Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mugwai Finds the Stash

Mugwai is obsessed with tennis balls. She ignores all the other toys in her toy basket at our house in order to find the tennis balls to bring to us, so she can engage us in an endless series of "fetch" games.

Yes, endless. Last time she was here, we had 3 tennis balls in the toy basket, and she took turns with us and the 3 slobbery balls until we could stand it no more...

And then she found the BIG tennis-ball basket in the closet.

Her expression says it all: "You hid this from me? I thought you loved me!" She proceeded to work the balls out of the basket and bring them to us. That closet door stays shut from now on whenever Mugwai is here!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Spider Hatching Season

I saw these ones hatching at my home one evening:

They started out like these ones, which I saw a couple of days later at Lacamas Lake, in little balls of eggs:

When you touch the ball (with a stick!--not your own fingers!) the ball breaks up into tiny spiders, which begin to spread out.

And, if you're lucky, you can see the momma spider somewhere nearby, watching:

(She's the kind of oblong dot at the edge of the leaf, just above the center of the photo:)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Homeless No More

This is Scooter. She's a green-cheeked conure, like Bitsy, but a "fallow" mutation.

She came to us when she was over a year old. She had been sold to a pet store when she was 5 months old, barely old enough to be taken away from her parents, and the pet store where she stayed for the next 7 months of her life had a policy that employees should not "interact with" the birds.

(Also, they gave her an incredibly stupid name. I don't even want to repeat it here. Just think of the dumbest person you ever heard about* from that reality show, the epitome of every bad cliche about people from a certain state on the east coast...Yeah, her. That's the name they gave her. Even worse than the name ["Pluto"] the pet store claimed was Bitsy's name before we found out her correct name.)

(*Notice I didn't say you *saw* that reality show, because of COURSE you never actually watched it! And neither did I. We just couldn't help but be aware of it because it was all over the news for awhile there.)

So, anyway, she stayed in a little corner of her cage most of the time, except when she played around, all alone, on the toys in her cage, mostly chewing on them.

When I went in to buy food for the other birds, I would see her there, and I talked to a couple of employees who eventually told me the manager would probably "give" her to me for about half the original asking price. I bought her as soon as I could and brought her home.

She stayed in her own cage for the first week, next to Bitsy's cage, until I saw that they were getting as close to each other as they could and "talking" to each other a lot. I let Scooter and Bitsy spend time together, and, sure enough, they wanted nothing more than to spend even more time with each other.

Now, a month later, they share a cage, share time outside of the cage, and both are happier than they ever were in those cold, sterile cages of the pet store. They're friends. They haven't warmed to us yet, but I'm sure they will, eventually.

Welcome home, Scooter!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fiction Friday (June 24, 2011): The Financial Lives of the Poets

Have you ever wondered how you would react if you had lost your job, had started a crazy venture that you should have known would drown you financially, were about to lose your home, were contemplating taking your children out of an expensive private school because you couldn't afford it any more --- and had driven to an all-night convenience store to buy some milk for your baby, when some punks asked you to help them sell some weed?

No? Nor has Madame L!

But that's the premise, the first act, of the book "The Financial Lives of the Poets," by Jess Walter.

The second act is the further unraveling of the life of the narrator, which is hilarious and tragic at the same time. Madame L laughed out loud, then felt horrible for laughing, so many times that she was on the literary equivalent of a roller coaster ride.

The third act resolves the poet's financial life and illegal dealings in an unexpected way, leaving you hanging, laughing and almost crying, because you have come to care for the flaky and irresponsible narrator.

Warning: Language and content may be offensive to some. (Curse words and vulgar expressions are used frequently, and marital infidelity plays a prominent role.)

But if you're not easily offended, and if you want to read an original and scathing report from the front lines of American life, with bits of poetry thrown in, plus a treatise on how the poets failed us, and why we need more poets ... then, yeah, Madame L thinks you'll like it.

(The paperback edition is available at for $10.19, and the Kindle edition for $4.99.)

Thursday, June 23, 2011


A friend of mine was riding her bike in Portland. In the rain. She rides her bike everywhere, and she's a careful and competent rider.

She took a shortcut which went across the railroad tracks of the Portland commuter train. You know how those have metal plates on both sides? You know how when you see those metal plates on roads and highways they have a sign that says, "Motorcycles use extreme caution"?

