Things I learned this week (September 24 – September 30)

I learned this week that…

…that it feels good to bump the elliptical resistance up to 9; bumping it up to 10 feels even better.  However, it should be noted that doing it too many days in a row leads to über sore thighs and hamstrings so it might be necessary to alternate resistance levels.  I will have reevaluate my workout routine accordingly. 

EliptiGo

…that my newfound affection for the elliptical sorta makes me feel guilty.  I see my beloved bike number 3 sitting across the room empty and looking forlorn, and it’s almost as if I’m cheating on it.  Maybe we need couples therapy.  Or perhaps I need an EliptiGo.     

…that thankfully it didn’t take long for my daughter to get the hang of the clarinet.  After nearly six weeks, the strangled goose has been replaced with a fairly pleasant, deep-throated sound and tunes that are clearly recognizable.  I’m sure the private lessons didn’t hurt the progression of this process.  Money well spent, indeed.

…that signing up for Sting’s fan club just to find out that pre-sale tickets were only available for a short window of time – an expired window of time – sucks.  Successfully navigating Ticketmaster and getting decent tickets on the day that Sting tickets go one sale to the general public, makes everything right in my world.  I think I even saw a rainbow the minute the sale went through.  Seriously.

…take home tests are just weird.  I sort of understand my professor’s reasoning behind it, but I still feel like I am somehow cheating.

The Debt

…that the movie The Debt is a spine tingling spy thriller that left me breathless.  I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a movie so much in quite some time.  I highly recommend it to anyone who likes this sort of thing. 

…that having aging animals is emotionally and financially draining.  Two to the vet this week.  One with good news; the other very bad news.  Our oldest cat has been referred to an animal oncologist for treatment for Lymphoma.  She’s very old and we have some seriously difficult decisions to make. 

…that my husband doesn’t get my writing.  Oh, he likes learning about the things I’ve learned during the week and enjoys the animal attack entries, but anything else – not so much.  I have tried to not allow this to influence what I write and my approach to this blog, but it does and it has.   I’d like to say that I don’t care what people think , after all, I dabble with this site solely for creative purposes and to exercise my writing muscle.  In truth, I do care.  Can you say crushing period of self-doubt? I think I am in need of some serious validation.  Hugs?  A pat on the head?  Anyone?  No? 

…that sometimes you just can’t wait for Wednesday to highlight man’s stupidity in dealing with Mother Nature’s most ferocious predator of the sea.  A 42-year-old British man lost a good portion of both legs when he decided he was smarter than shark spotters at a beach in Cape Town, South Africa.  Shark spotting is serious business in this part of the world.  They have individuals who are strategically situated and do nothing all day but watch for Great White sharks lurking just off the beaches.  On Wednesday, several were spotted in the water.  The appropriate action was taken – beaches were closed, warning flags hoisted.  This future Darwin Award winner disregarded all of it and went into the water anyway.  It didn’t end well.  You can read his story [here].  Take notice of the amateur video halfway down the page.  The camera will pan down and you can clearly see the monstrous shark in the shallow waters.  This man is very lucky to be alive.

…last but not least – this week’s awww moment is brought to you by Tango, a little ginger-haired Francios’ langurs monkey, born at the beginning of the month in London.   ***Thank you to my friend, Kelly, for bringing this gem to my attention.***

Zoological Society of London/PA Wire

Man vs. Beast Part IV

My perfectionist troll will be happy to see that I took special care in the typing of my title.  No embarrassing Freudian faux pas for me this week.

So, let’s delve right in and find out what the animals have been up to since we last checked in on them.

Champion surfer Mathieu Schiller was attacked and killed by an aggressive tiger shark just off the shore of the French island of la Reunion.  I had to do a quick Google search on this place because I still haven’t had time to take that geography class.  It’s located in the Indian Ocean just east of Madagascar.  Good to know – I plan to avoid this area like the plague.  Contrary to what the local shark experts says, there seems to be an upswing in attacks in this area of late.  A coincidence?  I think not.  In my opinion, this was not a case of mistaken identity – a shark looking for a tasty seal and mistook the wetsuit clad surfer for prey – but a sanctioned hit.  The shark struck suddenly in an attack that lasted nearly 30 seconds and then swiftly fled the scene, the body of the surfer was never recovered.  Yea, this has shark mob written all over it.  You can read the story for yourself [here].

