Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Panda Whisperer

I was attempting to clean out the ginourmous inbox folder of my email program last night and I ran into the photo and story below. It is now February and the wee Pandas will be starting Panda Kindergarten. I wonder what school you have to go to be a Panda Kindergarten teacher. How cool would it be to be the equivalent of the Dog Whisperer in China but rather, "The Panda Whisperer." I could do that. Yep, you-betchya.

Doesn't this photo just make you all snuggly and warm all over? I suddenly have the urge to make baby talk.

"The Sichuan Wolong Panda Protection and Breed Center is dealing with the results of a breeding boom -- 16 pandas have been born since July, 2006. The brood includes five sets of twins. The heaviest tips the scale at just over 24 pounds, while the lightest weighs about 11 pounds. The pandas are due to stop suckling by February, 2007 just about the time they'll start learning to walk. Once weaned, the panda cubs will attend panda kindergarten. In the meantime, more little ones are expected at the center since 38 giant pandas were artificially impregnated."

Monday, February 26, 2007

Cabin Fever

This time of year I just want to hitchhike to Florida and live in a tent on a beach somewhere. I want to feel sunshine warm my bones and fall asleep in a hammock listening to waves licking the beach. My sister just got back from a wonderful trip to Mexico. I'm sure she's all tan and refreshed. I need that.

I'd love to be a "snow-bird" when we retire. Have a little place on a lake in Minnesota in the summer then point the motor home South in November and leave the frozen tundra behind for the young & hearty. Then we'd come back North in late April. It's a nice little day dream and right now feels about a trillion-zillion miles away.

UPDATE: It must be the official "bad mood day" today. I finished posting the above and then started going through my linkyloos to find some positive inspiration to help lift me out of this snowy rut. But no! It seems EVERYONE is having a bad day. Even the most positive blogger I know, Mary M Bauer, is having a bad day. I think I'm just going to go hide in the corner until spring. Wait, Ms. Sizzle saves the day with some fun angst about the Oscars.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Stormy Weekend

Weatherman is saying we're going to get a good dumping of snow this weekend. Today has felt a lot like the poem below - cold, gray and windy in preparation for the storm to come. Photo by me - it's our barn in February 2005.

by Emily Dickinson

The sky is low, the clouds are mean,
A traveling flake of snow
Across a barn or through a rut
Debates if it will go.

A narrow wind complains all day
How someone treated him;
Nature, like us, is sometimes caught
Without her diadem.

From the balloon...

Hubby and our ducky friend went flying on Sunday. Hubby took some friends in the balloon with him and these are a couple of shots they took from the basket. A bit of "February in Wisconsin" scenery.

This bottom part of this photo is our home.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Electronic Library

I don't seem to have the patience anymore to sit and read books. Rather I enjoy most of my literature via audiobooks. I either listen to the iPod or clip on a fanny pack with a cassette tape player or CD player and listen away while I clean, walk, work in the garden or driving in the car.

There are now online electronic libraries available on every eStreet corner. As books age past their copyrights (I believe it's 80 years) they become public domain and are appearing on online "eLibraries" as free eBooks and free audio books.

Project Gutenberg claims to be the first producer of free electronic books (ebooks) and boasts of having over
20,000 titles in their eLibrary. They also have audiobooks available for download. The proofreading of the written text and reading of the spoken text are all done by volunteers. The quality of the volunteer readers of audiobooks has a lot to be desired but hey, it's free!

DailyLit is another site of free eBooks with a twist. Instead of downloading the entire book, you can sign up and schedule the frequency of chapters emailed directly to you. They may be a bit more or less than a chapter but they are broken into pieces that will take you approximately 5 minutes to read. They also have a forum where you can chat with other readers about books. I've signed up for a book on the poetic writings of Emily Dickinson and what a great way to start my day by reading my daily poem from Ms. Dickinson.

There are also a plethora of sites that provide free eBooks for download which include both classic "free domain" titles and authors who wish to be exposed to the public via eBook. I'm not sure what the reasoning is for publishing via eBook rather than print other than it may be a way for the "rejected by publisher" author to get public exposure. All you have to do is go to your favorite search engine and type in "free ebooks" and start "eReading"! Or in my case, "eListening".

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

$100+ for Two Skeins of Yarn?

$100 for two skeins of yarn! Not's the story. I've been crocheting and knitting hats quite a bit this winter. I made a pile of them for Christmas, made several for myself and recently made one each for my neighbor and her daughter.

