Saturday, April 28, 2012

Hot salsa and jazz

"Surrender your whole being to a note, and gravity disappears. With one chord, John Lee Hooker could tell a story as deep as the ocean." — Carlos Santana

THURSDAY NIGHT'S Turner Center Jazz Orchestra concert was GREAT! I love, love music with a latin beat, and the band sounded terrific. We were pleased that Paul's parents were able to be there. People came from as far away as Chariton to attend.

Paul had a feature on a tune called El Viento by Maria Schneider, a composer originally from Minnesota who is the recipient of an impressive array of awards. Some of her work is too advanced for me to appreciate as much as an actual musician does. It's very orchestral, and I like that aspect, but it's often not structured enough for my uninformed ears. 

When El Viento starts out, to me it sounds kind of random and clashy, but when it gets to the rich, middle part where the structure and latin rhythm are more obvious, then I "get" it — and that would be why Paul is the musician, and I'm not. (Pictures below.)

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about Maria

She (Maria) studied music theory and composition at the University of Minnesota, graduating in 1983, then earned a Masters of Music in 1985 from the Eastman School of Music, studying for one year as well at the University of Miami. 

Upon leaving Eastman, Gil Evans hired her as his apprentice arranger, and she collaborated with him for the next several years, producing arrangements commissioned by Sting and scoring the films The Color of Money and Absolute Beginners. Schneider went on to study with Bob Brookmeyer from 1986 to 1991, as she concurrently worked as a freelance arranger in New York.


She formed The Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra in 1993, appearing weekly at Visiones in Greenwich Village for five years. Schneider's ensemble is now titled "The Maria Schneider Orchestra".


Her 2004 album, Concert in the Garden, became the first Grammy Award-winning recording sold exclusively via the Internet. It was named Jazz Album of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association, which also named Schneider Composer of the Year and Arranger of the Year and named her group Large Jazz Ensemble of the Year.


Schneider's composition "Cerulean Skies," from Sky Blue, won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition in 2008.



Paul is in the center between John Morgan on the left, 
Clarence Padilla on the right and Andy Classen in back.

The extremely talented Don Jacques.

Paul took a picture of me cutting slips 
of paper for a drawing we held for 
VIP seats to Yankee Doodle Pops.



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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Polk County Democratic Awards Dinner

"I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat". — Will Rogers

IN CASE YOU live in central Iowa and want to attend, Polk County Democrats are having an awards dinner Wednesday, May 23. Congressman Leonard Boswell will be the guest of honor.

If you'd like to attend, go to www.polkcountydemocrats.org for more information or to get tickets. Tickets are $25. The fun thing is that although the main course will be provided by the central committee, all of the side dishes and desserts will be potluck, and we get to vote on who brought the best ones. I don't expect to win, but I do expect to eat — a lot!




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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Kangaroo care

"Every child begins the world again." — Henry David Thoreau

SOME OF YOU may have read this story about a baby who was pronounced dead, but revived in his mother's arms. The story was originally covered by many publications in 2010. This is a follow-up piece that appeared on Today.com. Kangaroo care is credited with the baby's revival; I'd never heard of it, so I'm passing on the article in case you haven't either.

Pronounced dead, revived by mom's hug: 'Miracle baby' turning 2
By Rita Rubin

Kate Ogg has an answer ready for the day her son Jamie asks who’s older, he or his twin sister:

“Technically, you’re two minutes older,” she’ll tell him, “but Emily’s been alive longer.”


Shortly after Jamie and Emily were born prematurely at 27 weeks on March 25, 2010, doctors told Ogg and her husband David that Jamie had died.  Nurses placed his limp body across his mother’s bare chest so she could say goodbye.


But after five minutes, Jamie began to move. The baby’s doctor told the Oggs 

his movements were reflexive and not a sign of life. But as his mother continued cuddling him, Jamie opened his eyes. Kate put some breast milk on her finger, and he eagerly accepted it. Their tiny baby grew stronger and stronger in his mother’s arms, and their final goodbye turned into a hello.

