If dogs were teachers, we would learn things like....

1. When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
2. Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
3. Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
4. When it's in your best interest, practice obedience.
5. Let others know when they've invaded your territory.
6. Take naps. Stretch before rising.
7. Run, romp, and play daily.
8. Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
9. Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
10. On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
11. On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
12. When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
13. No matter how often you're scolded, don't buy into the guilt thing and pout...run right back and make friends.
14. Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
15. Eat with gusto and enthusiasm. Stop when you have had enough.
16. Be loyal.
17. Never pretend to be something you're not.
18. If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
19. When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.
20. And finally...Never trust anyone until you sniff their butt.


The two best Oscar moments

I have always loved movies and I've always loved the Academy Awards show. When I was a kid I imagined being on the stage and making my speech. I dreamed, like many girls, of being beautiful and famous. These days I just enjoy seeing which movies are getting all the attention and trying to figure out why. For instance, I hated Ratatouille, really hated it, turned it off half way through in disgust. I completely do not understand what the fuss was about that movie.

So this year, as most years, I had seen some of the movies, but not all of them. I had my favorites, the ones I was rooting for. I still haven't seen No Country for Old Men or There Will be Blood -- as soon as they're out on DVD I'll get them from Netflix. And here I'd like to interject a shameless plug (although I have nothing to gain) for Netflix. This is the greatest invention for people like me who LOVE movies and want to just see everything they can and do it effortlessly. I love it.

When I saw that Marion Cotillard had been nominated for Best Actress I was very happy -- she did the most incredible job of anyone I've ever seen. After watching La Vie en Rose, I thought there must have been at least 6 women who played Edith. I understood there were two children, but I was sure that the adult Edith had been portrayed by many women. Imagine how dumbfounded I was to learn that it was only one. I knew she deserved the Oscar. I wanted to see if everyone else realized it.

Here's some great old footage of the actual Edith Piaf singing La Vie en Rose. I hope you enjoy it. And if you haven't seen this incredible film, rush right out and do it now.

Then there's this movie. Words like sweet, lovely, quiet, come to mind. It's a love story and a musical and a testament to people making dreams come true. The making dreams come true part is in the story, but it's also the story of the movie: no budget, actors barely getting paid, a filmmaker with a dream. Did you hear Glen Hansard's speech? How precious was that? And Marketa Irglova being cut off before she can utter one word of thanks?! What on earth was that? But somebody (I wonder if it was Jon Stewart) had the good graces to give her her moment. Did you know that Glen and Marketa wrote that hauntingly beautiful song that won? Here's the song and some scenes from the movie. See it, if you haven't already.


We went to New York

This was the first time we didn't take a cab into the city from JFK. The city finally finished the AirTrain so travelers can save big bucks getting to and from the airport. After the AirTrain, we took the J train into Manhattan -- it's above ground all the way across Queens and Brooklyn and the Williamsburg Bridge, then it drops underground just as it arrives on the Lower East Side. Allison and Carl live two blocks from that stop.

This is the view from their balcony late in the afternoon, which is when we got there.

Pala Pizza Romano
That night we went out for the most incredible pizza we'd ever had. Al and Carl have these favorite places they take us, oooh, so yummy. This place is voted best pizza year after year.

So, this is part one of our trip. More later. Kiss kiss.


Mating season

If you object to sex or "messages," don't watch this. Otherwise, enjoy!

Happy Valentine's Day

These are for my twoo wuv -- you know who you are...


Florida stories: Winter visitors

The first year we lived in Florida, we were delighted to see these big black birds magically appear in October and take up residence in the Australian pines near our house. After a bit of checking with people who'd lived here longer and some googling, we learned that these are Black Vultures. They come here from Texas, they don't build nests and, as far as we can tell, they do not come here to breed. We've never seen a young 'un. By the way, these are all Kim's photographs, some with the new camera even.

It's a bunch of fun to watch them soar and glide. They are really beautiful flyers -- a few flaps to get them out of the tree and they're away. (As an interesting side note, we mentioned to a $cientologist we knew that we thought the birds were lovely and fun to watch. His response? Yuck, they're low-toned [meaning they're not "happy" or "inspiring" or "cheerful"], they're carrion-eaters, and they most definitely are not to be admired! Gotta love those $cienos, huh?)

There's an old dead tree across the street where they congregate in the morning to dry their wings.

One morning when it was foggy (something that doesn't happen often), they came down to our roof and hung out there for a while, apparently waiting for some sun or a breeze.

Sometimes I just lay (lie?) in the grass and watch. They move so gracefully and it's a kick to watch a group of them, slipping and sliding through the sky.

But they are not particularly attractive creatures when they're not flying. They are, after all, vultures.

Shouting from my soapbox: Who the hell's responsible here?

