Sunday, January 30, 2011

Amphibian Survey

Finally, after weeks of sending emails, writing press releases, making lots of phone calls, and arranging for refreshments for two training sessions, I had a chance to go out in the field to find frog eggs.

Dr. Peter Ritson started the Clark County Amphibian Monitoring Project 4 years ago. I met him when taking an animal behavior class from his wife, Dr. Christine Portfors, at WSUV. Can you see the Canada geese in the upper right edge of the photo? They left when we arrived.

I went with a group of experienced surveyors led by Lisa and John H. at the La Center Bottoms wetland area north of Vancouver.

Saturday (Jan. 29) was a gray January day, but it wasn't raining, and the temperature rose to the low 50s. In other words, it was another beautiful day in Paradise. A snake came out from the edge of the trail where it had been hiding (but it was cold and sluggish, and not happy to see us).

We were looking for eggs laid by the Northern Red-legged Frog (Rana aurora), and we found a LOT of them. Even *I*, wearing my Alaska Extra-Tuffs instead of chest-waders, and therefore having to walk along the side of the lake keeping count, saw some eggs. The rest of the group went in threes, about 2, 4, and 6 meters from shore, and called out to me whenever they saw an egg mass so I could record the information.

My friend Linda came close to help me take this photo of the first egg mass I saw. Later I saw several more, including this egg mass (below) on the shore. The frog had laid the eggs in the water, but the water level was falling as our weeks of rain came to an end.

(After I took this photo I carefully moved the eggs into the water.)

I also saw an adult frog -- or at least I saw its beautiful red legs as it jumped into the water.

Some others in our group also found some Northwestern Salamander (Ambystoma gracile) eggs and saw some adult salamanders.

The adults are harder to find than the eggs, being able to move and all. So that's why we look for the eggs. The data from our Citizen Science work will be added to data from the whole region for scientists to use to see how well the wetlands, and the life in them, are doing.

When we left after 2 hours, having gone around the entire shore, the snake had slithered up onto the wood trail edge and was sunning itself, and the geese flew around the lake a few times to make sure we were really leaving, before going back to the water.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mada wants his picture taken!

...and, like a little kid, wants to get up really close so he can see how you do it. Or maybe just get close enough and fluff up his feathers to make it obvious that he's ready for a nice head-scratching.

Monday, January 24, 2011

2 Worlds, The Real Venezuela

You can find it at

Two Worlds, The Real Venezuela: Living on the Edge of the Jungle and the Rise of Hugo Chavez.

From the book's synopsis:

"We didn’t live in protected compounds in white-European Caracas, but in an interior city on the literal edge of the great Amazonas forest – the Other World. We share in this book the hard, gritty Venezuelan reality behind Hugo Chavez' rise to power - and why the Venezuelan people as a whole prefer a benevolent dictatorship. By comparison, it’s a vast improvement over the previous 40 years of what was piously called 'Democracy,' but which in fact was a malignant, take-turns Kleptocracy that nearly destroyed the country."

Miss Representation

Thanks, Ellen, for sending me this link to go along with my post about girls and women being treated differently than boys and men --- when not left out entirely.

It's an article in the Jan. 23 Deseret News about how so-called family films are NOT friendly to women.

So, it's not just some pudgy neighborhood kid back in the day who was stuck playing football with a girl because the other boys wouldn't play with him; it's our entire culture. The message: You can be a fairy-tale princess who has to kiss a frog or be rescued by a big brave prince, or you can be nobody.

An organization formed by actress Geena Davis to study this issue found that " G, PG, and PG-13 films in the last 20 years, men outnumbered women three to one. And almost always, the females were merely background characters," according to the news story.

In a panel discussion about the film, "Miss Representation," at the Sundance Film Festival, Ms. Davis said, "...we want to empower women and girls to reach their full potential."

Yes, we do. Yes, we can.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Trying to Care About Football

Yeah, the Super Bowl is coming up. I watched parts of the two championship games today. The only thing notable about that is that all my predictions were wrong. Wait, what's notable about that? My predictions are always wrong.

When I was a kid in a little town in California, before it turned into quite a big town and then a city full of yuppies, I used to play games with the neighborhood kids across the street in the Episcopal Church parking lot.

