Dozing polar bear, Indianapolis Zoo

Monday, March 31, 2008


I've been perusing this today. Read the stories of the individual turtles - they're fascinating, but sometimes sad.

And you'll find a familiar villain in some of the hatchling deaths.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

A few rueful words from The Chairman of the Board, dedicated to my two favorite downtrodden artists -- Me and Toots

Toots has been going through a bit of artistic anguish, as related in a thread below. And tonight, through a variety of events I won't bore you with here, I helped a bunch of people get their photographs published. Except me.

I'm frustrated, folks.

This song came on the iPod just after I tossed my Crackberry down in a fit of pique after reading the relevant e-mail.

That's life. And I can't deny it.

But if there's nothing shakin' come this here July....

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Isn't it nice we're having weather? Or, bits about the emotional lives of boys and dogs

I woke up this morning and stumbled downstairs to let the dogs out (all THREE of them), whereupon I was greeted by the sight of two inches of snow on the ground. Folks, I am long past the time when I find the sight of delicately falling snowflakes even remotely charming. Goes out like a lamb, my ass. Not this year.

In other news, I've been reading "Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys," and I'm about halfway through. I know I have a habit of beginning to talk about books when I'm only part of the way through them, but I'm an EFNP, so I can't stop myself.

The first requirement for me in a book about the problems of boys, and by extension, men, is that the authors not blame feminism, or the greater freedom of women generally, for those problems. Such simplistic argumentation is a sign of such impoverished thinking that I just won't waste my time. But in Raising Cain, the (male) authors, two psychologists who have spent years counseling boys, offer the closest thing I've read to a woman friendly analysis of the damage our culture does to boys. If you have a boy, teach a boy, know a boy, or used to be a boy, or just care about other people generally, this book is a must-read.

More on this when I've actually finished the book. Let's just say for now that it did nothing to alleviate my panic over the upcoming educational decisions we have to make for The Kid.

And in that vein, we'll be visiting a Montessori kindergarten program in the next few days. Last week was a school for "gifted" (whatever the hell that really means) children, where the kindergarten teacher was frank about the fact that the kindergarten is run like a first grade. Thanks, but no thanks. The Kid is arguably doing first grade level work in math, but is nowhere near ready for first grade reading. (Although he's demonstrated that he can sound out words, he still has not an iota of real interest in doing so.) This was a bummer, because they have a great phys ed program -- kids are allowed plenty of move-around time, to the point that they spend six Fridays every winter teaching the kids to ski. So, bummer. But I'm just not ready to subject the Kid -- already reluctant to go to school -- to a program where he's expected, out of the gate, to be doing work that's a year ahead of him. That's not the only reason, of course, but it's a big one.

In dog-related news, we have never found Alaska's humans. So it looks like we're her new humans. She and Thomas have negotiated a tenuous peace that occasionally breaks down over a rawhide chew or when she tries to steal his pink squeaky octopus, but they're mostly doing okay.
We took them to Montana last weekend, and the abundant space really helped them to get used to each other. On Monday, Mr. T IM'd me and said he wanted to keep her.

Perhaps realizing her newfound security, she promptly ate my silk duvet.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


There are few sights more disorienting than a deer running toward you. I realized, in that quick moment, that I'd never actually seen a deer from that angle -- galloping at full speed down the road, straight at me. Oddly, even though she was running right at us, the doe was paying us no mind at all. At the last second she realized she was hurtling straight at a car, and veered off the road and up into the woods.

Mr. T and I looked at each other quizzically. "Something must have scared it pretty badly," observed Mr. T, as we continued down the road. Ten seconds later, a dog careened at full tilt out of the woods, a swollen tongue dangling joyously from its mouth. The dog was trailing a rope with a chewed end.

"Ahh," we said simultaneously. Mr. T got out of the car.

Oh hell, I thought. Not another one. "Now we have four dogs!" chirped The Kid from the backseat.

"Please tell me it has a tag," I begged Mr. T. "It does. And it even has a number," reported Mr. T. It took little persuasion to get Mickey into the car, and five minutes later we were pulling into his owners' driveway. It was the fastest stray-return we've ever accomplished.

But what gives with the strays all of a sudden? When it rains it pours, I guess.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Wherein my laptop dies a sudden and undignified death -- Updated for Idiocy

I was reading a political blog, and apparently my laptop is just as angst-ridden over the Democratic primary as I am, because it apparently had a heart attack and died while reading a post about the nomination not being decided till the convention. Yep. It suddenly just went dark and won't turn back on. Buh-bye.

It's a little less than two years old. I hate how I have to blow a grand or more every two years just to keep a decent laptop.

