Sunday, June 29, 2008

taking care of the girls

Our neighbors across the lane are on a week long trip to Florida, and I am feeding and watching out for their two gorgeous year-old golden retrievers, Miley and Lily.

The neighbors ostensibly got these dogs as a birthday present for their daughter last summer. But the daughter, now 12, was fearful of the dogs, who did what all puppies do, they jumped and tumbled and licked and tried to rub all over her. So she has almost no interaction with "her" dogs.

The dogs are well cared for physically. They have a large shed to keep off the rain, wind and snow, a snug dog house inside the shed, and even a heat lamp in very cold weather. They have plenty of healthy food and clean water. They also have a nice big yard in which to run, and each other with whom to play. But as far as the rest of us in the neighborhood can tell, they get very little attention, petting, and little affection or play with humans. They don't even get proper discipline to teach them sit and mind and not to jump. Consequently the dogs are starved for attention.

When I feed them, I spend a little bit of time playing with them sitting on the porch steps with them and snuggling. But it's a dilemma -- because if I give too much attention, then when their family comes home, they get less rather than more attention. And I most certainly do not want to create a situation where they will try to get out of their nice safe yard to come and visit me.

I've seen many dogs with far more miserable existences, tied up to chains or shut in small pens - or worse abused - but still it a shame that not all dogs can't have the proper balance of affection, attention and discipline in a healthy and safe environment.

of note

Earlier this afternoon, Lexington, Kentucky resident and three-time world champion Tyson Gay, ran the 100 meters in a record breaking 9.68 seconds at the Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon. But there was a greater than 3 meter tailwind, so although the time stands for the Olympic trials it won't be recorded as a world record. Extremely impressive nonetheless.

With a serious runner in the household, Olympic trials in track and field and all the running events are required viewing.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

connecting to our pasts

Last spring I went through a spate of tracking down old friends - a woman I knew in graduate school, a man from college, and a woman from grade school and high school.

The grade school friend, Suzanne, has had a particularly interesting life course, that has lead her to live in Mexico, and develop a thriving business in Mexican folk arts and crafts - Dos Muejers.

Less than a week ago, Suzanne e-mailed me with an exciting new opportunity: a social networking site developed by one of our high school classmates exclusively for graduates of San Mateo High School (California). What a delight! I've spent much of the week (when not dealing with computer crashes and grading on-line sociology papers) catching up on the lives of a number of old high school friends and acquaintances.

I finally understand the appeal of social networking sites.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

award winning service

We love Dell computers, but most especially we love Dell service at our house.

The last 48 hours have been wild here. We depend mightily on our computers and our connection to the Internet. Both John and I do much of our teaching (all of it in summer time) on-line, and we work from home. I could go into the college campus, but John has no other option. So on Tuesday afternoon when John's computer suddenly stopped so did our lives.

I did some diagnostics and determined that it was the hard drive (not the motherboard) that had crashed. So we got out our Dell info and placed a call. In a process that took nearly two hours, and huge amount of patience from the Dell service technician somewhere on the Indian subcontinent, we were guided through further diagnostics, including how to open up the computer chassis and check various connections. The process was interrupted by the phone (or phone jack) in John's office dying. The Dell technician actually called back five times before we were able to reconnect with her on a working phone. Unfortunately it was a phone in another room of the house, she had to wait while we disconnected the computer and brought it to the phone location, checked the connections according to her instructions (me on the phone calling out instructions to John with the computer), and then she had to wait again, while we hauled the CPU back to the office to hook it up again and check for any progress. In the end, our wonderfully patient Dell technician ordered us a new hard drive and operating system and driver disks (which we never received initially one of the rare times Dell messed up).

In an amazing display of efficiency, the part and disks were delivered to a service technician in West Virginia by Wednesday morning, who contacted us and made an appointment for late Wednesday to make the repair. The local service technician managed to fit us in at the end of a very long day of driving all over eastern Kentucky, and by 9 PM we had a new hard drive installed and the process of installing the operating system underway.

We ran into a glitch about 11 PM when through our ignorance we had failed to install the drivers (sound, video and most importantly Ethernet) properly. Once again, a Dell service technician managed to talk us through, step by step, installing first the Ethernet driver, helping us set up our Internet account anew, got us to the Dell service site to download and properly install all the rest of the drivers that we needed.

By 1 AM, John's computer was back functioning properly, connected to the Internet and able to check his e-mail and student forums. [He still had to reinstall MS Office this morning so he could grade all his student papers, but the hard work was done.]

