Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bull Frogs

There are bull frogs in the shallows of our lake.  Cat tails, wild iris and scrub willow provide habitat and hiding places.  Bull frogs can weigh 1 pound.  They eat anything they can swallow including other frogs, birds, bats and fish. This is breeding season.  The girls are standing by, ready to pick the best guy.  And so, the males call.  Bull frogs are called bull frogs because their call sounds like the roar of a bull.  In the flush of competition, males demonstrate their bona fides. The calling goes on at night. 

I had intended to simply provide a link to a calling bull frog so you could hear for yourself. Here is that link. 

But I found a short video that is well worth watching.  It is a cliff hanger.  Don't skip to the end.  Watch the whole thing.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Not for Sissies

My friend is moving to Assisted Living.  There he will get help with his personal care and nutrition.  He will have a small apartment, surrounded by others with the same requirements.  I stopped by his house recently.  He was in his garage.  We stood there together and looked around.  It is a wonderful garage, telling the story of his life.  In the middle, a hot car.  He does not drive anymore. The car is one of many he has bought and loved.  On one wall his tools and work bench.  Tools for household repairs, and tools for his cars.  Screws, nuts and bolts in glass jars.  On another wall are shelves holding file boxes marked with the names of civic and community organizations.  Some were his passion.  Others his wife's.  She died several years ago.  Her grand piano is in the living room.  None of his children or grandchildren play.  Next to the files are the gardening tools, then the Christmas decorations.  There are cupbords holding paint for interior walls and exterior trim.  Pet paraphenalia for both dogs and cats.  A large fan, space heater, and then small kitchen appliances.

We didn't talk much.  We knew that none of these things would go with him to Assisted Living.  My friend is in his nineties.  He can no longer manage on his own.  As we closed the garage door he said "old age is not for sissies."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Five Foot two, Eyes of Blue

Almost 100 years ago this catchy tune was part of the reckless abandon of the Roaring Twenties. 

Five foot two,
eyes of blue
oh what those five feet could do....

Take a minute - get up and do the "Charleston" and listen:

More conservative countries were scandalized.  Our US "flappers" were finally free of corsets and long skirts. 

This summer another five footer will be in the news.  She is Dalma Rushdi Malhas, the only woman who will represent Saudi Arabia in the Summer Olympics next month.  She is a show jumper.  Many in her country are sill scandalized at the sight of even an uncovered female head. 
The Saudi's are creeping cautiously toward accommodation. It is probably fortunate that this world class athlete competes in a sport that does not require a skimpy costume. Read about Dalma's Olympic opportunity  and see an even better picture of her in mid-jump.  See in her eye the intense focus of a champion.   Oh, what those five feet can do.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Nit Picking

nit·pick·ing Minute, trivial, unnecessary, and unjustified criticism or faultfinding.

What it really means is picking the eggs of lice out of someone's hair.  Don't get squeamish.  Head lice is an equal opportunity problem.  It is not a sign of poor hygiene or lower income.  Lice infest opportunistically.  Scientists have found head lice on the scalps of Egyptian mummies.    25 million Americans will likely be infested this year.  That's a whole lot of tiny insects to get rid of.  Its easy to figure how "nit picking" moved into colloquial conversation to mean a micro-focused task.  Not just "nit picking".  "Lousy" is another common word derived from the human relationship with lice. 

This is a great country. Across the USA entrepreneurs have opened lice treatment salons where both chemical and mechanical treatments are offered.  Most popular (and successful) seems to be combing with a fine toothed steel comb - the kind you might use on your cat.  Enjoy this proprietor's jingle:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Severe Side Winds

Wind is considered a resource in this alternative energy era.  Wind resources are measured and mapped.  You can learn about the geographical distribution, the certainty credited to the wind resource estimates and the areal distribution throughout the United States.  Places where the wind blows a predictable 15 mph or greater are considered good potential for wind energy turbines.  Exposed coastal areas, high ridges, vast open plains are all places where high class wind resources are found.  In basins, valleys and lowland plains wind power is generally low.  Except.  Where air flow is channeled by surrounding topography the wind comes howling through.   "Wind corridors" can offer superb wind resources with regular wind speeds reaching 20 mph.  If you look at a wind resources map you will see small patches of excellent wind in lower Columbia County of Washington State.  This is the Palouse, one of the beautiful places on earth.  The wind is constricted, its force multiplied by the hills rising above the valleys that drain into the Columbia River.   It is wheat growing country.  The small towns connected by State Route 12 were settled in the middle of the 19th century.  The early settlers planted trees upwind of their houses to give themselves some respite from the gale.  Those houses, and their wind breaks are still there, dotting the landscape of rolling wheat fields.  Route 12 is marked frequently with warning signs of severe side winds.  Our big heavy truck shuddered at the crossings. We were there for a sheep dog trial.  We came away with respect for the wind, and for the people who have stayed on the farms settled by their ancestors to harvest the wheat. 

Driving home I kept thinking about the wind as a song ran through my mind.  Different time and place, but same majesty. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


In case you need evidence that time heals, look at today's Google home page.  The cartoon enveloping the "GOOGLE" logo celebrates the 79th anniversary of the June 6, 1933 opening of the first drive-in movie theater.  Was there no thought, or just no mention in the youthful Google offices of D-Day?

There are some wounds that should not heal.  There are some events that we should never forget.  There is some evil for which there is no other word.  As the world awaited word of the early slaughter, and final success on the beaches of Normandy, President Roosevelt offered a prayer.  Listen to his broadcast, and see the pictures of that great day. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Summer Reading Suggestions

Seventeen years ago the inaugural Orange Prize for fiction was awarded. The  prize is awarded for excellence, originality and accessibility in a novel written by a woman.  Helen Dunmore won the first prize in 1996 for her book "A Spell of Winter".  A "Short List" of finalists is announced before the final award is made.  When I studied the archive of winners and Short List finalists there were names from my own library: Annie Proulx, Carol Shields, and Jane Smiley.  And new names beckoning: Rosina Lippi, "Homestead"; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, "Purple Hibiscus"; and Heather O"Neill, "Lullabies for Little Criminals".  Visit the website yourself.  Read about the 2012 winner, former classics teacher Madeline Miller who won with her first book,  "The Song of Achilles".  The archived lists of winners and finalists offer a feast for the lazy days ahead.  Bon Appetite !