Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Signs of Spring in the Desert

One of my favorite spring desert flowers--the penstemon.

My first rose of the year. Not blurry in real life, but shyly hiding at the base of the rosebush.

Monday, March 28, 2011

County Fair Entry

My dear friend M is a multi-crafter; she tats, she knits, and she just learned how to do Tunisian crochet (with which she is currently obsessed). She even belongs to a local tatting club. She is the only member under 75, I think. The president was well into her 90s when M joined the club years ago. She joined because she thought tatting produced beautiful items and wanted to learn more about it and practice her skills at it. She's become very good at it, and has made everything from tatted bookmarks for her library to auction off, to lace inserts for her nieces' dresses, to table runners she gave away as gifts. In the past several years, her club has submitted items to the county fair as well as manned a booth promoting tatting and their club during the fair, which is next month. Sunday she brought over this year's entry, which the entire club worked on. She pointed out which row she had done, but alas, I cannot remember because I was so gobsmacked over how lovely it is. It's a tablecloth in a lovely, muted, variegated blue thread. I covet it. I truly covet it. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Why I Do Science

Because Ray Jayawardhana says it better than I could:

"These discoveries remind us that nature is often richer and more wondrous than our imagination."

"Alien Life, Coming Slowly into View" New York Times Opinion page, Sunday, March 27, 2011

(No, not a scientifically proper citation, but the online NYT does not list volume--who knew? The more info to find his excellent opinion piece, the better.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Introducing Bertram

Meet Bertram, a 16-week old clumber spaniel.

Bertie and his Uncle Big get along just fine. Bertie will eventually weigh in at much the same as Uncle Big, 70 lbs, but will be shorter with his basset-hound-inherited legs. And I think he's going to have that basset hound deep bay as opposed to a bark or woof, like my Samoyeds. And as he's just had his final round of vaccinations, as soon as he learns to walk like a proper gentleman on his leash, or even just walk on it rather than sit down and refuse to budge, he can start going to for short walks with Uncle Big and even to the dog park with us. Fun times!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Uncle Big

Mr. Big has been a bit gloomy since our Pupgirl died. Two weeks ago I applied to our local golden retriever rescue organization to adopt a dog. I had my home inspection two weeks ago, and am now just waiting for the perfect golden to join the zoo-- a female, young (anywhere up to 4 years old), good with cats. That last bit makes this a taller order than normal, but I'm sure we'll find our new girl soon. Pupgirl's best friend was a golden named Angel that she used to play with like crazy, chasing and jumping on her--just the way she played with Mr. Big. The temperaments are so similar I think a sammy and a golden will get along fine.

But he's perked up a bit the last week because exactly one week ago, T bought a show clumber spaniel puppy, and he has come down three times to play with Uncle Big. Biggie has been great, although not playing per se, but definitely happier and more alert and interested when the puppy is around. Last night when she brought him down and I opened the door and Mr. Big saw the pup, his tail started to whirl like a helicopter. There have been mild resource guarding issues--no, pup, that dinner is mine, mild grrr, said Uncle Big. Which reminded me that he did have these problems with Pupgirl occasionally (especially over certain toys), so out came my copy of Mine! by Jean Donaldson that I'm rereading while we wait for our perfect golden.

I think T has decided on the name I suggested: Bertram. Bertie for short. It really suits that dog so well. In honor of Bertram Wooster and Bertram Potter. Just stodgy enough, just goofy enough.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Cat Who Started It All

Camille, who went on cross-country trips, flew first class, trained two dogs, and had a dissertation dedicated to her.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cool Science Tidbits

Today's cool science news:

Older elephant matriarchs are better able to identify the roar of a male lion and to initiate the formation of appropriate defensive tactics faster than younger female elephants.

The gene that causes shar-pei dogs to wrinkle so much also causes periodic fevers. Research into this genetic mutation may help human populations that have familial Mediterranean disease, as well as shar-pei breeders.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Triangle Fire Tragedy

History buff that I am, I was aware of the Triangle Fire, 25 March 1911, in which almost 150 people, mostly women, were trapped and killed when the shirtwaist factory in which they worked caught on fire. The one hundredth anniversary of the fire is approaching, and late last month PBS' American Experience broadcast a very moving film on the subject (you can watch this online here). There are numerous other commemorations and exhibits, some online, where you can learn about this horrific tragedy that intersected so many themes within modern American society--worker's rights, women's rights, the American Dream, immigration issues, and workplace safety, just to name a few. It's a heartbreaking hour, but well worth viewing.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What I Read for Celebrate E-book Week

I decided to celebrate e-book week by reading three books that emphasize one of the main reasons I love my Kindle--out-of-print (OOP)  and hard to find books.

