Wednesday, April 30, 2008

First of all...

...thank you so much for making the Santa Cruz Lighthouse picture number one. I think that means I've won (I have a hard time accepting such realities), and really I couldn't have done it without you. I keep thinking of Sally Field and that awful moment that has become so often parodied. I won't say, "You like me, you really like me." That's not what she said actually, but close enough to make us all a little bit queasy. I wonder how much better it would have sounded if she had said, "I love you, I really love you." That's how I feel at the moment.

When I was in fifth grade and a pipsqueak of a person, not more than 4"10" tall, I represented my elementary school at the county track meet in the standing broadjump category. I was smaller than all of the competition. I lost big time that day. While the other girls were jumping over seven feet, I didn't even clear six. I was good for my size, but I was little in the world.

Today makes up for all of that.

I don't broadjump anymore, but I do take pictures. The one above is a Red-breasted Sapsucker that tried four trees in about two minutes before flying away.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Vote for Me

I have submitted this photo to the Santa Cruz Sentinel Newspaper for their sunset photo contest. Those of you who know me know that I don't usually go for competitions. I tend to think that most competitions try to compare unlike things, like blogging contests. But there was something about this contest that appealed to me. It's all about sunsets, and I like photographing sunsets. If you go to this page, my submission photo is the third on the top row. If you like it, would you please click on it and vote for me. There are no prizes or awards, just the delight in competing with other sunset pics.


Monday, April 28, 2008

world made by hand: a review

embiggen at your risk. rampant disarray. no focal point.

several months ago i read on James Kunstler's blog "Clusterfuck Nation" (such a wonderful title, doncha think?) that his new novel would soon be published and that he sought reviewers. i e-mailed my desire to review and the requested url of our modest blog. now let me say that i agree with his view of the present situation and of the probable future, and that in my opinion he says it with learned, literate, and historically informed elegance. i didn't really think that anything would come of my request.

just recently a copy of his book " World Made by Hand" appeared on our porch, surprising and delighting me. i read it immediately. in two days.

well. i will telegraph a bit of my review. through most of the story i was nodding right along with my superficial fan sort of mentality. he writes well. very clever. insightful. funny. actually more of "wow and oh yeah." i liked it. it seemed entirely plausible. but then....oops. a turn to what? oh shit. i can't just say this is all good. reality bites, in some modern cliche'. so the review is more challenging than i had considered. i do like the story. i do think the book is worth reading.

here goes:

the story is set in a small town in upstate new york at some near future time after both L.A. and D.C. have been devastated by what one assumes are nuclear bombs. there is no more gas or oil and so no more cars or trucks. there is neither state nor federal government still functioning. the protagonists are coping fairly well, having had the foresight to live in a small town with a gravity fed water system. i'm kidding about the foresight thing. but they do have a barter economy so the doctor is paid in garden produce. they eat well. Kunstler's descriptions of food are detailed and extensive. mouth-watering too. the food is probably quite nourishing. no empty calories. the social arrangements are mostly a holdover from more "civilized" times and there is not much crime in the town. as the view expands to the nearby areas and even on to Albany we see various other models of organization: a large farm run benignly by the owner to include what were called peasants in earlier eras; a recycling center at what was the town dump, run by low-lifes ruled by a petty tyrant; the port of albany run by a bigger, meaner crook. we learn of the wider circumstances as the main character sets out to find to find manufactured goods and then to rescue or ransom three men from the farm held hostage in albany.

the retreat to a more primitive way of living includes much more physical labor than we are used to and makes more stark the heirarchial structure of peasant life that has been there all along under our veneer of modernity. there is no more call for symbolic analysts. no employment for accountants or insurance adjusters. the picture is of a society succumbing to entropy at a fast pace. those in the town, with enough food, shelter, and clothing to be comfortable, retain a genteel sort of civil peace, disturbed on the periphery by aggregates of low-lifes. the future of the future doesn't look good. ok. near the end the narrative veers off into, well, i don't want to spoil it for you. about all i can say is that i think the introduction of magic doesn't serve the book well.

