Friday, June 24, 2005

Asking the correct chicken question

Seems that all these years, the question, "Why did the chicken cross the road?" really should have been, "Why should the chicken not cross the road?" - or - "What are the legal and financial consequences poultry-wise for unscheduled road crossings?"

This tale comes by way of Ananova, always a good source for deep thoughts.

Since it is a short story, here it is in its entirety:

Chicken fined for crossing road

A chicken fined for crossing the road has walked free from court in the US after a judge threw out the charge.
Ophelia, a black Polish hen, earned her owners a £30 fine for illegally walking across the street in California.
California state law bans livestock from highways but not domestic pets.

But lawyers for Ophelia's owners Linc and Helena Moore successfully argued that Ophelia was domesticated and could not be charged as livestock - and the case was dismissed.

The Moores had been fined after their chicken wandered onto a road in the small rural mining town of Johannesburg in Kern county.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Blogging for Books #12: On The Road

*** This blog entry is written for this month's Blogging for Books. What?? You don't know about this marvelous contest? Check it out at The Zero Boss***

Blogging for Books #12: Hit the Road, Jack (Guest Judge: Jennifer Leo)
For this month's contest celebrating a full year of Blogging for Books, we're looking to guest judge
Jennifer Leo for inspiration.
For this month's Blogging for Books, write a blog entry about one of three things:
1. A memorable trip or "mini-vacation" (with "memorable" covering everything from "best time of my life" to "unmitigated disaster");
2. A time you did something spontaneously, in order to shake up your life;
3. A time you metaphorically took "the road less traveled", and made an unpopular or uncommon decision.

(In truth, this entry is all three: A memorable cross-country trip, a move to a new city just to shake up my life, and the decision to leave New York for Seattle which was regarded by fellow New Yorkers as akin to dropping off the end of the Earth.)

When I was born, in the late 60's in the Berkeley, California area, a "trip" meant something considerably more surreal than it does these days. Even the more descriptive, "taking a road trip" no longer evokes images of Jack Kerouac thumbing a ride at the side of a lonely highway. That said, reality can get a little... shall we say, flexible, on the road.

In October, 1992, my boyfriend, Stephan, and I drove across the country from New York to Seattle. We were well provisioned in my little Honda, with suitcases, maps, snacks, tapes, and one guinea pig whose cage was seatbelted securely across the backseats. We started out at a good pace, just shy of speed trap velocity as we zoomed through New Jersey. At some point after dark, the radio ate our cassette. You really got me going... You really got me... You reawww...rrr....kshhhhh.... With the tape stuck inside, there was no way to listen to the radio. When we stopped to fill the gas tank, we tried to buy needle nose pliers to pull the tape out, which is not a simple project in the middle of the night. We also discovered that Bailey, the guinea pig, did not like riding in the car. She expressed this by draining her entire water bottle onto the floor of her cage and calling out to us - more loudly than a creature of that size has any right to yell. We had to calm her down in the motel parking lot so no one would witness us smuggling a damp, angry pet into the room.

On day two, we crossed Pennsylvania to the sounds of random FM radio. We learned that much of Western Pennsylvania has that rural phenomenon of the same radio stations repeating in several locations down the dial, to say nothing of what odd mix of radio exists in Pennsylvania Dutch country. Bailey again drained her water bottle into a small flood and randomly called out to us in what could only be interpreted as, "Stop this thing right this minute!" By day three, the radio had completely died.

Silence. And over 2700 miles to go.

On day four, we tried singing. After all, we both listen to music all the time. It turns out that singing along with the radio and singing in a mobile cone of silence are two very different things. We both knew a lot of pieces of songs, a lot of choruses, but very few songs all the way through. By day's end, we had degenerated into Christmas carols. Bailey hated the Christmas carols so much that side orders of lettuce at roadside burger stands failed to soothe her. She had taken to muttering to herself and I feared the humans were soon to follow.