The 18 year old daughters hat is a fun chunky multi-colored yarn with earflaps and a tassle on top. It has now been christened "the farting hat" because when my neighbor brought it home to her, she was so excited she farted. She'd die of embarrassment if anyone else knew about this because you know 18 year old girls never fart. Neighborinos hat is a brown and black Homespun with black fun fur worked in the bottom 3 inches.
Neighborinos mother-in-law now wants one in red with black fur so we decided to make an evening of dinner and a trip to the craft store for two skeins of yarn. Remember that...two skeins of yarn.

We first stopped for dinner at a favorite restaurant and had a nice meal, were impressed with the magic disappearing waiter and drank what I figure to be 1 quart of iced tea each. After dinner we drove down the road to the craft store for my two skeins of yarn.

This shopping center is large, full of strange twisty roads and roundabouts and generally confusing enough that you have to drive by almost every store in the place to get anywhere. Actually, it's pretty smart thinking by the developer/architect as their strategy worked on us. We both saw "World Market" at the same time and
neighborinos car automatically pointed it's nose towards the parking lot in front. It's a favorite of ours. After much ooohing and aaahing and "hey, that's on clearance!" I walked out with a purse, a scarf, a "crocheted in China" frog, a box of tea and a table runner. Note there was no yarn in that bag.

We hopped in the car and drove down to the craft store. Now, all we need is two skeins of yarn but I grab a cart. We ooohed and aaahed over the garden & yard trinkets that replaced the clearance Christmas items. A sure sign of spring. We found our way to the yarn department and spotted our two items, red yarn and black fun fur, they dropped into the cart. I turned around and there was the yarn I needed another skein to finish a cap I was working on - in the cart. Here's another skein I needed one more of for a different cap - in the cart. I can't go to this store without stopping by the remnant fabric bins so two remnants of cute prints and two remnant rolls of fleece - in the cart. We checked out and started heading out of the center.

Neighborino sees JC Penney - "oooh, let's stop there!" I was game. I think fate was on our side there because just as we got out of the car, a woman parked in front of us said the store was closed as they were taking inventory. Whew! They don't sell yarn there either!

So we got on the freeway and headed back home. Once we got over the border
neighborino said "We should stop at Maurice's so I can look at this pair of jeans daughter wants me to buy for her." Again, I think fate was on our side as we walked up and the store had closed 5 minutes before.

We get into the car and
neighborino says "Ooops! Almost forgot. Need to go to Fleet Farm to get bait for ice fishing." So off we go. I wanted to stop there too since I looking for a kennel for Rico and they were on sale this week. We walked in the door - fish bait to the left, dog kennel to the right. Good price on the kennel so that found it's way in the vehicle for the ride home. We also stopped at a new grocery store to check it out but it had also closed. THEN we headed home.

And that's how two skeins of yarn ended up costing over $100. It was a fun evening though! Thanks neighborino!

(I can see hubby rolling his eyes and shaking his head when he reads this!) ;)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Heal thyself?

Whenever I see cool things about the future, that silly song from the TV show Late Night With Conan O'Brien pops into my head..."in the year 2000." They started it before the year 2000 but never changed the song once we passed 2000.


I found this really cool AP article, Science Finding Ways to Regrow Fingers. There are claims that a powder created from pigs bladder has helped people grow back fingertips which apparently isn't uncommon for children under two years of age but is more rare in adults. They're not talking about regrowing complete fingers right now but even a part of a finger would be a godsend for someone who has lost all of their fingers in a fire or accident. A part of a finger or a stub would at least give them some pinching/grasping capabilities.
This summer scientists are going to perform a study to see if the powdered pig extract can help injured soldiers regrow parts of their fingers.

The article also touches on studies taking place on animals that have the ability to heal themselves. For example the salamander can regrow an arm after it's been severed. Apparently rather than growing scars, they instead grow a group of cells called a bl
astema from which the new arm grows.

As with anything, th
ese are just the babysteps for the future. I can imagine in the future we'll be able to regrow more than just small stumps but rather fully formed functioning limbs, or new skin where scars would be, or internal organs, or teeth...


"in the year 2000!"

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Vashti Bunyan - Diamond Day

I love this song by Vashti Bunyan. Even though she's been a folk music icon in the UK since the late 60's, I just discovered her music last week. This video is a wonderful visual accompaniment to the song, "Diamond Day."

Friday, February 16, 2007

Critter Shots

Who needs a shredder when Rico's around?

Crash & Burn in their twiggy playground.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Winter, Winter Go Away...