“I’d carried him inside me for only six months – not long enough – but I wanted to meet him, and to hold him, and for him to know us,” Kate Ogg told TODAY’s Ann Curry in 2010. “We’d resigned ourselves to the fact that we were going to lose him, and we were just trying to make the most of those last, precious moments.”


“We feel so fortunate,” David Ogg told TODAY. “We’re the luckiest people in the world.”


hThe Oggs’ experience garnered international media attention and dramatically highlighted the benefits of parents holding newborns skin-to-skin on their bare chests, which is commonly called “kangaroo care.” Though the medical benefits of skin-to-skin contact are well documented, it's still not encouraged, or even allowed, at many hospitals.


Jamie and Emily, now nearly 2, are doing great, Kate Ogg said in a Skype interview as she and her husband held the tow-headed toddlers on their laps. In November, the family moved from Sydney, Australia, to a home with an ocean view in Nelson, New Zealand, “a very chilled-out town,” she said.


The twins’ last checkups showed they are developing completely normally, she said. To demonstrate, she asked, “Where’s your nose? Where are your ears?” and the twins pointed to the correct body parts. “Where’s your belly?” she asked, and the kids obediently lifted their shirts.


Soon after the twins’ premature birth – and Jamie’s revival – the Oggs promised themselves they wouldn’t drive themselves crazy worrying about potential problems related to their children’s prematurity. They’d enjoy their babies, and cross those bridges when they got to them. “If there was a problem,” Kate Ogg says they figured, “we’d find out about it eventually.”


Still, Ogg and her husband think about Jamie’s brush with death “all the time. Probably too much,” she said. She panics if the twins sleep in and she doesn’t hear a sound from the nursery. “I’m a bit too morbid, I think.”


Sharing their story publicly also led to some unintended emotional consequences. A Colorado woman told Ogg Jamie’s story caused distress in a support group for parents who’ve lost babies. “The portrayal of our story almost suggested if you love your baby enough you can bring it back to life. That’s one of the concerns we had about going public.”


As the spotlight faded, the Oggs returned to normal life as a happy family – and these days they have a new blessing to count.


The big news lately in the Ogg family is that Jamie and Emily now have a little brother, Charlie, born April 27.


Jamie and Emily were conceived via in vitro fertilization, and the Oggs had planned to try it again when the twins turned 1. So Kate Ogg was pretty surprised when she learned she was already three months pregnant before the twins were even a year old. She hadn’t undergone any fertility treatments and figured her missed periods were due to breastfeeding Jamie and Emily.


Charlie Ogg also tried to arrive extremely early, at 20 weeks, but made it to term thanks to stitches to close his mother’s cervix and the hiring of an au pair to do the heavy lifting with the twins while mom was on bed rest.


Ogg had gestational diabetes while pregnant with Charlie, who weighed more than 10 pounds at birth — more than four times his brother’s and sister’s birth weight of just over 2 pounds each. The three now wear the same size diaper, and Charlie can wear Jamie’s clothes. Ogg describes her youngest as “a little sumo.”


She held him for three and a half hours after the delivery.


“Just give him to me when he’s born,” Ogg instructed her doctor. As a result of her experience with the twins, she says, ‘’I’m more confident in telling medical professionals what I want with my babies.”


While the Oggs have been enjoying their three healthy children, the story of Jamie’s remarkable birth has helped publicize the growing body of research behind kangaroo care.


It's not a miracle cure. Nurse researcher Susan Ludington pioneered kangaroo care in the United States, and she cautions: “It does not resurrect the dead.” Ludington, a professor of pediatric nursing at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, speculates that Jamie might have had an ineffective heart beat that was difficult to detect.


What she’d like to think happened, Ludington says, is that skin-to-skin contact with his parents made him more alert. In 2005, she says, researchers identified a special set of nerves in babies that are “exceedingly sensitive” to pleasant human touch.


Skin-to-skin contact with their mothers releases oxytocin, the so-called “cuddle hormone,” which affects multiple areas of newborns’ brains, Ludington says. The hormone makes their heart beat and breathing become more regular.