this is not a cautionary tale. it is prophetic. he's not telling us to shape up or face dire consequences. he sees dire consequences as inevitable. and this story doesn't even include the possible, perhaps inevitable consequences of global climate change. it wouldn't take a war to create the future he describes. we see the beginnings of it now: food riots, oil at record high prices as worldwide demand increases exponentially, various countries restricting food exports to feed themselves, gasoline at $4/gallon and rising, the possibility of an international financial catastrophe, endless war in the middle east.

i have been paring down, in anticipation of moving, my collection of assorted nuts, bolts, screws, tools and odd hardware with kunstler's dour outlook in mind. manufactured goods will most certainly be more expensive quite soon. my buckets of stuff will be handy no matter what. the picture at the top doesn't even show quite all my treasure. i suppose the redwood hot tub is a bit optional. i am leaving lumber behind.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

republican activism

students take to the streets to protest loss of habeus corpus beer tax.

way to go republicans!!!!

"A group of Bay Area College Republicans took to the streets of San Jose Friday evening to protest a subject near and dear to them - beer.

More to the point, they wanted to rant about a state lawmaker's proposed tax on beer manufacturers that would add nearly $2 to the price of a six-pack as a way to help the state plug its giant budget deficit.

"This is a tax on poor students," said Leigh Wolf, 21, of the San Francisco State University Republicans. "They're using a bunch of studies to justify this beer tax, but you don't need a study to know college students drink a lot of beer. This is our way, after a long day of school and work, to sit down and relax.""

i guess they haven't heard of 4:20.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Words Wednesday:
Things are proceeding with the sale of the house. The inspection is behind us and the appraisal lies ahead. We are starting to believe that we are really going back to California. It is exciting, even though we are going to miss everything that happens right outside our windows here. Hawk photos taken Sunday morning during the freaky spring snow. It is highly recommended that you embiggen these photos.

Monday, April 21, 2008

mass hysteria

we brought along far too much stuff through the our two previous moves. the earlier was just across town in santa cruz, so it was easy to make many trips and we were both working so stuff just came along. the later, a much further move here to port townsend, was made easy by the fortuitous circumstance of the rental company providing much larger truck than we had ordered. we both worked almost till we left. i had perhaps a week off. robin worked till the friday before we left on a monday. it was easier to jam everything, most of which was not unpacked from the previous move, into the big truck. we are determined to lighten our load for the next move, coming up next month, so i have been ruthlessly editing my fabulous collection of tools and materials.

among the long unexamined but still shlepped along boxes i found one full of youngest daughter's college leftovers. some books and loads of spiral notebooks and pencils and doodads. we can't be the only parents carting such kid stuff around can we? among the books was "Why People Believe Weird Things: pseudoscience, superstition, and other confusions of our time" by Michael Shermer, forward by Stephen Jay Gould. who could resist a book like that. not i.

it is an interesting book by the publisher of Skeptic magazine, an Occidental College professor. he debunks the "hundredth monkey" theory early on, using facts. i like that. but here is what really caught my attention as i was reading about mass hysteria through history, in particular the witch craze in 16th century europe. he quotes anthropologist Marvin Harris;

"The principal result of the witch-hunt system was that the poor came to believe that they were being victimized by witches and devils instead of princes and popes. Did your roof leak, your cow abort, your oats wither, your wine go sour, your head ache, your baby die? It was the work of the witches. Preoccupied with the fantastic activities of these demons, the distraught, alienated, pauperized masses blamed the rampant Devil instead of the corrupt clergy and rapacious nobility."

hhhmmmmmm. that sounds familiar. now the witches are abortionists, gays and liberals, and the rapacious nobility is bear stearns, halliburton, countrywide et al. the corrupt clergy? i'm looking at you pat robertson, among others. the cardinal of los angeles (city of angels, how ironic is that?) is asking parishes to kick in some bux to help pay for the sexual abuse settlements. your priest was bad. pony up some hush money. might we suppose that those "distraught, alienated, pauperized masses" were bitter?

the picture was taken sunday morning. was it la nina or global climate change that brought snow in april? maybe witches and warlocks. maybe liberals.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Two Warblers and Another Robin

