Friday, August 31, 2007


This week, a group of evangelical Christians and prominent scientists are visiting Alaska to see the effects of global warming on glaciers, people, and forests.

This is the Begich Boggs Visitors Center, built near Girdwood, about 50 miles south of Anchorage, in 1986. Although the Portage Glacier was retreating, the belief at that time was that it would be possible to see it from the Center until 2020. Instead, all that can be seen now are the ice floes that have calved off. It is one of the sites visited by the expedition.

Also visited was the village of Shishmaref, an Inupiat Eskimo village slowly eroding into the Chukchi Sea because shore ice no longer protects it from fierce winter storms. They will tour the Kenai Peninsula, where more than 3 million acres of spruce forests have been devastated by destructive beetles normally kept under control by colder winters.

To me, this is an incredible tour. Scientists and evangelicals, who do not agree on the origins of life, have set aside their differences to work on preserving it. The idea of stewardship does not depend on finding agreement in all particulars about things. Only that the two groups agree that a terrible thing is happening, that it is being at least added to by human behavior, and that steps must be taken now to stop it.

We need more partnerships like this one. Where well intentioned people turn away from their differences and concentrate on their commonality for the good of all. In a time of great divisiveness, where wedge issues are used regularly to drive people apart and keep them from noticing that they have common interests, this expedition is a lamp in the darkness. A reminder that by far the vast majority of people are well intentioned and can work together.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Julie Does It Her Way*

Years and years and years ago, long before Maya was born, Granny was a young mother called Mom and Uncle Richard was a little boy called Richard and Maya's Mama was a very little girl called Julie. And they all lived together in Berkeley while Mom went to the university.

Now, Maya knows that every person starts out as a brand new baby, and brand new babies can't talk and they can't walk. Maya has seen, on Maya TV, herself when she was just a little baby and couldn't walk or talk. And every day Maya learns new words and learns to say old words better. Why, Maya used to say Mike Mugalin, and now she says Mike Mulligan. And she used to say valina, and now she says vanilla. So, she knows that learning to talk takes some time and you get better at it as you get older. Most babies start with a single word, and then they learn to say two at a time. It is the same with walking — babies start by standing up and holding on to something and then standing and not holding. Then they walk and hold on and then they walk without holding. That is the way it is usually done.

Indeed, that is the way Richard learned to talk and walk. When he was nine months old, he pointed to the light and said "light!" and that was his very first word. The next day he could say another word and then another. And then he learned to say "What's that?", a very useful phrase indeed, because then Mom would tell him what it was and he would say that word. When Richard was eleven months old, he went to see the doctor. The doctor asked Mom, "Is he trying to talk yet?" and Mom said, "He knows 25 words." Then the doctor, who was very young and hadn't met any children as clever as the children in our family, said, "Well, no. He's saying mamammama and you are thinking he is saying Mama. He's too young to be saying real words." And Mom said, "Richard, say hello to the doctor." And Richard said, "Hello, doctor." And then the doctor said, "Next time I will listen to the mother. Then I won't sound like such an idiot."

Richard started standing up against things when he was about eight and one half months old, and soon wherever Mom went in the house, there he would follow. He might have to lurch from wall to wall and go the long way around, but he could follow her from room to room and by the time he was nine months old and saying "light" he could walk without holding on to something.

When Richard was two years old, Julie was born. Mom and Richard were both as excited as excited about that, and she was a delightful baby and they loved her very much and she loved them very much and life was just wonderful with the three of them to love each other. And every day, Richard learned new things and Julie learned new things and even Mom, who was going to the university like Maya's Dado is now, learned new things. And one of the new things that Mom was learning was child development. She was learning all about how children grow and learn. Her professor said, "Girls learn to talk and walk at a younger age than boys. Second children learn to talk and walk at a younger age than first children. It isn't that the second child is smarter, it is just that the second child wants to keep up with the first child."

"Well," thought Mom, "Richard was a boy and a first child and he learned to walk and talk at nine months. Julie is a girl and a second child — my professor says she will learn earlier than Richard did! She will really be young!"

Well, Julie got to be nine months old, and she hadn't taken a step and she hadn't said a word! "Good heavens," thought Mom, "my professor was wrong. I wonder when she will talk and walk?" Well, the days went by and the weeks went by and the months went by. Not a step. Not a word. Mom was tempted to be concerned, and indeed if she were the worrying kind she might have been. However, since she is not the worrying kind (unlike her own Little Mama and indeed Julie herself) she noticed it but didn't worry. Mom could see that wherever Julie wanted to get she crawled to quite nicely. And really, she didn't have to talk — she had Richard. If Julie wanted something, she would make a motion and Richard would say, "Julie is hungry" or "Julie wants you to play Revolver (an album by the Beatles)" or "Julie wants to play outside." And Richard would always be right. And Julie would always get what she wanted. Besides, Mom remembered how the doctor had been wrong about Richard and she decided that sometimes experts made mistakes and she wasn't going to worry about it.

Well, one day when Julie was 15 months old, and Mom was beginning to wonder if she was going to ever walk, up she stood in the middle of the room. Off she walked. And she walked and she walked and she walked. All day long, all she did was walk. She walked until she was tired, and then she laid down wherever she happened to be and fell asleep. And she did that and she did that and she did that. Once she even fell asleep under the kitchen table. The next day, she did the same thing. After that, she walked wherever she wanted to go. "Well," thought Mom, "not only didn't she do it at the same age that Richard did, she didn't do it in the same way that Richard did. Julie certainly does it her way."

