Archive for September, 2009

New Invention

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Has any one ever turned the water on and left it running in a bathroom sink? Well of course you have. But was it such a slow stream of water that it would take some time to cover the small item that needed to be washed? So the water runs and you get distracted on some important issue? I mean have you left the water running long enough to spill over on the floor and soak up the carpet in the bathroom, into the hall and even under the wall into the adjoining bedroom?

Let me tell you it is no fun. Some folks want an electric car, I want an electric alarm so when the sink is full to running over, a bloated fire engine horn bellows a warning. I need to be sure I hear the alarm in time to avoid the disaster that befell me at 4 pm on this otherwise really lovely day of the solstice. Good thing my bladder needed attention or I may have created a cistern in the crawl space under my prefab. Going through the floor really was not an option because the pine flooring is sealed with industrial grade asphalt tile. Soooo the water seeped along the carpet.

Some folks think I can walk on water and if I had just thrown up my hands and left the water there I would have had to walk on water to get to the toilet. As it was I had to walk on water to grab a gazillion towels off the overhead shelf with which to mop it up. Now I have those towels that I used for mops pinned to the clothesline. That’s how one thing leads to another because they had to be washed. You must understand that my bathroom carpet is no way dust-less and sand-free.

Can I use this experience as an example of how to keep my brain in a healthy developing stage? Maybe not but as Walter Cronkite used to say, “That’s the way it was.”

Collecting

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

There is always interest in collectibles. Just exactly what is a collection? Coins? Stamps? Thimbles? Barbed wire? Refrigerator magnets? Rural phone line insulators? I’ve got them all. And then some. How about a feather collection? My specimens date from 1994 to the present and include feathers I personally picked up far from home, now carefully fastened in plastic and labeled with place and country of origin.

The Magnificient Frigatebird feathers and Minah Bird I got when I was on Culebra in Puerto Rico, Sulphur Crested Cockatoo and Galah are from Australia, Flamingo from Africa, Brown Gull collected by Alex on Whitby Island, Stellar Jay from Bellingham, Crow collected by Morgan from Everett, Canada Goose and hawk from McNary NWR, and Robin, Rock Dove, and White Swan, from Richland. Did I have help? Oh yes, and I am most appreciative.

Some of my items came from bird lovers. My favorite nature and bird guide, Mark Smith, sent feathers from a Ring-necked Parrot and a Violet-tipped Courser from Jamaica, an African Chukar, and Great Horned Owl.

Birds have the same skeletal structure as humans, indeed as all vertebrates, except many of the bones are hollow filled only with air, not marrow. But beyond the bone definitions, birds have structures on their skin called feathers which aid in flight, thermal insulation, waterproofing and coloration. And humans dreamed of flying from the first time birds were observed. The best I can do is collect the the feathers that they drop.

In our walks to the beach for our morning swims in Culebra, Nancy Young, an old friend from a school dispute over the elementary school in Sartell, Minnesota, checked on turtle nests and loose horses. I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the birds then but couldn’t resist taking feathers from The Magnificient Frigatebird when we came upon a carcass.

The feathers I have from Australia came from my visit to Millamolong, a Polo Station that trained polo ponies and men to play in matches. I watched the game closely and because I was close I was given the privilege of rolling out the “first ball” to start each chukker. I swam with the platypus in Millamolong River and watched the parrot-like Cockatoos fuss and chatter on the branches above.

Well that is how much I can go on about one of my collections and I have only just begun. Is it any wonder that I do not have time to get worn out like the old clunkers President Obama is getting off the highways? Maybe I will break down some when I blow out all 82 of my birthday candles.

Way to Go – Fatso

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

The subject of pigs seldom comes up in my thoughts but a volunteer at the McNary National Wildlife Refuge was working on her thesis about the effect of diet composition, digestion, and ecological aspects of Benzoic acid as a feed additive for pigs. I realized how much pork was a part of my life so I delved into pigs and the lives thereof.

Pigs (Sus scrofa domesticus) were domesticated approximately 5,000 to 7,000 years ago in Europe and the Middle East. Pigs were brought into North America by early Spanish explorers.