Kangaroo care can also help minimize pain in preterm and full-term babies. Celeste Johnston, director of research at the McGill University School of Nursing in Montreal, has investigated its use in babies born as early as 28 weeks’ gestation.


In Johnston’s studies now, all babies are held skin-to-skin with their mothers before undergoing a procedure such as a heel stick. “I can’t do control groups (with no skin-to-skin contact) anymore,” she says, “because I don’t think it’s ethical.”


The length of time moms hold babies before procedures doesn’t seem to matter, says Johnston, who’s found even 15 minutes of skin-to-skin contact effectively minimizes pain.


“The evidence is really pretty overwhelming about how good it is for term and preterm babies,” nursing researcher Diane Spatz says of kangaroo care, which she prefers to call skin-to-skin. “It’s not like we need more research… but we have to get people to actually do it.”


Despite the evidence that it works, the medical establishment has been slow to recommend skin-to-skin contact with newborns. Ignorance about the research findings and fear of handling premature babies are two of the main obstacles, say Ludington and Spatz, who works at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.


 “In the United States, our biggest reason is the physicians don’t know about it because it’s nursing-generated knowledge,” Ludington says. “The physicians want to see the data, but they don’t read any nursing journals.”


Fear plays a role, too, Spatz says. “I still see in most NICUs (neonatal intensive care units) that skin-to-skin is not a standard of care.” NICU babies tend to be tiny and fragile and hooked up to tubes and machines, and both nurses and parents worry about trying to move them, she says.


Her hospital has filmed an instructional video that’s used in NICU’s around the world, Spatz says. It shows step-by-step how to transfer a critically ill baby from an incubator to the parent’s chest. Practicing with a doll first helps eliminate the fear factor.


“It’s the thing the parents look forward to the most in their entire lives,” Spatz says. “The first time they get to hold their baby skin to skin, everyone cries. The nurses are crying, the parents are crying. It’s so beautiful.”


Up until that point, it’s like the nurse owns the baby, Spatz says. “Once you do skin-to-skin, that baby is yours.”



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Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Ruby Ball

"There is a gigantic difference between earning a great deal of money and being rich." Marlene Dietrich

FRIDAY NIGHT Paul had a big band gig for the Des Moines Metro Opera's 40th annual Ruby Ball and auction. It's DMMO's black-tie fund-raiser. Tickets were $150 apiece. Paul said the lowest starting bid for an auction item was $500, and there were any number of items for which the starting bid was several thousand dollars — $10,000 and even $24,000. Must be why we weren't invited. 

The centerpieces were glorious. They could be purchased at the end of the evening for a 'donation', and Paul did so. It's made up of white roses, white lilies and white hydrangea. 


I appreciated getting them. I do so love flowers, but we can't have them at home because The Boy eats them. The only way we're preserving these is by putting them on top of the new armoire in the AP room.


A Ruby Ball centerpiece on the new AP room armoire.

The new furniture finally arrived yesterday morning from North Carolina. We were told that since we were first on the route, the truck would be here between 7:00 and 8:00 AM. Since Paul didn't get home from his gig until 1:00 in the morning, and we were up for at least another hour having a bite to eat and giving Paul some time to wind down, the 6:30 alarm felt very early. 

Paul shut it off and came back to bed, but I got up in order to be ready for the delivery. We'd actually prepared the day before — odd for us, I know — but there are always those last few things that need doing, so I pried myself up and out. 

We're really pleased with these two Kincaid pieces. I couldn't find a local store that carries Kincaid. That's not quite true; there's a store in Cedar Falls, but they only carry a limited selection, and not the line we'd chosen. 

We made our purchase from a place I found online called Furniture-Savings.com (877-584-4110). I checked at least three places in North Carolina, and this was where we found the best price. All in all, we're thoroughly pleased with the experience despite the fact that we had to wait about six weeks to get our order. It wasn't Furniture-Savings we were waiting on, but the Kincaid factory itself. 

The guy who delivered the furniture (actually there were two, but just one came in the house), was a total furniture-moving pro. Paul said that he was ingenious in knowing how to get these really, really big pieces around corners and through doorways. And such a very funny guy; he had all sorts of stories which he told at a mile-a-minute pace in a heavy Carolina accent. I could make out almost all of it, although it did require inference on my part for more than a few words based on the context of the sentence. 