The minister was really nice to us ragtag kids. Maybe he had a talk with all our parents at some time or other to make sure none of them would sue the church when we got hurt, or maybe people in those days or in that neighborhood didn't go around suing other people all the time.

Anyway, when he came to the church, he would park in the space closest to the street, wave to us and chat with us if we weren't too far away, and walk across the street and into his church, without warning us to be careful or whatever. Very nice guy.

We rode bikes there, performing death-defying (or at least knee-skin-defying) acts of speed and stupidity.

We played baseball, with home plate in the farthest corner from the church, just in case anyone ever actually hit the ball far enough to go across the street to the church building.

And we played football. But not as much as baseball. I don't know why. Perhaps we didn't really understand the game very well. At least, for sure, I didn't understand the game very well.

For example, one day I was playing with a kid whose last name was Butler, but whom we called "Buttless" because --- well, it's obvious, isn't it. He and I were the only ones around, and so we played a fairly ridiculous form of the game. I didn't realize until much later that the game was even more ridiculous than I thought:

I didn't know the rules of football anyway, and we made up the rules of two-kids-football as we went along. That is, he made up the rules and explained them to me, and I agreed, and we played. When circumstances required, he made up a new rule.

Poor Buttless (I haven't forgotten his first name, but I'm not telling you because I don't want to embarrass him) couldn't keep up with me. He was a couple of years younger than me, and slightly overweight, but he thought that because he was a boy and I was a girl, he should win. So the rules reflected that.

I kept running and making touchdowns but he didn't. Not to brag (not too much anyway) I ran about twice as fast as him, and I wasn't afraid to tackle him around the knees, shove him in the back or chest, or do whatever it took to bring him down.

So when he got the ball, he would hike it to himself (that's the first rule of two-kids-football) and run a couple of feet until I brought him down, and he would say which down it was.

After the 4th down, there would be a 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and I think we got all the way up to an 11th down once before he made a touchdown on one series.

When he finally got that touchdown and it was my turn to have the ball, after I had a 4th down, he said, "That's all. There's only four downs. It's my ball now, on the 50-yard line." (The 50-yard line was an imaginary line parallel to Mr. Ink's clothesline.)

I said, "How come you get all those downs and I only get four?"

He said, "Because you're a girl."

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mada's New Friend

Mada has been calling for Sunshine. We tell him, "She can't come any more," but he misses his old friend.

Now he has a new friend, not that anyone will ever replace Sunshine.

Mada's new friend is a 10-month-old green-cheeked conure, or Pyrrhura molinae. We're still figuring out what her name is.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sunset Near Montreal

Hi everyone, and thanks for your comments! (I haven't been able to post my replies to your comments, so I'm doing it this way.) Please keep commenting, so I'll know what you like, what works, what bombs...

Also, please keep watching for Madame L's very own blog, with her unique and sometimes outrageous advice on almost every possible issue, without horoscopial influences, she promises. That will come when she has a little more time to start posting regularly.

Meanwhile, I thought some of you bloggers who come from a background similar to mine might enjoy these two recent postings by other people:

Why I can't stop reading Mormon housewife blogs (! --- for real!) Discuss amongst yourselves. Possible topics include (a) why should anyone be surprised that young Mormon housewives are smart enough to write interesting blogs? (b) why should anyone be surprised that the lifestyle these women have chosen should be fulfilling? (c) why should anyone be so dagrabbitly cynical about everything and everybody who isn't exactly like them? (d) and so on.


Utah: Why would anyone want to vacation anywhere else? I agree! I love the beautiful national parks and the desert scenes in Utah.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Matrix for XP

Check out a great YouTube video:

A few of my favorite quotes from this video:

"....I just have to wait for the hourglass to go away..."

"....Try Control-Alt-Delete!..."

"....Why hello there! Hope you have cookies enabled!..."

"....Your free trial of kung-fu has expired..."

"....A fatal OE exception error has occurred..."

And the paperclip guy, whom I've often wanted to melt.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Madame L Reporting: Who's a Bull?

So sorry, my loyal fans who used to read my columns in the VanCougar:

The truth is out, after 2,000 years, thanks to one Professor Parke Kunkle, who teaches astronomy at Minneapolis Community and Technical College: Because of the earth's precessional movement, the constellations are in different locations now than they were 5,000 years ago, when astrological forecasting first began.

You may have thought you were a Gemini (like Madame L) only to find out that you're really a Taurus! A bull! Like astrology itself!

