Saturday, September 28, 2013


Cats never really sleep. It may well seem that they sleep sixteen hours a day but when you walk past sleeping cats, their eye slits widen ever so slightly. They're watching. They know where you are. They keep track.

I'm preparing for a major journey -- a long time away from home that requires careful planning and packing. Although I'm not leaving for several days, I've put a suitcase and some required items on the guest bed.

And closed the door.

Both my cats are pissed. They go to the closed door and give me baleful looks over their shoulders.

The other evening, they both stood there, giving me stares of utter disgust. Guinness, always more vocal, mewed me out. It was unmistakeably cat cursing.

One night Herbie managed to butt the door open and promptly sat in the suitcase.

I give up.

They know what a suitcase means. However careful I might be to sneak into the room to pack, they'll show up. And slip in-- into the room, and onto the folded clothes, and into the suitcase.

I just hope airport security has no objection to cat hair.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ephemeral Good Fortune

I live in Loveland, Colorado.

The town sits on the high plain near a river. The town itself is charming – a thriving art community, some nice restaurants and shops. Plus, we could take the highway west up through an incredibly beautiful canyon, into the artsy mountain town of Estes Park, then into Rocky Mountain National Park.

Whenever everyday life became too banal or stressful or whatever, I would drive up that highway, through 'my canyon' and into the park, to 'my meadow.' About this time each year, I would make a special trip just to hear the elks bugle during their annual mating ritual. So beautiful. So awesome.

I can't do that this year. Most of the road has been washed away. It may take years to restore the highway, and the mountain town.

The flooding around here is unimaginable. And weird. Much of the town, including my house, is virtually unscathed but, even as I write this, I hear helicopters overhead moving up into the mountains to rescue stranded people and animals. So many lives irrevocably damaged.

And here in town, anything that was along the river pretty much isn't there any more.

And yet here I am – fine, harvesting tomatoes and raspberries and picking roses for the dining room table.

My heart goes out to all those who have lost so much. Their incredible losses remind us that life can change radically, almost instantly. That things we think are permanent, aren't.

And to be grateful for tomatoes, and raspberries and roses – whenever they are in our grasp.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Cat Seasons

For weeks when the temperature hit the upper 90s, my cats hibernated. Especially Herbie.

Herbie-the-mellow generally sleeps most of most days. When it was so hot, he slept even more -- downstairs where it was cooler or in the upstairs bathroom sink (which stays cool). An inveterate cuddler who snuggles up whenever I rest, or even think about resting, he could not stand to stay snuggled more than about 90 seconds, after which (however reluctantly) he moved away.

Several days ago, the temperature dropped about 30 degrees into the 60s.
My cats were transformed.

Guinness, who managed to stay somewhat active even in the extreme heat, became hyperactive, zipping from portal to portal, up on furniture, across the floor, down on the desk, up on the windowsill,-- zooming around like some cartoon character.

Even Herbie moved. Swiftly!

They chased each other. They chased toys. They moved for the pure joy of moving, of, finally, not being too hot.

Me too.

Then it began to rain. And didn't stop. And it was cold and dreary and there were no pools of sunshine in which to luxuriate.

So they went back to bed.

Good idea.

Monday, September 16, 2013


I'm pretty much figuring out my new computer but have found, to my dismay, that I cannot seem to spellcheck my emails.

Now everyone will know how ignorant I am.

Which makes me think of how dependent all of us have become on cyber-knowledge. We used to read books, go to libraries, take notes.

And before that, our ancestors memorized entire histories and legends. They could not only recite them but also cite those passages or stories pertinent to particular situations. They not only knew the words, they understood their significance.

Now we don't even remember phone numbers. Our phones remember them for us.

This may not be progress. It may even be dangerous. Significant portions of our brains may atrophy. And then what?

We have a term for early, largely pre-literate history: BCE, Before the Common Era. An appropriate term for my early years might be Pre-Google.

And now? Perhaps Post-Cognitive.

As as a public service – a sort of cautionary tale-- I will post this message on my blog . . . after I run it through spellcheck.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Ersatz Dillema

I have a problem.

The computer I had for more than seven years had one game of solitaire on it. I used to play a game when I finished a major task, or when I was on telephone hold, or just procrastinating. I used it like dessert at the end of a meal, as a reward.

My new computer has four (maybe more) free computer games. These include "Klondike" (which is impossible to win) Spider (like the one on my old machine) Pyramid (addictive) and Tripeaks (addictive).

Please note – two addictive computer games! How will I ever get anything else done?

It's so simple. You just click the mouse and ersatz cards fly through the ersatz air making cunning little noises when you make an appropriate match or even more cunning little noises when you actually hit a run.

And if you win? Wow! Ersatz fireworks and triumphant music.

How often does something you do elicit triumphant music?

I'll tell you how often. As often as I win a stupid computer solitaire game.

Does anyone know of a CSA (computer solitaire anonymous) chapter?

Does anyone know how to resist the siren call of ersatz triumph?

Please, please share whatever you know.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Past Perfect

Not all New York Times Science items are brilliant.

A weekly column features developments reported in the interim seven days. Recently, one of those items was entitled "Times Past."

"Twelve large, moon-shaped pits discovered in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, represent the oldest lunar calendar ever discovered, archaeologists say. The pits mimic the phases of the moon, National Geographic reported, lining up with it perfectly during the midwinter solstice.

"At 10,000 years old, the pits are by far the oldest calendar yet discovered."

[All well and good, and interesting. But note the next sentence.]

"It shows that Stone Age society was far more sophisticated that we have previously believed ..."

Well duh.
How do you suppose people kept track of things without Google?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Golden Prose

One of the reasons I love the New York Times is the high quality of the writing. There are two journalists who regularly have bylines in the Tuesday Science sections. One, Nicholas Wade, tends to write about archeological topics (I have one of his books). The other, Dennis Overbye, usually writes about physics and astronomy in ways that I at least come close to understanding.

I look forward to Tuesdays and often clip out articles that intrigue me. Sometimes, the items are very small. A few months ago there was a photo with a one-sentence caption reporting that one species of South African dung beetle was proven to use stars to navigate.

Think about it. Is there anything lower than a dung beetle? Is there anything higher than stars?

Months later there was another item proposing that gold was created by the collision of stars. Wow. Talk about stardust melody!

I was pleased to note that these two tidbits intrigued Mr. Overbye as well. He melded them into an article with the headline: “Stars, Gold, Dung Beetles and Us.” Without his permission, I here quote: “It's hard to imagine a more beautiful or humbling connection between the sacred and the profane, the microscopic and the large, inner space and outer space.

“The Milky Way is one of natures' greatest creations … And it is only one of countless galaxies, scattered like sand from here to eternity, rushing outward in the great expansion, whose meaning... is as fathomless to us as it is to a scarab pushing its (ball of dung)...

“Scarabs were sacred to the ancient Egyptians for the ability to create life from waste. They were a symbol of the eternal renewal of life from death, not unlike the waxing and the waning of the stars themselves.

“Egyptians wore representations of them as amulets. And wouldn't you know, in one of the ultimate symbols of recycling, some of them were even gold.”