The new dresser is Shiva approved. We simply needed more
storage for Paul's clothes. I guess I should stop buying him so many.

Last night Paul and I drove around the East Village, Court Avenue and the Ingersoll area putting up posters for the upcoming Turner Center Jazz Orchestra concert this Thursday night, April 26. We got all the way downtown before Paul realized he only had a few of the posters in the van, so I told him I'd jump out and walk the East Village putting up the ones we had while he drove home for more. 

I discovered a couple of new bars next to Blazing Saddles, Des Moines' favorite gay bar. One is called Lime, and it seems like a hip joint. I like the graphics and decor of the place. They have a DJ there past a certain hour, and everyone was really nice. 

I also popped into a place called Buddy's Corral. When I walked in a nice man said in a concerned voice, "What are you doing out here so late at night?" I guess I didn't look like I belonged. It's a safe area, as pretty much all of Des Moines is. Nevertheless, Paul tracked my movements while I was on my own using the GPS devise on our iPhones.

I told him about going into Buddy's Corral. He said, "Oh, so it's a straight, cowboy bar." "Nope. Don't think so," was my reply. 

Quite a few people in Buddy's actually were wearing cowboy boots and hats, but among the group there was also a tall, chiseled guy who, while sporting a western shirt, boots and a big Stetson, from the waist down was wearing only a skimpy pair of red, white and blue nylon underpants. Yee haw! Ride 'em cowboy.
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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Musica de jazz y salsa

"Jazz is a mental attitude rather than a style. It uses a certain process of the mind expressed spontaneously through some musical instrument." — Bill Evans

THE Turner Center Jazz Orchestra is having it's next performance this coming Thursday, April 26. It will feature latin rhythms and John Kizilarmut on drums. If you're from central Iowa, come to the concert! Here's the poster for it. Go to www.tcjo.org to get tickets.



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Parrotheads

"Nibblin on sponge cake. Watchin the sun bake." Jimmy Buffet

LAST NIGHT Jimmy Buffett came to town for a concert, and Paul and I were offered free tickets to attend. Our sanity has been questioned several times since yesterday because we turned down the opportunity. We're just not what you'd call big Jimmy Buffett fans, who I've since learned are called parrotheads. We don't dislike him; he's just not on our bucket list.

We might have said "yes" if we'd been in the mood to be crazy and silly and blow off steam, but we weren't; we were both too tired. Paul is on yet his third kind of antibiotic trying to kick a recurring staph infection, and you know how antibiotics upset your stomach and make you tired. That's how I feel anyway whenever I've had to be on them.

By noon, downtown Des Moines was already full of parrotheads, and the party had definitely already started. We could hear bands and revelers all afternoon in our second-floor office.



I also had a ticket last night for a Smart Talk at the Civic Center. Melissa Stockwell was the speaker. The first woman soldier to lose a limb in the Iraq war, Melissa lost her left leg when a roadside bomb exploded while she was leading a convoy in Baghdad. She's a 2008 Paralympian and has twice been a World Champion ParaTriathlete. She's also a certified prosthetist and a motivational speaker.


Melissa Stockwell

She is the first speaker I've missed in two years of the series, but I was just out of gas, and although she's a motivational speaker, I think I would have felt sad. Some days I already feel too sad to be sadder.
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Music and stuff

"Music, for me, has always been a place where anything is possible--a refuge, a magical world where anyone can go, where all kinds of people can come together, and anything can happen. We are limited only by our imaginations." — Bill Frisell

SUNDAY AFTERNOON Paul had a gig with the CJC jazz band. He was one of five featured players. Besides Paul there was trumpeter Scott Davis, sax man Jim Romain, local trumpet legend Bob Weast and Dave Sharp on soprano sax. Dave has written some awesome latin arrangements! I love, love, love latin claves. 