Classified as an artiodactyle, a herbivorous animal, by Richard Owen in 1857, the pig has an even number of toes unlike the horse which has one, tapir which has three, or elephant which has five. Of its four toes the pig walks on the middle two as do the cow and the sheep.

A pig has a snout for a nose, small eyes, and a small, often thin, curly tail. It has a thick body, short legs, and coarse bristly hair. Compared to other artiodactyles, the head is relatively long, pointed, and free of warts. The long snout is strengthened by a special nasal bone and by a disk of cartilage in the tip. The snout is a very sensitive sense organ, used to dig into the soil to find food. Why does the thought of nosey people come to mind?

Pigs have a full set of 44 teeth. The canine teeth, called tusks, grow continuously and are sharpened by the lowers and uppers rubbing against each other. We have no basis for the expression “eating like a pig” unless we masticate our food with our mouth open. Choump, choump. Or maybe because we eat anything and everything.

Pigs are omnivores. They will scavenge and have been known to eat any kind of food, including dead insects, worms, tree bark, rotting carcasses, and garbage. When we kept pigs years ago we fed them potato peelings and other vegetable matter discarded in food preparation. We simply could not have them rooting around all over the farm.

Pigs are known for their exceptional intelligence, although the word swine may often be implied in a uncomplimentary manner to any living being expressing pig-like behavior. That may refer to laying in the mud but pigs use a separate corner for defecating so they do not live in their own and castoffs as so often humans are wont to do.

Pigs do not have functional sweat glands so they cool themselves using water or mud during hot weather. Mud acts as a form of sunscreen to protect their skin from sunburn as well as protection against flies and parasites. No more can I declare: “I sweat like a pig!” Cows only sweat through their noses so that leaves me sweating like a horse. Only when I work like one so it seems appropriate. I have seen mud baths associated with women’s health spas but who ever would think of pig skin as beautiful? Well maybe a college quarterback. Or an Italian shoe manufacturer.

The presence of trichinosis, Taenia solium, Cysticercosis, and brucellosis is one of the reasons why pork should always be well cooked or cured before eating. Pigs host large concentrations of parasitic ascarid worms in their digestive tract. Some religious groups who consider pork unclean refer to these issues to support their views.

The Chinese calendar includes a year of the pig so it comes around every twelve years. The last time that occurred in the cycle was in 2007, and began on February 18. In Chinese culture, the pig is associated with fertility and virility. Since time immemorial, prospective parents have been told, children born under the pig’s patronage will benefit from the animal’s image as fat, happy and prosperous.

Although not altogether prosperous, I am fat and happy, born in the year of the pig or not.

Moonstruck

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

The moonlight often came across my pillow in my house when the head of my bed was under the south window. I moved the bed along the north wall — the bathroom side mostly because I plan on a new mattress and made certain the movers (which might be me) would have easier access for removal of old and placing the new. The arrangement is better for other reasons — except when the moon is too high to shine in. For one thing making the bed, arranging the sheets and blankets each morning is easier because I have access to the foot of the bed. But that’s not the point. I was quite pleased upon getting into a different bed when visiting relatives, to have the moon shining in my eyes – through the roof no less — through a skylight, a feature of architecture used to bring light into darkened corners of modern homes. At first I frowned to think some lopsided street light managed to glare at me. Upon closer examination I realized the light was the moon and I was pleased to have the companionship, not really expecting to be followed across the miles from my home. Why should I be amazed? I’ve viewed the moon from many countries in my travels and from different directions. In Costa Rica the moon appeared in the northern part of the sky. In Culebra it seemed to be in the east. No matter. It was always a pleasant source of comfort, and still is. I don’t remember even paying attention to the moon in Australia, or Africa, or Korea, or Hungary, or England and I can’t imagine why. There must have been more important things that kept me occupied then or the moon was not visible in the part of the sky open to me. Moonlight is not as dangerous to eyes as sunlight, therefore the moon can be viewed directly and I find the craters and mountains a source of wonder and amazement. Am I in love with the man in the moon? Or simply moonstruck?