Thursday, January 29, 2009


I slept till 12.30 today, even though I went to bed by 10.30 last night. Just not feeling up to par. Oh for goodness' sake, when's the last time I felt "up to par," whatever that means? I'm looking online for a pair of insulated coveralls; I just cannot stand this cold and snow. I see some dripping outside so perhaps it is slightly above 32 degrees. Yep, just checked, it's 34.

M & S came for dinner last night. M and I had "salmon franks," that I found in the natural food shop. Not too bad, actually. S had turkey franks, broccoli stems, and potatoes. She do love herself some potatoes!! M brought me two bunches of the most beautiful orange and yellow tulips. And I had needed flowers badly. After dinner, S colored some pages I had printed off the internet, and we watched funny cat videos on YouTube. We laughed and laughed.

I have to go out and buy a new valise for my trip next week. The zipper on my other one has broken from all the wear and tear. I saw some purple, red, and orange ones at TJMaxx last week for not too much money. Will go get one of those. No more black!

My guitar teacher has been very patient with me, and I'm feeling less stressed about practicing, although I'm still not doing it. I just finished reading "Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic," by Alison Bechdel, an autobiographical graphic novel. Excellent, surprisingly deep and provocative. I'm now reading "Breathing Water," by Thomas Gavin, the husband of a friend of mine. Too soon into it know if I like it or not.

Elizabeth Alexander, the poet who read at the Obama inauguration, is on the Jale campus this afternoon, but I can't get it together to go.

Watched "I'm Not There," the film based on the life of Bob Dylan. I thought it was confusingly fragmented, but watching Cate Blanchett as the young Dylan was worth the view.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


January 21, 2009
New York Times Review

Animals Make Us Human:
Creating the Best Life for Animals

By Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson
342 pages. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $26.

Temple Grandin’s “Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior” (2004) occupies a special place among the animal books of the last few decades. Ms. Grandin’s autism gives her a special understanding of what animals, whether house cats or cattle, think, feel and — perhaps most important — desire. There is a revelation on almost every page, and Ms. Grandin’s prose (she wrote with Catherine Johnson) is ungainly in the best possible way: blunt, sweet, off-kilter and often quite funny.

Ms. Grandin’s new book, “Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals,” also written with Ms. Johnson, picks up where “Animals in Translation” left off. It has a slightly different focus: she concentrates this time on the emotional rather than the physical life of animals, although the two are clearly related.

There is a good deal of rehashing of material from her previous book, and she leans more here on the ideas of others than she did before. But to remark that “Animals Make Us Human” is a slightly lesser book than “Animals in Translation” is like saying Randy Newman’s “Good Old Boys” is a slightly lesser album than “Sail Away.” If you liked the first one, you’re going to like the second.

Ms. Grandin bases many of her observations in “Animals Make Us Human” on the work of a Washington State University neuroscientist named Jaak Panksepp who identified a series of core “emotion systems” in animals: seeking, play, care and lust (on the positive side) and fear, panic and rage (on the negative).

“The rule is simple,” Ms. Grandin writes. “Don’t stimulate rage, fear and panic if you can help it, and do stimulate seeking and also play.” Ms. Grandin employs Dr. Panksepp’s terms throughout “Animals Make Us Human,” but they are really only a framework for her more interesting riffing and observations.

There are provocative chapters here on dogs (Ms. Grandin quibbles with some of the alpha-male ideas of Cesar Millan, television’s “Dog Whisperer”) and cats. Ms. Grandin is at her best, however, when she is talking about animals like cows, pigs, horses and chickens, as well as wild animals and those in zoos.

Ms. Grandin has designed humane and stress-free slaughter systems that are used now to process about half of all the cattle in the United States and Canada. There is some cognitive dissonance here. She is often asked, she tells us, “How can you care about animals when you design slaughter plants?”

Her reply is that “some people think death is the most terrible thing that can happen to an animal.” She argues that “the most important thing for an animal is the quality of its life.”

She adds: “The more I observe and learn about how dogs are kept today, I am more convinced that many cattle have better lives than some of the pampered pets. Too many dogs are alone all day with no human or dog companions.”

She worries about the “totally adversarial” relationship between animal advocacy groups and the livestock industry. She has kind words for companies like McDonald’s and Wendy’s (she has consulted for both), which are forcing their suppliers to treat animals more humanely. But she also praises activists. “The big companies are like steel, and activists are like heat. Activists soften the steel, and then I can bend it into pretty grillwork and make reforms.”