Last week a 12-year-old girl in Forest Falls, California scared off a bear that had made its way into her kitchen.  This is not the first time this particular bear has made an appearance at the girl’s home, nor even the first time he’s tried to get into the kitchen.   In the weeks prior, the girl’s father scared it away as it tried to climb in through a screened door.  This bear is obviously looking for something, though I suspect, whoever tasked him with this assignment did not take into consideration his lack of subtlety – or immense stupidity.  Perhaps they will send a grizzly next time.  On a side note, I surely hope the condition of the kitchen as shown in the [this video] is as a result of the bear.  If not, perhaps the bear was simply trying to tidy up.  Good grief.  How do people live like that?  ***Thank you very much to my brother, Rob, for sending this one to me.***

An 80-year-old Ohio man is recovering from a lengthy attack by a 6ft tall male kangaroo.   It appears this man did not adhere to the rules of Kangaroo Fight Club.

Kangaroo Fight Club

In Idaho, a bow hunter was seriously injured when he and his companion startled a grizzly bear while stalking elk.  The man’s hunting buddy doused the bear with “bear pepper spray” and managed to scare it away, likely saving his friend’s life.  Okay.  So you mean to tell me these dumbasses experienced hunters trekked out very close to Yellowstone National Park, in an area known to have a substantial bear population, armed only with a bow and arrow and pepper spray?  Seriously? Maybe I should send them a link to my Man vs. Beast blogs.  They seem to be in desperate need of a refresher course in the dangers of venturing into bear country without proper preparation.  You can read about this latest attack [here].

I would like to bring you an update on one of the items I included in last week’s Man vs. Beast entry.   It was reported that two men in Montana shot and wounded a grizzly bear, who in turn fled.  When the men tracked it down, the bear attacked, killing one man before being killed by the other.  As it turns out, the man who died was not killed by the bear at all.  He was shot and killed by his friend.  Police do not believe this to be anything other than an accident – though, I think I saw this play out differently on an episode of Bones once.  You can read the updated story [here].

A man in Roselle, Illinois, died after he was discovered unconscious outside his home this week.  The medical examiner has determined that his death was caused by multiple – and when I say multiple, I mean hundreds – of bee stings.  This is not the first time this has happened in Roselle.  In 2003, a man died after disturbing a hive of yellow jackets while mowing his lawn.  No word yet on the species of bees guilty of this attack or if it is connected to the recent attacks on the West Coast and in the Southwest.  Could be that we have a rogue colony of bees on a killing spree.  I will keep you posted.  You can read about this story [here].

Things I learned this week (September 17 – September 23)

I learned this week…

…that the first day of fall is the perfect way to end the week.  It doesn’t matter that there will be no earth shattering kaboom, no fireworks, or fanfare.  The revelation that summer is finally officially over is enough to make it all worth it.

…that when facing a big project for school, with just days to go until its due date, all I want to do is write a scene for my novel.  However, when I have no homework deadlines pending and can write said scene at my leisure, all I want to do is clean toilets.  I suppose I am well versed in the art of avoidance and procrastination.

…that my public speaking anxiety is slowly improving.   This time, I wasn’t plagued with uncontrollable shaking, only pit sweating.  Even that was manageable.  I feel like I am making progress.  Maybe by the time my next one comes along in November, I will be able to forego the extra deodorant.  Yeah…I’m not that hopeful.

…that I am still amazed how good I feel when I don’t let anything interfere with my daily workouts.  I am also amazed that I have taken so well to the elliptical after years of loathing it.  I guess the change just came at the right time.  I have worked my way up to level 8 resistance and I think beginning on Saturday, I’m going to give 9 a go.  Oh, and in addition to feeling revived, both physically and mentally, I have lost that 5 lbs I gained when the semester started and my groove was all screwed up.  That makes it all the more sweeter, I think.

