March 3, 2015

Fearmongering is Israel's top export

So, the (in)famous Bibi Netanyahu spoke to a joint session of Congress today. I am not Jewish so I don't have a special affinity for Israel, as such, beyond the fact that they are -by far- the most stable and most friendly country to the U.S. in an area of the world that is openly hostile to America. But that counts for a lot.
And I get that they feel surrounded. Because they are. It has to be hard to live in a neighborhood where everyone wants to see you disappear, one way or another. Every time Bob across the street fired up his weedwacker, I'd be skittish. And don't even get into Jeff and his chainsaw. Sure, he says it's for cutting up that downed tree, but how do I know for real?
So yeah, America gets it.
But we sure as hell didn't need a man who garnered the votes of 23% of Israel's 6.1 million Jews to come over here and publicly undermine the foreign policy of his closest ally, condescending to tell us how dangerous Iran is (as if the United States can't recall the decades of hostility). And it was physically sickening to watch our elected representatives fawn over what basically amounted to a call to war.

Been there. Done that. You want to fight Iran, Bibi? Do it yourself. 

March 2, 2015

Why not?

As is evidenced by my lack of a Friday Book Blog on even the most generously defined regularity, I am not a good correspondent. I had, years ago, promised that I would post here daily, five times a week. As if it were a job. But jobs are work, and work takes the fun out of posting.
Alternately, if I don't post regularly, the few readers I have, will disappear. And while most of what I say is drivel, some of it is actually important to me. And by extension, I feel it ought to be important to you.
However, on days like today, when we are sunk in the very dregs of winter, and I try to not let the blackened ice mountains of months-old snow in parking lots filled with more holes than the streets of Gaza get to me, on days like today, it's impossible to come up with either the witty or profound. So here is a link to hamsters. Because why not?

February 26, 2015

Anyone can see it's blue.

Oh holy god! How is this even a thing? It is "trending" on Tumblr, and Facebook. (For all I know it's all over MySpace too --who even goes there?)
A million youth are in a tizzy over the effing color of an effing dress. Seriously. They can't be bothered to vote for their elected representatives or donate to homeless veterans, but they will spend an entire day trying to determine the COLOR OF A STUPID DRESS.

It's days like this I grieve for our future.

February 25, 2015

Train spotting (literally)

I have a new spot in my office. My cubicle is right next to a window. That overlooks train tracks. My boss obviously is unaware of my thing for trains. (I have a thing.) Now, every time a train goes by (which some days is three or more times during the workday) I squeal "Train!" much the way Dug exclaimed "Squirrel!" in Up.
by Denny Petkovsek @inthe216 on Instagram

February 24, 2015

May I suggest a Word-a-Day calendar?

One of the local morning show anchors here made national news complaining about Lady Gaga's performance at the Oscars. I don't know if anyone saw Lady Gaga sing, but she did a very well done, extremely traditional medley of songs from The Sound of Music. In a fluffy white dress surrounded by an orchestra and later a small men's choir. Yet, when asked her opinion, Kristi Capel said she thought it was too "jigaboo." To her black co-anchor. Without batting an eye.
She has (of course) since apologized saying that she had no idea the word was a racial slur. I actually believe her, primarily because there was nothing at all "jigaboo" about that performance. It was pretty much as white as possible (with the exception of maybe one or two choir members).
However, that doesn't let her off the hook for stupid. Is it too much to ask that our news anchors have a passing familiarity with the words they speak?

February 23, 2015

Totally safe for work

Since I failed to do a proper Friday Book Blog, let me take a moment to share with you a book I discovered by accident. Because 1. who would go looking for this? and 2. who would even think it existed? (As usual, I'm late for this train with a dozen news articles covering this last year.)
Allow me to introduce you to the book of Cocks. Realistically I should wait until 2017 which is the Year of the Cock, but I couldn't hold onto this that long. Don't be afraid to click on the link. It's not at all like the book I posted in February of 2006.  How can you not fall in love with this guy?

photo by Earnest Goh

February 22, 2015

Not Friday Book Blogging

Yeah. I know. I didn't Book Blog on Friday. I only read three. The best was Dorothy L. Sayers' Whose Body where we meet Lord Peter Wimsey for the first time. But as you all know, I've long been a fan.