I'm thinking of moving to a Mac.

Updated for Idiocy: Actually, I won't be moving to Mac until my laptop actually does die...and just isn't unplugged. Ahem.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Politics Thursday

I suppose it only makes sense to share what's been very much on my mind the last couple of days.

If you haven't watched this speech, and you have a spare half hour, sit down with a cup of something good and watch a politician actually take a risk. It's a thing to behold.

And yes, I'm totally in the tank for Obama. But let's not argue about it. It's depressing watching former allies on the liberal blogs rip each other to shreds over this issue. If you're for Clinton, great. We can agree to disagree.

Our latest houseguest

Unfortunately, our babysitter, pictured in part here, has eight cats and is not in the market for a dog.

We're calling her Alaska. I know it's not terribly original, but that was the extent of our creative output the night we found her. We've searched high and low for her owners, but there were no tags, no microchip, nothing on Craigslist or other internet sites going back to January, and no flyers in the neighborhood. So now we're focused on finding her a new home. She and Thomas get along about as well as two angry wolverines, so keeping her is not really an option. I've made liberal use of the Dog Appeasing Pheromone spray in the last two days.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The legacy of Peanut

Peanut was a dirty beagle I saw crossing the street in a run-down part of Indianapolis on a winter morning several years ago. He trotted along the crosswalk next to an old woman with a big shopping bag. I assumed he belonged to her, until she turned around and swung the bag at him.

I pulled over, got out of my car, and called to him. I was on my way to work in my lawyer car* and a business suit, but that didn't matter. Peanut came right over -- he didn't seem dissuaded by his encounter with the shopping bag -- and licked my hand. He was a very young dog. I could tell he had been out awhile, because his very small collar was nearly choking him. He had clearly outgrown it. And he smelled like hell. Wasteland Fan used to rib me and say I was really picking up animals that actually had homes, but I'd learned that there's a look (and often a smell) about a real stray dog, and he had it.

But into the Lawyer Car he went, and I turned around and took him back home, bathed him, cut off the collar and fed him. He was famished.

And he was also, as we discovered later, a complete doofus. It's really not possible to convey how dim this dog was. We would put him out in the sunroom and watch from the upper deck as he trotted a perfect circle around the sunroom. Over and over again. Without stopping. Mr. T took to calling him "Do Loop." He would not stop the circles until we intervened.

We had just moved into that house, which was a ranch with a walkout basement. An enormous deck stretched along the length of the upper floor. One afternoon, Peanut wiggled through the slats and took a flying leap off it, presumably to greet Mr. T, who had just appeared below. He landed on his head ten feet below with a crunch. I freaked.

Peanut got up and walked in Mr. T's direction, but careened leftward at the last second as if flunking a field sobriety test. He paused, shook his head and continued to Mr. T, this time accurately judging the directions.

He was quite a dog. I trolled Big Law Firm for possible homes for Peanut, and hit pay dirt in the IT department. The head of IT loved beagles, and was unable to resist Peanut's abundant goofiness. Rob and his wife had no kids, a lakeside home, a boat and a pool, and they wanted to share it all with Peanut.

Two weeks after Peanut moved, his new owner came to my office, chuckling, to tell me he'd had to jump in the pool after him that weekend. Peanut had fallen off the diving board. Eventually, Peanut grew to enjoy the boat, and I have this image of him riding on the bow, nose in the air. Before he jumps or falls off, of course.

Once we moved to Portland, the stray-finding ceased. Portland has remarkable animal welfare facilities, and in three years we found only a single golden retriever who'd busted his gate and gone on safari. We contacted his owners and he went home two hours after we found him.

Coeur d'Alene, it seems, has a much bigger problem with stray animals.


More later.

* Why, yes I was compensating for an empty and meaningless existence. Why do you ask?

Friday, March 14, 2008

I can haz spring?

To all you people living in places where flowers and plants are actually growing: Pllllbttth!

I say that with the greatest of affection and respect. And envy.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Experience with big cats a plus, too

I've been wanting to change careers for about ten years now, and I think this is the job I want.
Except I'm missing the experience with crocodilians, so I don't think I'm qualified.

Wait -- do lawyers count?

Via Mike.

Politics Wednesday

I used to live in this district. I miss it today.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Trailhead's trailheads

I started tracing my family tree when I was a teenager. History is fascinating, and the opportunity to connect myself to it in some way was irresistible. Which is why, as a teenager, I found myself picking through overgrown cemeteries, haunting the historical society's library, and badgering my elderly relatives for details. This was a joint project with my mom, who was driven by the same interest in what happened before we were here.

