HAPPY 2009!

Start off with a bang!

Dream big.

Enjoy good times with old friends.

and new
Accomplish much.

Regret little.

(I voted for this guy once!)

Work hard.

Play harder.

Accommodate your curiosity.

Remember to give back.

Dream the impossible and make it happen.

And when it's time to say goodbye, don't be sad.

You will smile and dance and sing again.

And whenever possible, sing songs about ticks.



New Year's Resolutions

Ok, now is the time that we turn our thoughts to new beginnings. New year. New administration. New me. Let's see how we did on last year's resolutions.
December 31st, 2007
OK, here we go. With the best of intentions, I make up this list every year. As with all things, I tend to do better at the beginning than at the end.

1. Workout regularly.
2. Make time to go to Chicago or anywhere else I'd like.
3. Get some funding for my research.
4. Publish, or at least prepare a paper for publication.
5. Learn to make a really great home cooked pizza (cheese optional!)
6. Get out there and meet someone special.
7. Exercise the dogs more.
8. Try at least one new recipe a month.
9. Go out more often, especially to the movies.
10. Finish all existing house projects before starting any new ones! Yes, that means installing the bathroom ceiling fan.
  1. Failed.
  2. Didn't make it to Chicago. Did make it out west for research on Liz and Liv's Kick Ass Wild West Adventure despite failing at #3. I went to my mother's for Christmas. This wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but travel-wise I guess not too shabby for the year.
  3. Failed spectacularly despite numerous and persistent effort.
  4. Failed, primarily due to #3 above.
  5. Succeeded. For those interested in learning to make pizza, I recommend going here, following the directions carefully, and then when you have perfected crust, you go here and make the salad dressing. Then use the salad dressing as your pizza sauce and add cooked chicken, onions, green peppers and a spattering of mozzarella cheese. Don't overdo the cheese. Bake and enjoy. I call it my Curried Chicken, Onion, and Pepper Pizza. You can call it The Pizza That Daktari Won't Share.
  6. Succeeded. Possibly. Don't know yet, but trying anyway. Have to say, a little disappointed he has to work on New Year's Eve night, but...hey! At least the man has a job.
  7. Failed. Although, that may more to do with Nevada getting old than anything else. We're picking up at the end of the year.
  8. Probably did. Only have details from January and February. If you want a kick ass raspberry-lime sorbet (January), see me. If you want a kick-ass chocolate chili ice cream (December), see me. Weird that I tend to make cold desserts in the winter months. I've already told you where to get great homemade pizza. Interestingly enough, I didn't learn to bake bread this year, nor did I bake as many cakes as I usually do.
  9. Success. I went on one date. I went to the Cellar many times with school mates. Bek and I went out to eat a lot. Probably too much. I went to see a lot of movies, maybe not once a month, but I do think I went about six times, which is plenty more than I went the year before. I remember seeing Wall-E with Bek and Matt. I saw The Dark Knight with Liv. I just saw Seven Pounds with my mother and sister. I saw No Country for Old Men, but honestly, I think I saw that and Charlie Wilson's War in 2007. I saw Iron Man and Quantum of Solace, my first Bond movie since 1979's Moonraker. I saw Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I rented a lot of Netflix movies, too. Not bad for a chick who doesn't watch TV. I was hampered by the lack of interesting films, and movies I was interested in seeing didn't always come to C-dale.
  10. Sorta finished. I finished the pantry project, but the ceiling fan still isn't on the bathroom ceiling. Lucky for me, it has now been integrated into the "new" bathroom project and shouldn't go up until all the other work has been completed. Like the new bathroom ceiling. Ouch.
So I'm 5.5 or a squishy 6/10. Let's say 50% success rate. Sure, I had other successes that didn't make the list. For instance, In October of 2007, I vowed not to purchase any more shampoo or conditioner until I had used every last bottle I had in my house. (I would conservatively estimate that when I made that resolution, I had about 14 unopened bottles in my bathroom.) I am on the next to last bottle of conditioner now and I had to purchase shampoo (for the first time in 14 months) in November. Chalk one up for discipline. I also sold unworn socks in my garage sale and limited myself to my "best" 30 pairs.

