Friday, December 24, 2010

The Dogs Wish You the Best for the Christmas Season and the New Year!

For some reason, the scanner converted blues to gray! So imagine light blue where you see gray in the drawings. Click a drawing see it fuller scale.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A trip and a half on Amtrak

I go by train whenever I travel across land. I love the slow pace of train travel, and I also like watching the country- and citysides go by, from the scenic vistas of marshes and plains to the graffiti artwork on abandoned buildings in urban areas.

I have just returned from a visit to Washington, DC, where I stayed three nights, two whole days and two half days with two cats and a friend. The trains were on time, user friendly, crowded, and, seemingly, uneventful. On the way south, once the sun rose and we moved from darkness to light (not that I saw the sun, just the light of day) the view from the window provided a bare and monotone landscape - we were riding through an old fashioned sepia drawing. Mostly, I read.

Likewise went the return journey. I had a new book and nicely silent and otherwise occupied seat mates. I had brought a sandwich so I didn’t even make my usual trip to the cafĂ© car. No excitement. Six sevenths of the way home, the train emptied out, as usual, but, not as usual, hordes of grownups and children spanning all ages boarded. Noisily. They were sporting Santa hats and wearing big round pins with pictures of train engines with flashing red lights. Kids were excited; babies cried; one grown-up was scared when the train began to move; parents exclaimed to their children how exciting this first train trip was. They took pictures - it is like a lightening storm in the car. One kid lost his button but luckily only his parent seemed to care.

The conductor came by and said softly to each of the rest of us plain old passengers: "Folks - they are going to be singing Christmas carols but there is room in the next car up. You can move, stay and listen, or stay and join in. Your choice.” I stayed, as did my silent seat mate, engrossed in his computer work. A woman handed out packets of Christmas songs. One kid wanted to know “Where's Santa?” Apparently promises had been made. Another started to cry. And then – there was Santa, doing his thing with a bag of engineer hats for each of the kids. A man with a white, curly beard, a fake conductor suit ,and a lovely voice whipped out a mike and led the car’s inhabitants in an assortment of Christmas songs – I won’t call them carols as they were of the secular Santa-focused variety.

At a break, Santa started in on a long sermon on being good and kind. A little boy went up to him and told him that his brother was mean to him, he hit him and gave him nougies. Santa frowned and the brother was identified and stepped forward in his engineer cap, a sweet little guy with an innocent smile, who owned up with to his actions with a huge grin.

The train came into the station and we all got off, anxious to get home, including Santa. He disappeared down the fairly decrepit station steps with his pack on his back, muttering about elves. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Give the Dogs Their Due

Where did I leave my bone?
The other morning as I ate my morning gruel and read the Daily Gazette, Dover, who had been lying on my feet, suddenly popped up with a purpose clearly in mind. He loped over to his toy basket, rummaged around deep under the chicken, the wombat, the camel with bells on, the sea skate and the dragon, found his bone, and settled back down at my feet, and gnawed away with gusto.

Dover had had a memory and an idea! He saw a clear path to bringing his idea to fruition, went to some trouble to carry it out, and enjoyed the fruits of his desire. I find that pretty impressive.

Another surprising demonstration of a dog's mind at work is "intentional thought", a very hot and controversial topic in animal behavior circles. If there is something Dover wants and thinks is his due (a morsel on the counter, a tennis ball under the sofa), he will stare intently at it, then stare pleadingly at me, and then look back again, repeating his question until he gets what he needs or I change the subject. Our previous dogs did this too, and it wasn't until I was teaching about chimps and the question of whether they self-medicate using local flora that I, an organic chemist, stumbled into the controversy about whether animals participate in "intentional" thought processes. In this case, I know my dogs are indeed telling me their heart's desire. I am convinced that Dover's behavior reflects a conversation, and have referred to this homey scenario in conversation and class.