On day five, we found ourselves in Salina, Kansas. I had been there once before and had been surprised by how much I loved it. Normally, I am the sort who feels landlocked if the ocean is more than a couple of hours away. But Salina, Kansas had something, a sort of easy friendliness and quiet pace that had charmed me three years earlier. The years that had passed had not been kind to Salina. My town of charming smiles had been replaced by an edge of wariness. The buildings looked run down, the people, weary. We decided to wait to take a day's break from the road, but determined not to leave town without buying a radio, we found ourselves at the biggest K-Mart I have ever seen. Rather than a radio, we left with a book, "Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers" by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. We sped out of town with the windows rolled down, the scent of fresh cut fields of hay mesmerizing the guinea pig.

Over the next two days as Stephan drove, I read the entire book aloud, which if you are familiar with Red Dwarf, was not easy due to laughing too hard to get the words out. We took our day off in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Stephan wanted to buy a pair of western boots, and it was hard not to find shops filled with cowboy gear every way you turned. In fact, every person seemed to be decked out in full cowboy outfits, from their ten gallon hats to their roper boots. We gave each other looks - is this the real Wild West or are we hallucinating? Something about it was just too over the top, too Little House on the Prairie meets The Magnificent Seven, but it was hard to pin down. Shrugging it off, we set out for the local mall where there were several boot and western wear stores. Malls often have a "could be anywhere in America" sensibility, but not this mall. The Wild West theme reached new heights here, with adults sometimes wearing bandanas around their necks, ropes coiled at their belts, and plastic cowboy hats, but it was the children that stopped us cold in our tracks. The people of Cheyenne had dressed their children as cows. Children in full body cow outfits wandered the mall at their parents' sides and in their arms. Little cows raced up and down the length of the mall. Sure, we doubted ourselves and what we were seeing. Sure, we questioned the mushrooms that had decorated our burgers at lunch. Why would a city full of cowboys and cowgirls dress their offspring as cows? Then we saw the familiar plastic pumpkin buckets on several little cow arms. Ah hah! Halloween! We ran back to our hotel and ransacked our bags for something - anything - that might pass for a costume. All I could come up with was an all black outfit and silver cat necklace, to try and pass for an appropriately festive witch. Stephan managed to pull together an outfit we called "Samurai Bob," which included his white Aikido gi, cowboy hat, red bandana, and brand new wildebeest boots. We were laughing too hard to leave the room to go to dinner.

In an Elko, Nevada supermarket, I won $8 by playing my change in the handy one-armed bandit placed at the end of the checkout line. I figure that if I never gamble again, I will die ahead of the game. In Reno, we visited my Aunt, Uncle, and cousin who was four years old and fascinated with the guinea pig.

By the time we pulled into San Francisco, I could see the road every time I closed my eyes. We spent a week there with Stephan's family and my roommate from California. Eight years later at Stephan's sister's wedding, I would shock one of the cousins by telling her I was the same girl whose hair she braided over and over in her Aunt's living room. She would shock me that same day by telling me that Stephan and I would be engaged soon. She was right.

As we drove north on I-5, Seattle revealed itself through the gray November drizzle in a sudden burst of tall buildings and light. "Look, Dorothy, the Emerald City!" I said laughing. All the excitement, the fear, and the hope of starting out in a new city washed over me. We had made it to the end of the road at last.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


By way of Dave Bary's blog:
"Russian City Invaded By Squirrels"

Read the full story here:

This story comes on the heels of our own discovery that our primary birdfeeder - the surprisingly effective Squirrel-B-Gone TM birdfeeder - had been jumped and pounced upon so often that the springs that shut the feeding stations when a squirrel lands on them have been pulled hugely out of shape. I, like the Russian town in the story, chose to feed rather than fight our squirrel. Mostly it works, and we see him all the time in his post under the birdfeeder picking up fallen seed. I also have dried corn on the cob from my bargain with the fuzzy guy last year, and he still politely leaves the empty cobs on my deck stairs. I just wanted to tell the folks in Russia that I really like their punk rock squirrels:

Russian Squirrel Posted by Hello
(Photo used with thanks but without permission, from Pravda)

Dude! Ease up on the hair products! :)

I also want to tell the Russian people that although their squirrels may have become brazen in their borderline criminal behavior, that at least they are behaving in a sane, rational, hungry way. In other words, we still win the prize for total squirrel insanity. Have I blogged about this before? When we bought this place, we asked the tenants if there were any little quirks, as one might expect in a house over a hundred years old. They said, "Well. There is this insane squirrel."