I picked up the book true green, published by National Geographic, with a foreward by Ian Kiernan, Chairman and Founder of Clean Up the World. The subtitle is "100 everyday ways you can contribute to a healthier planet." The cover says the book is by Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin. I've heard of National Geographic, haven't heard of the rest of these folks. It's broken down into areas of your life where you can "make a difference," like 'in the home,' 'at work,' etc. So this Clean Up the World thing is huge apparently. According to the blurb in the back:
"Fifteen years after its launch, the campaign has become a successful action program that spans more than 120 countries, encouraging communities to take control of their own destiny by improving the health of their community and environment." Have you heard of this program, outfit, whatever you want to call it? It started as Clean Up Australia and morphed into this version.

Here's my problem: I'm reading through the things I can do, around my house, in my yard and the thought occurs to me, "Is there a book like this for ginormous corporations?" Since the federal government obviously doesn't give a rat's ass about the environment or our health, who's helping Proctor & Gamble or SCJohnson or General Motors or L'Oreal or Jack in the Box be true green? The agencies, both federal and state, that might hold a large corporation's feet to the fire, have made it clear they're not interested in passing laws OR enforcing existing laws that will move us closer to a safer, cleaner, healthier world. My personal opinion is that the individuals who make up the governmental groups are getting rich off the individuals from these special interest groups and lobbyists. I can just see it: a couple good 'ol boys (although I'm very aware that there are good 'ol gals too) yukking it up about the toxic dump that's NOT going to get cleaned up or the chemicals that ARE going to go into air fresheners or the emissions of the newest cars that WON'T pass any tests, yuk yuk. Have another whiskey?

See, that's the thing that really jerks my chain. We have to do our part AND we have to make these overgrown bullies do their part too! WTF??!! I'm really tired of carefully taking canvas bags to the market, carefully turning off every unused light, carefully reading labels (until I think I'm going to go blind), carefully getting rid of the toxically poisonous products from our house, carefully trying to educate the stupid imbeciles we have for neighbors, and so on ad nauseum. I want the really gigantic, huge, humongous, gargantuan, great big companies to HAVE TO DO their careful part. You get what I'm talking about here?

Remember Donovan? That wonderful, funny, kind of flipped out singer from the '60's? He said it perfectly in Riki Tiki Tavi. We have to do it ourselves. We have to kill the snakes. Us. You and me. We have to make the big corporations sweat, we have to hold their feet to the fire. How? Fuck if I know. But it seems to me it's time to bring back the Monkey Wrench Gang. In the meantime, here's our old friend to sing it out for us:

This is why we need Slayde to hurry up and finish Law School. She's going to help us kill these fucking snakes.

I finished this but had to come back and add this: do you have any idea how many goddammed eco-friendly, environmentally conscious, green-e, etc. new programs, companies, groups are cashing in on global warming? I am stunned and thoroughly pissed off at people who are touting wind and solar power as if they'd just been discovered. Oh my god. This is so crazy. When Allison was about 5, I knew a guy who was trying to get wind mills used all over California. That was ages ago and now there are those big wind farm things and people are all proud of themselves. Argh!


Fabulous Saturday morning inspiration

Well, I just finished my morning blog surfing and I just have to share a few things with you.

First, there's spit-fire, two time published author Melissa, railing against stupid mofos who insist on telling her she cannot make it as a writer in Portland. I agree with her: Who says that? Obviously envious, insecure, mean-spirited folks say that. In her post she points us to an interview with Ariel Gore on Bookslut.com. I have to admit I'd never heard of Ms. Gore before, and that's okay, there are thousands of wonderful people I've never heard of. But thanks to blogging and surfing the web, I'm finding out about many of them and enjoying the hell of it. I'm grateful for the pointers from other bloggers to other blogs or sites or whatevs (little nod to Melissa). The interview with Ms. Gore was inspirational. It reminded me of my youthful self-confidence, promises I made to myself, and the fearlessness that one must have to survive, nay, not just survive, but flourish, thrive, blossom. The words were from Ariel, about Ariel, but I saw Melissa there as well.

I usually stop in at FakePlasticFish to see what's up with Beth, what progress she's making in eliminating plastic from her life, what new tips she has for the rest of us. I invite you to read Giving up the struggle: stories of ants and cats and hair products gone awry. I found my muscles relaxing, my breathing grew calmer. Whew. I needed that. And she throws in a great book recommendation as well. Don't be misled by the title, she has not given up her purpose to rid herself of unnecessary plastic, but, like any good introspective human, she acknowledges that there are layers of the onion. That is, the battle is waged in diverse ways. This is something I sorely need to keep in my wee brain. There are no absolutes, there is no black or white. We do what we can do. And we must treasure each other more than we must assert ourselves over each other.

Enjoy. Be inspired. Put your thinking cap on. Go for it. Join the race. Live large.

You go girl!


Florida stories: Winter

This is what you might expect when you hear "winter." Thanks to Lauri (in Kasilof) for this picture of her version of winter.

