Friday, April 29, 2011

Save The Frogs Day is today!

I shamelessly stole this from Rambling Woods' Save the Frogs Day post and I hope she doesn't mind. This is really important to everyone in the human race.

This is toward the end of the short article, but it should be the first thing you read, "Over half of the DNA found in frogs is also found in humans, so if these pesticides kill frogs, imagine what they do to us!"

Pesticides and herbicides are toxic chemicals that generally undergo little to no testing on amphibians prior to their being approved for use. Unfortunately, the law of gravity has it that many of these pesticides end up in waterways, where amphibians live and breed. To make matters worse, amphibians have permeable skin that is highly absorbent. Populations of the endangered mountain yellow-legged frog Rana muscosa that live downwind of highly agricultural areas in California’s Central Valley have disappeared at a significantly higher rate than other populations.

Atrazine, perhaps the most commonly used herbicide on the planet (33 million kg are applied each year in the US alone), can cause hermaphroditism in frogs (males grow female sex organs) at ecologically relevant doses, and can reduce survivorship in salamanders. Atrazine also affects water quality in lakes, resulting in more snails. These snails serve as intermediary hosts of a trematode parasite that burrows into the developing limbs of tadpoles and causes limb malformations.

Roundup (also sold as Touchdown Total) is lethal to gray treefrog and leopard frog tadpoles, and most likely a host of other as yet untested frog species. Roundup is the 2nd most commonly applied herbicide in the USA; it’s produced by Monsanto, the same folks who gave us Agent Orange. Over half of the DNA found in frogs is also found in humans, so if these pesticides kill frogs, imagine what they do to us! Read more about pesticides here, and sign this petition to get Atrazine federally banned and out of production.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Where's my keyboard?

Before I left for Ohio, I asked the office manager if she could use her pull with the hardware folks to get someone to speed up my computer. I came back to the office to find that someone had been on my computer and for the first week, it was Speedy Habib.

Speedy Habib is a joke from a trip I took once...the sort of joke that you shouldn't explain because you weren't there, but there was this guy climbing a mountain side. He was going really fast...oh, forget it. Just trust me. He wasn't Speedy Gonzalez, he was Speedy Habib.

So my computer was at the Indianapolis 500 for the first week I was back and then it realized I had come home because it is almost to the crawl it was before I left. When I returned, the first thing I noticed was missing was the tool bar at the bottom of my monitor screen.

The second thing I noticed was that my Irish keyboard toggle was gone!

I wailed. I tore at my hair. I almost fainted. I told my boss that while I was most grateful for the assistance, and I hated to be a complainer, things were missing that I used.

I didn't tell him it was my Irish keyboard because obviously. I'm not sitting here recruiting Irish folk for jobs in Central Iowa although I'm happy to do so and four years ago found an Irish bloke a job, but I digress.

So here I am without my useful and important keyboard, the one I miss every day of my working life and today I decide to participate in the World o'Twitter. I am quoting Zig Ziglar, who is a smart chap, and I need a hash tag so I can give him credit because although I am completely unfamiliar with Twitter and don't know what I'm doing, I assume I should give the man proper credit. I hit Shift-3, which should give me a hash tag or a pound sign or a sharp sign. Depends all on what sector of the universe you live in, I suppose.

But look what I got instead: #

Now you may feel bewildered at this point and lunging for a view of your 3 key to see the hash tag right there. That's what I just did.

But in a MS Word document, I get a British pound sign. Like a dollar sign $, see? Only for the Royal Wedding. For the other side of the pond. For the losing side of the Revolution. I can't find a hash tag anywhere on my keyboard now unless I'm online. Also confusing for Twitter is the @ sign, which on an Irish keyboard is the double quote key.

See, I was in Word typing out my Twitter because I am lazy (copy&paste) and curious and wanted to see how many characters it was...Whatever! The point is now I am stuck with the Irish keyboard I rarely use but couldn't live without because the toggle has gone missing.

Unless I'm online. Then apparently I am typing in U.S. English. Which means all my Tweets will have to be written out by my very own fingers. Dang. My head hurts.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rain, rain, go away

I have decided that while we are in the middle of the rainy season I should focus on getting some tasks done indoors. So I'm sitting in bed with my computer open on my lap. I have notes scattered around me.

I'm ready to write.

Except that I keep stalling. That little part of my brain that hates change keeps telling me to hold back. Don't work too hard. Lose focus. What if you try and fail? Oh, look! Bright shiny object!

Something I'm working on right now is an article to submit to a job board. I have two article ideas and their writer's guidelines printed out. It won't happen in the next hour. But it isn't going to happen in the next year if I don't start typing.

Plus, I have a cat trying to sit on my keyboard. I swear the world is conspiring against me, but of course it isn't really the world. It's just my brain. I thought maybe if I came over here and wrote some nonsense, it would loosen things up for me. No wonder I liked journalism school - everything was on a deadline. Every story I worked on today was due by 4 pm at the newspaper. Even the media office stuff was expected by a certain date no matter how much research or how many interviews were required.

I guess I'm done whining. I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Deals are bustin' out all over

A friend of mine sent me a text message this week that said my store is closing and everything is 75% off, so I high-tailed my tail over there this afternoon.

My boss let us go home an hour early, so I dropped into the store before they closed. If it was my size or close to my size and came even slightly close to tickling my fancy, I tried it on. This store is a charity shop, not a consignment store, so their prices are great. Coats and fancy dresses are usually $20, sweaters and slacks are generally $8-12, T-shirts are $5-6. I got $88 in clothes for $22 including a pair of beautiful slacks from Limited for $3.50 and a pair of slacks from Ann Taylor Loft for the same. I got a nice jacket for springtime - a light wool herringbone jacket for $5.00 and Tommy Hilfiger jeans for $2.oo.

I love this store. I hate that they're closing.

Then when I got home I went for a walk. Earlier today I went to church for a Good Friday service. The past two weeks have been really busy at work and I've enjoyed every minute of it. I'll be visiting blogs this weekend.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

You never know what the day will bring

For those of you who are on Facebook with me and haven't kicked me out of your news feed due to my recent obsession with Cityville, you know by now that my grandson got into an accident on his dirt bike.

He's only just turned 6, but to his credit, he has been on a dirt bike for years already. He loved the sound of a motorcycle engine since he was a baby. But he is only six years old and he made a mistake. His great-grandfather owns 53 acres of land on which they dirt bike. Along a short strip of that acreage is Highway 141 headed northwest out of Des Moines. It's a dangerous and mostly rural strip of road. It has been deadly for decades, but they've put up stop lights in the smaller towns that line the highway and that has reduced accidents and deaths. It's a two-lane divided highway with a high speed limit. Which means, of course, that it's like a drag strip.

Long story short, he came to the end of the property and turned left to swing back and go over some hills - sounds like fun, but he swung too wide and ended up in the middle of the highway's slow lane. It chills me just to type it.

I could hardly stop praying long enough last night to go to sleep.

The 70-year-old woman who hit him head-on, God bless her, saw him in time to stand on the brake. Estimates are that she was down to about 20 mph when they collided. She asked the deputy if she did OK, was there something else she should have done, should she have swerved?

It's interesting to me that he said no, she shouldn't have swerved. He said she did everything right. I don't know if that's true or if he was being kind. He said if she had swerved, he might have been struck again by the car behind her.

The bike took the impact. It hit at the forks and pushed the tire into the bike. Unfortunately for him, he's pretty much sitting on the gas tank and he slid off the bike over the gas cap. I leave the rest to you. He is deeply bruised and swollen, but thank God, the doctor says there is no lasting damage. He can't take more than about 3 steps at a time today.

He has spoken to the driver and told her that he is OK. I hope it helped her. I can hardly imagine what she must have felt.

He was wearing full protective gear: denim, knee pads, riding pants, chest protector, elbow pads, gloves, a helmet that fit and a neck roll. His neck isn't even sore, PTL! I got to see him with my own eyes this morning and although I could tell he had his bell rung, he looks great. I took him his tiger and that seemed to make him happy.

In the Department of Grandparental Deception, I told him that during his CAT scan there were many cats, smart cats unlike my cats, that run around the tube and look to see if there's anything wrong on the inside of him. Then I explained that a PET scan uses pets of any kind as long as they're really smart...hamsters, dogs, cats, snakes, know, smart pets. They all work at the nation's hospitals.

That's why most all of our pets, while immensely lovable, are not always the smartest pets on the block.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

My first week back

Greetings! I've been back in Iowa for one week and what I mostly have to say about it is that I'm exhausted. Work this week was fabulous and I was very busy. It felt good, but it's drained me. I think something funny and bloggable happened, but I haven't the slightest notion of what it was.

I went for a run. I'm pretty sure. I think I did, but not to be funny, I can't recall right now. Our Irish language class met and they didn't rise up against me in revolt, so I must have stayed awake for most of it. I just don't think I remember what we covered.

When I got home last Saturday, I only had a few daffodil buds. Now I have daffodils and hyacinths and maybe a few other things. The rhubarb is growing. I need to clean up the peonies, but it's just too cold and windy outside to do it now. Before long it will be too late. That was to be my Nature Notes blog post.

I went to the Des Moines Playhouse this week and saw Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. That was fun, but it was a late night adding to my fatigue. Additionally, I have not gotten around to my favorite blogs. I will do so! I miss you all and hope you'll come along and read my sorry excuse for not blogging.

Lastly, my mother-in-law said something about Easter and did you know Easter is NEXT WEEKEND? Holy Smoley, folks. I joked about ham salad sandwiches, but she said, "Shoot, it doesn't need to be ham." She's so good. How about pizza delivery? Chinese take-away?

Have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Chopped: The Emerald Ash Borer

Visit Michelle at the home of Nature Notes.

The Emerald Ash Borer is an exotic beetle found in Michigan in 2002. It has since begun to spread and destroy Ash trees in parts of the United States and Canada. Here at the Cox Arboretum in Dayton, Ohio, they've found the EAB and they've had to take action. For more information about the EAB, go here to learn more.

Trees are cut down all over the arboretum.
The sign explains why. It says, "The Dot Marks The Spot. Ash trees with white dots are part of a study on how to handle the advance of the Emerald Ash Borer."
Marked for death?
Another sign explaining that this tree has been left behind to show the damage. I'm not sure if it has been disinfected, but I imagine they have removed the EAB.
Here's a close up of the damage.
If you are transporting wood, stop. Don't take your firewood across state lines. Just burn it at home.

What the last month has taught me

Let's do random chat!

1. Daytime television has very little variety. I have seen way too much Susan Lucci. She's a wonderful person, I'm sure. She's a little bony for a spaghetti strap dress, but other than that I can't judge her. What I can judge is overexposure and I'm not talking about the spaghetti strap dress. Apparently she wrote a book or she's in a movie or something, something, something.

Also, Ashley Judd? On one of the morning shows they said they had called her sister and her mother about the book she just released. Mom said, "I love my daughter very much and hope her book is successful." In other words, I don't believe you. Whether it's true or not: ouch.

2. The last time I watched Dancing with the Stars was 2006. It was also the last time I spent weeks with my mom. My dad had just died and I was there for six weeks working on the house. I got all wrapped up in the show, but when I got home I sort of forgot about it. Well now I'm back to watching it and I'm all bummed that Wendy Williams got kicked off and if that idiot Bruno Whoever calls Kendra Wilkinson a stripper again, Ima shoot the man. First, he makes a fool of himself every time he opens his mouth and second, she isn't just a stripper. I don't know if she still strips at all or if she was, in fact, a stripper. But she is a wife and a mother, so shut it. Maybe, upon a half-second of reflection, this is more about hating Bruno Whoever than it is being a Kendra fan.

3. Loud noise really bothers me. Doesn't matter what the noise is. No one else thinks things are noisy the way I do. Noise makes me stabby and snappy. I am a self-awarded wonderful person, but noise, oh noise. I need quiet otherwise I begin to feel as though I am not so wonderful and that

4. Idleness is difficult for me. I read once that there are people who can sit for long periods of time and be content and not feel as though they have to move. I am not that person. I do not fit into that category. I have to move around. Sitting sucks. The less I move around, the more I get antsy physically, mentally and emotionally. You will not believe how overbooked I am for next week, which is my first week back home. I'm totally overdoing it.

5. I've ramped up the time I'm spending on Linked In and I can't help but notice that almost everyone either sounds important or they want to sound important. I don't blame them and I'm not complaining, I'm just asking myself what the problem is with being a regular person and a regular employee rather than everyone wanting to be a rock star or a ninja. Why not bill yourself as a rational person who shows up to get the job done without all the superlatives?

6. Finally, and I thank you for letting me get this off my chest and many of you will think I am insane but take a deep breath and hear the news: I do not get all this extreme cake baking and decorating. These shows are edited to build tension, but I'm thinking I have enough tension in my life that I don't want to sit on the couch and watch other people freak out. Also, a cake that is three feet tall and has many dangly, spinning bits doesn't make me want to eat cake. I love cakes both pretty and ugly as long as they're tasty, don't get me wrong. The issue isn't cake. But cakes with moving parts and tons of fondant ... that's just not tasty.

Clearly I need to get away from the television!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Haiku for a runner

Running at the arboretum has been wonderful. I think of the darndest things while I run. I don't use music; I listen to the world around me more than anything else. I often think of the future or what I'm working on. I tend to think about big things rather than little things like what's for supper. Sometimes, like today, I surprise myself.

I thought of haiku.

I know.

But the arboretum trails are not long. The trails that are in the wide open are very small and looping. The trails that go through the open woods are not long, either. Therefore I go around and around. I don't joke when I say I go around and around and around. I've been the only runner in the "fancy" part of the park. On the other trails, I see all sorts of runners and walkers of every age.

In the wide open part of the arboretum ... that's where all those flowers are! The trees and the grass and the buds and the blooms. Plus? It's April! April is poetry, apparently.

Mindlessly running
Leaf, tree, flower, breeze and grass
Runner in the sun

I made up about five different poems. I didn't say they were good, but they came from a happy run, so I like them.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A heron flies overhead

I was out walking the dog yesterday when I saw a large bird fly overhead. It was a heron! There's a creek alongside one border of the complex where my mom lives and I've seen a lot of birds. I expected him to go down to the water, but he landed softly on the naked branches way up high.
This heron was so graceful for such a big, long-legged bird. I waited for almost 15 minutes, but he just sat there. He lifted one leg a few times. He picked bugs off himself. His back feathers draped behind him like a shaggy morning coat.
Since I was walking the dog, I only had my phone for a camera. I had a much better view than this. I could see his tummy, his eyes and the ruffle of his feathers in the wind. That golden setting sun shone upon him and made his feathers golden. At first I thought it was the color of his upper breast, but he began cleaning his feathers and the golden color moved.
Soaking up the final rays of sunshine, I left him to it. I walked all the way back to the house and he was still sitting there.

The golden glow of the setting sun

Walking the dog

I have spent three weeks spoiling my mom's dog rotten with treats and many daily walks. He is a Chinese Crested Powder Puff purebred with a tattoo on his tummy to prove it.

That sounds painful.

His name is Mooch. My dad named him Mooch because that's what he does best. You can't eat around the dog that he doesn't sit politely and wait for you to drop everything on the floor. I'm thinking he'd be a good dog for kids who don't like broccoli. Dogs in this breed are good for people with allergies and the dog has no doggie odor, but this dog licks.