Oh ho! Ha ha ha! Funny, we said.

"No," they said. "Really."

When I first spotted him, I opened the window and told him he was our squirrel now. He looked unimpressed, but he came to learn that establishing his territory in the yard of people who love fuzzy critters seriously upped his standard of living.

Mr. Squirrel on Deck Posted by Hello

That first summer we put out a birdfeeder. Just a classic black oil sunflower seed dispenser. Mr. Squirrel had not read the label and knew it to be a squirrel feeder. He could climb the thin shepherd's crook to hang on the feeder and gulp down seed. Stephan went out back and sprayed the pole with pam cooking spray. OK, *that* was funny, complete with a three stooges whoop! whoop! whoop! sliding down the pole visual. Nevermind something was wrong with the pole, Mr. Squirrel could leap great distances - despite not actually being of the flying squirrel variety - and land on the feeder from nearby trees.

Mr. Squirrel's secret identity (credit: Posted by Hello

He shopped it around to all the lady squirrels, the best restaurant in town! We often saw him with his date sitting on the edge of the birdbath (squirrel drinking fountain) at sunset. Tres romantic! But his seed jones was breaking these monkey's backs. We were filling the feeder every couple of days. So back to the store to pick out - you guessed it - the Squirrel-B-Gone TM birdfeeder.

Within minutes of the new feeder being filled and placed on the shepherd's crook, the squirrel leapt to it like a flying Walenza. The spring action surprised him, but he held on - boing! boing! - until it calmed down. He then found that although it looked full, none of the feed bays had more than a couple of seeds. His weight shut off the main chamber. He tried different tactics, different approaches, but it was no use. He was getting a distinctly unwelcome feeling. By afternoon, I was walking through the apartment, trying to pin down a weird noise. eee... eeee...eeeeeeeee.... At the bathroom window, I saw it. Mr. Squirrel lay flat on his stomach in the dry birdbath, his nose pointing over the edge at the uncooperative feeder. It was the saddest squirrel I ever hope to see. I ran out then and bought him dried corn. I know, I'm a sucker, but you were not there to hear the deep sorrow echoing across the yard.

Mr. Squirrel learned that the best spot was to sit right under the feeder, that the bird brains who dine there drop plenty of seed for him. He hooked up with Mrs. Squirrel, and last year had three baby squirrels. His wild & crazy Squirrel-about-town days may be behind him,

Squirrel Hold 'Em Posted by Hello

but he is fed & happy with his family. He continues to do things we have never seen another squirrel do - like nap on the back deck, belly up, eyes closed. Sometimes he sleeps with his head hanging over the edge. The first time, he scared the heck out of us. We were convinced he was dead, so Stephan went out back with gloves and a shovel.

Squirrel Nap 1 Posted by Hello

Hard to say who was more surprised when the squirrel popped up from his nap.

Squirrel Nap 2 Posted by Hello

Mr. Squirrel, you are truly nuts, but we love you. It is good to know, as Billy Joel would say, that the Russians love their squirrels too.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A blog, a gameshow, and a vacant apartment walk into a bar...

(*Punchline: gee that must've hurt. b'dum dum.*)

Three news tidbits to share!

First, I received an email from Steve, a newcomer to this blog. He found me because our blogs have the same title: "The World According To Me." Thinking about it, all blogs are the world according to someone, it's just not everyone's choice of title. You can now find Steve blogrolled in the right margin - do pay his World a visit!

Next, my brother David tells me that my most favorite ever game show - Kenny Vs. Spenny - is running new episodes in Canada! I can only hope that means they will run them here in the US soon. Being close to Canada, we do get a couple of Canadian tv stations, but so far I do not see it listed. Don't fret your fuzzy heads about me, I have my Tivo wishlist set and can burn them to DVD once I snag them. But you - you need to see tis show. It is hilarious & unique, which as you know with a bajillion channels and nothing to watch, is a rare rare thing.