February 19, 2015

Gong Xi Fa Cai


HAPPY CHINESE LUNAR NEW YEAR!
This is the year of the sheep.
No, no. It's the year of the goat.
No, wrong. It's the year of the ram.


Baaaaaaa.












Apparently, it's a "Western" issue: Zhao Shu, a folklore expert at the Beijing Institute of Culture and History, said in a telephone interview that the debate was silly. The creature in question arose as a general symbol of plenitude and good fortune, partly because the Chinese character yang shares roots with the one for auspiciousness, he said.
 If English speakers are caught up on whether it is a sheep or a goat, that is their problem, Mr. Zhao added.

February 18, 2015

A day in the garden

There is something deliciously indulgent about wandering in a tropical paradise only to glance out the
window at two feet of snow and icy gray skies.
It's a wonder more people don't spend a day in the garden. Especially when the temperature is hovering near 0°F and you are lucky enough to have a space like this in your city.

It did suck when we had to go back outside, though.


Orchids and other epiphytes on one of the canopy support pillars at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens

February 17, 2015

On this day in history (thanks Wikipedia!)

February 17
  • 1653 – Arcangelo Corelli, Italian violinist and composer (d. 1713) Who names their kid Archangel?
  • 1781 – René Laennec, French physician, invented the stethoscope (d. 1826) Huh. Not something you'd think about, but I suppose someone had to invent it.
  • 1844 – Aaron Montgomery Ward, American businessman, founded Montgomery Ward (d. 1913) Who remembers Montgomery Ward? Jesus, we're old.
  • 1848 – Albert Gustaf Dahlman, Swedish executioner (d. 1920)  "After being run over by a tram, he never regained health... ."
  • 1863 – A group of citizens of Geneva founded an International Committee for Relief to the Wounded, which later became known as the International Committee of the Red Cross. So that's why Switzerland and the Red Cross have similar flags.
  • 1904 – Madama Butterfly receives its première at La Scala in Milan. Notable because only one person dies in it.
  • 1925 – Hal Holbrook, American actor and director Still pretending to be Mark Twain
  • 1934 – Barry Humphries, Australian comedian, actor, and author Still pretending to be Dame Edna Everage
  • 1957 – Loreena McKennitt, Canadian singer-songwriter, accordion player, and pianist Has a song on every New Age Celtic album ever.
  • 19?? – LSH  is born. A date that will live in infamy. (Just kidding, Honey!)
  • 1963 – Michael Jordan, American basketball player and actor Arguably the greatest basketball player of all time.
  • 1968 – In Springfield, Massachusetts, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame opens. What are the odds that the Basketball Hall of Fame opens on the fifth birthday of Michael Jordan?
  • 1977 – Wong Choong Hann, Malaysian badminton player Someone has to be famous for playing badminton
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LSH!

February 16, 2015

Stay warm out there

Yesterday and today, we woke up to a temperature of -3°F. Three below zero is cold. Yet I bundle up and go outside to fill the bird feeder and the cat dishes and put fresh water down (that's not a solid block of ice), and the animals come. Squirrels, rabbits, tons of birds, the two feral cats, even a few deer came by last night.
I can't stand to be out in it for more than 15 minutes at a time, but all these creatures LIVE in this weather. How do they do that?

