Monday, November 30, 2009


November 30, 2009

My muse has suffered lately. Rather than the words flowing straight from my brain, down my neck, across my shoulders, along my arms, through my fingertips, and straight into the keyboard, I have struggled. But not now. I have ideas for new entries out the (metaphorical) wahzoo.

Write already, then.

But no. I have no time. The end of the semester is upon me. I have wall-to-wall grading and no room for much else.

Here is a start on the cascade of ideas that have come to me lately. The first is a commentary concerning Michaela Salahi and Teddy Buenger.

Who really deserves fifteen minutes of fame more?


I would definitely vote for Teddy, wouldn't you?

And for the discerning among us, why the period before Fri?

Saturday, November 28, 2009


November 26, 2009

Stuart Holden, Houston Dynamo midfielder, is collecting "gently used" shoes (any type other than flip flops) to donate to the Star of Hope Mission (for the homeless) in Houston. If you would like to clean out your shoe closets, please contact me to make arrangements for me to get your "old" shoes. If you can get them to me by Friday, I have a friend who will pick them up next weekend.

Stu's goal is 500 pairs, let's surpass that!

Monday, November 23, 2009


November 23, 2009

Alright. Back off. I am not talking about coupling here. This afternoon, for the first time since I was in junior high at Alvin Jr. High School, I played a complete game of chess (Awkward confession: my friends will say that the only reason I played chess back then was because John Dupre also played chess. I can't say that I remember one way or the other).

Laying off chess for thirty-five years probably doesn't strike most of you as odd. Many of us took part in things during those graceless and best-forgotten years of our early youth that we abandoned and never returned to. I, however, happen to coach the Jane Long Middle School Chess Team.

I was willing to take up chess again when Davis joined the club eight or nine years ago, but I blinked, and before I could get the pieces arranged on the board, he far surpassed me in skill level. Needless to say, he dared not deign to play me (or perhaps more accurately, I quaked at the thought of playing him).

Since then, I have watched a lot of chess. I carted Davis around the state to tournaments and three times he played in the national tournament. Thus, when the opportunity arose to hang around with Erin's friends and meet some new kiddos interested in chess, I took on the challenge. I also, cunningly, recruited Spencer K., one of Davis's friends and teammates who goes to college here in town to do the heavy lifting. All fall I ducked playing. Last Monday, I took over someone else's game when he had to leave, and finished well. It gave me the confidence to sit in--start to finish--on a game today.

I have to say that I went down material and position fairly quickly. Luckily for my record, my opponent played too conservatively, leaving a crack open for me to make some gains, and then finally eke out a win in the end game. I may have to rest until January before I play again. I'm thinking hard about that "old dog," "new tricks" saying.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


November 18, 2009

The phone rings. The voice on the other end says, "Can we make the trade in the back parking lot by the outdoor basketball court?"

I receive a text, "I need starts. Can you set me up?"

An e-mail asks, "Where will you be at 5:45 and can I catch up with you there?"

I find myself passing baggies at curbside, then driving away. People at church slip things into my jacket pocket as I stand in the vestibule ushering. I meet up with people in strange parts of town after dark, but only for a minute.

If the fed tailed me, I think my behavior would raise suspicion.

What I'm really doing is moving lanyards and lanyard supplies around town. Sometimes I'm a "clucker" and sometimes I'm a "bagman" or a "mule." Mainly, I'm just trying to guarantee "merchandise" and an "easy score" so people will know I've "got it going on."

[NOTE BENE: I looked up these street slang words on the White House Drug Policy website to make sure I was using them correctly. Here's what I think I said: Sometimes, I'm a middleman and sometimes I'm a supplier or a courier. Mainly I'm just trying to make sure that my friends can get lanyards as well as beads and other supplies without having to wait too long so that we raise more money for neuroblastoma research more quickly.]

When I am not "working" these days, I'm actually working. I push my green pen around on exams and push ideas out of my head into my students heads. Unbelievably, I have only four more class days left, plus finals. I hope I don't have work left when I've run out of semester.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


November 15, 2009

Many of you don't care, but I got the official release from my three-month vow of silence on The Repore. Read the latest, if you are adventurous.

