"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Salting the Mine

You know that old ruse about salting the mine?  Someone wants to sell something, so they scatter "gold" in the mine to make it look like something worth buying?

A year ago, while I was picking up litter, I noticed something strange about fifty feet down a steep embankment.  I climbed down to see what it was and it turned out to be the carcass of a wolf., not yet totally cleaned by nature.

This summer, while I was in the same area, I saw a bunch of white things scattered along the top of that same embankment.  They turned out to be parts and pieces of the wolf''s skull, not white and free of any tissue.

For some reason, I picked them up, looked around for the teeth that were missing from the upper jaw and one lower jaw.  I thought I had found most of them.

Then, because I had no idea what to do with my found treasure, I put them in a bucket with bleach water and there they sat for a couple months.  Finally, one day I needed that particular bucket, so I drained the water off and laid out the skull, jawbone, and teeth to dry on paper towels.

I inserted all the teeth in their proper places, but I had one left over.  I knew a tooth like this didn't belong in this skull, yet I'd collected it where I found the skull.  It looked much older than the wolf teeth.

The mystery continues.  The tooth resembles a horse's tooth.   I e-mailed a photo to my wildlife biologist nephew and asked him if he's salted my bucket.  He denied it.

I hate to say it, but it looks entirely too much like it could be ...........human.

Okay, on to better things.

Driving home from Anchorage Wednesday, I spotted a pod of belugas whales in Turnagain Arm.

Yes, those bumps in the water are belugas.  Not a very good photo but the sun was setting right in line with the whales and I couldn't see them on the LCD screen on the camera.   I was guessing.

And closer to home, a full moon was rising over Tern Lake.  This photo was taken at 9 PM, and it was still daylight.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sunny Saturday

Sure nice to have long bangs when you're sleepy on a sunny day.

And in other news of the world...

I know I've been neglecting my blog lately.  I have a good excuse. I am really, really busy.   I'll tell you about it soon.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Part Time Empty Nest Syndrome

My neighbor met me at the end of my driveway when I went out to pick up my newspaper.

"Notice anything?" she asked, sweeping her arms around herself.  "No kids."

After home-schooling for six years, all four of her kids are now in public schools, two of them for the first time.  She chattered on and on about all the things she was going to do with her free time.

"You're a little giddy, aren't you? I said.

"I drank a Pepsi WITH caffeine," she laughed.

We parted.  I went home and fetched what I thought was an appropriate gift for Part Time Empty Nest Syndrome and took it to her.

Chocolate and a good book.  A really good book.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

From a Facebook posting

I know I can post my blog to Facebook, but don't know if it's possible to reverse the order.  In other words, if someone posts something I want the share here, how do I do it?

In lieu of that knowledge, let's try this:


This is so funny, I laugh out loud every time I watch this short clip.

And then I feel sorry for the frog which was only trying to get a snack.

But it's still funny,

Thursday, August 16, 2012

An Old Friend as Ancient History

Today, August 17, is a dear friend’s  99th birthday.  I’ll call him “W.”

Perhaps I should say  he would be 99 were he still alive.  I was a contemporary of his.

 I was thinking about that recently and realized that, having been born in 1913, there might well have been a generational overlap in that he might have been alive at the same time as someone who lived during the era of the Civil War.  That unknown person need only have been in his late forties.

W’s father, born in 1870, most certainly knew someone of that era as well as the 1849 California Gold Rush. 

W’s grandfather probably crossed paths with a veteran of the War of 1812.

And, likewise, W’s great grandfather could very well have known some of the participants in the American Revolution of 1776.

Somehow all that ancient history doesn’t seem so ancient anymore, does it?

PS:  I received an email from a friend today who has a lot of experience with the Mormon ancestry project and knows how to find such stuff.  She did a bit of research after reading the above, and says W's grandfather was a Civil War veteran and his great-grandfather on his maternal side fought in the American Revolution with a Rhode Island company. 

We all know people who are today great-grandparents, do we not?  I'll say it again:  All that ancient history doesn't seem so ancient anymore.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pablo and his coat of many colors

I've been trying for almost two weeks to get a good in focus photo of the new tail feather Pablo is growing.  Parrots, in case you don't know, molt and grow feathers regularly.

