Saturday, July 31, 2010

Coney Island wood

A long time ago, back in the mists of time, say 2005-ish, C****** announced she hated poetry &  I almost ran the car off the road.  We went straight to the library & I handed her some Lawrence Ferlinghetti.  He really is the best antidote to "my love is like a red red rose" (or as someone who shall remain nameless used to say:  my love is like a dead, dead dog). Don't get me wrong, I like Robbie Burns just fine, but maybe this is an acquired taste.  Like bagpipes.  Or haggis.  & not where a person should begin.  Best to begin with the first thing you put on..ideally.

More recently, I have been helping to put together an exhibit to represent all the herbarium at the Natural History Museum for their big annual fundraiser.  Helping is a slight overstatement, I am putting four maybe five pieces of wood on a table of all kinds of other things, among seven other tables.

The first two woods were more or less assigned.  K*** had an idea about one wood being deceptively heavy & another deceptively light (when in doubt, go tactile).  He had examples, but I thought I could come up with better ones, which had the advantage of being roughly the same dimensions making the whole light versus heavy thing just plain more somehow.

The next two were my choice.   I went with a specimen collected in Japan on September 9, 1940.  No there is nothing oh-so-special about 9/9/1940 except that it is well before 8/6/1945.  The second was a wood I had plain never heard of, never thought of & yet have almost certainly been in contact with.  I am talking about Tabebuia ipe.  See, you have never heard of it either.  Go ahead, google it, I can wait.

There now, you see, colorful flowering tree, family Bignoniaceae, which happens to be right where I am now.  A surprising number of botanists working around me have been mildly surprised how well represented this family is a in a wood collection; it is famous for its vines.  It also has some of the quirkiest cards I have come across thus far.  Still, what does a pretty tree bring to the table, block-of-wood-wise?  It turns out this wood is so dense, it is naturally rot resistant.  It is even naturally flame retardant.  Therefore it is widely used as decking in public areas.  Sooo, if you have ever stepped onto the boardwalk at Coney Island you have stepped on Tabebuia ipe.  Like all schoolchildren back in the day, (I know they don't do this anymore-not on any standardized test), I was taught the history of my own community.  One of the highlights (lowlights) of that is the famous Ringling Brothers Fire.  Maybe this is why I am so interested in Tabebuia ipe.

I don't now what to pick for number five.  I need to come up with something soon, or it will be capped at four.  K*** is leaning towards an attractive wood, but I think attractive wood is all around us.  I would rather choose something interesting.  Alas Cybistax antisyphilitica is too racy for the local gentry.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A better horse

Not quite six months ago, my appaloosa was diagnosed with EPM & has been undergoing treatment, which from my side consists of 2 hours no-food supervision before she gets a tube of paste shot down her throat.  Earlier in the process I decided I was not going to jam things at her, yank her around, etc.  Time is a luxury I DO have & so if it takes another 20 minutes to get her to let me inject the paste, so be it.  Also, I was hoping she would "get it" & learn to accept it.

She did learn & fast.  My riding instructor (who is halflingers all-the-way when it comes to her own preference) said of another student who could not stand the appaloosa he had been working with that the problem with appies & riders is the one that thinks he has all the brains really doesn't.  To my stupification, same guy agreed saying that the appie was just too stubborn.  I looked at M*******, she looked at me & I knew she wasn't talking about the horse.

Becca came here when her people were getting divorced.  But that was not the whole story.  Husband wanted to sell Becca but wife refused to hand over her papers making her all but worthless, market-wise.  Husband beat the wife & sent her to the hospital (not necessarily cause & effect, this is just a timeline, well I'm sure she went to the hospital because of the beating but I don't know if he beat her because she wouldn't help him sell the horse).  While wife was in hospital, husband stalled Becca & neglected to feed her; we did not know if she would make the trip from Deland to our place & when she did I was feeding her 1/4 cups of grain 5-6 times a day so as not to overwhelm her system & throw it into shock.