As long as you are clicking, head over to Erin's Dream Lanyards, too. I have a guest today, who starts her story this way:

Second graders don’t really understand boundaries very well- they love to touch and hug and feel and love maybe a little too much for the comfort of most. But it’s part of what I love about my job. And these little sweeties can’t get enough of my lanyard! The symmetry and shine of the beads, the interesting feel of the patterns, the glimmer of something around my neck. Kids can’t resist. My lanyard gets handled a lot over the course of a typical school day. (more)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Trick and Treat

November 13, 2009

I clicked on the New York Times article, "Good Dog, Smart Dog" with great curiosity. I learned that:

"The matter of what exactly goes on in the mind of a dog is a tricky one, and until recently much of the research on canine intelligence has been met with large doses of skepticism. But over the last several years a growing body of evidence, culled from small scientific studies of dogs’ abilities to do things like detect cancer or seizures, solve complex problems (complex for a dog, anyway), and learn language suggests that they may know more than we thought they did."

That's it. Understanding Teddy and Willie is tricky. I should try harder. Perhaps they had great skills. Maybe they could become seizure alert dogs or follow in the footsteps of "Jet" who can identify his hypoglycemic owner's plunging blood sugar and will either stare at her intently or repeatedly drop a toy in her lap until she snaps out of her dissociative state and does something about it. For a moment I held hope, but I spoiled the moment with google (does this happen to you?). I decided I needed to find the original reference (and accompanying ranked list of dog breeds) to Stanley Coren's work on dog intelligence. My mistake.

According to Coren, author of "The Intelligence of Dogs", there are three types of dog intelligence:

  • Adaptive Intelligence (learning and problem-solving ability). This is specific to the individual animal and is measured by canine IQ tests.
  • Instinctive Intelligence. This is specific to the individual animal and is measured by canine IQ tests.
  • Working/Obedience Intelligence. This is breed dependent.

If you click on the link you will notice that it has 100 dog breeds broken into six categories, from "Brightest Dogs" to "Lowest Degree." Optimist that I am, I clicked from the top down. Penbroke corgi, Uma's category, came up 11th, which just goes to show that intelligence and pleasantness don't necessarily correlate. I finally found Rhodesian ridgeback at 62nd, but had to search to the very last category--number 90--to find shih-tzu. I haven't felt as disappointed since my softball coach put me eighth in the batting order even though I was the fastest player on the team (I was certain I would be a dangerous base runner, and thus deserved the number one or number two slot). I got no comfort when a dog expert tried to explain to me that shih-tzu's didn't need to be smart. They were bred to sit on the emperor's lap and eat from his hand. A nice life, but frankly, Walter and I had hoped for more than "lowest degree" for our precious.

This new discovery led us down an interesting path on Wednesday evening. We returned home around 8:30 that night and found someone had jiggered open the dog food cabinet.

Walter has lived in that house for thirty dog-filled years with sometimes as many as four dogs in residence at a time. For three long stretches, we owned Top Ten breeds (German shepherd, Labrador retriever, and rottweiler). Never, during any of those years, did a single dog manage to finagle its way into the food source.

We began our investigation, photographing everything that looked relevant:

We circled the first object. It looked dragged, but except for the tiny bit of scrap cardboard lying nearby, it revealed no visual evidence of tampering. The fact that it wasn't ripped to shreds gave weight to the non-dog theory of the perpetrator. We moved through the house, considering our prime suspects and accumulated the following line up (based on the facts of the case). None of them would admit to anything (click on each mugshot to personally assess the look of guilt on the faces).

That was before we returned to the first (actually only) piece of evidence. Walter picked it up to return it to its storage place and found that the suspects had cleverly covered their trail. From five of six sides, it looked like an ordinary, off-the-shelf, unopened box of Milk-Bone biscuits. The sixth side was a different story altogether.

Noticing the paucity of treats in the box, we quickly realized we had either been cheated by the manufacturer (cue dramatic music) OR our intruder was also a thief! We tried to interrogate the eyewitnesses, but they somehow seemed to know that "loose lips, sink ships."

Thousands of years of breeding peaked at that moment. How could anyone accuse a shih-tzu--the mainstay of the Chinese Empire and a dog destined for greatness as the comforter of rulers and royalty--how could anyone accuse her of petty thievery?!!?!

We never learned who entered our house and purloined our treats. For some reason neither dog ate their breakfast on Thursday morning. They were probably just exhausted from standing guard all night in case the thief returned.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


November 11, 2009

I promise I will update with something fun and enlightening soon, but in the meantime, if you stopped by, click over to Erin's Dream Lanyards and read the latest news on the lanyard front.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Crawl, Fly, or Climb

November 5, 2009

The gorgeous weather has somehow put a strain on the wildlife in the neighborhood.  I don't know.  Maybe the birds, caterpillars, and squirrels have been mesmerized by bright sunshine, clear skies, and exactly seasonal temperatures.  I've heard the geese go by, and I think they were headed in the right direction, but everyone else has been a little out of kilter lately.