Now, when Julie had been walking for about a week, Mom and Richard and Julie went to Stockton to spend the weekend with Mom's Little Mama and Daddy and her sister Colleen. They arrived Friday afternoon, and that night everyone went to bed and to sleep. The next morning, Julie woke up early. Mom and Richard and even her Aunt Colleen were still asleep. But her Grandma and Grandpa (Mom's Little Mama and Daddy) were up sitting at the table drinking coffee. Julie got up, and walked out to the kitchen. She looked around and then she said, "Where's the little dog?" And that was the very first thing she ever said! After that, she talked all the time. She said things Mom had no idea she could say. And to this day, Granny is a little puzzled why she kept it a secret that she could talk. It was partly that she didn't need to say anything as long as Richard was there to talk for her. And partly, she wasn't going to do it until she could do it perfectly. Or it just may be that that is the way a Wait-A-Bit does it. Or it may be that this second child didn't want to keep up with the older child, she wanted to do it better than him. However it was, Julie did it her way. And to this day, she still does.

* A story I wrote for Maya when she was about three years old.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Thoughts on an August Morning

The sun's behind the mountain now by nine o'clock at night;
When I climb the stairs to bed, I must turn on the light.
The fireweed has blossomed more than halfway up the bloom.
The higher up the color goes, the sooner summer's doom.
Oh, everywhere I drive or walk,
The color's inching up the stalk,
And soon will turn to cotton fluff -
Ah, summer's never long enough!

In Celebration of Jill & Megan

My friend Jill has a new baby, Megan. When I saw these photos on, I thought of them.

"Baby's first bath: Zarafa licks clean her new calf born only minutes earlier at Safari West wildlife preserve in Santa Rosa."

Zarafa, by the way, was the name given to a giraffe calf in the 18th century who was given to the king of France by a middle eastern prince named Muhammed Ali.

She was carried out of Africa on the back of a camel and then down the Nile in a barge that had a hole in the deck for her neck and head. Then she went by sailing ship to France. When she got to Marseille, she was too tall to ride in a cart, and so she walked to Paris. An incredible convoy was arranged, with Zarafa following a herd of cows. When it rained, she wore a raincoat that had been made just for her. In those days most people had never even seen a drawing of a giraffe. The entire trip through France, people came and lined the roads to watch the wonder of her. Individuals would return day after day, so long as they could walk the distance to see her. And, because Zarafa had been taken when she was first born, she was very friendly to people.

I read a book* about her a few years ago, and there were very old people still alive who had been told by their great-grandparents, who had been told by their great-grandparents, who had been children at the time, about the magic journey of Zarafa.

When the journey was over, Zarafa's handler, a Nubian slave named Atir, stayed with her. Slavery was not legal in France, so Atir became a free man.

* Zarafa: A Giraffe's True Story, from Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris, by Michael Ailin.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The President's Nose

At the left is a coup stick.

Counting coup, according to Wikipedia,
was a battle practice of Native Americans of the Great Plains. A nonviolent demonstration of bravery, it consisted of touching an enemy warrior, with the hand or with a coup stick, then running away unharmed. Risk of injury or death was involved, should the other warrior respond violently. The phrase "counting coup" can also refer to the recounting of stories about battle exploits.
A few years ago, I heard about a practice among current Native American men that allows them to prove their courage in these modern times. They rappel down Mt. Rushmore and pee on a president's nose.*

* I read this in a book, but I can't remember which one. Nor could I find anything about it on the Internet. hasn't listed it, so at least it isn't a well known urban myth. I do so hope it's true.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Tall People

One day when I lived in Sacramento, I was in a movie theater with my friend Linda, who is even shorter than me (and not many are). We were waiting for the movie to start, the lights were on, and we were the only people in the place. In came a very tall man and woman. They slowly and carefully looked around, and then, so help me God, they came over and sat right in front of us.

As we were sitting, stunned, trying to figure out what to do*, an African American couple came in and sat near us. At which point the tall couple got up in a huff and moved as far from us as they could.

* I usually am not concerned about speaking up for myself, but we were both also very aware that people who would do that in such a deliberate manner might not think twice about clocking us if we spoke up or following us if we moved.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Miscellaneous Odd Things

I eat pistachios daily for my blood sugar. And, I like them. Since my blood sugar will raise when I first get up if I don't immediately eat, and since I often wake up an hour or more before I eat breakfast, I keep a supply in a big glass jar by my computer and nibble a few while blogging in the morning.

Pippin also loves pistachios. If the shell is partly open, he can get his teeth in there and open it. Then he eats the nut, leaving the shells whereever they fall. I try not to let him have them, since I don't like stepping on pistachio shells and I don't want him begging or stealing food.

A couple of weeks ago, he waited until the waste basket next to the computer desk had about a two week supply of shells, and then knocked if over and had a field day. And I, of course, was stepping on shells even after I thought I cleaned them all up.

So, I started putting the shells in a plastic bag and tying it closed every day, so that if he tipped the basket, the plastic bags would spill instead of loose shells. More fool me. Friday night he tipped over the waste basket and ate holes in all the plastic bags, spreading pistachio shells all over the floor.

For a few months, I've had this odd thing going on with comment moderation. I would sign in, and dashboard would tell me I had one extra comment to moderate. So, even when there were none, it said one. And then tonight when it said two, I went to moderate and, by golly, there were two comments. One dated from February! After I moderated them, just to check, I signed out and then back in and sure enough, dashboard didn't say I had a comment to moderate! Now, where in cyberspace do you suppose that comment had been?