…that four semesters of math + $2,500 on tuition, books and supplies = priceless.  I can sit down with Megan and confidently help her with her PAP math homework.  This week – factoring.  I am a factoring pro!

…that rushing to get a blog posted without thoroughly inspecting it for typos will lead to utter humiliation.  Well, I guess that’s an exaggeration.  It was funny, but my perfectionist troll was not amused.

…that Ovid had an odd sense of humor.  I like it. 

that Hollywood is at it again.  This time the movie to be rebooted – Scarface.  Yes, I understand that the 1983 Pacino film was technically a reboot of a much earlier film, but does that make it okay.  No.  Not okay at all.  This drives me completely batshit crazy. 

…that I don’t like the new Facebook changes.  Clutter is one of the many things in life that makes me twitchy.  I love you all, really I do, but I don’t give a rat’s ass whose status you are commenting on, or what video link you like.  Seriously.  I’m sure you don’t want to see what I’m trolling around doing either.   It certainly isn’t mind blowing or earth shattering.  I suppose we will all get used to it, though.  We are all slaves to social media and will conform accordingly, else risk complete alienation.

…that I was so self-absorbed this week that I failed to learn all that.  There’s always next week.

…this week’s awww moment is brought to you by a funny little snow leopard.  He is a new arrival at the Albuquerque, NM zoo.  I think the verdict is still out on whether he is down with the new crib.

Morgan Petroski / Albuquerque Journal
Morgan Petroski / Albuquerque Journal

Man vs. Beast Part III

Well, here I sit in my college library screwing with this silly blog when I should be reading Metamorphoses by Ovid or catching up on my Western Civilization chapters on Ancient Rome.  I am, however, thoroughly addicted to perusing the internet, searching for gruesome animal attacks and proof that the human race is under siege.  Do you think there is something wrong with me?

Don’t answer that.  I don’t want your opinion.

So, here is what the animals have been up to:

In Santa Ana, California, a man in a wheelchair had to be rescued after he disturbed a very large hive of bees.  Estimates indicate that the hive contained some 60,000 bees!  That’s a lot of regurgitated bee spit (aka honey). The man, who fell out of his wheelchair in the attack, was said to have been stung at least 60 times.  The attack was so ferocious, it took three bystanders several tries before they were able to rescue the man.  They too, were stung numerous times and had to treated at local hospitals for symptoms.  You can read more about this story [here].

You might think bee attacks are rare.  You’d be wrong.

In Bisbee, Arizona, a 1,000 pound hog (that’s a lot of bacon) and an 800 pound pregnant sow were attacked continuously over a two-hour period by swarming Africanized bees.  Their horrified owner helplessly witnessed the carnage and, unsuccessfully, tried ward off the attack.  In the end, poor Franklin the hog died.  The sow, went into a coma and lost her litter.  No word on if she met a similar fate in the end.

In northern Arizona, a man remains hospitalized when he too was attacked by a swarm of aggressive Africanized bees.   He was stung over 1,000 times.  I am actually very shocked that this man lived.

On the Idaho-Montana border, a hunter was killed by a grizzly bear after he shot and wounded it.   The bear was eventually killed, though he didn’t go down without giving as good as he got.  To all the idiotic adventurous hunters out there, I say:  this is what happens when we don’t follow the rules.  Grizzly bears are illegal to hunt.  They are an endangered species.   If you can’t tell the difference between a black bear and a grizzly, you don’t need to be hunting them.  Karma will turn around and bite you in the ass every time.  You can read this is story in greater detail [here].  My husband believes these hunters should have employed [this] hillbilly’s way of dealing with large predators.  I mean, what animal doesn’t respond to a firm “Git, git!” and a big stick.  He also informed me that these guys did not arm themselves with the proper ammo.  Apparently, everyone knows, or should know, that if you’re going to go traipsing around bear country, .454 Casull rounds are a must have.  Good to know.

Don't be fooled...

