Friday, July 18, 2008

Cubs are the best.....for now!

So. The Cubs are about to start the second half of the season. This is often a trying time for Cub fans. In my life experience, two Cub situations seem to occur a this point in the season. One is that they are hopelessly mired in last place or darn close. So who cares.

The other scenario is similar to this year. That is, the Cubs do GREAT during the first half of the season. For example, this year they and the Los Angeles Angels are tied for the BEST record in major league baseball. So far. Many Cub fans have seen the collapse before. 1969. The Cubs were leading the New York Mets by 10 games in August and end up losing that lead. (that got blamed on a black cat) Meanwhile, the Mets go on to win the World Series that year. So Cub fans everywhere are cringing. At this precise moment, they know that the second half of the season is starting in about 15 minutes. They know what happened in 2003 when the Cubs were 6 outs away from going to the World Series. The image below is etched in every Cub fans mind. A fan interfered with a foul ball that could've been caught. Darn! The other team that night, the Florida Marlins went on to win the World Series. Cub fans were in agony. The particular fan who interfered was forced to join the Federal Witness Protection program.

This year, we have a new manager who likes to kick his cap when things don't go his way. The umpires don't seem impressed in this photo. But 75% of baseball is theater and the umpires get to play villain some of the time.

For Cub fans, it often comes down to numbers:
1908=last time Cubs won a World Series.
1945=last time Cubs were IN a World Series.
1869=Cubs choke and lose to the Mets. The Mets????!!!!
2003=Steve Bartman interferes with certain out. Cubs choke. (Bur really, the choke can't all be blamed on Mr Bartman. Well, maybe a lot of it. haha)

But it would be really nice to see the Cubs win a World Series this year in beautiful Wrigley Field. So, I still have hope.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Saying farewell to friends.........

As I boarded my plane at DC's National Airport, two close friends were there to see me off! I didn't know he was that tall!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How many platypuses?

How many platypuses are in this picture?

(click on picture to make it large enough to count)

The answer will be revealed in an uupcoming platypus post. In the meantime, loyal readers, go for it..........

The Garlic Awakens

We planted the garlic last November. It "slept" all winter. With the thaw it "woke up" like so much does in Spring. Lst night we had a work party at Zephyr organic cooperative farm, on land owned by John, Robin and Sue. There were ten people, three dogs, and five million mosquitos, but a lot of work got done. (How DO those weeds grow so fast!) Poodledoc, Jr worked hard, side-dressing sweet corn and thinning it out sweet. People worked with concentration, sometimes alone with the plants and the soil. Other folks moved in and out of conversation. The sun was just getting ready to set when John came running up with six garlic plants that had just been born from the soil. It was exciting to see that the garlic was ready; the cloves/bulbs were huge. Then Eric came up with some newborn redskin potatoes. It is satisfying to see, at some level of the soul, the food coming out of the ground after the hard work that many people put in to make this happen. It's like a miracle.

And the dogs enjoyed themselves, too, as far as I could tell. Duke at some dirt. He said it was good.

The Boxcar Children

A recent post by Luminiferous Ether reminded me of this series of books. I really enjoyed reading the first couple books back in grade school. I thought it would be cool to run away and live in a boxcar, especially when my parents would do mean things like make me clean my room, or wash the dishes! Plus, I lived by a busy railroad, so boxcars were readily available. The first book was published in 1942, with 19 written by the original author. More of the series were published by other authors, but always credited to the original author. I stole the summary of the first book for your enjoyment:

The first book tells the story of four children: Henry James Alden, 14; Jessie Alden, 12; Violet Alden, 10; Benny Alden, 4(and 6 in books not by Gertrude Chandler Warner); and their dog Watch. Upon the death of their mother and father, their grandfather assumes custody of the children, but they run away because they believe him to be cruel. Finding an abandoned boxcar, they start a new life of independence. A man named Dr. Moore, who lives in a nearby city, hires Henry to do jobs around his home, such as mowing the lawn and organizing his garage. With the help of Henry's income and living off the land, the children are able to take care of themselves until Violet becomes ill and they must go to Dr. Moore for assistance.