One of the major points in “Animals Make Us Human” is the importance of hiring and training good people to work with livestock. Strong, caring managers are needed; bullying and sadistic employees should be fired; and because turnover in these industries is high, constant training and retraining are necessary, as well as constant auditing from the outside.

Ms. Grandin is in favor of almost total openness — she’s among the writers who believe that slaughterhouses should have glass walls. “No animal should spend its last conscious moments in a state of terror,” she writes, and any visitor should be able to observe that they do not.

Ms. Grandin loves solid, declarative sentences: “Cattle hate being yelled at”; “Pigs are obsessed with straw”; “Cows like to learn new things.” So I’ll add one of my own: We’re lucky to have Temple Grandin.

But here’s something I thought about while reading “Animals Make Us Human”: while I would not want Ms. Grandin to discontinue her work with animals, even for a day, as a reader I’d be curious to watch her unusual mind play over other topics.

She has already written one very fine memoir, “Thinking in Pictures” (1995). I can envision a second, with a slightly different focus. Human beings can often be made to feel like cattle, especially in large cities. What would she have to say about subways, housing projects, stadiums, prisons, office cubicles, long-distance buses, shelters for the homeless, elevators or, I dunno, the security line at La Guardia? What are her thoughts about urban planning in general?

I’d spend $26 to find out.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bindi's birthday


Going to the other side
My accusers claimed
So used to my adoration
of the feline species

No, just expanding horizons
I replied
Take the risk
Move to the country
and get a mutt

Overwhelmed by my act
Little rescue cloaked inside
my jacket
Throws up in fear as
I buy the necessary accoutrements

My brother said
I don't want rude children
and so it was with us
Me getting up several times a night
those first few weeks
plopping her small body
outside in the cold
to pee

We crossed that barrier
Housebroken in record time
Me exhausted from parenting
Time now for school

Training for me
as well as the critter
Puppy kindergarten
So much fun
Bindi bonding with a
huge Great Dane

A working dog
My companion at the
Bringing smiles and joy
to so many others
What a special treat to be able
to give to the world

Runaways, surgeries, air travel
We've made it four years
with adventures and licks
and sweaters and laughs

Thanks, kid.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Uh, more what?

SNOW! Big large flakes falling slowly. I put the sweater on Bindi that her auntie C. made for her, and she went outside and peed and ran around in the powder, under after about 1 minute she got cold. I put on my boots and trudged out to the bird feeder, which was empty, and brought it in to fill it. I'll go thru a lot to fill the bird feeder if it is empty. I remember times being so depressed I could hardly move, but the one thing I could get myself to do was fill the feeder for the birds. It seemed very very important to do that for them. And me.

Still have my ornaments, baubles, foxes, dogs, angels, globes, wreaths, sequinned dinosaurs, crystals hanging on my hibiscus bush. And the lights. Have no desire to remove any of it, since it is so beautiful and brings me such joy to think of where each hanging treasure came from. Of course, this is the time of year that the aphids start to attack this hibiscus tree, so when they overwhelm the plant, then I'll take everything off and spray the heck out of those aphids.

Have to decide if I want to go back to yoga, and do it in a chair, just upper body stuff. Guess I'll go back and talk to the instructor, but I'm sure he won't mind. Am checking out a gym called Healthtrax, a franchise, that's supposed to be pretty nice and pretty close to where I live. They have swimming pools, which most gyms don't. I think it will be kind of expensive, but I've heard it's very clean, has an older clientele.

The guitar. I have no interest in practicing. It's hard. Even though I know the more I practice, the easier it will get. I am going to ask my teacher if he will let me take lessons, without the expectation of practicing. I *might* practice if the spirit moves me, but I don't want to feel the stress of having to do it. That makes me feel awful. Well, why do you want to continue lessons, you may well ask? Because I want the mental challenge of the lessons, and eventually hope to learn to play something besides "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." It feels like that same old thing where I would practice if someone else were around, but I can't seem to do it alone. It's become clearer and clearer to me that it would be better for me to be living with other people, but who can I stand, and how could I get a house big enough so I could be completely alone in silence if I needed to, even if the other person were in the house? I don't want to listen to them banging around, or talking on the phone, or snorking snot or anything like that.

