Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Puke Day Luke

The whole family has been lounging, really seriously lounging since boxing day. The boys have dedicated themselves to their new video games with an occasional break to carry on a good-natured spat. Steve has been plinking around with some programming of his own, and I've gotten back to my knitting for the first time since I hurt my shoulder playing hockey. The dogs don't know what to do with all of this family time and sometimes get booted out for a little fresh air due to an excess of enthusiasm for tearing around the house during quiet hour.

On Saturday they spent some time out of doors while I was busy with a project. When Luke came in, he had a strangely swollen look about his midsection. Thinking I was imagining things, I asked Steve if the pup looked bloated to him too. Steve has a tendency to dismiss my concerns about the health of the children and animals, knowing that I am often too quick to worry. This time however, he was in total agreement. Luke seemed otherwise cheerful, if not a bit slow-moving, so I figured that watchful waiting was the best option. The next time the dogs went out, they made a bee-line around the garage and out of sight. Hurrying after them, the source of the bloat was revealed. The little bastards had knocked over a trash bag set on top of the can which had become too full to hold it. Inside was a chicken carcass and five or six large fat-soaked pieces of potato that had cooked with it. I say "was" because by the time we discovered what they had done, these items had disappeared without a trace.

Realizing what had occurred, Steve felt the midsection of the much-furrier Bo to see if his belly was as distended as Luke's. It was. Both dogs spent the rest of the afternoon in a rather subdued state. They tried, halfheartedly, to play together, but the first bump from Bo sent Luke sprawling on his side with a piglike grunt, so they gave up in favor of a nap. Asleep at Steve's feet after dinner, Luke leapt up and bolted to the door, vomiting up a copious amount of chicken carcass just short of the exit. The next day he was purging chicken at the other end. Bo, being of somewhat sterner constitution or perhaps having eaten less chicken, seemed to have escaped with few foul effects. It wasn't until the following evening that he returned to the house with a good-sized bun of feces clinging to the area under his tail that the ghost of chicken past came to haunt us. Bo, Steve, and a pair of scissors spent a little quality time together on the back porch to remedy that situation.

Later that night I realized that Luke's first birthday, on December 27th, had passed unnoticed and uncelebrated. We felt a little badly until we realized that he and Bo had celebrated it in dog-fashion by partying 'till they popped at the trash can. Happy birthday Luke! May you make it to your second birthday without a repeat of that particular incident.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Little Acorn Doesn't Fall Far...

This morning after I finished breakfast I burped. Loudly.  I didn't mean to, really.  It just popped out.  Weston laughed and commented that my burp was even louder than Garrett's.  A bit shamefacedly I admitted that Garrett comes by his belching talents honestly.  "The sad thing is" Weston replied, "he doesn't get them from Dad."   Sigh.  I've been reprimanded by my own child.

Monday, December 22, 2008

All I Want For Christmas Is a Basilisk

I know what I want for Christmas. I saw it this weekend in San Francisco at the California Academy of Science. For a biologist, this place is like the world's biggest candy shop. Each section of the museum presents another area where I have vowed to spend at least two hours browsing once the huge volume of traffic has died down. In the wake of the renovation and reopening of the museum, weekend crowds have been huge. On our first visit we browsed through the aquarium on the bottom floor with crowds that would have made the British Museum at midsummer proud. The lines for the rain forest exhibit stretched at least 50 people back from its entrance and passes had already been claimed for all of the showings in the planetarium.

Steve had a game plan in place for this visit. We dragged ourselves from our beds at the hotel at 7:00, showered, consumed our breakfasts and by about 8:40, were waiting for the doors to open at the museum. At 9:00 we headed straight for the line to get passes for the first planetarium showing, then to the rain forest exhibit where a long line was already forming. Inside the rainforest exhibit were butterflies, birds, and terrariums with all manner of exotic fish and reptiles. And that's where I saw the emerald basilisk lizard.

A mere photo does not quite do this creature justice. Also known (somewhat irreverently) as the Jesus Christ lizard, the emerald basilisk is named for its ability to run on water.

Even a video doesn't fully capture the ruffled scales behind its ears that make the basilisk look like an utterly captivating combination between those exotic birds at the zoo that are forever cocking their head at you through the bars of their enclosure and a tiny green dog with perky ears. I don't actually want to take one of these beauties from, its natural habitat to live out its days in a terrarium, but I would love to get the chance to see one in the wild. Instead, I'll take one of these (a spider tortoise).