Last tidbit du jour, we rented our vacant duplex apartment! Weeks ago when I was in the hospital, our tenant gave notice. Great new job for him in Colorado; bad timing for us. Since he had been living there from before we bought the place, we never had an in-depth assessment of the apartment's condition. Mostly it was in great condition, but there is some water damage we are repairing now. We decided not to wait until that repair was all done to show the place - just kept the tools and torn up section of floor very minimal and everything else was perfect to show. This is where the world gets divided into two groups: the first group who knows about repairs like this and realizes it only takes a few days, may even be happy to see a landlord who keeps up with repairs depending on who they have rented from before; and the second group who sees hole-in-floor, tools, scary! scary! run away! What we did not expect was the huge response to our apartment listing. It kept reminding me of the mid-1990's, when the little 1-bedroom at my Mom's place came vacant during the height of the dot boom. If you were not in Seattle during that time, let me tell you, there were no apartments to be had, anywhere, for any price. The vacancy rate was a record low one-half of a percent. People moved here for high tech jobs and lived for months in expensive hotels. The day the ad came out for Mom's 1-bedroom, the phone rang so much I finally changed the message with directions to an open house and unplugged it. People showed up 3 hours early, throwing hundred dollar bills under my nose like I was a NYC doorman at a rent control building. Desperation was in the air. Last week with our cute 2-bedroom duplex was not in that category, but it had elements of it. I posted the ad at 11 PM Thursday night. When I checked my email on the way to bed at 1AM I had 5 emails. 5! In the middle of the night! Oooohkay. Next morning there were 9 plus the phone started ringing. It never stopped ringing, all day, all evening. Call waiting beeped while talking with someone. More email poured in. I gave tours of the place all day long, which for me was the longest physical day I have had in months. I realized too late that after I shampooed the carpets, none of the windows had screens - so I did not want to open them, as even one flying insect in the house makes people think "Eeew bugs!" The rugs looked great, but there was a slight musty smell from all that evaporation indoors. So I baked cookies in the oven - viola! - instant home comfort smell, plus handy snack. When my body finally said, no more!, my brother gave the last few tours. At day's end we had two credit checks! The first folks passed and signed the lease yesterday.

As a bonus on giving the tours of the apartment starting to early in the morning, we learned we have baby birds in the backyard. (*Everybody: Awwww! Cuuuuuute!*) At first I thought they were black capped chickadees because we kept seeing the proud parents. Then we realized there are more baby birds than two little bird parents can produce, so we think there are also brown chickadee babies. Friday they forayed out of the nest onto nearby tree branches and the neighbor's roof, where they sat flapping their fuzzy wings and practicing the idea of flying. Saturday, they testing short range flying, to other trees in the yard, the birdbath, and bird feeder. Today they sat on different branches in trees all over the yard and posted themselves at the feeder until it was filled to capacity - one bird on every perch, plus two or so on the shepherd's hook waiting their turn. They are eating 3 inches of sunflower seeds every day! They must drop a lot of seed, because Mr. Squirrel looks so happy in his spot under the feeder.

That's all the news for the moment. More soon!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Massive Suckage of AOL

Big doings today.

A letter went out to everyone who volunteers their time and energy in the Community Leader program on AOL. The essence of this rare communication was "We don't need you anymore. We are ending the program. F-you and thanks for all the fish." The letter went out on May 27. The program will be completely shut down on June 8. That means tonight was Marcy's & my last night hosting our support group for people with chronic disabilities.

This is the first real-time online support group for people with disabilities. I started it thanks to encouragement in the original disAbilities Area on AOL on January 1, 1991. Fourteen years. I wrote the host training and helped launch other groups, for everything from cancer survivors to post-polio syndrome. Our group survived changing area ownership, through several private companies, then a move off AOL to ivillage and back to AOL. We have helped people whose friends and families abandoned them, who were so overwhelmed by what was happening to them that they could not bring themselves to get help, who had virtually no contact with the world outside their homes or hospital rooms. Fourteen years. And AOL killed it in 11 days.

Marcy & I are going to try and keep going anyway. Our group was never about hosts needing a title or any other support from outside anyway. It will be harder for newbies to find us if AOL takes down our promotional link or chat room, but I don't see letting stupidity rule the day. Not if we can help it.

