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Archive for July, 2009

Crop Circles

jellyfishcrop

Well, it’s happening again!  Just last week this jellyfish crop circle appeared in a field near Ashbury, Oxfordshire, Great Britain.  It’s 600 feet long, three times the size of other crop circles, according to researchers.

Shortly after that, a 150 foot dragonfly appeared in a barley field in Yatesbury, Wiltshire, United Kingdom.

dragonfly

So, what ARE crop circles?  According to Wikipedia, they are created by the flattening of crops, often creating patterns involving complex geometries.  Some have been known to be man-made.  But, what about the others?  Various hypotheses have been offered to explain those of unknown origins, ranging from naturalistic to paranormal, such as being produced by alien spacecraft.

crop_circles_400

Some note that the designs are just too perfect and that credit is too often taken for an existing phenomenon.  Among these critics was British-born astronomer Gerald Hawkins, who, prior to his death, argued that some circles displayed a level of complexity and accuracy that would be difficult to recreate on paper, let alone in a field after dark.

At any rate, crop circles have occurred for years and years everywhere around the world.  So, I guess it’s up to each individual to decide what they believe. Are they really made by humans who sneak out to fields, unseen, in the dark of night, to create these beautifully geometric works of art?  Or, are they gifts or messages from a higher intelligence?  You decide.  I don’t have to.

I believe we are not alone.

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Dog BitsSince my “Bits and Pieces” generally consist of stuff that’s floating around in my head, I’m going to have to begin with a couple of rants, or min-rants, since those are the kind of things that stick to my brain, kinda like gum on the bottom of your shoe.

(1) Okay, those close to me know that I have an aversion to going to doctors for anything.  This is a result of being treated like a “thing,” charged a lot of money for it, and not being helped in any way, several times in my life.  So I tend to steer clear of the medical community as much as possible. And something I just heard about just confirms my beliefs.

I have an Aunt who is really not my aunt, but rather the black-sheep sister of my Evil Stepmother.  You’ve probably heard the saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend?”  Well, that was the beginning basis of our bond.  Anyway, I keep in touch with her through letters, cards and birthday and Christmas gifts, because most of her family has deserted her.  I don’t talk to her on the phone because she has had her voice box  removed and I have trouble understanding her, but I faithfully keep in touch via snail mail.  Anyway, I got a card from her yesterday telling me that a week ago she went for her regular doctor’s appointment.  While she was there, the doctor said her heart sounded bad and he said, “You need to go to the hospital RIGHT NOW!”  He hands her an admittance form and tells her to drive herself to the hospital! Well, being the sort of person she is, she tells him she baked some brownies for a friend who’s sick and she needs to deliver them.  He says, “Okay, do that, then get right to the hospital.”  She does.  Once she’s in the hospital, they go in immediately  and find a blockage to her heart, which they repair.  The next evening he releases her and tells her to go home and sit in her chair,  take her meds and don’t do any heavy lifting.  She’s 81 years old, on the verge of having a heart attack, and he tells her to drive herself to the hospital? Give me a break!  When I read that I was livid.  Was he hoping she’d die on the way so he wouldn’t have to mess with her?  Was no one in the office even the least bit concerned that this little old lady might not be ABLE to drive herself?  More and more I hear examples of how doctors treat patients like a number rather than as an individual.  It makes me feel hopeless.  I know doctors are busy and overburdened, but really!  Why did they become doctors in the first place?

(2) I wonder if I got falsely arrested if the President of the United States would go on national television and call the Police Department where I live “stupid?”  You know what?  Call me cynical, but something tells me he wouldn’t give a piddly damn!  But isn’t it nice to live in a democracy where “all men are created equal?”

(3) Well, much to my chagrin, I had to cut off most of my thumbnail this morning.  I was hoping to be able to wait until the other thumbnail I cut off six months ago had grown completely back, but it was not to be.  I’ve had a condition for years in which my thumbnails are only attached to the nail bed about a third of the way from the bottom.  I recently found a name for the condition – onycholysis.  It can be caused by a bunch of things like repetitive trauma, prolonged immersion of nails in water or overzealous manicures.