Earlier in the novel, Dr. Moore has read in the newspaper that a man named James Alden was offering a $5,000 reward for anyone who can locate his four lost grandchildren. When Violet is taken ill, Dr. Moore finally contacts James Alden, who arrives just after the children bring in Violet for treatment. Not wanting to frighten the children into running away again, their grandfather referred to himself as Mr. Henry (Henry being his middle name). Not knowing that the man was their "cruel" grandfather, the children warm to his kindness and are surprised but delighted when Dr. Moore reveals to them that he is their grandfather. After moving in with their grandfather, Mr. Alden moves the boxcar to his backyard for their enjoyment.

Aww, shucks!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Platypus Poems

A momth or so ago our ocular pathology laboratory received two eyes from the platypus submitted by one our esteemed collaborators. It was interesting (at least to me). What kind of eyes does a platypus have? Can they see well? I knew they were mammals (I think) but were able to lay eggs. I learned that they are found only in Australia, are endangered and lactate. So, for my loyal readers, all 6 of them, I want to embark on a strange journey to share what I learn about the platypus. I'm finding politics boring and it's the All Star break in baseball so the Cubs are resting, Poodledoc, Jr is busy making art. So thought I'd start off with some poetry and see where it takes me....

The Platypus

I like the duck-billed platypus
Because it is anomalous.
I like the way it raises its family
Partly birdly, partly mammaly.
I like its independent attitude.
Let no one call it a duck-billed platitude.

by Ogden Nash


The first Ornithorhynchus
Confused early thinkers.
They said, 'Oh good lord,
It's an obvious fraud!

Someone has stuck
The front end of a duck
(With the skill of a weaver)
To part of a beaver.

It's no less fake
Than the mermaids they make
From a fish and an ape-
A rediculous jape!

We now know it's real
Though i can't help but feel
That from tail tip to muzzle,
It is still a puzzle.

by R Strahan

(Copied from "The Incomplete Book of Australian Mammals")

Sunday, July 13, 2008

McCain 'elated' at Green Party announcement

(AP)-Helena, MT. During a town hall style meeting, in Wheeler, a Helena, MT suburb, presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain said today that he was "elated" at the announcement by former Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney that she would campaign as the Green Party's candidate for president. McCain, obviously pleased, told the crowd of cheering admirers that "she can do for us in 2008 what Nader did for us in 2000 and help us win a close election. Heck, we won't even NEED to steal Florida!!!!"
A McCain political stratagist, Reggie McCloud, told this reporter that "we were actually worried a couple years ago that the Green Party might start planning immediately following the 2004 Bush win and build a viable third party that might actually hurt us." Luckily, he added "they tend to do things at the last minute based on ego instead of practicality in the Green Party, so all they'll really do is hurt the Dems which will make my job a heck of a lot easier".
McKinney's campaign manager, Arnold Mcwannabe, called this talk "a bunch of twaddle". "The Republicans stole that election and they stole 2004, so we need to run to keep America honest since the Democrats have shown no willingness to make change". When asked if McKinney would consider a vice presidential spot with Obama, Mr Mcwannabe called this "a bunch of twaddle". Dr Arnold Schwebble, a professor of political science at Georgetown University feels that "this will hurt the Democrats as disaffected voters will go for the Greens, leaving the country in the grips of the Republicans." Our country "will continue to suffer" for the Green Party's "foolishness". As my mom would say, time will tell.

Of course, some people feel there is no difference between the Democrats and Republicans so what does it matter if they vote for McKinney and the Greens? "They're ALL a bunch of crooks", said Bill Richards, of Madison, WI, who told me he was planning to write in his dog, Misty, since at least Misty "didn't lie to him all the time."

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Quaker Wedding

The good news: I asked my friend J to marry me and she said YES! I'm very happy about this wonderful development in my life!!!!! We are planning to have a Quaker wedding. No date has been set. Contrary to popular belief, my poodle will NOT be the ring bearer. I think he's planning on making deviled eggs.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

FGC: Needles for Peace

I went to a talk the other night at the Gathering. A woman, a healer, was talking about her experiences doing healing with acupuncture at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on returning vets from Iraq and Afghanistan. She also does acupuncture work on the nurses and doctors at that hospital. Healing the healers She told some amazing stories. Stories about soldiers with PTSD, loosening, releasing the pain from their experiences. Her point was that she was working to keep the violence and pain that these soldiers carried from spreading out into the community, into abuse, into drug addictions, incarceration and suicide. She is acting on a leading, which is word that we Quakers use to label a “directive” from God that the individual explores. It’s a spiritual path. She talked about that leading. She calls her work “peace work”. I agree. She is bringing peace. She is calming a storm. I was deeply moved.