In the Sea of Japan, off the coast of Russia, two individuals were attacked – on separate occasions – by what is believed to be the same Great White shark.  One man lost both arm from the elbows down; the other suffered a leg injury.  I think perhaps a geography class is in my near future because when I read this, I thought to myself: “Russia? Shark attacks? No way”.  Way.  You can read more about these attacks [here].

And last, but not least, Southern California is dealing with an infestation of the Asian Tiger Mosquito.  A nasty little bug that attacks during the day and carries all kinds of equally nasty viruses. 

As you can see, the animals have now enlisted the aid of the insects in their quest for world domination.  Not only must we worry about physical attacks, but also biological attacks.  The tide is turning.  I am beginning to feel a little concerned.  We may need to start considering our counter-attack options.

**Disclaimer:  As always, I don’t wish to trivialize the loss of a loved one under any circumstances.  Any loss of life is tragic.

Things I Learned This Week (September 10 – September 16)

I learned this week:

…that my daughter has kicked “Georgie” to the curb.  She took exception to his giving out her phone number without her permission.  “I gave him two chances, Mom.  He’s not getting a third.”  Good girl.  Of course, it came out during casual dinner conversation that his offenses were far greater than just mishandling her private telephone number.  He was two timing her with a 13-year-old.  “I saw them together, Mom.”  Little bastard.  Good riddance.

…that I am getting the hang of this whole elliptical thing.  45 minutes/4.8 miles total.  Lots of calories burned.  I love it when I burn calories and sweat – a lot.  I think my loyalties are waning.

Suzy Allman for the New York Times

…that speaking of loyalties – I have been a Roger Federer fan for years.  Seriously, since he burst onto the scene and became a nagging thorn in Pete Sampras’ side.  However, during the last couple of tennis seasons, I’ve watched while my champion has slowly lost his mojo.  I am disturbed by this because, if he is on his way out, who will be worth of my unwavering devotion?  Nadal?  Egads, no.  There is just something about him that makes me want to box his ears and tell him to stop digging his undies out of his butt crack before every serve.  It’s so….ew.  I didn’t get to watch much of the US Open this year, but I did catch the semis and of course, both the men’s and women’s finals.  I watched the men’s final – well, in two parts.  I was glued to the first two sets, but was forced to drag myself away from it to take Megan to gymnastics.  When I returned an hour or so later, they were still battling it out.  It was a fierce game  – almost as exciting as the 2009 Federer/Roddick  epic Wimbledon final.  Almost.  In the end, Djorkovic dominated Nadal.  I think I may have found my new champion.

…that I was right about Mother Nature’s vindictive side.  Just when we thought we were making a clean break into fall, she zapped us with a few more days of scorching temperature.  I think we’ve been properly chastised, don’t you?  I mean, who are we to think that we are anything more than mere pawns on the board of whatever sick game she is playing?   Let’s hope that the 107* record high on Tuesday was her last little jab at us.  I think it’s time for her to move on and torture someone else for a while.  Perhaps our neighbors to the far north?  I think they are due for a little snow right about now.

…that two people died as the result of a fire on board a cruise ship off the coast of Norway.  First, let me say:  What the heck is going on in Norway?  They seem to be in the headlines a lot lately, and not in a good way.  Second:  This is one of those “I told you so” moments.  I have come a long way in conquering my fear of boats, but I have steadfastly maintained that nothing – and I mean nothing – would ever possess me to step one foot on board a cruise ship.  Ever.  Not even in the pursuit of personal growth.  I have to draw the line in the sand somewhere.  If you would like to read more about this story, you can do so [here].

Justin Lane/Pool via EPA

…that even after ten years and numerous remembrance ceremonies, the footage of 9/11 still breaks my heart and makes me cry.  In a very unpatriotic move, I didn’t watch anything but tennis this past weekend.  I just couldn’t do it.  I feel selfish. 

…that the Iliad was not as difficult or as boring as I remember.   Who knew?  Oedipus Rex is wonderfully tragic and chock full of irony.  I love irony. 