Thanks to Steve for the great photographs.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Bookmarks Miss Me

What do the bookmarks on your web browser say about your life? When I was working more my most frequently visited bookmark file was the one that had links to all of the information for biological reports. There was the Cal Photos with all of its pictures and scientific names for the species that I needed to reference. I also spent a lot of time looking at soils reports at USDA and sleuthing out which rivers and streams were protected for salmon at NOAA. As worked dropped of, I've spent much less time at those bookmarks.

The plus side of that was that I had much more time to spend in the Bloggers file in my bookmark toolbar. Those used to be a guilty pleasure while waiting for a call back or a map to finish loading to print. As I spent more time at the blogger bookmarks I got inspired, and I realized I had time to start updating my own blog more. Looking for interesting things to write about, spawned a new file in my bookmark toolbar: sites pertaining to politics. Huffington Post became a favorite hangout, along with the Daily Show, CNN.com, The Washington Post, and a number of sites that kept me up to date on the latest polls. I haven't visited those as frequently now that the election is over.

Now my most important category of bookmarks has become my Job Search file. Craigslist is the first one I hit each Monday morning, followed by Simply Hired, and the City of San Jose and County of Santa Clara job boards. I miss spending time in the bookmarks section filed under Biological Reports Information. I miss being a biologist, writing about biology, and getting out and rambling around out of doors as part of my job. I really hope that all of the time I've spent in the Job Search file will bear fruit soon, and allow me to get back to my biology links.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Garrettisms Part I've Lost Track

Walking in to school this morning, a little girl got out of her mother's car and called "Bye mom, I love you. Have a great day." I turned to Garrett and asked why I never got such nice I-love-yous from him. "Mom" he said, "I'm a boy and we don't feel the need to talk about our feelings all the time. I'm not like one of those weird girls who has to sing 'I love bananas and bananas love me'." Makes perfect sense....... right?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Puppy Bloodletting

Poor Luke finally received the long overdue bloodied nose treatment from Kacey, the cat. Bo and Kacey were quite young when we got both of them, and the very first time Bo tried to give Kacey the Tigger treatment that is the typical show of affection bestowed by the Jack Russell terrier, he was rewarded with three bloody scratches down his nose. He has treated her with great respect and care ever since. For some reason Kacey has refused to apply her claws similarly to Luke, and instead has responded in the worst possible way to his curiosity, by running away. Last night was different though.

Full of pep and vinegar, Kacey jumped up on the chair where I was sitting and occupied the Most Favored Pet position usually guarded with great jealousy by Luke. She pulled this off while Luke was busy gobbling his dinner. Kacey had a look about her that any cat owner knows, is the hallmark of a cat spoiling for a little fun. Ambling back into the great room with his belly full, Luke chose to challenge Bo's position on the sofa beside Steve rather that mess with the hissing fur ball on my chair. Responding with a low rumble and a show of teeth, Bo easily rebuffed the pup, so feeling confident he put his front paws up to examine the cat, repeatedly jerking his nose back as she batted at him. Never having encountered her claws, he has little fear of her. That all changed when, tired of his pestering, she sunk a claw into the tender flesh over his left eye, releasing it a moment later with a distinctive "snick" sound. Luke's big brown eyes widened in surprise and he quickly retreated to higher ground on the sofa.

This morning he was still giving the cat a wide berth. Each time he had to pass her, he looked at her warily from the corners of his eyes and scuttled by as quickly as he could. After I dropped the kids off, I was relaxing momentarily in my favorite chair while the dogs, who had just come in, sniffed around the room to make sure nothing was amiss. Suddenly a wide-eyed Luke came tearing across the room, ears peeled back, the whites of his eyes showing, and flew into my lap as though the very devil was attached to his stubby tail. Setting my frightened pup down, I got up to see what had put such a scare into him. While investigating the back of the room, he had come across a large plastic Target bag folded loosely around a deep cardboard box. Overcome by curiosity, and the sense that something interesting was inside that box Luke took a closer look, a deep sniff, then BAM!, a hissing cat exploded out of the recesses of the box, sharp claws waving. By the time I put the pieces of the puzzle together, that box contained a cat with a very satisfied look on her face.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Prop 8 Meets The Daily Show

I may have mentioned before how much I enjoy Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. I may have also alluded to my opposition to Proposition 8, and my total disgust that it passed. Well, now I am happy to present to you, Jon Stewart chatting with guest Governor Mike Huckabee about Proposition 8.

How great is Jon Stewart? If you wish to take a moment to say a fond thank you to him, you may do so here.