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Angela at Eclectic Recovery visited and commented on Friday's post, The Last Diet, which caused me to visit her and read It's Your Choice, about different roads to recovery from addiction.
Addiction is bondage. Whether we're addicted to drugs, alcohol, a person, food, sex or the internet , the most precious thing we lose is our freedom. Living in a self-made prison is like being a hamster on a wheel, running and running and never getting anywhere, always looking for the way out through the same door that got us in. If we're lucky, we begin to realize that we've caged ourselves into a cycle of destruction that will eventually lead to our demise. If we're lucky, we'll take the steps necessary, whatever they are, to free ourselves from the hell that has become our life.
As I commented on Angela's post, I really centered on the fact that, for me and many others, the addiction is not, as conventional wisdom has it, to any kind or amount of food, but instead to dieting. It was when I gave up dieting that I began to recover. I didn't get thin, I'm not genetically programed to be thin, and 46 years of messing with my metabolism has left it unable to return me to my original genetic programming, which was probably to be curvy and get more so as I aged. But, I have not gotten fatter. All of my life, except for an eight year stretch when I realized that dieting wasn't working but not why and gave it up, I had been yo-yoing. Weight did seem to be, just like other addictions, a "progressive disease" that increased even when I wasn't "overeating." Later I realized, after I had tried to get thin again for a number of years, that I had stayed the same weight for those eight years. I mean, I knew it at the time, and I attributed it to not dieting, but I didn't know it in my bones. I didn't focus on the fact that not only did I weigh the same at the end of that time, my weight had been steady for the entire time. No yo-yo. I didn't really know that it wasn't just that I wasn't one of the 2% - 5% of the population who can diet weight off and keep it off, dieting was the addiction. That was the truly freeing realization. The amazing recognition that what I had been doing to cure the problem had been the problem. The clarity to see that between that first rather innocent diet at 12, which had consisted of eating 900 calories a day of healthful food and nothing else for nine days, and considering living on fruit juice and water for six months, the dieting had become much more bizarre, and that was what Angela refers to as
like being a hamster on a wheel, running and running and never getting anywhere, always looking for the way out through the same door that got us in
At the time I had my Aha! moment with the grapefruit juice, I had been attending Overeaters Anonymous for several months. Shortly after I came to my realization, just after I had read "Overcoming Overeating" by Jane R. Hirschmann and Carol H. Munter, one of the stars of our OA meeting told a story about how she had been abstinent, which for her meant no sugar and no white flour and less than 20% of her daily calories from fat, for 25 years. And one day she ate a candy bar. And within a week, she was buying candy by the bags full and purging, a thing she had never done before. And she realized that although she hadn't been practicing her addiction for 25 years, it had, indeed, progressed. And I had another Aha! She had been practicing her addiction very hard indeed for that 25 years -- no sugar, no white flour and less than 20% fat. And when she strayed from her addiction, she returned to it with severely increased rigor. From deprivation to purging. The thing that had frightened her was the purging, but she hadn't put the pieces together the same way many nutritionists and obesity researchers do.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Last Diet

I've mentioned that I was put on my first diet at 12* because I weighed three pounds more than my mother. I dieted off and on from then until I was 16, when I went to live with my Great-Aunt Julie. Auntie didn't believe in putting girls on diets, so I was off of them until I decided I wanted to lose some weight right before I went to college. From then on, I did at least one diet a year, and as time went on they became more frequent. As time went on, they became more draconian, since I was past "needing" to lose three pounds.

My last diet was in 2000. I had been on a number of increasingly crazy diets over the previous three years, each one followed by the inevitable trampoline rebound. So, in about February of 2000, I was planning to go to California that fall for vacation, and I wanted to be thinner so I could play hide and seek with Maya more easily.

I decided that if I went on a fruit juice fast, that would take off a lot of weight and Maya and I could do lots of things that I hadn't been able to do with her before. So, there I was with a calorie counter, figuring out which juice had the fewest calories, when I heard myself think, "and if I cut it half and half with water, that will go even faster."

That was when I knew that I had lost my mind. That the idea of living on fruit juice cut half and half with water was not a thought that a sane person would have.

And that was the last time I was tempted to diet. In that moment of epiphany, it was over. In seven years, I've not done that again. Not that once in a while I don't think about it -- but the thoughts are on the order of, "too bad dieting doesn't work, because I would like to be smaller." Not once have I been really tempted to ever do that again. And, in the years since, I have become very educated about the truth about dieting and weight. I have learned the things I only wish I had known at 12, the things about bodies and genetics and depravation reactions. I've learned to see the money that is to be made by making people hate themselves and convincing them that you have the answer that will make their body, and therefore their life, just right.

* This is the before picture for my second diet, at 14.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Richard Picks Up His Toys

When Richard was almost four, I happened to be reading Logical Consequences by Rudolf Dreikurs and Loren Grey one evening as it was getting on time for the kids to get ready for bed and I decided to try the approach. So, as we were getting ready to get ready, I asked Richard, as per instructions, "It's time to put your toys away. Would you like to put them on the shelf or would you rather I put them in the closet?"

Being perfectly willing to let me do the work, he answered, "You put them away." And so, I got out a box, picked up all the toys on the floor, and put them on the closet shelf. The next day he still had lots of toys to play with, but he did ask for one or two of the ones on the shelf. I explained that they were on the shelf for a week, showed him how to count that off on the calendar, and went about my business. That evening, again I asked what he wanted to do, and again he wanted me to put them on the shelf.

However, now he had not only his very favorite toys, but also his next to the favorite toys in the closet. So on the next day, he asked for a number of toys. Again, we worked it out on the calendar. Again, he accepted it easily.

