Wednesday, March 27, 2013

And the Purple Martins Are Coming

I just heard from my friends at the Refuge Stewards that the first purple martins --- the scouts --- are arriving now, too. And we have the new gourds to put up for them.

So maybe that's how I'll be spending this Saturday, which would be amazing.

I found a great website with information on how to attract purple martins to your area.

This range map shows their migration routes and summer and winter areas. Our area is supposed to start seeing them around April 1, so this is about the right time for the scouts to arrive.

This photo is from Chuck's Purple Martin Page:  

And why do we care about purple martins?  Well, they eat insects, for one thing. They do NOT eat thousands of mosquitoes every day, but they do eat a few, along with flies and grasshoppers and butterflies and moths. They also drive away predators like crows and hawks.
Purple martins have been friendly with humans in North America since Native Americans discovered that they would nest in hollowed-out gourds.  Thus a mutually beneficial relationship developed.  If humans spend enough time around purple martin nesting sites, the birds accept them as part of the site and ignore them entirely. In fact, according to Chuck's Purple Martin Page, "the more human activity there is near a martin site, the more martins will show up."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Violet-Green Scouts Arrive

I saw one lone violet-green swallow on Sunday, flying so high above the trees that I didn't see how it could catch any insects up there. I think it was signaling to the others: Come on, come on, spring is here!

Here's the National Geographic information page about violet-green swallows.

And here's a picture from the Wikpedia page on violet-green swallows:

Monday, March 25, 2013

Kodo -- Spirit of Taiko

Bruce Jones (Sensei of the Reston, VA, Budoshin Jujitsu dojo) recommends this music, and so do I:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Mugwai and Lola Stay the Night

These little darlings spent Saturday night with us. Between Mugwai's incessant desire to have someone throw the tennis ball for her to chase and Lola's crazy habit of licking everyone whenever she sees some skin within tongue-distance, we had a fun and very moving time. And I mean constantly moving.

You know how we got them to sit still long enough to take this photo? They were waiting for Megan to give them carrots, their favorite treat.

(Photo removed 05/09/2013)

But they were so sweet and loving, and they slept well through the night, Mugwai on the couch and Lola in her kennel.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fiction Friday: March 22, 2013: True to Form

"True to Form"  continues the story of Katie. Remember Katie?

She's the second daughter of an angry Army dad and a sweet but ineffectual mom, after whose death the dad becomes even angrier.

In "Joy School," Katie found her first love, and then quickly lost him, and went through all the other trials of being 12 years old, with her angry Army dad and without a mom. Her older sister, the usual victim of their dad's rages, left home and cut off ties with him, which left Katie without family support.

Now Katie is 13 and is being forced by her dad to spend the summer babysitting some obnoxious neighbor kids and helping another neighbor, an elderly man, take care of his bedridden wife. All she wanted was to get a job working at the local pool, and she knew she would hate both her summer jobs.

Katie is transformed in this book, the third of the series of Katie's life. Madame L doesn't want to give away the ending, so she'll say no more about the transformation.

"True to Form" has become a classic, along with "Durable Goods," the first book about Katie, and "Joy School."

These books appeal to a wide audience not because the details of life for a young girl in the late 1950s and early 1960s are very similar to the details of life for teenagers nowadays.

It works even for people who didn't go through those years back then because it's full of everyday details that help the reader identify with Katie---and not just Katie, but even her angry dad, even her stepmother, even the mean kids across the street.

Madame L found "True to Form" at her library, and hopes all of her Dear Readers will want to check it out, too. It's also available new and used at

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Jimmy Valvano: Don't Give Up. Don't Ever Give Up.

Derek reminded me at boot camp, and we'd talked earlier, too, of one of my heroes of the 1980's, North Carolina State coach Jimmy Valvano. He's the one Derek was quoting when he told me in the boot camp class, "Don't give up. Don't ever give up."

(We lived in Northern Virginia and Venezuela during those years, and throughout that time, as Jeff and my children can attest, I spent way too much time watching college basketball on TV, especially the Big East and ACC teams. I even got a friend to send videotapes of their games to me in Puerto Ordaz. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.)