Madame L is going to bed now (sun's coming up, so she can't see the stars any more --- at least she understands that much about how things work up in the sky) --- besides, her head is spinning, so she'll end by (1) recommending a great Web site that explains (with unfortunately a bunch of ads up top of the page) why astrology is bunk and always has been ( and (2) copying this list, just in case you want to see what your new Sky Sign is.

Because next time you're in a bar, and someone sidles up to you and asks what your sign is, you not only want to know what it REALLY is, but you also want to know if this person really knows.

* Capricorn: Jan. 20-Feb. 16
* Aquarius: Feb. 16-March 11
* Pisces: March 11-April 18
* Aries: April 18-May 13
* Taurus: May 13-June 21
* Gemini: June 21-July 20
* Cancer: July 20-Aug. 10
* Leo: Aug. 10-Sept. 16
* Virgo: Sept. 16-Oct. 30
* Libra: Oct. 30-Nov. 22
* Scorpio: Nov. 23-29
* Ophiuchus: Nov. 29-Dec. 17
* Sagittarius: Dec. 17-Jan. 20

Ta-ta for now, yours in fun and games,

Madame L

Friday, January 14, 2011

Some books I might read...later

You know how you read book reviews and you think, Wow, I've GOT to read that book!

Oh, wait, am I the only person who does that?

Anyway, I just read short reviews of two new books:

"Chasing the Sun," by Richard Cohen; and

"Luka and the Fire of Life," by Salman Rushdie.

And I thought, I'm going to have to get those books and read them!

And then I thought, When? Come on Louise, you know you don't have time to read those books.

And then I thought, Maybe if I get through some of the humongotroid piles of books I already have in my bedroom, study, family room, basement, sewing room (you get the picture)...

(This picture is from a great Web site for a great bookstore, Free Books in El Cerrito, California, which I hope to visit someday:

And then I decided this will be one of my goals for 2011: Read some of these books. I mean, the ones I already have. Then get, let's say, one new book for every two "old" ones I've read. Then (when someone is in town who wants to do this with me, hint, hint) take a huge pile of books to Powell's to sell back and use that money to buy a book for myself and some books for that person.

And then I remembered, Hello, Louise, you have a library card! So that's a whole 'nother option and another goal for 2011: Find your library card, and use it.

Oh and by the way: Please whoever reads this DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT buy me any books, not even the ones I've mentioned here, until (a) they come out in paperback and (b) I let you know I've read some of my old ones.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

President Obama's remarks in Tucson

I was very moved by President Obama's speech last night and wanted to think again about some of the things he said.

Here's the entire speech:

He quoted from the 46th Psalm, using a different translation than the one I usually read:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.

He quoted from the Book of Job: "When I looked for light, then came darkness..." But he went on to praise the people who acted heroically at the scene of the shooting, and to encourage all of us to be better, as individuals, as communities, as a nation. Here are some of his remarks:

"The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better. To be better in our private lives, to be better friends and neighbors and coworkers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their death helps usher in more civility in our public discourse, let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy -- it did not -- but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud.

"We should be civil because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other’s ideas without questioning each other’s love of country and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American Dream to future generations.

"They believed -- they believed, and I believe that we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved life here –- they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another, that’s entirely up to us.

"And I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.

"That’s what I believe, in part because that’s what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed."

And then he concluded: "If there are rain puddles in Heaven, Christina is jumping in them today. And here on this Earth -- here on this Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and we commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.

"May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in restful and eternal peace. May He love and watch over the survivors. And may He bless the United States of America."

And I say, Amen.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Please sign the petition for civility

There's nothing I can do about the killings and woundings in Tucson last Saturday.

But here's a petition I've signed, and you can sign, to plead for civility:

Here is the text of the petition:

To: media and elected officials:

WE THE UNDERSIGNED American citizens,

Mournful of the deaths of many at the hands of one in Tucson,

Inspired by the bravery of heroes who risked their lives to save
others, and

Mindful of the present state of incivility which exists in public discourse;

Do hereby call upon elected officials, all media, and fellow citizens to:

Reflect upon the recent tragedy,

Examine their contribution to our present political climate, and

Commit to discourse that is civil and does honor to the United States of America.


The Undersigned

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I'm so sorry for the victims of the shootings in Tucson this weekend.