She arrived here with two things:  her name was Rebel & a blanket patterned like a Confederate flag was over her to hide just how bad things were.  The blanket went in the trash, without ceremony & her name slowly migrated from REB to REBECCA.  A change had to be made anyway as we were already shifting a RED to REDBUD & we could not have a REB & a RED.  On our place, horses come when they are called.  I don't mean this in a my-way-or-the-highway way, it just is that sooner or later they catch on "hey she means me & when I get there, I get a treat".

The last canister of paste has been opened; it is almost 1/2 gone.  Every morning, after her confinement, I glide a full tube along her cheek, turn at the jaw & rotate the open end into her open mouth.  We do this without a lead rope, halter or restraint of any kind.  Becca has put some weight back on, although she does seem to still have trouble swallowing.  Maybe four days into the treatment, I was confident no one was going to bump her & knock her over, as she seemed to be keeping her balance better. At six weeks into the process she started holding her head up & nickering when she was moved onto pasture away from the others.  Last month, she started running to the barn at feeding time again.  She is more herself every week & I am quite sure she wants more time out on the green, green grass. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I SPY bonanza

Earlier this year I participated in an I SPY swap & was so please (& I am never pleased), I joined her next one which wraps this week. You could ask yourself what a person without kids & grown or growing nieces/nephew could possibly do with all those 4" novelty squares & the answer is Once Upon A Time.

My story quilts do not look so much like FunQuilts story quilts (we call them story quilts, they do not, so far as I know), but the idea, the block dimensions & the diagonal block cheat all came from their book.  I have been known to say there are truly only two or three quilt books I need to own; this is one of them. 

& for the record, these are not just for kids; I routinely make them for adults.  I often replace four smaller squares with one larger square of a scene or more complex image & made music stories & beach stories & holiday stories & farm stories & ballet stories & right now I am working on a cancer story.  Only farm & ballet went to persons under the age of twelve.

In any case, it is too late for this swap (for you anyhow), but if I were you, I would keep an eye on fabriKate & when she has another, jump in with both feet.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Two book reviews in one, sorta

A while ago (a year ago?) A***** brought a book suggestion to bookclub that we did not pick.  We don't pick most of the suggestions made but is was such a big book, by that I mean so much hype that I 1) thought it was likely to be suggested again & 2) was curious.  So I got it on disc from the library & listened while working on a quilt.  The book was Eat Pray Love & boy did it suck.  I listened to the WHOLE THING asking myself "really, this is what speaks to women"? 

& not just any women, women who have a few years & a few years of marriage on them, women who have reached personal crossroads & made the decision "I don't want that, I do want this" more than once (because those decisions are never final until they are no longer your's to make, just so you know).  This book was supposed to speak to ME.  It did, too.  It said consider yourself lucky you were never trapped on a plane with this woman.

Let me tell you who I HAVE been trapped on a plane with:  many many fat men one of whom wanted to lift the armrest between us to give himself some breathing room (the others may have wanted to but my arm jammed down on it kept them from trying), more than once I missed a tight connection because I was trapped in a window seat with mama-&-baby-in-her-lap on the aisle (& by the way, if you offer to hold baby so she can get up, into the aisle, take baby back & allow you to get on with your day, she will treat you like a potential kidnapper), just once I was trapped on a plane with an older woman a few rows back across the aisle who saw the dog carrier at my feet move & became convinced the dog securely zipped inside wanted to bite her (actually when the bag first moved she asked the flight attendant if I had a bomb because bombs do that, wiggle around for a while before they explode) & there was the memorable season I traveled on the same schedule between Columbus, Ohio & Jacksonville, Florida with a group of...

