Monday, August 27, 2007

With This Ring...

SodaBoy and I got married this past May, to little fanfare, just the way we wanted. People have been asking us for months now when we were going to get our rings. Which is OK, since I acknowledged we meant to get them someday. It's just that we both hate shopping so much. And jewelry shopping? Ee-gads. Those people are vultures. I had tried dispatching SodaBoy to scope out the available ring selection, but that ship never sailed. So I had pretty much decided we would maybe get them sometime this winter, when the weather was miserable and the prospect of shopping seemed less bad.

Well, it turned out the weather was perfectly miserable this weekend, the kind of nasty heat where you lie on the floor because it is incrementally cooler than lying on the couch. I had drummed up some errands at the mall to enjoy the refugia of air conditioning: mailing a onesie to my cousin for his new baby, picking up digital prints from the photo shop. When we had completed my errands and were heading back towards the end of the building where we'd parked, I got a little panicky. I wasn't ready to face the heat again just yet. We walked by a jewelry shop and detoured inside. I know, I know. A mall jewelry store is probably not the best place to buy. Of course, buying wasn't our intent. But when we found rings we liked? It didn't seem like such a bad idea after all.

The rings are white gold, comfort fit, like Nicole had suggested. I was originally pretty fixated on the idea of tungsten, something about that thought pleased me mightly. Perhaps my fondness for Oliver Sacks? Turns out the tungsten was much more expensive than gold. Bah! We have discovered something really cool about the white gold, though. In daylight, the color perfectly matches the stainless steel of our watches. After dark, the true gold color shines through a bit. As an added bonus for SodaBoy, he can now walk around proclaiming himself White Gold Wielder! I think I need to read some Stephen R. Donaldson and find out what he's talking about.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Last night I took SodaBoy out to dinner at one of the fanciest restuarants in town. We hadn't been there in several years, but had real cause for celebration. SodaBoy got an offer for employment in his field; it's been a long time coming. Several years ago he stopped working and went back to school full time. He earned his master's degree and has been searching for a new job. I am so happy for him, that he is going to get the opportunity to apply his new skills, that this investment is finally coming to fruition.

To be honest, I am happy for myself, too. I have borne the burden of primary breadwinner for too long now. Getting laid off from my stinky old lab job last summer turned out to be for the best, as I am much better suited for the job I have now. But those months of dual unemployment were extremely stressful. I am looking forward to the solidarity of the both of us rising in the morning and going forth to face the cruel world together.

So we celebrated with a little fine dining. I had a crab salad appetizer, prepared with yellow tomatoes, avacado, and citrus vinaigrette; pan roasted halibut, with crab and spinach risotto, and raifort sauce; and for dessert, a three berry crostata. SodaBoy ordered the Maine diver scallop appetizer, served over a warm corn and zucchini relish; the antelope wellington, with bordelaise sauce, mashed sweet potato, and greens; and vanilla ice cream with a ginger snap.

The food was outstanding, each bite a delectable combination of flavors to be slowly savored. Service was faster than I remembered from previous visits, which was nice, as we didn't end up spending three hours in the restaurant. We were both amused to find ourselves viewing the whole fine dining experience with a whole different perspective after watching Hell's Kitchen and Top Chef. Salt and pepper on the table? Tsk, tsk.

Are there any foodies reading this? If so, I'd love to hear more about what is in a raifort sauce.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Vacation Hopeful

I put in a vacation request to take Thursday and Friday off next week. I don't yet know if it will be approved though, since all three of my bosses are on vacation this week, and to be fair, I've given terribly late notice. I'd love to go camping, to breathe crisp mountain air, to clamber over rocks until my muscles scream, to listen to the sound of the wind in the trees as I drift off to sleep. I have spent less time outdoors this summer than I would have liked. I may bring it up in my performance review this fall, how my field skills are being under-utilized. Or I might chicken out, and whine here instead.