…that caterpillars possess a gene that makes them vulnerable to a certain virus.  What makes this interesting enough for the old Friday blog, you ask?  This virus takes over of the caterpillar’s brain and turns it into a freaking zombie!  Under the control of this virus, the caterpillar climbs to the top branches of a tree, where it is then liquified.  As the oozy remains of the caterpillar rain down from the tree tops, the virus is spread, thereby ensuring its longevity.  Ingenius…but what I want to know is, if it is this evolved now, how long before it mutates and we find ourselves with a real life zombie crisis on our hands?  Quick!  Somebody send me the rules for surviving a zombie attack.  You can read about these caterpillars [here].

…that there are people out there who think Do-it-Yourself botox is a good deal.  And a good idea.  Okay, I can’t even wax my upper lip without taking off my chunks of skin and breaking out in a nasty rash.  Why would anyone attempt to paralyze the muscles of their face with an injectable toxin all by themselves.  Is this stupidity at work or the desperation of a society dying to be what the media and Hollywood have defined as youthful and beautiful.

…and this weeks awww moment:

Anatoly Strakhov/Caters News Agency

Tell me, how on earth could any mother walk away from that face? 

Man vs. Beast Part II

Well, it’s Wednesday.  I wasn’t very optimistic about getting enough material to post a second “Man vs. Beast” blog entry.  I was wrong.  Granted there have not been that many attacks since last week, and I was forced to broaden my search, but I do think I found some interesting ones.  Ones that give credence to the notion that the animals of the world are coming together, in some sort of organized uprising.  Their motives are still unclear to me, for I know not what they hope to accomplish. 

I guess time will tell.

Here’s what I found: 

In Tulla, County Clare, Ireland, a farmer was attacked by an otter.  Yes, you heard me right.  An otter.  You know, those furry little river rat looking things we see at the zoo.  In a small Irish village, a farmer filling his vehicle with diesel spotted the creature struggling to remove a “crisp bag” from its head.  Being the good Samaritan that his mother raised him to be, he came to the animal’s rescue only to be bitten for his trouble.  In addition, the ungrateful otter took his bad attitude out on the poor man’s truck.  And if that weren’t enough, once the farmer was able to release the “fanged fish-gobbler” onto the shores of a nearby river, it had to be rescued, yet again, because it nearly drown from exhaustion.  I was unable repost all of the photographs as they are copyright protected, so please take a minute, and click [here] to view the calamity for yourself.  It is well worth it.  I got quite the laugh out of it.  On an a side note, “fanged fish-gobbler” is now my new favorite animal description.

In Lincoln County, Wisconsin, a man out hunting with his buddies shot and wounded a bear.  The bear then attacked the man, injuring him.  Of course, the bear lost in the end when he was hunted down and killed by the man’s buddies, in what can only be described as a revenge killing.   Again, I’m no bear advocate, but I think this is a clear-cut case of what’s good for the goose…

A kite-surfer (yeah, I don’t know the heck this is) in Papua, New Guinea was attacked by a tiger shark on Sunday.  While wave-running (again…no idea), the man was bitten and knocked off his board by the shark.  This was a strategic attack on the part of the shark, for the man states that it catapulted out of the water and aimed right for his leg.  When I read this story, I couldn’t help but think of that video they play over and over again on America’s Funniest Home Videos – the one where the toddler is just walking along, minding  his own business, and along comes a frisky kitty who launches himself at the boy, knocking him to the ground (looked – could not find it for the life of me).  I wonder in this case, if the shark had ill intentions or if this was simply a case of “I have an uncontrollable urge…”.  You can read more about this story [here].

I may not be a bear advocate, but I am a big cat lover.  Of course, I’m not going to go around camping where they make their home.  That would be stupid, but I do enjoy looking at them and have a healthy respect for their prowess.  Sadly, in a case of guilt by association, on Vancouver Island, two cougars were killed when they were spotted near popular campgrounds.  These killings were in response to an attack on an 18 month old boy by a different cougar at a different campground.  This one sorta pisses me off and I have nothing real snarky to say about it.  If you would like to read more about this one, you can do so [here].