I began the week reading Murder in the Gunroom, by H. Beam Piper (1953). Piper was a science fiction author, and this was his sole mystery. It's very redolent of the early 1950's, with its upper crust and not-quite-noir characters. Jefferson Davis Rand is the professional detective called in to assess the gun collection of a wealthy collector who accidentally shot himself while cleaning his new gun--or did he? The writing is crisp, the descriptions detailed enough to delight a reader like me who really likes descriptions. My only complaint is the slightly mysogonistic treatment of the women in the story, who are clearly just filler characters. There is an incredible amount of gun info, including lists of guns, and that is tedious to a non-NRA and non-gun fan, but it shows the author did know his stuff (at least, I guess it does and he did, as I don't know enough to judge). This one hasn't been in print in a while, although it is back in print now. I'd never have bought it, though, given my lack of interest in guns and gun collecting or macho 1950s heroes. But I enjoyed it. The mystery was obvious, but there were some twists that kept it interesting and it moved along at a solid pace.

My second read was far more enjoyable: A Prefect's Uncle by P. G. Wodehouse (1903). Of course it was enjoyable--it's Wodehouse! There's no way I would have bought this story on its own despite being a Wodehousian, because it centered heavily on cricket. And despite living briefly in England, I have no idea how cricket works. But I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless, because of typical Wodehousians like "...we should always strive to be kind, even to the very humblest. On the off chance, you know."  Or "My natural pride is too enormous. Descended from a primordial atomic globule, you know, like Pooh Bah." Would that high schoolers talked the way these Wodehousian schoolboys do. This is early Wodehouse, but he's already at his laugh-out-loud wittiness.

And I'm finishing Patty Fairfield by Carolyn Wells (1901), the first in the series of girls' books. Patty is 14, and sent off by her father to live three months with each of four aunts and their families. Of course each aunt is very different and espouses different values (after all, Victorian children's literature had to have a moral). As the series continues, Patty gets married and WWI happens, bur in this outing she's just a pretty, young, innocent goody two shoes. Being a goody two shoes, myself, I can appreciate that. I did enjoy the portrayal of her first Aunt Isabel, vain, only interested in appearance, and how the neglect of her children because of her own disinterest sadly mirrors some parents today, more interested in pretty clothes and pretty children and not interested in education or disciplining their kids. Yes, there is a screaming five-year-old who rules the roost through her tantrums. But it's an interesting evocation of a particular time period, and yes, it shows how little human nature has changed.

And then I turned the 3G wireless on to sync my Kindle with the correct time (it automatically jumped forward an hour) and the Aimee Leduc mystery (by Cara Black) I'd ordered arrived--all while lying in my bed. What decadence!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Some Catching Up

Ground turkey/veggie/brown rice skillet casserole: aren't these colors gorgeous?

A rainy weekend in town meant snow in the very low elevation mountains next to my recent office. And there were cat tracks on my job site--bobcat tracks!

My Hudson's Bay-inspired blanket, at about 3 ft square. I love this so much I am going to make myself a large one for my living room. It reminds me so much of MoM's Hudson's Bay coat. MoM was out here while I was crocheting this, and was reminiscing about that coat. I always wanted to make off with it one day, and am so disappointed to hear the moths beat me to it. But this is my little ode to my dream cabin in the Adirondacks.
And my guy. What a handsome, sweet goofball. He's lost 5 lbs since his dearest Pupgirl got sick and died (he was at the vet the week before she got sick, so I know exactly how much he weighed before and now after). I am looking for a friend for him. Is this not the most handsome fluffball in the world?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"It'll never go away."

I went to see my dermatologist the other day, a return check-up from 6 months ago because she wanted to check something out. That spot was okay, but she did remove Something That Was Changing, but not serious. Anyway, she asked if I had noticed anything since I'd last been in, so I said "Why yes, this unusual spot on my forehead. What is it?" "Oh, I hate to tell you, but that's an age spot. My assistant calls them wisdom spots. It'll never go away. So don't bother with those creams and things; it'll never fade."

