Thursday, April 29, 2010

this happens sometimes

It's been a frustrating week. Work is being stupid in a boring and personal but frustrating way. My husband is officially moved into our new apartment... five hours away. I'm here in our old place, with nothing but the dog, a futon mattress on the floor, a laptop, and cat hair dust bunnies the size of badgers. My camera memory card is full, but I can't find the card reader to upload to the computer. I also can't find our census form. I'm sure they're going to come knocking on my door any day now and probably arrest me and then who will feed my dog? I also can't find my hiking boots. They're either at my parents' house (to which I will be moving soon) or they're 5 hours away with all my other stuff. Either way, I've had to go hiking in the damp Oregon forests with tennis shoes, which means wet socks.

I hate wet socks.

Anyway, these are some of the last photos I took before everything went to hell:


I sculpted Mr. dragon a few years ago from polymer clay. It was fun (polymer clay usually is), but I skipped important prep work to get to the fun parts, so after it was baked it kept falling apart. I was finally ready to toss him in the trash (it's a big step for me, I'm a horrible pack rat). But before I did, I took photos of him...



... and then ripped off his wings and put them on the cat.


Demon wings look very natural on a cat, don't they?

How to misuse an E-collar

Step 1: take your ball-obsessed and under-exercised Jack Russel to the off-leash park. Don't bring a ball or any other toys or treats, but DO be sure to bring the E-collar.

Step 2: go to the off-leash park during the busiest time of day so there are lots of people there playing fetch with their own dogs.

Step 3: release your dog and then stand there for ten minutes as he goes from one person to another, chasing other dogs' tennis balls and getting snapped at for stealing them.

Step4: start calling your dog's name. When he ignores you in favor of chasing someone else's ball, walk him down. When he runs away from you, (almost as if he has some kind of negative association with you), move to step 5:

Step 5: follow your dog around the park as he runs away from you, alternating between zapping your dog with the E-collar and yelling his name while the dog SCREAMS in pain.

Step 6: finally catch your dog, pick him up and carry him half an acre away from the other playing dogs, but still within sight of the balls they're playing with.

Repeat steps 3-6.

(Based on actual events)

Friday, April 23, 2010

I don't even drink coke

But the bottles are pretty.

More things I've rediscovered while packing (yes, I collect a lot of crap. It's part of who I am I will never stop, DON'T JUDGE MY HOARDING HABITS IT MAKES ME HAPPY).


The bottle on the left was unearthed from my parents' front yard when they had a new septic dug. The previous landowners had lived there since the turn of the century, and probably only had garbage service for half that time. The whole property is like a big archeological site. Dig anywhere and you unearth "treasures".


Look how much thicker the glass is. Even though the old bottle is slightly bigger, it only held 6 fluid oz, while the new bottle held eight.

Oh, and NPR tells me that today is the anniversary of Coca Cola's failed attempt at "New Coke". So, um, congratulations Large Corporation Whom I Have No Loyalty To for hanging in there for over a hundred years, even with huge marketing failures! It's probably mainly because of your pretty bottles.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bones and fossils and stuff

I may have mentioned I'm moving. Last Saturday was supposed to be Packing Day #1.

I got about 10 minutes in and unearthed my box of fossils and fragile bones that I'd almost forgotten about. I ended up spending the next few hours with the light box and a camera instead.


Things learned: a single lamp with bright white CFL is a leeeetle harsh.

Also, anyone want to help identify this skull? My mom (bless her) found it while hiking and collected it for me. I'm guessing young long-tailed weasel, but I'd welcome a second opinion.




Monday, April 19, 2010

Ode to a tree

Old, hollowed out, top-toppled, fungus covered, fire-survivor.






Home to many, its bark is an alien landscape.





Thursday, April 15, 2010

Racism and Invasive species go hand in hand?

"Moby Dick Hotel manager Keith Stravrum had said Monday that the hotel, which is owned by Felice "Fritzi" Cohen, will be sold to Aryan Nations unless Pacific County backs down from a demand that Cohen kill the spartina grass on her property."

Wait, what? Really?

Yes. Really.