But back to the resolutions I actually made. Unfortunately, two of those have to do with food and not in a good way. So I'm a little leery about making any resolutions for 2008. But I'm daring if nothing else, so here goes.

  1. Make significant and meaningful progress toward finishing my phylogeny and my breeding system studies.
  2. Finish the shower stall installation, complete with new drywall, ceiling, tile work and ceiling fan.
  3. Paint the front porch.
  4. Get to Chicago for fun and adventure. Anyone want to join me?
  5. Get in shape to climb a mountain. Then climb it.
  6. Limit eating out to twice a month for lunch, and once a month for dinner. Oh wait a minute, does Dollar Pitcher Wednesdays at Quatros count? Sheesh. I see my first fail for the new year.
  7. Clean out the backlog in my freezer.
  8. Take Jake hiking at least once every two weeks.
  9. Enjoy sightseeing close to home and a weekend trip now and again with friends. I'm thinking Nashville, Chicago, Memphis, Louisville, Kansas City, New Orleans, etc.
  10. Make new friends. Quit being a hermit and get out and expand my circle, meet new people and cultivate new friendships.
There are things I'd like to do this year, but think it would be challenging, shall we say, to put on this list. Like a new front entry to the house. (With Nevada gone, no real reason to keep the wheelchair ramps around.) Presently, it is sitting on broken moorings--the victim of two drunk people running into it. A deck on the back. Some little thing where I could have a table and chairs and my little bbq. Someplace nice to have friends over. You know. A lovely new flower garden plot. Ok, that will happen for sure, so no need to put it on the list anyway.

Let's hear yours.


I'm Convinced. Rick Warren IS a bad idea at the inauguration

This is one for the "better late than never" file. Rick Warren. He explains here that he is not homophobic, and yet he thinks that gay marriage is equivalent to a marriage between and adult and a child, a brother and a sister, or a man and multiple women. He claims, incorrectly, that throughout time, all major religions define marriage as between a man and a woman. Um. Helloooooooooo. Ever heard of John Smith, Pastor Rick?

But while the rest of the world was having exasperated conniption fits about Mr. Warren's selection, I was finding it terribly difficult to give a shit. I don't concern myself much with religious folks. I find it impossible to live my life according to the tenets set down by Bronze Age "thinkers", who modified folk tales and peddled delusions of being God's chosen race with an incredible capacity for hatred, slavery, revenge and justice meted out at the end of an axe--or worse yet, as part of a gory, God-of-Abraham-pacifying sacrifice. Neither do I much go for the feelgoodness of New Age "spiritualism". My brain doesn't work that way. So the selection of inaugural woo-meister matters about as much to me as what pattern they put on my toilet paper.

But it matters a great deal to others. And I listened to as many sides as I could. The objections appear to fall in three main camps:

1) Warren is anti-gay and the LBGT community was instrumental in getting Obama elected. The truth in the latter part of that statement can certainly be disputed, but I will give you that the gay community probably did support Obama in large numbers. But look at the alternative they had. I mean, isn't "gay Republican" an oxymoron? He spoke out about his support of Prop 8 in California and the gay community seems to be looking to vilify any and all supporters of that measure. I've made clear my opinions on Prop 8 for anyone interested in refreshing their memories.

2) Warren is against legalized abortion. I'm unclear whether this is in all cases or if he will make exceptions. But let's assume that he is of the Palin ilk and against it in any circumstances. Does this surprise anyone? He's an evangelical. And yet, self-described feminists are up in arms over this. Now, women weren't so single-minded in their political support this election (or in their support of abortion), so Obama is probably good with ignoring that far-left pissed-off feminist demographic. (And before you begin piling on, I don't think that ALL feminists are far-left or pissed off, it's just that that seems to be the sub-group that finds this point MOST offensive. I clearly consider myself a feminist as well.) In this case, it's not Warren in particular that is so offensive as evangelicals in general. And last time I looked, we didn't have feminists protesting evangelical services across the country. I'm feeling pretty weak on this point. Especially since I'm pretty clear on Obama's position on abortion and I can live with it.