Paul rehearsed with the CJC Saturday, played the gig Sunday and afterwards went directly to another rehearsal — this one with the Turner Center Jazz Orchestra for a performance next week that will be all latin jazz. Can't wait!

Old news I know, but Rick Santorum finally did the math (link to my "do the math" post in red) and dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination for president. Woohoo! In some post or another I called him a wackadoodle; I stand by that. I've been trying to tell myself ever since he began his campaign that this country couldn't possibly be stupid enough to elect someone as low-information as he is, but apparently there's no possibility too absurd for us. After all, Americans did elect George W. Bushtwice.

You could almost — okay, not really — but almost forgive the citizenry for being a bunch of dumb asses once, but twice?!! TWICE?!?!?!! That just defies all explanation. I will say that we must be a strong nation for surviving eight years of that Alfred E. Newman mental midget, except that I'm not sure we have. We ain't outta the woods yet, I'm afeared.



Ya' gotta admit there's a strong resemblance.

We sold the armoire and matching chest of drawers to make room for the new ones arriving this Saturday for the new AP room. AP stands for all-purpose; it's Paul's dressing room, I iron in there and that's where we watch TV. Both the old and new furniture are made in the USA, solid wood pieces by Kincade. Our timing is almost perfect; the old pieces leave tomorrow night and the new ones arrive two and half days later. All I have to do now is sew some curtains. I've got the fabric; I just have to actually do it. I'm also going to have new zippered covers made for the futon. I'm not going to try wrestling that sewing project to the ground myself. I'll take a picture of the room when it's done.

We had to stop at UPS on the way home from work to ship a trade show display back to the manufacturer for the new graphics we're making for it. Paul said that he was sorry to have to make me go anywhere near UPS. You may recall the little altercation I had with them about a year a half ago. I told Paul they might be more afraid of me than the other way around. I'm surprised there isn't a restraining order out against me. Here's that tale if you feel like reading it. That was the harrowing trip that took us to St. Louis — which is where ended up finding the right futon for the AP room. Hey, that just all circled back around, didn't it?



Saturday, April 14, 2012

SPLC

"What a privilege to be here on the planet to contribute your unique donation to humankind. Each face in the rainbow of colors that populate our world is precious and special." — Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center

ACCORDING TO Blogspot stats, I've had 50 page views so far today, 770 in the last month and 5,984 since I started Hey Look. Of those, 4216 have been US views, 568 Russian, 129 from the UK, 110 from Germany, 90 from Japan with the rest distributed among other countries.

Southern Poverty Law Center is to blame — or thank. When I signed up as a member, I started receiving the SPLC newsletter and I read about how many hate groups there are in the United States. First I was shocked, and then I was mad, and that boys and girls is what got me started writing this blog. 

Here's the Hate Map the SPLC keeps updated. I've attached a link to their site so you can see how many groups there are where you live. Just click on your state. And in case you want to become a SPLC member, there's a link on their site for that as well. It's been a little over a year since I signed up, making it time to for me to re-up — and I just did.

I was completely shocked to learn that there are four groups in Iowa

  • Folkish Women's Front   Racist Skinhead   Pisgah
  • Fraternal White Knights of the KKK   Ku Klux Klan   Charles City
  • Supreme White Alliance   Racist Skinhead (unknown location in Iowa)
  • True Invisible Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan   Ku Klux Klan   Nashua


Click on this link for the SPLC website.
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Lefties

"I'm used to being in the minority. I'm a left-handed gay Jew. I've never felt, automatically, a member of any majority." — Barney Frank, Massachusetts Congressman

THIS IS LONG, but interesting, especially if you're a left-hander. It appeared in the New York Times April 13 and was written by Rik Smitsa linguist, editor in chief of the Dutch magazine De Republikein and author of The Puzzle of Left-Handedness.

Lefties Aren’t Special After All


Amsterdam

FEW truly insignificant traits receive as much attention as left-handedness. In just the last couple of generations, an orientation once associated with menace has become associated with leadership, creativity, even athletic prowess. Presidents Gerald R. Ford, George Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were born left-handed (as was Ronald Reagan, though he learned to write with his right hand). Folklore has it that southpaws are unusually common in art and architecture schools. Left-handed athletes like Tim Tebow and Randy Johnson are celebrated.