I hate being licked by a dog.

Years ago, Mooch came from a breed rescue. He was going to be put down because his ears don't stand up like they're "supposed" to. Other than the ears and the disgusting, incessant licking, I think that's all that's wrong with him. This is an active breed and he doesn't get a lot of walks, but my mom plays with him and lets him run around the house.

Tonight we walked .52 miles around the parking lot. I tried the entire time to convince him that constant movement is exercise.

Sniffing and peeing is a stroll.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Making the same mistake over and over

I went for a run at the arboretum today. I started out hoping for just 30 minutes of walking. I was walking along a small trail that is sheltered by trees, looping around and around and around until I was dizzy.

I looked at my Garmin and it said .30 miles. Isn't it always like that? A watched pot never boils and all that. My compulsion kicked in about then, so I decided to branch out, so I headed up an exit trail into the main part of the arboretum for a longer trail.

That's when I saw a woman coming out of the trails area.

She wiped her nose on her sleeve and had a familiar hunch to her shoulders as she walked along the grass. I felt the familiar stabby feeling I get when I see other people run. I thought, "She just ran the trails" and my compulsion went wild. Insanely running, hands flapping, eyes rolling, the people who talk to me in my head screamed that I should run, too.

I've been trying to run while I've been in Dayton. It's been three weeks. I had loads of possibilities in mind.

I've run three times. Three. I'm pretty disappointed in that. It's been cold, it snowed, it rained, it's too windy...the only legitimate excuses I've had is that I've been seriously tired and my mom needed me. Otherwise, I've just been whiny about it.

But every time I've run, I've overdone it. I haven't run more than three miles at a time. How am I overdoing it? So frustrating.

It wasn't until today, for crying out loud, that I realized I have been trying to run a 10-minute mile even though I've been "on a break" and really there's no such thing as a break for a runner. You're either running or you're not running. And let's face it, I've been not running and doing a lot of it.

I began to walk (brisk) and I ran (sloppy) and I walked (b) and I ran (s). As I was becoming more frustrated, I decided to walk and contemplate my future. I even had the grim realization that maybe I'm past it and I will walk the Air Force and Des Moines half marathons this fall.

I hope to someday mock myself have a hearty laugh over the "past it" comment.

Then I think something came to my mind. Something happened, anyway. I remembered how ugly things were when I began training last summer. I started from nothing due to my laziness overeating foot pain. I started out last August doing 12-minute miles! What in the world is wrong with me thinking I should run 10 or better now, in April? I haven't done much running since November, after all.

After my epiphany, I started to run. I paced myself. I put one foot in front of the other at a plodding pace.

It felt wonderful. I ran and I ran and I ran. It felt like it did during the half in October. It felt like I had a pace, I had mojo and I could keep on going. That's the feeling I enjoy. I want to run fast, but I want that feeling more, much more.

I just can't find that feeling at 10 minutes. Not now, not yet. But I will.

I had reread an article from Running Magazine earlier in the week. I've included a paragraph below. I read this paragraph three times.

Perhaps it sunk in today.

by Marc Parent (excerpt, emphasis mine)
Far worse than having to admit to this hiatus is having to admit how painless it was. I wish I could honestly say I missed it (running) more than I actually did, but not running for three weeks was the easiest three weeks of my running life. It wasn't the best three weeks, but it was the easiest. The worst thing about a three-week break is not that it feels like quitting, it's that it feels like you've already quit. Three weeks is not a break. Three weeks means that if you do decide to run, you won't return to it as much as start it again, which makes it all the more difficult to go back. I imagine quitting a sedentary lifestyle is probably a lot like quitting smoking or drinking or any other unhealthy thing, in that the failures are indelibly embedded into the eventual success. The good news in that endeavor is that you don't have to avoid every setback, you only have to succeed one more time than you fail.