3) Warren is against federal support for research using embryonic stem cells, and he doesn't believe in evolution. Dipshit. Dipshit. Dipshit. Oh, did I mention that I think people who claim not to "believe" in evolution are stupid? Well, now I have. So sure, he's a moron, but he's certainly not alone. Once again, an evangelical bent here. Obama has come out saying he supports federal support for stem cell research and he believes in evolution.

I think the thing that pisses the left off the most about Warren is that he is being praised for his work in Africa on AIDS. He believes in human-induced climate change and the need to do something about it. He is not your garden variety evangelical. But still, solidly evangelical.

So I've tried to listen to everyone's beefs and consider them in the context of my own world vision. So, to get to the big question...should Warren be given a national audience on one of the most historic days in our nation's short history?

Hell to the no.

He has worked hard to advance his beliefs. He has done much good in his life. He motivates people to live, according to their beliefs, a better, more meaningful life. He tries, according to his belief, to be a positive force in the universe. But he cannot change the fact that he is a bigot.

A big fat, woo-spouting, white, Christian bigot, and I reject nearly everything upon which he bases his morality.

The question then becomes--should America be expected to tolerate bigotry? It would seem that Obama thinks so. So I have to ask, Mr. Obama, what level of tolerance should I be expected to exhibit?

Do I support those, who, based on religious convictions, harass women seeking abortion services? Do I support them when they start blowing up clinics and murdering physicians? Do I applaud as right-wing nuts hold back research that might lead to a wave of life-saving treatments? How about I run to the defense of the bat-shit crazy evangelical nut case that walked into a New Age business in my community and attempted to set the store owner on FIRE for selling "heretical" icons? Should I welcome evangelical Christians who think that it's okay to prevent people from humane treatment in the courts, our health care system, and in their every day lives, simply because they are different? Do I smile in blissful tolerance when Rick Warren tells me that Prop 8 was going to turn his Sunday sermons into prosecutable hate speech? Do I stand by and say nothing when I hear people slinging epithets at one another on the street? Do I join in so they don't feel so uneducated and alone? Do I lend my support to those who blackball Jews and Communists and nigger-loving honkies? Maybe I should have Mark Fuhrman and O.J. over for a reconciliatory dinner. How do I distinguish between bigotry that is okay, and bigotry that is intolerable? Someone needs to send me a copy of the Bigot Handbook so I can get this all clear in my head.

Rick Warren is not okay because it is not okay to give anyone a national platform on which to stand and wrap himself in a halo of Christian benevolence when he is, in fact, an intolerant, ignorant bigot.

And we got enough big fat steaming piles of bigotry in this country without patting them on the hand and telling them it's alright.

By God (pun intended), it ain't alright.

I vowed not to pick on Obama until he actually took office. Then again, marriage has vows and I broke those, too. Mr. Obama, you are wrong. Rick Warren is a very bad idea. Don't let this pattern continue or you risk my becoming disillusioned with you.


Christmas Coma

When I was a kid, Christmas involved waking up, realizing it was THE MORNING, and running to get my parents out of bed. There was, after all, no present unwrapping until everyone was downstairs. This was a real drag when my brothers got up into high school and didn't want to wake up early. At some point my parents gave up waiting on them and let my sister and me start opening our presents in defiance of their ONE RULE. Oh, of course, we got to open up one present on Christmas eve, but we never wanted it to be our BIG present, because then what would you have left on Christmas morning but socks and books and bad sweaters from Aunt Helen?

But as we've gotten older, Christmas begins later and later. We didn't even arrive at my mother's until 1. Dinner was at 4. About 5:30 we started to think about opening presents. Also at 5:30, D-brother called and that took another 15 minutes. Oh, we finally got back to the task at hand. There were a lot of presents under that tree for only 4 people.

So this wasn't the Christmas of my childhood. But it was a lot of fun visiting and eating and swapping cookies. But I'm getting ahead of myself. There are a lot of traditions in the D-family Christmas celebration. First the guests arrive. There's D-Gram.
And D-sister. D-sister's dog, Chance isn't happy when D-sister goes out to empty the car. And after everyone arrives, we have to take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.

Jake dislikes having his picture taken, but he is, at first, a good sport. Here he is showing off his new walrus toy. I believe he may have been disappointed because there was no squeaker.

