Toad in the Hole October 2005 Archives

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October 31, 2005

Monday Odd Ends

One for all you knitters reading here (Hi Kate! Hi Janis!) because, you know, knitted raw chicken hats, boobs, and uteri are such hard acts to follow.

And now for something completely different, yet strangely familiar:

The Editor's Corner, or, Why Everybody Could Benefit from a Decent Liberal Education (Thanks, PZ!)

Science magazine, the distinguished publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; vol. 309, 16 September 2005, p. 1813; RANDOM SAMPLES/ PEOPLE: "Survivors: Weathering Katrina"

For 10 days after Katrina struck, New Orleans, Louisiana, zoo veterinarian Elizabeth Hammond slept in the reptile house and helped the zoo's 1500 animals cope with the disaster. She tended to an injured flamingo, helped evacuate 11 sea lions and otters to Texas due to fears that the zoo's water supply might be contaminated, and assisted in feeding the zoo's skeletal staff as well as its permanent residents.

Any typos are mine. What I'm taking issue with here is not the unnecessary comma after "Louisiana" -- a fine point but one that matters to ease of reading. I'm startled at the gratuitous reference to the physical attributes of the zoo's staff. They hadn't been starving for that long.

Wait, maybe "skeletal" wasn't what the writer meant. Maybe he or she meant "skeleton staff." That would refer to the size of the staff, not the size of the staffers.

A schmittox to page editor Yudhijit Bhattacharjee. Schmittox withdrawn, with both sympathy and empathy, if target has already slapped own forehead when this appeared in print.

Posted at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

October 29, 2005

Quote of the Day

"they have *really* soft toilet paper in the white house."

-Commenter at Twisty's.

Posted at 05:47 AM | Comments (0)

October 27, 2005

A Brief History

It's been an interesting week, I guess. Birthday aside, we've managed to call forth the first significant rain of the season -- though it wet the ground only about an inch down, it did make the doormat on the lower steps sprout little green leaves -- by deciding to paint the bedroom. We painted anyway, and it's a bit more of an ethereal turquoise that I'd hoped, but still a major improvement over the filthy former-white that's been there since before we moved in. We never did get a chance to clean the place while it was empty. It's just going to take days to dry, is all. And, as the century-old plaster (some of which appears to have applied by drunks having seizures, and using their tongues) soaked up the paint like a sponge, it'll probably take a second coat.

Talk about conditioned responses: something about the smell of latex paint carries a sense of clean renewal and optimism.

I could use a bit of optimism, as another interesting event of the week was losing the job I've held, if I'm counting right, longer than any other I've ever had. Not my only job, since I'm mostly a freelancer, but as things are unraveling it's one of very few remaining. I'm surprised how attached I was to it. Maybe I was waiting for it to pay off.

Posted at 06:46 AM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2005


We had another California towhee in the house the other day, as I was computertating and Joe was making a pear pie. This one I scared when I walked out of the office, and it flew about the dining room and parlor without finding a way out, and then into the guest room/library/closet, and then into the bathroom, where it perched on the top of the open door. It bounced around that room a dew times, trying perches on the shower-curtain rod, the little shelflike thing on the frame of the other door -- knocking one of the collection of old silver baby cups askew -- back to the open door.

The whole time, it was oddly calm for a panicked bird. It never flew into a closed window (well, we haven't washed them in ages, so they're not invisible) or ceiling; it never said anything but that little "Tink!" they use as a contact call. It cocked its head and kept an eye on me and Joe, but didn't fly every time it saw us. And it kept that persistent "Tink!" up at regular intervals. Joe opened all the windows and doors to give it a chance to exit, but it stayed in the bathroom, looking down at us.

Then its mate (I can safely assume this; they stay together all winter, as far as I can tell, and are residents here) called from the plum tree outside the bathroom window, "Tink!" Our visitor turned its head and tinked again. "Tink!" from outside. Same rhythm, pitch, pace. Clearly, our bird oriented itself to the call.

