Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Today, on the way home on the bus, I was pondering the curious fact that for some reason I've written exactly 26 posts each month in 2010. It happened completely by chance until last month, when I noticed it for the first time, and I intentionally made sure that May contained 26 of them. Then I forgot about it until yesterday, when I realized that if I wrote another one today, I would also have 26 posts for the month of June!

I was thinking about it to myself when I spied a house number, 2112, and realized it is a palindrome. A palindrome is a word, phrase, number, or other sequence of units that can be read the same way in either direction.

My sequence of 26 posts is not a palindrome, but the whole idea of different combinations, lucky and unlucky ones, numbers that read the same in both directions, repeating numbers, fascinates me. I'm superstitious to a certain degree, and I realized that I had to find out what 26 means in numerology. Not much, actually; it's the 2 + 6 = 8 that seems more important to numerologists. In doing a little research, I realized that I am actually more interested in mirror images, like palindromes. I have long considered my lucky number to be 11, which is one. Dates are often palindromes, the last one having been January 2, 2010, or 01/02/2010. The next one will be November 2, 2011, or 11/02/2011. Is this interesting to you as well?

Just a little teaser before I let you go: are you aware of some of the cute phrases that are palindromes, such as "Was it a rat I saw?" or "Dammit, I'm mad!" Aren't they fun?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Galactic eye

Luc Perrot,
Today I saw this incredible picture on the Astronomy Picture of the Day. It's a composite made of eight images from a fisheye lens put together to make what looks to me at first glance like a God's Eye. He took the pictures at night, illuminated with a lamp, and put them together to make a complete circle. In the middle is the Milky Way, and if you look closely you can also see his tent, a shoreline, and much more. He took this on the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean. Click to enlarge to truly appreciate the image. APOD continues to amaze me, and I never miss a morning picture to give me a more accurate perspective of the world. Sometimes I get too focused on minutia when I need to look at the bigger picture.

Another wonderful thing from the blogging world that I discovered through Sharon's Paws Create is a website filled with donated art that goes to help the animals suffering from the Oil Disaster. Sharon has donated some beautiful art, and the other amazing donated art that is being sold will bring tears to your eyes, they are so poignant and beautiful. Go on over to Ripple to buy a beautiful piece of art for $10. Here's what they are about:
Each sketchcard on this blog $10. The $10 is a donation to help the animal victims of the Deep Water Horizon Gulf Oil Spill. Every penny is donated. The two nonprofits that are benefitting are The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies and The International Bird Rescue Research Center. You can purchase a card if you donate directly to one of the nonprofit and email me the confirmation and your address to The artist will mail you the signed card.
The creator of the blog also adds, "We don't have to feel helpless. We can help. Our small actions together will ripple outward."

Monday, June 28, 2010

Hiding out

From Kitty Loco Designs
The news today scares me, again. So I'm going to spend the next few days hiding out, not going into any places where somebody might be out with a gun. Like Starbucks. Or a department store.

You might have heard about the Supreme Court ruling that was passed today, making sure than gun owners will not be hindered in their right to bear arms. Of course, this means everybody, anywhere, for any reason has this right. Right? I certainly hope not. But the way the gun control opponents are celebrating this ruling does not make me feel any safer.

I just finished reading the whole page on Wikipedia about the Second Amendment, trying to figure out how we got here, and it's fascinating to me how much of a difference in interpretation you can get by simply changing punctuation within a sentence. Take this one, for example. On September 4, 1789, the Senate voted to change the language of the Second Amendment by removing the definition of militia, and striking the conscientious objector clause:
A well regulated militia, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
A few days later, the Senate then slightly modified the language and voted to return the Bill of Rights to the House. The final version passed by the Senate was:
A well regulated militia being the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
No wonder there is so much controversy now about what the Second Amendment actually means. But for now, I'm just going to hide away until it feels safe to venture out of my home. There is some really good reading in both of those links, the first from Yahoo News about today's decision and the other from Wikipedia. I've spent quite a bit of time this morning wondering about the wisdom of this 5-4 Supreme Court ruling.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Birds big and small

I was able to capture this picture of the hummingbird's wings in flight (click to enlarge) last week when he came to check out my flowers. I  believe this is a rufous hummer (although I could be wrong), and he's the same one who came within inches of my face while checking me out. He flew away when I introduced myself.

There is something about the flight characteristics of hummingbirds that reminds me of a giant mosquito, although far more lovely and plus they don't bite. One of my Flickr friends got a picture of a hummer with his incredibly long tongue sticking out. They really do have amazingly long tongues. I snagged this picture off the Castellow Hammock Nature Center.
See what I mean? This gives them the ability to reach WAY down inside those flowers for the nectar as they hover. I love these guys, and they do indeed brighten my days, watching for them as I gaze out the window at my usual visitors, the goldfinches, nuthatches, chickadees, towhees, and yes, even the sparrows.
This is a recent picture, taken this week by boonibarb on Flickr, of my little eaglet nicknamed "Phoenix." We watched him (her?) hatch at the end of April on the Hornby Eagle web cam. He is peering over the edge of the nest in this picture, wondering when Mom or Dad will be bringing some food. This young eaglet will fledge in a few more weeks. Right now he stretches his incredible wings daily and hops up and down, getting ready for the big day. I am just about ready to stop watching the site, because I've become very attached to this little guy, and fledging is a very intense time when a young eaglet doesn't always make it.

