Friday, February 26, 2010

Flight of the bumble bee

We have a little dog & we call her breed Schnitzel de Hua Hua & we call her Janiac (rhymes with maniac).  The thinking is she is some mix of dachshund & chihuahua, but we are not quite sure what mix.  Or why.  She has teeny-tiny feet at the end of short narrow stalks & a sturdy, powerful body behind a pin-head.  My dog is a pin-head.

Weighing in around 12-14 pounds, we estimate she has a brain roughly the size of a walnut & we do not mean a particularly large walnut.  It can pump the heart, inflate the lungs & anything else is maybe a bridge too far.

She has A LOT of energy & a surprising amount of lift.  She jumps easily from the floor to a bench  from the bench to a the examining table in the vets office.  No running, no pulling just two straight vertical leaps.  The tech watching her laughed & said it was like the bumblebee; no reason she should get off the ground but she does, every time, with ease.

She does not have a lot of brains.  I do not just mean a lack of the concept Sit Stay, I mean a complete refusal to understand that the horses running around are not playing with her, they are not afraid of her, they are not even aware of her.  & they will not be aware when they squash her like a pancake (I spend too much time unsuccessfully trying to making sure she does not go out there).  She was once sprayed by a skunk, full in the face, with all that entails (burning eyes followed by multiple cold chemical baths) & went right back at that skunk the next morning.  Heart of a lion, brain of a roll of paper towels.

On Tuesday I heard a strained barking from the side yard (where the emus live) & went out to find this:


I called & called & could not get her to jump down & run to me (this picture was taken from the other side of the fence; the distance is maybe 6 feet & she could clear three of it with the jump itself).  The reason she would not jump?  This:

In the end, I went in & lifted her down, over the fence.  She ran right back under the gate & tried crawl up my body while Antonelle slowly advanced.  The good news is Janiac has been much better about staying in the yard.  & it only took six years.  & a near death experience.

//for your troubles I give you the flight of the bumble bee & the flight of the bumble bee

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Passing the good deed buck

As I have blogged before, I manage a facebook quilt block swap & this month's block was an altered 9-patch in red, white & blue.  As an extension of the usual swap, we also have a thing called "the 6th block".  No, the name was not inspired by The Sixth Sense.  It is because we swap in sets of five: you send five & get five back.  You can also send a 6th block that is put aside for the group member who has committed to making a community service quilt for that swap.  The idea was a minimal effort from many & a one-time greater effort from one, results in a whole quilt for someone who needs it.  This is very close to something from nothing which is very close to my heart.  The first set of 6th blocks were collected in August 2009.  They went to Pennsylvania & were part of 4or5 (I forget) quilt tops for the local Project Linus.  This time, the 6th blocks are going to Texas to be made into a Quilt of Valor quilt. The funny thing about this swap is it was this 6th blocker (& her community recipient of choice) that solidified the 6th block idea for me.  It has just taken a few cycles for it to come around to her.

As for the block itself, I could not be more sick of it if I had to look at it for another six months.  I have been making this block in red, white & blue on&off since last June.  I have made it at a variety of local venues (the library, community center, shelter, for friends, for anybody who asked) because it is a good basic pattern with complex potential.  It is traditional with a modern twist & I just cannot take it anymore.  Unfortunately, I also have the fabric, cut & prepped for quick assembly if anyone should want to give it a try, to demo this a few more times.  There is nothing for it, the blocks must be made.  Then earlier this year, with an ever-lightening heart I read this month's sixth blocker was thinking of having her son's cub scout den help with the project.  I checked with her first (it is the right thing to do before making my crap her crap after all) & she said "yes".

& so this weekend, all those pre-cut squares are going into the 6th block package with the blocks from across the country & I never have to see them again.  YAY!  Next they will meet Cub Scouts (yay, again), who will do whatever with them, hopefully learning something about sewing (yay) & maybe even becoming part of a Quilts of Valor.  & all I have to do is get them in the mail.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bigotry don't come cheap

I am a big fan of the upside of everything.  I understand it often does not counterbalance the downside.  All too often the upside could have come about without the downside at all, but somehow sometimes it just doesn't. 