So now, in addition, I have evidence that Dover, at least once in his life, planned! Hot and rabid skeptics who say otherwise, and equally hot and rabid partisans will yawn. But I saw it unfold and there is no doubt about it in my mind - Dover had a sequence of related memories and thoughts. Yikes. What next?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dogs in Hats, Ticks, and Tee-Shirts

Several years ago, when a local bookstore was going out of business, I looked at the shelves to see what I might like to buy during the final sale days. There were three shelves of guide books, and I hoped to buy several "Golden Guides to [Insects, Mammals, Fish, Reptiles, Spiders, etc.]" for budding scientists among family and friends. Alas, I waited too long, and when I finally got back to the store the shelves were empty except for one lone, rather slim book: "A Field Guide to Ticks." After a moment of distress that I had failed Shopping 101, I picked up the book, paid for it at the register, and took it home. While i haven't consulted it too often, I do like to display it prominently on the living room bookshelf. In fact, I have brought several additional copies and given them as Christmas presents to friends with particularly tick-infested gardens and woods.

About fifteen years ago I drew a tee shirt for our Women n Science Program. There was a dog with a hat as the center piece, and with a nod to the multitude of biologists among us, the dog peers into a microscope at some unformed mass on the stage. The shirts went like the proverbial hot cakes, and gradually mine became thin and ragged and positively indecent to wear.

Time passed. On the occasion of a friend's retirement two years ago, I decided to reprint the shirts. The design, dog and hat stayed intact, but the second edition shirt places a tick on the microscope stage. What better research endeavor for a young dog scientist than to study ticks - and maybe provide some insight into how to thwart their efforts to creep out the world.

After the new shirts were printed and publicly presented to the retiring and slightly dazed colleague, I heard this story of what happened to one of our graduates during his time in graduate school out in LA.

One sunny morning, while riding the bus to his lab and planning his experiments for the day, his thoughts were interrupted when another rider started to ream him out because she objected to a woman in science being represented by a dog. And, a dog with a hat! After a few minutes of being the object of this public spectacle, he fled the bus. He mentioned this incident to his faculty mentor back home, who, the story goes, knew about "the problem," and that was why he had decided years previously to give his shirt away to a one of his students.

I love the shirt. Most people do. But now I am over-sensitized about the picture, and I honestly do not know what to do with eighteen new, lovely, women in science tee shirts, complete with dog, hat, microscope, and anatomically correct tick (using, of course, my trusty field guide to provide an up close and personal model of a tick).

Friday, October 15, 2010

Raging Grannies and the Pulaski Day Parade

Last weekend, the October holiday weekend, was colorful not for the leaves in the area, which had not yet turned, but in terms of people dressed in colorful outfits and having a rousing good time.

Coming out of church on Sunday we were greeted by a line-up of the Raging Grannies, a singing troupe that sings songs of peace, equality and justice, has a lot of fun doing it, and spreads good humor and joy in the process.

The next day Dover and I joined some friends downtown for the annual Polish parade in honor of Casimir Pulaski, a Polish nobleman and general who fought and died in the American Revolution, who saved the life of George Washington, and who was granted honorary US citizenship. This is a great parade with traditional costumes, the Hopkins Academy band, greetings in Polish flowing from marchers to spectators and back, and high spirits everywhere. The parade always ends in Pulaski Park, with speeches, the band again, tributes and singing.

The high points for Dover were first, being greeted by friends, and then, when marchers broke ranks to greet him. One marcher spotted him, pointed, and shouted:" Even the dogs are Polish!"

Dover practicing his look, hoping that someday he will 
be part of the royal court and ride in a sleek car like this.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Managing a Tennis Ball Collection

Night time photo: Lust for tennis balls never ends. Photo by Bridget

Maintaining the doggie in tennis balls is a mildly difficult proposition. First - I must collect them (from friends and from the woods outside the college tennis court fencing). Then my job is to whack them in the yard for Dover's entertainment and exercise routine - he races like a thundering herd from one end of the yard to the other in great glee and hot pursuit. Then, of course, I must regather them, invite friends to participate in games of Chase, Catch, Retrieve, and Release. Regathering is a job like that belonging to the poor gent who endlessly rolled the rock up the hill; they must be regathered over and over and over and over. The regatherer's job is never done.