When he strays too close to the edge, I want to stop him, or if his parents make him wait a little too long for his dinner, I get stressed out. I'm not alone; there is a chat room and I listen to (actually read) what the others have to say, and I realize that we are all watching this saga closely. Last year I stopped watching another eagle cam at about this time, because the three eaglets had become way too important to me. One hatched a week later than the others and was nicknamed "Tink" by the eagle cam addicts. You realize very quickly that you are not watching a Disney movie but real life, when anything can happen.

But, that said, I truly enjoy my excursions into the life of the birds, large and small, and I even love the hawk that sometimes comes over to dine on my well-fed little birdies. I posted this picture a while back of an immature Cooper's Hawk, taken through the bedroom window with my telephoto lens.
Enjoy your weekend! I hope the weather is wonderful in your part of the world, and that you have some feathered friends to keep you company, too.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Exceptional flowers

What makes a flower picture really exceptional? The Retired One (whose May contest I won) has challenged us to enter her June contest on "Flowers." Well, that's a tall order, when I realize that a flower all by itself is beautiful, and a photographer can find all kinds of reasons for thinking that her picture is exceptional. I took this one when the flowers I set out to attract hummingbirds came out, and I think it's pretty exceptional, but there are so many others that are even more attractive.
You can always hope for a brilliant insect to land on a flower, adding a certain other dimension to the picture, and what could make this beautiful white Canterbury Bell more exceptional that the addition of a green-hued insect? (Click any to appreciate fully.)
Yesterday while walking to the dentist's office, I spied these beautiful California poppies. They helped me remember all the times I saw them previously and immediately made my feel good. Of course, getting to the dentist's office was not something I was looking forward to, no matter how much I might love my dentist, and I was glad to snap a picture of these orange beauties.

Now that it's been a day since the dentist put that permanent crown on, I'm still hoping that the sensitivity I'm feeling will dissipate. After all, I didn't have it with the temporary, and after all that pushing and pulling I am hoping that is the reason for the continuing sensitivity. Having dental work is not that different from other kinds of pain: once I have it and it goes away, I can't remember when I had the pain before. Is that normal? I'm not talking hot and cold sensitivity but a mild ache when I bite down on foods.

I'm hoping that life is treating all of you well today, and that summer is taking ahold in your part of the world and making the wonders of the season available to you. Finally summer seems to have arrived in the Pacific Northwest, as we had our first day over 75 degrees on Wednesday. It had been a full nine months!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

My dental team

 Well, instead of joining the Senior Trailblazers today to head up Church Mountain, I went to the dentist's office to get my permanent crown. If I didn't do it today, a Thursday, I would have to wait until July 7 while my dental team heads off for vacation. That just didn't seem like a good option, so instead of Church I went to visit Dr. Olivia Collier and her excellent team. Say hello to Dr. Collier with my entire dental array on her right (click to enlarge). Here's a link to their website with more about Olivia and her business partner Jon.
Nicole, her assistant, made my temporary and lodged it into my mouth so well that Olivia had to numb me up and cut it off!!! I had never experienced anything like this before, and it was such a beautiful temporary (before being cut into pieces) that I suppose it would have lasted just fine until July 7, but now it's all over. Nicole said this is the second time this week that all the pulling and pushing in the world would not get the temporary to come out. And there I was flossing gently and carefully! I don't think it would have made any difference if I had treated it like a regular tooth.
This is C.J., the receptionist, and Employee Extraordinaire. Olivia said that C.J. was her only other employee for years, and she was a dental assistant before becoming the bookkeeper and receptionist, and when my temporary needed a little adjustment, she shaved it off to fit! Since I don't have dental insurance and I am paying the whole thing myself, I wanted to have the best care available. I think I found it.

Even though going to the dentist is not my favorite thing to do, I am pleased to know that I am in good hands when I visit my dental team.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

June snowshoe adventure

This is me yesterday, June 22, with three friends starting our snowshoe adventure up to Skyline Divide. We never made it to the top, but some people who are sweltering in the heat might get cooled off a little by looking at all that snow.
We hiked up from the trailhead about a mile before deciding to strap on the snowshoes we had wisely added to our gear. I still don't have any, but I borrowed Al's spare set. That's Al in the orange, with Marjan and Frank busily strapping on their snowshoes.