First thing this morning, I pulled out the letter I got three days ago asking me if I wanted to extend my own Dell service contract for another three years, and called to sign up. We love our Dell computers, but its the Dell "award winning" service that really floats our boat!!

Monday, June 23, 2008


John and I saw The Happening this past weekend. A new seven screen cinema was recently opened about 25 miles from us, which gives us, for the first time a really nice place to go, nearby (yup, around here 25 miles is nearby).

The Happening was different from anything by M. Night Shyamalan that I had seen before (Unbreakable, The Sixth Sense, The Village, Signs). It was more of a straight forward morality play -- modern technological human society taking over the world, plants (trees, shrubs, grasses) fight back, not in any Triffid-like anthropomorphic sense, but through natural defenses. [Here's a facinating side note: the spell checker flagged Shyamalan, but not Triffid! Go figure, a real person doesn't make the spell checker list, but a fictional invasion of monster, killer plants (illustration right) does! Yes, I know that Triffids is also a band.]

The truth of the event is revealed early on in the movie (at least it is presented as a viable theory early on). There are no twists, no surprises (unless you count the fact that the "happening" ends -- but the talking head in the movie does predict it to end, the title suggests that it ends). The tag at the end isn't a surprise, it’s an affirmation. So the movie lacks the complex plotting of the other films listed above, lacks any real surprise to be revealed. I did have the sense that the gore and blood that earned the film an R rating was there to make up for the lack of plot intricacies.

I did walk out wondering something – why did they end up in Boston instead of Philadelphia – albeit the Beacon hill streets are very picturesque -- and did survivors just simply take over the homes and apartments of all the people who died?

Also I'm inspired to learn more about trees and whether or not they do have the kind of toxin defenses that the story revolved around.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

After a week of quiescence, my on-line summer session students finally took off and started posting in the discussion forum. This is good for them, but suddenly I find myself actually having work to do. Some of the questions are really interesting and thoughtful and require equally thoughtful responses. It's what makes the whole educational process worthwhile, but it does take time away from other pursuits.

Also, did my major grocery shopping yesterday. Being in the-middle-of-nowhere this requires a 50 mile round trip to the "big Walmart in the sky" (not getting theological here, it sits way high up on a hilltop) and the large Food City both over in Wise County, Virginia. After years of thinking about taking pictures, I actually remembered to take John's camera and stopped for a few shots. The photo above is the view from the Virginia-Kentucky line, looking north into Kentucky, and shows reclaimed strip-mines (the non-forested hills). From the point that picture was taken I'm still 10 miles from home.

Closer to home, less than a mile and a half, one is treated to the view of an active strip-mine, mountain top removal site (photo below).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

just Brilliant!

After reading my last post, my best-friend-for-life Betti, told me about Ashleigh Brilliant creator of the "Pot-Shot" clever, funny cards. As soon as I checked out his website I remembered buying them when I was in college.

What I had not realized was how many of my favorite life long sayings actually were penned by Mr. Brilliant. For example the classic: "Please remain calm, it's no use in both of us being hysterical at the same time;" and one of my all time favorites: "I may not be totally perfect, but parts of me are excellent."

Now that I know where to find them on the net, I think I'll be purchasing some more Pot-Shots!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

the things people say

Here is a collection of weird and/or insightful things said by friends of mine over the years, and which I in my own weirdness decided to write down for posterity in my little quote book:

Unusual greetings used instead of "hello":

"Phreap!" -Gene Epstein
"Biff!" -Doug DuPriest
"Do I know you?" (response: "I think not") -Kay Parkin, Elise Porter (source: play Dust on a Bowl of Rose Leaves
"Wanna mess around?" -Fred Sanderson

Quotes (fractured and otherwise) from other sources used as catch phrases or quips:

"Don't touch me I break!" -Larry Kutner (from the 1962 movie David and Lisa)
"There I was hacking my way through a wall of living flesh, dragging my canoe behind me." -Elise Porter (a W.C. Fields line)
"Is that a cucumber in your pocket?" -Elise Porter (Mae West)
"Come up and see my bean seedlings." -Ed Frank (Mae West)
"I wish I didn't know now, what I didn't know then." -Lisa Dallape (Bruce Springsteen)

Original (sort of) catch phrases and quips:

"Three guesses and the first two don't count." -Betti DeMeules
"That's too bad, spelled T-U-F-F." -Betti DeMeules
"Running attacks and other fleshy delights." -Larry Kutner
"Time is a good thing, otherwise evolution would have done away with it." -Charlie Wyman
"Lady Macbeth was a sonamulist." -Fred Gorin
"Moby Dick is not a social disease." -Elaine Braun
"Where ever you go in life, there you are." -Charlie Greer
"The Ordevician chestnut blight." -Elise Porter [There were no chesnuts in the Ordevician -- because the blight got them all!]
"Some day you will realize that he is just a...Pugamuffin!" -Alina Shumsky (advice to the lovelorn).
"To paint the kangaroo" -Lindy Guttman (euphamism for making out)
"It's such a far out heavy thing, man; you really get involved, man." -Charlie Greer
"The trouble with men is that they forget how easily they can be replaced by six inches of rubber and wiring." -Yvette Cook
"The frackers!" -Bob Kirk
"Don't urinate in my ear and tell me it's raining." -Charles Elton
"Assumption is the mother of disaster." -George W. Porter's 4th Law
"The garbage always needs taking out." -George W. Porter's 5th Law

The wit and wisdom (??) of sociologists and sociology students I have known:

"The nature of human nature is that it is not fixed." -Larry Busch
"The ability to experience the experienceable has an inverse relationship to age. As the labeling process goes on you loose the ability to experience: "a hardening of the categories." -Dwight Billings
"A language is merely a dialect with an army and a navy."
"Perhaps ethnomusicologists should study political science and sociologists learn to sing." -John Stephenson
"Being married is fine if you like living in an institution." -Michael Brooks
"Never trust your life to one rubber band." -Carol Straus
"You got up on the wrong side of the pattern variables." -Dwight Billings
"That's the nature of knowledge -- it is very fragile." -Tom Llewellyn
"There are no limits to injustice." -Brent Tuthill
"We cannot comprehend everything at one time." -Stephen King (no not him, another one)
"We are the people your parents warned you about when you left home for college." -Keith Crew
"You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him internalize group norms." -Keith Crew
"You can lead a man to Weber but you can't make him think." -John Pitt
"Early to bed, early to rise, won't get you into the power elite." -Keith Crew
"To sell a few used truths." -Dwight Billings
"It's straight forward." -Tony Capon
"Dr. Capon, if you say it's straight forward one more time, I'm going to climb across this desk and rip your face off." -Robyn Friedline
"A woman who waits to marry has to keep her weight down and her breasts up." -Raymond Shuster
"Don't screw across power lines." -Lori Garkovich
"B. B. King can make a guitar wail and moan, and corporate America can get a dollar bill to do almost anything." -Patrick Shumate
"The man should wrap that rascal or keep it in his pants." -Suzanne Dean

Aside from the sociologists and sociology students most of the people mentioned above are now (many decades later) respectable lawyers, psychologists, physicians, and scientists (ha!).

classic blunders!

I was hunting for another quote this afternoon in my little spiral bound notebook of my favorite quotes (many are meaningful only to me), when I ran across this one:

"You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!" Line from the delightful movie The Princess Bride (release date 1987).

Wait a minute, where is Iraq? In Asia? Oops.

Monday, June 9, 2008

cool shades

Sunglasses are sooooo cool! Groovy man!

I've never had sunglasses before. My eyesight was too bad to go without a prescription and my prescription was so expensive that I never was able to spring for prescription shades. Now, post cataract surgery, with my nearly perfect vision (20/20 in one eye, and about 20/25 in the other) I am reveling in sunglasses. So far (in just six weeks) I've acquired three pair.

What I'm finding most interesting is the psychological effect that wearing sunglasses has on my perception of the heat. It's been very hot (okay, not as hot as outside the mountains but still very hot for us), and I've avoided traveling any where for several days. But the cupboard was getting bare -- time for fresh fruits and veggies, soy milk (for John) and eggs, and especially for bread. I was amazed about how much cooler and calmer I felt mentally when I put on my shades. Cool man!

Cicadas 2

On June 1, I posted about the omnipresent sound of the cicada in our region. Both Letcher County, KY and Wise County, VA, have been filled with the low whirring sound of cicadas, something like the whine of high voltage lines -- only louder!

