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TIPS FOR THE UNWARY


Cat Scan“CAT SCAN”

Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are? Every time we read something that says animals can’t do something, another animal proves us wrong.

In the past scientists said that only humans could learn to use tools, but I have seen crows and ravens in Alaska working together to gain access to a cart full of shrimp which was covered with a tarp. When a banana and a stick were dropped outside a chimpanzees cage all he had to do was pick up the stick and drag the banana into the cage. Yet scientists said he couldn’t do it.

We keep hearing that animals don’t grieve, cannot look into the future, or being concerned for the well being of others, but a dog will grieve when his master dies, and cats sometimes lie down next to a person who is on the brink of passing away in hospitals.

Dogs absolutely can tell time and recognize body language. Charlie proves that every day. I have known humans who couldn’t do that! I think the best claims about human exceptionalism to be funny ones, such as Mark Twain’s ‘Man is the only animal that blushes-or needs to.’

It’s hard to prove a negative claim because the evidence keeps changing. and tests vary between species. Often poor performance in the animals had more to do with how they were tested than with their mental powers.

In one experiment researchers conducted a mirror test—to see if an animal recognizes its own reflection. They placed a mirror on the floor outside an elephant cage. They put a body mark on the elephant to see if it would touch it. It failed to touch it, so the verdict was that the animal lacked self awareness.

But Joshua Plotnik modified the test by placing an eight foot mirror inside the enclosure with the elephants. They could feel it, smell it, and walk behind it. The researchers were worried about the elephants curiosity, because the mirror was mounted on a wooden wall not built to hold off a four ton elephant smelling it.

One Asian elephant, named “Happy”, recognized her reflection. Marked with a white cross on her forehead above her left eye, she repeatedly rubbed the mark while standing in front of the mirror. She connected her reflection with her own body. Years later, Josh Plotkin has tested many more animals at Think Animals International, in Thailand, and his conclusion holds; some Asian elephants recognize themselves in the mirror. The challenge is to find tests that fit an animal’s temperament, interests, anatomy, and sensory capacities.

We know that some primates can paint pictures, a local gorilla living in Palo Alto once gave me a nice show at the gallery of his paintings, and and even supplied a movie showing how he accomplished them.

So don’t shortchange the animals, they were probably here first.

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BALLIN’ THE JACK


330px-BallinTheJack-1913

It is important as senior citizens to keep abreast of the newest slang expressions invented by the young in the hope of further polarizing themselves. Lately I have seen a couple of signatures telling me to “Keep on Ballin'”, and a U-Tube titled “Ballin’ on a Budget”.

The thing the young haven’t figured out yet is that there is nothing new under the sun, and most of the terms they “invent” are reruns from the past. Not that there is anything wrong with that. A lot of old clever sayings were pretty self-explanatory. For instance, “ballin’ or balling” usually means “go for it” or something similar. How do I know this?

When I was a girl, my mother and her sister sang a little song called “Ballin’ the Jack” which was written in 1913 by Jim Burris with music by Chris Smith. It introduced a popular dance by the same name. Through the years it was used in many movies and was the expression was used by railroad workers to mean “going at full speed”. It was sometimes used regarding operating a jackhamer.

I did the dance for a friend of mine and she said “Oh, that’s the Chicken Dance”. The “Chicken Dance” is really cute, but it isn’t the same one. Here’s the real song and the lyrics describe the dance:

First you put your two knees close up tight,
Then you sway ’em to the left. then you sway “em to the right,
Step around the floor kind of nice and light,
Then you twis’ around and twis’ around with all your might,
your lovin’ arms straight out in space
Then do the Eagle Rock with style and l
Swing your foot way round then bring it back
Now that’s what I call “Ballin’ the Jack”.

Now I’d like to know who the heck the Jack is.

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HAPPINESS


San Juan

Happiness is the gold ring on the Merry-Go-Round,the swell of the ocean under your board, the sound of crickets on a warm summer evening. The word itself is an altruistic phenomenon meaning different things to different people and requiring different paths to get there.

As Eric Hoffer once said, “When you are young you can never get enough of what you don’t need to make you happy”. As you age you have too much of what you don’t need, and some people still aren’t happy.