Last week one of those "if not for slavery, we wouldn't have all that fine gospel music" moments opened up here in Fladidah.  This state, if you do not know already, is one of the harder hit by the losses in the market.  Many tough financial decisions had already been avoided for decades; I used to marvel at the legislature preaching the badness (?badity?badhood?) of the "tax & spend" minority party without recognizing that not taxing but spending anyway was likely to be more of a problem down the road.  Guess where we are now-the end of that road. Because this same state also relies almost wholly on sales tax to generate income, we are double screwed: when no money gets spent, no sales tax gets collected & everything slows to a crawl.

One of the things they did love to spend that not-taxed money on was fighting the rights of homosexuals to adopt children.  Special needs children.  The children the state likes to throw under the bus when times get tough...or even might get not-so-tough.  When a special needs child is adopted by a straight person or couple, the child remains eligible for certain benefits, mostly of the Medicaid variety, but others as well.  The idea was to get special needs kids into permanent homes that wanted them but could not pay the extra health costs (because in Fladidah universal healthcare is of the devil).  & it was a great idea.  & it worked, well, great.  If these kids stayed in state custody, DCF would have these expenses plus all the others, room & board & so forth.  Everybody was winning.

Then in 2008 an activist judge ruled that Fladidah had no grounds for denying a gay man's adoption of the boy that had been in his care for SEVEN YEARS, five as a foster child & two as a permanent ward.  The short version is if the state could leave the kid there for such a long time without having cause to remove him, they had no grounds for denying an adoption (little FYI: adoption of special needs foster children for not-gay parents can take less than a year; DCF's own website estimates about eight months).  So DCF decide to wash their hands of the whole affair, including the very services they provided every other child in exactly the same circumstances...except the adoptive parent is not gay.  Because not-gay parents never have to seek the "guardianship" which was all homosexual foster parents were allowed & this same guardianship was the reason DCF considered itself off the hook.

Would you believe a guy who will take DCF to court once will take them to court twice?  It seems like a no-brainer to me, too.  Last week DCF gave up.  The most recent case had just gone against them, but there were more tiers left in the appeals process.  What there wasn't was the cash to pay for them.  It is very very very hard for even the most conservative representatives of conservative districts to learn that 100s of thousands of dollars have been thrown down this hole & that it will NEVER END. 

The good news is other cases are queuing up & it looks like the days of Fladidah's endless wrangling over anti-homosexual legislation is at least temporarily halted because they just cannot pay the wranglers.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sick of Vick? Me too

Just a quick quick one:  BET started airing the Michael Vick Project earlier this month & sponsors have already started to withdraw as people contact them & voice their views.  I think I will miss Hershey's the most, but it turns out Diet Pepsi was not so hard to kick (I admit I fell off the wagon when the lunch-place we eat on Wednesdays ran out of all other caff-bevies but I got right back on-no problem). has been doing a good steady job of keeping up & so I defer to them on this.  The sponsor list is here &.  Sackvick, net has also been tracking who is dropping sponsorship of this program; I plan to write & say thanks.

Anyone on the fence, or who thinks people should just leave the man alone-he's done his time ponder this:  if he had never committed the crime, he would never have suffered the punishment (he confessed people); if he had never suffered the punishment he would not now have his own television show.

Monday, February 15, 2010

In the noise

On Sunday, Valentine's Day, we went to see Richie Havens.  He had been playing locally for the weekend & this last show was apparently sold out.  We did not know it was sold out, we learned this from a guy outside who asked us to sign a petition to get the airboat curfew on the ballot.

Airboats for those who do not know are the shallow water craft you see in bayous, swamps, etc.  They are powered by a giant fan at the back which is powered by an aircraft engine.  Even though much of the noise is left in the wake of the boat, & while modern boats do not have the same noise problem, you will often see the passengers wearing hearing protection on all of the older ones.  There is no disputing these things can be LOUD.

What is in dispute is who cares how loud it is.  For many this is a civil liberties issue (no really) like hunting & trapping; until incomers started building fancy houses on lakes & rivers, no one cared about the noise.  For others it is a quality of the environment issue; these boats are much much safer than the quieter, lower-in-the-water boats that do so much damage to wildlife.  For others it is a quality of life issue: those things really are LOUD.