Today, in the Virginia side of the line, not only where the cicadas making plenty of noise, but they were also flying. My car was repeatedly bombarded during the 15 mile drive from the border. While I was in the grocery store, I left the windows on the car partially down, because it was so miserably hot (92 degrees at least). One flew inside and settled in the back with the groceries. I didn't discover it until I got home. It was my first up close view of these insects.

Did some surfing on the Internet and found lots of really interesting facts!

There are several species of cicada -- multiple species of 17 year cicadas and at least two species of 13 year cicadas. All the cicadas that emerge in a particular year (as part of their 17 or 13 year cycle) are referred to as a "brood." The brood that has emerged this year (spring 2008) is Brood XIV (14). This years brood is made up of three species of cicada: Magicicada septendecim, Magicicada cassini, and Magicicada septendecula. The College of Mount Saint Joseph in Ohio has a terrific web page maintained by Dr. Gene Kritsky that includes a map of the location of Brook XIV. Maps for fifteen different cicada broods can be found at the Great Lakes Cicada Page. The one below is for Brood XIV, that emerged this spring.

The identification and naming of cicada broods began in 1893 by Charles Marlatt, an entomologist working for the Department of Agriculture. He labeled the brood that emerged that year as Brood I, and the Brood that emerged in 1894 as Brood II and so forth.

Right about now, mid-June is when the cicadas that emerged this year begin to die off, having reproduced and deposited their eggs in the trees. So far, however, I haven't seen any thing on the internet that discusses the sudden commencement of flying behavior. Obviously the critters got wings, so must be intended to be able to fly, but none of the websites mention flying specifically. My primary curiousity is why they suddenly seem to be flying now, all at once (and crashing into cars and trucks)!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Ashland, Oregon memories

My current bedtime reading is a mystery novel by J. A. Jance featuring police detective J. P. Beaumount. I've become quite a fan of this writer and this series in particular. Most stories take place in the Seattle area, but the current story takes place primarily in Ashland, Oregon, home of the Ashland Shakespeare Festival.

The first chance I had to go to Ashland was in August 1974 a year after graduating from college. My desire to go to Ashland and see the plays is rooted in a young people's novel I read when I was in my very early teens. However, in 1974, I had another desire as well -- to see a man I with whom I'd gone to college, who lived in Eugene.

Ashland and the Shakespeare festival were everything that I had always imagined them to be and more. I stayed in a lovely older hotel (where the bathrooms were down the hall) favored by college students and actors. The town was lovely, very picturesque, especially Lithia Park with its pond and baby ducklings. I saw my favorite Shakespeare play -- Twelfth Night -- in the Elizabethan Theatre in on a perfect, mild, starlit evening.
I enjoyed quaint cafes, arts and crafts, and the "green show" of musicians and performers outside the theatres. [photos of the hotel and the Elizabethian theatre viewed from Lithia Park from Man in a Suitcase]

The visit with my friend did not live up to my imagination. No real human man could have ever lived up to my imagination. I craved romance and passion, no matter what I got it wasn't enough. I realize now that at that time I was incapable of recognizing those things, even if they had been in front of me. I wrote:
For an hour -- a closely watched and yet timeless hour -- there was nothing but blue sky, sunlight and shifting shadow of birch trees. I watched him sleeping; watched the hollow made by the sucking in of his breaths; golden brown skin, slender body, sleeping. I could study lingeringly and love unimpeded. What exquisite torture, hating to waste a moment of our short visit; wanting to talk and hear his voice, yet so enjoying the freedom to watch, knowing I could enjoy all my fancies.

Such a shame -- to have cared more about the fancies than about the reality.

My next visit to Ashland and the Shakespeare festival was in August 1987. I had made a life (at that time) in Pennsylvania, my friend had made a life in Eugene. We had both married and divorced. I made a stop to visit with him on a larger tour of the north west. I had just started learning how to live in the present (a lesson that takes a life time to learn), learning to see people and things as they are rather than what I fancied them to be. We had a delightful weekend of meals, movies, and fabulous conversation, and he drove me to Ashland to see a play -- a fabulous presentation of "She Stoops to Conquer." Only then did I realize how far Eugene and Ashland were from each other, and realized what an effort he had made all those years before to spend some time with me.

After a couple of days we went back to our separate trajectories. That was my first experience of what I call perfect days -- days that are valued for themselves, where the moments are appreciated and not marred by fantasizing, or craving what does not exist.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

vacation ends, summer begins

Summer session begins Monday June 9, so today I'm putting in some hours whipping the on-line class into shape. Except that is soooooo boring, and I find it necessary take breaks and find other more interesting things on the Internet -- like checking out the latest posts of all my favorite bloggers.