I once heard two woman friends tell me they weren’t happy, which sent a shiver of sadness tumbling to my toes. I found myself wondering why they weren’t happy. Some older people who are widowed, perhaps without family nearby, feel alone. They forget that there is a huge reservoir of life and happiness within themselves.

There are people who rely on others to make them happy, which will ultimately fail because it’s not their business to be the happiness purveyors. Happiness is one of those things we have to do for ourselves; no one else can do it for us.

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It’s far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity. (Carl Jung)

COMPENSATION
If it were not for the shadows
We would never have the sun;
If we never had the night-fall
Then day had not begun.
If we never knew a heartache
Then our soul would never sing;
If we never had a winter
We would never see the spring.
If we never knew the tempest
We would never love the calm;
If we never knew the wounding
We would never feel the balm.
If we never knew some sorrow
Then our hearts could not be gay.
There may never be tomorrow
But we always have today.

Webster devotes half a page to simply defining the word happy, but where is it? Is it memory, or a place, or both? We all have a memory of a place wonderfully rich and satisfying. A sight or a place where you caught your breath in amazement, or comfortably settled in and stored it away in your memory bank to draw on when your funds run short.

Remember the old song telling us to “Make someone Happy, Make just one someone happy, and you will be happy too.”

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DAILY DRIVEL


002
We are in another long heat wave. The garden seems to shrink into its cooler self, and the blossoms on the hydrangea have dried up early due to lack of enough water. The heat rises from the bricks and the corners of the garden under trees which look cool and inviting, aren’t. It’s a day to stay indoors.

Yes, those are my feet atop a stack of pillows. A side effect of the leg bypass is swelling. Knowledgeable medical practicioners smugly assure that elevating one’s legs will restore a matching pair. The reality is, it won’t work unless you elevate 24/7. If I have to do this again I will have to get a better looking pair of pajamas.

We went to the local diner this morning. You can’t miss it; the life-size figure of Elvis strumming his air guitar out in front gets you moving in the right direction, and the food is not bad either.

We have two hardware stores. One at either end of town, and both owned by nice people. If Dr. A goes missing, it’s been a fair bet that for over 55 years he could be found at Dale Hardware. It’s a guy thing, of course,and as such it needs to be visited several times a day. Much like checking your e-mail or looking at Facebook.

One way or another you become known to others by the times you show up, and Dale Hardware is no exception. On the way into the store, a young and pretty employee smiled and said “Hi Sam!” When the concierge saw us he called “Hi Trouble!” In the space of two minutes several other “Hi Sam”s were exchanged. It’s very folksy and makes you feel welcome. He didn’t buy anything. I think sometimes he just stops by to visit.

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A FORCE TO BE RECONCILED


charlie lr

You can’t ignore him, he won’t allow it. If three o’clock comes around, it’s time for a walk, and dinner had better be waiting when he bursts into the house after the walk. Not much different from most dogs. He has an uncanny ability to know when the evening dishes are done and the kitchen is clean. Not until Dr. A has done his job will Charlie allow him to leave the kitchen. If you think a 20# dog doesn’t have the ability to do this, you are mistaken. One of the outstanding traits of a JRT is a loud demanding annoying voice.

We have had a great variety of dog companions throughout our combined lifetime, most of whom performed their dog duties in acceptable form; waiting quietly at our feet until we make the decision to get up and minister to them. If guests arrive who are offended or in fear of their clothes or safety, the canine residents took their place quietly in a corner until called upon to perform.

However, this particular Jack Russell Terrier has never been just “any dog”. A good student in puppy class, he quickly learned his way around this family. He was adept at learning tricks, bringing in the mail, tapping a bell to get out, and where the good toys are in his toy box. But his penchant for meeting and greeting was stronger than most of our other dogs.

He is a hunter who has never to my knowledge caught anything. Instead of mastering the whole sneaky point of hunting, he prefers to maintain a steady and noisy barrage of barking. I have witnessed squirrels sitting on top of a fence actually laughing at his tortured attempt to rid them from the yard.

One of our grandsons recently lost his beloved 17 year old JRT, who went over the Rainbow Bridge. He assured us to be patient; Charlie would shape up and be a changed dog after about seven years. It took his dog Trooper, that long. Five, six and seven came and went, and eight followed close at their heels. Still barking, still jumping, still ignoring us when called.