I burst out laughing like a crazy old woman. Mother of Mossy doesn't have age spots, er, wisdom spots on her face, but I do. Where's the justice in that? I had bangs for my entire life until three years ago, so my forehead should have been protected from the evil aging rays of the sun by the impenetrable bang layer. I had accepted the age spots on my hands with only a little grumpiness as I tried to embrace Middle Agedness. But my forehead? C'mon, Mother Nature, I'm trying to age gracefully. Help me out by not testing me like this, okay? Sheesh!

Well, I guess it matches the white streak of hair coming in right in the middle of my forehead (yes, the former bangs are retaliating by turning white). Just like the blaze of a skunk.

Monday, March 7, 2011

It's Read an E-book Week!

Yes, March 6-12 is Read an E-book Week. And before you knock it, you should try it. I am addicted to the dictionary on my Kindle--I'm constantly looking up words to see if they mean what I've always assumed they meant from context, or, as in the case of the e-book I just finished today, if they are completely new words to me. Plus, I can read without my glasses (the novelty of this e-reader benefit has still not worn off even after a year), while holding my book in one hand and petting the cat with the other. Win-win all around. Now if I could just grow a third arm for my tea and cookies...

So, Mossy's weekly total: + 1 e-book

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Saving a Hummingbird

Several weeks ago (Feb. 3, to be exact), we had a week-long cold snap here in the Old Town. Several nights were at or below freezing, but then arrived two sequential nights of a hard freeze--17 and 19 degrees each. We desert dwellers are not used to that kind of cold for so prolonged a period, and trees and plants have died or lost their leaves all over town--it's autumn at the wring time and the wrong place. I've raked up three bags of leaves so far, and have about 10 more to go. All my trees dropped all their leaves, two of my Sennas froze on the outer tips (pruning may save them), and all over my block cactus dropped huge numbers of pads and were drooping and sad, as if they had given up.

I had let Mr. Big out for his evening perambulation in the backyard at 6 p.m., went back in for a minute, and then went back out to find a little fuzzy-looking blob on my patio. What is it? thought I, and Why didn't Mr. Big eat it? So I picked it up (this is where my big sister is shuddering), to discover that it was a hummingbird. He had fallen from a leftover Christmas swag underneath his feeder and was freezing to death. Hummingbirds have exceptionally fast metabolisms that they slow down at night to sleep, but when the temps drop too low, they can literally freeze to death.

I scooped him up and brought him inside. An online bird source said to gently breathe on him as he lay cupped in my hand, and after about 5 minutes of this, his little beak started to twitch. Another 5 or 10 minutes, and his head was moving around, followed by his wings.My neighbor T brought down one of her empty bird cages with a little eyedropper and a hummingbird feeder, and I forced some sweet water into his gullet. When he became active enough, into the cage he went, where I continued to dropper feed him.

Stripey Cat was very interested in that fluttering little thing whose wings beat so fast they were a blurring buzz. After several hours in my closed bedroom, he spent the night in the laundry room (yes, door closed so no cat terrors would punctuate his dreams). The next morning, more dropper feeding, and when T called to say her hummingbird was outside buzzing around her feeder, I let him go. Zoom! Off he flew into my desert willow, which still had leaves on it in which he could hide and soak up the morning sun.

I had hoped to earn some good karma points by saving his little life. We all know what happened two days later. But what a thrill to hold that still, little body, no larger than my thumb, in my hand, and watch him come back to life. The photos were impossible to take, because I was just too close to my own hand, but hopefully these give you some sense of the rescue. And yes, he's sleeping with his tail spread out like that.

I think he's an Anna's hummingbird, with his beautiful shimmering red gorget. I am so glad I went back out after Mr. Big and found him. Makes  me feel all one with Nature and proud of my little part in his life. I have no idea if he's the one that is still buzzing around out there, but I'd better go clean his feeder and make him some breakfast. ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzz to everyone!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Mr. Lincoln

Today is the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln. The New York Times has been running a fabulous series on the Opinion page (and apparently on Facebook as well) tracing the rise of the Civil War by a number of historians, each addressing different, and often, unusual, themes. I heartily recommend it for the history lovers among you. It's fascinating, utterly riveting, and is called Disunion.

And heartening to see that we've survived far worse threats to our union.