Then they must be picked up before mowing the lawn or they get topped, and at some point, some must be thrown away because they are hopelessly beat up, or just vile beyond imagination. The end job is is to throw the grimey but still viable individuals into the washing mahine with the wash, but after the lovely days of downpour we have just completed, they are so mud-besplattered that I think the only thing to do is put them all in the washing machine. First, however, they have to be hand swished in a bucket to get the grit off them or we will become the plumber's dream. A friend to whom I sent an advance version of this essay was impressed: You wash loads of tennis balls!  Truly, a woman's work is never done.

 Dover is a very rich dog with lots of tennis balls in the bank and a good financial advisor to maintain his assets.
Washed tennis balls.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Three Dogs and the Sea

Dover and I and three friends (one human, two almost human) went to the shore this past weekend. In two days we experienced both wavy and calm seas, and the dogs said: "It is good."

For a glimpse into how to achieve pure exuberance and joy in life, check out "Sea Dogs" on YouTube:

This is only the start!

The problem with the name "Sea Dogs" is that there seems to be a hockey team by that name, so googling Sea Dogs comes up with piles of hockey videos. I haven't ventured down the sidebar in YouTube to see what others are there; I only hope they are all of the family-oriented sort!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


A friend brought kites to the shore this summer - he got them out on a gray day when it almost rained, catching up the kids who flew them and the adults who watched. My granddaughter Mollie fell in love with this one - which she named Sunflower - and she stood on the beach with it for over an hour. Meanwhile, down the beach, another contingent got involved with with one that soared and swooped and required two hands and two leads to control it. Flying Sunflower was meditative - it just floated in the sky, always responding to the breeze, but ever so gently.
A well-earned rest.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dogs and Squirrels

Dover has several passions in his life. Perhaps the first has to do with tennis balls, although I think food might compete. But if no one wants to play ball with him, he avidly participates in the ancient canine sport of squirrel watching. He lies at the open slider doors at maximum alert, and if a squirrel trespasses his territory, he is off like a shot after the catch of his dreams. The squirrels, of course, are on to him, and they partake of the ancient squirrel sport of dog baiting. The score, at the moment, is squirrels 5,284, Dover 0.

Every time Dover tears out in hot pursuit and the squirrel lopes away in leisurely retreat, I empathize with Dover about lost opportunities and dreams.

A friend sent me a poem she wrote about her dog, now several years deceased, who also partook of this sport. One couplet in particular caught my eye:
To tree each squirrel is never a mistake
when desire is the truest path to take  .  .  .   
                           From "Apprentice," Gail Thomas, © 2008.

Reading this, I pulled up short. Dover thoroughly enjoys the chase - would he enjoy the capture and hunter's triumph as much? If he actually made the snatch, would he stand transfixed, wriggling body dangling from his soft, unharming mouth, eyes begging for information about what comes next? Perhaps I had been interpreting this game all wrong, and it is the sharp eye, the burst of speed, and the satisfaction of seeing his quarry speed away that Dover chalks up as a win. Maybe the score is 5,284 to 0 in Dover's favor, successful pursuits and triumphant returns marking the game as victorious.

I have to admit that I don't really know what goes on in Dover's mind, and the "nature red in tooth and claw" school of thought would go with the bloodiest outcome as being the best and truest description of this hobby. But there is an evolutionary role for play as well, and so I am pleased to think that Dover is into squirrels for the sport. I definitely like that there is more than one way to consider these games, and not just the one that chalks Dover up as a steady loser instead of a skilled and speedy gamesdog. So, just possibly, I really do not know what my fellow travelers value and hold most dear deep down at the core of their hearts and souls. That includes, but is not limited to, my dog Dover.