You may be wondering, what the f---?

My theory is that this motivated by a lawsuit that has been brewing for some time. You can read older stuff about it here:

Forbes: AOL Ruins a Great Cooperative

Salon: Must AOL Pay Community Leaders?

Just my opinion. It ain't like AOL has been forthcoming with any information of any kind (which only makes me suspect more strongly that this is lawsuit related).

Here is my other opinion, AOL: You have never been appreciative of the thousands of volunteers that made you successful in the first place. As the net grows, you will be less and less unique in terms of ease of live chat, and now you are dismantling the community that is your bread and butter. The sad part is that we don't need your appreciation - we just need you to get out of our way. If you don't, you deserve to have your business fail, and on that day I will wear a red dress and dance.

A Time To Romp

What? I hear you say, More pictures?

Yes, more pictures. For weeks, every time I opened Hello to upload pics to blogger, it crashed. Not just plain, ordinary crash, either - it would log me out and restart, count down from 30 seconds and relaunch itself, then crash again and count down from 30 seconds, and on and on. I wrote to their support. *Nada.* Finally, I uninstalled and tried a fresh install. So far, so operational. This also means I have a backlog of pics to share.

I took this series in honor of my blog pal Pratt's *Blog of Pratt* Monday Bunday tradition of sharing pics of his very photogenic bunnies every Monday. This is Max, giving me his patented LOOK.

TheLook Posted by Hello

Usually The Look is reserved for when the Slave Monkeys are walking toward the kitchen, or out of the kitchen, or chewing on things that might be tasty. Here, Max was uncharacteristically giving The Look even while guarding a cardboard tube stuffed with tempting timothy hay. What could drive Max to give The Look instead of happily shredding the tube to itty bitty bits?

Pigrun1 Posted by Hello

Ah hah! Tigger was bogarting the food dish and the water bottle. Oh no, Max! What are you gonna do about that?

PigRun2 Posted by Hello

No problem, says Max. I'll just rumble strut my handsome self, purrrr purrrrrrrrr, bump Tigger on the butt, and scoot away. She will have to come running over and see what the fuss is about. And then the food dish wll be mine mine mine!

Good thinking, Max. Tigger can't resist a rousing round of Follow the Leader. Really, she loves any excuse to run, romp, or jump. She loves running laps so much, we think she may be a NASCAR fan.

Hope you enjoyed today's Romp Time!

David - Do Not Read This Post!

This is a fair warning to my brother, David.

DO NOT READ THIS POST. Yes, the other posts are safe. There are things you do not want to know right now and I am about to write about them. If you keep reading, well, you can't say you weren't warned.

*Everyone else go ahead and scroll down.*

Friday, we went for a big sonogram and amnio for the baby. Everything looked great! The amnio results come in a couple of weeks. The sonogram detail was just incredible! If I get a chance, I will post an image from it. You can see toes, fingers, features of the face. And we found out, we are having a girl!


We have a few names in the works. The top contender right now is Isabella. The only thing I have against it is that it is so popular right now - it's the #7 girl's name last year! Sheesh. For me, it blends the names of two people who I love and admire and miss very much, my Uncle Iz and my Grandmother, Adele.

Iz + Adele = Isabella!

What do you think? Should we drop it because it's too popular? Will she always be one of many Isabellas? I was almost always the only Lilly and I really liked that. That name came back in popularity too. Was your name popular or unusual? How did you feel about it?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

What's that, Max?

Among the many unknown talents of guinea pigs is the ability to predict the weather. When Max tunnels into the paper like a giant burrito, it reminds me of the weatherman in Buffalo, NY who quit because he just couldn't tell people watching the news from homes buried in snow to the chimneys that more snow was coming.

What's up, Max? Posted by Hello

What are you trying to tell me? Posted by Hello

Moments after this photo, the sky opened up and poured for hours. It was one of those storms where sometimes it is coming down in sheets in the front yard, and not raining at all in the backyard. My observant friend, Craig, pointed out that while we had rain, the sky over Lake Washington was sunny. Can you guess what we saw?

Rainbow050531 Posted by Hello

So that's what Max was trying to tell us!