I needed a touch of summer today and I adore Emily Dickinson so...

by Emily Dickinson

The grass so little has to do, --

A sphere of simple green,

With only butterflies to brood,

And bees to entertain,

And stir all day to pretty tunes
The breezes fetch along,
And hold the sunshine in its lap
And bow to everything;

And thread the dews all night, like pearls,
And make itself so fine, --

A duchess were too common
For such a noticing.

And even when it dies, to pass

In odors so divine,

As lowly spices gone to sleep,

Or amulets of pine.

And then to dwell in sovereign barns,

And dream the days away, --

The grass so little has to do,

I wish I were the hay!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

I don't want THESE hearts - I'll throw them away,
If I may have YOURS, this Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Valentine's Box

When I was in elementary school, the Valentine's Day party was a much anticipated day. Part of the celebration was to create a box to hold all your Valentine cards. These were usually decorated shoe boxes. We would set the boxes on our desks during the party and go around and deposit our cute little Valentines cards. The teacher would judge the Valentine boxes and award a little prize to the best one.

One year Mom had a great idea. I think I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. She took a clothes hanger and shaped it into a heart shape leaving the hanger part intact. Then out came some red cloth and lace. She cut out and sewed a wonderful lace edged heart shape with a pocket in front which fit perfectly around the clothes hanger. I was so excited because finally I was going to win the contest. Mary N., the school superintendent's daughter, always won the prize. Kids aren't dumb, we figured there was some brown-nosing going on. But that didn't matter this year because mine was so unique and pretty that I was going to win!!

I hung it on the front of my flip top desk with pride when the party started.
I don't remember all the details but I remember the excitement when it came to announce the best Valentines box winner. "And the winner is...Mary N.!!!" I'm sure I probably cried a little. I don't remember what Mary N. had for a box and I bet she doesn't remember any of them. I'll always remember my heart shaped, lace edged Valentine hanger.

Monday, February 12, 2007

100 Cardboard Horses - Ann Wood

I thought I 'd share this recent work by Ann Wood. I just discovered her blog and wonderful artwork.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Covert Invitation

Everyone knows one. The neighbor, co-worker, relative who is always trying to get you to join in with their money-making schemes. Mine happens to be a neighbor and a former co-worker. She started out with Tupperware. The invitations to her house were never just for coffee or a chat or a fun night with the girls- which I would have thoroughly enjoyed - but she usually had an alterior motive which involved her selling Tupperware to me or trying to get me to have a party. I am home party free and plan to stay that way.

I haven't heard much from her lately so when I got her call the other night, it was a pleasant surprise. I knew it wasn't Tupperware related as I had heard she stopped selling it. She wanted to get together with a few others at a local bar that night. She called it a "napkin exchange." What the heck is a napkin exchange? Apparently you bring a napkin from your house to this get together - for what reason I have no idea. I was suspicious. I told her I'd see how I felt later and give her a call. It was after all ten degrees below zero and there better be fun people, a "hot toddy" and no money making schemes involved if I'm going to wander out in this weather. She called back later and decided to IM chat with a group of people instead. We set up a 7:30pm chat time.

At 7:30 I go to the computer and she and I are the only ones there. As soon as I type in "Hi!" this paragraph pops up with very scripted text "I'm so glad you could all make it tonight..." Huh? It's just you and I honey. Then it went on asking if "I was interested in learning how to own my life..." then started describing a pyramid type scheme. I put the kabosh on it right away, told her I had better things to do tonight and please do not present me with covert invitations like this in the future. I wonder if she'll ever call again. Argh!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Latte Talk

I was in my new favorite coffee shop yesterday when the owner walks in and says "One down, a couple hundred more to go." I asked what he meant and he told me Anna Nicole Smith had died. I realize now I didn't even ask how, I'm assuming it was drugs. I had to ask him about the other couple hundred and he start listing them off..."Paris, Nicole Ritchie, those twins, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears..." He said he was just hoping they would all disappear so we didn't have to hear about them anymore. I said "It's just like pulling your finger out of a glass of water, the hole will be filled in by some other carbon based organism with too much money wearing a size negative 3."

I know it sounds cold but the bombardment of this "celeb reporting" via TV, magazines in the grocery checkout lane, Internet and radio is driving me crazy. Everywhere you turn there's this useless information coming at you. Unfortunately someone has decided the public eats this junk up like McDonald's french fries and maybe we do. Makes me wish the media and our appetite for information focused it's energy as aggressively on real life heroes and ways to make this big blue ball a better place for everyone instead of poking our noses into the lives of dysfunctional celebrities.