People Are Strange When You Are Pregnant

People said strange things to me when I was pregnant. Most of it I was able to take in stride, but some of it really threw me for a loop. Early on in my pregnancy I took a trip down to San Diego to visit family. Figuring I needed the practice, I chose to sit at the front of the plane where all of the parents with small children congregate. Surrounded by small wriggly beings I took careful note of how these parents were handling the task they had undertaken. Most seemed to be enjoying parenthood, but the woman next to me seemed to be having difficulty. Her small son,who having just learned to walk refused to sit quietly in her lap, preferring instead to arch his back so he shot out of her grasp and to the ground where he could kick his heels with impunity. Blowing her bangs off of her sweaty forehead she turned to me, eyebrow raised quizzically and asked, why in the love of God I had chosen to sit with all these children if I didn't have to. When I told her I was pregnant she waited a beat, then snapped, "Well stop now, before it's too late!" My poor mother had to spend the entire ride home from the airport, talking me down.

By the time I attended a baby shower for a friend who was about to deliver her first born my condition was much more obvious. While we watched the mother-to-be open her gifts a women, about five or six years my senior took the seat next to me and asked when my baby was due. After a few minutes of polite conversation she indicated her red-headed son playing a few feet away and said, "Don't be worried if your baby is ugly." I must have gaped at her in surprise because she hurriedly went on, "My son was hideous when he was born, and on some level I was aware of it, but as ugly as he was, I thought he was the most beautiful thing ever. All I'm saying is don't worry if your baby isn't cute." It was great to be able to anticipate, after that conversation, the arrival of my little Quasimodo.

Then there was the helpful labor and delivery nurse, who assured us that once our baby arrived, we would become callous to anything we previously held dear. Remember how they tell you to bring a focus object with you to the labor and delivery room? Something meaningful that you can direct your energy into when you begin to tire of laboring. I brought a picture of our pet chinchilla Chillie with me. I know, I'm a dork. Taking a peek at the photo, our L&D nurse announced, "After this baby is born, you won't care about your pet anymore. It'll just be one more thing around the house that you have to take care of." The worst thing about it was that she was right.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Living Nativity???

We've lived in our San Jose home since 1997, and each Christmas since we moved here, I've driven past a sign on Hillsdale Avenue that reads "Drive Through Living Nativity". Every time I drove by that sign I imagined a bunch of strange, intensely religious individuals, having recruited somebody's newborn baby as a prop, huddled in robes around a makeshift manger in their front yard. Perhaps a Doberman sporting cow horns and a pug dog in sheep's clothing might accompany their vigil. With that intriguing vision in mind, I cannot explain to you why it has taken until last Thursday night for me to actually visit the living nativity.

Determined to finally get a glimpse of this oddity, I tried to persuade Steve and the kids to join me. Since Steve had plans to go out for a bite to eat with coworkers and the boys were involved in a heated game of living room hockey, I set out alone. Undaunted, I followed the signs pointing to the nativity. Upon seeing a bearded man directing traffic into a church parking lot, the truth was revealed. This annual event was not a strange front-yard phenomenon, instead it was an event put on by a church. The Foxworthy Baptist Church to be exact, and this is actually a 15-year tradition. I turned into the church parking lot where I was handed a CD that narrated the seven scenes depicting the birth, crucifixion and resurrection of the savior. As promised, each scene was populated by living people and animals. These included a donkey*, a sheep, three wise men, and a freshly arisen Christ in flowing white robes played by an awkward teenage boy who was clearly suffering under the scrutiny of the passing cars.

After the final scene had been narrated, and Jesus politely waved me on I turned in my CD and in exchange was handed an candy cane. Attached was a fascinating little note explaining the origin of this traditional Christmas goody. Apparently a candy maker fashioned it into a shape which when held upright resembles a shepherd's staff, or when turned upside down, makes the letter J for Jesus. The stripes on the candy cane represent the prophet Isaiah's words, "by his stripes we are healed" which refer to the wounds Jesus received on the cross. Even the white stripes on the candy cane have meaning, symbolizing purity. The living nativity is free (although I elected to give a small donation for their efforts) and takes about 15 minutes to drive through. While it lacked the campy feeling of my original vision, it was still a nice presentation and, particularly if you celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, worth the trip.

*I was instructed to turn my headlights off as they "scare the donkey".

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Sexiest Scent a Man Can Wear

I shall spin you another Tom story. For those of you who have not encountered Tom in this blog before, he is my formerly single friend, who once lived a life of the most shameless bachelorhood a man could hope to live. He lived in Palo Alto, not far from the Staford University campus where his roommate was a student. Via said roommate, Tom gained many an opportunity to work his charms on nubile young Stanford scholars.