That evening, when I asked him, I got as far as, "Would you like to " and he broke in with "I'll put them on the shelf." I don't think he ever had me put his toys away again. And, the wonderful thing about it was that he never complained about the toys in the closet.*

Having discovered this miracle answer to discipline, I used it often. And because my children always got to choose*** they did not resist or resent. They could see the logical connection between the choice they made and the consequence, whether that was what they wanted or not. And, because I always asked if they wanted this or that, and never said, "If you don't put them away, I'll put them in the closet (or whatever the choice was)", and always had a logical connection between the choices, we had very few problems.

As they grew older, I stopped offering choices and simply delivered the consequence. When Richard**** was 12, his Uncle Forrest, attempting to be helpful, told him that he was the man of the family. And Richard observed that his grandfather and his uncle didn't pick up their own dinner dishes and put them in the dish washer, like we did. So, having picked up his dishes without fail for ten years, one night he left them on the table. A simple, "Richard, your dishes are still on the table." took care of it that night. But, three nights later, he did it again. This time I didn't say anything. I picked up his dishes and put them in the frig (didn't want the little bugger to get salmonella, after all) and the next morning served his French toast on his dirty dishes. I never had to say anything. It is obvious -- if you don't pick up your dishes, they don't get washed. I didn't say anything. He didn't say anything. But, to this day, you almost have to constrain him to keep him from taking his dirty dishes out to restaurant kitchens.

* It helps with keeping a child's room clean if you use a little Montessori as well as a little Dreikurs. So, my kids never had toy boxes. ** They had shelves at their height. Toys with parts were in containers, and since the box the toys came in would fall apart rather quickly, they had baskets and other containers that wouldn't. And we rotated toys in and out of the room so they had a manageable number. They got to choose what they wanted out at any time, we rotated right after finals when they were little and I was going to school. Every time we would rotate, there were all of those toys they hadn't played with for an entire college semester -- it was like Christmas.

** Toy boxes worked when children had many fewer toys than they do these days, or servants. To get a feel for how unwieldy a toy box is for a child, think about what life would be like if you had no cupboards or drawers or canisters or shelves in the kitchen. If everything had to go in a the box your refrigerator came in. Loose. Once you opened the flour or the rice, the rest of the bag was just dumped in. Everything in your kitchen. In one box. Want to fry an egg? Not only do you have to take out everything you are going to use, but all of the things you aren't going to use between the top and where it has filtered down. Then put it all back, repeat when you need to do something else, put it all back. How long would your kitchen stay tidy?

*** If they had no choice of whether they were going to do it, such as brushing teeth, they got a choice of where or when -- would you rather brush your teeth in the bathroom or the kitchen, before or after your bath?

**** I used to tell lots of these stories to my parenting classes, since concrete examples help teach the concept. Once I noticed that they were almost all about Richard. I mentioned it to Julie, who answered, "I always watched what happened when Richard did something new to find out if it was allowed or not." So, almost all of my Julie discipline stories are about things Richard never did or which were not an issue with him.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Hangin' Out In Hooligan Habitat

I was putting the raisin bran away in the oven this morning when I started thinking about the ways I have changed how I live because of the Hooligans. Well, take the raisin bran in the oven. About half of my kitchen cupboards have no doors. And the ones with doors are not as tall as the raisin bran box. Except for the cupboard that the mice get in; that one I keep no food in. And the thing is, Merry and Pippin like raisin bran. And are very, very smart. If they can get to it, they will get in it. Therefore, I keep a box of raisin bran in my oven.

They also will get into any garbage that smells good to them. This ranges from crab shells and salmon skin and chicken bones to the bag the walnuts came in. Meat wrappers. Melon rinds. Tin cans. Candy wrappers. Ice cream cartons. Tuna pouches. The container of any new food that comes into the house may end up on the list. I used to keep the more obviously attractive garbage in the freezer until garbage day, because I didn't want it smelling up my kitchen and if I put it out I risked bears breaking into the can and spreading garbage from one end of the block to the other. But, in those days I didn't have to hide so many things -- just the things that could attract a bear. The Hooligans are much worse than bears. So, I have a plastic cat litter pail with a tight fitting lid that is the cat garbage.

Food is always an issue; they love so many different things. I have the baggers at the grocery store trained to recognize what my boys will eat and to pack all of that in as few bags as possible. The stuff that goes in the refrigerator gets unloaded first, but while that is happening the other cat bait is under the kitchen sink or in the oven or locked out on the porch. If I don't, I will find that they have eaten the corner off the loaf of bread. Once I turned my back and they bit into the bottom of the carton of chicken stock and I had it all over my newly mopped floor. Last Saturday, I stopped ever so briefly to talk to my landlady while the Care-A-Van driver took up my groceries, and by the time I got up stairs they had a fried chicken thigh that I had intended for lunch in the middle of the living room floor, chomping and growling at each other to beat the band.

I used to keep my butter dish on a shelf in the kitchen. Missy never tried to get into it. Pippin knocked it onto the floor, breaking two cut glass bowls in the process, and had eaten the corner of the butter by the time I got to him. So, now that lives in the microwave. Along with varied items that I need to hide from them. In order to use the microwave for its intended purpose, first I have to unload it and hide the contents somewhere.