There are also other nasty little internal things that could contribute, like bacteria, viruses or leprosy all of which I’ve ruled out.  Personally, I’m voting for trauma.  I’m such a do-it-yourselfer that I’ve bashed, squashed and hurt my thumbs more times than I can count.  Anyway the Catch-22 on this thing is that, once you have it, it’s so easy to make it worse.  My thumbnails tend to grow fast and long.  So I always reach the point where they catch on something and it rips them a little more from the nail bed.  Sound gross?  Oh yes, it is!  It’s extremely gross.  Once the nail is detached, the only thing I can do is cut the dead part completely off because a nail won’t reattach itself to the nail bed. Here’s what your nail bed looks like without the nail.

thumb close

It’s funny, but I never realized until I started going through this cycle just how many things I use my thumbnails for…like buttoning buttons, to name only one.  That’s why I would always leave one wobbly nail on while the other grew back.  So now I’m just going to have to learn how to live thumbnail-less for awhile.  But, do you think I’m going to go to a doctor for this condition?  Read #1 again and then take a guess.

That’s all for now.

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Okay, I’ve come to grips with the onslaught of gravity on my formerly taut face and body. Once something goes south, it generally doesn’t return on its own.  As for the creases around my mouth that appear to have taken up permanent residence, I often refer to them as “laugh lines” because that sounds ever so much better than that ugly word – “wrinkles.” I’ve also learned to cope with a trick knee that locks up at the worst possible times, causing excruciating pain.  “Yes,” I tell myself, “it’s all part of getting older, and look how graciously I’m accepting it!” I even tolerate finding the odd hair growing in places where hair doesn’t belong.  I just quickly grab the tweezers and pretend it never happened. But I am being pushed…yes, I am being pushed!

I’ve always had an age spot or two… or twelve on my chest, an inevitable result of youthful folly.  Oh the hours I spent on my beach towel, transistor radio blaring, while my body basted in the sun!  If only I knew then what I know now. But my point is, a few are okay.  But it seems that lately a battalion of age spots have landed and each night, one or two surreptitiously work their way onto the target (me) like little soldiers working undercover.  GIVE ME A BREAK!

agespotsI’ve always had a huge age spot, Big Sammy, right under my collarbone.  When I was younger, it really bothered me because it showed when I wore certain tops.  However, it wasn’t until some older female relative asked, “What is that?  A liver spot?” that I became truly mortified.  Back then, I was just a sweet young thing, with but one goal – to banish that damned ugly spot from my chest! Porcelana Enter Porcelana!  I had seen the commercials and just knew that this stuff would be the answer to my prayers.  I purchased a jar and used it religiously night and day for like…years. And nada.  No fading.  No diminishing of darkness.  No result at all.  Big Sammy was invincible.  Sometimes I’ve been tempted to just draw a smiley face on him and be done with it.  I’ve actually become accustomed to him.  But then, the other night, I was at the mirror washing my face, when I noticed that Sammy had invited a host of friends to join him on my decolletage.  Where did they come from?  How long have they been there?  Add to them the odd assortment of others I have on my arms and legs, and I’m beginning to feel like the incredible Polka-dotted Woman!

But no, I’m not going to have a hissy fit.  I’m not going to dissolve into tears of self-pity.  We ALL get older.  I must look on the bright side.  Let’s see.  Oh yes, when I get a few more little…let’s call them sun spots, I’ll have a party.  I’ll hand out magic markers and we can all play “connect the dots.”   Won’t that be fun?  I thought you’d think so.

But just you wait, your turn is coming…

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In my new role as resident Bird Sociologist, I have continued to observe the daily goings-on in Birdville, i.e. the Mulberry tree.  You might remember these twolove from my last report.  They had met, fallen in love instantly and flew off to consummate their love somewhere far from the probing eye of my camera.  Since then, they have been inseparable.  And yesterday I saw something that truly touched my heart.