Coach Valvano was diagnosed in June 1992 with bone cancer, which metastasized shortly afterwards. A few months later, in March 1993, he spoke at the very first ESPY Awards. He announced the creation of a foundation, the V Foundation for Cancer Research,  and said its motto would be, "Don't give up. Don't ever give up."

Part of his speech:

"To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special."

As his allotted time ran out, the teleprompter flashed a message that he had only 30 seconds left to finish his speech. He said, "They got that screen up there flashing 30 seconds, like I care about that screen. I got tumors all over my body and I'm worried about some guy in the back going 30 seconds."

He closed by saying, "Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever. I thank you and God bless you all."

Dear Sisters, maybe this can be our motto, too:  "Don't give up. Don't ever give up."

Maybe we can also remind each other to laugh, think, and cry every single day. 

You can watch his speech here. Come on, watch it! It's less than 12 minutes out of your day, and you'll be able to laugh, think, and cry while you watch it. What better way to spend 12 minutes?


Monday, March 18, 2013

Boot Camp

One might think an hour-long cycling class with the inestimable Derek would be enough torture for one day. But one might be wrong, because:

I went home after cycling class and took care of the birds, did laundry, worked on a project on deadline, and then decided to go back for Derek's boot camp class.

We started by running five laps around the basketball gym. As we were starting that, Derek caught my eye and said, "Miss Louise, you can modify anything we do for your own fitness level. Just don't stop. Don't leave until we're done. You understand?"

I did my usual thumbs-up gesture and kept going, and he repeated, "Don't quit. Keep going, just modify things as you need to, but keep going."

After the regular jogging laps, we did a crab walk, a bear walk, and then sideways-facing-out and sideways-facing-in jog-walks, for the next few laps.

What next? The hour of torture has all melted together in my mind, though not my legs, which are still, hours later, making me aware of every single muscle in them.

Oh, that's what we did: wall-taps at one end of the gym, run to the other end and do touch-squats, run back for wall taps, and back again for touch squats. Then more laps doing the crab walk, stopping every minute or two to hold ourselves in the plank position for 30 seconds or a minute or a minute and a half (at Derek's discretion, or --- let's just be blunt about this --- at his diabolical whim).

Then more up and down with touch-squats and wall-taps at the ends. Then making ourselves into an X on the floor and raising feet and shoulders to touch hands to feet. Then "Superman": on our bellies, raising hands and feet at the same time. Then plank to pike, over and over again. Then mountain-climbers. Then running up and down the length of the court, then more mountain-climbers.

Then suicides: from baseline to touch free-throw line, run back to touch baseline, run to touch center court line, run back to touch baseline, run to touch other baseline, back to touch baseline.

Then getting close together along the sideline so we could link arms to do sit-ups, with Derek counting out ten ups and downs, then saying, "Last one," then counting off some more, saying "Last one," counting off some more, etc. Inch-worming from that sideline to the other, where we did more of the linked situps.

Finally, it was over. As we commiserated, I said, "If I died right now and went to Hell, I'd shout, 'Hallelujah!' Because Hell would feel better than this."

Monday, March 11, 2013

Books V. Computers: Ray Bradbury

Yeah, what he said:

“I still love books. Nothing a computer can do can compare to a book. You can't really put a book on the Internet. Three companies have offered to put books by me on the Net, and I said, 'If you can make something that has a nice jacket, nice paper with that nice smell, then we'll talk.' All the computer can give you is a manuscript. People don't want to read manuscripts. They want to read books. Books smell good. They look good. You can press it to your bosom. You can carry it in your pocket.”  

---Ray Bradbury

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The PUMA Crew Starts Work

I had the best imaginable Saturday morning: With the PUMA (Purple Martin) crew at Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge, I helped clean out last year's gourds, fix a plumbing problem, put straw in the gourds for this year, and check out the locations for the gourds and the metal "trees" they'll hang from.

So, here are the gourds. They're a modern ceramic version of the gourds the Native Americans used to set up to attract purple martins.

And this is the crew (minus the photographer): Jay, a retired harbor-master and tugboat captain; Jonathan, a high-school senior preparing to study environmental science at WSUV next year; and Steve, a retired physician.

