Monday, May 26, 2008

Now we are 36

While bathing* on vacation in Tennessee, I read A. A. Milne's The House at Pooh Corner. It was a strange sensation, because, although I knew the characters and the stories, I'm fairly certain I had never read them before. We had Milne's verse We Were Very Young at my house, and perhaps Now We Are Six, but I had never read the prose of the Pooh stories. Not only are the stories fun, they are much more realistic than my Disneyfied image of them. The characters are multi-dimensional. Eeyore is a pessimist and a snot. Rabbit is caring and a busy-body. Winnie is lovable and really dumb. Issues are rarely resolved, just diverted from, in much the way that life at six, or thirty six, really is.

Speaking of birthdays, my parents were here for mine and we celebrated in good style by painting the living room wall red, eating delicious dark chocolate stout cake and drinking a sparkling Blanc de Noir from the Biltmore. I liked the wine better than the Blanc de Blanc from the Biltmore we drank in November or the Canard Duchene the Mister and I drank to celebrate the end of the semester, or several bottles of inexpensive sparklers we've consumed to get us through the semester, but I'll admit I've enjoyed them all.

Speaking of wine, the Mister and I did visit wineries in Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina on our Smokies trip, so I think we may be moving ahead in the every state winery challenge.

Speaking of Pooh, we spent Memorial Day weekend in the Alleghenies with my parents and did two great hikes. At the last stream crossing on Saturday we played a game of Pooh Sticks and my father claims he won, although none of the rest of us spotted his swift stick.

Speaking of birthdays again, the little lion turned four on Monday and appears to be as adorable as ever.
*We have neither bathtub nor television reception at home, so vacation can mean taking bubble baths and watching The Daily Show or a Top Chef marathon.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Shrew Shaped Non-Squirrel

On a recent hike in Great Smoky National Park, the Mister and I were entertained by this little charmer rooting around in the leaves. He (or she) is not a rodent, rather a shrew, a possibly echolocating member of Order Soricomorpha*. Based on having a long tail to body ratio for a shrew, I'm guessing he or she is a Smoky Shrew (Sorex fumeus), although if a discriminating reader told me that is was definitely a Pygmy Shrew (Sorex hoyi), I certainly wouldn't claim that I can tell if a small woodland creature weighs a third of an ounce rather than a fifth.

While we did see a black bear in the distance, as a result of a "bear jam" in Cades Cove, and encountered Eastern Chipmunks, Red Squirrels, a Groundhog and Eastern Gray Squirrels, the shrew would have to be the mammalian highlight of the trip. Avian highlights included turkeys every day (not unusual but they are such large, attractive birds), Dark Eyed Juncos, Black Throated Blue Warbler, a Hooded Warbler, a Ruby Throated Hummingbird and several birds I think must be wood thrushes.

*Order Insectivora was broken up when it was decided that the hedgehogs, elephant shrews, golden shrews, tree shrews, regular shrews and moles didn't have all that much in common. I taught about Order Soricomorpha in my vert class and was asked was pleased to learn that "sorico" means shrews. Shrews are shrew shaped and hares (in Order Lagamorpha) are hare shaped. Check out the whiskers on our shrew!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mothers and Winning the Cosmic Lottery

I don't want to dwell too much on how lucky I am, because a) I want to write about poser lucky charms, penis bones and the luck of having an unlucky opponent b) it makes for boring blogging and c) there is very little worse than a fortunate person droning on about his or her good fortune. However, a) I'm way too tired to tackle even cereal, much less subtleties of misfortunes b) I don't have all that many readers anyway and c) one thing far worse than someone talking about how good they have it is somebody who has it good and doesn't acknowledge it.

I have it good. If there is a giant cosmic lottery, earth having a pleasant-for-life orbit and water molecules being bent and forming hydrogen bonds is getting the power ball. Even within the scales of human history, being born to here (well, in Burbank, CA) and now (well, thirtyodd years ago) is a winning combination. Still, among the many people alive here and now, I have it good. One could suggest that this is not really luck: the many options and opportunities I have, didn't just happen, they were fought for by my predecessors, I did choose to wait for a great Mister and that my parents raised me to be academically inclined is not exactly happenstance. Still, I'm lucky. One way I'm lucky is with my mothers.

I could go on and on about how great my mother and the Mister's Mother are. See the first paragraph to know why that's a bad idea. In any case they are pretty darn wonderful. I scored bigtime in the mother and mother-in-law drawing. Happy Mothers' Day Mommy. Happy Mothers' Day Prairie Quilter!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Happy May Day

Happy May Day. Flowers and spring are always lucky. Distress signals and Soviet demonstrations, not so much.