These creatures will even tear open a bag of cat litter, which means I also have to have containers with tight lids for that. Pippin eats canned food (he's prone to feline urinary disease and can't eat dried food), which he can't open by himself yet, so I can leave it on a shelf in reach. But, Merry get the runs if he eats canned food and so I have to get him dry. I could leave an open box of cat food next to Missy's dish, and she would leave it alone. I could fill her dish and she would eat out of it when she got hungry. Not these guys. If I leave food in the dish, they eat it until they pop. (And if it's dry, Pippin will get sick and if it's wet Merry will get messy.) When I left the food in its original packaging, they ripped into it. I hid it under the sink in the bathroom, and they managed to get the door open. I bought a huge Rubber Maid pitcher and put it in there, and they pulled that out from under the sink and got the top off. I put it in a six and a half gallon popcorn can, and Pippin figured out how to open that. So, now it is in the popcorn can, in the mouse cupboard.

I used to have flowers in the apartment. No longer. Pippin bites the flowers off. I would come home from work and find stems strewn about the living room -- and the flowers floating in the toilet. I didn't know if they would clog the plumbing if I flushed them. It might be a pleasant change for the plumber to find carnations and daisies and roses in the pipes, but I was never getting to enjoy them myself.

I used to have a house plant. I can't say any more about that, it will make me cry. At any rate, no plants. No flowers.

Fritos are my best friend. When I need to cook or eat something that would attract them, I throw a few Fritos onto the front porch, they run out, and I close them in.*

Once upon a time I had a lovely clock radio in my bedroom. I would listen to tapes of the ocean or waterfalls as I fell asleep. But, the controls were all on the top. And the Hooligans would walk on them. That was bad enough when they turned the radio on. But, sometimes they set the alarm. I would be sitting at my computer, they would be laying peacefully on the floor within sight, and the clock radio would go off loud enough to wake the dead, always on some terrible station I would never turn to.**

Because of them, I keep electrical wires covered with flex tube. Otherwise, they will bite right through them. My vet says some cats really like the feel of the jolt that gives them. These wires, by the way, were not plugged in when the damage was done. Or we would have had fried cat. And you know that nest of wires under your computer desk? Well, mine are all closed off behind a cardboard barrier. So classy looking.

A pile of books or magazines, since the covers are slick, will end up on the floor because they climb up on it and jump off. My favorite thing of all is not being able to keep out multiple reading sources without standing guard. I really like to have one fiction and one non-fiction book within reach, so I can read to suit my mood. And, I seldom finish Free Inquiry before The New Yorker arrives.

And if I don't want soda knocked on to the floor, since butting things onto the floor with their sweet little noses is one of their favorite things, I have to cap the bottle between sips. Put water in a sports bottle instead of a glass if I want to drink it and read.

* The door between the porch and the kitchen is the only door inside the apartment, except the saloon doors into the bathroom. There is no where else to close them.

** Actually, it reminded me of the story my friend Joyce Zinnerscheid used to tell of her friend who set his clock radio when he was drunk, and woke up the next day to the reverberating sound of "I AM THE LORD OF HELL FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" He was in a bunkbed. He hit the top bunk and knocked himself out.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Granny Has a Grumpy Day*

One winter day Granny got up in the dark. The first thing she did, because it is the first thing she always does, was think about Maya. Then she brushed her teeth and got dressed. Then Granny looked out the window. Granny was not pleased with what she saw. It was still dark out, the days were still getting shorter. And the sky was full of clouds and the rain was coming down. Rain, rain, rain. For once, Granny was good and sick of rain. "Haven't you heard," Granny said to the sky, "that there can be too much of a good thing?" Granny was disgusted. "The days are getting shorter," she said, "and the rain is still falling in torrents and I am feeling very grumpy about it. Something," said Granny, "had better change, because I am getting sick of it. Too much is too much. Even for me, and I love rainy winter days."

So Granny and Missy went down stairs to the kitchen and had breakfast. And after breakfast, Granny said good-bye to Missy, and got out her pretty turquoise umbrella and walked to work. She didn't wear her buttercup yellow rain hat and her turquoise slicker, because she wasn't taking a walk, she was just walking three blocks to the office. She grumped all the way, very discontent with the grey, cold, wet day. "I could use some blue sky," she said to the world, "I could use some sunshine. I could even use some snow or hail or a thunder storm. Dark days. Perpetual rain. Grumpy me. Something had better change," said Granny, "‘cause I'm getting tired of this."

All morning while Granny was at work, the sun stayed behind the clouds and low on the horizon, and the rain fell, and Granny felt grumpy about it. When it was time for Granny to take her walk, she felt grumpier than ever. She even thought about skipping it. Then she decided that no stupid rain was going to trap her indoors, and she put on her bright turquoise slicker, and her happy buttercup yellow rain hat, and out she went. But even though she had dressed in happy colors, she still felt grumpy. "I'm sick of the rain," she said, "and I'm tired of the days being short, and I don't like being grumpy! Something had better change. Do you hear me?" Granny said to the sky and the clouds and the hidden sun and the falling rain, "something had better change".

And Granny climbed her grumpy way up the hill, and she began to feel a little less grumpy. And she got out on Basin Road, and she was walking a little faster and lighter. And she passed a man walking his dog and she managed to say "Hi" to him and not growl, although she also did not say "beautiful day" which she always does. As Granny walked along, she saw that all of the waterfalls were flowing, and very full too. "See," said Granny in discontent, "how much rain we've had? Goodness gracious, it's been raining forever." And Granny crossed the bridge by the spillway, and the spillway was flooded with water, and Granny said "we've had enough. The days are too short and the rain won't ever stop and I am feeling grumpy. Something had better change," said Granny. "It's time for a change," she said. "I'm losing my patience." And Granny walked down the flume walk and she was mighty grumpy.