Then we ate. We had ham, sweet potatoes, corn casserole, green beans, rolls, red wine, and cushaw pie for dessert. (These are cushaw for those not from the south.) We had cookies. And more cookies. Sugar cookies in Christmas shapes with green and red sprinkles. Cheddar crisps. Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with walnuts. Ginger snaps. Peanut brittle. Peanut butter fudge. Chocolate fudge. Peanut butter truffles dipped in chocolate. Candy canes flavored like Life Savers. Fruit and shortbreads and nut mixes from Harry and David's. There was probably more, but I had to go to detox after all that candy.

But after we revived, we headed up to my Gram's to see her Christmas tree and visit there for a while. Isn't her tree grand? And the nativity set was purchased by my father when he was just a child as a present to his mother. She adores that nativity set, even though the baby Jesus is broken and one of the three kings sorta leans.

Our family is much smaller now. All the men are gone. D-nephew Lee spent the holiday with his father and is now heading to Pennsylvania for a visit with his high school friends. My aunt wasn't feeling up to it and didn't make it down. Nonetheless, I have really enjoyed my visit. It won't be easy heading back to the land of chemical ecology and lesson plans for spring.


Chasing the Fat Man

Christmas Eve and I'm driving to my sister's and what before my wandering eyes should appear, but an adventure with a capital A.

You know. A side trip.

Those unintended little detours in life that make the journey worthwhile. Those who know me know that I'm a big fan of adventure. In Wyoming, there was the Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport. In Greensburg, Indiana, there is a tree growing out of a clock tower. But today. Christmas Eve. When all over the world, children look to the skies for the Fat Man. I knew just where to look. Christmas Boulevard in downtown Santa Claus, Indiana.

I knew I was in the right place. There was Santa Claus Car Care, because even Santa's sleigh needs a tune up before his big day.

And Santa Claus Chriopractic. I guess lifting bags of toys up and down all those chimneys is bound to give Santa a bad back.

I bought two cans of creamed corn for our Christmas dinner at Holiday Foods.

And all those letters you send Santa? Probably get processed through Santa Claus' very own post office.

And you thought the headquarters of operations were at the North Pole. Do you have any idea how cold it is at the North Pole? Well, neither do I, but I'm guessing plenty cold. So what better disguise than for everyone to think you are at the North Pole when you are really in the middle of Indiana.

In any event, it was a great adventure, even though I kept chasing dead ends. I think they were trying to throw me off the track.

And they sure have the Christmas spirit in Santa Claus.

I even think I caught a glimpse of the Big Guy over Louisville.

And while I know that Santa Claus is German, I think this was an extremely poor choice of poses, all things considered.

In any event, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas. And to all a good night!


Daktari: Christmas Edition

Today, sometime, when the freezing rain lets up, I'm headed to my sister's house. Stage 1 of the holidays. Well, as soon as I figure out how to keep my water pipes from freezing while I'm gone, change the fish water, vacuum, do a load of laundry, pack, get Jake ready, get an oil change, and get in the car and go. In any event, my sister doesn't like me to live on the internet at her house, and she doesn't have wireless, so all my internet activities occur on her computer and in public, so I will be incommunicado for the holidays. Which brings me to the point of this post.

Merry Christmas. Happy Kwanza. Happy Holidays. Peaceful Season. May you all find a moment of comfort and peace, enjoy happy times with friends and family, and get at least one kick-ass present.

To D-fav J, I wish acceptance of your dissertation in situ.

To D-fav Liv, I wish play time in the snow with Jake-fav Jack. I know you will enjoy your time with Utah friends and family. Oh, and bring me back some Polygamy Porter. (hint, hint)

To D-friend D-ennis, I wish play time in the snow with D-fav Liv, Jake-fav Jack, and sweet, sweet Maggie. Preferrably in some place that can only be gotten two by 4-wheel drive. And when you are up there, tell me if you don't notice that Liv jumps out of the car, springs up the side of a sheer cliff and stands arms akimbo in victory. She has a habit of that. I have pictures. I swear!

To D-friend blue moon, I wish for photographic adventures in the new year, with plenty of burrowing owl. Oh, and I know you'll be a kick-ass grandma.