What I've been calling "lack of discipline" all these years has been a combo of ADD, anxiety, depression. I talked to my shrink about it this week, and we're gonna try yet another drug to see if some of the ADD/anxiety symptoms can be lessened. I don't like taking all these drugs, but alas.

I guess this is a good day to go thru some more files and throw out, refile, archive. I can do a bit of that alone. Especially now that my house is a balmy 68 degrees.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cold, Cold Go Away

No heat this morning. Have just called the oil company, but I called them a couple of days ago to make sure I had enough oil. When I called just now, the guy wanted me to go to the cellar and check the level of the fuel, which I can't do because of all the snow covering the bulkhead outside and because of my knees getting down the stairs.

And me with an overnight guest, a 10 year old, who was extremely happy to watch cartoons last night since he doesn't get to watch them at home. The heat was working fine when I went to bed. I had turned it up, cause of the kid sleepover, and because MY HEATED MATTRESS PAD DOESN'T WORK ANY MORE! I could set the house temp to 55 degrees overnight, and turn it up in the morning, but until I get a new HEATED MATTRESS PAD. I need it to be warm at night.

11.15 Called the landlord, he came over, tried to reset the furnace, no go. Now I'm waiting for the oil company, but of course they are overwhelmed with calls. Supposed to go to the New Britain Museum at 2pm with C & D, but not if the oil company hasn't shown up yet.

Bindi's still under the covers, even with her cashmere sweater on. She was walking around shiverring this morning. I wish she were a big old Newfoundland dog about now, cause I could just curl up with a huge canine and watch bad tv till the furnace is fixed.

10.00 pm I waited eight hours before the furnace guy came. He went straight to the cellar from outside, banged around a while, went back and forth to his van, never came to the door to tell me what he was doing or would do, fixed it and left. It's now a balmy 70 degrees in here. Feels so luxurious after hovering under blankets with a space heater all day. Man, that can make you tense!

Didn't make it to the museum, but we did go out to dinner at a nice Italian place, and I went over to see C & D's condo that they just bought. It's very nice. They went me to move back to the shoreline. Everyone thinks I'm very far away where I am, but I did try to find a place on the shoreline and couldn't. Oh well.

Note to people with small dogs/cats they might want to take on an airplane trip: the fee each way for an in-cabin pet used to be $80. Now it's $150 each way, for a total of $300 round trip. So while my ticket for my next trip was only $189, the dog will cost me $300!!! And she has to stay in her carrier under the seat in front of me on the floor. Not even her own seat for that money!

Bought a new heated mattress pad at Kohl's. Too tired to put it on right now, but tomorrow will redo the bed and get the fire going again.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sad Morning

I woke up and drew back my bedroom curtains to find this upsetting sight. Guess I need some feedback on whether this is a freak accident, or whether I caused it by using fishing line to hang the bird feeder. It appears that a female cardinal got her neck wrapped up in the fishing line, and was strangled and is now hanging out there like an exquisite corpse waiting to be extracted. There was a snow storm last night, a couple of inches, could she perhaps have been making her way to the feeder early this morning and did not see the fishing line, flew into it, got caught, struggled, and got herself into a worse situation?

I used fishing line to hang the feeder because it seems to discourage the squirrels from getting the food. They chewed off the line once already, and this is the second time I have hung it. I guess when I go out to get the bird I'll see more closely what may have happened. I feel awful if it was my fault. It never occurred to me that the line could be a problem for the birds. We know what a problem it is for critters of the ocean; I guess critters of the sky hate it too.
11.30am. Went out and checked and removed the bird. I'm pretty sure she didn't see the clear fishing line, flew into it, and got her wing caught. Her neck seemed broken. She's so beautiful, even with her body so cruelly fractured.
The top two picture actually belong here, but I can't figure out how to move them down the page. Cut and paste doesn't work.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Secret of Happiness

Is often in the details. I can drive around in my lunky car, hating the cold, sharp chill, then spot a thing, spot a thing amidst everything else that just jumps out at me, and wants to be honored by having its pretty picture taken. One of the nice things about blogging is the ability to share such sights with others.
Happy Birthday, E.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Coming of Age Day

Tomorrow. In Japan. National Holiday.