The idea of “correcting” left-handedness, common in the postwar United States, now seems quaint if not barbaric. “My parents understood I was left-handed/and didn’t make me write against the grain/the way so many people their age had to,” Jonathan Galassi writes in “Left-handed,” his new collection of poems.

In some ways, today’s attitudes toward left-handedness are a mirror image of those of the 20th century (perhaps the worst century for left-handers), if not quite a return to the era before 1900, when left-handedness was generally considered uninteresting: an amusing anomaly to many, and an annoyance to teachers and parents. When Raffaello da Montelupo, a 16th-century assistant notary in Florence, wrote a receipt perfectly with his left hand, the notary called in all 10 or so of his employees to watch this miracle in puzzled exhilaration (they had expected mirror script, of the kind Leonardo da Vinci practiced), but that was the end of it.

Where people ate using their fingers from common dishes, as is still the case in much of the Arab world, it was understandably mandatory that the left hand be reserved for unsavory tasks and the right used exclusively for “clean” ones. Left-handers complied, as a matter of course, and still do; the problems in such cultures arise for left-handed Western expatriates accustomed to cutlery.

Left-handers historically had less to fear at the dining table than in the classroom. A classroom is a power struggle; the more tenuous the hold teachers have on their pupils, the less inclined they are to tolerate even the slightest deviation from any rule. Good teachers exude authority; their less gifted colleagues resort to authoritarianism: sit quietly at your desks, take out your notebooks and write. That need for conformity was one reason that left-handers used to be forced, often quite brutally, to write with their right hands.

But since most people before the 19th century hardly went to school at all, the average left-hander lived a relatively untrammeled left-handed life in the village, on the farm and even in the factory. The popular image of persecuted left-handers across history is a gross exaggeration.

What did change for southpaws, around the turn of the 20th century, was the blossoming of modern psychology. One of its basic insights was that we humans — like other animals — interact with the world in ways that change our mental constitutions. Think of Pavlov’s dog, which started salivating at the mere sound of a bell once it learned that the ringing signified feeding time.

If the child’s mind was a tabula rasa — a clean slate upon which, as Mao Zedong once put it, “the most beautiful characters could be written” — then a person’s character and mind-set would not be immutable and God-given, but shaped and honed in the environment. Nature would take a back seat to nurture. The idea of normality took root, and with it a nasty premise: If minds could be shaped, it followed that they could be well-shaped or ill-shaped with respect to some norm, naturally the greatest common denominator. Abnormality — undesirable by definition — could be remedied, since minds were putty. Left-handedness became an illness that needed curing.

Pundits of psychology promoted this dismal view without mercy. In his 1937 handbook “The Backward Child,” the British child psychologist Sir Cyril Burt depicted left-handers as fumblers and bunglers who “squint” and “stammer” and “flounder about like seals out of water.” A decade later, Abram Blau, head of child psychiatry at Mount Sinai Hospital, condemned left-handedness as “an expression of infantile negativism” leading to rebellious stubbornness, secretive superstition, parsimony, obsessive cleanliness and other unpleasant traits — all due, it was believed, to an unloving “refrigerator mother.” As a result, “turning” a left-handed child became an act of mercy and the duty of every responsible parent and teacher. Many older left-handers today remember those times all too clearly.

Thank heavens for the liberating revolution of the 1960s, which for all its shortcomings put to rest the unquestioned authority of such specious theories. Society eased back and opened up, and the pressure on left-handers abated. When the pendulum of scientific wisdom swung back around 1980 and the tabula rasa idea, still cherished by the hip egalitarian philosophers of the ’60s, lost ground to a new emphasis on nature rather than nurture, the heat was finally off for left-handers.

Or was it?

The previous, deeply rooted tendency to attribute any number of abnormal mental and physical defects to left-handers has now broadened to include a tendency to see in left-handedness the stirrings of genius. Left-handers have been redefined as creative, broad-minded, natural leaders. Meanwhile, other studies continue to identify all sorts of negative associations with left-handers — clumsiness, propensity to die prematurely, higher breast cancer rates and greater vulnerability to suicide.