Also I made use of the weather/climate website of the College of Agriculture at the University of Kentucky to find the average monthly temperatures for the past two and a half years (and how those temperatures deviated from "normal"). The average for May 2008 was 62 degrees Fahrenheit which was six degrees lower than the "normal" (long term average). However, if the last couple of days are any indication, June is going to come out on the above normal side, as summer heat and humidity have finally made their appearance in eastern Kentucky.

I plan to enter the temperature data in a spreadsheet with the data I have on our family electricity use for the same 2 and a half years. Not only will it help me look at our electricity use -- with the goal of reducing it -- but I can have some fun data to share with my students the next time I teach statistics.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

all the pretty ponies

Rosie dog and I got up early this morning, shortly after six. I had settled into my easy chair to eat breakfast and watch early morning TV, when Rosie went wild and started to howl. The howl is usually reserved for something very disturbing, so I went running to find out what was going on -- also to see if I could shut her up before she woke John up.

Then I saw what Rosie saw -- three brown ponies and a large white horse running around our yard! The ponies were not much larger than Rosie. Shortly after the equines appeared, so did two men carrying a bucket of feed and two halters.

The two men, working quietly and calmly backed the white horse and one of the ponies into the dead end between the cliff, our fence and the Johnson's fence next door. Rosie and I watched them talk quietly to the animals, holding out handfuls of grain. I thought that they were trying to get a halter on the big white horse, and perhaps they were initially. But, after about fifteen minutes we saw the men leading away the smallest brown pony, haltered, and all the other animals, the two other ponies and the big white horse were calmly following the haltered pony. I guess horses are pack animals like dogs, and if you can get the "alpha" everyone else will follow along.

It is good to know I'm not crazy. Last summer one day, I was washing dishes in the kitchen, and saw a flash of movement outside. When I looked up, I thought I saw small brown ponies running through my yard. But no one else had seen them, and over time I began to wonder if I really had seen ponies.

Monday, June 2, 2008

life with cats

In all likelihood every penny of that economic stimulus check we got from the government last month will end up being transferred over to our veterinarian.

We have ten cats, ranging in age from 9 years old to 14 or 15 years old. A house full of geriatric felines. [Must not forget the one, irrepressible, three year old dog that also shares our life and household.]

Over the years, almost all our regular, annual vet appointments have migrated into the summer months, when we have more time and flexibility. That's at least eight cats who have to have their regular exams and shots between May and August.

Three of our older cats are also severely allergic to fleas. Poor Nino is all covered with scabs and has been licking himself nigh unto death, so off to the vet he went this morning. He got a prednisone shot, a bottle of antibiotics to prevent the sores from getting infected, and some Capstar pills to kill the fleas because he's too broken out for topical flea medications.

Of course I'm the one who has to administer all these medications, and Nino is not one to sit still for such indignities. When one picks up Nino, he makes what John calls "squee" noises rather than meows. When Nino really gets upset he sounds like "Marge Simpson" when she's really annoyed.

In addition to the annual summer flea allergy drama with Miss Minnie, we also have some more serious concerns. Ten days ago she had her second round of breast lumps removed. The first round (a year ago) included one malignant tumor. So we are awaiting the lab results. Miss Minnie, like Nino was a stray that appeared near our apartment in Pound, Virginia 13 years ago. While Nino was a tiny kitten when found, Minnie was a young adult, with a broken rear leg.

We frequently joke that we are single-handedly helping our wonderful vet Dr. Donna Stidham, build the college fund for her son (who is still in elementary school).

Of course not all life with cats is "sturm und drang." Booger (about 14) amuses us with his constant desire to drink from any flowing water source. [Yup, still got dirty dishes in the sink.]

All photos were taken today Monday 6/2/08 with a Cannon PowerShot A75.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


At first I thought that our neighbor's hot tub was on the fritz. Then I thought perhaps the strip-mine over the ridge had gotten some new equipment.

But, no. The low droning, whirring sound that permeates my entire neighborhood has a natural source -- the 17 year hatching of the cicadas or locusts [note: circadas are not locusts, they were mislabled that by the early European settlers]. John says he's seen some up close when he goes to Fish Pond Lake to run. So far, I've only heard them. From a distance it sounds different than what I remember from childhood -- more electrical than natural.