Dover's other passion.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Trains from here to there

John Bull Locomotive, 1831
Smithsonian Museum of American History

Chapter 1:  We are delayed in leaving the station, the lights and air conditioning just went off, the babies are crying and fussing at top voice, and my lunch is hidden away in one of the pockets in my duffel bag stashed over my head.

The lights come back on after about ten minutes of everyone's breath and heat filling up every available space in our crowded coach car.

And now - We lurch forward! We are off. The babies screech on.

Chapter 2:  We are positively barreling along. Not only do we have a very sweet conductor who can't be more than a sophomore in high school, but also an AC fix-it-up chappy who might be just out of high school. He came along with a paper towel and wiped dripping water from the malfunctioning AC off the luggage racks, and he reseated a chattery couple who were upset by dripping water from the leaking air conditioner. Luckily, it is not leaking any more. I suspect we have an apprentice engineer - we jerk into stations and even do little forward and backward dances before coming to an abrupt halt.

The toddler howler is amazing. She just belts it out at a continuous pace - loud AAAAAHHHs followed by sobs, with repeats. Everyone smiles and we are all actually in very pleasant moods. Outside the car it is over 100 degrees, so we consider ourselves quite lucky. It is freezing in our car.

The lady a few seats behind me is on the phone for a long time describing a very recent breakup with someone she now says she hates. She has something to say about the Russians (her accent is not Russian), talks a bit about how she is a high powered analyst, and all the time makes out on the phone with whomever she is talking with, eager for August to come when she will see him again, and talking about a gift she left for him – pink, because he is a gentle man - and much more my straining ears couldn't make out even though she was talking with no holds barred.

This trip is a bit reminiscent of a previous trip to Minnesota, where somewhere around Wisconsin Dells some guy got down on his knees in the darkened aisle and proposed to my seatmate. She turned him down.

We have crossed the Big Water. Next stop is, I believe, Philly.

Chapter 3:  My new backseat mate is talking on the phone about assorted surgeries she has had and after enough time passed I learned that she is talking about joint replacement. She moves on to people she knows who died young. One died on the operating table on her thirties.  Now it appears a relative has just died - she is returning from the funeral and a lot of detail follows - yikes! She hangs up and trades death stories with her across-the-aisle mate amidst great hearty guffaws of laughter. Now one of them is getting off and the one of the joint surgery conversation is looking out onto the platform at the people meeting the train and asks– “Is that your husband? The old man in glasses?”

The howling toddler got off in Philly as did the nice young man beside me. I expect a new influx in NYC. When I walked up to the snack car I noticed many seats cleverly disguised to make it seem as if the occupants had a seatmate who just happened to have stepped out for a minute, but the coats, bags, knees and feet actually belong to the single occupants of the double seats, protecting them from having to double up. I marvel at their audacity; they try to look preoccupied and innocent. 

Chapter 4:   As we approach New York City most of the coach prepares to get off. They crane at the windows to see New York, exclaiming in many different languages. We swoop down under the Hudson, and arrive in New York a half hour late, but because of the built-in time allowance in the schedule, we leave on time. I am always happy when we leave Penn Station and emerge into daylight from the tunnels down among the sewers filled with swamp rats and giant alligators that have been flushed down NYC toilets as babies.* The New York skyline is lovely; the buildings appear windowless and shadowy, in flat grays, because of the poor air quality and haze. Not many people are travelling with us now, and the rest of the trip is non-eventful. Two young boys talk and play quietly a few seats back, adults play with their computers, read books, or snooze off, and we all arrive at our destinations with a cheerful conductor – we are on time and happy to be home.

Louisianna alligator; photo Deb Lohmeyer

Monday, July 12, 2010

Holding feet

Dover and I visit a nursing home about once or twice a week - every visit is different and offers surprises and unexpected moments of relationship. May we all be blessed with a warm foot to hold in anxious and lonely times.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Dogs on a hot day!