Assuming I get the time off, though, whatever shall I do with the kittens? Self-sufficiency is one of the great advantages of cats. Typically you can leave them a few heaping bowls of dry food, a few big bowls of water, and just take off for a few days, maybe asking your sister to pop in and deliver some pets. These kittens are a different story though. Rhea is still getting two separate liquid medications every day, one of which needs to be dispensed twice daily.

I'm sending out feelers about leaving them with my parents, since I so dutifully take care of their dog for them several times a year whenever they leave town, most recently just last month for nearly two whole weeks. I worry about that though. Would the kittens be locked in the basement? My Dad puts on a show about not liking cats, although they have two cats of their own. Their cats came to them, though; Dad did not seek them out. The parental cat units mostly stay outdoors, due to some behavioral issues like indiscriminate urination. Ick.

Plus, Dad & SM did a lot of work on the house over the last few years. I suspect they would be fearful of the cats damaging their shiny new house stuff. The same is true of my sister: new house stuff. Not that the kittens are particularly destructive. They use the box without fail, and don't scratch things. Reemsy is a little nutter, though, tearing around like a firecracker. Both kittens will climb the lampshades when they get super excited. So I have to acknowledge that they could potentially break something by accidentally knocking it over.

Any ideas? I have no idea what it costs to board kittens. I suppose I could look into that. They were a huge hit at the vet's office. Maybe someone there would want to squeeze them for a few days.

ETA: Good news back from Dad. He said they would barricade the kittens in the laundry room when they aren't home, and keep them out with them when they are home. That seems like a reasonable solution. The laundry room is small, but it is upstairs and has windows. Now I just have to hope for good news from the bosses.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Kitten Update

As I mentioned before, when we first got these cats, they were covered with every possible form of parasite, and we wanted to get them veterinary attention immediately. Our regular vet was pretty booked up, so SodaBoy took them to another practice so we could get the treatments started right away for the fleas and mites and worms. We scheduled an appointment later with the regular vet, since it is conveniently located very close to home.

The first appointment on July 20th was fairly successful. Rhea weighed in at 1.2 pounds and Remus was 1 pound even. SodaBoy brought the cats home with meds for what we thought were all their issues, although we later had to go back and pick up a different worm regimen. For some reason the new vet only treated them for hookworms and roundworms initially, and we had to call back and demand tapeworm pills, too, after they started shedding tapeworm eggs everywhere.


As the weeks passed, we've developed some concerns about Rhea, in particular. She is tiny, obviously, but unnaturally obsessed with food. We couldn't have a meal or even a snack without her screaming in panicked desperation, trying to steal food of every variety. Remus, who was smaller from the start, shows no excessive interest in food, but soon outstripped Rhea in growth, and the size difference between them is now quite striking. Every tiny bone in Rhea's body stuck out. You can see her hip bones jutting out in the photo below.

Luckily, the appointment at the regular vet was Thursday. SodaBoy brought all the paperwork from the stopgap visit, and the vet definitely agreed that Rhea's slow weight gain was cause for concern. She now weighs 1.7 pounds, whereas Reemsy* has reached a hulking 2.4 pounds. Everyone seems to agree that both cats are younger than we were told when we picked them up. Remus was declared healthy and got her first round of immunizations. Rhea was still too small for shots, and too small for much bloodwork either. The vet took two drops, so now we know she is negative for feline leukemia at least.


So now we have more meds for Rhea: an antibiotic to treat a wide range of possible bacterial infections, and a vitamin-mineral supplement. SodaBoy also picked up a case of canned kitten food to make administration of the liquid meds easier. We hate canned pet foods, and have never provided it regularly to any cat or dog in our custody. Even with these bitty kittens, the stopgap vet had indicated they would get all their required nutrition from the dry kitten food. But I think we'll stick with this stanky mush for a while now. This new food and medicine combination has done wonders for Rhea.

In just a few days she seems much healthier, bigger and less bony. She still eats the dry food. In fact, she's eating some right now. But the behavioral issues are improving already, too. Last night I had soup for dinner, and she only tried sticking her head in it a few times, and didn't scream once. After a few times of being set back on the floor, she lost interest and wandered off to play.