This is how:
There is a wide array of morphological, physiological, and behavioral adaptations for winter survival.  A few examples are provided below, but investigations into the lives of active winter animals will reveal many combinations of survival strategies.
  • Bergmann's Rule states that northern species of a particular genus or similar class of birds or mammals tend to be larger in size, although this is not always true.  Larger body size means a higher body mass-to-surface area ratio.  It's easier to retain heat.  Polar bears are larger than tropical bears.  White-tailed deer in Michigan dress out at higher weights than their counterparts in Texas or Florida.  
  • Body appendages tend to get smaller in the north, as a heat conservation measure.  Snowshoe hares have smaller ears that cottontail rabbits.   Mammalian legs and snouts are frequently shorter and stouter.
  • Specialized fat, called brown fat, is produced during the food-rich seasons and expended during cold seasons.  This is also the kind of fat that most hibernators use for arousal and many migrators use for fuel.
  • Various "heat exchange" mechanisms can be found in animal circulatory systems that reduce heat loss to body extremities.
  • Certain fish and herptiles produce chemicals within and between cell walls that can lower their freezing temperature a few degrees.  In sheltered environmental niches, these few degrees can mean the difference between life and death.
  • Some mammals, such as flying squirrels and small rodents, will occupy collective dens to conserve body heat, even though some species are non-colonial during the warm season.  This is part of the reason that some species of snakes will do the same thing.
  • Food preferences change with the season.  Some browsers, such as white-tailed deer, have changes in digestive enzymes to cope with the different food sources.  This is one of the reasons why biologists argue against winter deer feeding.  If not done correctly, a deer can starve to death with a belly full of corn.
  • Ruffed grouse "snow roost" during periods of extreme cold.  Snow provides a very effective barrier against severe cold.    They will rest under the snow until the severe weather passes.  Folks who snowshoe or cross-country ski too close to these snow roosts are often caught off-guard when a grouse explodes out of the snow.  Large piles of grouse droppings are spring-time indicators of how severe the winter was. 
  • Aquatic mammals, such as otter and mink, grow thick layers of insulating fat and have specialized fur.  Similarly, ducks, geese, and swans have feathers and oil glands that keep water away from the skin.  Some have efficient circulatory heat exchangers between the body and the feet.  It's usually not the cold that causes waterfowl to migrate.  It's more a matter of food shortages. 
  • Birds and mammals undergo seasonal changes in feathers and pelage.  Trappers know that winter pelts are the highest quality because they are thicker and have different kinds of hair.
  • Muskrats and beaver construct shelters, partly for protection from severe weather.  A number of animals dig burrows, such as groundhogs, foxes, chipmunks, and moles. 
  • Many species of birds can adjust their internal body temperature downward to reduce the temperature gradient with environmental temperatures, thus reducing heat loss.  They also tend to shiver a lot to maintain body temperatures. 

February 13, 2015

Friday Book Blogging

This week I read a few books and am choosing, not my favorite, but the most apropos to the holiday. Eloisa James's The Ugly Duchess is a riff on the Ugly Duckling fairy tale. It holds a special place for me because I'm certain that one day I will blossom into a beautiful swan too. It's a frivolously fun romance for a frivolously fun holiday. Enjoy.

February 12, 2015

An homage to tonight's temperature: 1°F

This is the time of year when those of us in the more Northern climes are pretty much done with the snow and cold. Even the most die-hard winter-lover will be yearning for spring by mid-February. The big "snow events" are not special or exciting anymore.
The snow that is left is crusty with road grime or pocked with prints. It's no longer the pristine white blanket that charmed us when it first fell. Parking lots have enormous two-story snow mountains that will remind us well into April what we suffered. Winds are more biting. Sun is more fleeting. And through it all we know, we KNOW, that spring -even by the calendar- is still over a month away.

February 11, 2015

Hungry

I have a friend who is almost constantly trying to lose weight. She has tried more diets than I even knew existed. She has a love-hate relationship with food that I find rather unhealthy. She will deny herself all but the most miniscule portions of cucumber and lettuce in order to "pay for" a weekend of what she calls overeating (and what most humans refer to as just "eating").
Now, just to be clear, I could probably do with more meals made up of cucumbers and lettuce and fewer meals made up of cheeseburgers. In fact, if I substituted all my cheeseburgers with cucumbers, I could drop about 50 pounds.
But I take pleasure in food. I love trying new things and eating well courtesy of world-class chefs at restaurants and making special recipes at home. I don't ever want to see food as my enemy. Or as a chore.
And I wonder if women who spend their lives denying themselves a pleasurable relationship with food are also women who do not find joy in other parts of life. 
Is there a study for that? Are foodies more likely to enjoy life's other pleasures? Or does enjoying life's pleasures mean you also enjoy food? We've all heard the cliche "fat and happy." Are we also "fat and satisfied"? "Fat and joyful"? "Fat and pleasured"? 

Well, some of us are. ;)

February 10, 2015

Ah, the good old days...