It happened this way last year too. A Yellow-rumped Warbler arrived on the same day as the Wilson Warbler. I could have the IDs wrong, but that's what I think these two birds are. If I remember correctly, we
should be keeping our eyes open for the Western Tanager, which usually shows up for one day, around the time the warblers arrive. Their stay is short; they're all on their way to someplace else. We're just a layover, the Dharma way-station. We could blink and miss them, literally.
Okay, so here's another robin for you. At first I thought she had a mess of watery wet feathers, but the photo close-up doesn't look like that to me. When I look at the darkness on her chest I think it's blood. What do you think? What would make a bird look like this? She was eating and flying, and even though she looked thin, she looked like she could take care of herself.

An update: Thanks to the insight of two incomparable commenters, Valown and CCorax, it looks like the explanation for Ms. Robin's dark chest feathers could be an unusual molt. We are glad to know and even more appreciative of the very smart people who read our humble blog.

The arrival of the warblers is some evidence of a spring trying to emerge. We are, however, expecting a rainy weekend with a low of 34F on Saturday. Any lower and you know what happens? Snow. Yes, snow.

Have a good weekend, friends.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Variations on a Theme

While we're soaring with the exuberance of imagining some warmer sunny clime in our future, and simultaneously stressing about the cat's health and all of the packing we're going to have to do very quickly, we take a long look out the window and watch the various creatures deal with their place in the hierarchy of the wild.
Several beautiful Violet-Green Swallows arrived on the same day last week. Only one will get this nest box. For hours they took turns perched on the opening and denying access to the others.
We hadn't seen a Lesser House Finch in about two years. Most male House Finches are red. The yellows are those which don't have access to the highest quality food. Note this young gent is eating seed in the driveway gravel while the reds take turns on the seed feeder.
I've been reading about mallard behavior. Every piece I've read says that males leave the females when she starts sitting on the nest. That's it, relationship over. Here's what this drake does, day after day, he comes here alone and sits. He quacks and waits. He flies off, and he returns. Only when she comes, the one with restless wing syndrome (thanks for that description, mojoman) does he rest. An aggressive alpha male has tried to take over the pond. The mellow beta drake, and I with my human beta self asserted, chase that interloper off. This drake waits for her, and the lone female we call Ms. Gloria Steinem. The three of them rest all evening by the pond.
Stick Robin shows up a robust and healthy male. We secretly fantasize that he's the father of many of the young robins we've seen over the years. He's the eloquent teacher of how to survive being dealt a lousy hand. (Stick Robin photographed on Sunday. He looks good, doesn't he?)

Update: Bonsai's health is definitely improving. He's not happy about his new diet, but he's adjusting. He's even dealing with the daily dosing of antibiotics. We are surprised and heartened by how much he trusts us, even when we are making his life miserable.

The house inspection is scheduled for next Monday at 9:00 am. One more hurdle to clear on the road out of here.

We're not saying anything about politics these days. You know us. You know what we think. We were reminded the other day about Jon Stewart's tirade on Crossfire a few years ago, when he shouted how Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson's antics were killing our country. I think we're about due for another tirade about how almost all of media is killing our democracy. Perhaps this tirade will need all of our beta voices together. Just a thought.

Monday, April 14, 2008

up and down and up

we have indeed accepted a good offer to buy our house. and thank you all again for your kind wishes for our success. escrow to close may 23. yikes, that's only 6 weeks! there is, as bobby burns reminds us, "many a slip 'tween 'twixt the cup and the lip," but this is a simple offer and the buyers supposedly (oh dear) have their financing lined up already so it's up to an appraiser. we signed the offer on saturday morning. wahoo!!!!! we are on our way.

but wait. life goes on in all areas possible. watch out, as jon carroll, one of my favorite columnists, warns readers when he's going to talk about his cats, here comes a cat post. and medical to boot.
on friday we noticed bonsai, our cat, lying down in his litterbox. that's not good. he also tried to urinate outside. both unusual behaviors and indicative of bladder problems. looking in the litterbox we could see that he had urinated only a small amount. i called the vet and got an appointment monday morn. by saturday noon the little bits of wet litter were even smaller. very smaller.