It started with a confused caterpillar looking for a place to rest itself and spin its cocoon.  This, of course, happens every fall (I'll ask the neighborhood Master Naturalist for the species, if you are interested).  Unfortunately, the "usual" place this type caterpillar goes for the big transition is not available this year.  So it wandered around, in the middle of the road, no less, looking for a place to (literally) hang out.  The worried Master Naturalist became concerned when it kept crossing and re-crossing the road, so she carefully picked it up and took it to a Likely Place.  The caterpillar rejected that offer, so she carried it someplace else.  It took about an hour, but eventually the Caterpillar Rescue Operation was successfully concluded, with the caterpillar happily hanging upside down, spinning silk and the happy Master Naturalist retired to her lookout post on the porch, ever vigilant.

A day or two later, a flicker presented itself in need of aid.  M.N. found it, passed out, lying on the ground feet straight up in the air like a wiped out skier who missed the trail marker.  Apparently, it rammed itself into a window and knocked itself silly.  With great patience and tender hands, the Master Naturalist warmed it and coaxed it back to consciousness.

Pretty soon, even I had to get in on the act.  As I walked along the path between our houses, I came across a brown sparrow sitting there, looking at me.  Did I have the healing hands, too?  Amazingly, it let me pick it up and rode along in my cupped hands, just blinking at me.  I carried it towards the Master Naturalists command post, though at the last moment it took flight, healed from whatever trauma it had experienced.

These saves pale in comparison to the young squirrel rescue that happened next.  I was packing or unpacking my car (I have had so many lanyard workshops lately I can't remember which), when I saw a scrabbling squirrel trying to climb up the door to Erin and Davis's shed.  That confused me, but not as much as hearing it scream.  A horrible noise, a squirrel scream.  We (the Master Naturalist and I) observed it--maybe some blood, maybe an injured leg, who knows what else--and tried to make a plan (for those keeping score, the squirrel was not one of Willie's exercise clients).  We found a thick towel and a styrofoam beer cooler, and with a little luck, managed to secure the squirrel into the towel nest inside the cooler.  Amazingly, there is a squirrel specialist at the small animal clinic at Texas A&M.  They promised they would release the youngster back in our neighborhood if they could heal it, and that they wouldn't charge is either way (survival or not).

I felt a little guilty boarding a flight out of Easterwood Airport this morning, headed to Houston and on to Louisville, Kentucky.  Who will be the Master Naturalist's wing woman (or paw woman) until I get back on Sunday?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Tread Water

November 2, 2009

The cruel time of the semester arrived, as usual. Long-time readers have come to expect these longer-than-usual gaps between posts in late October and all of November, just as happens in April. Non-students probably don't think of April and November as particularly cruel, but those of us either producing or processing stacks of exams, papers, reports, and homework assignments know that the lolly-gagging of September always gives way to the dogged run after Columbus Day.

It's not just that I don't have time for a post (though that's absolutely true), but I don't have the brain for it either. I can't seem to notice pithy details or remember witty conversational exchanges. I did listen to an interview about the founders and president of Google on the radio driving home from a lanyard workshop in Spring yesterday, which I thought at the time was interesting and memorable. Maybe it was, but I have nothing to report.

I have permission from Davis to write an update to the Davhee Repore about Ripstick Love, but not only have I thought of nothing beyond the title, I fell asleep on the couch at 8:00 last night and forgot to return his phone call where we might have discussed some ideas. Ack!

I can report that I am six stickers short of being about to provide the women at Phoebe's home eight brand new skillets, thanks to everyone's contribution of Albertson's bonus stickers. And that we have almost two full months left to continue collecting. Keep collecting.

I can also report the arrival of a box of beads destined for re-purposing from Indiana! and continuing interest in beading popping up in various locales. Keep collecting.

Beyond this, I am merely treading water. I am hoping that my former skill of focusing and pushing through the piles in a systematic and orderly way returns soon, because treading water doesn't get the papers graded, the floor swept, or the blog written. For your own good, if I owe you a response to an e-mail, maybe you should send me a reminder. Otherwise, if you haven't heard from me, you can assume it was lost in the shuffle of that cruel time of the semester.

ADDENDUM: I did get to celebrate that I finished I, Claudius finally. Shortly after, I learned that there was a sequel, Claudius, the God. That discovery just reminded how much crueler November could become if I made a bad selection for our next Mother-Daughter reading Club Selection.

Thank goodness for seasonal chocolate or all might be lost.