However, a question keeps nagging at me. I feel embarrassed in a way, like I should let this question slip into some void where awkward questions too often end up. The question is: Does this work enable the war machine? Does it support the horror in the Middle East? She is “seeing God in everyone” and acting on that. So why am I bothered by it? Can’t I just say she is doing wonders and making a terrible situation less terrible? This is my struggle on this. If I can pluck up the courage, I’d like to talk with her. We shall see.

FGC: Taking it personally

I went to hear Reverend James Lawson the other night. The Reverend talked extensively about his work in the Civil Rights movement. He has had many amazing experience, some of which he shared

He talked for well over an hour and a half I thought of leaving, but felt like I owed him that much, to listen to him. So I did. The problem was that he energized the crowd, at first. Then he kept talking and the energy in the crowd sagged.

A big point he made repeatedly was that racism was still very much alive, even in the North. This was not news to me, sadly.

What bothered me that when he would tell his stories of ongoing racism to the 99.5% white crowd, he kept saying not to “take it personllay”, as if he didn’t want to offend. This, too me, made his talk very hollow. I think we all neeed totak it personally. Not to sit around and wallow in “white guilt” but to look at our own racism and take steps to make a difference.

FGC: Point of perspective.

In my workshop today, the facilitator asked us to meditate on the difference between “Scared Awful” and “Sacred Awe-Full”. I’ve thought about this before, but not in exactly this way. I have no particular words of wisdom, but thought I’d share. Guess it all depends on your perspective. Or does it? Both exist in one’s soul at the same time and there’s a usually a choice but sometimes there isn’t.. At that point, the person might find themselves in severe depression. Scared Awful. Biochemistry or difficult life events may “take the wheel” of choice away for a short time. Or a long time. I’ve spent significant amounts of time in these two places. Scared Awful. Sacred Awe-Full. Yin. Yang. Light. Dark.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The History of the Ukulele

The story of the ukulele actually began in Portugal. In the summer of 1870, a boat arrived in Honolulu Harbor with 410 immigrants from the Portuguese island of Madeira. Upon arrival, one of the passengers, Joao Fernandez, began entertaining by standers by playing a 4-string Portuguese instrument called a braguinha. In short order, the islanders became enchanted with the little instrument and promptly renamed it---ukulele. Pronounced oo-koo-le-le (and still to this day, pronounced this way in Hawaii), the name was Hawaiian for “jumping flea,” which is exactly how the islander described the effect of a player’s finger “jumping around the fret board.

Manual Nunez, another Madeiran, played a major role in transforming the braguinha into the modern day ukulele. Some of his refinements included replacing the steel strings with gut strings and altering the tuning slightly to allow for easier chord formation. Along with some of the other great Hawaiian ukulele makers, Dias, and later, Santo, Kumalae and Kamaka, he discovered that the local koa tree produced a wood that was exceptionally light and resonant for uke manufacturing.

Hawaiian royalty also played a big part in the popularizing of the ukulele. King David Kalakaua, Queen Emma and the future Queen Liliuokalani (who later wrote the famous Hawaiian song “ Aloha Oe”) were all great ukulele admirers.

In 1915, Hawaii invested $100, 000 in their Pavilion at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, and thousands of Americans heard the ukulele for the first time. In 1916, the Victor Record Company sold more Hawaiian records than any other style of music. U.S. guitar makers, sensing a new market, jumped in with their own uke designs. Companies like Martin, Gibson and National Resonator are three companies whose early ukes have become quite collectible. The ‘20’s saw the emergence of two of the great uke players: both Roy Smeck and Cliff Edwards (Ukulele Ike) were considered “pop stars” of their time. Because of their efforts, much of the sheet music in the “20’s and ‘30’s featured ukulele chord diagrams.

Thanks to Arthur Godfrey, more waves of ukulele popularity occurred in the ‘40s- and in the ‘50’s, as a result of the sale of millions of low-cost plastic ukuleles designed by Mario Maccaferri.

Now there are only a handful of ukulele manufacturerers (Kamak is one of the few remaining Hawaiian makers). However, like you, there are still many avid ukulele fans. The annual Ukulele Festival in Hawaii continues to introduce new crops of children and teens to the joys of the uke. Japan, Canada and England are big uke markets and in the mainland U.S., cities like Los Angeles can boast as many as three active ukulele clubs.

---author unknown