Here's one of the "trees" where we'll be hanging the nests about a month from now.

We'll hang them up in time for the migrating purple martins to arrive, and then we'll monitor the birds' activities for the rest of the spring and summer.

An ornithologist from Fish and Wildlife will come at some point to band the baby birds, and we'll get to help her!

The gourd trees are along the north bank of the Columbia River. We'll have to move some of them so the birds can fly in and find them. Where they are now, these trees along the river bank block the view and the way for the birds. We (jokingly) suggested, "Why don't we just cut down the trees?"

The reply: "Oh, don't worry, that was our very first suggestion! But for some strange reason, the answer was no."

These ants, at the bottom of one of the gourd trees, let us know they were angry at being disturbed. When I tried to get a closeup photo of one of them by putting my sunglasses down by the nest, it hung onto my glasses and then crawled up my hand to bite me.

Check out the address number on this bird-house. We'll also have "addresses" for our purple martin gourds---a numbering system to help us keep track as we're monitoring the bird families through the spring and summer.

And look how low the river is for March! We saw a boat get grounded on one of the sand bars that was more hidden than the ones we see here, and have to spend a long time getting off.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

About Tonto

Since Jeff claims to be Tonto, I thought I'd look him up. Of course I knew "tonto" means "stupid" in Spanish, and I wondered why anyone would give a character such a name. Turns out "tonto" means "wild one" in some native American Indian language someplace where one of the writers grew up.

So, Wild One. Yes, that fits Jeff. (If you're thinking, "Huh?" see Jeff's comment on "The Curious Incident of the Car at the Red Light."

Wikipedia has its usual overkill of useless information, without telling us what everyone really wants to know: why Tonto wears that crow on his head.

Johnny Depp, on the other hand, who is playing Tonto in a new movie about the Lone Ranger and Tonto, "...feels Tonto would wear a crow for a hat."

Ha, what does that explain? Absolutely nothing. Although I admit that what Johnny Depp feels about some things, including the character Tonto, is probably more valid than what anyone else might think about them.

(Photo removed, 05/09/2013)

I mean, why not a raven? Why not a golden eagle? Why not a red-winged blackbird? Come on, people, you can do better than that.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Children and Snow

Whenever I'm tempted to complain about the never-ending rain or the temperature being 41 degrees when I get up in the morning, I have an easy antidote: thinking of my family in Iowa, with snow, more snow, and even more snow than you can imagine.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Crying for Venezuela

So sorry for you, not because of the loss of Hugo Chavez, who after all his good intentions when he took over had turned out not much better than the people he overthrew....but for the turmoil and chaos which are sure to come in your near future.

Our time there was like a beautiful dream of a beautiful country and wonderful people.

Salto Angel
Mount Roraima 
Venezuela, we pray for you and your people. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Note to Self: On the Leg Press

Hey Self! Don't keep piling more and more weight on, till you're at your limit, then decide to try to bring your legs back closer to your chest.

Because then, when you get them so close that you can't push back, and the huge metal plate with all that weight comes falling down, it will smash your knees into your chest and your legs into your ribs and diaphragm.

And, you know how you broke a rib and bruised your diaphragm a few years ago doing a similarly stupid thing? ("Oh, I think I've got the hang of this snowboarding thing! So now I'm going to go way faster!")

Well, it will be almost  like that fall all over again, and it will hurt, really, really bad. And it will keep hurting the next day and the next day and the next day and for who knows how long.

But don't worry. It will stop hurting eventually --- especially if you TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Curious Incident of the Car at the Red Light

I recently told the story of why I've never, until last month, wanted to get a bike with pedals with clips that you clip your shoes into (The Curious Incident of the Squirrel at the Oak Tree).

I've already experienced some difficulty with these new pedals: On Friday I got together with someone from my early-morning spin class who took me for my first ride on my new bike (besides the riding around in circles at the church parking lot and one other ride with Jason).

Even to get out to the main street where we were to meet, though, I almost fell off the bike because I wasn't fast enough shifting gears as I went up the hill, so I started to teeter over, and barely got my left foot out of the pedal in time to keep from falling all the way over on my side.