Apparently, the only good mulberries left on the tree are on the very tips of the branches.  I’ve laughed as I’ve watch birds try to pick them off, because the moment they put their weight on the end of the branch, it bounces and they lose their balance and get all flustered, sometimes literally squawking!  Well, yesterday, the boy bird, Rudy, very gingerly edged his way to a juicy berry on a very tiny branch as his beloved, Belinda, watched from a place closer to the trunk.  The branch swayed as he proceeded to pull the berry loose, but he didn’t give up.  Once he had the berry firmly in his beak, he hopped back and immediately presented it to Belinda, who gobbled it hungrily.  My imagination?  I think not!  Romance in full bloom!

three birds

Unfortunately, shortly after this tender moment, things went very wrong.  Rudy decided to ask Belinda’s father for her hand wing in marriage.  The meeting didn’t go well.  Sadly, the photo at the left is very blurry because the minute Rudy stated his intentions, there was quite a ruckus by the father (on the left,) and I couldn’t focus.  If you look closely, you can see Belinda in the middle yelling “But, Daddy, I LOVE him!”  There were tweets and squawks and a bit of a scuffle, which ended in the the father trying to attack Rudy and the two love birds taking off together.  Word in the tree is that they flew to Vegas and got married in one of those little twenty-four hour chapels.  They have since returned, but Belinda’s father was so put out that he has moved to a tree in front yard, claiming she is dead to him.  These things happen.

So, let me introduce you to a few more characters I’ve met in Birdville.

First there is John.  He has some problems socializing.  Every time a bird joins him on a branch, he moves. And he’s very obvious about it.  It could be he’s a a victim of low self-esteem or else he is just very shy.  I can always recognize him because it looks like he’s wearing one of those little wigs British judges wear in Parliament.  I’ll have to keep an eye on him to determine just what he is about.

John Bird

Then there’s the lovely Lucinda. I think she is really pretty. She has been observing John, but has not approached him.  I think she’s trying to figure out if he is a quiet mysterious handsome stranger or just another bird dork.  Time will tell.

Beth Bird

And finally, there is Darth Vader.  He’s new to Birdville, but you can tell by his black beak that he’s going to be one of the bad guys.  He always watches the others from afar and emanates a dark, brooding evil!  He keeps making secret forays to a hole in one of the other trees.  I figure it’s either full of dead bugs or his store of arms and explosives.  Oh yeah, I have his number!

Darth Vader Bird

So, what will happen next?  Will Rudy and Belinda have babies?  Will her father forgive her?  Will John finally notice Lucinda and let her share a branch with him?  Or will Darth make a play for her?  Will Lucinda be dazzled by Darth’s obvious power and dominance?  Ah, so much drama!  Such little birds!

Until next time…

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flourscoopWell, a nasty little thing happened the other day.  Or, maybe I should say an educational one.  I was making a batch of sugar cookie dough and had the initial ingredients in the mixing bowl and had blended them.  I pulled the flour canister toward me and when I opened it, was appalled to see dozens of creepy crawly little black bugs in it!  Now I’ve seen one or two of these little flour weevils before, but this time I was a bit taken aback.  But I had already started mixing the dough.  What to do?

I decided to sift every single bit of flour from the canister and that way I could be assured that one of these little critters wouldn’t become part of a cookie.  Or so I thought. I got a couple of big bowls and began what turned out to be a time consuming process.  When I was finished, I looked at the sifted flour and saw no black “dots,” so figured I was okay.  Fortunately for me, this was the kind of dough that had to be chilled in the refrigerator before being rolled out.

That afternoon I was telling my friend, Iris, about it and she immediately advised me to “throw it out!”  She was referring to both the dough AND the flour. When I asked her why, she said, “there are probably bug eggs in it.”  This thought slightly sickened me, so I decided to do some research on the Internet.  OH. MY. GOODNESS.