I opened the bathroom window all the way, and took my shower hat off its hook in the windowframe. The towhee, a regular exchange of tinks going on all the while, flew to the curtain rod over the window, ducked to peer out the open side, and flew out to its calling mate. As far as I can tell, they went on with their daily routine.

It's funny how I liked the house when it had that bird inside, flying about.

Posted at 07:37 PM | Comments (4)

More Things that Go Bump in the Night

Compare and contrast:



Posted at 07:35 PM | Comments (1)

October 22, 2005

Brass Tax

My blog is worth $3,951.78.
How much is your blog worth?

Posted at 03:30 AM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2005

Things that Go Bump in the Night

When the element pandemonium (Pn) is discovered or synthesized, what will its properties be?

Posted at 09:46 PM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2005


So it's my 56th birthday and I got up feeling mostly old. I think this is the first time that seeing that number roll over has been actively depressing. I'm already in one of those spells where communicating -- including writing anything down, or talking, especially on the phone -- seems like a bad idea. This is a problem when one writes for money. At least when one needs that money.

However, I got a funny (because it reflected my feelings uncannily well) e-card from my sister Jeanne, and Joe managed to find a card with a photo of paired animals on it and space for his wiseass caption inside (which gets harder, as it's become a tradition between us over the years, and there have been lots of years, and we're running out of paired animal photos). And he gave me a copy of M. Kat Anderson's new book Tending the Wild. I'd been lusting after that since I'd seen someone else's advance copy.

There's a new feminist blog carnival over at Philobiblion. I'm bookmarking it for later after reading only one entry because I'm already in a grouchy mood and politics just makes it worse. Any politics.

It's not as if I don't have enough exposure to bad news. I keep having these moments that I've only just recognized as familiar, as resembling some of the time I was in pediatric nursing and somehow wound up taking care of a lot of kids with fatal diseases like cystic fibrosis. The only news would be who'd died. (Getting involved with the nursing home, come to think of it, has a tinge of that too.) Part of the feeling involves the fact that the latest horribleness or outrage or bad news is getting to be just what I'd expected, or familiar, or "Yeah, of course."

There's another aspect of aging I've only recently begun to feel, and I don't mean the knees that suddenly won't get me up from a squat, or the back that's mostly a background noise, or the weird sounds I get from inside my ears, or the teeth, or the sore arm (they're taking turns, but so far it's been one at a time). Or the other stuff, nevermind, it's becoming an organ recital. I don't talk about it much (Do I?) except when I have to tell someone that I'm not having a stroke or a crisis, it's just the same old damned thing, not to worry. This new thing is just a relief that I'm not younger, so I won't have to see all that much of the future. Frankly, I'm not liking the trends.

Posted at 06:01 PM | Comments (5)

So Fair and Fowl a Day

Driving back from the mountains, I noticed one of those things you notice that you've been noticing without quite noticing the notice for the last half hour or so. I'd been taking those little white shreds along the dead weeds on the road shoulders for bits of plastic bag, but for some reason I glanced at a spot long enough for a clearer view, and then did it again a few times for confirmation. You know, that snagged flick of the eye, between bouts of watching the road and that damned fool in the Velcro Mixmaster who can't decide which lane he wants to be in, at what speed.

Feathers. They were white feathers, and I saw them for at least 30 miles along the road, lots of them. I got Joe to take some longer looks, and we both saw feathers, all white. Some were pretty big, wing feathers four or five inches long.

Conclusion: we were following, at some distance (maybe a day's or so) a truckload of turkeys, maybe a caravan.

Joe, in W.C. Fields mode: "A truckload of Beltsville Whites. More concentrated stupidity than Congress in session."

Posted at 06:06 AM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2005

Everybody! Everybody! (Again)

Go here right now and turn the sound up.

That's our Sunday hymn for today. Thenkew.