After a while Granny came to a place where the waterfall came right to the trail, and usually went under the trail. Yesterday when Granny had gone on her walk the waterfall had been a little on the trail, and Granny had splashed through it. Today, the waterfall was flowing over the trail so deeply that if Granny wanted to get to the other side she would have to get her feet wet right over the tops of her shoes. "Don't get your feet wet," said Granny to herself in a grumpy old lady voice. "I will if I want to," she answered back in a happy, delighted, little girl voice, and she splashed into the waterfall and she laughed and she splashed and her feet and socks and shoes got wet and cold and she could feel the cold, cold water rush between her toes. And she stomped around in the water, and she said "I will if I want to!" And when she came out on the other side, she was striding along like her usual self, happy and delighted with the rain and the day. "Look at the waterfalls," Granny said, "how full and beautiful they are. Listen to the thunder sound as they rush down the mountain! What a lot of rain we needed so they could be so lovely."

And the day was still dark and short, and the rain still fell in torrents, but Granny wasn't grumpy anymore. Something had changed. And Granny realized that what had needed to change all along was Granny. And when she met a lady out walking her dog, she said "Beautiful day."

* Here is a story I wrote for Maya one winter day in 1999. I remember the day perfectly -- particularly, how wonderful the cold, cold water felt on my toes and how great it felt to do what I wanted to do instead of what I should have done.

Click to enlarge. This reminds me of the Lewis Black routine about the end of the universe, where you walk out of a Starbucks and there, across the street, is another Starbucks.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Mighty Hoover*

When it wanders o'er the floor
It makes the most God awful roar.
There it sits, the mighty Hoover,
In the corner, that fearful mover.
Up stalks tiny Pippin cat,
His shoulders down on carpet mat,
Until he's close enough to spring,
Then out come claws and everything.
He lands just right, and knocks it flat
It crashes down and goes ker-splat!
And after running off in fear,
He once again approaches near.
He sits upon the fallen beast,
He's killed it dead. What a feast
He has provided for his clan.
Ah, heroic Pippin, my kitten man

* A poem written for Maya when the Hooligans were about four months old.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Getting It Right

On a couple of blogs, there are discussions going on about the sloppiness of the press. Of how newspapers rarely correct their errors, even when they have been informed. Of how often things are misspelled. Like names in obituaries.

It made me think about when I worked as a research analyst for the Alaska State Legislature. Every report we sent out was edited and re-edited. Even the department head, the best editor I met in my life, had her stuff checked. We ran spell check. We counted the spaces between words and after periods.* We did the math on any numbers. We fact checked on facts we thought we already knew. We made sure that the points were made in the same logical order in the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. We had one staff member who was familiar with the issue check it and one who was not. We measured cells in tables. We checked for uniform style in lists. We read things out loud and backwards. If our reports hadn't been confidential, we would have pulled in a smart 12 year old (because most people know as much about other people's fields as a smart 12 year old, so if the kid had questions, so would the legislator)**. Even then, once in a while I would pick up something I had written two months prior and discover an error that just leapt off the page and whacked me. Something that had sneaked past at least three readers. Luckily they were minor errors, but still it was humbling.

Never as bad as the formal report that I saw turned in by an engineering firm about the Department of Pubic Works. Or, in the days before spell check, the day I was looking over a communications handout my partner Alison and I had distributed to at least 300 people over four years and saw that it said "for best resluts . . . " Not only did we hand that out, we used to pick it up and use it as an outline to make sure we hadn't missed any points.

* We still used the two spaces after a period rule. We still used serial commas. We still held ourselves to very high standards.

** When my kids were 12, they proofed all of my training handouts for me, until they knew too much about those subjects from proofing prior handouts. Some of my best stuff was a result of being vetted by Richard and Julie.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Cat Stuff

I had to share this gem from the morning paper with you. It is a weekly column on cats, by Linda Daniel. To read the entire column, go to Cats love to come and go where she discusses the cat door that let in a porcupine, how frequently a cat will gaze at the front door until it is opened, as well as:

A cat door in Douglas was on "lock" last month, when Rufus, a red-haired tabby, discovered to his dismay that he was hosting a visit from the traveling vet. Rufus pussyfooted to the far end of the room. Then he whirled and made a run at the cat door. Pow! Leading with his shoulder, the cat knocked the door from its mounting and fled. "I don't believe what I just saw," the vet said.
And a big, gray cat named Dusty who lives in my neighborhood discovered a unique use for his cat door. He sits just inside with his head poking out, shielded from rain by the flap that rests like a visor atop his head.

And Still More Bears

This little guy slipped in a tree and caught himself as he fell. So, there he hangs, upside down.

Today's newspaper says that one of the bear viewing trails at Mendenhall glacier has been closed down because of the number of bears to be viewed. However, the viewing platform, which is built a little up the side of the hill and out over Steep Creek, gives a wonderful view of bears without any danger to people or bears.

You can read the entire article if you wish here Such a quiet town I live in -- this is front page news.

The photographer is Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hot Nights

I've been reading blogs this morning and a good many of them are talking about how hot it is and a couple are mentioning how hard it is to sleep with the air conditioner on the fritz.

When Forrest was four and I was nine, the family moved to Puerto Rico. It was always hot at night, and in 1952, there was no air conditioning. We slept with the windows open, and before very long at all Forry and I had learned to strip down to our underpants and sleep on the cool, Spanish tile floor. It was the best way to get a good night's sleep that we knew of.

So, a year later, we visited California. We were staying with my grandparents for a week or so before we went on to Daddy's new posting in Denver. It was rather warm. There was no air conditioner.

At two in the morning my grandmother got up to go to the bathroom. She went back and woke my grandfather.

"Percy, I don't know what to do, Forrest is dead and I don't know if I should let Ginnie get a good sleep or if I should wake her up and tell her now."