Progress all around.

*When we picked out the kittens, we were told that Rhea is a girl and Remus a boy. They were far too small for us to tell either way, so we ran with that. By the time the vet pronounced them both female, their names were pretty well fixed. However, we've taken to calling Remus by the more gender neutral nickname Reemsy more and more now.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bullets of Summer

  • It has been unbearably hot this summer, and as a result, I have been even lazier than normal. I just do not have a good tolerance for heat. Ugh, ugh, ugh. Gimme 75 or gimme winter. Summer used to be my favorite season. When did it get so evil?

  • However, I have been getting restless, and the house has been getting filthy. Who can stand to clean in this torridity? I buckled down this weekend and did a bit of both hiking and cleaning. My bathroom is sparkling, I tell you, sparkling!

  • Hay-scented fern, Dennstaedtia punctilobula

  • Plus the Saturday morning run to the farmer's market, where I bought some heirloom cucumbers at three for a dollar. The one we finished in the salads tonight was amazing, super crisp and flavorful.

  • Sunday we drove down to Upland Woods Park, where I had the fervent hope that it might be cooler, which it may have been. Except the terrain is somewhat rugged there and we did more than our share of sweating hoofing up those hills.

  • It was so lovely in the woods. There were essentially no bugs, as there has been a distinct lack of rain lately. All the streambeds we passed on the 4.7 miles hike were dry.

  • As an added bonus, the blackberries are just starting to ripen. I picked a few handfuls to supplement the quart of water I was rationing. And in my book, there's not much better than foraging for berries on a hike in the woods.
  • Friday, August 10, 2007

    The Daily Show Reports: Wind Energy

    This is a hilarious examination of the pros and cons of the Cape Wind Project proposed for the Nantucket Sound. Except for Ted Kennedy being a giant NIMBY douchebag, which is not funny at all, because the rich bitches always get their way. It's great to see this get some national attention, though. In just 2 days on YouTube, this video has been viewed over 31,000 times. Knowledge is power.

    Tuesday, August 07, 2007


    The West Virginia white (Pieris virginiensis) is a native butterfly, a small and delicate creature that flits through in the forests in early spring. I have never seen the species, which is known from my state, but not my county. The West Virginia white is rare throughout its range; populations are often small and isolated. Like many butterfly species, only more so, the West Virginia white is a habitat specialist. There are only two known host plants, both species of toothwort (Dentaria diphylla and Dentaria laciniata).

    Toothworts are what we plant nerds call spring ephemerals: they emerge early in the season, bloom, set seed, and senesce in a few short weeks or months. The West Virginia whites emerge from their pupae early in the spring and feed on nectar from various spring wildflowers, laying their eggs on toothworts. When the larvae hatch, they eat their host plant, and they have to hurry. Toothworts generally fade completely before the end of June, leaving nary a trace above the ground.

    To further complicate matters, the West Virginia white is an obligate forest dweller. It will not cross openings of any kind. Trails and small roads do not present a impediment, as long as the canopy remain closed, but even a typical small two-lane road is an insurmountable barrier. With such specific habitat requirements, the West Virginia white is obviously quite vulnerable to forest fragmentation. Another threat comes from invasive species.

    Dentaria diphylla

    Garlic mustard (Alliolaria petiolata) is of particular danger, and not just because it chokes out toothwort, although it most certainly does. Garlic mustard is in the same family, the Brassicaceae, as toothwort, and the plants are apparently closely enough related so that female West Virginia whites will oviposit on garlic mustard plants. The trouble is, when the larvae hatch and begin feeding, they all die. Garlic mustard is toxic to West Virginia white larvae.

    However, garlic mustard was a host plant for a closely related butterfly species, the cabbage white (Pieris rapae), back in its native range, for the cabbage white is also non-native. With the spread of garlic mustard throughout our northeastern forests, the cabbage white has become more and more adventive, moving into the limited territory of the West Virginia white. This brings another problem, in the form of a parasitoid wasp. See, the cabbage white is not as limited in host plants as the West Virginia white.