Posted at 05:08 PM | Comments (2)

October 15, 2005

Bodie-odie, Drinkin' Wine

We jumped into the faithful RAV4 and went to the East Slope of the Sierra for a couple of days, to catch the last of the clear weather and chase birds. Joe had heard there were sage grouse walking the streets of Bodie, and it had been something like 25 years since we'd seen sage grouse.

Well, they weren't walking the streets of Bodie when we got there; we saw them before that. A flock of about 10 - 12 whooshed out of a meadow beside us and across the road to another meadow as we were making small talk with the rangers at the entrance booth. Got good looks as they flew, and then we parked (illegally, I suppose, but there weren't crowds yet and the rangers kindly let us get away with it) and dragged out the scope to watch them as they noshed and strolled through the second meadow. They disappear quite efficiently in tall grass, so it was a matter of seeing heads popping up and looking around. The whole flock looked like hens, but I don't know how long it takes cocks' mature plumage to come in.

The weather was gorgeous the whole three days, if seriously cold first thing in the morning. We sanely decided to stay in a motel instead of camping, and can recommend the Virginia Creek Settlement Motel on the south edge of Bridgeport. Small, with the row of rooms made out of a sort of flattened-Lincoln Logs set, wood inside and out. Cozy bed, small fridge, a loveseat with reading lamp, the whole little room clean and inviting; real bathroom, back porch to sit on and listen to the creek rush by, coffeepot in the room. There's a restaurant out front, not cheap but good eats in a midlands-Italian-joint way. Joe had lasagna and I had good old spaghetti and meatballs, both decent; the pizzas looked very nice. And a glass of the house burgundy. Not merlot, not zin: burgundy.

Oh yeah, and it's out of cell-phone range. If you do need to reach out, there's a phone in a mock outhouse and you get a key to the booth; also, the nice young fellow who runs the place will come knock on your door if someone calls for you. Please Do Not Clean Fish In Room. There's a campground and some housekeeping cabins too.

They also theoretically do breakfast, but were taking the midweek off in that regard, so we had a gas-station breakfast (pastry, more coffee, bottle of OJ) on the fly Wednesday and sat down for very nice French toast and bacon, biscuits with ham gravy and two eggs over-easy at the Hays Strees Cafe in Bridgeport on Thursday -- pretty much kept us fueled for the rest of the day's trip home.

Closer to Bridgeport, I can recommend Casa Michaela for dinner, especially the chile colorado which had a great depth of flavor. The chile verde wasn't half bad either. A guy bought us each a second beer after I told him he'd left his Jeep's lights on in the parking lot.

We had a three-jay day Wednesday: the usual Steller's and scrub, plus a big flock of pinyon jays on the road out of Bodie. We saw a few, pulled over, and spent 10 - 15 minutes surrounded by jays meowing at each other and flying back and forth over us, from a creekside clump of willows to the pinyons up the hill, and foraging around in the pines. There were a couple of red-shafted flickers hanging out with them and adding to the conversation. It had been almost as long since the last pinyon jays, oddly enough. Great to see them.

Clark's nutcracker, raven, and magpie too: corvids galore.

Thursday we also had a two-magpie day, with black-bills around Bridgeport (all three days) and yellow-bills on the road back, around Manteca.

Bodie itself was pretty quiet except for tourists. There weren't mobs, maybe thirty all day, but we kept having to dodge photographers. The place is pretty photogenic. It's a weird sort of voyeuristic fun to peer into all those windows and see the tools of various trades and people's quotidian stuff lying around, covered with dust. Which reminds me, our place needs a thorough cleaning. We did see a small flock of mountain bluebirds sweep through and back again, and any day I can see that other-dimensional shade of blue is a good day.

Mono Lake was full of eared grebes (in the high ten-thousands at least -- they get to nearly a million there most years in late October-early November) and California gulls (85% of that species in this state are born there) and patches of coots and ducks: shovelers, mallards, ruddies, and widgeons, maybe others we didn't notice. There was one bird that was probably driving birders nuts and/or getting reported as a smew; we're both pretty sure it was an albino grebe. We scoped and gazed and exclaimed, than sat on a bench in the North Tufa park and watched all the busyness and the light changing over the tufa towers and Paoha and Negit islands and the half-plus moon rising as the sun set.