Keith Stravrum is also an oyster grower. I don't know for sure, but I bet you a million pesos that he grows non-native oysters. Why do I think this? Because imported oysters, unlike the native variety, actually like spartina grass. In fact, all the other oystermen (the ones actually trying to grow native oysters) are very supportive of spraying spartina grass.

OPB's excellent documentary "The Silent Invasion" talks about the politics surrounding this weed. One of the people they interviewed is some dude down in California (the video won't play for me and I can't remember his name) who is also against controlling spartina grass. Guess what? He grows non-native oysters that thrive in the grass-choked habitat. What's even worse is that he bills his oysters as "organic" and sells them for top dollar. The hypocrisy and greed required to bank off the "organic" label while ruining the environment for everyone else is astounding.

I'm going to take a deep breath and link to Stravrum's blog, though I feel dirty doing so.

I know probably better than most people on the planet that the public has an automatically negative view of pesticides. I don't think this is a bad thing. I think we always need to take care before pumping chemicals into our environment, and if we do, it had better have benefits. But if you went by the information on that blog, the county is spraying something deadly, that bioaccumulates in the oysters, and that spartina grass isn't that bad for the environment, anyway.

The blog even claims that spartina grass should be allowed to take over the west coast because it sequesters CO2 and "filters the water".

Because no NATIVE plants do the same job, I guess?

It's pure misinformation. I might even call it lies.

Amazapyr (aka imazapyr), according to the Pesticide Manual (Tomlin 2006) (and many other sources), is very low in toxicity to all animals, birds and insects, including fish and aquatic insects. It is non-carcinogenic and does not bioaccumulate. It's half-life in water is 7 days, so it breaks down fairly quickly. And it's highly effective against spartina. This is like the wonder chemical for this particular job. People should be cheering the county for using this product (and to be fair, it seems like most people are).

It doesn't surprise me that people who exhibit such ignorance and greed would help bring a racism club into their own community. But, after my initial outrage, I really can't bring myself to be that concerned about their whine-baby threat.

The Aryan Nation is a dying group. They couldn't even hang on to their compound in freakin' Idaho. I doubt they're going to do well in progressive western Oregon.

There are worse things that could happen. It could be Sarah Palin moving in.

(Oregon oyster habitat that's NOT choked with spartina grass)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Now, about that breed bias...

While we were driving around EVERY FREAKING residential area in 100 square miles on a warm spring day looking for a rental, we saw a lot of dogs. I started keeping a tally of breeds I recognized.

Pit bulls (AST/APBT) - 13
Chihuahua - 10
Labrador - 9
Min Pin - 6
Pomeranian - 5
Border Collie - 6
Golden retriever - 4
Rottweiler - 4
GSD - 3
Corgi - 4
Wheaton Terrier - 4 (all in one yard)
Scottish terrier - 5 (all in one yard)
Jack Russel - 2
Boston terrier - 5
Mini poodle - 1
Dachshund - 3
Boxer - 4
Basset hound - 2
Bluetick hound - 3 (all together in the back of a truck)
Great Dane - 1
Husky - 1
Cattle dog - 2
Standard Poodle - 2
Mixed/unidentifiable by this non-expert - 18

I'm not sure what I'm trying to prove here. I just offer this as further proof that pit bulls are popular pets.

On another, related anecdote, I also saw only one dog chained up (a cattle dog). There were only two dogs roaming at large (a mixed breed and a husky were running full speed around a neighborhood having a grand ol' time, pausing now and then to wrestle each other). The rest were either behind a fence, or lounging off leash near their people.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Renting with pets

AKA: Suzanne naively assumed that a young, hardworking, clean, non-smoking, well-referenced married couple could find a decent place to live within a reasonable commute with a minimum of effort.

It's moving time in my household. When internet and local listings came up short, we took a Sunday and literally drove through every residential area in 6 small-to-medium-sized rural towns with a combined population of about 40,000 people looking for For Rent signs.

There were 20 places available. If you had any pets then there were 5 available. If one of your pets was a dog over 20 lbs, there were 3 places available. And if you had a dog of any size that looked like its pedigree contained pit bull, Rottweiler, or chow, then the number of available rentals was zero.