Scene 1 (A fine Saturday morning): In a manner not typical of bachelors, Tom has just passed several hours cleaning his apartment. Once finished he relaxes, beer in hand, surveying his handiwork with a satisified smile. Soon his roommate strolls in, and after some boyish banter invites Tom like to join him at a party. Anxious to take his many talents and charms out for a spin, Tom immediately departs, neglecting to shower.

Scene 2 (The party) We pan in slowly on Tom chatting with an attractive young lady: She leans into him, drawing her breath deeply through her nose. Alarmed, Tom backs away, worried that neglecting his ablutions may have left him with an excessively manly odor. Once again she sniffs, and despite himself, Tom shoots her a quizzical glance. Seeing his confusion, she asks, "Is that Pinesol I smell? Because there's nothing that smells sexier on a man than Pinesol"

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Co-conspirator and Now Guest Blogger!

A couple months back I asked my very dear friend Joanna if she'd be interested in occasionally contributing a post to I For One..... I was delighted when she accepted. We share a very similar and warped sense of humor, and since we met, almost eight years ago together, we have succumbed to too many giggling fits to count. Some day I will ask her to share the etymology of the term "fire chops", or perhaps recount how the "Lance Armstrong Rap" came into existence. But for now, Joanna has other things on her mind:

Robin has asked me to be a guest blogger, at my leisure. Now, this was some time ago and I have to admit to being a little intimidated by her amazing blogs during the election season. We spent a lot of time talking politics, but I didn’t have the time or inclination to back-up any personal proclamations by doing the research that Robin was capable of doing. But, with her recent PMS entry, I knew I had an in! Now that is something I can relate to. And with that said – my first blog entry at “I For One.....”

I recently went off The Pill. If you’ve seen any of the new birth control commercials, and listen to all the subtle warnings they speed-talk into the end, or if you’ve even talked about birth control with your doctor, you know there are all those warnings about “women over 35”, blah, blah, blah. At 36, I thought this would be a good time to go “eau natural” and roll the dice. But, obviously there is a lot I don’t remember or even know about not being on The Pill.

I had been “on The Pill” for 18 years. I have been hormonally regulated for most of my fertile years (better living through chemistry!) The Pill has been very good to me over the years – less painful cramping, shorter periods; all the good things that come with being on The Pill. And, with the exception of a case of acne that was quickly cleared with a change in prescription, my skin has also benefited – normal to dry with the occasional pimple. Little did I know my complexion would pay the price......

Holy Cow! My forehead has become a small oil slick. I’m not sure what is producing this lovely mess, but we might be able to tap into my forehead for the Federal Oil Reserve. I’m honestly at a loss. Somewhat oily skin runs in my family (thanks Mom!) but can’t say I know what to do about it. This is completely un-natural for me. By early afternoon, I dab my forehead with a tissue and off comes any foundation I put on in the morning and that sheen that’s been festering under my bangs. I’m kinda grossed out by my own skin. So far, it’s only on my forehead – Thank goodness! I hope it doesn’t migrate south to the rest of my face. Can anyone suggest a course of action that doesn’t require burning my face off with acid?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Do You Complain?

Are you a complainer? We tend to think of complainers in negative terms, as people who are constantly focused on the negative and who feel the need to make a stink about it so everyone can join them for a swim in their giant pool of crappiness. People that complain too often are generally ignored, in much the same fashion as the fabled wolf-crying boy. Too often have no worthwhile solution to offer that could mitigate their grievance. I'm starting to realize though, that a little judicious crabbing can actually be a good thing.

Case in point. Last week I went for my six month dental cleaning during which I had to sit through 45 minutes of aggressive stabbing an poking at my gums. At one point the hygienist proudly showed me a piece of gauze that she had applied to my lower gums whilst conducting this torture, noting that they were "bleeding a lot". This was a massive understatement as I could literally feel the blood gathering at my gum line after she pulled the gory fabric away. I understand that a little bleeding is sometimes a necessary part of having your teeth cleaned, particularly if you are someone who doesn't floss frequently, but I floss daily and my last cleaning was nothing like this. I asked her why so much blood and she explained in a sincere voice that they were "releasing toxins". OK, if by "toxins" you mean "massive quantities of blood". Fast forward to today, when I went back to the dentist to have a small repair made to a tooth. Noting that the offending hygienist wasn't working, I decided to speak up about my bad experience. Turns out my dentist was very appreciative. Apparently this woman was hired as a temp to cover for the regular hygienists vacation, and after my feedback, will most likely not be coming back.