And the minute the sun went behind the mountain, bam, cold. It's brittle, that gracious fall-day warmth.

Cottonwoods, willows, and aspens were in great color, all incandescent and gold-red fiery along the invisible watercourses, amazing glowing against the black basaltic slopes. The whole place is quite visibly volcanic, very much Ma Nature's industrial world-forge.

Posted at 05:02 PM | Comments (0)

So I'm a Bard

62% Combativeness, 60% Sneakiness, 82% Intellect, 11% Spirituality
Dashing and multi-talented: You are a Bard!

A decent warriors, reasonable spell-caster, and fairly good at tricking people, the Bard is the jack of all trades. These charming fellows live by their wits, though a sharp blade, a few spells, and some lockpicks never hurt.

Smart, sneaky, and aggressive, you're probably good at most things you try. You don’t have much need for spirituality or superstition and are much more likely to live in the here and now... and if you can get some fun and profit out of the here and now, even better.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 75% on Combativeness
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Sneakiness
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 75% on Intellect
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 0% on Spirituality
Link: The RPG Class Test written by MFlowers on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Aggressive yet sneaky... OK, that'll do.

Posted at 05:00 PM | Comments (2)

October 11, 2005


Yesterday, as is our monthly custom, we met a handful of the Chaparral House Alumni for lunch at an inexpensive restaurant on Solano Avenue. (The Alumni are people who had family members at that nursing home; for a brief, necessary time we organized a kickass family council, and most of us are still involved in one way or another with the place.)

Mona opened her fortune cookie as we lingered over tea and read it out loud, for the same reason Becky reads the horoscope to Chris, I suspect.

"Life is a tragedy for those who feel, a comedy for those who think."

Offhand, Joe connected that one with Balzac. Google gives me attributions, from random quoters, to Jean de la Bruyere, Horace Walpole, Aldous Huxley, and, wait for it, "fortune cookie."

Posted at 03:20 PM | Comments (1)

October 10, 2005

The News

I'm playing Bejeweled (whose URL I will refrain from posting in case Emma reads this) online and Joe has 60 Minutes on in the parlor because there's supposed to be a segment about the ivory-billed woodpecker. Slowly it dawns on me what sounds familiar. Maybe it's a property of age and maybe I'm just getting jaded. The TV news has turned into Old Blevins.

Bla bla blabla blabla bla blah terrorist attack
Bla bla bla bla blabla blabla bla blah recent statement
Bla bla bla blabla blabla bla blah families
Bla bla blahhh... national standards

Etc. My god it's half boilerplate. A person with a total vocabulary of 250 words could get it all, and I'm including state names in that.

No ivory-billed woodpecker yet.

(Ref: The Austin Lounge Lizards. Go get some.)

Bla bla blabla blabla blah on the issues...

Posted at 03:32 AM | Comments (0)

October 08, 2005


Am I the only one who's noticed a family resemblance between His Noodliness the Flying Spaghetti Monster and Chthulu?

Posted at 03:39 PM | Comments (1)

October 06, 2005

A Giggle from George Will

The Chron's pullquote from Will's column this morning, the subject being why Harriet Miers should not be nominated:

Miers' nomination shows Bush's belief in identity politicsand its tawdry corollary, the idea of categorical representation.

What an elementary flub! Right out there in public, Will displays that he somehow doesn't/didn't think the same thing about Roberrts' nomination to replace a white male. Hilarious.

Yes, I know, white and male equals the norm, focus on the exception, including the majority "minority" I guess. It's fun when they take their manners off in public and expose their shrivelled, limp little thought processes.

Posted at 03:07 PM | Comments (0)

Nature and Culture

Prize for this year’s Best Birding at a Music fest goes to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival and Unofficial Dog Show on Sunday in Golden Gate Park.

