness Zone do not utilize free weights, so they’re relatively safe. That said, the sign at the very top of this post and the signs on all of the stations clearly state that 14 years is the minimum age for using the equipment.

So, please folks, for their own safety, if your kids are under 14, keep them off the stations!

Linda doing pendulums.
Linda doing pendulums.

Free, public, outdoor fitness areas are great for diabetics like me, who are local, insulin resistant, too socially-awkward to join a gym, and disinclined to pay for a membership, anyway. They’re also great for healthy locals, like my wife, with an interest in staying healthy and the vision to see both exercise and fresh air – yes, even in Southern California – as a part of that.

Healthy cities include a healthy populace. Thanks, Anaheim, for recognizing that!


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Sampling the Wears: One Shirt, One Case, and One Bad Title Pun

It was a big weekend at the Woodfin-Mah house!

Well, a big Friday night, anyway!

Linda and I had decided to treat ourselves to a couple of items from my Zazzle shop on the 19th of this month, and on Friday, our stuff showed up!

If you’re wondering why I can’t stop using exclamation points, it’s because I’m thrilled with the way everything printed!

I ordered a Cool Corroded Cuttlefish American Apparel t-shirt in navy blue:

Me in My Cool Corroded Cuttlefish T-shirt
Me in my Cool Corroded Cuttlefish t-shirt. Photo by Linda A. Mah, edited by me. Used with permission.

And Linda ordered an Orange Case-Mate Tough iPhone 6 case:

Linda and her Orange Case-Mate iPhone 6 case.
Linda and her Orange Case-Mate iPhone 6 case.

It’s a relief, for sure, to know that the products I put my art on come out the way that they should on the consumer end.

But it’s awesome, as a drawer of things, when the product matches not only the preview on the page, but the concept in your head.

Exciting stuff, that!

If you’re so inclined, you can click on the links above to buy either a matching t-shirt or iPhone case to have for your very own.