Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wheels Up

Last night we said goodbye to our old dog Annie.  We shared the second act of her long life.  She had been abandoned in Spokane.  She was rescued by Mary Ann Lindsay.  Mary Ann was a one woman powerhouse of compassion.  I wrote about her death in 2011.  I am reprinting that post here.

874.  That is the number of Border Collies, Aussies, Kelpies and other herding dogs whose lives were saved by Mary Ann Lindsay.  Mary Ann died this week.  The cancer she had fought for 10 years took away one of the best friends dogs in the north western states have ever had.  Helped by her husband Jim Mary Ann took in the stray, the hurt, the frightened and the out-of-luck dogs collected off the streets of Eastern Washington and the Idaho Panhandle. She made them well both physically and emotionally.  She found new homes for them - homes in 40 different states.  Each new owner made the trip to Hayden Lake, Idaho to be scrutinized by Mary Ann.  Knowing her was seeing the best.  No board of directors, no fund raising committee, no marketing program.  Just Mary Ann (and Jim).    Many dog owners are comforted by the prospect of visiting Rainbow Bridge where their pets wait for them after death.  Mary Ann is there as surely as there is hope and love in the world.

Annie came to us from Mary Ann.  She was already in her middle age, sick and scared.  We gave her back her health.  She taught us about sheep.  She lured us out into a field and showed us what Border Collies are bred to do.  She loved to work sheep.  She could move difficult young sheep as well as any dog, better than most.  In her old age she slowed, but still went out to gather her flock.  Sheep respected Annie.  They moved comfortably ahead of her quiet gait.  Her final gather was last week.  Her time had come - wheels up, Annie, and safe flight.

Here is a picture of Annie in her prime.

Monday, February 24, 2014

How To Be Powerful: My View

I work with dogs.  My dog-hobby is sheep herding. I am training a new puppy.  My puppy must believe that I mean what I say.  If I am honest, and ask for behavior that he has learned, I must expect that he will do what I say.  That means that I must not accept different or incomplete performance.  This seems simple enough.  But he is a smart boy, and sometimes ignores my command.  He quickly learns that if he gets away with it once, the command does not mean anything.  My power in this relationship derives from my resolve to mean what I say.  Our partnership flows well when he believes that I will teach him what I want, and then reward him when he does it.  His reward is working sheep.  He respects my judgment when he learns that I am consistent and fair.  This seems to be a good basis for international relations, too.  Its too bad that we have lost power as a nation.

Here is my puppy, Bach at 2 months:

Here is Bach at 12 months:

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Thought You'd Seen Enough Ice Skating?

There is one more performance to watch.  In 1984, at the Winter Olympics held in Sarajevo, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean represented Great Britain in the ice dancing competition.  They skated to Bolero. Scoring was simpler 30 years ago.  The artistic merit of their performance was scored a perfect 6.0 by every judge.  Here is their program.

Monday, February 17, 2014

More about Abraham Lincoln

Today, Presidents Day, calls Abraham Lincoln to my mind. Here is a story not included in the major biographies.  Lincoln loved to listen to music and visited the opera when performed in Washington.  He is known to have attended nineteen operas during his short presidency.  He was particularly fond of the great soprano Adelina Patti.  (Verdi said of Patti's lyrical voice that she was a "stupendous artist".)  In 1862 he invited the 20 year old  Patti  to the White House where she was cordially greeted by both the Prersident and Mrs. Lincoln who was still in deep mourning over the death of their son Willie. Invited to sing, Patti offered a few arias from popular operas, and then, accompanying herself on the piano, she sang "The Last Rose of Summer".  This traditional Irish melody is featured in Friedrich Von Flotow"s comic opera "Martha" in which Patti would perform that evening. The Lincoln's were visibly moved by the song. The President, who kept his eyes shaded by his had, asked her to sing "Home, Sweet Home".  Neither the Spanish born Patti, nor her accompanist knew the song.  The President went to a small stand at the foot of the piano where there was a song book, already opened to "Home, Sweet Home".  Patti took the music and sang, as requested. In her own words, "Well, I sang the song the very best I could do it". The Lincoln's wept openly.  Patti went on to sing the song often.  There is a recording made in 1905 when she was 62 years old.  It is not hard to put yourself in the room with the Lincolns, removed from the trials of the war, mourning the loss of their child, letting the sweet ballad wash over them.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