 This (above) is a previous photo of tail fathers Pablo molted.  They are green, yellow, and red.  I know that bottom feather looks a little off, but it's green.

Taking a picture of a parrot's tail is tricky when those feathers are still attached to the parrot..  Not only is it against their nature to allow you to sneak up behind them, this particular parrot gets annoyed when a camera is pointed in his direction, as evidenced by this shot where he is attempting to hide behind his cage-top perch because a lens is aimed at him.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago I caught a glimpse of what I thought was aqua in a tail feather.  He wouldn't let me verify that.  A couple days later, I saw it again and grabbed a camera.

This is my first attempt.  I am holding him and the feather with one hand while the other hand attempts to focus the camera on the feather.

 My second attempt wasn't much better but it was enough to see that the outside of the feather was not green, but aqua.

I set him down on the kitchen counter and tried again.  It is not a spot I allow him on, so he paused briefly in confusion before heading to a chair back and I was able to get this shot.

Of course I immediately anthropomorphized this and declared that my sweet little Pablo was growing a feather in my favorite color of turquoise.   How he knew it was my favorite color (he does not allow the wearing of that color in this house) is beside the point.   All logic and rationality goes out the window when one is anthropomorphizing,

Sweetie Pie was growing a turquoise feather.  Just for me.

Then this evening, I realized that I knew exactly how to get an in focus photo of that wonderful feather.  It is our custom in the evening for Pablo to sit on my out-stretched legs while I watch TV.  It is our quality time.  He allows (demands) me to scratch his head and preen him by picking off the covering in which new head and back feathers grow.  Then he preens me by carefully slicing off any scabs or irregularities on my skin that he thinks should be gone.

Sometimes, he naps.  And that is when the camera got this photo:

 The hue is not quite right against by light blue jeans, but it's in focus.  Now that I've learned the secret, I'll try some more.

So while I was admiring this in-focus picture, a horrible thought crept into my mind.  Pablo is forty years old this year and has been growing feathers more and more colorful every year.  His head, all green when he was young, is now yellow clear down his neck.

His shoulders are red and there are more colors in his wing feathers than ever before.

Now, where there used to be hints of turquoise, there is a feather with this color that is lighter than green.

"Lighter than green."  Could it be?  Is it possible?

Does Pablo's ink cartridge need to be changed?  And just--exactly--how does one do that?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Fiery Countdown Begins

The fireweed are in bloom all over the place, huge patches of it in the valleys and half way up the mountains.  Everywhere you look, there are fields of magenta spikes.

When the blossoms open to the top of the stalk, up to 80,000 cottony seeds per plant loft through the air on the slightest of  breezes.

Photo taken 2011

They also spread underground, through a maze of roots, making them almost impossible to eradicate from a garden of flower beds.

Photo from 2011

I have a love/hate relationship with fireweed.   I love their fiery blossoms and their prolific growth.  Yet, I watch them anxiously, for when those lovely blooms reach the top of the stalk and the cotton starts, it's all downhill to winter.

Folk lore says six weeks from "topping out" to winter.  It's like watching a train wreck-- you can't look away.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Noisy New Kids on the Block

I heard them before I saw them.  Such is the way with kids.

It also helped that I was on the second story deck of my home.  That put me within twenty feet of them when they landed.

I looked up the the new top of a black spruce tree and there they were--three young merlins just out of the nest and trying out their new found flying ability.  I say "new top" because wind and heavy snow last winter broke off about ten feet of this tree.  The new top has become a favored landing spot for birds of all species because a nice bare branch offers a non-prickly spot for bird feet to perch.

These merlins arrived in full voice.  I recall a few years back, newly-fledged merlins announcing their presence with their frantic and shrill ki-ki-ki cries.  This lasted a few days, during which I am sure the young falcons went hungry as I witnessed one chasing a smaller bird up my driveway, in full  vocal pursuit.  Soon they hunted silently and I suspect more gainfully.

These youngsters will learn in time. 

They stayed long enough for me to go downstairs and gather three cameras, even going outside to get one from a vehicle.  I walked directly under their tree to do this.

One slipped silently away; two remained.

A second took wing, sans voice. 

And then there was one, perched in the tree top like a miniature peregrine falcon.