so bonsai got an emergency trip to the vet. male cats have a tendency to bladder blockage, thanks to a lousy intelligent design. it does require immediate attention. fortunately it is a very short way to the clinic so he only had to complain a short time. the vet has a metal examining table and we put him up there. i get to hold him, gently but firmly by the scruff with one hand, controlling his body with the other, while the vet examines him. she looks at his eyes and mouth. he is fairly calm. and then she says "let's see if he's blocked," and she lifts his tail while sliding her other hand along his belly back between his rear legs and somehow squeezes out a bit of urine! i am amazed. robin has retreated to the outer room. bonsai hardly seems to notice. robin tells me later that she couldn't believe the vet did this, and the following tests, without wearing gloves. i agree.

now there is perhaps a teaspoon of cat urine on the stainless steel table. the vet gets some sort of high tech test strip and dips it in the pee. tho the liquid looks clear and only slightly yellow the multiple use test strip indicates that the ph is ok, but that there are also both red and white blood cells, suggesting that crystals have scratched his urethra and that he has a bit of infection. as there is still flow the treatment is hydration to flush out his bladder, steroid to reduce inflammation thus increasing flow, antibiotic for the infection, and sedation for relaxation. so i get to keep holding the cat while he has a hydration needle stuck in him and something like a cup of saline runs into him. slowly. robin has rejoined us and speaks soothingly to bonsai. i hold him against my body as becomes more restless. the vet, meanwhile has checked the urine under a microscope and confirms the diagnosis of crystals. the final indignity is a shot of sedative.

jumping to the conclusion and breaking the tension, bonsai has urinated more in the past 12 hours (i'm writing this sunday afternoon) than in the previous 48. the treatment seems so far successful. the trip home from the vet was peaceful as he was dosed. by the time we got home he couldn't walk, so robin put him under the bed in his safe spot. he growled at me if i got near. weakly. today he has almost completely forgiven or forgotten my sins and purrs a bit when i rub his head. i give him, morning and night, a dose of liquid antibiotic squirted into his mouth. i am not completely off his shit list.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Limbo, Tides, and Bones

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATEAROONY saturday morning 10 am

thanks for all the good thoughts. it worked!!!!! we have accepted an offer!!!!!

the good contingencies other than the usual inspection and financial stuff.

the more difficult part...30 day escrow. pack up and be gone in 30 days.

we're in limbo here. not the theological Catholic limbo of dead souls unable to progress to heaven because, well, ask a priest. we're in the limbo of "house for sale." a very neat and tidy place, which is a good thing, but this limbo isn't very homey. no leaving books and papers and camera and binoculars and computers and yesterday's mail on every horizontal surface. and shoes, oh, we have shoes, garden clogs, hiking boots, work shoes, sneakers, thongs, and each sort has a proper use and so should be handy by a door to outside. no half an apple or banana on the cutting board. no bag of peanuts or potato chips on the counter. and then there are the bedroom and bathroom. oy. no pile of stuff on my clothes dresser. no clothes on a chair. no chair either!

so we spiff up the landscape and go walking, both of which are good. at least playing on the internet is only messy in the mind. bits and pieces of all sorts of interesting stuff from all of you and others. we've become caretakers of our own house, having already surrendered ownership to commerce. as nothing, save the two constants of cliche', death and taxes, is certain--we have planted peas, carrots, beets, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower. and the garlic we planted last fall is eight inches tall and looks marvelous.

Friday morning at 10:00 am PDST, a couple is coming to look at our house again. We think they must see what we see, and like what we like. The question is, will they like it enough to make an offer? It's a buyer's market, as they say, so we are feeling hopeful but cautious. In the interest of science and influencing outcomes with positive thinking, all you readers out there, send your strongest and best "BUY THE HOUSE" VIBES. And, we'll let you know how it goes.
Other than that, we're being treated to a typical pacific northwest spring. That means unpredictable weather and minus tides. You know how happy that makes us, well at least the tides part of that. We love walking far out along the sandy beach where the bay waters usually roll and lap. It was quiet on Wednesday when the tide stretched all the way to a -2.15. We saw these snails, which we had not seen before. They were in a zone where we usually find large barnacles. We also discovered this little unearthly looking skull. Oh yes, Virginia, there once was an ET.
It's amazing how happy these little things make us. We skip along like children.