The victims include the family of the alleged shooter. I'm sure I can't begin to understand why this young man did what he did, nor can his parents.

Here are the reflections of the mother of one of the Columbine shooters. The title of her essay is "I Will Never Know Why."

Another "mother of a monster" writes about her experience:

I am praying for all those affected by this violence, the victims and their families, and the parents of the young man. I am praying for our country. Please pray with me.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sunshine and Mada

I forgot to mention something about Sunshine, which was how she came to us. She'd been in the home of our daughter, who couldn't keep her any longer. She went temporarily to another home, then back to our daughter's, when we were lucky enough to be visiting, and offered to take her home with us.

Sunshine's first home, with Val and Eric, was where she got her name and developed her sunshiny approach to life. She was loved, and she learned to love.

I've just read most of a book (not all of it because some chapters were just too depressing to finish) that helps me appreciate Sunshine even more --- and understand Mada even more. It's a miracle that these intelligent birds continue to try to be friends with humans.

I recommend this book so highly that if anyone who reads this post wants to read it, I'll send you a copy. Read the parts about parrot intelligence, the way wild birds are captured, the way endangered species are disappearing, the way birds are bred and sold by pet stores and private breeders in the U.S. And read about the people who protect and save them. I won't be bothered if you skip some of the parts that make you want to cry. Read as much as you can, and let me know what you've learned.

It's "Of Parrots and People: The Sometimes Funny, Always Fascinating, and Often Catastrophic Collision of Two Intelligent Species," by Mira Tweti.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Spirit of Elijah

Did you know that some of Freeman Nickerson's descendants are planning a reunion in the summer of 2012 in Chariton, Iowa, where he was buried?

Here's the Web site:

And we care because...

Freeman Nickerson was the father of Caroline Eliza Nickerson, who married Marshall Moore Hubbard and had a son named Elisha Freeman Hubbard.

Elisha's second wife was Almera Wilson (who had been raised near Des Moines, Iowa, by the way).

I remember Great-Grandma Almera Wilson Hubbard from when I was a little girl in Pima, Arizona. She was bedridden for the last years of her life. Her daughter, our Great-Aunt Minnie Hubbard Dixon, took care of her in a house just down the road from our Grandma McBride's house.

Grandma McBride was Aunt Minnie's sister, Emma Jane Hubbard, who married Don Carlos McBride, and one of her daughters was my mother, Elaine McBride.

(Trying to write down these relationships in a way that makes any sense helps me understand why pedigree charts were invented!)

Aunt Minnie visited us in California once, sometime in the 1960s. We were driving somewhere on the freeway when she said to my dad, "Hurley, stop the car!" He stopped, worried, and she pointed out the window to a huge thresher-combine. Aunt Minnie asked, "What's that?"

"That's a threshing machine," my dad said.

Aunt Minnie knew what it was, but she wanted to tell us this fact, which I never forgot: "My papa brought the first threshing machine to the Gila Valley. And it was a lot smaller than that, and pulled by horses. How times have changed!" Aunt Minnie's papa also brought a molasses mill to the Gila Valley.

At the time of Aunt Minnie's visit to California, mini-skirts were in style, and while a lot of adults we knew claimed they were a sign of the end of civilization, Aunt Minnie laughed and said, "Just like the flappers of my day. No difference. No one's going to die of that."

Some 10 years later, I stood talking to Aunt Minnie at the Pima cemetery after Grandma McBride's funeral, trying to keep from crying. I was holding my four-month-old son.

Aunt Minnie caught his eye and smiled at him. He smiled back, and they both laughed. They laughed with each other for quite awhile, like old friends who shared this secret: that death wasn't such a big deal, that Grandma McBride was happy now, that we could be happy for her.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Last time I made any New Year's resolutions was sometime in the 1980s, when I resolved never to make another New Year's resolution.

I did that because I tended not to keep them, but I'm going to keep that one.

For 2011, I'm going work on the following daily goals (NOT resolutions!):

---Read from the scriptures.

---Write in my journal.

---Do at least one act of kindness for someone, family or friend, known or a stranger.

---Exercise, even if only for 5 minutes.

---Eat veggies and fruits, and drink lots of water.

These are very modest goals, which I think is good. I'll keep track of my progress on my desk calendar.

Happy New Year to all!