Al suggested to the Senior Trailblazers that we do this hike on Tuesday before the trip up to Church Mountain on Thursday. I won't be able to go on that one, since I've got a dentist appointment right in the middle of the day, so I was happy to be able to join three others on Tuesday. It is a fairly short hike (around two miles) to the summit of Skyline Divide, but we lost the trail in the deep snow and tried to make our way through the steep brush. While I was hanging onto a steep slope wondering how in the world I would be able to get back down, my water bottle came loose and crashed back down into the snow. I decided to join it, since clinging onto the side of a mountain with strange things strapped to my feet was NOT my idea of fun. Plus the weather had not cleared and all that work would not have given us a view.
As we began our descent from the snow, of course the weather began to clear a little. This is a view of Church Mountain across the valley, which the Trailblazers will attempt without me tomorrow. As you can see, they will not be able to get to the summit there either, since the snow is still quite deep. But it's sure beautiful. And we did have a great day, it didn't rain, even if the sun didn't come out in the Cascades until around 4:00 pm.
The flowers are beginning to come out in the High Country, though, as you can see from this beautiful waterfall at the end of the hike, on our way back down the road. It's a different world here, since you can go from sunshine and summer into winter in less than an hour. I love this place!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Happy birthday, Allison!

Allison and her daughter Lexie 18 June 2010
Allison is 42 years old today, June 22. She is my niece, Norma Jean's daughter. You wouldn't know from this picture that Allison had just given birth by C-section, to her precious baby girl conceived by in-vitro fertilization. I got permission from Norma Jean to tell their story, because I still find it amazing how some life comes into being these days.

Allison is a very strong-willed and beautiful career woman, with many promotions through the ranks as an officer in the Army. Soon she will become a Lt. Colonel, but that pretty incredible accomplishment pales in comparison to that child in her arms. Although Allison has been married before, she is not married right now, and she must have been paying close attention to that biological clock that many of us women are aware of: soon she would no longer be able to bear a child.

She tried to conceive this way a while back, but she was unsuccessful. Norma Jean told me in a conversation with her not long before Lexie was conceived that Allison would give it one more try, and if she didn't conceive, she would turn to adoption. Norma Jean, Pete (my brother-in-law) and I were dubious about the wisdom of conception this way, with a high-powered career woman for a mother and no father. We discussed this, all of us, on the phone a few times, and I was just not sure this was a good move.

But nobody stands in Allison's way for long: when she makes up her mind to do something, she follows it to the end. And guess what? She did conceive! One little egg was fertilized with one little donor sperm, and Alexandra Petra Stewart was begun. Allison had a completely normal and complications-free pregnancy until a few weeks ago, when she began to go into labor six weeks early.

She was put into the hospital and the doctors figured that bed rest and some drugs to slow down the delivery would give the baby more time in the womb, but it was not to be. Lexie wanted to be born, and she came into the world six weeks early on June 18. She was 5 pounds, 5 ounces, which makes me wonder what size she would have been if carried to term!

All is well, Allison has been discharged and Lexie will be sent home to join her mother in a week or so. She will remain in the NICU (natal intensive care unit) until the doctors are sure her lungs are sufficiently developed. She is having some periods of apnea that should disappear once she gains some strength.

Norma Jean and Pete are thrilled. Much more so than they thought they would be. They were on an extended motorcycle trip during this time and checked into a hotel a few nights ago. Pete got on line and asked Norma Jean in a trembling voice if she wanted to see a picture of her beautiful granddaughter, and they both cried over the Facebook pictures that Allison shared with all of us. That's where I snagged the picture.

No matter how this person was conceived and brought into the world, that little life will be loved and cherished with a full cadre of family members who will bring their love, hopes and desires into her world. We already love her immoderately. And we have always loved her mother.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer solstice

Max Alexander, Astronomy Picture of the Day
Actually, today it is the summer solstice only in the Northern Hemisphere; in the Southern Hemisphere it is the winter solstice. The above picture is from one of my favorite sites, Astronomy Picture of the Day (which I visit daily to remind me to widen my horizons). Taken at Stonehenge at the summer solstice in 2008, the picture shows the 4,500-year-old stones, with some amazing fog, trees, and sunrise to add to the mysterious setting.

Stonehenge, located in England, is often shown in pictures during the solstice, because although the reason for the construction of this prehistoric monument is lost in the mists of time (it is, after all, at least 4,500 years old and maybe older), it is an amazing place, filled with magic and mystery. From Wikipedia:
The prehistoric monument of Stonehenge has long been studied for its possible connections with ancient astronomy. Archaeoastronomers have claimed that Stonehenge represents an "ancient observatory," although the extent of its use for that purpose is in dispute. Many also believe that the site may have had astrological or spiritual significance attached to it as well.
Whatever the origins and meaning of Stonehenge, the site has drawn so many people that it is now almost impossible to imagine what it must have been like long ago. It has become another of those ancient sites that has been altered by the unending approach of hordes of visitors. More from Wikipedia:
Although Stonehenge has become an increasingly popular destination during the summer solstice, with 20,000 people visiting in 2005, scholars have developed growing evidence that indicates prehistoric people visited the site only during the winter solstice. The only megalithic monuments in the British Isles to contain a clear, compelling solar alignment are Newgrange and Maeshowe, which both famously face the winter solstice sunrise.
Never mind. I guess I won't visit it, but I'll continue to imagine and dream when I look at pictures like these. After today, each night of the year will be a little longer and each day a little shorter, until we reach the equinox in September. The brilliant poet Emily Dickinson wrote this in 1883, and it says everything to me about Stonehenge:
Sweet hours have perished here;
This is a mighty room;
Within its precincts hopes have played, --
Now shadows in the tomb.
Happy solstice, wherever you are on our blue globe. Namaste!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