So, Grandpa went to see what was happening. You guessed it. Forry was pink and breathing, sound asleep on the bathroom floor.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


This is St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Sitka, the city with the fourth largest population in Alaska, with 8,835 people, 3,278 households, and 2,219 families as of 2000. It is also the largest city in the U.S, with a total area of 4,811.5 square miles. 2,874 square miles of it is land and 1,937.6 square miles is water. Until 2000, Juneau held that honor, with 2,717 square miles. Jacksonville, Florida is the largest city in the lower 48 states at 758 square miles.

Sitka was the original capital city of Alaska. Because the Russians were the original settlers, the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church is very strong. The settling of Sitka was resisted by the local Tlingits, finally leading to a bombardment of the locals by Alexander Baranov. The first statue of Baranov was beheaded one night by the unhappy original residents.

I used to think that Juneau was the most beautiful place I'd ever seen. And then, I went to Sitka. It is only a little lovelier, but there is no question -- it is lovelier.

This picture is one of the wonderful views of Sitka Sound. The city is located on the western side of Baranov Island, facing the Pacific Ocean. Most communities in southeast Alaska are on the eastern side of islands or on the various canals or channels between them and an island. An open view of the Pacific is unusual.

The Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport is located on Japonski Island, reached by a bridge from Sitka itself. To quote Wikipedia, "There is a single runway that juts off Japonski Island as a paved causeway of sorts." And, of sorts is exactly it. It is just long enough for a jet, starting with its tail over water and racing up the runway as fast as it can, to lift off just before the landing wheels hit the water at the other end. "Safety hazards include boulders from the causeway washing onto the runway during storms, high winds because of its exposed location, and large flocks of birds that live very close to the airport." It is very dramatic the first few times you land and take off there, as it seems like the plane is surely going to go into the water. There are a couple of bald eagles who often sit beside the runway while planes are taking off, hardly deigning to notice them. I think those birds must be deaf. The other thing about the Sitka airport is the pie! A stop-over in Sitka will often include a run to the airport diner to pick up a pre-ordered pie. Heaven. The only pie crust I have ever eaten that was better is my daughter-in-law Kathy's. When I go to Sitka, which I do almost every year, I always bring a pie back for the person who has been tending the Hooligans. One for them, one for the office, one for me.

Sitka is also the location of Mt. Edgecombe volcano. There are so many bald eagles in Sitka that they fly over in flocks of 60 or so a couple of times a day.

The town is small enough that people greet each other as they walk places, and mostly they do walk. The first time I was there, I went for a week and I would be walking from the hotel to the Convention Center where the training was being held at the same time every day, right behind an elderly woman. We would pass a middle aged gentleman, and it would be "Good morning, Lillian" and "Good morning, Henry" until the third day, when Henry started saying "Good morning, ma'm" to me and I good morninged back.

And, of course, no town in southeast Alaska can go without a harbor or four.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Say What?

There is a concept in psychology called the "locus of control". Basicly, if you have an external locus of control, you believe things happen to you. If you have an internal locus of control, you believe you control your own fate.

I had a job one time working with six other trainers preparing CETA workers to find jobs. One of the things we talked about was the locus of control. One day, I overheard one of the trainers explaining that one of the participants had an external locust of control.

And about a decade later, I was reading a magazine article about an American guru. One of his students told the author that he had helped her find her lotus of control.

Look out, I'm coming through

David Fremming, For the Juneau Empire

"A young black bear walks toward a group of tourists Friday morning near Mendenhall Glacier as a U.S. Forest Service employee, right, directs people to move back."

This was in the local paper Sunday morning. This was taken in the area that the sleeping cinnamon cub photos were taken. We just seem to be living with them this year.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sleep In One Day

So, I slept late and when I got up, what had happened?

Karl Rove has resigned. Halla-flippin'-luja! Perhaps if I do this more often, more of them will leave? Cheney? Cheney's sociopathic sock puppet? Alberto G.?

Of course, it does make one wonder. Was this the deal before Libby didn't testify? One get out of jail free card and Rove has to leave?

Is it in the hopes of preventing prosecution?

Is it a ploy, and Rove will be directing things from his living room? Able to do things it's too dangerous to do from the White House?

Is he really leaving to go to work for the next bully boy they intend to stick us with?

Is there something wrong with me that I don't simply take this at face value? How stupid would I have to be to actually believe that this is the whole story?

And, what a crock, "Obviously it's a big loss to us, said deputy White House press secretary Dana Perino. "He is a great colleague, good friend and a brilliant mind."

Well, it isn't obvious to me that this toad has a brilliant mind. Can a mind be brilliant when the light never shines in it? Sly, yes. Sneaky, yes. Crafty, devious, foxy, Machiavellian, manipulative, scheming, calculating, dastardly, mendacious, nefarious, unscrupulous, and villainous. All the dark arts are obviously well understood. But there seems to be no notion of simple humanity. And it would be an insult to any animal one tried to compare him to.

Well, let's celebrate folks, and keep an eye peeled for his fey hand in the 2008 elections.

Update: from Julie's comment
"I also submit that you might remove the word 'foxy' from the toad, as an insult to foxes. Oh, wait, that's an insult to toads. Still funny."


After I left Skagway, I took the water taxi to Haines. The 2000 population was 2,392; I think it was smaller when I went in 1995. Every November bald eagles from all over southeast Alaska hold a salmon feed in Haines. Any of you who have seen the poster about eagles don't flock need to know that, indeed, when there are enough of them, they do. I've counted over 24 roosting in one tree in Juneau, and they flock in groups of 50 or so in Sitka, and absolutely in November in Haines there are over 3,000 of them. There is a late salmon run, and they come and feast. Tourists come and watch.*

This picture is a sundial. Because of the angle of the earth's tilt, and our long nights in winter and long days in summer, the standard sundial doesn't work here. But, I've been told that this one is accurate year round.