It turns out that hundreds of flour beetles can live and reproduce in a small box or bag of infested food such as flour, cereals, baking mixes, crackers, rice, macaroni, nuts, popcorn and spices.  You bring them home with you right from the store! Small white larvae hatch from the eggs and feed until they’re about 1/6″ long.  Development from egg to adult takes about two months.  Who knows how long your food was in the store?

And about my sifting? According to entomologist Phillip Glogoza, “bug eggs make it through the sifting process because they are about the same size as the flour particles.”  EWWWWWW!

I immediately ransacked the kitchen, dumping the flour from the canister,from a half-empty flour bag and the cookie dough.  I sterilized the cabinet where the flour sack had been. I put all the flour in a trash bag far away from the kitchen, then did more research to find out how to avoid this in the future.  According to the best sources, freezing the bag for four or five days after you bring it home from the store will apparently prevent anything from hatching in your flour or other products.

After all this was done, I did wonder for a moment if all this was much ado about nothing.  What would happen if I had made those cookies?  Wikipedia says, “If ingested, E. coli infection and other various diseases can be contracted from weevils, depending on their diet.”  The FDA Consumer, April 1986 said, “Besides eating and spoiling food, flour beetles may also be carriers of bacteria, molds and parasites.  Humans can become infected with tapeworms by unwittingly eating infected beetles hiding in contaminated foods.”  Hmm, yummy!

So, class, what have we learned today?  Freeze that flour!  Unless, of course, you like your baked goods with a side of E coli or have always wanted a tapeworm of your very own.  And, if you don’t check your flour and have already acquired a tapeworm, don’t worry.  Eventually, it will pass.  (In a gross way, but it will pass.)

Try not to think about it.

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banana moon…or, if it’s not a banana, it certainly looked like one when I stepped out on my balcony Saturday morning before the sun came up.  Why up so early, you might well ask?  Well, we were blessed with a tremendous DROP in temperature this weekend and I was out there in my nightgown reveling in the cool, almost cold breeze!  I almost felt like waltzing around like some chick in a movie, I was so giddy.  My city broke record lows, with nights in the fifties and it has been glorious!

I’ve told you all how much I’ve been suffering with the horrible humidity we’ve been experiencing this summer, so this sudden “cold spell” has been a delightful surprise.  Even though I know that it is just a temporary reprieve, it has revived my spirits and fueled my sense of gratitude.

One of the things I’m grateful for is my neighbor’s (Mr. Manboobs) flowers.  The latest things to bloom have been these gigantic red flowers like this one. big red flower (I’m about as good with flower names as I am with bird names, so for now, it’s just a Big Red flower!) While I’m at it, let me say a word or two about Mr. Manboobs, because he’s the kind of neighbor one is grateful to have.  He bothers no one, just goes about his business and has pride in his property.  He lives behind me, and we’ve never been formally introduced, so most of what I know is what I’ve surmised through observation.  He’s a man in his fifties, I’d guess, who, when he’s out doing errands dresses very properly in slacks and a polo shirt.  He always seems very serious and walks ramrod straight in short, hurried steps.  He sort of reminds me of the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland.  But, when he’s at home, oh how he loves his flowers!  He hurries from one garden plot to the next, like a little bee, pollinating blooms.   And when he works in the garden, this shy little man wears shorts, white socks and black shoes and no shirt! This is how he earned his nickname because he indeed has quite a set of man boobs on him.  And no, I’m not laughing at him…much.  As a matter of fact, I find him endearing in his own little way.  And I do appreciate all the beautiful things he can grow.