Here in the blue-county-in-the-red-state. the county commission considered & discarded a ban on airboats from 10pm to 7am.  & I can see both sides:  people using airboats at night are often fishing or gigging for their own food or for very small local sales; the people using them during the day seem to be eco-touristas, at least as far as I can tell. 

Although I can see the side of the night-airboaters, we both signed the petition & once it is on the ballot (I am quite sure they will get enough signatures) we will both vote in favor of the curfew.  Not because being incomers, we side with incomers on all things but because unlike many incomers, we have heard those damn things.  It just is not reasonable that everyone in the neighborhood lose a night of sleep so one family can have a traditional frogs leg banquet.

After the concert, I could not help but wonder how airboating enthusiasts would take to us inviting Richie Havens to play as we observed traditions of our post-Woodstock heritage.  Imagine that we could not comply with the oft suggested but never adopted guideline of 90 decibels at 50 feet.  That means that if you were 50 feet from our stage, Richie Havens would be at the volume of a lawnmower.  If you were inside of 50 feet (maybe in the building next door) it could be more like a subway.  Imagine we did this during church services, the local school play, when court was in session.  Even better, how about while people were trying to get some sleep.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

If I can't get a man then I'll have to get a parrot

I avoid the commercial saints generally but Saint Valentine is so mangled, mauled & maligned, I cannot resist him. Let's take a look:

There are two Saint Valentines documented for this day, but lots of people believe he was actually just the one person. This is an interesting twist right there as many individual saints are often more than one person, blended together. Man One was imprisoned for giving aid to imprisoned martyrs (that is a hard one to picture; did he break into the jail?). Man Two is less well documented, but mostly had the same name, was also beheaded (on the order of a guy named Placid Furius, no less) & was big with healing prisoners. There is not a whiff of earthly love around either of them. Okay, maybe a whiff.  There is an intriguing reference to the jailer's daughter, but it really is just the faintest whiff. As for why just Man One & Man Two, I could not say, there are a dozen or more Valentines in the index.

But lets just settle for these two beheaded priests who ministered to prisoners (not in a prison movie way). The whole romance thing seems to have more to do with pre-christian rituals about the day. That's right, apparently neither Valentine himself is not the reason for the season.

Before christianity was a twinkle in a rabbi's eye, the day recognized now as February 15th was the Festival of Lupercalia, the She-Wolf that nursed Romulus & Remus. Before it was Lupercalia, it was well, something else. Everyone forgot & that is how the She-Wolf got into it. & interestingly, gender-bending type events were part of the festivities even before it was Lupercalia. Now, of course Sadie Hawkins Dances are often held on a near weekend to Saint Valentines Day, although Sadie Hawkins Day is actually in November. Confused yet? It gets better.

It is not just ancient history that muddies the waters, there is also our history. After cards, chocolate, etc. the most famous thing about Saint Valentine's Day is the massacre, which has nothing to do with Saint Valentine's Day. Every american film buff knows at least part of the confusing 1929 story. Or thinks they do. At a minimum it was the driving force for so many famous films, not the least of which was Some Like It Hot, still a high water mark for gender confusion in film.

Another Saint Valentine's Day massacre was the bloody match between Sugar Ray Robinson & Jake La Motta. It was not all that pretty either.

More recently, Saint Valentine's Day has been adopted by feminists (THEM!) as a rallying point for the whole "woman needs man like fish needs bicycle" aesthetic. Which has triggered a "take back the day" movement from...people who want to buy cards...?

Poor Saint Valentine. Look what they've done to his day.  Or their day.  Or his days.  Or, yea I'm done.

//it was only as I was testing the links that I realized the Steeleye Span version does not have the verse that is the title of this post. So here it is.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Another quilt project

Yes, yes I am STILL clearing a December-holiday-of-choice backlog.  Once I know the gift has gotten where it needs to go, I loose up the post; I don't want it posting before it gets there because it is still a surprise after all.