Dover had a busy Fourth of July - first he went to the Amherst parade and then he had some friends over for ice cream and a swim. He and Dottie shared the pool, rising up occasionally to catch (or miss) flying tennis balls.

How many tennis balls do you count? 
Click the photo to enlarge it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Unbridled joy

Yesterday as I was strolling with Dover down a quiet street where I know not a single person living in the houses or apartments along the way, a voice suddenly shattered the quiet late afternoon neighborhood calm.

"Doggie!" the 2 year old voice in the window shrieked. And she repeated it - Doggie! I looked for her but couldn't find the face in a window. She kept right on task - repeating that singe unadorned word with increasing urgency and certainly unbridled joy.Every so often she turned to another in the room, who wasn't responding with the same breathless glee, so she doubled her efforts.

As we passed on down the street and out of her sight, she gradually ended her announcement to the neighborhood. I was sorry I never got a glimpse of her, or asked Dover to pause and do a trick for her benefit.

But the joy she caught and spread as she watched from her first floor window was splendid. And catching; I upped my step from from a slow late afternoon stroll to a jauntier pace.

Immagine being the one who is able to cause such exuberant joy - just by virtue of being.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Memorial Day Parades

Dover had a busy two days over the weekend, being present at two Memorial Day parades and taking the opportunity to greet all ages at these community events; he automatically expects to be part of all gatherings he chances upon. He is not a reticent New Englander at heart, in spite of being one by birth and place of residence. My daughter once described the helping out, hale and hearty attitudes after a late season paralyzing snow storm in Minnesota with this phrase: "Friendliness was rampant." Rampant friendliness seems to be what parades in small towns foster - and Dover is happy to do his part.

People of all ages, kids on bikes, old cars, potato trucks, fire fighters with shiny axes, and, of course, girl scouts and boy scouts. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

The so-called sugar high that isn't

The "Chemicals in Your Food" class had a debate: Sugar rich foods make kids off-the-wall. Or not. Students randomly drew sides to argue or respond to, and they had a week and a half to research and prepare their arguments. Students were warned not to base their arguments on the "everybody knows" type of argument, but to search for, evaluate, and base their arguments on scientific and behavioral studies. When I described this plan to a friend, she said - "What's to debate? Of course it does."
But guess what? Even though "everybody knows" that foods high in sugar drive kids right up the wall and back again, controlled, well designed scientific studies show that what "everybody knows" seems to be wrong. People may talk about kids being on a "sugar high", but the behavior might better be called a "party high", or a "recess high", or a "I love to play with my friends high," or an "I really love this stuff" high.

I have known this contradiction for quite a while, but I no longer raise my eyebrows or open my mouth when people rant about the kids being on a sugar high, because people don't want to hear it and don't want to believe it - that maybe the "sugar high" is more what people want to believe than what can be supported by research. Students were very surprised by what they found, even though some still chose to believe - well - what they wanted to.

So the question is - why and how do we believe what we believe? From the little things to the big cosmic issues - what data do we trust? And why? And what do we do when we discover that what we want to believe may not turn out to be be believable?
Awaiting the lighting and the blowing out of the 100 candles, 
and especially the eating of the100th birthday cakes.
(Count the candles!)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts, 1814 - 1906

I stumbled on an interesting bio this morning of a really really rich woman who lived a graceful, idiosyncratic, world-changing life. Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts was 23 when she came into her fortune, and for the next 70 or so years, she funded organizations that assisted people and animals and in general made the world a better place and life a better opportunity for many individuals. She opened schools for those whose station in life did not entitle them to schooling - night schools, sewing schools, and "ragged" schools. Her donations built and supported churches and church schools, lifeboats and fishing boats, covered market spaces, and provided dogs with public drinking fountains.  It was her idea and funding that built the famous fountain and statue of Greyfriars Bobby, the Skye Terrier who would not leave the site of his master's grave in Edinburg for the 14 years between his master's death and his own.  She supported the SPCA and established the SPCC (Children), provided help for refugees, funded soup kitchens, and donated the bells for St. Paul's Cathedral. She designed a "linen drier" and sent it to Florence Nightingale to help her in her nursing work.