    The cabbage white feeds on all manner of cole crops: brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, turnips, watercress, and of course, cabbage. All of these important food crops are in the same family as the native toothworts. Anyway, a parasitoid wasp (Cotesia glomerata) was introduced as a biological control agent for the cabbage white. As the cabbage white moves out of the fields and into the forest, the parasitoid wasp follows. Unfortunately for the West Virginia white, the parisitoid wasp kills native whites as well.

    Sources: NatureServe Explorer, New York Natural Heritage Program, and Cornell University.

    Saturday, August 04, 2007

    The New Little Buddies

    Rhea and Remus

    With the both of us being life long cat people, SodaBoy and I always knew we'd get another cat or two. We decided there was no reason to wait, and answered an ad in the paper for free kittens. The home where we retrieved the cats from was filthy, and they are riddled with every possible parasite. I will be so happy to be done with the pills and the drops and the ointments. But otherwise they are great little beasts. They are fulfulling their duty of cuteness altogether smashingly.

    Wednesday, August 01, 2007

    The Stuart Smalley Meme

    I was tagged for this meme by Aliki over at World of One Thousand Different Things. It is like many of the other list meme going around except for one little twist: this list of ten things has to be ten things you like about yourself. This is quite a challenge, especially if you are feeling a little poopy like I have been, which is actually why I chose to do this meme before the 8 Things Meme I owe NSLS. I thought it might be a little pick me up. So without further ado... I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!

    Ten Things I Like About Myself:

    1. My wrists. All through my childhood, teen, and college years, I was a total scrawnster. Those days appear to be over. I’ve softened up and grown into a more womanly body, which is all fine and well, I suppose. But I still have these tiny little wrists. I love that I can wrap my hands around them and easily touch my thumb to my pinky.

    2. My eyes. In my nuclear family, I was the only one with blue eyes, so I always felt a little special, I guess. I likely got the eyes from my Grandpa Joe, along with the round face, so we always had a blue-eyed, blockheaded kind of bond.

    3. My relationship with my family. I love being close to my sister, and my parents. I love that I grew with my grandparents such an integral part of my life. I have come to realize that a great family is not something to take for granted.

    4. My place in the outdoors. I am very happy when outdoors, especially when walking in the woods or along a shore. I have a comfort and ease in the forest that is foreign to many, many people. SodaBoy learned about different sorts of intelligence in a class in graduate school. I like my outdoor intelligence.

    5. My work ethic. I work my ass off at whatever job or pursuit I happen to be engaged with. Employers who hire me always get a bargain, because even if I don’t like a job or a supervisor, I still bust my hump. I am just constitutionally a hard worker.

    6. My empathy. I am able to drum up compassion for just about everyone and everything, even inanimate objects. I get weepy all the time listening to NPR. I had an online quiz pronounce me “benevolent to a fault.” The only people I struggle to sympathize with are those who utterly lack empathy themselves.

    7. My plant skills. I always had an easy time learning plants, although to be honest, I struggle with what I call horts, or the landscaping plants, the weird hybrids and such. Probably because there aren’t good technical keys. Or maybe because I don’t find them walking around in the woods.

    8. My analytical mind. I am very organized and detail oriented. I like that I like solving puzzles, that I can spy the unusual amongst the ordinary. I can always find a four leaf clover, if anyone is in need.

    9. My civic mindedness. I like that I have voted in every election since I turned 18, that I care enough about the world I live in to want to change it. Voting is such a priority to me that I drove home from an out of state job 10 hours each way to vote.

    10. My love of reading. I am so glad I am a reader and a lover of books. My father in law once told me with pride that he hadn’t read a book since college. He seemed proud of himself, as though he was making good use of his time. He is a smart and successful man, but I was filled with such pity. Reading is a joy, and I like about myself that I can appreciate books and all the wonderful places they take me.

    OK, now comes the part where I tag people. How about Nadine, Mary, NSLS, Andy, and Nicole? And anyone else who feels up to the challenge! Let's get our brag on, folks.