The third lingered, aware of everything in its domain.  Then it, too, left far more quietly than it had arrived.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Real Alaskans, Part II

 You know he's a real Alaskan .....

 ...when the groom knows exactly how to wear a tuxedo.

Monday, August 6, 2012

You Know You're a Real Alaskan When...

Your bridal veil....


 also functions as a mosquito net.

Congratulations, Lou and Monica!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Tickling the Muse, Part Two

George spoke in the previous post, a response to a writing prompt from Ann Linquist.

Today, Dorothy speaks:

Dorothy Says:

Lordy, there he sits like a bump on a log.  He never gets out of that recliner except to go to work (if he can call it work) and to go to Al and Jean’s on Sunday after I get home from church.  He wouldn’t even go then except he likes to talk to Al about football.

Jean and I long ago made them go outside to talk football.   We got so tired of hearing about it.  He thinks we talk Antiques Roadshow when we’re really discussing our marriages.  Jean and Al have been working on rekindling theirs.  This trip to London is a second honeymoon.  I didn’t tell George beforehand because I thought it might wake him up.  Thank goodness Dannie was home. 

I see him giving me the fish eye when I wear my green sweat pants.  He hasn’t even noticed that I’ve lost 35 pounds and they hang on me now.

Lordy, I am so tired of tuna salad on toast and tomato soup.  Years ago I’d ask him every Sunday what he’d like, and it was always the same.  Except, he wanted the sandwich fried in butter, and he’s overweight enough.  A couple times I’ve had to help him get out of that recliner.

He has no ambition at all.  No sense of adventure.  How did this happen?  When he was in his twenties, he was so full of ideas and plans.  I guess my dad giving him a salesman’s job was a mistake.  Thirty years later, he’s still there.  All he does is sit in his office and play games on the computer.

What a blessing little Dannie is.  Without her encouragement I never would have decided to leave boring George and strike out on my own.


“Yes, George?  More soup?”

“No.  Thanks.  I was thinking.  What are we going to do when I retire?  Got any dreams?  A bucket list?”

“Actually, George, I’ve been wanting to talk to you about that.  Guess now’s as good a time as any.  I’m going to San Francisco with Dannie.  We leave Wednesday.  I think it’s time I found out what life is all about.  You’ll be making your own tuna on toast after tonight, George.  Have I ever mentioned how much I hate tuna on toast and tomato soup?”

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Tickling the Muse

The writing prompt from Ann Linquist:

You, a mid-50-ish man with a boring marriage and a tedious, though well-paying, job like to visit your friends, Al and Jean on Sunday mornings  for coffee and time to blow off steam (mostly with Al).  When you arrive on this day in late September, however, you realize they are vacationing in England.  Their daughter, Dannie, is home from college.  She makes coffee for you, and admits that she has quit her sophomore year and is planning to run away to San Francisco to “figure out what life is all about.”

This story is not about Dannie; it is about you (the narrator).  You’re the writer of this story.  How does your narrator react?  What kind of advice does he give her, this young daughter of his best friends?  How does this event affect his life, if at all?

And, what happened when the Muse got me out of bed at 1:30 AM:

Part One
George Speaks 

Same old, same old.  Every Sunday.  Al and Jean.  Dorothy and me.  Coffee, store-bought cookies.  When did women quit baking real cookies anyway?  Hate those store-bought cookies.  Leave a greasy feeling in my mouth.

I was hoping Al and I could escape to the back yard and talk football.  Leave the women in the kitchen with their store-bought cookies and Antiques Roadshow.  As if they’d ever find anything of value in our attic.  Don’t think either one of them has been up there in a decade or so.  Guess I haven’t either.

Not the way it happened today, though.  Al and Jean took off to London for the Olympics.  Never said a word to us about it and we see them every Sunday.  Every. Single. Sunday.  The Olympics, for Gawd’s sakes.  Who’d wanna fight the crowds and the rain in London?  ‘Sides, you can see ‘em better on TV.

Anyhows, this kid of theirs, this Dannie—I call her Dreadlock Dannie--invites us in and serves organic raspberry-peach iced tea instead of coffee.  And gluten-free cookies.  Say her folks don’t know yet she quit the U half way through her sophomore year.  Man, old Al is gonna have a shit-fit over that, I’ll tell you.  All the bucks he put into that girl and she up and quits and heads out for San Fran, the land of fruits and nuts.