Angela was devastated when her long-time companion Hannah died. After three years she married her secretary, who was 37 years younger than she was. He carried on her work after her death.

There is much more that would go on Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts' list of accomplishments during her long philanthropic lifetime, but one position she must have treasured because she held it so long, and it must be mentioned in conclusion - she was president of the British Beekeepers Association for 28 years, right up to the year of her death.

A young Dover takes a dip in his public drinking fountain,

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Engaging in joyful creation

I no longer remember where I read this, but there is a Chassidic belief that "one can thank the Lord for the gift of life and its bounties by singing, dancing and engaging in joyful creation." I can no longer sing, although choral singing is one of my favorite types of music to listen to, and the only dancing I have ever liked to do is the polka. But engaging in joyful creation - now there is something Dover does with wild abandon. The question is - is he singing? Dancing? Engaging in joyful creation? Whatever, I guess the moral of this story is: Go forth and do likewise, each after one's own kind (Dover's added caveat: I rejoice greatly at all times and in all places as long as there is a tennis ball in my mouth.)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dover figures it out

Dover has always been awkward on our stairs - he still bobs down them like a wind-up Easter chick and it is always a relief to one and all when he reaches the ground floor.

The other morning he made off (with great glee) with a piece of Tom's clothes;  he was three steps down on his way to his lair when I said: "Dover! Take it to Tom!" This is a request he knows and follows religiously. He stopped in mid-track, knowing there would be a dog biskit ahead if he delivered up his goods as asked. He tried to back up the stairs, but he couldn't get his hind feet up the step and his front feet didn't know what to do it this process. Next he tried to make a u-turn, but his body is too big and the stairway is too narrow to accomplish this maneuver safely. He stood stock till for a few seconds to assess the situation, then he continued down the nine remaining stairs to the ground floor, turned around, dashed back up the stairs, delivered the goods, got his treat, and basked in the congratulations and hands-on appreciation that followed.

Dover's reasoning process was wonderfully transparent - so I say to all those border collie people out there who don't mind having a dog that is smarter than they are: Golden retrievers -  more than a pretty face!

Photo from 2008: Dover takes his first look down the stairs he just climbed so easily, while his hero Jonah secretly hopes the little cockroach falls out of his life.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

An Easter (2005) Story of Lemon Tarts

Easter morning, 2005, on his early morning walk, the little dog, "the dog that eats food", as my granddaughter Mollie calls him, did indeed eat some garbage. He is very fast, nonchalantly sniffing for news of the day one minute, executing a lightening fast dart for the rotting morsel lying forgotten by the curb the next. He swallows whole, so we had no idea what it was that graced his stomach this Easter morning. 

Later, after the Easter services proclaimed new life and unconditional love to all, 19 people and four extra dogs started arriving for Easter Dinner, toting in rolls and carrots and dip and assorted wet stuff. And deserts. I lost track of what came and where it went, but a safe stashing place is our pantry, which is guarded by a swinging door to which we have installed a hook and eye latch above child and dog reach. We were safe - locks and many eyes and a multitude of distractions kept all courses of our meal safe.

In the middle of this pleasant confusion, someone called out: "Why is the dog locked in the pantry?" She was referring to Little Dog, a now full grown golden retriever, whose proper name is Mungo. She then closed and relocked the pantry door. I assumed she had extracted Mungo, but a few minutes later, when I didn't see him milling around looking for an opening to the counter top, I peeked into the pantry, and there he was, standing on his hind feet, fully extended and upright, grossly enjoying a tray full of lemon tarts. By the time we recovered our senses and removed the offender (dog, not the persons who had locked and relocked him in with one of the most treasured Easter desserts) he had easily eaten over a dozen tarts and nibbled on several more. He left us about six.