Maybe I should just tell that story:  I was headed home on Thursday or Friday afternoon & did not notice anything strange until after we were all boarded.  Later flights, I made a point of noticing as we boarded & saw that the flight attendant in question & the party of whom I am speaking clearly had issues.  In short, they asked many trivial questions, often about the weather, & she pretended they did not exist.  This first time, the floor show started with the safety demonstration.  Now I pay no real attention to airplane safety demonstrations (although I do count the number of seat backs to my seat & from my seat to the next exit, every time).  I do however recognize that the safety demonstration is part of the flight attendant's job & I try to avoid making catcalls, jumping up behind her, making horns with my hands & wagging my butt.  I have also never held up a lighter & shouted "Free Bird!" in the middle of the safety demonstration.  I am guessing you never have either, but I think you now have an idea what was going on during this particular safety demonstration.  Most of the ruckus ended here & this particular flight attendant did not appear in the cabin again.  I myself never drink alcohol on flights to keep in top form for kicking the rest of you out of my way en route to the emergency exit, should we need to depart the plane emergency-style, but I learned from my seat-mate that the hospitality cart was unable to serve any passengers alcohol, that there was indeed Never alcohol on This Flight as there had apparently been an Incident. Other flukes of the hospitality cart were a complete inability to stop at particular rows & on one memorable trip a failure to acknowledge a man heading for the restrooms until he offered to pee on the cart itself.  Sometimes a few weeks would go by before I crossed paths with these travelers & once or twice I thought I saw just one of them on other flights along this route, but without the hooting & hollering it was hard to say.

Back to the book review, remember the book review?  Eat Pray Love was not a favorite with me.  The best thing abut it was the discs skipped A LOT which made it kind of rappy (rapesque?).  I went on to read Committed & thought even less of it.  I have run out of energy for that review though, so I will just paste what I put on GoodReads:

Reasonable people have asked why did I read this book when I disliked Eat Pray Love so very very much & this is a reasonable & worthy question. If I were Elizabeth Gilbert I would take an extended vacation slash sojourn to ponder this, bemoaning my ever dwindling funds, with my Brazilian lover (let's call him Darling), internet surfing for books on the topic & having my sister send them out to my hotel rooms (Darling & me, we move around a lot). I would document my inner journey (not to be confused with the outer migration, but I would document that one, too) in a style I am going to call "meandering anecdote".

Alas, I am not Elizabeth Gilbert & all I can say is both books made me think of nothing so much as that scene in Absolutely Fabulous when Saffy gets to the end of her rope & screams at her mother "you cannot become a better person through massage!" & anything that brings back AbFab makes me happy.

Also Committed & Eat Pray Love aggravate me so very much that it helps to raise my heart rate when I am on the elliptical & for that reason alone, it was worth reading (but not buying-your public library has a copy I'm sure).

//in A*****;'s defense she had not yet read Eat Pray Love when she recommended it.  She has since & well, I think she is also grateful Elizabeth Gilbert no longer travels business class. At least we hope she doesn't.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cybistax antisyphilitica

Did I mention I am on Bignoniaceae?  Well I am.  & last Thursday I came across a specimen label that made me laugh out loud:  Cybistax antisyphilitica.  But that is not the funniest part; the funniest part is hand written on the card where any special notes might be recorded some one penciled "flower used to make blue dye".  I have since googled away & have not found any claim of the medicinal properties this name would imply. 

This is hardly the first funny name I  have encountered, it is just that it is usually the common names that are so...I guess the word would be graphic.  There's Finger Rot of course, I have written of her before & given the chance she could make you wish your finger would rot & fall off.   Her real name, Cnidoscolus stimulosus does not exactly jump up & down & say "I will make you pay!" On the other hand, considering so many botanical names have to do with whether or not the leaves are arranged in opposite pairs or are flat or the stem is woody or growing in a clump rather than along a more-or-less straight line, maybe just maybe if a botanist opens with "this plant is a Cnidoscolus in the Euphorbiaceae family & the first thing we noticed was how stimulating it is" maybe the rest of us should take notice. 

I am not saying botanists never get these things wrong, antisyphlitica being a possible example.  I say possible because maybe it was the  key ingredient in some pre-sulfa drug treatment.  Maybe it was even effective.  At a minimum, the name tells us what was on someone's mind when the plant was classified.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dear Mr. Iwata

Here's the thing.  You have never heard of me & I had to google to find out who you were.  It is safe to say we don't have much overlap & I think we are both fine with that.  Except recently I bought a Wii.

A few things you should know about me:  I don't have kids.  I don't like kids, much.  Actually kids are OKay I guess, it's their parents that make me want to...well enough about that.  All you need to know is I did not get the Wii for the kids, I got it for me.  Ditto the Wii Fit.  Then my husband got me a "game"  EA Active as an anniversary gift.  It is a bit lunge-heavy for my taste & I did lose my balance once already & have a really vivid bruise to show for it.  I fell down mostly because I cracked my kneecap in a freak dog walking incident several years ago &...well, never mind about that.

Sidebar here-does EA Active seem like a strange gift?  Well, he once got me a Nordic Track for our anniversary & I fell off it & hurt my shoulder then too, so apparently he is working a list of seemingly benign gifts that I can hurt myself with.  As it happens, the dog of the dog walking incident was also an anniversary gift.  I had not put that together until just now.

After EA Active turned out to be not-so-much a game, my husband got me Tetris.  He was disgusted with the really really bad navigation design.  The keys were all scrambled (push the up key to go down, seriously?), but they made me nostalgic.  I remember the very first Tetris with Red Square in the background & those oh-so-poorly translated directions.  The whole thing reminded me of my favorite NewsRadio episode when Mr. James's memoir is not such a big seller in the States but hugely popular in Japan, so he decides to have the Japanese translation translated back to English & re-release it.  After all, it worked for VCR instructions.  That was a great show.

All of this leads me to my first request:  Frogger.  We would like a Frogger for the Wii.  & by "we" I mean everyone I have mentioned this to & double for A*****. 

Next, we would like a celebrity workout game.  & by "we" I mean me.  I know there are dime-a-dozen celebrity workout videos out there, but "we" actually want something a little different.  For example, you know that hula-hoop thing in Wii Fit?  We were hoping Kirstie Alley could do that.  & for the rhythm Kung Fu, maybe James Gandolfini.  They don't all need to be as out of shape as I am, of course.  I mean WE are.  Valerie Bertinelli is looking good these days.  So is Betty White, for that matter.   I admit Hot In Cleveland has been a huge hit in my house.  Did you see last week when Betty White broke off her engagement to Carl Reiner because he wouldn't go downtown?  I'm still laughing.

Other celebrities we would like to see in this workout game: John Stewart, Stephen Colbert & what the hell Rush Limbaugh, since we have Betty White already on the list throw in Mary Tyler Moore & Cloris Leachman, I know for a fact the rehab unit at the place my in-laws live is looking into getting a Wii Fit & Dick van Dyke would make them very happy.

I hope I have given you some food for thought Mr. Iwata.  & I hope you won't look a gift demographic in the mouth.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

National Hot Dog Month

It is National Hot Dog Month; has been since the first, but hey, I have been busy.  In honor of the occasion I have adopted another dog.  Ha-ha, just kidding Mom.   I will say though, after firecrackers, actual hot dogs - intestines stuffed with meat or more likely leftover not-meat animal parts are one of my least favorite things about summer.  I don't mind the humidity & I like the heat (which is lucky, considering where I live).  I am perfectly happy to work/sit outside during all but the most downpour of downpours.   M****** & A***** both saw me after I picked up the last CSA shares at the farmers market on the day it was thundering & lightening only at the farmers market (which was kind of cool).  Me & the farmer himself were the only ones wading out to the truck to unload. Easily a dozen other people huddled under the canopy waiting for it to clear up.

I am not saying this was a good idea.  I was so dripping wet when M****** called while I was making the return trip I was afraid to talk on my cell, so much water was running from my hair I thought I might electrocute myself.  A week later, C****** sat on the passenger side of the truck (where the bags of produce had been) & there was still a wet spot.  This past weekend I treated the upholstery with AGAIN because that faintly moldy smell just will not go away.   In Fladidah, it is unlikely to go completely away until things freeze sometime around Thanksgiving.

All of these trials are preferable to being in the presence of even one hot dog.  Which brings us back to:  July is National Hot Dog Month.   On a completely unrelated note, July is also Bioterrorism /Disaster Education Month.  I googled this, hoping to find the official site but found something oh so much better.

What else can I say about hot dogs? Not much, as it happens as I do not eat them, I do not serve them,  I live a life generally not-hot dog adjacent.  I did read Confederacy of Dunces though.  I kind of didn't get it.  I mean I could follow the story I just was not clear why anyone would bother.  I really only have one memory of anything in particular from the book & that was the last movie watched when he should have been working.  It is never named, but it is one of my favorites; I am sure CoD fans everywhere know this bit of trivia, but it's all I've got. I have a vague recollection of my mother recommending this book to me. She also highly recommended Cold Mountain which I could not read.  Ditto Wicked.   I DID read Managing Ignatius about Lucky Dogs itself.  That was interesting.

That's all I've got.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

To kill a blood OR In cold mockingbird

I am one of those that reads To Kill a Mockingbird two or three times a decade.  There are legion of us.

This year is, of course, the 50th anniversary of its publication.  I say "of course" because I really truly do not know what you do with your time if you managed to miss this.  Either that or you live on an atoll (either virtually or actually) with no NPR & no public libraries, in which case I am very sorry for you.   Please accept my humblest apologies & consider getting out more.

Every Mockingbird landmark (anniversaries, movies based on the book, plays about the book, the decision by British librarians to list it as more vital reading than the Bible -go librarians!), someone always wanders back to Monroeville, Alabama to ask that slacker Harper Lee when she is going to get around to writing her second book.  There are only so many ways a southern woman can say "bite me" or "listen asshole, call me once your first book reaches half that acclaim & ask that question & then I will tell you to BITE ME"  so she more or less stopped talking about it in 1964.  Can you blame her, really?

I once heard Harper Lee described as a recluse & a modern Emily Dickinson & asked a friend of mine (who teaches Mockingbird year in, year out & still loves it) about that.  She said if Emily Dickinson managed to stay in college through that first semester, then went on to law school, lived & worked in NYC for a period, actively sought publication, I think you can see where this is going, only then could Harper Lee be said to be anything like Emily Dickinson.  I shared with her one of my favorite quotes (James Thurber, of course) in which Thurber compared himself to Salvador Dali.  He said his artwork had as much in common with Dali as on old ukulele in an attic has with a piano in a tree, & even then the piano would have to have breasts.  We laughed, we are pretentious literary types & that is the kind of thing we laugh at.

Back to the book:  ten or so years ago I thought I should maybe expand a bit & when I felt like reading Mockingbird (& sometimes I just DO) I should try try try to read something else first.  The natural choice was Truman Capote who, of course, appears in Mockingbird kinda-sorta (again, if you did not know this I am begging you please rethink your day, maybe even just run your errands in a different order).  It took a while but I finally worked my way to In Cold Blood.

I know there was recently a movie made about the writing of In Cold Blood (also called In Cold Blood, not to be confused with the 1967 movie called In Cold Blood based on the book In Cold Blood) which I did not see.  I planned to see it, at the theater even but a letter from the Shawn brothers in the New Yorker regarding the characterization of their father, who was Truman Capote's editor at the New Yorker made me decide to read the book first.  & I did.  & maybe you should, too.  Because Harper Lee went from writing To Kill a Mockingbird & expecting it to be quite small, to researching this book with her childhood friend & being quite overwhelmed by the impact of her not-so-small book.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Finnegan begin again

Here we are, another year.  & very nearly a day late, but that's the kind of year it has been.  I say this in the strong belief that is not the year it will be.  I know I have made allusions, but the last few months really have been just too much.  Surgeries, hospitalizations (unrelated to aforementioned surgeries), sick animals, sick relatives, sick trees; blah-ba-blah-blah-blah. 

Enough about that & more about what is coming up.  One of my dearest most fondest most often expressed wished may very well come true this year.  That's right: it looks like it just might rain the whole of the July 4th weekend.  Last night the neighbors tried to set off their usual barrage of stink & noise & it all fizzled!  I could not be happier.

Completely forgetting what day it was, we moved the three mares to W*****'s back pasture around 8pm.  On big fireworks days,  this would have meant they were sandwiched in a four-or-so acre alley between the two fireworks houses.  I really was not thinking.  Then while I was checking the gates & the waterer (& W***** showed me her new ground cover roses-very nice) it started to rain.  & then it really started to rain.  Then it began to pour, until finally the sky opened up. 

If I sound completely hard-hearted, these same patriots have no such problems during drought years when backyard fireworks are banned.  Thank G*d they have friends&relations on the local police force so when those crazy neighbor ladies call the cops on them they can get those police reports lost.  & nobody really used that old trailer anyway.

Happy Independence Day Eve.