To D-friends Mama Bee, J, and Doodle. I only wish that you maintain the happiness you have found in your family. Oh, and I think it's time Doodle learned to swim. I'm just saying. Kayaking season is approaching.

To Joe, Linds, and Ari, more great adventures, a larger child carrier, and exceedingly few crap weeks.

To D-and-Jake-fav Jack, I wish warm puppy piles with Jessie, K-so, Maggie, Jessie, new dog, et al.

D-dog Jake is going to visit with his cousin Chance in Kentucky. We probably won't see snow, but he'll have a high time anyway.

D has a few secret wishes for herself this holiday season. If I get all or some or none of them, I'll still be happy. Happy for all the friends I have in you. Thanks for all the good times. Let's kick it up a notch in '09.

Merry Christmas, y'all. I'll see you back here soon.


Who needs to explain when you have this?

People have asked me why I care so much about racism. People think they know why, but they don't. I have always justified it rather flippantly by pointing toward my "overdeveloped sense of justice", but I think I can more directly point it toward two things. The first was the impact of reading To Kill a Mockingbird. The second was that first grainy black-and-white photograph I saw in a book somewhere of a public lynching in the American South. A black man swinging from a tree for nothing more than the crime of being black. I think it was more a function of tales of torture, mutilation and humiliation. It always seemed to me that we vilified Nazis for their crimes, but ignored the sin that went on in this country with tactic public and government approval.

I had this vision of fat, bigoted, cigar-chewing, law enforcement with crew cuts, always white, sitting in police cruisers and calling everyone darker than me, "boy". I had visions of farm boys in overalls being chastised for their "high spirits" when they chased some young black man on foot across bean fields, until he, leg muscles burning and gasping for breath, finally eluded them in the dark.

I also had visions of black men, too afraid to lift up their heads when walking down the street for fear that it might offend some passing white. Stooped black men living in fear of everything and everyone. Free only in the sanctuary of the church, with voice lifted up to God. I wondered how many men, living under those conditions, realized that no God was going to save them--their voices silenced and deprived of even that moment of joy and freedom.

And then I imagined living under those conditions. Not as a high-spirited farm boy, but as a black person, oppressed and hated. I imagined being a child and not playing in the street, but in the back to avoid the wrath of white drivers. I imagined being a mother and shushing my children to be quiet so as not to draw undue attention on the bus or in the stores. I imagined the epithets hurled out of nowhere and for no reason. I imagined the looks of white women who considered themselves too cultured to sling epithets, but whose stares stung equally as hard. I imagined a life of work in the homes of white people who "treated me like family" but didn't know my children's names, or what my husband did for a living, and who thought I wasn't like the rest of them. The ones who told me that I was part of the family when they wanted me to work on holidays, but somehow never recognized me on the street with my real family. And although I have never been accused of harboring a great deal of empathy, I imagined a life where none of this ever ended or ever appeared capable of ending. Amazingly enough, I understood and it was real for me.

Today, I read this article in the NY Times that brought all this back for me. These feelings I had I have had for a long time. I don't know why I was affected by these things, but I was. I don't know why it was me, but sometimes you are the only one who hears, who feels, and who understands. If you are that person, you bear responsibility to do something. Something. Anything. Even if you don't know what all the time.

In this, the midst of the Christmas season, the world is supposed to be filled with loving and good will. I'm decidedly not feeling it this year. It's been a hard year. On the one hand, Obama's election marks a milestone in our eradication of racism. But it has not erased it. Nor has it erased intolerance of Mexicans, immigrants, or the gay community. It has not stopped the problems in Darfur or Kinshasa. The world begs for voices who understand.

I think something in my heart told me that I needed to on the side of "right". Like Atticus Finch. I'm certain there are others out there, like me, who find it impossible to ignore or discount or shut up about what they see as an ongoing and pervasive injustice. Your friends and family may tire of it, but I implore you to work in the coming year to advance your cause--no matter what it is. They are listening. They are softening. Hearts can be turned. The world can change. Because. it. must.


Squeeky Clean

Meet Squeeky. The most disgusting dog toy on the face of the Earth.