So, this is one piece of plate poaching the we could not blame on "the dog who eats food,” because a dog that finds himself locked in a small space with lemon tarts in mouth-reach has no other choice: he must eat before all is discovered.

Later, the so-called good dog, Mungo's elderly uncle, who only steals food when it is absolutely necessary in order to maintain his honor, surgically removed a piece of lamb from the youngest guest's plate when she was off in pursuit of something with more sugar.
Well, the wages of thievery are dyspepsia, but on the day after Easter that does not seem to deter the Little Dog from continual pursuit of fallen (or not) morsels to soothe his cravings; having rediscovered there is more to life than kibble and street garbage, he too is living in that Easter hope that brings love and new life in unexpected places.

Mungo, in memoriam, 2002 - 2008

Friday, March 26, 2010

Train Travel

My daughter and kids just spent their spring vacation with us. They took the train from Minnesota to Massachusetts, which was an adventure in itself - two trains each way, with a multi-hour layover in Chicago. Train is my preferred method to travel, as not only does the travel time provide an enforced retreat from demands requiring my immediate response or action, but it also serves up a a glimpse of the countryside - from gorgeous panoramas to trackside dumping grounds - that I can not get when drive.

Anyway, all trains the Minnesota crew took were on time, or close enough, as they say, for jazz. Here are two coming and going pictures: The Lakeshore limited as it pulled in to the Albany train station, to the immanent  departure from the Springfield station, small ones shepherded by their cousin.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Food - favored and not

Here are the students favorite and most vile foods according to taste, texture, or appearance.

First papers: Favorite foods grouped to make a meal:

Things to drink:    Soy milk, coconut milk, green tea, coffee, coca cola.
Appetizers/spreads:    Butter, hummus, peanut butter, olives.
Fruit and veggies:     Blueberries, raspberries, pomegranates.
                avocado (2), sweet potatoes (2), eggplant, pumpkin.
Meat/main meals:    Bacon (2), stovetop chicken, cheese (2), shrimp.
Sweets/desserts:    Honey, ice cream.

Second papers: Dreaded, disgusting  foods, by category :

Vegetables:       Brussel sprouts, beets (3), carrots
Sallad stuff:      Avocados
Pizza toppings:      Mushrooms (3), olives, anchovies
Fruits:      Bananas (2), durian
Condiments:     Horse radish
Main courses:      Brie cheese, American cheese, liver, meat, beef, shrimp
Desserts:     White chocolate
Truly miscellaneous:     Rotten food.

And here is Noah, the boy who favors peanut butter, grape (or apricot) jelly, bologna, lettuce and mayonnaise all-in-one sandwiches, on bread or English, toasted or non, contemplating one of the first foods he was skeptical about.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dover Does Science

Dover visited my class in January, 2009, and he visited again this past January. Obviously he finds chemistry less to his liking than computer work!

We'll see how he likes class this term; the course is "Chemicals in Your Food: The Good, the Bad,and the Indifferent." As far as I can see, there is no food that Dover doesn't automatically classify as Five Star Lovely. That goes for food in his dish, stuff he finds along our morning walk that high school kids have dropped on their way to school, and his food choices run downhill from there, finally reaching items that I don't even want to contemplate.

The first written assignment in "Chemicals in Your Food" was on foods the students had a passion for, and the papers I am now reading are on the chemistry of foods they detest. Both sets of papers have been a extremely well done and lots of fun to read.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Art and Science of Snowflakes

We were promised a dusting of snow a few nights ago, and sure enough, an inch of light and crunchy snow fell in the night. Dover couldn't even wait for sunrise to get outside and make dog snow angels on the terrace. The previous snow cover had been around too long - it was old and worn, melted and refrozen, and had tufts of dead grass showing through the surface. Our yard was so troden upon by Dover's relentless pursuit of tennis balls that it was treacherous going for non-dogs. 