Do you remember taking a shoebox to class and pasting it with pink and red construction paper hearts and doilies, then cutting a hole in the top just the size of a valentine card? We labeled our boxes with our names and there were no rules dictating that everyone in the class must receive a valentine from every other classmate.
I distinctly recall agonizing over whether to give one to the gross boy who liked me and, no matter how viciously I rebuked him, would not stop pursuing me. I thought if EVERYONE else got a card from me, and he did not, he would get the message. I did feel badly about it. A little.
I also recall getting a lot of cards, not because I was popular (I was not.) but because we weren't socially advanced enough to be so passively-aggressively hostile to each other. It was Valentines Day. Everyone got a card. (Except Steve. Ugh.)
Anyway, prep time is underway for moms and dads. Get those Valentines together. I believe now they must reference Beyonce, social media and include at least $4.00 worth of candy to be acceptable in 5th grade.

In honor of the Valentines Day release of the (dreadful) 50 Shades of Grey, (or is it Gray? --Who cares?) I found this old Valentine card. What were people thinking back in the day? I hope this dates from the era PRE- decorated shoebox in 5th grade. I'm fairly certain this is inappropriate for 10-year-olds.



February 9, 2015

Bunnies

I have written no fewer than three blog posts today and not one has been worth sharing. Instead, I bring you squirrel-Qaeda's larger and fluffier outlier: jackrabbits.
The rabbits appear to be multiplying like, well… rabbits. And since they showed up in December, they are wreaking havoc through the neighborhood. Local animal control officials say there is nothing they can do since the rabbits are considered to be wild animals. [...]
According to the University of California, the jackrabbit is about as large as a house cat and weighs up to nine pounds. “The breeding season for jackrabbits runs from late January through August, although breeding is possible during any month of the year where winters are mild. Litters average between two to three young, and jackrabbits can have as many as five to six litters per year. Young jackrabbits are born fully furred and with their eyes open. Within a day they can move about quite rapidly,” the website says.

Nine pounds of bunny eating machine times 50. And as anyone familiar with Monty Python knows, these animals are killers.
Also, in case you need to know when reporting a terror attack by these critters, the collective noun for a group of jackrabbits is a husk.  

February 8, 2015

Friday Sunday Book Blogging

I had a Friday Book Blog, but I've been fighting something nasty and didn't post it in time.
Here it is Sunday:
My favorite book this week was Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver. She isn't going to win any awards for detective fiction, but it was a fun read. Once a person has consumed all the Inter-War British period detective stories that were written contemporanously, one has to accept newer "historical" fictions. And since I'm all caught up on Charles Todd, Jacqueline Winspear, Laurie R. King, Anne Perry, Will Thomas, etc, etc, etc. I have to make due with new authors. I will allow that I liked the story and the characters have a lot of potential should she choose to make a series.

February 5, 2015

A shot in the arm

The news keeps referring to concentrated areas where parents have refused to vaccinate their children against preventable deadly diseases as "pockets where families tend to be highly-educated and  wealthy"
But really, how well-educated can they be if they believe a single discredited and falsified study published in 1998 and then publicly repudiated in the Lancet in 2010 imagining a link between ONE vaccine (in combination) and autism based on a sample size slightly smaller than my graduating class with not a single corroborating study and championed only by a doctor who had his medical license revoked and a kooky Hollywood starlet.
I actually read a comment from one of these anti-vaxxers that argued that at its peek, measles only killed about 450 kids a year, so it's less dangerous than car accidents. That's it. That was the whole comment. As if those 450 deaths are acceptable because a completely unrelated thing also causes deaths.
All you poor kids suffering from measles because mommy and daddy thought you might go autistic after the shot or they didn't want to "pollute" your sacred corporeal temple with long chemical words that, while they are harmless for hundreds of millions of children around the world, surely would have upset the delicate balance of kale and quinoa in your system: I'm sorry. I hope you overcome this nasty illness, get yourself vaccinated and tell your parents they're idiots.

February 4, 2015

Post-adolescent

I am getting a zit the size of Chichen Itza right on the inside edge of my eyebrow.
Yes. I am. 
And I can assure you that I am too old for this. 

February 3, 2015

It's not always all about you, boys

Waaaaahhhh! How come boys don't get a 60-second commercial in the middles of the four-hour testosterone frenzy known as the Super Bowl?! It's just not fair that Always #LikeAGirl ad forced you to think about the impact of your disparaging remarks on young girls for a minute instead of just thinking about yourself and whether you needed another Budweiser.