Speaking of skipping, I received the test results on the metabolics and Vitamin D lab tests. Everything looks incredibly good except for the the Vitamin D. The normal range (at the lab that ran the tests) is 32 - 100. My level is 13.7. Ouch. In the meantime, I've learned that walking is not enough to really help my bones, I need high impact exercise, like skipping or jumping rope. I was instantly reminded of my life in the 80s when I was a die-hard aerobic exerciser. Roger ripped an old Jane Fonda work-out disk for me, and I've been hopping and skipping, lifting and kicking for a few days. I'm surprised that I can keep at it for a good half hour without dropping dead. I've also increased my Vitamin D intake. Never google Vitamin D and read the varying and wide-ranging opinions about it, if you want life to make sense. The opinions range from conservative (800 iu a day) to ultra-hippie anti-aging nirvana (2000 iu or more). It occurred to me that, philosophically, I am not anti-aging in the least. First of all, I think it's impossible not to age, and second, why not age? It's what we do here on earth while we're breathing and eating, sleeping and blogging. My doctor recommended 800 iu. Most everywhere else recommends more. I'm doing more, but not as much as the people who want to live forever recommend.

Anyway, that's where things are at the moment. Please remember to think positive thoughts about selling our house. Let's try to influence outcomes, okay? Hey, did you notice that Roger wrote the first part of this post? Hey, Rog! Welcome back.

Have a great weekend, friends.

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATEAROONY saturday morning 10 am

thanks for all the good thoughts. it worked!!!!! we have accepted an offer!!!!!

the good contingencies other than the usual inspection and financial stuff.

the more difficult part...30 day escrow. pack up and be gone in 30 days.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Duck Went A-Courtin'

One Word Wednesday: Quack

Friday, April 04, 2008

Life Knocks on the Door...

...and we answer.

We have no excuse for not blogging. Well, except that we've been outside in the warm-ish temps, cleaning up the yard, weeding and prettifying the place. It's a lot of work. There are some clumps of grasses by the pond that take quite a bit of time to remove. Their roots are so weirdly thick, tangled, and deep. Eight hours of weed pulling in two days. I thought of Wayne and his microstegium. I also got sidetracked by a fantastic, brilliant novel by Lydia Millet called How the Dead Dream. I highly and unreservedly recommend it, if you like dense beautiful literature with a drop-dead perspective and a hauntingly perceptive look at the decline of our poor twirling blue planet. All seen through the eyes of a real estate developer, money mogul in southern California.

The duck dramas continue. Wednesday morning there were three mallards (two females and one male) plus one Great Blue Heron together in the pond. I thought it sounded like the beginning of a joke. The heron took off as soon as I got close to the window. The three others took turns in the pond, on the edge, under the feeder, etc. On Thursday, first the lone female showed up and spent several hours. Then she left and the lone male showed up. He stood around quacking, looking for the girl of his dreams. After a while, he took off too. Even the life of ducks is complicated. It all goes on just beyond our radar. Their secret language. I felt like crying when I saw him looking for her. Maybe it's just me, but is life sad, or what?

Lately I've been thinking how we are mostly so incidental to history. Our lives take place in a context, but that context is out of our hands. If I designed things, I swear it wouldn't look like this. Much, much kinder, the world would be. We would understand the secret language of everything.

No lab test results yet.

I'm writing a response to an inquiry from someone who is writing a book on the 40th anniversary of Woodstock 1969. It's delightful remembering the times.

Roger has been working on a book review for James (Clusterfuck Nation) Kunstler's new book World Made by Hand. It should appear here sometime soon, if he can finally get all the weeds pulled, the moss scraped from the roof, the garden planted, and every loose end completely tied up.

We wish you a great weekend, friends.