This was all in the era before the internet, of course, and so getting access to the geneaological work of others was much more difficult. There were magazines to help, but no easily accessible, central repository of that work. So I did as much as I could, and drifted away from it when I went to college. I did find Eli Terry, who I posted about here when it occurred to me last week, for no real reason, to look for him on wikipedia.

Well, that and some e-mail discussions with an across-the-pond reader (Hi TP!) reawakened my interest. Perhaps, in the era of the internet, it would be possible to fill in the blanks I couldn't figure out in the 1980's. So I joined one of the big geneaology websites, and I've been researching these connections till the wee hours all week long. (I'm kind of tired this morning.) This time I'm doing my son's tree, which brings in a whole new slew of possibilities on Mr. T's side. According to my new work, Mr. T and I have strikingly similar lineages -- we are both from solid, salt-of-the-earth German and Swiss peasant stock. I haven't found a common ancestor (yet!) but several lines of our families were from the German communities in Pennsylvania.

But last night, I focused on a line on my dad's side. As the family lore goes, my father's grandmother appalled her very wealthy, well-bred family by marrying an intelligent, charismatic nobody. I had always wanted to know why that family thought so highly of itself. I had traced their lineage fairly far back, but had hit a wall back in the 80's. But last night, I was able to link into someone else's sources for part of this line, the Sheltons. Yay! Pay dirt! As I kept going, I found that the Sheltons came to America from England in the early 1600's. And I kept looking, until the woman popped up who married my ancestor John Shelton: Anne Boleyn. Wha? I checked the year -- born in 1475. So it couldn't be that Anne Boleyn. Moreover, that Anne was only married once and it didn't end well. So I looked at my Anne's parents. They were William Boleyn and Margaret Butler. Time for wikipedia. Turns out William Boleyn is the paternal grandfather of the Anne Boleyn, and my direct ancestress is the aunt of the Anne who was separated from her head courtesy of Henry VIII. And of course once you start following the Boleyns back you get to the Plantaganets and Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Ultimately, though, everyone in England and half the people in America can probably trace their ancestry to the Boleyns -- and certainly to the Plantaganets -- so it's really not a big deal. Plus you have all the caveats about proving each branch of the tree -- and googling around shows me that there are some documentary holes, though I'm not sure where they occur yet. But it's undeniably neat to think about a line from me directly to the Boleyn family. History in action!

Anyhoo, the Sheltons became the De Sheltons in the 1300's, and were apparently from a place called Shelton in Norfolk, England.

Also, in other news, it turns out Mr. T is Clark Gable's seventh cousin, once removed. This is fun.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Rejected by my stock agency

It's always fun when you get an entire submission dinged en masse. Here are a few of the unlucky.

Forest burned in the 2003 fires in Glacier National Park at sunset.

A rainbow emerges at Logan Pass after a late summer rainstorm.

Mt. Hood and the Columbia River at sunset.

One thing that consistently cracks me up is how frequently, whether an image is marketable bears no relation to the amount of effort put in to getting the image. See that pic of the panther sign in the Everglades in the widget? I took that out of a car window with a 4 megapixel point and shoot just to use on this blog. I submitted it once I realized it might have some stock value, and it got accepted. Whereas the silhouette of Mt. Hood above was taken after I spent thirty minutes scrambling around a road off I-84 angling for the best angle, hopping around to avoid used condoms and broken glass. For stock purposes, the panther sign is just superior. But I had more fun with the Mt. Hood shot. So that compensation has to be enough for now.

Like I told Tony after I spluttered about it over IM this afternoon, this frustration is as old as photography itself. I just use this posting category as a means to vent it a little. For me, I cannot get past the rejection and onto the truth -- and therefore the learning -- unless I work out the frustration first. Complicating the matter is how little time I have to shoot. If I were able to shoot every day, the individual failures would not matter as much, because I would have an easy opportunity to correct them in the near future. But I am the mother of a five-year old who is not only trying to maintain some semblance of one career in a demanding field, I'm also trying to do this. That's hard. And the feeling of impotence that comes with that is sometimes hard to handle. Blogging helps.

Update: Tony observed that there were "birds" on the images. Or, as the case may be, dust specks from the scan. These aren't the versions I submitted. These are the low-res, less carefully scanned versions I use on the blog to prevent pirating.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Boring personal/historical nugget

This guy is one of my ancestors, through my paternal grandmother. Funny thing is, that expression reminds me so much of my dad when he's being serious. Of course, it's entirely possible I'm imagining it.

Eli is not a direct ancestor -- his brother, Samuel, who's also mentioned there, is our direct ancestor.