Coming of Age (seijin no hi)

The Coming of Age festival is celebrated on the second Monday of January (it used to be celebrated always on January 15 until the year 1999). Its Japanese name is Seijin no hi. All young people who turn twenty years old in that year are celebrated on Seijin no hi. Twenty is the age considered as the beginning of adulthood. It is also the minimum legal age for voting, drinking, and smoking.
Celebrations are held nationwide in every town with most of the people turning 20 participating in formal dresses. Seijin no hi is a national holiday.

More on the topic:


It's also niece E's birthday. Happy Birthday, NEESE EEEEEEEEEE!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

More Snow

What a shock. More snow. In the midwest too, as exhibited in this photo of niece with good knees having winter fun.

Bindi bolted out the door yesterday morning and I spent an hour before a neighbor was able to help me get her. I even called in the animal control guy from the end of the street. She absolutely has cabin fever and was out on the prowl in yesterday's two seconds of sun. It was exhausting, esp. since I can't move fast in order to run her down, and because I'm a dufus for not training her better to come when called. She's what we in polite society call "a dickens." I would just let her wander but there is a road here, not terribly busy, but she is small, and the cars are big and might not see her.

A friend today called me "doll," and a neighbor called me "dear." I like thost niceties.

The ice storm from other other day broke my windshield wiper so I had to spend yesterday afternoon at the Subaru place having it fixed. They were very nice there, and it didn't take all that long. You can't drive a car without a workable windshield wiper in this weather.

It's all crusty and cold and sharp and wholely uninviting in the outside world. I started going thru my old files today and managed to fill two large grocery bags with paper, etc. to recycle. That's not even 1/500 of what I need to go thru, but it's a start and I feel proud of that.

Made homemade chocolate chip cookies yesterday. I miss the days when we would make them with shortening. Butter isn't the same. I want my trans fats!

The above is a Chihuahua Yardbird, made by a company in Kentucky that recycles parts and makes these crazy critters. Junkyard dogs and cats. This was a present for my birthday/retirement from K & L.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


My good lookin' dog.

Still life with pineapple.

Sun and road and snow.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


My 13 year old niece with her baby sister. Such pretty girls.
Sleepy day today. Took a long nap. Still not wanting to go out in the cold, but supposed to be close to 40 tomorrow. Got an email from another friend from 30 years ago. Upcoming busy week after the relative calm of the "holidays."
Remember that movie with Tom Cruise called "Minority Report," where the cops could tell you were going to commit a crime before you did it? Well, there was a report on 60 Minutes about huge advances in brain scans that can reveal all sorts of intentionality in people. It's too freaky, man.

Saturday, January 03, 2009


One of my favorite photos from the birthday retirement party. The ceiling was covered with helium filled balloons, a tradition in the M & S family for birthdays and celebrations. One of the kids there, about 10 years old, began tying balloons onto Bindi's harness, I guess to see how many it would take to levitate her. Well, S. got very put out, since she had spent so much time positioning the balloons, and went to sulk under the dining room table and would not come out. So I told the other ten year old, you have to take the balloons off Bindi. No one was happy in that little drama, but I got a great picture out of it.

Friday, January 02, 2009

It's Really a Dunkin' Donuts

Channel 433 on cable tv has programming called "Soundscapes," which is contemporary easy to listen to music. Trying to figure out a new term besides "New Age." I also like Light Classical, and of course the 70s channel. Only figured out Comcast offered this about six months ago. K. coming over to eat leftover food from when Max was here. Dog play and some organic wine drinking. Dahl with brown rice, already roasted chicken, pineapple chutney homemade. Already some of the house plants are covered in bugs and I sprayed them all before I brought them in from outside. What a pain. The lemon verbena barely made it through last winter and it's having the same trouble this year. Covered with aphids even tho I've done the horticultural spray and pepper spray treatments. Think I have to throw it in the shower and give it a good rinsing. It's still cold, in the 30s and I have no desire to go outside. Bindi neither, tho she would walk if I went with her. We'll never know till the temp goes up about 8 degrees. Want to see that new niece of mine, want to go to Florida's warm water before my knee surgery. Do not want to go through this knee surgery thing, but have to get it out of the way. I'm gonna be really pissed off in ten years when they have completely non invansive ways of dealing with this problem and the recovery is minimal. Uck.

Photo of a very discreet McDonalds not too far from here. Every franchise should be so subtle.