Or, perhaps this. Thanks to Bruce and Celia for this picture from their recent skiing vacation.

Winter could even look like this (Portland). I stole this from Melissa's blog post titled It Snow Joke. I had to read that about a dozen times before I got it. omg (if you don't know what omg means, use the acronym finder I told you about earlier.) (Yes, I'm being snotty. Deal with it.)

But this?? Please. I know I have no business whining and complaining about the lovely, warm weather here in Florida, but you must understand how incredibly monotonous and boring it is. It's f*&%$*g 75° and 75% humidity for chrissakes. It's unpleasant to have this weather all the time. There needs to be change. Oh, I forgot. It did get cold a few weeks ago, it dropped down to 50, we were really shivering that night.

But, we need to move on, right? We can talk about this tree. It's lovely when it's in bloom. Then it drops all the flowers. That's a bit messy. After the flowers, of course, come the seed pods. Naturally, that's the order of things. Now, this is where it gets truly nightmarish. There are tens of thousands of seed pods and each one has about a dozen seeds. Remember when I showed you the picture of vacuuming the yard? Well, one of the reasons for doing that was the hope (ridiculous, I know) that I could somehow mitigate all the baby trees that I knew were about to spring up.

There they are. And don't tell me you can't see them. Millions and millions of tiny baby trees. The entire yard covered with them. I have just spent two whole days carefully pulling them up, making sure to get the root. I filled my bucket 20 times. Kim took breaks and came outside to help. He pulled hundreds just on his breaks. We still have the back yard to do.

This morning the guy from the lawn care service was here to apply fertilizer. He said, "Oh, don't worry about those little trees, they die after they've been mowed down a few times."



Overcome by thankfulness today

One of the many things that was horrible about being a $cientologist was having the arrogant attitude that anyone not interested in it was an enemy. Because of that mindset, I intentionally stopped talking to some of the best people I've ever known.

I just want to take this moment to say how grateful I am that Kim and I no longer belong to such a disgusting organization and that I now count as friends people I almost lost forever.

To my almost lost friends: click this.


But not with me and Kim. We're going with Lorelei and Roland. Woohoo! Today's trip is to Kinnitty Castle which is almost smack dab in the middle of Ireland.

We're going to see some great stuff on the way and stay over in one of the castle's exciting haunted rooms. Oooooo.

And here we are!! Looks just like you'd expect a castle to look, yeah? From the website:

Kinnitty Castle is located in the heart of Ireland, close to the picturesque village of Kinnitty in County Offaly. Approximately one hour 30 minutes from both Dublin and Shannon airports, it nestles in the foothills of the beautiful Slieve Bloom Mountains and is in Ireland's only designated Environment Park. The whole area is steeped in Irish history and there is a wide range of things to see and do.

Things to see and do? How about horseback riding?

And here's our room:

Well, what a great day! Reminds me of the time Allison and I were visiting Ireland. We drove across the country, from Dublin to the Dingle Peninsula in an afternoon (AND I had managed to pick up a cold on the ferry boat from Wales). It is a glorious place to drive. Roads are awful, getting used to driving on the left side is a nightmare, but the scenery is unbelievable. Truly magnificent. I recommend an Ireland road trip as soon as you can possibly get yourself over there.

100s Frozen in Grand Central


Fractals and fractal math

Leibniz, Karl Weierstrasse, Helge von Koch, Waclaw Sierpinski, Paul Pierre Lévy, Georg Cantor, Henri Poincaré, Felix Klein, Pierre Fatou, Gaston Julia, Lewis Fry Richardson, Benoit Mandelbrot.

And my point is? Well, I'll tell you: They were philosophers, mathematicians, and scientists. And these were the people who made

possible. This particular image is from Decadent Tranquility, which is the "home of Kyra, Zeke and Bravo-Four-Zero (a crew of eight Hynerians). Each chapter (post) features original art in the form of fractals, 3D and 2D renders, or sketches and paintings. The Story, as it is called, is an image driven saga, which is to say, the image comes first, then the prose is written to move the story forward." Check it out.

So, what exactly are fractals? From the Infinite Fractal Loop web ring comes this:

"Simply put, fractals are shapes which show similar features at different sizes. Much as a very close inspection of a rock can show similar features to an aerial view of a mountain, fractal shapes are characterized by this property of self-similarity." Read more...

Fractal math can be very complicated or very simple. In any case, it takes an artist's eye to create these beautiful images:

Red Flowers from the Chaos Gallery

Knots from the Chaos Gallery

So what is my interest in fractals or fractal math, you may well ask? Simple. As a photographer who wants to get out of the darkroom (meaning go digital), fractal math makes it possible to make large prints that look gorgeous from small-ish digital files. There's a great piece of software that works with PhotoShop called Genuine Fractals -- I've made 13" x 19" prints that are drop-dead gorgeous from puny digital files. That may not seem like such a big deal, but trust me, it's a big deal.