Squeeky holds a special place in our home. He was Jake's first dog toy. When Jake came to live with Nevada and me, Squeeky came with him. Well, Squeeky, a really big tennis ball he won't play with, and a quilt that serves as his dog bed to this day. Jake is big on dog toys and having come from a broken home, being an orphan, and having been homeless street dog for 2 years before we met, relics from Jake's past are something near and dear to him.

Squeeky is his favorite toy. It's his go-to toy when you tell him to go get a toy. If you tell him to go get Squeeky, he finds it out of the thousands of other squeeky toys from which to pick in his dog toy basket.

Squeeky has friends in that basket. There's Sharky. And Octopussy. There's Squeeky Monster. There's the hundreds of plush animals upon which Jake has performed squeekectomies. Squeeking is clearly a big thing in our home. But Squeeky is the King. He's also the grossest possible thing to have to play with.

You see, Squeeky is old. And old plastic dog toys don't fade away, they disintegrate. And Squeeky is falling apart. Once a bright yellow toy with deep red features, and the most awesome rubber pink hair, Squeeky today has sort of melted.

I think maybe it is the unique nature of Jake's dog spit. In any event, Squeeky is only a faint memory of his former self. Even his squeeky elements are ragged.

So today Squeeky got a bath. Now he's Squeeky clean.

He is also sticky. Something about removing the dirt has made Squeeky super sticky. Not sticky in the way that a slobbery dog ball gets sticky, but rather a "I'm leaking carcinogens directly into your dog's bloodstream" sort of sticky. See those bumps? Sticky. They will attract dirt in a way that you can't imagine. Soon, Squeeky will look like he has the measles. I promise, in two weeks I'll take a follow up photo and you can see. It's gross.

Maybe its that elusive stickiness that makes Squeeky so popular.

In any event, I have decided that upon his death, Squeeky will go with Jake into that big dog park in the sky. Or maybe I'll just keep him around to see how long a squeeky toy can actually last.


Goofy Jake

I overlooked this pic of Jake looking goofy from our hike last Sunday. I just had to share it.
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I'm screwed

I told Liv I wanted to climb a mountain with her next year. That entails doing something that I should have been doing all along...getting my ass in shape. So tonight, I brought in the agent of my transformation,
*drumroll please*

The Nordic Track, circa 1974.

So sure, maybe it doesn't look like much. There's no electricity involved. I just get on the contraption and glide my way to a great pair of legs, a rock-hard ass, and maybe a much stronger back. Ok, ok, so I haven't been on the thing in more than 6 months. So I had to hold on for a half kilometer until I found my rhythm again. It will come and you will be insanely jealous of D's calves in no time.

I brought it in from the cold. I washed off the dust. I stepped on the skis and took a few strides. It squeeked like a mother. I found the turbine lubricant (don't ask) and greased up the moving parts and ran it through a 1 km ride. No more squeeky.

But D cannot exercise by Nordic Track alone, because the iPod bit the dust and demusicified Nordic Track is impossible to bear. So, I will be coupling said cross-den skiing torture with a little bit of sweetness.

Sweetness in the form of Shaun T.

Shaun T of Hip Hop Abs.

Oh yeah.

I forsee a promising climbing season in 2009. That is, if Liv can tear me away from my personal trainer. I wonder if I could load Hip Hop Abs on one of those second generation iPods. =]

A cold winter begins

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A reminder for me

Life occurs just outside your comfort zone.


These boots were meant for walking.....

I love it when funny shit happens on my birthday. I find it even funnier because when someone makes me mad, I threaten to throw shoes at them. =]


The Elusive Spontaneous Self Portrait

Jake and I went to Lake Murphysboro for a hike today. I decided that it would be a neat place to take our Christmas picture. Let's just say the art of the spontaneous self portrait takes practice. After looking at the quality of my results, I think I'm going to have to read my camera booklet and actually learn how to use this thing.

At first, no one was in the picture.

Then just me.Then just Jake.Then part of me and part of Jake.

Then there's the wet lick to the face pose.

I think this will have to do.

I decided it was best to focus on other things like a passing heron.

And Jake can be a handsome fellow.Until he gets bored.And then he gets sassy.

When your dog gives you the raspberry, it's time to go home.