Gonna find herself, she says.  Find out what life is all about. 

Dorothy gave her a high five!  I mean, talk about irresponsible.   And Dorothy?  A high five?  Didn’t even know she knew what such a thing was.   Damn.  All she does is watch that antiques thing and Storage Wars on A&E.  Wouldn’t let me watch Chopped even if I wanted to.

Here she comes.  Dressed in those damned green sweat pants.  I remember way back when she’d put on this sexy little black sheath and ask me if it made her look fat.  Fat?  Man, I wanted to take it right off her when she wore it.  Sexy little number, she was.  Now she looks like the Jolly Green Giant, you ask me.

Yep.  Sunday night, right on schedule.  Tuna fish salad on toast and a cup of tomato soup.  Every. Sunday. Night.  Not even grilled.  On toast.  Says the grilling makes me fat. 

Ter.  Fat-ter.  Yeah, fatter.  Guess I ain’t one to talk much.  Picked up a few extra pounds myself along the way.  Losing some hair on top.  Male pattern baldness, they say.  Maybe I should see about using that hair regrowing stuff.  Maybe get a gym membership. 

Starry-eyed kid, heading out to San Francisco.  Been listening to too much Tony Bennett.  Hah!  Wonder if she even knows who Tony Bennett is?  Hmmph.  Kinda reminds me of me.  Full of hope and piss and vinegar.    Now I’m just full of piss.

Oughta see a sawbones about this prostate of mine.  Haven’t slept through the night for years.  Gotta pee all the time.

Hell, who am I kidding?  I could join that AARP now, ‘cept I don’t like their politics. 

Oh, my gawd.  Not synchronized swimming.  Please say it aint’ so.  Can’t we watch track and field, for a change?

Little twit Dannie gonna go to San Fran to find herself.  Well, she’s in for a surprise when she finds out what life is all about.  Kick in the pants?  Nope.  Kick in the teeth, more like it.

She’ll get herself married, have a passel of kids, food stamps, family vacations in Disneyland.  If you can afford it.  Last vacation Dorothy and I took was to the Corn Palace, for Gawd’s sakes.  Mitchell, South Dakota.  Building all covered in corn and grain.  On the outside.

Old lady’s fifth cousin or something designed it that year.  Okay, it was kind of impressive, decorating the whole outside with a different design every year.  Makes you wonder why the birds don’t eat it all.


Oh, good, men’s swimming.  Oops, Phelps blew that one.  You’re getting old, kid.  Can’t cut the mustard anymore.  Over the hill at 27.

Twenty-seven.  Remember when I was 27.  Had the world by the tail.  Just got this cool job at Hickman’s Chevrolet.  Sold cars back in the day when you could tell ‘em apart.  Good money, all these years.  Can’t complain.  Made me sales manager. Yeah, Dorothy’s dad did me good on that.  Now I sit in a cubicle and talk football with the salesmen while they let their customers think they’re fighting for a lower price.  Ten years, I can retire and….

And what?  Got enough money saved to be okay.  Barring a crisis.  Cancer.  Alzheimer’s.  Something like that.  But what will I do every day?  Coffee with Al and Jean every Sunday.  Tuna fish and tomato soup that night.  Motor home?  Drive a big ol’ land yacht to Alaska, maybe? 

“Find out what life is all about…”  I shoulda told her.  Shoulda told her you start out with the world by the tail even if it’s tuna fish and tomato soup every night.  Then all of a sudden, life’s playing crack the whip and you’re still holding onto that tail.  Not a good place to be.


“Yes, George?  More soup?”

“No.  Thanks.  I was thinking.  What are we going to do when I retire?  Got any dreams?  A bucket list?”

“Actually, George, I’ve been wanting to talk to you about that.  Guess now’s as good a time as any.  I’m going to San Francisco with Dannie.  We leave Wednesday.  I think it’s time I found out what life is all about.  You’ll be making your own tuna on toast after tonight, George.  Have I ever mentioned how much I hate tuna on toast and tomato soup?”