After reviewing hundreds of such studies for a book on left-handers, I found that the evidence of positive qualities associated with left-handedness was anecdotal at best, while the scores of studies associating left-handedness with all manner of afflictions were generally too unreliable to have any practical consequence.

Even today, only a handful of facts about hand preference warrant the epithet “well-established.” Left-handers do have an edge in one-on-one sports like tennis, boxing and baseball, and left-handedness clearly tends to become less pronounced with age. We also know that twins are roughly twice as likely to be left-handed as singletons and that men are slightly more likely to be left-handed than women. Beyond that, most “common knowledge” about left-handedness consists of myths — myths that, curiously, even left-handers themselves believe in, like the notion that left-handers always smear their writing. Solid research has shown that the writing of left-handers in third grade is indistinguishable from that of right-handers, in both speed and quality.

So while it’s true that the West has become a better place for left-handers over the past few decades, ignorance still abounds — among researchers, no doubt mostly right-handed, who imagine problems in left-handers where there are none; among journalists who keep rehashing old, long discredited stories; among teachers who remain ignorant of how to instruct left-handers correctly on writing; and among those who still try, though with greater subtlety than in the past, to pressure little left-handers into using their wrong “right” hand.
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Cocoa the goat

"Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms." George Eliot

HERE'S A STORY that appeared on an NBC photo blog, guaranteed to bring a smile.

Cyrus Fakroddin and his 3-year-old Alpine Pygmy mixed goat, Cocoa, frequently take trips into Manhattan to enjoy the city. Fakroddin raised Cocoa since she was 2-months-old. 


Cyrus Fakroddin and Cocoa, a 3-year-old Alpine Pygmy-mixed goat, relax at their home in Summit, N. J.

 Cyrus and Cocoa take a taxi ride in New York.

Cocoa and Cyrus visit a store in SoHo.

Cocoa rides the C train with Cyrus.

Cyrus and Cocoa leave the subway.

Cyrus and Cocoa dine at Mambo 'Taliano Ristorante & Piano Bar in Little Italy.


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Friday, April 13, 2012

Ears on backwards

"No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens." — Abraham Lincoln

WHEN I'M in a situation where I feel constrained from rendering an honest opinion or exhibiting my authentic non-positive reaction to a person or circumstance . . . and trying to exercise maximum restraint on words and body language, Paul can still read me. Afterwards he'll say, "I could tell your ears were on backwards." 


His observation originates from cat behavior. Much of cat communication occurs through body language. 
It's pretty obvious what a cat is saying when the ears turn wrong way 'round, but I became curious as to the reason for that particular mechanism. My guess was that it's a protective reflex in case the unhappiness or distrust escalates into a fight. 


Much is written about what various ear positions mean, but I only found one reference as to the why of it, and it was the same surmise as mine — they're protecting their ears. 


I learned other things I didn't know — for example, that cats have scent glands in the pads of their front feet near the base of their claws. I knew they have them on each side of their head, but in addition to paws and head, they also have scent glands along their tail, at the base of their tail, on their lips and chin and near their naughty bits. The pheromones are not something humans can detect, but they are read loud and clear by fellow felines.


I was reminded that cats are not "sharpening their claws" as it's frequently incorrectly described. They're marking their territory by way of the visible claw marks and through the scent glands on their front paws.


I also learned a new thing about tail communication. I knew the basic positions, but I didn't know that a when a cat holds his/her tail straight up and 'quivers' or 'shivers' it, your cat is expressing great excitement and happiness at seeing you. Shiva does that all the time.


Shye is a lovey dovey girl, too. Besides liberal scent marking of her face on ours, she likes to make sure we're as clean as she thinks we should be. Whoa, talk about your exfoliation! If I could just get her to distribute her attention a little more evenly, I'd probably have perfect skin. Recently she was so enthusiastic about giving my chin a wash up that it was actually scabbed the next day. When she starts tidying us up, either Paul or I will say, "Clean up on aisle five!"


