It’s quicksand!

Check out the Robo-Clam, another great innovation at the Oven Glove.  I especially like the description of how razor clams become such effective anchors.  As they move deeper into the sand at the ocean floor, they jerk and fling their bodies around, loosening the surrounding sand.  This loosening allows more seawater to penetrate the sand, effectively creating an area of semiliquid quicksand around the clam, making the clam itself that much harder to pull out.

It’s called credit, not free stuff.

Some people are pretty upset about the recent rise in credit card rates.  I can understand how this would be a major drain on finances at a time when money is tight.  I understand it as a legitimate worry.  Still, I can’t help feeling that it’s a situation that you bring on yourself.  True, the credit card companies make it really easy to slip into debt with them.  But that’s exactly what it is – debt.  You owe them money.  They have the right to charge you interest.  And they have the right to change those rates, or sell that debt, to someone else.

Personally part of my view of the situation may be driven by the fact that I don’t pay credit card interest.  I don’t let my credit card balance accrue.  I use credit cards, but at the end of the month, I pay what I owe.  No interest charge.  Why do I use credit cards then?  Convenience.  Perks.  Cashback bonuses or airline miles or other things that accrue to my advantage because that credit card company wants you to spend.  They earn money through your debt’s interest.  That’s how it works.

But you don’t have to take part in the system.  Debit cards are now just as easy to use as credit cards.  The money can come directly from your bank account with no interfereing rates in between.  Or, you could actually budget your paycheck.  You know, don’t spend money you don’t have.

I don’t mean to come down hard on anyone.  Many of us have basic needs we are struggling to meet.  Many of us feel that big business and rich concerns have overshadowed our own freedoms.  I know it’s hard, very hard at the moment.  But I look at other places, or at other less fortunate times in this country, and I see plenty of people who made do with less.  And that makes me question exactly what it is we’re complaining about.

And finally, the penguin finds a new home…

This comes to me via Emily, who has been updating me as she browses Craigslist.  I’ve included the links at the top, but may try a general cut-and-paste since who knows how long these things will be available there.  I wonder how many days of cuteness we can stand…

Day 1

Penguin – Found (Needham)

I was starting to get a little wet on the sidewalk where you dropped me today. Then a nice person drove by and saw me on my back on the sidewalk. I was so happy to see the vehicle turn around and come back to help me. I was picked up and brought to a warm house in the neighborhood. I have been cared for very well. I was dried off and fed. I am okay but I miss you and hope that I will be home with you soon.

Day 2

Found Penguin – Day 2 (Needham)

So far, I have not heard from my owner. Thank you for your offers but adoption is not an option yet because I have only been lost for a little more than 24 hours. I have a new friend, a big old yellow Labrador retriever. The younger black Lab makes me nervous though. She keeps eying me like I might make some kind of a good tug toy. Since my owners did not come for me, I was treated to a chocolate covered donut from Dunkin Donuts after I refused the banana and grapefruit. My favorite place is in their freezer. I feel safe there away from the younger lab. When I get hungry, I might try one of the Frosty Paws that they save as a special treat for their dogs. I think I’ll eat the younger lab’s treat first. I am hopeful that I will be found and reunited with my family soon.

Day 3 AGAHAGAHHAGA!! Penguins!  This one was not quite as good…still, I am ready for more.  Perhaps a blizzard sequence?

Found Penguin – Day 3 (Needham)

I have no memory of how I ended up on the side of the road 2 days ago. At first I thought that I may have fallen out of a baby carriage but someone on Craigslist suggested that I may have been (accidentally of course) thrown out of a car window. Falling out of a window might be the more likely scenario because the day I was found, it was drizzling outside. Most of the kids that get strolled to Perry Park have fair weather parents and guardians that wouldn’t have gone to the park in that weather. I couldn’t have been left there from the day before because surely someone would have stopped to help me sooner. Another indication that I wasn’t there from the previous day, was because when I was found, I wasn’t wet, I was only a little damp. I am going back to the scene tomorrow before we get hit with the big snow storm. I’ll be looking for any evidence that might have been overlooked by the person that rescued me. I am hoping to find some clues to help me reunite with my family.

Day 4 How long can this go on!?!?!

Found Penguin – Day 4 (Needham)

Late last night, I completed making a “Found Penguin” poster.

This morning, I sealed it in 2 plastic sleeves, in opposite directions to protect it from the elements. When I got to Perry Park with my poster, the middle schoolers were already out of school and playing on the field. I searched the freshly snow covered ground for evidence of how I got in this situation. I kept glancing at the kids, hoping one of them would notice me and come running over to tell me that I belonged to their younger sibling. None of the kids notice me, a penguin, even when I struggled to climbed the overgrown pine tree to post my sign.

Day 6 – The final day
Regifting? Seriously people? I am distraught and saddened, but what else can really be done…oh, for the poor, lost thing.