The three ravens hanging out over the crowd, soaring and surfing and just generally strolling around in the air, and the red-shouldered and red-tailed hawks were cool enough, during Hazel Dickens and the Austin Lounge Lizards and Ricky Skaggs and all. We even had some sun, and then enough of high cirrus clouds to prevent bad sunburns.

We have a policy of seeing the old farts first, because lately we have a heightened sense that they won’t be around forever. So we prioritized Dr. Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys even over Jimmie Dale Gilmore, over whom I personally swoon. We ended up standing right behind the sound booth, so I spent an inordinate amount of time on tiptoe and paid dearly for it the next day. The set was reward enough. They even did "Angel Band," long one of my favorites. (I didn’t know till recently that the Stanley Brothers wrote that.) And Dr. Ralph looked pretty hale for an 80-ish guy who’d had a triple bypass three months ago. Sang and played well too. And his grandson has obviously had both a growth spurt and some good mandolin lessons since last January.

The crowd was noisy, as free outdoor festival crowds usually are. It gets more annoying every time – who comes out to see someone like the Lounge Lizards, known for their hilariously clever intricate lyrics, and then yammers through the whole set? Feh. And there’s someone in every little picnic-blanket group with a high piercing voice, or a sonorous nasal baritone, or a buzzsaw whine, who never shuts up. Ever. And why the hell am I hearing, instead of the lyrics to "Old Blevins," some bint saying, "Everyone’s feeeelings got aired"? Why are the loudest people always the most boring?

But that’s another rant.

One break in the crowd noise: when Dr. Ralph a-capella’d "O Death," everyone shut up. Everyone. Even the squalling darling sirens. Even the dogs. You could have heard that pin drop on the turf. Incredible. And of course the performance deserved it.

And I happened to look up and over to the east-southeast, where the cypresses and eucs hedged the sky, at the ravens flying easy, sociable circles ‘round each other. One raven looked odd.


It circled over to the space above us, close enough to see it was a subadult, maybe one of the trio fledged this year downtown. And it circled again, lazily, and glided off to the west.

Posted at 06:46 AM | Comments (5)

October 03, 2005

A Meme, of Sorts

If you had a drink named after you, what would be in it?

Example, the famous-in-our-crowd Delilah: one part Meyer lemon juice, one part Cointreau, two parts gin (stored in the freezer). Shake with ice and strain.

I'm thinking for me: something like Thai red tea, the kind they use to make the ubiquitous "Thai tea," but barely sweetened, plus rum; shake with ice and strain or not; with some thick cream floated on top a la Irish coffee. But I'd have to road-test it first.

Or, on certain days, what my Russian History prof used to describe some eastern-hordes invader or other, or maybe the original Black Russian: equal parts vodka, kerosene, and Tabasco sauce.

Posted at 05:58 PM | Comments (4)

October 01, 2005

Winter Continued

Pretty hot again today. I followed a semi-familiar song to the back door, coffee in hand, and found a pair of Bewick's wrens in the trees out back. Also, a rowdy gang of robins, and a grayish warbler I couldn't get a better look at. The usual gang of bushtits and chickadees, hummers -- traffic. And that flicker again, sneering.

Out front, the first golden-crowned sparrow of the year, singing that Oh Poor Me thing.

Joe looked out back while I was at work, and had another yellow warbler, an orange-crowned warbler (probably that was my gray bird), and more robins. I heard one singing, which happens when the winter flock comes in and they all have to get their territories sorted out.

The damned squirrels and the scrub-jays have been molesting my plant pots and, worse, my seed flat, burying acorns. I have to dig up that stash of hot pepper from the Korean supermarket.

Tomorrow we get to hit the Merritt plant sales. Stuff for the raised beds -- veggies, herbs -- and maybe some native bulbs if I can think of a place to plant them.

Posted at 06:57 AM | Comments (0)