This is a piece of mining equipment from the gold rush days. You find things that look like they were designed by the same people who designed this all over the state. I find them very interesting, but like with this, I often read the plaque and am certain that I will remember what it is, and then 12 years later, I've forgotten. Perhaps one day I'll learn to write these things down. Or, one day I'll take all of my pictures of "interesting" old equipment to a mining museum and have them identified. The problem is that when I realize that I no longer know what this is, it is usually about 12:30 at night and I'm writing a blog entry and so I don't take it anywhere.

I love this picture. Downtown Haines. I think it's the main street. The local Mexican food/pizza place**. Taken about 5:15 on a week day. No traffic at all. People have all walked home by now, except the few that drove, and the streets are clear again.

When I first moved to Juneau, a woman I was talking to told me she had been to Haines, and after two hours there wasn't anything more to do. And if you are looking for things that will entertain you, she is right. But you can fish and hunt and pick berries and visit friends -- if you live there and know about these things. I am always amazed when I visit a small community at how busy the residents are and how hard they are to find because they are all off doing things. Most often in groups.

Last year Teens In Action sent a girl from Haines to Michigan with kids from Craig, Sitka, and Juneau for a MADD Powercamp. And while she was in Juneau she told me that she didn't think she'd like to go to Juneau Douglas High School, because there are so many students (according to Wikipedia, 1800). There are all of 80 in the high school in Haines and she didn't like the idea of seeing kids in school who she hadn't known for years. She not only knows all the kids in her high school, she knows where they all live and what their parents do for a living. For many of them she could give generational histories including the people their ancestors dated and didn't marry.

When I left Haines, I waited in the lobby of the hotel and a young man came in, looked and saw that I was the only one waiting, said, "Joycelyn?" and I said yes. So he drove me out to a small airstrip and flew me to Juneau and carried my bag to the cab. Since I've taken a lot of these small planes, and sometimes the pilot will assign tasks (you are in charge of the fire extinguisher, you let me know if anyone looks green), when I remember I take bags of peanuts to pass out, which I did that day. The pilots love it. And I figure, why should I miss peanuts just because there are only two to six of us and no flight attendant?

* I had recorded Mystery last night after I went to bed, and when I watched it this morning it had caught the last two minutes of a show about Unalaska, a small fishing village in the Aleutians. A man with a wonderful Scot's accent was talking and he said, "The day I arrived, I'd been in town about half an hour, and I was walking down the street, and this eagle caught a gull and landed about six feet in front of me and ate it. So, I said to a man sitting in front of the bar, 'that eagle just caught that gull and is eating it'. And he said to me, 'he must be hungry.'"

** We have lots of duel ethnicity restaurants in southeast Alaska. Well, actually we don't have lots of restaurants, but every town has at least one like this. In Juneau we had a combined Taco Bell and Subway in town and combined Taco Bell and Baskin Robbins (not that they ever had over 12 flavors at a time) in the valley. We still do have Kenny's Wok and Teriyaki Sushi Bar and a place in the valley that is Greek, Mexican, and Italian.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Cinnamon Cub In Tree

Here are the other bear cub photos Harold sent me on Friday.

This is a cinnamon bear, which is a black bear with a cinnamon color in its coat. It is also the name of a children's classic radio program and a kind of candy. This little guy is the first kind.

When I had breakfast with Harold and Christina on Saturday, we were talking about the pictures and Christina said there are an unusual number of cubs whose mamas will allow people to get very close to them this year.

The theory among some naturalists is that the mamas have figured out that when they are around human beings, the bachelor bears stay away. And since the biggest danger to a bear cub is a bachelor bear, this is a good thing.

I told you that mama bears know how to protect their cubs. And often they do it by being smart -- they are strong and can be violent, but why risk injury if you don't have to?

A few years ago, before Juneau got the bear-proof dumpsters, twin cubs got into the dumpster across the street from my office and the lid fell and trapped them inside. They cried for help, Mama climbed on the lid to get them. And she quickly figured it out, got off the lid and opened it. Very smart animals, bears.

Actually, pretty smart animals, animals.

Do click and enlarge.

Notice in the bottom right corner, the blue and red of people's clothes. This is very close to get to a cub and not have Mama come running.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


My very good friend Harold just e-mailed me these photos. He also sent me a series of a cinnamon bear cub sleeping in a tree, which I will post tomorrow.

Li'l Bear was hanging out at the house of friends of Harold's, and obviously gaining well wishers.

This picture is titled "Do I see berries?"

And here we see that Li'l Bear has wandered onto the deck and is following his nose. Bears regularly get into grills up here, which is a good reason for keeping them enclosed.

This picture is titled "I smell ribs. How do I get some?"

And this one is titled "No food here."

If the titles Harold gave the photos seem to imply that bears are motivated by food, that's exactly right.

This time of year they are awake, and when they are awake they are eating to store fat for when they are asleep.

I've often thought that it would be wonderful to be a bear. Eat all you want and get as fat as you can, and then go to sleep and wake up thin. Rinse and repeat.

And if I were a bear I would be very capable of defending the young. Making sure they were safe.

Ah, what a life. Although, I see them eating garbage and I don't think I'd like that part of it. Nor would I like not being able to read. However, since I wouldn't know it, it wouldn't bother me.