Penguin Found – Day 6 (Needham)

Today is Day 6 of being away from my family. I had a strange dream last night that I was an ornament on a Christmas tree. It was more like a nightmare.
But I wasn’t dreaming when I felt the red tissue paper and the sides of a box under my wings. I thought my mug shots and height measurements were being taken for this post. I didn’t realize that they were being used to see if I fit better in the white Macy’s box or the red Filene’s box. The Macy’s box was a little big but it was decided to use that box. I heard talk that they didn’t want to use the Filene’s box because they didn’t want me looking like a re-gift coming out of a box from a store that went out of business years ago.

I am not sure what their thought process is about giving me as a gift to their 3 year old nephew. It is not like they haven’t already bought him a gift. They have a nice teddy bear with new tags still attached for him.
I don’t want to be a present for another kid. I am hopeful that my family will come for me soon.

I felt better this evening when I met a snowman named Sam. When he finished playing Frosty the Snowman on his piano, I said, “Play it again, Sam”.


There’s been quite a bit of NASA press recently , both good and bad – new discoveries on other planets, funding shortfalls and avoidable accidents.  What hasn’t been thought about in a constructive way is just why we think we still need to be in space at all.  Sure, there are space installations like satellites that influence our daily lives that should and will continue to be maintained.  But why do humans need to be out there, floating amongst the debris?  Does it really enrich our lives that much more to have a human, rather than a machine, out in the void, especially considering the risks (and the cost)?

MIT says yes.  A recently published white paper analyzes the history of our space program, evaluates cooperative international efforts, and looks at the possibilities of involving the private sphere.  There’s been quite a bit of arguing going on recently in these areas.  While I may not agree that exploration itself makes the national space program worth the risk and investment, the ideas presented are generally well thought out and interesting to consider.  And the idea of that vast outer frontier – what can I say?  It still inspires wonder.

Scary vs. coherent

It seems like my current primary care physician has it in for me.  Last year she told me flat out to lose ten pounds – a delicate statement to make around any woman.  And it’s true I was about 7 pounds over my standard weight.  But still, not an entirely reasonable thing to say to a reasonably healthy young woman.  She’s always been a bit brusque, so I take her words with a grain of salt (and hopefully prompted me to do the same with all doctors).

Still, when I noticed that a mole on my back seemed to be larger and then turned skin-color in the middle, I brought it to her attention.  Changing moles are freaky – your mind does all kinds of cancer-flips and worries at what other changes might be happening on your unobserved flesh.  I was not worried really, but still wanted a professional opinion.  Hers was that it was a cyst, not a mole, and nothing to worry about, but I was welcome to see a dermatologist.  Um, okay, I think I will.

It’s hard to say whether her nonchalance or her absolute denial of my opinions and knowledge of my own body that was more frightful.  True, she’s the doctor.  Maybe something is called a cyst that I think should be called a mole.  Maybe there’s some sort of oozy something under the skin (I’ve always thought of cysts as juicy) where there used to be a mole.  It’s hard to really evaluate the status of your skin in places you can’t see – maybe she can see or understand something I can’t.  Of course, if she’s right, then are there other things I should be checking up on that I am missing out of misconception?

So I went to see the dermatologist today worried.  I am a wimp when it comes to pain, and high in my mind was also the possiblity of having something dug out of my flesh to be examined and tested.  Not fun.  And what if I had cancer and was going to die?  The imaginative mind is prone to melodrama.  Fortunately, teh dermatologist I saw understood this.

His first comment:  ‘It’s not a cyst.”  Lovely.  Validation.  He went on to say that it was perfectly benign (of course, no one can be completely sure, but he seemed pretty sure.)  More importantly, he was perfectly willing to do whatever I wanted.  I could live a happy full life with my mole, or he could take it off if it was going to psychologically dist rub me to have it there.  So not only were my questions seen as reasonable, but he was willing to take into account my emotional well-being as well as my physical condition.  It was wonderful.

Of course, I was still pretty nervous to just rely on this guy’s word for my saftey.  After all, doctors are falliable, and I want to take steps to preserve my health.  I also don’t want a chuck of flesh carved out of me.  So I asked questions – how woudl this happen?  Should I be avoiding certain activities in the future?  And he was more than happy to explain.  Moles can change if they become inflamed.  Usually the first thing to vary with inflammation is pigment.  Probably your bra strap rubbed and inflamed the mole and that’s what caused the change.  Simple.  Direct.  Reasonable.

That’s all we want, really.  That’s what we pay our doctors for.  Not science or study, or even miracle cures.  We want communication.  We want the right words to tell us that we are safe, or we are unsafe, or that we need to change to preserve our health.  Of course, the right words are the hardest to find.  But we need delicacy and appreciation more than the simple maintenance of our bodies.

I don’t know how to attribute this, but I was reading a book that mentioned a speaker who was discussing the words we use to describe cancer.  How we say someone is ‘battling’ or ‘fighting’ cancer.  How we’ve changed what is often a manageable disease into a war.  How it can convince some patients to give up, in the face of some warlike onslaught, when in reality they should have survived.  How if we had the right words, the right way to talk about disease and health, more of us would be healthy and happy.  perhaps this can be most clearly seen in the doctor-patient relationship, but it should be present for all of us:  the need to talk clearly and without negative connotation about health.

Since when do squirrels eat nuts?