June market

This morning the sun is shining, which is very helpful in improving my mood. The blue skies with fluffy white clouds caused me to join the Fairhaven walkers' group early this morning for a nice four-mile jaunt along Bellingham Bay. Kids and parents were out on bikes, lots of walkers and runners all wearing smiles and summer clothes (with a jacket, since it was only in the fifties).

I headed over to the Farmers' Market at 10:00 when it opened so that I could grab some good organic kale. It is sold out within an hour at almost every stand, it is so good. I saw the gorgeous flowers shown in the above picture with amazing calla lilies and lupine and columbines and could not resist: I bought a bouquet, took it home and made two flower arrangements with it.
I spied this stunning young woman at work and asked if I could take her picture, and she readily agreed. The sun on her hair, the rose, and the heart tattoo all combined to make her simply the picture of summer. You would think it was warm, given her clothing, but right now at 1:00 pm in the afternoon, Bellingham is only 64 degrees -- not exactly sweltering -- with a light breeze.
This lady has a booth that offers face painting for children and their friends, and she attracts the kids (and even some older kids like me) by blowing bubbles with her bubble machine all day long every Saturday. For the last few weeks in Boulder, where I used to live, people have been experiencing a heat wave, with temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s, and it reminds me how nice it is to put on a light jacket in June and head down to the market.  As I get older, I find that given the choice between too hot or too cold, I'll choose the cooler option every time. How's the weather in your part of the world?

Friday, June 18, 2010


This picture was taken yesterday on the summit of Welcome Pass. I'm happy to say I'm still hiking, and I'm still able to be an active Senior, even though it has been ten years to the day since the skydiving accident (the link goes to a post I wrote a year ago about how it happened) that put it all in doubt.

I feel very fortunate not to have many limitations from the accident, since I lost an artery down my right leg and have some nerve damage to boot, not to mention two permanent pieces of hardware. Nobody expected me to be able to walk very far once I healed up (including my doctor), but what can I say? I do have a fairly high level of pain tolerance, but still I believe that I was fortunate to have had a great surgeon who happened to be on call on a Sunday afternoon.

No one can say what makes one person able to continue to improve and another continues to decline after a major injury. I suspect that one day I'll be experiencing the other end of the fulcrum. That's the way of things. But today I am celebrating ten years from the day I woke up to find a broken body and an unknown future. Today, I'm doing everything I ever wanted to do, and then some.

And wonder of wonders, a new family member has been born today! My niece Allison (Norma Jean's daughter) gave birth this morning to Lexie, her little 5 lb 5 oz bundle of joy! Her full name is Alexandra Petra Stewart, brought into the world by C-section a month or so early, but apparently just fine. I am not sure when I'll get to see her, since her mother will be surrounded by plenty of other family and friends, not to mention she lives on the other side of the country.
This is a day to look back at the past ten years and give thanks for such a fantastic journey, and say hello to a precious new life!!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Slip slidin' on Welcome Pass

Who would have guessed that 17 Senior Trailblazers would choose to hike up Welcome Pass on a day when it was (1) cloudy, maybe rainy; and (2) the most reviled hike of 2009? Last year, I wrote here about our unexpected trip up Welcome Pass. Afterwards, we had all decided that one time up Welcome Pass was enough. Of course, the local guidebook helped with this assessment. Here's an excerpt from Ken Wilcox's book, Hiking Whatcom County:
Of the several access routes to the meadowlands of the High Divide, the Welcome Pass Trail is the most grueling. Endless short switchbacks -- 67of them -- go almost from the trailhead to summit.
You hike up almost 3,000 feet in less than three miles, which means it's tough going up, and tough coming back down. Last year my knees felt like hamburger at the end. The last quarter mile or so up to the summit was also in snow. Today, I expected no more than a few of us going up the scheduled hike to Welcome Pass, but was I surprised when 17 hikers, most from last year and even some who have never been up it before, showed up on a less than perfect day. It must be something like childbirth: you forget the pain because of the reward, in this case a summit rather than a baby.
Although the forecast was that early morning clouds would clear to a partly sunny day, it did not happen in our part of Washington state. Rain and rain gear to start the hike, until we were not sure whether it was actually raining on us, or just a heavy mist falling from the trees. We persevered, not sure whether it was a good idea or not, but making it to the summit.
After all that effort, our view was limited, however, to seeing the clouds lift enough to see the misty mountain behind Fred. By the time we finished lunch, even this view was lost in the clouds. We never got much more than this, and although it was not raining while we had lunch, some of us were nervous about going back down the steep snow banks.
This is our lunch spot, taken when I went into the trees to visit the ladies' room. On the way back, I saw that this picture showed our group looking, to my eyes, much more like mountaineers than a bunch of old folks! The average age of today's group had to be well over 70, and here we were, on a summit in the mist, nothing but our desire for adventure bringing us here. Well, that and the great company!
While the trip back down was tough, especially the parts in the snow, as soon as we reached the exposed trail we found our real challenge: staying upright on the slippery tree roots, rocks, and trail detritus that kept some of us on our backsides more often that we might have wished. By the time we got past the 67 switchbacks, Fred suggested that our hike might be named after Simon & Garfunkel's "Slip Slidin' Away," as that is how we spent most of our day: slippin' and slidin' and hopin' we could get every one of us down without any injuries.