400 BC

400 BC, a man's vision is so clouded he is virtually blind. The lens of his eye is completely opaque, rigid and heavy.  He resorts to a medical procedure - one of the oldest documented successful surgical interventions. It is called "couching".  His eye is struck with a blunt object with such force that his wasted lens dislocates into the vitreous cavity.  His sight is restored, but without a lens it is entirely unfocused.  He believes he is better off.  Over the following centuries this crude procedure was improved upon.  By the 18th century practitioners were able to remove the lens from the eye.  the incision went half way around the circumference of the cornea.  The patient was made to lie still with head immobilized by sandbags until the wound healed.  Upon recovery, still no focus.  Improvements in the 20th century have been spectacular.  The advent of very fine stitching allowed safe removal of the lens and quick recovery.  During World War II the eyes of pilots wounded by shattered windshields inspired development of a replacement lens.  Surgical precision improved both lens removal and artificial lens quality.  Today, a surgical incision of 2mm allows removal of the emulsified lens and insertion of a new lens of artificial material.  I had such a procedure this week.  I have focus, color distance and clarity.  No blunt instruments involved.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Rapist Has Rights?

In our state there is proposed legislation that would strip a rapist of visitation rights with respect to the child conceived through his violence.  It has never previously occurred to me that he had such a right.  I learn from the debate that the subject of the rapist's rights is linked to, and complicated by the state's assertion that he must pay child support if the mother is receiving state assistance. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 32,000 children are born each year as a result of rape.  Thirty two thousand mothers raise a child trying to forget or forgive the assault.   Fortunately for me, my mind is not clouded by any sympathy for the rapist-father.  No rights.  All possible responsibilities. He should have thought about it before he unzipped his pants.

Snow and the Internet

We have had cold weather and snow.  Temperatures moderated before our last snowfall.  Our quiet neighborhood was invaded by snowmen.  Actually, snow men and snow women, and snow forts.  The young, and the young at heart could not resist the dense, moisture laden snow.  Today we have rain.  Snow has melted from lawns and driveways.  The snow objects remain, some still recognizable, others mere slushy puddles of twigs, carrots and scarves.  I entered "snowman"  on my search bar. There are many entries guiding the reader to the proper construction of a snowman.  (I am not surprised as I have noticed that our supermarket sells a large russet spud wrapped in plastic wrap with a label telling the purchaser how to bake the potato.  The "value added" includes a hole already poked in the potato to prevent exploding in the oven, the wrap and the directions.  The "product" cost twice as much as a similar size potato.)  On the Internet you can learn how to have fun in the snow.  The selections on snowman construction are quite detailed and tell you what supplies to collect in advance: scarf, hat, carrot, sticks and coal or stones for the eyes. Here is a link to the instructions offered by The Learning Channel.  I am glad such information is available but cannot imagine who would need to turn to the Internet when 8 sticky inches of snow call from outside.  Here is a picture of a snow man built by my sons and their children several years ago.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Here is A Reason to Visit New York this Spring

The Metropolitan Opera is staging a production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly.  The Production Director is Anthony Minghella who has pioneered the use in opera of the traditional art of Japanese puppetry known as Bunraku.  In Bunraku characters as well as inanimate objects are manipulated by puppeteers.  The puppeteers are dressed entirely in black.  The puppeteers are masters who virtually disappear behind their animated puppets.  Pucinni's opera calls for the appearance on stage of Butterfly's three year old son, the love child she bore to American Naval officer Pinkerton.  The child;s role is demanding, set in scenes with his mother of great passion, excitement and sorrow.  The tender scene at the end of Act II requires the child to sit absolutely still for seven minutes. For the child,  Minghella has cast a puppet created by the American Blind Summit Theater.  I heard the production broadcast live from the Met on Saturday.  During the intermission I listened to an interview with Amanda Echalaz singing in her Metropolitan Opera debut as Cio-Cio San (Madam Butterfly).  She praised the puppet's performance, comparing it favorably to her previous performances of the opera with a live child actor.  Here is a link to images of the boy-puppet used in this and earlier Minghella productions.  I am wishing I could make a trip to New York.  The schedule for "Madama Butterfly" at the Met runs through Jun 9.