Evidently there’s an acorn shortage on.  Evidently last year there was an intense crop, and the trees are tired and resting.  Evidently it was a wet spring and that may have contributed too.  We’re supposed to be concerned, but not overly concerned until several following years of few-to-no acorns starts to make us worry about eventual tree loss.  But should we be worrying about squirrels? After all, they rely on acorns in the late winter months as a food source.

I would say no.  I would say squirrels are like foxes and raccoons.  They’ve already adapted to living with people in their habitat.  Mostly what they’re living off of in winter is our garbage.  That’s why you see fat and completely irreverent squirrels in public parks and around most local communities.  In fact, it’s been some time since I’ve seen a thin-looking one.  I wouldn’t be worried – I’m guessing that acorns are no longer such a necessity for the little bushy tails.

Brain remains

The world is a strange and sometimes alarming place.  People do horrible and wonderful things to each other.  The earth moves dangerously, in hidden patterns and dances – plates shift, glaciers rumble and call with gravelly voices, molten spurtings and hot steam jets and spewed collections of ash and rock tumble and shatter.  It is a place vibrant with life and movement, and even amidst rapid and threatening change, is beautiful.  The oddest things become preserved or changed into something lasting – a little calcinated shell, a bit of coal under pressure, the mummified peat bog remains of past life.

What little we know about the past we see through two lenses – through the lens of whatever written work might remain of a past age, and through its preserved physical evidence, made up of artifacts, features, and sometimes the physical bodies of the people themselves.  We know through these few things, which is honestly how we understand many things we have not lived.  We look at Asian art and read the Spring and Autumn Annals and think we know something about how people lived, but the experience of such a life is not the same.  We see through a window, rather than living in the open air.  Still, more data helps give us a better understanding, a bigger window.

Most recently, the window was pushed just a bit wider in Britain by the discovery of something in a skull.  Now, we all know what lives in skulls, but I hesitate to say what may be there until further tests are done.  it is probably one of the oldest discoveries of brain tissue yet.  But why do we care if there are scraps of flesh left in someone else’s head?  Perhaps because it is a truer link with the past.  Or perhaps it will tell us something new about brain morphology, or the way we think.  Perhaps it will tell us nothing at all.  regardless, it is something of wonder, something amazing that the world, through whatever rare chance, still manages to pull off, somehow.

I love planets

I have for some time been in love with the various themes available on Gmail. I have three Gmail emails currently, and it’s almost not enough to display and interact with all the different themes that I like. I could say more – about the beach theme, and its daylight change settings, or the ninja! theme with its little bowing female figures. But I won’t. Why? Because most of all, I love planets.

Of course, the planets theme does recycle quite a bit. After days of it, you might be tired of the same brilliant visions of space. many things in the world are possible, after all. But I find it highly unlikely.

If you have Gmail, consider yourself informed on the best theme there is. If not, go there. Sign up now.


There was a short story someone once wrote which began with a yearly checkup at a doctors office for a 20-something girl.  In it, the doctor states that she will grow three inches and only fall in love once.  I have no idea what happened to, or in,  this story.  I encountered it as part of a writer’s workshop and the writer had not yet finished it at the time we read the first sections.  Still, the idea was intriguing – not only that a woman would grow at such an astounding rate in her later years, but that both her height and her heart were things predictable, were outcomes to be expected rather than hidden and unknowable futures.

I doubt that it is really possible for us to tell how much someone will grow.  I’m sure there are tests that can be done – on the growing spaces of our young bones, or in our calcium intake – and some reliable predictions might be made about our eventual height based on our family histories and statistical modeling.  But to truly anticipate a rapid spurt of growth seems somewhat fantastical and odd.  Still, it is possibly knowable within the realm of science.

At times I wish the other was.  At times, i would like to be able to say, based on my condition in life, my natural inclinations, my personality and my appearance, I will fall in love X number of times and then be done with the whole mess.  Whether that mess would end on a positive note or not would, of course, be entirely up to fate, but the idea of accurate predictions in such situations is reassuring.  But then, that takes something away as well.  Some of the magic of certain moments, the vitality of two people interacting in unknown proportions, would be drain away by reliable individual statistics.  Sure, there are numbers that say X many relationships or marriages fail, but that’s not quite the same as saying an individual or a certain group is more likely to fall in love a certain number of times.  On the whole, I think I like that variability.  It allows for the freedom of movement of the heart.

Hidden Lurkers

I don’t like horror movies.  I don’t like cinematic suspense.  Usually, I don’t like things jumping out at me, even if those ‘surprises’ end up being good ones.  But the idea of mystery, a hint of suspicion, ore the more shadowy corners of life are still intriguing to me.  That’s what interests me about the GVFI (Global Viral Forecasting Initiative).  I’m captivated by the idea of people trying to track what zoonotic viruses may be slipping into our bodies at the edges of civilizations.

There’s something about that hidden forest, that repository of all that is primal, hidden, and naturally unconcerned with man that intrigues.  I want to puzzle out the ways in which humanity must interact on a different plane.  I want to see how a future pandemic might first dive down beneath our skins.  I do not court danger, or sickness, or pain, but something about being on the edge of the unknown is attractive.  The sirens call and I’m only half afraid to listen.

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