The Boy is also a committed face-marker. With him we call it booger-sharing. It's also hard to miss his affection when he flops his 22-pound self down on our laps or any other body part — he's not that particular — and purrs so loud that I'm surprised the neighbors don't hear.


Well now . . . this was a very shiny post. I thought about ears being on backwards because mine were pretty much that way all day long. (Grandpa always said I was a natural cat.)


Paul bought groceries on the way home from work. After a dinner we made together — turkey burgers without the bun, broccoli, lettuce bed with avocado slices, two kinds of glutten-free crackers with two kinds of gouda: smoked and a 'young' gouda (that's what it's labeled, and what an interesting, complex taste) — Paul told me that he'd also brought home chocolate ice cream. I expressed my most sincere appreciation. Paul said, "Yup, it seemed like your day required liberal amounts of chocolate." 



The adorable, sweet Shye girl, who remains aptly named. 


The Boy's entire body language — ears, paws, tail and back position —
all say, "Completely safe and totally trusting." (You can kinda see
why I say that it's like having a toddler in bed.)
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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Style redux

"Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all." — Toni Morrison

I WAS VISITING Paul's parent's recently when we got on the subject of hair, clothes and shoes, and I mentioned that Paul is the first man in response to whom I didn't immediately do the opposite of a stated preference. (This will make sense, I promise.)

Paul's dad didn't remember that I had written a post about that little piece of my past, so here's the part about the evolution of my particular personal style — such as it is:

Over the years, I've gone through some radical style shifts on both ends of the style spectrum. When I met Paul, I was in a no-makeup, very-short-hair, long-skirts-and-dresses, I'm-not-going-to-shave-my-legs-very-often, really-oversized-baggy-clothes phase. I pretty much covering up every square inch of my body except for my face in complete revolt against male assumptions and expectations.

Before Paul, the previous incarnations had leaned heavily toward the controlling side. In response I became very much a 'contrary' in the Native American sense of the word. Mr. X would say, "Ooo, I like your hair long hair." I'd cut it off. "I love it when you're tan." I'd immediately invest in high SPF sunscreen. "I think long, manicured fingernails are sexy." I'd file them so short I looked like a nail-biter.

With Paul, however, I started buying clothes that actually fit me, not because I particularly liked them, but because I thought he would, uncharacteristic behavior on my part, and when Paul said I might find my hair less troublesome if I grew it out, I did. (He was actually right about that.) People who knew me wanted to check my ID.

The notion of not doing the exact opposite of what the current man in my life preferred was an unusual turn. But then again, so was getting married. There are no small number of those who've known me for years and years who still can't believe I took the plunge; they were convinced I would never be tied down to anyone.

The difference obviously was Paul. From the beginning it was clear that he loved me however I was. I'd wake up in the morning with my hair standing on end, and he'd tell me how pretty I was. To this day, when I fuss with and complain about my hair (all women do, you know), he says, "You don't have to do anything to your hair. I like the way it grows on your head however it wants to." When I recently suggested that he must have been glad when I changed my non-leg-shaving ways, he didn't even remember that was ever the case.

The everlasting proof was when I came down with some bacterial thing and got super sick, super fast. I was sick enough that the doctor actually called the house three times in one day to check on me. (Obviously, this doctor was a one-in-a-million.) On the drive back from the doctor's office, I was so entirely out of it that I could hear Paul talking to me, but it was like I was in some distant dimension where I could listen to everything going on around me but not participate. (Hey, I was really sick.) 

Paul would say something and wait for me to reply. No response. About half way home, I could tell something kicked over in his brain. It was almost as if I could hear him say to himself, "Right, then," and even though there was more or less 'nobody home', he was going to carry on exactly as if I were still 'there'. I knew then that he would love me no matter what for as long as I exist. If I were stuffed and mounted on the wall, he would still love me, want me, need me.

I said all that to say this: I like making Paul happy because his love isn't conditional; it's not based on how much he can control me, reign me in or get me to conform to some notion of who I "should" be. He really, really, really wants me — as me — and that gives me the freedom to choose to please him because I can; not because I have to.

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