We did, and here's the proof!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My little hummer

Yesterday I caught this little guy drinking the nectar from my planter flowers. (You can click to enlarge to see his pretty little backside.) Last year I put out a hummingbird feeder, but I found that the hummingbirds much preferred my flowers, so I planted these to capture their interest. This is the first one I've seen here this season, because the first flowers have just bloomed.

Thanks to everyone who gave me feedback about your dealings with the wild creatures that inhabit your back yards and sometimes your gardens. I feel much more serene and better able to handle the ups and downs of my front porch critters. I would much rather have them around than not; they are very engaging and, yes, I can even appreciate the House Sparrows now and then.
This is an excellent year for goldfinches. I saw this purple finch alight on the thistle sock with them. The male goldfinch at the top is looking at the other finch as if to say, "hey, this is my territory!" The male goldfinches have that black mark on their heads, and the females are not as brightly colored. The one in the middle right is a female. But they are all so pretty!

And just as I was writing this post, the hummingbird came over to my flower pot, so I crept outside hoping I might be able to get a good shot in the low light. As I was adjusting my camera, the hummer flew right up to my face, mere inches away, as if to take a good look at me! It was thrilling. But I was unable to get another good picture, so these will have to do for now.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Feeding the wildlife

Our neighbors to the west have a big backyard that I've been told is planted with organic garlic, among other things. They put up a lot of barriers to keep out the wildlife. But, as you can see, these deer have been munching there all morning long, with netting, fencing, and other attempts failing miserably at keeping them out.

Feeding the wildlife is sometimes done like this, unintentionally, or by people like me, who like to feed the birds. It was a winter ago when I saw birdseed put out by a neighbor, and I saw all the little tracks in the snow that got me started. It occurred to me that birds might need to be fed in the winter. And then I didn't stop when summer came around, and now I'm hooked on feeding the birds. And the squirrels by default.

At least I live in a second-story apartment so I don't get the deer eating up my hummingbird flowers, but I watch them eat the ground-level flowers that appeal to them. The whole Pacific Northwest is their salad bar, after all.

I have followed the tenets about feeding the birds that comes from some well-known and respected sites, such as the "All About Birds" site at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I just looked up some information, out of curiosity, wondering how the birds crack the sunflower seeds. I learned that the black oil sunflower seeds have thin shells that are readily cracked by most birds. Some people in my apartment complex put out corn for the birds and other wildlife, but I don't. I found that it rots quickly, and this information on that website caught my eye:
Corn is eaten by grouse, pheasants, turkeys, quails, cardinals, grosbeaks, crows, ravens, jays, doves, ducks, cranes, and other species. Unfortunately, corn has two serious problems. First, it’s a favorite of House Sparrows, cowbirds, starlings, geese, bears, raccoons, and deer—none of which should be subsidized by us. Second, corn is the bird food most likely to be contaminated with aflatoxins, which are extremely toxic even at low levels.
So, it is quite possible that you could be harming rather than helping the wildlife by feeding them. After trying my best to rid myself of the House Sparrows, I've stopped putting out everything except the nyjer thistle which the finches love, and black oil sunflower seeds. I just love the cheeky chickadees, and they eat the sunflower seeds, as do the House Sparrows. I won't stop feeding my favorite guys, so I guess I have to endure the House Sparrows as well.
Here they are consuming the sunflower seeds at an alarming rate. One thing they do, however, is knock quite a few of the seeds to the ground, which are snatched up by the Spotted Towhee if it is fast enough to beat the squirrels to them. And, of course, I help by trying my best to soak the backsides of the squirrels.

I gain so much pleasure from watching the birds, and now from chasing the squirrels in the ancient tradition of all neighborhood kids with Super Soakers. I've written about this guilty pastime of mine before (feeding the birds), and I've decided that I'm not likely to quit doing it anytime soon. Learning to coexist with our wild neighbors takes a bit of effort. Just like those pesky humans I share my environment with, too!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Flag Day flowers

Today is Flag Day in the United States. It was this day in 1777 when the flag was officially adopted, and in 1916 Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day. My downstairs neighbor flies his flag all summer long, and I tried to get a picture of it while showing the flowers in my planter. Some of the flowers came up again from last year, and the long blade-like ones were planted from bulbs that I got at the Seattle Flower Show in February. Here's a closeup, and you can also click any picture to enlarge.
I had accused the squirrels of eating the bulbs, but now, every single one I planted has finally come up. Never mind, I can accuse the squirrels anyway. I'm having so much fun, by the way, with my Super Soaker (see previous post) and the squirrels. As soon as one will come to the porch, I feel like the dog in the animated movie "Up" by perking up ("Squirrel??"), grabbing the Soaker, hoping to get a good squirt at one of them.  So far, the squirrels have gotten a few squirts on their backsides, but the neighbors are looking at me strangely as I run after the furry critters.
These flowers are on the back porch on the way to the laundry room. I know what the bleeding heart flower is, but I can't identify the purple one behind it. I heard that it only blooms every other year, and I know I didn't see it last year, so I'm wondering if anyone knows what it is. Oh, and Happy Flag Day, everyone!

Sunday, June 13, 2010


The other day I stumbled across a very interesting article by Robert Lanza on the Huffington Post. It is entitled, "What Happens When You Die? Evidence Suggests that Time Simply Reboots." That title in itself was enough to make me interested in reading it, and I found that the whole idea of biocentrism is predicated on a theory by Lanza that "life and biology are central to being, reality, and the cosmos -- life creates the universe rather than the other way around." (quote from Wikipedia)

The whole idea is based on quantum physics (which I know nothing about), but there are seven principles that define his theory. I won't list them here; they are available in that Wikipedia link above, but the first one fascinates me: that anything we perceive as reality involves our consciousness, and therefore any external reality would by definition have to exist in space. But this is meaningless, according to Lanza, " because space and time are not absolute realities but rather tools of the human and animal mind."

Hmm. I don't know why, but I find this entire concept to be really fascinating and rather comforting. To think that if we are experiencing all that exists, each in our own way, means that the scary aspects of death cease to exist. Lanza has written a book about all this, called (what else?) Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness Are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe, and I think if it's not too awfully technical I'll get it and read it. R.C. Henry, a professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University, has this quote:
What Lanza says in this book is not new. Then why does Robert have to say it at all? It is because we, the physicists, do NOT say it –– or if we do say it, we only whisper it, and in private –– furiously blushing as we mouth the words. True, yes; politically correct, hell no!”
 Now THAT is enough to make me want to rush out and buy the book. I'll let you know what I think of it once I've read it.

Friday, June 11, 2010

My nemesis

Yes, this little guy, cute as he is (to someone like SquirrelQueen, anyway) loves to come up on my porch and snag the sunflower seeds I want the chickadees to eat, not him. The other bird food, such as nyjer thistle, doesn't interest him at all. But those sunflower seeds are another matter altogether.

Not to mention he brings his whole family. I have had as many as four of them up here, fighting with each other over the seeds. They have also dug up the bulbs in my flower pot for food. I don't want to hurt them, so even though I want to throw something at them now and then, I don't. Instead, I go out to the porch and clap my hands loudly and yell at them. I was out there trying to squirt them with my little water bottle a while ago.

Watching my struggle, my downstairs neighbor said, "Why don't you go buy yourself a Super Soaker?"

"What's that?"

"Oh, it's a kid's toy that squirts water jets and it might be a lot of fun. It would probably work a whole lot better than your water bottle."

So, I just got back from the store, where I perused all the different kinds of Super Soakers and ended up buying this one. It had a picture of a kid on the front of the box with a demented look on his face, just as he was getting ready to plaster another kid with water. Once I got it assembled and loaded, I had to figure out how to use it. Since there were no kids around to show me how, I finally figured it out myself. With a demented look of my own, I went out on the front porch and got Smart Guy to take a picture of me using the Super Soaker. I discovered it shoots quite far, but it's just one shot, then you have to cock it for another shot. Never mind, I can see that I will have fun with it, and the squirrels will probably see me coming and run for their lives! The truth is, I will only wet their backsides, but I suspect I'll have fun doing it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rainy Excelsior Ridge

After spending almost three hours in the dentist's chair yesterday, I wasn't at all sure I would be up for the hike today. But after a good night's sleep, with ibuprofen to help, I woke up this morning, if not raring to go, at least willing to give it a try. (No root canal, just an old crown removed and a temporary in place.)
Thirteen Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center with light rain showers to accompany us, just like last week. But we are nothing if not hardy, and after it cleared off last Thursday and gave us a good hike, we set out with high hopes for the trailhead to Excelsior Ridge off the Mt. Baker highway. Beginning at 1,800 feet elevation, we thought we would just keep going up until we were turned back by snow. The weather forecast looked promising for afternoon clearing, but it was not to be.
We stopped for lunch after a little more than three miles of uphill climb, when the trail began to have more snow covering it than not. It was still raining, as you can see by our lovely lunch spot, and we didn't linger here for long. After getting our lunch out, finding a semblance of comfort (with a cold stream running right through the middle of our clearing), we ate hastily and headed back down. We had climbed up 2,300 feet, keeping us pretty warm until we stopped for lunch.
Here's a picture of my lunch. Notice that it is being cooled by snow and water, and it wasn't easy to use those chopsticks with gloves on, but I persevered. All the food is soft so that it wouldn't hurt my tender jaw. After a quick twenty minutes, we were all very cold and ready to head back down.
On the way down the trail, I yelled to the others to stop for a minute so I could get a picture of something, since this was not what you would call a picturesque hike (no views and a wet, muddy trail). However, as you can see, sometimes it was still quite lovely, with all the rain lately everything is so green. (Click any picture to enlarge.)
While stopping for an equipment adjustment, I caught this picture of Amy and Mike having a conversation. He is always so unusual in his gear, but I must say that umbrella looked pretty good to me today. As you can see from Karen's blue rain cover on her pack, it's still raining, and we are almost back to the trailhead.

Last week, there was only one day when it didn't rain, and it was Thursday afternoon, just perfect for last week's hike. So to say that we in the Pacific Northwest are ready for some extended sunshine is an understatement. But many of us hardy Seniors wouldn't stay home if our friends were heading out without us! We give it a try, rain or shine.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I won!!

Wow! I won Joan's (The Retirement Chronicles) May photo contest! I've been entering since she starting doing them, and I haven't even gotten so much as an honorable mention before. In fact, I said so to her when I submitted this one, and she mentioned it in her blog post announcing my win. (Click to enlarge.)

The category was "Landscapes," and here are the other entries. I myself was sure I knew who the winner would be, and it wasn't me. So I will be happy to proudly display my winning button on the sidebar as soon as it comes over. This month's category is "Flowers," which will be very tough to win, since I've seen some of the most breathtaking flower pictures this spring from around the world. I'm happy to have won this one, though.

This picture was taken, interestingly, last October 8, while on a hike to Rainbow Ridge in the Mt. Baker Wilderness. It also happens to be the day that I fell on the way back home and got a huge hematoma on my left shin that kept me from hiking for a few weeks. I especially like the red, white, and blue colors in this picture, which I didn't do anything to, not even run it through iPhoto's "enhance" feature. these are the colors I captured with my camera.

Now I'm off to the dentist to be "crowned." Boy will THAT be a lot of fun. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Childhood memories

When I was a teenager, my parents had a well-stocked bar and they often entertained their friends, other couples mostly, usually after a round of golf. They were like-minded military families. Many times I would come home from school and they had gotten an early start on the evening at the bar. My parents were martini drinkers. I've got an image in my mind of Mama sitting at the bar (which was complete with barstools) swirling an olive around in a martini glass, showing off her great legs.

I always thought martinis tasted awful, like I imagined rubbing alcohol would taste. My parents also had a record player and would play music sometimes, but I especially remember an album they had by Tom Lehrer.

Tom Lehrer is a very interesting person, and in thinking about this post, I looked him up (naturally) on Wikipedia, to find to my amazement that he is still alive. He's now 82 years old, and when he was young (and also when I was young), he wrote wicked satirical songs and put them into this album. He was a professor of mathematics at MIT and then at the University of California Santa Cruz, and according to that link,
In 1972, he joined the faculty of the University of California, Santa Cruz, teaching an introductory course entitled "The Nature of Mathematics" to liberal arts majors—"Math for Tenors", according to Lehrer. He also taught a class in musical theater. He occasionally performed songs in his lectures, primarily those relating to the topic.
It's not Tom's fault that almost on a daily basis I can still hear inside my head the lyrics from one of his songs, "When You Are Old and Grey." My dad loved to sing it loudly to Mama when he was "three sheets to the wind," if you know what I mean.  I guess it's because now I get it on a very personal basis.
Your teeth will start to go, dear,
You waist will start to spread.
In twenty years or so, dear,
I'll wish that you were dead.
I'll never love you then at all
The way I do today.
So please remember,
When I leave in December,
I told you so in May.
Reading that link above about Tom Lehrer, if you know nothing about him, will be an education. He only wrote a few songs and made two albums, but he has had quite an influence in the world. Once when Princess Margaret was given an honorary degree in the UK, she cited her musical tastes as being "catholic, ranging from Mozart to Tom Lehrer." This led to his music becoming quite well-known when the BBC played his songs on the radio. (The stuffy US radio stations in those days wouldn't think of it.)

I can't be the only sixty-something person with Lehrer's lyrics still rattling around in my brain.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Wear blue and tell two

For World Oceans Day tomorrow, June 8, I am choosing to "wear blue and tell two," since Cris from Here and There and Everywhere is hosting an Oceanic Blog-a-thon. She's collecting, from all over the world, people who are willing to write something on their blog for the United Nations day. From the Ocean Project's page about the 2010 theme:
This year’s theme focuses on our ocean’s great diversity of life and how we can all help in its conservation. Since everyone has a favorite ocean animal, we are interested in connecting their favorite species with what they can do to help conserve our world's ocean. Pick your favorite and protect it - try to pick just one favorite; it’s hard! We can help motivate people to take conservation action: Together, we can make a difference!
So, on the "Wear Blue and Tell Two"page, it suggests that you wear blue that day and tell two interesting facts about the ocean. So here's my first interesting fact:

Years ago when I was spending an extended holiday in the Yucatan (Mexico), I stayed for a month on an unspoiled beach in a palapa, a structure made of palm leaves with no floor, just sand. My girlfriend Donna and I strung hammocks inside where we slept, and spent our time collecting shells, traveling around the area, and basically hanging out. The beach was inhabited by other hippie types like us, and the locals sold us oranges, tortillas, and other items that we needed. We made friends with other North Americans, and one night, we walked along the beach under a crescent moon, half a dozen of us. It had rained but cleared enough to make a spectacular sunset. As it began to get darker, I noticed that behind us, our footprints lit up! Some phosphorescent creature in the surf had caused the surf itself to shine from within, and our footprints glowed for a few minutes as we walked. It was a magical moment.

Now, that beautiful place is no longer. I believe that the Mexican government has constructed big hotels and now it costs a lot of money to stay on the beach. There are no more crude palapas to hang out in. But I did get to experience one moment there that will stay with me forever.

My second interesting fact is that I am a big fan of the humpbacked whale. Ever since I saw the movie, Star Trek IV, The Voyage Home, where intelligent life from another planet tried to contact the whales, I have believed that this movie was prescient. The former crew of the USS Enterprise travels to Earth's past in order to save their present from a probe attempting to communicate with long-dead Humpback whales. And now, with the tragedy in the Gulf, and all marine life in that area likely to be made extinct for decades, or even forever, who knows what our future holds?

I believe that we are paying for our crimes, and the unfortunate thing is, as seems to be true in so much of humanity's history, we make the innocent and unwary creatures that surround us pay for our crimes, too. Today, in June 2010, the world's oceans have never been in more dire circumstances. If you can, take the time to join The Ocean Project and help to wake up others.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cloudplay Saturday

Photo by Tyson, 5 June 10 (click to enlarge)
On Saturday, Smart Guy and I made three jumps each at Snohomish Skydiving Center, and I was hoping to make three more today, but we woke up to rain and just the complete opposite day from what we had yesterday. I made a post on my other blog about our conversation on the way home. Some of the comments on that post made me think about why we still jump at our ages, and how long can we keep going.

Lucy asked me what would stop me from skydiving, and who is the oldest skydiver in the world. I found lots of information I didn't know about the oldest active jumper, who was George Salyer. He took up the sport at the age of 88. I found this interesting article about his death at the age of 101 (in 2002):
The owner of 17 planes during his lifetime, he took up skydiving at the age of 88. He became a skydiving enthusiast, observing each subsequent birthday by jumping from altitudes of about 12,000 feet. In 1992, when he was 91, he became the oldest male tandem skydiver in the world. In 1995, Salyer, then 94, and a 71-year-old son, a 40-year-old grandson and a 15-year-old great-grandson set a record for a multigenerational jump.
There are no actual age limits for skydiving. I am a member of Skydivers Over Sixty and look forward to joining Jumpers Over Seventy in a few years. There is a group for Jumpers Over Eighty. The link under the jumper in red takes you to information about those groups. Anyone who has ever made any kind of parachute jump and is over the age of sixty (or seventy or eighty) qualifies you to join.

Why would I stop? Well, I stopped teaching skydiving after 12 years of instructing because I didn't want to take that kind of risk any more. I waited until I turned 65, and I figured if I was old enough to retire from a desk job, it might behoove me to start skydiving for fun again. When we moved here in 2008, I let all my ratings expire and now only jump for fun.

The first thing that keeps anybody safe is currency. Here in Washington state, you don't stay current during the winter months unless you travel to other places. I have also stopped doing that, because my instructing would pay for my trips to Arizona or Florida, but now I am living on my retirement income. It's just as well: I'm finding so many other things to do with my time and energy, and skydiving is quite demanding of both.

So every spring I need to get over the "Spring Hump" and get back in the air. It's easy to see why someone might not quite get around to it, and your gear needs to be inspected and in date. There's also the aspect of becoming more frail as you get older, and there's no getting around the fact that older people have a tendency to break easier. I'll stop skydiving, but right now I don't have to. Just thinking about never making another skydive makes me sad.

In 1975, Smart Guy wrote an article for the skydiving magazine Parachutist, called "Patterns in the Sky," and he coined the word "airgasm" to describe how skydiving feels. I love the way the word captures the experience!