Second case in point. People that won't park their car, walk a few hundred feet, and wait for their child outside their classroom really irk me. Even when Garrett was a tiny baby, I could be found, rain or shine standing outside Weston's classroom. For the last two to three weeks as walked into Garrett's school to pick him up, I have passed a woman parked on the corner of an intersection across from the school. I don't know about your state, but in California, you can't park on a corner. The corner in question is also painted in red for The Stupid and those who don't take the time to learn the more obscure rules of parking. Later, I noticed second car occupying the opposite corner, and a third double parked next to the first offender. Imagine how much I enjoyed maneuvering around these three lazy, inconsiderate boobs on narrow streets, with children and their parents crossing the road, and traffic going in three directions. So, I complained. I called the school office and requested some additional traffic enforcement at that intersection. Yesterday both corners were clear and no double parkers were in evidence. Corner parker was just getting out of her car, which was parked a mere half block further down the street, to walk in to meet her child. Complaining is a public service!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I For One Contest. Plus a Trip to the Desolate Mall

Photoshop CS4
I'm launching a contest here at I For One..... with the hope of coaxing you lurking readers out of the woodwork to make a comment or three. So here are the details. For every comment you post between now and December 31, you will be entered in a drawing to win a copy of Adobe Photoshop CS4 (Mac or Win, your choice). In order to be eligible, I'll need to be able to email you, so you'll need to have a Blogger account, which means no anonymous commentary. Sorry, immediate (parents and siblings) family members are excluded from this contest. In the spirit of clean competition, please try to keep your comments constructive, erudite, and worthwhile. Comments to posts older that November 1, 2008 will not be counted. Thanks for reading.

In other news... have you been to the mall lately? Because wow! Weston and I went last night (the boy has blown through yet another pair of expensive skate shoes) and the evidence of the recession is everywhere. Even in the parking lot where we were able to immediately find a parking spot about three stalls from the entrance to Sears. Upon entering the mall, I did not see a single store that wasn't advertising a sale with a big banner in their window. Prices were marked down between thirty and sixty (!!!) percent. Several jewelery stores were liquidating their assets because they were closing their doors for good (EVERYTHING MUST GO!). It was striking how many stores had only two or three people working, and by working I mean sitting around the store carrying on a conversation with their soon to be laid off co-worker. Many shops had no customers at all. Those selling relatively worthless knick knacks (carved wooden tchotchkes, scented neck warmers, stuffed sleeping cats) seemed to be suffering the worst. If things look this bad in the malls on December 1, how will they look in a month after the big shopping season is over?

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Lone Vagina (aka The PMS Post)

No, this is not a post about a masked hoochie that rides around the Old West on a white horse named Silver with her trusty side kick Tonto. Instead it is meant to give those women blessed with daughters, living in a lesbian relationship, or otherwise fortunate enough to share their domicile with an estrogen producing being, what it is like to be a lone woman living in a house with all males. It means:

Knowing there is always a puddle of urine somewhere in the vicinity of one of your toilets.

Never being deprived of cleaning up that dish left next to the recliner or sofa.

Not being at all surprised to find three weeks worth of snack wrappers scattered around the computer.

Sighing in resignation as you discover that picking those wrappers up has resulted in the computer keyboard becoming filled with crumbs.

Finding identical piles of snack wrappers around the television and next to the video game console.

Walking by a sock deserted in the hallway and knowing without a shred of doubt that it will stay there until you, yourself bend over and pick it up.

Explaining multiple times that, on the floor and in the laundry basket are not the same place.

The amount of effort required to collect 6 loads of laundry, wash, dry, fold, and place them back in the appropriate drawer apparently requires less energetic outlay than dropping dirty clothes in the laundry basket.

Two sauce pans, a sieve, a measuring cup, a bowl and a spoon are necessary to make and enjoy a simple meal of dehydrated soup mix.

Surviving in a living space in which you are outnumbered by males requires infinite patients, a good sense of humor, and a keen intuition about when to just shut up and deal. All of those talents will leave you when you are deep in the throes of PMS. At that point, the prudent owner of an X and Y chromosome will quietly tip toe around the house giving you lots of extra space. My final observation? There is no such thing as a prudent owner of an X and Y chromosome.

(Steve, Weston and Garrett - I love you guys. And Steve? Thanks for doing the dishes this morning!)