I have said before one of my brothers whittles.  & what he whittles most is mice with cheese & chess pieces.  It was just a matter of time before he started making mice-with-cheese chess pieces.  I understand he has completed one side of the board but cannot decide what to make for the other (the tree people against the modern building people was a no-brainer but this set presents challenges).

Flash forward to my drug of choice (cotton): I was cruising a quilt shop for no good reason.  I had a reason; I drove South to Many Horse Town because the local feed store had failed several times to either order, receive or retain the four bags of specialty feed I ordered for Becca for almost six weeks.  The distributor is only about 40-50 miles south & I finally went & picked it up myself.  The cost difference is enough to make the gas savings worthwhile & I took advantage of the trip to check out a quilt shop I almost never visit.  Like I said: no good reason.

& there was this fabric.  Of bright, colorful mice.  Bright colorful mice working their way through a bio-lab maze.  I had to have it.  I have not been this delighted since I found that hotdog fabric with the hotdogs wearing chefs hats & aprons, bar-b-q-ing hotdogs.  Anyway...

I made a chess board for K's mice.  I alternated the mice-in-a-maze fabric with black because I still do not know what the other side of this board might be.  I cut three 2.5"strips of mice-in-a-maze & three 2.5" strips of black swirls to make the four squares that became the strips of four squares (four strips of four sets of four squares for 64 squares), then one 4" strip of mice-in-a-maze & two 4" strips of black swirls for the borders.  First the mice on either side (be sure the row you are sewing starts with dark & ends with light) & then the other two sides in black.

It went together so easily & it occurs to me that even with garden-variety checkers it would make a cute gift.  I think I know what everyone is getting next year.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


At one point I said there was no Patron Saint of Weather. I take it back & give you Scholastica. OKay, I did not exactly say there were none. & I did talk about Swithun, who if not patron of weather is certainly associated with weather. & technically Scholastica is invoked against storms & rain (& convulsive children & nuns) not ALL weather. So maybe I will stick with the original declaration I never really made: there is no patron saint of weather. That clears that up.

Scholastica was the twin sister of another saint: Benedict, the founder of the primary sect in monasticism better known as the Benedictines. He is colorful too (reading minds, driving out demons, etc.). But today is not his feast day it is hers, so lets give it to her.

By all accounts I could find, Scholastica was leaning towards a spiritual life while still very young & it was she who lead her later more widely known brother into that same life. She lived more or less in seclusion with a group of women she oversaw on behalf of her brother (hence patroness of nuns, although why that would not go to an outright leader I could not say).

Taking a longer look at the whole storms & rains thing, the story is that she & her brother could only visit each other once a year (some rule of the house; I don't get it either). She was not permitted in his monastery because of her lady-parts & he would not spend the night outside of his monastery because...just because. So they met at her place or some undisclosed mutually convenient location. On a particular visit, Benedict was preparing to leave when a downpour came out of nowhere, delaying his departure until the next day. Scholastica explained this storm was her prayers being answered, so that they could be together longer. They spent the night together in prayer. & meditation. Meditation & prayer. Three days later she died.

Is it me or is this beginning to sound like The Fall of the House of Usher? Let me walk you through that story: the narrator goes to visit his friend Usher who is hanging out at his family mansion waiting for his sister Madeline to die of some mysterious malady her doctors cannot quite figure out. Usher & his friend spend their time rereading all kinds of depressing, to-die-for romantic crap, painting & playing the guitar & Madeline does indeed kick. The two of them put her coffin in the family tomb conveniently located off the dining room. OKay I made that last part up, but it is somewhere in the house itself which is just plain weird.

After Madeline dies, Usher actually perks up a bit until it turns out she was not really dead & they buried her alive. Also the house splits in half. & I guess Usher dies....? Edgar Allen Poe has always been too mysterious for me & I am quite sure he would like it that way. Still, all I ever walk away with is the question: why does he keep walling living people up or burying them alive in the house or both?

In the end, Benedict & Scholastica (& Usher & Madeline) are buried in the same tomb. Maybe even the same grave. That is not creepy or anything; they do that to save space.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What would Paul do?

I cannot remember when I first heard of Paul Laurence Dunbar. He was not unknown to me when he came up in a college poetry class. Each student was asked to select any poem from within the MASSIVE volume we were working & diagram/outline/do that breakdown thing.