We began wondering where this one came from. I had heard stories of his father early on. The breeder decided after Charlie’s group arrived, to give the sire to some other deserving family. When dogs were separated from their families in the old days, they told the kids they went to a farm. Charlie’s dad actually DID go to a farm, killed two chickens and a cat and ran away. Frightening to consider the bloodline. Did we have “like father like son”?

When Charlie was a mere pup I tried to teach him to come by saying “Charlie, come.” Not “Come Charlie”. For some reason through the nine years of his life I have simply yelled, “Get in here you little bastard”! to no avail. A few months ago I quietly called “Charlie, come” and the dear little soul trotted right into the house and waited patiently for his treat. That treat has made all the difference and they surprisingly are called “Charlie Bears”. I have taken back all the nasty things I ever said about him. He is a perfect and well mannered dog finally.

It has been very warm for a number of days and Charlie has deserted his very nice bed for somewhere else in the house during the night, but I didn’t know where. He has never been allowed on certain furniture, especially in our living room; Grandma Nellie’s chair, Mother-in-law Leita’s couch are cases in point.

This morning I scouted him out about five a.m. only to find him comfortably settled on a velvet chair, and with pillow thrown on the floor from everything else. I take back all the nice things I said about him. If anyone has any better treats, please let me know.

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THE MARRIAGE OF OPPOSITES Kate’s Journal


Navajo Grandmother“Navajo Grandmother” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

In the early days in the Southwest, I saw many Navajo grandmothers, many looking much like this lady, sitting comfortably in a large chair in the back of a son-in-law’s pickup truck. I was told by this lady that it was the custom, as she didn’t have a lot to do with her son-in-law. In fact, she did not speak with her son-in-law.

Women owned and cared for the flocks of sheep, and these sheep were owned by her daughter. After shearing, the fleece was taken to market in their pickup, with grandma in the back.

Sheep near Taos“Sheep Grazing on Reservation” watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

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In our euphemistically imbued age of political politeness, the middle years are referred to as the youth of old age. We are urged to “get it while you can”. “The end is near.” “From now on it’s all downhill.” To a certain extent that is all true. But we still have energy, imagination and inclination to do great things. The middle years are a whirlwind of work, creativity and preparing for the inevitable.

When you leave middle age you bump into other unexpected adventures. Children leave and get married which brings lots of other experiences, that of becoming grandparents possibly being one of the most pleasant. You have been cautioned to do your traveling early because when old age strikes you may have the time and the money, but you no longer have the inclination. You become an appreciator rather than a participator. As an inveterate collector of other people’s art, I have become an admirer rather than an acquirer.

As you leave the middle years you realize that in the early days you fight because you don’t understand each other, but as you grow older, you fight because you do. Either way, marriage has a certain amount of misunderstanding and disagreement, some of which may cause you to wonder how you ever got into it. But you persevere and realize that if you were being graded on your performance, you probably flunked. Luckily, there is a do-over; it’s called apology.

The bright side of marriage, especially that of long standing, is that you understand that you are not alike and never have been. This person who attracted you at an early age may have done so precisely because he or she was different from you. Marriage can become a home schooling effort, each learning from the other.

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WHEREIN THE PYRAMID?


146“Renaissance” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

Five thousand years ago in Egypt, long before the pyramids at Giza, the mighty king Djoser ruled a land dry beyond belief from a seven year drought. His vizier Imhotek, physician, scientist and architect, designed a limestone step pyramid at Saqqara as a tomb memorial, commemorating the good works of Djoser, and hoping to bring about an end to the drought.

Saqqara_pyramid_ver_2

Where is the magic in the pyramid shape?

Danish churchDanish church

oxford martyrsMemorial to the Oxford martyrs

Finnish pyramidSectional wooden pyramid made by Finnish artist

Transamerica pyramidTransamerica Pyramid

The Transamerica Pyramid building in San Francisco has been called an iconic symbol of tomorrow. Is that what a pyramid stands for? Is the shape a symbol of rebirth, of renewal? We all hope for a better tomorrow.

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