Even though she WAS using extreme caution, her tires skidded on the wet metal, and she fell. She doesn't remember what happened, but a man who was waiting for the next train to come through saw her fall and hit her head on the sidewalk.

He helped her get up, moved her away from the tracks, helped her regain consciousness, and helped her call 9-1-1- and her boyfriend, who came to pick her up.

At the emergency room, a CAT-scan showed she had suffered a concussion.

Also at the emergency room, a nurse looked at my friend's bicycle helmet, which was split completely apart, and said, "I'm going to buy a helmet and wear it every time I ride my bike from now on."

Without that helmet, my friend would have had permanent brain damage or might even have died. With that helmet, she "just" has a concussion, short-term memory loss, a massive headache, and a 2-week break from her usual work.

Wear a helmet!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thesis Defense

Effect of Plant Nutrient Supplementation on Grasshopper Fitness

By Louise Wynn

School of Earth and Environmental Sciences

WSU Vancouver Science Programs

Tuesday, June 21, 2011, 9:00 am, VELS 12

Louise Wynn came to WSUV after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English/linguistics and working as a science tech in Alaska, Mexico, and the Arctic. This work motivated her to study geology, physics, and biology at Clark College before transferring to WSUV.  Her research under Dr. John Bishop began at Mount St. Helens, where she studied grasshoppers and crickets in primary successional areas of the Pumice Plain. In the WSUV greenhouse she continued to study the effects of nitrate and phosphate on grasshopper growth, using wild grasshoppers and their natural foods. Her results provide insight to herbivore responses to nutrient deficiencies and excesses.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

More About Hurley

For Father's Day, one memory: When I was learning to drive, Daddy was sitting in the passenger-teacher seat while I drove around the neighborhood. I went down Almond Avenue, which has a slight slope and a left-hand curve at the bottom.

We weren't going very fast, but the car accelerated slightly as we went down the hill, and I wasn't ready for the curve at the bottom.

We went around that curve with tires squealing, then the car fishtailing as I braked, too late and too hard. As I pulled to a stop at the intersection, I was a bit shaken.

Daddy said, "Next time it would be advisable to apply the brakes before you enter the curve."

I miss you so much.



Friday, June 17, 2011

Fiction Friday (June 17, 2011): Ferris Bueller's Day Off (DVD)

Madame L here, and she wants to tell you this:

"Ferris Bueller's Day Off" is one of the best comedies made in the last 25 years. Yes, it has been 25 years, and new DVD and Blu-Ray versions will be coming out soon.

But here are some of the best bits, so you don't have to rent or buy the movie:

First, the trailer:

Twist and Shout:

"Swing, batter" (at the baseball game):

The boring teacher:

Some of the best lines: (Sorry, Aunt Louise took this one down because some of the language may be offensive to some of her readers.)


Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Yeah, so I watched the debate on Monday night. Actually I recorded it and watched it later. For about 5 minutes, well, 15, if you count fast-forwarding through the blatant lies and outrageous attacks on President Obama.

I guess they were just following the injunction of their idol, Ronald Reagan, to stick together and attack the Democrats, because they were so polite to each other.

I disliked Mitt Romney the least. I feel sorry for the guy, attacked from both the right and the left for being a Mormon. The right-wingers think he's not a real Christian (not a real Christian like them, anyway, because he doesn't hate everyone who disagrees with them, like they do.) The left-wingers think he must hate gays because his church doesn't approve of their marrying each other (but these same people hate his church for not approving of straight people engaging in sex outside of marriage and practicing serial monogamy). 

What I'm afraid of, though, is the theocracy that candidate Michele Bachmann believes in. One of those Bible-thumping born-again Mormon haters, she apparently believes, like Herman Cain and Rick Santorum, that God Himself has endorsed her entry into the presidential race. And, by the way, she's REALLY anti-gay, and she and her husband think they can "cure" gays.

Next to her, Romney is a "comparative moderate" on every issue, including religion, homosexuality, economics, social policy, and, well, really, everything.

And, by the way, all those foster children she "raised"? Here's the truth about that.  And being a foster parent wasn't the only way she got tax-free money from the state. She also has received over $250,000 in federal farm subsidies. 

One good thing about Bachmann is that she actually reads. But the economists she reads are downright scary. How can you read this anti-government-intervention stuff while receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from the government?