I'll come back to breed bias later. First, about that pet bias:

When we were applying for one of the apartments, I expressed to the manager how happy I was to find a place where I could bring my pet. She said hers was the only apartment complex in the area that allowed "large" dogs (Zelda is 33 lbs). "And it's silly," she said, "in all the years I've done this job, small dogs cause more damage than big ones." She laughed, "and don't even get me started on what children can do to a place."

Bingo. My opinion is now officially validated by someone in the business.

Pet Connection had a good article about this a while back.

I think pet bias and breed bias from landlords (and insurance companies) stem from the same thing. There's certainly no data that says dogs of a certain breed or size cause more damage or are more dangerous than others or are more destructive to property than other factors (like kids). I'm not disputing a home owner's right to set these restrictions, but I do dispute the logic behind them.

The most expensive damage done to my current rental was caused by my husband. The wear-and-tear caused by my pets pales in comparison. Yet nowhere on the rental applications did it ask if you owned a careless husband.

One of the other apartments I called told me, "we technically don't allow pets, but all you need to do is get a note from a doctor that you need your dog as a companion and you can keep it. Any doctor around here will do that for you, it's no big deal."

If I was in a position to choose between hmm, bending the law, and losing a beloved pet, I wouldn't think twice. And the result is the same as if the place had just allowed the dog in the first place. I don't think this is a situation that's useful for anyone. Not the animals, or the renters, or the property owners.

In the end, if we wanted to live in a place that wasn't too small and/or falling down around us, and allowed all our pets without any "fudging" on the application, there was only one rental to choose from. It was (you guessed it) the most expensive and barely in our price range.

This is yet another reason why I cannot wait to buy a house.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


My parents have been putting out humming bird feeders for about fifteen years. In the last three, the population visiting their house has exploded. Suddenly, the four feeders have to bed refilled almost once a day. During the 'hot' season (ie, right now, after they've returned from their wintering grounds and are setting up nests and sitting eggs) there's an almost constant presence at the feeders. Males establish territories around each feeder and fight each other and watch females come and drink. They're fierce little things. As my mom says, if they were the size of magpies, you wouldn't be able to hike in the woods without body armor.





I've never tried to photograph humming birds before. My lens was barely up to the task, but we made out OK.



Sunday, April 4, 2010


I realized one of my pets has been neglected on this blog. I never want to be accused of being exothermicist, so here I formally present to you Ixchel.


She's a natural colored, many generations captive-bred Honduran milk snake. She and a brother from the same clutch were 'surplus' from the breeder (ie, didn't carry both recessive genes he was going for; he's also a reptile rescuer, so don't think too badly of him). She was free to whoever wanted her. Because of the geographic area her ancestors lived, I named her after a Mayan goddess (pronounced EE-shell).



Here she is when I brought her home, only a few months old:
Ix Chel

Today she's about 4'4" long and barely fits in the lightbox:


... and is a rather uncooperative subject to photograph, anyway.



Hondurans (Lampropeltis triangulum hondurensis) are the largest of the milk snakes, reaching lengths of up to 6 feet and living 20 or more years. They're supposed to be a little on the aggressive side for their group. Indeed, Ixchel's brother bit me several times, once dangling from my arm like a rubber hose attached to a binder clip. Ixchel has never bitten though, even when I've been dumb enough to reach into her cage with my hands smelling of rodent. She's a very mellow snake and I'm glad to have her in my life.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Spring is...


Wild flowers.

First swim of the year.


Optimistic beavers (in a couple months this area will be completely dry and infested with bipedal primates)

Helping dad with firewood (this is a stack of big leaf maple, the light stuff has been down for two years and is already seasoned, the dark stuff only a few months. The difference is striking)


Stick chewing. Oh, wait, that's every season, not just spring...





Thursday, April 1, 2010

Links for a lazy Thursday

  • Encoding poetry into bacterial DNA - This is pretty neat, but I doubt it will work the way he wants. Bacteria are rather careless with their DNA. They trade, clip, chop, drop and otherwise mess with their own DNA a lot. A highly specific sequence wouldn't remain unchanged for very long. He might have better luck with a creature that has mitochondrial DNA.
  • Mosquito Control with Lasers - I hope this is the future of pest control. No more broad spectrum chemicals. Precise control of exactly the pest you want to kill with few environmental effects.