I did not choose We Wear the Mask although I am reliably informed someone always does. In those days before GOOGLE it was possible to get intimate with this or any piece of any writing & reasonably not know the color of the writer's skin. The student who had chosen this poem was stunned by this new level to her choice. Especially on learning that this son of freed slaves made his literary bones while also pandering to the post-war South with works like The Deserted Plantation. A man has to pay the bills, after all.

Dunbar found other ways to pay his bills, too. He started work as an elevator operator, selling his first book to people who rode in same elevator. After his second book was published, he was able to devote himself to his writing, although he still did a stint at the Library of Congress. In all he published twelve books of poetry, five novels, four books of short stories & a play. He died today in 1906, before his 34th birthday.

But the last time I saw Dunbar was somewhere else entirely. A was in Washington, DC doing a presentation for the NSF & I tagged along because it was cherry blossom time. That Saturday we went to the Smithsonian, picking & choosing which buildings to go into. A very much wanted to see the National Air & Space Museum & while he joined the school tours through the space capsules, etc. I wandered over to a less-trafficked exhibit. There was Dunbar, staring back at me from a life size photograph of him in front of the shop owned by his childhood schoolmates, Orville & Wilbur Wright. The Wright brothers are credited with giving him access to their printing press & helping to finance his African -American newspaper, the Dayton Tattler.

If you are looking for an easy way to begin understanding what Dunbar would do, let me suggest Jump Back, Honey. Yes, it is a children's book but you can never start learning too soon. Or too late.  As for what would Paul do?  As usual I do not know, I just think he might be the most famous person you never heard of.

//for the curious I choose Theodore Roethke's I Knew A Woman & I am still enchanted by the line The shapes a bright container can contain.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Thumbs are overrated

I have told many tales of the donkey.  Not all of them here, but still there are a few:  there was the time he broke the chain holding the pasture gate closed & almost went adventuring in the middle of the night; he was foiled only by my realization that the gate only opened out & parking a Toyota against same gate would keep it from opening.  Then there was the New Years Eve he did get out & I ran after him, shouting all the way to the baptist church before I gave up & then he followed me home.  & who could forget the time he let Captain into the feed room where the last green hay in the county was stored & then latched the big draft horse in there, who had a mild panic attack including diarrhea...all over the last green hay in the county.  The donkey is an ass, there really is no other way to put it.

Today was another red-letter jack ass day.  For reasons known only to herself, Becca has been avoiding the stall I can actually latch shut at feeding times & it is quite the song & dance to get her there.  I would not care except as she has aged Becca has mellowed & she does not defend her food with the vigor of her youth.  Also, she gets a large helping of a more expensive feed because of her age, the condition of her teeth & her impending decrepitude.  The donkey would like some (as would the others, but he is the only one who has figured out she is not as fast to kick as she used to be).  This feed smells wonderful, even to me, but it is much too rich for any of the others & most especially the donkey.   Still from the moment I close that door he works on that latch. He presses his huge cheek plate hard to the stall door, he uses his prehensile lip to flip & twist & test every moving piece.  Because it defeated him it was worth the effort getting her in there.

Last weekend A took a couple of hours & installed the same hardware on the other stall.  No more rigmarole with Becca.  It was a wonderful week.

Today Bert did this:

Friday, February 5, 2010

Lost: an anniversary

This is, of course, the anniversary of CleoPatton's walk-about adventure when we thought he might be lost.  When we found him, we thought he might still be as-good-as lost.  As I type this he is still sitting on lost-cause eggs.

When CleoPatton went missing, I would have lit a candle, but things-that-are lost fall into so many areas: Saint Anthony of Padua in general, but Saint Zita for keys, house keys in particular. I could not find a patron for lost birds or lost dinosaurs, although there are slews for lost innocence & lost innocents.  I have to figure that just comes up more often.  In light of the lost emu anniversary (& the final episode of Lost), I thought I would take a closer look at today's virgin & I am mostly sorry I did.  Her martyrdom (& the every  depiction of same) is particularly gruesome.  Let's just say those are not loaves of bread she is offering on that plate & leave it at that.