(Just then a friend of mine from church came by in her car, rolled down her window, and made a friendly comment to me. I'm so GLAD it was a friendly comment! Because otherwise I would have had to...I don't know...die of embarrassment.)

So, anyway, in story-telling mode lately, I thought I'd mention my most memorable fall from a bike.

(I'm not counting all the falls on Trinity Avenue, Almond Avenue, the Episcopal Church parking lot, the railroad tracks by the walnut warehouse, the library, the police station, and points in between. Because I was young and fearless and also apparently indestructible then.)

This one happened a few years ago, when we lived in Northern Virginia.

Not to sound like a cranky old-timer, but when we first moved there, we could walk through the forest behind our house all the way down to the Potomac River. Then some developers came in and "developed" the whole area. So, by the time this incident occurred, the forest had been chopped down and replaced with ugly plastic-sided houses and four-lane roads and traffic lights instead of good old four-way stop signs. But the one good thing about that was how much easier it was to go bicycling.

So we could ride down Potomac View Road (which we still tended to call Route 637 and from which, by the way, you NEVER COULD see the Potomac, when it was called Route 637 or when it was called Potomac View Road!) to the new four-lane Algonkian Parkway.

And now, finally, to get to my story:

Jeff and I were riding east on Potomac View Road. We got to the traffic signal at Route 637 just as the light turned yellow. He rode right through it.

I paused (big mistake!) and then decided to go, even though the light by then had turned red for me.

There was a lady driving a big fancy car down Route 637 (going north), to my right. She was in the left-turn lane, and the left-turn traffic signal turned green as my light turned red.

I looked at her, and I was positive that she looked at me, too, looked me right in the eye. But then she followed the advice of the green left-turn signal which told her she could go.

And she drove straight into me and my bike.  Fortunately, she was going slow, and barely accelerating at all in her big fat car, which she was driving as if it were a pig she was taking to market.

I think she was more surprised than I was. At least I had actually seen her, while she had apparently been day-dreaming instead of looking at the road.

As I was thrown off my bike, I did a forward roll. (Thank you, my wonderful fourth-grade social studies and P.E. teacher, Mr. P., who also let the girls play basketball with the boys, for teaching us some tumbling skills!) The bike skittered out into the middle of the intersection.

I ended up near the sidewalk on the other side of the intersection. The lady got out of her car, hysterically crying and saying, "Oh my God! Are you all right? I'm so sorry! I didn't even see you! Oh my God! Are you okay?" and so on and so on.

I said, "Yeah, yeah, I'm okay. Don't worry about it. It's not your fault. I'm the one that ran the red light. Sorry."

I mustered my broken dignity and picked up my broken bike and walked away. Jeff was standing on the other side, safely, probably wondering why he had married such a crazy person.

I told him, "I just didn't want to wait for the light to change again."  As if that explained everything. And, really, it did. I mean, really, it did.

Screaming Goats: What We All Think Of...

Taylor Swift:

Bon Jovi:

Hey, better yet: here's a compilation of ten amazing songs with the screaming goats:

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Friday, March 1, 2013

F.E.A.R. (Fear Not!)

Yesterday I heard for the first time this meaning for the acronym F.E.A.R. from Derek, my trainer: 

FEAR = False Expectations Appearing Real 

Of course there are other meanings for this acronym, including the 21 on this list.

But this is the one for me to remember while I'm preparing for and riding in the Huntsman 140.  

Derek was reminding me that through this process I most certainly will get to places where I'm experiencing this fear. And the thing to do is to overcome the fear, the false expectations appearing real, and keep training/riding.

How to do that? He said, "When you get there, you have two options: Quit---" 

I shook my head and said, "Not an option." 

He nodded and continued, "---Or push past it. Because that fear is really your mind telling you something that isn't true."

So that's mainly what the training is about, I'm learning. It's not just getting strong and fit, which was what I thought before, but it's pushing through pain and fatigue and being out of breath and being so tired that you don't think you can keep going....keeping on going, anyway, because that "FEAR" is just a figment, something to be ignored, at the very least, and even better and more to the point, actively fought against.

So, that's what I'm doing.