Oh, yeah, that stuff is for OTHER people.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Why I'll Be Watching the Debate Tonight

Yeah, I can't imagine ever voting for any of the Republican candidates who will be debating tonight, but I'll be watching it....because:

---I want to see Romney shine (even though, as I said, I really can't imagine a scenario in which I would vote for him).

---I want to see NG fall on his fat, puffy little face.

---I want to see how all the wanna-be candidates will comport themselves on the national stage.

---I want to see what they'll say about health care, because this is really important, no matter which of them eventually runs against Obama.

---I want to win my bet with Madame L about which one will eventually become the Republican candidate, because she's so darn cynical about it all that it really makes me mad.

(Tonight on CNN, 8 pm Eastern, 7 pm Central)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fiction Friday (June 10, 2011): Fry and Laurie

Fry and Laurie do it again!

What if we privatized the police force?


And Madame L would like to add one more thing: Hugh Laurie's talent is being WASTED in that ridiculous night-time medical drama (just another soap opera, really) called "House." 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Nephi Hurley Pratt

...was born June 8, 1918, and died January 2, 2009. He married Elaine McBride on July 17, 1946. 

Some of the things he taught me were to honor my mother and all women, to study hard and do my best in school, to keep learning even outside of school, to ask questions, to look things up in the dictionary, to love music, to appreciate Gilbert and Sullivan as well as Madama Butterfly,to ride a bike and to roller-skate, to find beauty in the world around, to attach the proper and actual values to material goods, to catch a baseball, to throw a football, to be thrifty and careful with resources, to play ping-pong, to look out for other people, to cry when I'm sad but be tough when I have to be, to laugh at misfortune, to feel pity for mean people instead of anger....and more, much more.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Happy Birthday Dear Neva!

I'm really glad you're my sister and exceedingly grateful for the way you do things, your courage to be exactly the person you are, your refusal to let the roadblocks and other hard things stop you for more than a moment or two. Thanks!

Monday, June 6, 2011

More About Women in the Movies

(Actually, women NOT in the movies)

Do you think it's because men don't care about women's stories? Or because men who pay for movie tickets don't care about women's stories? Or because Hollywood producers and directors don't care about women's stories? Or because women don't care about women's stories?

What if women voted with their feet and their money by watching more movies about women and their stories? Or would that even be possible, since only 4 "Best Picture" Oscars in the past 50 years were about women in any way?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Another Birthday

Not to embarrass anyone by including any names, but this weekend my favorite person in the whole world will be celebrating his birthday, and I want to mention a few things I love about him:

He's still cute as a button.

He loves me and our children.

He will do anything he can to help anyone he can.

He honors his beliefs and lives by righteous principles.

He works hard, chooses the right, and puts duty before pleasure, always.

This list could go on forever, but those are the most important ones I can think of right now.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Bechdel Test

I loved reading about this "test" for women in the movies. How many of YOUR favorite movies don't pass the test?

Most of mine don't!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fiction Friday (June 3, 2011): Crazy Diets

Thank you to my friend and secret admirer (and, she claims, my evil stepsister), Madame L, who has agreed to write a weekly "Fiction Friday" column for me.

Take it away, Madame L!

Thanks. Madame L wants to begin by assuring your readers that she will avoid politics in these weekly columns.

(Okay, not really. You see, it's Fiction Friday. That's why Madame L doesn't feel obligated to tell the "truth.")

Sometimes on these Fridays Madame L will tell stories (fiction), sometimes she will review popular fiction, and sometimes she will comment on politics and/or the "common wisdom" (i.e., fiction) that sustains our contemporary culture.

Today, Madame L wants to suggest two ways to lose 5 pounds IN A SINGLE WEEK --- WITHOUT REALLY TRYING! These are:

First, move to a desert island for a week, or take all the food out of your house and stay home for a week. Thus, you see, you lose 5 pounds without really trying because YOU AREN'T EATING ANYTHING. YOU ARE STARVING. "Not really trying" of course must be loosely interpreted. (It's Fiction Friday, after all.)

The second step of this diet is to leave the desert island or re-stock your pantry, which of course leaves you re-gaining those 5 pounds, and, quite possibly, more.

Thus, Fiction Friday.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Man in The Arena

This is from a speech by President Theodore Roosevelt at the Sorbonne in 1910:


It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that this place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.