There’s just something about the days with NO HUMIDITY and cool temperatures which magnifies my sense of joy and well-being.  I had lunch with my friend Dee on Friday and after lunch we sat out on a bench in a cemetery and talked non-stop for two hours!  Do you know how cool that is?  A friendship like that, I can’t help but be grateful for.  Dee is a friend I used to work with and whom I’ve known for twenty-six years.  And still, we never run out of things to talk about!  She’s the kind of friend with whom I can exhale, knowing I never have to walk on eggshells or worry about being judged.  We have very different views on some things and yet, instead of that being divisive, it seems to add a richness to our bond.  Time spent with her is like a gift.  And I think (and hope) she feels the same way about me.

Okay, I realize I’ve just written a whole post on how happy and grateful I’ve been for just a few cool days, but it has honestly meant that much to me.  The coming week will probably bring warmer temperatures and the dreaded humidity.  But now, that I’ve had a wee taste of Fall, I think I can hold on.

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Grumpy!

grumpyOkay, I’ll just flat out say it – “I’m GRUMPY!”  Most of the time I manage to roll with the punches, and, when I get annoyed, I can usually manage to shake myself out of it.  But, you know what?  There are days when you just need to “get your grump on!”

First off, I have a lovely landscaped shrubbery bed in which I have a little village of rock houses, with little wooden fences around each.  Yesterday, the guy from the landscaping company our homes association uses,  decided to trim a couple of my bushes which didn’t need trimmed and he stepped inside the bed, heedless of where he put his monstrous size 14 feet.  In the process, he managed to totally  decimate two complete fences!  He didn’t just knock them to the ground.  No, he ground them into the dirt!  By the time I ran outside, it was too late.  I pointed out what he had done and he got this clueless look on his face and murmured, “Oh yeah, sorry,” and moved on to the house next door.  I’VE GOT YOUR SORRY RIGHT HERE, BUSTER!

Next, you know how my friend, Babs, and I had this whole hiking schedule set up for this summer?  Well, that’s shot to hell!  You wanna know why?  Because her husband had to go and fall off a ladder and break his hip!  Now I know that becoming an invalid was the last thing he ever wanted to do this summer.  And I do sympathize with the awful pain and feelings of helplessness he has gone through. Let me be clear – I really like and respect her husband.  BUT, and this is a big “but,” guess who has had to become his legs, his nurse and his driver?  You guessed it – Babs.  It doesn’t leave her much time for playing.  We’ve managed to squeeze a couple of outings in since his accident, but too few for either one of us.  Our summer is quickly slipping away and my buddy is tied to her house!  All our big plans have been put on indefinite “hold” and it adds to my grumpiness.  Yes, I’m being selfish!  WANNA MAKE  SOMETHING OF IT?

I could go on and on, but I’ll just add one final grump-inducer.  Earlier in the year I wrote this post about a tooth my dentist has practically written off.  He was starting to talk dental implants for that tooth and one adjoining it.  The problem with that is that I found out my health insurance doesn’t cover dental implants, and we’re talking big money here – a thousand apiece for each implant and then almost another thousand each for the crowns.  So, I’ve been being very careful with that tooth and all has been well.  Unfortunately, this past week I noticed the gum above that tooth felt a little funny when I ran my tongue over it.  There was no pain, mind you, but it seemed a bit puffy.  When I checked it out with a dental mirror, it appeared that a little bit of the gum was actually “dripping” over the crown!  It looked bizarre, like a little teardrop.   I saw the dentist on Tuesday and he said it was a periodontal abscess and had the hygienist drain it and clean it.  Then he started me on antibiotics.  I have no idea if this will solve the problem, but it raised the whole “that tooth’s gonna go, sooner or later” discussion.  So, that’s at the back of my brain…causing me worry and MAKING ME GRUMPY!

I know that in the whole scheme of the world, these are just mini-problems.  The first one is a done deal.  The second one will (hopefully!) become less of a problem as time goes by.  And the third one is something I’ll deal with when it happens.  I always do.  They’re pretty much like the kind of problems everybody has.  It’s just that today I’m not in my Pollyanna mood.   I’m in my Grumpy mood.  If you have any grumps you’d like to share, feel free to comment.  Meanwhile, I think I’m going to go somewhere and have a good scowl!

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