The highlights are: Agatha was born to a wealthy family & decided to dedicate her life to G*d, adopting among other things chastity as her lifestyle choice.  The church avoids the word abstinence in this context & with good reason.  Until very recently, abstinence did not mean what you might think it means: an individual who practices abstinence does not not have sex, he/she just limits all sexual acts to those partaken with a marital partner.  This means of course that abstinence as birth control is only effective if you are not married; if you are married it is the same thing as no birth control at all.  As for abstinence preventing the spread of disease that only works if your spouse is also abstinent. 

Back to Agatha:  she went with chastity (which is what most people mean when they say abstinence).  It does not matter if she was beautiful, she was of some rank & had some fortune.  That was enough for some men to want to marry her (abstinence still meant abstinence in those days & not everyone even pretended to abstain).  One in particular was able to do her great harm: imprisoning her, torturing her & in at least one version twice forcing her to work in a brothel when she refused him.  It is that last bit that really got my attention:  forced her to work in a brothel.  Twice.  Maybe I need to clarify.

Quintian/Quintianus/let's just call him Q removed Agatha from her family & caused her great suffering.  When she still refused him, he put her to work in the sex trade.  Then he brought her back to him & was again refused.  It's not the refusal that gets me, it's the offer.  After all this he still wanted ....her. 

Lets be realistic: if Q had the power to take her, etc. in the first place, he already had effective control over her lands/wealth/whatever.  He went on to demonstrate a more-than-complete-control over her person with completely over the top punishments.  But, while punishing, it seems they were not intended as punishments but persuaders.  She would not be persuaded, though & went on to die & be mutilated (or be mutilated & die, it's a toss up). Still I keep coming back to the lost part of this story, the obsession that is just hinted at. 

& that is all there is to the story really.  Agatha is unsurprisingly invoked by rape victims.  As a function of the not-loaves-of-bread, she is also patroness of breast cancer victims.  More generally from both:  torture victims & wet-nurses & then another cycle out: nurses & lay-women & all breast health.   More obscurely still: bell-founders & jewelers. 

//as for the tv show, would you believe I have never scene so much as a minute of any episode?  Any references would be lost on me.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Flexible art folio

I know I have been not keeping up post-wise for about a month.  The longer than usual warm season (the first freeze arrived almost a month late), the deeper than usual first freeze (I think the whole USA got part of that one) & then, once it did warm up, the weirdly warmer days have eaten into my time in ways I never would have thought possible.  There is also another reason:  I had queued up a few posts about holidays gifts & then realized I could not very well post them until the recipients' had them in hand.  That has also been impacted by the weather (no really, part of some of the gifts were emu eggs & they did not start laying until it started getting cold because they are confused & then it takes time to blah blah blahbity blah).

How about I get instead to today's post?  For December-holiday-of-your-choosing I made C****** an art materials folio.  Once upon a time, she sketched constantly, painted frequently & all that but now she has a real job (two actually), an apartment across town & a long-distance relationship so she spends a lot of her time in her car, carrying what she can in a gynormous purse.  It is not like the old days when she could retreat to her room & find her art supplies there; now she is killing time between jobs etc. miles from her stuff.  So I thought she might be able to use a folio for her pencils, papers, brushes & so on.

It did not take me long to realize that she would need more than one to accommodate whatever she might want to bring with her or something quite large to bring it all & that is when I realized I was going to have to deal with it myself.

It is quilted because I like to quilt.  Also I could not find any interfacing in the 30 seconds I was willing to dedicate my attention to looking & it needed something to give it body.  There are two different kind of pockets:  a long strip that can hold pencils &/or flat pencil case  &/or a long, thick sumi brush &/or a watercolor case &/or you get the idea.  The angled pocket can hold anything from a few sheets of postcard-sized paper to an 11x14 sketchpad.  Which brings us to why the folio ties shut instead of  buttoning or snapping or whatever.  The ties can work with any height or thickness of whatever she put in there.  She can fold the folio in half, in thirds & still tie it firmly shut.

This way, she can change what she carries on any given day (or week or month) & the same folio still works. Less crap is always good.