At the El Paso Zoo, a Malaysian tiger on loan from the San Diego Zoo, killed her mate over the weekend in an apparent love triangle gone bad.   To quote Chicago’s Velma Kelly and the other ladies of murderess’ row, “he had it coming”.  The male showered an older female with attention.  This, in any relationship – man or beast, is not to be borne.  She did what any self-respecting female would have done in her position.  She took him by the neck and squeezed until he was dead. 

“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, No hell a fury like a woman scorned.”  William Congreve, The Mourning Bride

 

Photograph by Michael Nichols

      

Fall Fever

No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one autumnal face.   ~John Donne

Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.   ~ Emily Bronte

After such a brutal summer here in North Texas, and really, most of the country, we’ve been granted a slight reprieve.  I am sure it will be short-lived. Mother Nature is a fickle bitch.  She would never let us glide into fall without throwing an obstacle or two in our path.  Something to let us know how unworthy of her time we are.  Or perhaps it is her way of keeping us humble and appreciative of her gifts, however scarce they may be.  Whatever, the case, the taste of cooler temperatures have left us – at least me – craving more.   I refer to this insatiable yearning as Fall Fever. 

If I had to pick a season to be my favorite, it would be fall.  There is something about the air, the smells, the sights, that fill me up with all sorts of things.  Things I couldn’t begin to explain.  I feel my most creative during this time, almost like I’ve been reborn.  A strange notion, I know, given that most everything is in a downward cycle.  Trees are going dormant, annuals are shedding the last of their colorful blooms, birds are flocking to warmer shores.  Soon the first arctic blast will come barreling across the plains, rush in uninvited, and leave the landscape barren.  But until then, I am ready for the magic of autumn. 

I’m not a holiday person. 

Show of hands. Who’s shocked by this?  I didn’t think so. 

My distain for Christmas has earned me the title of Scrooge by many a brave person.  I’ll own that.  It doesn’t bother me, in the least.  I think Christmas is an over-commercialized holiday, shoved down our throats under the guise of being something holy.  I could go into a whole history lesson here, but I will refrain.  It will only piss you off and make me feel like I’m beating my head against a brick wall.  Who needs that?  Certainly, not me. 

Fall is different.  Fall is all about Halloween and the harvest.  It’s a time of fun and frolic.  Apples, pumpkins, and spice.  Ghouls and goblins.  There is no pressure, just good clean fun.  Soon front yard haunted houses will take shape and pumpkin patches will begin to pop up, here and there.  For some, the State Fair is the event which ushers in the season.  I don’t go to the fair, if I can help it.  It’s one of those things on my list that I’ve done, didn’t enjoy, and will try to avoid at all costs.     

However, I do enjoy a good pumpkin patch with all the fixings.  To me, those are the reason for the season.  On October 1st every year, along FM 1171, the Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch opens its gates and allows us onto their quaint and festive property.  There is kettle corn, face painting, a maze, a huge haystack, a hay ride and pumpkins – as far as the eye can see  – lots and lots of pumpkins.  Big ones, small ones, and every size in between.  I love it.  Pumpkins make me smile.  Indeed, a  gourd near and dear to my heart.

Cody, Cory, and Megan

I’ve spent many lazy Sunday afternoons at this particular pumpkin patch.  Usually with Megan and the nephews in tow.  We always have a blast.  The price is always right and they never fail to pick me out the best pumpkins in the place.  

My nephews won’t be here this year, but I plan to spend at least one Sunday in October there.  Hopefully, on a crisp day, with just enough breeze that I have to wear a sweater.   Megan and I will traipse through the dry grass and scan the rows of pumpkins, looking for just the right ones.  Pumpkin choosing is serious business.  After all, they are to sit in sentry at the front entrance .  Devotedly keeping watch as the ghouls and goblins darken my door, in search of candy and treats.  They have an important job, indeed.

A thankless job, however, for as November dawns, they will be forgotten – left to rot on the front porch.  Or worse yet, become a victim of the pumpkin kidnappers and murder in the streets. 

Ahhh…fall.  It is the most wonderful time of the year.

The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
That dances as often as dance it can,
Hanging so light, and hanging so high,
On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge