Tuesday, November 23, 2010

This old dog

While reports of his death may have been premature, I think we are in the home stretch.  Farley-boy has more or less stopped eating.  He had 1/4 can of cancer-dog food on Thursday afternoon (about 1/2 a twice-a-day serving) & since then nothing but bowls & bowls of water.  As for getting any medication into him, we have now gone injectable & while it is possible all of his problems stem from a really bad infection it is not really probable.  On the upside, the white's of his eyes are no longer rust-colored, so the antibiotics must be doing something.

I had high hopes of getting caught up on the blog; I have so many project & recipe entries queued that just need photos or tweaking I could post every other day in December & not run out...if only I added the photos or did the tweaking.  But just now my time is taken helping an old dog up & every few hours & making him as comfortable as I can when we get back in.  I am not complaining, & while I wish it did not need to be done, it is part of having a dog.  I think it was George Carlin who said every puppy was heartbreak waiting to happen.  I know he said "life is a series of dogs", which mine certainly is.  & I remember reading Sara Stein writing about her last dog as being her last dog. 
 & that is what I had written as of Sunday afternoon.  On Monday at 1:30/2ish the vet & his tech came out & in ten minutes we were done.  I think they beat mother nature by just a few hours.  We buried him with Josephina who loved him even more than I did & he loved her just as much.  I'm not much in the mood for typing now & will get caught up another time.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hard laurel (not)

I have spent most of the last two months deep in the Boraginaceae family.  Not only would I not want to live there, it is not even a nice place to visit.  The blocks of wood have been, well, blocks of wood, but the notations & alterations to the original records are fatiguing.

It is not unusual for the original index cards to have some things crossed out & other information clearly added later & I am fine with that.   By & large, botanical taxonomy works on an almost glacial timeline (until very recently of course, when that whole DNA thing came into being).    The edits I found in this family, though, they were, well, special.  For example, a complete sub-set originally noted as having been collected in Guatemala were updated to reflect collection in Cuba.  I understand not being quite sure if you are in Brazil or Suriname.  I can imagine collectors listening carefully for Portuguese v Dutch to determine which side of the border they were on.  But Guatemala or Cuba?  One is more than twice the size of the other & the smaller one is a group of islands.  The other is, while not entirely landlocked, certainly not to be confused with an island.

I don't care how drunk you got on/off the plane, at some point during your expedition you will be absolutely sure you are not in one or the other.  If, for example you come across ancient looking pyramids above the water, you are not in Cuba.  You could be many many places other than Guatemala, but Cuba absolutely would not be one of them.  If you climb to the highest point you can find & discover you are in a chain of mountains, again you are not in Cuba.  Guatemala has enough mountains (& pyramids) that you would have a hard time walking straight ahead in any direction for any amount of time without encountering one or the other, so if you do walk straight ahead for a day & sight neither, well, welcome to Cuba.  Or at least to welcome to not-Guatemala.

It seems perfect that confusion reigns here in Boraginaceae.  Because I am not a botanist, I don't even pretend to be one on this blog, when I start to work with a new family I try to find something familiar in it.  Some something to hang by brain on while I get to know the others.  For Boraginacea, up popped borage.  This was both good & bad, because while borage was already known to me, it is unlikely to appear in the wood collection; it can sport woody stems, but it is not widely recognized as a tree.  Or even a shrub.  & by "not widely" I mean "never".   You can see how it would help to first acquaint myself with some specimen I am likely to encounter, but borage was just so easy, what with being right there in the name Boraginaceae, & because it also happens to be the name of the garden gnome that shocked (Shocked!) the officials at last year's Chelsea Garden Show.  Once I made that connection, it was all over as far as finding one more suitable.

& so finding something familiar has not helped as much as it usually does, what with we-don't-know-what-country-we-are-in collectors & my memory latching on to banned lawn ornaments.  Confusion is looking endemic for this family: so far almost 1/2 the specimens that have common names recorded have "laurel" somewhere in them.  You might think, well that should make things easier, but it doesn't.  True laurels are found in the Laurel Family is Lauraceae, making the laurels of Boraginaceae impostors.  Or maybe they are just lost.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Martin of Tours

The patron of soldiers (& horses & more) was, no shocker here, a military man (just in time for Veteran's Day).  What did catch me up was the one particular story of Martin of Tours:  he refused to take communion with bishops who had ordered the slaughter of heretics.  When he did finally take communion with the leader of the military action, it was because there was a threat to give the same treatment (torture, execution) to supporters of the former emperor.

Let me repeat this in plain words, the current leader slaughtered people who differed with his religion.  When embarrassed about this he threatened to slaughter people who SHARED his religious beliefs but differed from him politically.  Only a PR event on the part Martin of Tours prevented that slaughter.  That is: a man of the SAME religion & SAME politics, calling himself a man of g*d intervened.  When I think of the category "christian" this used to be the kind of person I thought of.  Now, I associate it more with the emperor.

An interesting choice for a man who was conscripted as a child (well, fifteenish).  He was already expressing a desire to be a christian monk, neither of which made any sense at all to his non-christian military family.  Lucky for them, it was the law of the land that sons of veterans spend some time in the army themselves.  According to his biographer, he was lead away in chains to take his oath & serve this country.   It came as no surprise to me (although same biographer said it was fortunate) that he was assigned to a largely ceremonial cavalry unit & saw little in the way of armed conflict.  After all, what else can you do with a soldier who does not want to be a soldier & keeps talking about pacifism except keep him as far from the rank & file as possible.

There are quite a few stories of him making a show of washing the feet of socially lesser men, giving away parts of his uniform to shivering paupers, etc.  I am guessing when his contract was up they were probably just as happy to watch him go.

The links have slews more stories, more or less on the same lines, including an explanation why this particular early saint is so well documented. 

As I said, he is the patron of horses & soldiers, cavalry specifically & is invoked against alcoholism more broadly.   As you would expect, vintners, innkeepers, & France also fall under his umbrella.  As do geese (go figure) & the Swiss Guard.  Martin was the first non-martyr made saint. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What I gave; what I got

Last month I had my first swap through a quilt block swap blog (one on which I am just a passenger weeeeeeeeeee!!!!) & what I got was so much better than what I gave, I feel kinda bad.  In my defense, I joined the group in the very month the swap leader position was being handed to a new person & there was some scrambling as I got lost in the shuffle.  The short version is I got all the information I would need to continue with the group (current month swap partner), but none of the info I needed to start (dimensions, deadlines, etc.).  As a person who organizes swaps, I can see how this could easily happen & I think I am mostly caught up now.

First what I sent: she expressed a preference for color combos that I do not have the confidence to use & the preference was abstract.   I realize she was being flexible - good thing-, but if she had said "I love chatreuse & black-watch-plaid" I could have managed.  Lucky for me, she also included a by-the-by reference to Amy Butler & I am the proud possessor of some lets-call-it-vintage Amy Butler fabric.  It may be the only medium-scale, only loosely-repetitive fabric she ever designed.  In retrospect it is a very un-Amy Butler Amy Butler fabric, but I paired it with white-on-white pin-dot (very prairie & thus Amy Butler), & killed a second bird by checking off a Friday Block Party block -from September but hey checked off is checked off.

In same envelope, I included the scraps & leftovers of same; the 1/2 square triangles I had made extras of, the remains of the wide strip of pussy willow fabric.  I figured she could use it to make a matching block more along her color preferences & sort of migrate this country cousin into her finished product.

I thought I was doing pretty good until I opened what she had sent.  Two blocks.  TWO, not one.  I still feel like a cheapskate.  My color preference was blue & yellow or anything blended really & my block preference leaned to baskets.  Yes, I am a fool for basket blocks of almost any variety, but I especially like those that are pieced & on-point.  & she sent a basket block made from antique-y-yellow & faded blue (thus also blendy).

& she included a second block in the same fabrics, also gorgeous.  I feel so inadequate.

Monday, November 1, 2010

George who

Last October (in aught-nine) when I visited my parents, my step-father gave me some cash the day before I left.  I do not remember why, although in another place I made a note that he was paying back $$ I had given my mother.  This is probably true, actually; ordinarily I don't care how money falls into place but at the end of a visit I am often squeezing around for bills to use to get my truck out of airport parking. 

Anyway...one of the bills he gave me had a strange stamp on it which directed me to a website:  Where's George.  Now that I think of it, I have a vague memory of begging for that one dollar bill.  Anyway, we logged in, confirmed the bill's (then) current location & when I got back home I set up my own account & set the bill back on it's way.  When someone out in the world entered it a few days later, I was thrilled.  & hooked.

It has been a bit more than a year, but I finally got around to getting my own Where's George stamp.  I freely confess this is because we are planning a trip off the mainland later this year & will be passing through more than one airport outbound & return.  I plan to buy a pack of gum in every single one, just to get them distributed.  I accept this is priming the pump somewhat, but I do not care.

Yes, this is a silly way to spend my time, but it was still interesting in a small way.  Since discovering the site,  I have been surprised that more civics teachers did not use it as a point of interest, but none of the teachers I talked to had ever heard of it.  Okay, that's a lie, M****** had heard of it & so had C****, but she was a reading teacher & was not even teaching when we had the conversation.  I should ask if she got the info. from a civics teacher.  Of course, tracking monetary bills is almost certainly not covered on the FCAT & that might be the answer right there.