Decades ago, a graduating student gave me a copy of a book that contained 2543 pictures of snowflakes. They were all taken by a Vermont farmer, W. A. Bentley; the book of his photographs (see the bottom photo) was published in 1931, the year he died. I have used the book and photographs in classes and given it, in turn, to many other people. The photographs are unbelievably beautiful.

More recently. I have come across the web site of another photographer of snowflakes, Kenneth Libbrecht, a physicist at CalTech. He also has gorgeous books - picture upon picture of snowflakes (left). I particularly recommend his children's book - The Secret Life of a Snow Flake - which, like the Bentley book, has photographs that are drop-dead gorgeous.

All snowflakes are based on six-fold symmetry, I don't think anyone has ever seen an eight-sided snowflakes except on knitted winter hats. The local science store hangs a mixture of 6 sided snowflakes and 8 sided pseudosnowflakes from the store ceiling in the winter. Both Tom and I, separately, talked to the owner about their error, but our words fell on deaf ears. His defense was that if he couldn't have 8-sided snowflakes, he wouldn't be able to sell dragons.

There is an exquisite precision about the 2453 photographs in Bently's book. Page after page, snowflakes based on six fold symmetry demonstrated in 2453 different crystalline patterns.

As I write, the snowfall of a lifetime is pelting down on Washington DC - buckets of snow in the night, as one news source put it. Up here in New England - we have only the old snow, old ice, and the pittiful pieces of old brown grass peeking through holes in the thin, patchy and slick ice and snow cover. 

[These snowflake photos are used according to the guidelines posted on the websites linked above. Visit the sites, and buy the books! Dover gave his okay to use the picture of his snow angel and tennis ball arrangement.] 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Oh for a nose cozy!

A quick glance at the NOAA web site for our town this morning greets me with the cheery news that sometime this week the outdoor temperature will climb all the way up to freezing. Last week, when I was finishing one class, starting another, working as an assistant on a mediation visit through the diocese, and with Tom working at the train show at the Big E in Springfield, I was left as sole morning stroller for Dover in the close-to-zero weather and the well below zero wind chill. One morning I counted that I had on 19 pieces of clothing, and since my face was feeling the weather, I ruefully regretted not adding a 20th, an extra scarf.

Each Christmas vacation, decades ago, we trekked to Minnesota with our small children. Minnesota - where Tom grew up, where my daughter and her family now live and where the kids don't know what a snow day is - the local inhabitants would think zero was child's play in the overall economy of winter endurance. 

One memorable Christmas, maybe even the one when I broke my knee skating, one of my then teen-age sisters-in-law knit my father-in-law a nose cozy. I thought desirously of this piece of outer wear last week as Dover and I crunched along in the new snow bitter cold, feeling keenly the cold wind on my one remaining exposed body part.

GrandDog Random asks to come in from the cold.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dover Does the Paper

Dover has two jobs. His first is to bring the paper in every day, which involves leaping down the front steps, fetching the paper, killing it (left), and then, tearing back up onto the porch and into the house, delivering up his prey, (right) and, of course, sitting to receive his daily wage.

Dover learned this job from Jonah. I taught Jonah by getting d

own into dog position, picking up the paper in my teeth, and crawling towards the front steps. (All this was carried out in full view of the neighborhood.) Jonah looked on with pity and from that day onward he saved me the indignity of having to repeat this lesson.

Dover's other job is to visit people in nursing homes and other places where people are in eager need to touch his soft fur and gaze into his eyes (see July 11). He loves both jobs, and while sometimes I think this love stems from his knowledge of the treats that await him at jobs' conclusion, I basically know he loves the leap off the porch, the toss of the paper, the touch of the hands, and the soft exchange of a gaze with someone connected to the hands behind his ears. We too value participating in useful work and hanging out and shooting the breeze with our friends.

Dover of course has many other unofficial jobs: one is keeping his tennis balls in order.

Still Life with Tennis Balls.