Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Scholarly Question of the Day

Customer inquiring about dosage & measurement for a LIQUID medication for her pet... "Is that a HEAPING tablespoon or LEVEL tablespoon?" Oy, where do they come from?

In other news... Life is going quite well for me right now. I've gotten the bulk of my spring cleaning finished and I had a small dinner party the other day... Smaller than I expected; some of my close friends canceled at the last minute, but it was still a good time regardless. A nice little side benefit of the low turnout is that I've a whole bunch of grill meat and party food left over. Looks like I'll be eating un-healthy for the next few days :).

Since my depression lifted, my gardening muse has become active again... so all the flowerbeds which laid fallow last year are gradually being weeded and fixed back up.... there is still a lot of work to be done on them, but I enjoy having fresh-cut flowers for the table. I actually find gardening to be a form of relaxation. I am collecting seeds from gardens of loved ones and places that I hold dear. I am saving them in the freezer so that when I buy my own house & land (hopefully within a few years), I will begin to sow a memory garden filled with plants that mean something more to me than just their appearance.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Life Is A Bear, & Other News

The pet store where I work was visited by an unusual customer the other morning... it is rather fortunate that he came by before the store was open (because during warmer days, we prop the front door open for fresh air). Thanks to my father for the newspaper clipping.

In related news, this is an actual photo (taken by my father) of the black bear who frequents my parents' back yard a couple towns over on an almost daily basis. My parents have dubbed him "Bosco" and have taken to feeding him bird-seed out of his very own dish. I am seriously not making this up. Even though he is a black bear, a much smaller species than the one featured recently in the mauling attacks that have made the news, I'm thinking this is probably not a good idea in the long run because it makes these bears very accustomed to human interaction and it can lead to some unpleasant run-ins with non-bear-friendly people.

In unrelated news... Using deductive logic and research methods inspired by Paul Cameron, some of the commenters over at Christine's Blog - Rising Up Whole may have finally discovered a definitive causative factor behind the occurence of homosexuality. As it turns out, it is probably chocolate chips. Who knew!!??? Click HERE to read the amusing comment thread where this brilliant piece of Bush-league study has taken place. Thanks to Christine for the graphic.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Today's Hike: Cat-hole Peak

For the last couple of years, I've been meaning to hike Cat-hole Peak on the north side of Claremont. I had today off so I figured that this was the day to do it. I decided to go up the more heavily wooded part of the mountain and was off-trail for a large portion of the hike. I believe I covered about 12-15 miles and I got some great photos in the process. This is probably my most strenuous hike yet this season, I hiked all the way from my house up to the top and back; a lot of very steep inclines and rocks. But it was so completely worth it, even just for the view.

A rather stately-looking Jack In The Pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum.

One lifts up the hood to look inside the flower and... OH MY, HOW RUDE!!!

Gaywing, aka Fringed Polygala, Polygala Paucifolia

American Toad, Bufo Americanus.

Wild columbines, Aquilegia canadensis. Seeing these in their natural element was a rare treat for me. They are extremely hard to find in the wild around my area. The last time I've seen them growing wild was perhaps around the age of four or five (over 20 years ago). In a few weeks I intend to hike back to the secluded area where I found these specimens so that I can collect seeds from them, sprout some plants next year, and distribute them to other areas of the woods, while keeping a few for my own garden.

Close-up of the Wild Columbine's flower.

The grassy, hillside region where I found the wild columbines. Notice the stunted tree growth due to the elevation.

Panoramic view of the area surrounding Claremont. Click on the picture to see it full-size. You can see the actual town of Claremont in miniature just to the right of the middle of the picture.

White Wake Robin, Trillium Grandiflorum. This variety has no scent, as opposed to the red/purple variety's characteristic stench.

Me Readses More Bookses

My siblings and I have a peculiar brand of English when we are speaking to each other. Some have told me that this is not unusual, and I've had others tell me there is something wrong with us, haha. My sister has always been the biggest wordsmith of the family and she is particularly prodigious when it comes to hashing words into each other and developing new family colloquialisms. Here are a few of the strange idioms that are particular to my close family:

Frolly - A term of endearment that my sister gave to my grandmother. A derivative of the german word Fräulein.

- Referring to my sister's dog's ears, ostensibly because they are very pointy and it just sounds cooler when you take the adjective, turn it into a noun, then add a Latinate twist to it.

Yumulous - An adjective I coined when I was a bit younger. It refers to food which is exceptionally delicious.

. . . and back to the subject of the title of this post . . .

I recently finished reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. It was well-worded and despite the picturesque speech (which sometimes causes my interest to wane), it was a brilliant cautionary tale that details what could possibly happen to society if we, the human species, are not mindful. It is sort of a different slant on the concept put forth by George Orwell in 1984.

My reading has been very heavy and serious as of lately and my mind is getting a little tired of it, so my next couple reads are going to be something light and fun. I heard about Life of Pi (by Yann Martel) on NPR a while back and I've just started reading it. I am only 4 chapters in, but so far I am liking it. Here is a beautiful, poetic quote from chapter 1 . . .

"The reason death sticks so closely to life isn't biological necessity--it's envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, posessive love that grabs at what it can. But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two of no importance, and the gloom is but the passing shadow of a cloud."

Sunday, May 21, 2006

My Children (and Foster Children)

Tika (aka: Teekee-boo, shut up & don't laugh :), part Seal-point Siamese, & part ??? Loves: batting around toilet paper tubes; tripping daddy on his way to the bathroom in the middle of the night; and being a crybaby when she is not getting enough attention. Adopted from one of my regular pet store customers who specializes in cat rescue. This one is my favorite (but sssshhhhhh, don't tell the other one).

Isis (aka: Tank) in her favorite pose. Loves: mauling company for tummy rubs; wrestling with her sister; putting her paws in daddy's mouth while he's sleeping (Gross!!!); and being a generally distracting little prat. Adopted from a nurse who I used to work with at the nursing home. Originally delivered to her house accidentally with a load of wood. Very friendly and a complete attention-freak. Called "Tank" because she moves with all the grace of one.

Puff, the bearded dragon (aka: Madame Leeeeeeeeeeeezard). Loves: vegetables, sunbathing, and looking generally pissy. Very old (9 years, a bit older than the typical life span of a bearded dragon). Before you groan, just be aware that I didn't give her that name, she came with it. She was a mercy adoption from one of my best friends who was going away to college and frantically trying to find a good home for her. I'm not much of a reptile person, but I gotta say that she's extremely low-maintenance and mellow.

Lucy - African Grey Parrot (aka: Brat). Loves: making noise, attention, broccoli, oatmeal, jeering & cat-calling through the open window at passers-by; and having fits of rage when she's not getting enough attention. A relationship leftover who I tacitly accepted into the household because I wanted to make sure she was taken care of. Named after the Peanuts character because she is a domineering, loud-mouth wench. Her specialty is imitating the ring on the telephone so perfectly that she has me answering dial tones. Having her in the house is like taking care of a spoiled, naughty, attention-seeking toddler who never shuts up. I'm really not a bird person, but she has a lot of personality and I do love her. I'm eventually giving her away to a responsible, parrot-loving coworker of mine because she is just so high-maintenance.

I'm telling ya people, I'm just inches away from being one of those insane trailer-dwelling animal collectors who lives in squalor and holds full conversations with inanimate objects. I imagine that social services will need to be called on my behalf some day. HAAAA HAAA HAAAA!!!!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Terrifying Analogy

I woke up much earlier than usual this morning and had nothing to do (besides the housework that I've been procrastinating on), so I bumbled around the internet for a while. I ended up landing on some of the blog archives of my friend Mark's website, Curious Character. He always has some interesting stories and pearls of wisdom floating around in his blog posts, but this one caught my attention today. Here is a very quotable quote from that particular post:

“What scares me about George Bush is that he is America’s abusive husband. He cuts her off from all her friends; takes her money, her civil liberties, her confidence in herself; convinces her that she’d be nothing without him when the truth is that he’d be nothing without her; maintains psychological control over her through terror and psychosis. And everyone from the outside keeps asking WHY doesn’t she leave him? The guy’s SOOOOO wrong for her. And yet they know she will never willingly go, so they just hope she can survive the abuse until he leaves her.”

Oh my. I can't imagine a more succinct and appropriate way of putting it.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Don't Let The Rain Come Down...

Oooooh noooo don't let the rain come down. Don't let the rain come down... My roof's got a hole in it and I might drown. Oh yes my roof's got a hole in it and I... might... drown.

Except for the hole in the roof part, those lyrics seem fairly appropriate right now. It has been raining here for almost 2 weeks straight and the corn field behind my house became a lake for a while when the river overflowed and cut across it. I was joking with some of my coworkers that it suddenly made my rent seem far more reasonable now that my apartment is on waterfront property. I also wanted to borrow a kayak to go out and paddle around the field just so I could see people's reactions when I tell them that I went boating in a cornfield. The water has gone back down now and I feel bad for the farmer who owns the field. He just barely plowed the soil and now the river seems to have washed away a good third of it. This happened to him last year too on a bit of a smaller scale. I know it must cost a lot to replace hundreds (or maybe thousands) of cubic yards of fertile dirt. Fortunately, my place sits about 15-20 feet above the field, so it would have to be a torrential downpour for 2-3 weeks straight in order to threaten my living area.

I went out on another long exploratory hike today with my new buddy Don in the pouring rain. It's nice to have met someone who is also insane enough to hike under these conditions. We had some very good conversation and covered a lot of woods over the course of two and a half hours. Red efts were walking all over the trail, presumably looking for food and attempting to escape drowning. I tried to keep my eyes on the ground and walk mindfully in order to avoid stepping on any of them. We took in a lot of beautiful scenery but it was raining so hard that I didn't dare to remove my camera from the safety of the plastic bag it was in. By the time we got back, our shoes felt like they were holding more water in than what they were keeping out and we were soaked to the bone. Despite all this, I am glad I went. I've been bouncing off the walls for the last couple weeks because I HATE the limitations of this constant downpour. Time to start ignoring it and get on with doing what I love :)

In my true anally retentive, control freak form, I've gone and alphabetically organized all of the links in the LINKS column on the right. I just wish that this attention to detail and organization carried over into my physical world. Then again, life is short. Maybe I shouldn't worry about it so much. :)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I Love My Job!

OK, so despite my occasional bitching about some of the crap I have to tolerate while working in retail... as a whole, my coworkers are great, my current boss is the best boss I've ever had, and I really do love my job. Here are pictures of a few work projects which help me to relax & keep my mind engaged while making ends meet.

75 Gallon Amano-Style planted display with an assortment of rainbowfish, rasboras, shrimp, & snails. I set this one up just over a year ago and it is by far my most beautiful planted display in the entire store. This tank more than pays for itself because the plants in it reproduce profusely and I am always harvesting bunches of them to sell in our main sales tanks.

South American species biotope tank: stocked with wild-caught Angelfish, Cardinal Tetras, Rummynose Tetras, Cory Cats, Otocinclus, and a few snails. I built this to simulate the sub-marginal zone on an amazon river bank. Not all of the plants are native to South America, but I still think that it replicates the effect of that particular environmental zone quite well. I built this one about 2 years ago.

This display is still fairly young, maybe 3 months old. It's sort of a fusion of a standard japanese rock gardening style mixed with a dutch formalist planting arrangement; an experimental work in progress. It is difficult to tell how a tank's layout will look until all the plants have completely grown out and matured, much like any ornamental garden.

One of my newest pursuits would be coral reefs. I've only gotten involved within the past few years (after some intensive research). It is one of the most easily misunderstood (and often poorly executed) aspects of the aquarium hobby. To truly keep a successful reef, there needs to be an understanding of the intricate balance between creatures in an open reef environment within the ocean, and then one must realize that it requires a fine attention to detail when attempting to replicate it within a closed system. It is not something that is undertaken as a cutesy little weekend hobby. .. Which is why I appreciate this 300 gallon tank so much. One of my coworkers and I have been the sole caretakers of the tank pictured above and below this paragraph. We began setting it up about a year ago and have watched it progress with all the pride of a father who is watching his children grow up (did I actually just say that? Oy, someone medicate me, hehe). It has been well-worth our efforts from a business perspective and a nice little side-benefit of our expertise is that we are helping to educate people on how delicate a reef environment is and how necessary it is to preserve them within their natural habitat. This message is being taken seriously by some people who normally wouldn't give a hoot about environmental issues.

Random brag: I built the stand that this tank rests upon (mostly out of the reclaimed lumber which composed the packing materials for this tank), yankee ingenuity. The tank weighs over 1.5 tons with everything in it.

Yes, taking pictures of fish tank projects and posting them to my blog completely cements my position as a nerd, even more so than houseplant pictures. Yet I am confident enough that despite the inherent geekiness of this post, someone somewhere will still find it interesting. For lack of talent with standard artistic mediums, these tanks are a major outlet for my creativity. They also serve as a much-needed gardening fix to counteract the mundane seasonal funk that winter typically inflicts on me. Seriously, what other job would allow me to do things like this and get PAID for it!!?? And yes... all the plants in these tanks are real. (Sorry, couldn't restrain that last random brag).

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I am the walrus. Goo goo g'joob.

OK, so lyrics to one of the Beatles' more inane, obscure songs don't really have much to do with this post, but I couldn't think of a good title. :)

Today was a fun little day off, I went out on a discount store run with my friends (I'll call them Percy and Daniel). There is a nice little assortment of discount food stores running along route 12 from Keene to Claremont. Ever since Percy introduced me to these stores, I've been hooked. One can find unusual health foods and ethnic ingredients for pennies on the dollar; foods that one normally can't find in the stores around here (at least not for a reasonable price).

After the shopping trip I went on one of my aimless exploratory hikes. I explored the base area of Cathole Peak, and it was dark by the time I came back down out of the woods. I think I covered about 5-6 miles, a full third of that being off-trail. I vaguely recognized the area where I came out; a field where I was flower-picking about five years ago. Fortunately, it only rained a little and this was quite the day for viewing wildlife. I had a deer and a wild turkey almost give me a heart attack (bounding & fluttering out of the thicket almost in my face), I think I'm still shaking. Unfortunately, they moved so quickly that I was unable to get pictures of most of them, but I did get a blurred shot of a porcupine climbing a tree. I also saw a coyote. A fruitful hike.... I intend to climb to the top of Cathole Peak on my next full day off.

Wake Robin, Trillium Erectum (aka "Stinkpot" due to their curiously strong stench). These are the first ones I've seen this year.

Very blurred pic of the porcupine climbing the tree.

Oh...My.... Word....

THIS IS BRILLIANT... Found on BoingBoing this morning: The Angry Liberal Guy Rant. It's amazingly good, here is a cut n' paste:

There’s been some ink spilled lately denigrating so called ‘angry liberals,’ that is, people who have allegedly lost their right to be taken seriously because they are ‘angry.’ And they are ‘liberal.’

Well, I hereby declare myself a charter member in the ALC (Angry Liberal Club).

Sure, at first I felt guilty -- what right do I have as a patriotic American to be angry? Or liberal? Oh, I tried to repress the ‘angry thing,’ I tried -- if I was asked, I claimed I was a ‘peeved moderate.’ Or a ‘mildly upset centrist.’ But after much work through ‘BIT’ (Blog Immersion Therapy), I stopped feeling the shame. I’m coming out of the closet to announce I am an Angry Liberal Guy. And I am pissed.

You might be saying “Man, what are you so angry about, Angry Liberal Guy?”

I’ve compiled a short (and by no means complete) list just so I could see it all in one place:

I’m angry about the shredding of the constitution…illegal wiretaps…falsified intelligence…secret prisons… use of torture as an accepted means of interrogation…Terry Schiavo…the war on science…denial of Global Warming…the fascistic secrecy of our elected officials… presidential signings that declare the President above the law…the breakdown of the wall between church and state…the outing of a clandestine CIA agent for purely partisan political gain…the corrupting influence of K Street… the total sell-out of the legislative process to corporate interests… appointments of unqualified cronies at every level of government…Harriet Miers…Brownie…Abu Ghraib… Scooter …the complete mismanagement of the war in Iraq…the lies about the complete mismanagement of the war in Iraq…the grotesque budget deficits… the pathetic response to Katrina… a civil rights division dedicated to undermining civil rights…an environmental protection agency that refuses to protect the environment… (Take a breath, Angry Liberal Guy.)

And I’m angry about a smug, simple-minded, incompetent, unqualified President, and a press that denies the obvious fact that we have a smug, simple-minded, incompetent unqualified President.

If these things don’t make you angry, I have to ask -- what the hell is the matter with you?

And what would it take to make you angry? -- C.B. Shapiro

What can I say? I feel like I've become proselytized away from centrism :).
*in my stodgiest fake British accent* Good show Mr. Shapiro, Jolly good show!!!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


It's LILAC SEASON (which fortunately coincides with flowering crabapple season)!!!

Monday, May 08, 2006

More Barn Pics

OK, this barn thingy is getting to be a bit of an obsession. Before you know it, I'll be living in one. These pics are some from the outside of the old red barn mentioned in previous posts.

Pet Peeve #3

I'm feeling bitchy today, so I'm going to vent...

Overgeneralization + lack of clarity = pointless waste of time. I work in a pet store and for the bazillionth time this year, someone who was looking for parts to their aquarium filter came in to ask me for assistance in selecting the parts.... This is fine, it's part of my job. However this person had no idea what model/size their filter was, he couldn't even describe it to me. Then he got upset when I politely told him that I could not help him find what he needed without that information. Imagine the same scenario if you were looking for parts for a car....

Guy walks into an auto parts store looking for an alternator for his vehicle....

Guy - "Hello, I need to buy an alternator for my car."

Salesperson - "OK sir, what is the make, model, and year of your vehicle?"

Guy - "I don't know, it has four wheels and I drive it to places. I just want to buy an alternator."

Salesperson - "I'm sorry sir, but alternators are not generic, they vary greatly between vehicles, I need to know specifically what make and model your car is as well as the year it was manufactured."

Guy - "God, you people are so incompetent!! I just want to buy an alternator!! I'm taking my business elsewhere!!"

It is seriously about as ridiculous as that, and the worst part is that I encounter it at least a few times a month. I often wonder why natural selection hasn't culled these fuckwits from the herd. I love my job but as many of you know, retail exposes you to some very abrasive and ignorant people.

OK, I'm done with my ranting >:-D.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Another Arrowhead Hike

I hiked up Mt. Arrowhead right after work today to catch the sunset. It was beautiful as usual and I got some nice pics along the way. I took the same trail that I took with a friend a couple weeks ago and there was a huge difference between then and now. Last time, everything was dry and still very dead looking. With the recent moisture we've had, all of Creation seems to be exploding out of the ground and erupting out of the trees. Ahhh... total Zen.

Trout Lily (aka Dogtooth Violet), Erythronium Americanum

Bluets, Houstonia Caerulea

The woods on the lower part of the trail, sun starting to set.

View of Claremont from atop Mt. Arrowhead.

Mt. Ascutney (in Vermont just across the Connecticut River from Claremont) at sunset.

Hetracil!!! HAHAHAHAHA!!!

I found this on the Rainbow Unbroken Blog. I sooo have to send this one to some friends.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

A Breakup That Wasn't Really

For the last few months, I've been casually dating a very nice gentleman (I'll call him Sam). Sam is tall, handsome, talented, sexy, and very sweet.... yet for the past few weeks I had been wrestling with myself... feeling like I must be severely messed up for not being more attracted to him. In many ways I WISH the attraction was deeper because he is a hell of a catch. As most of us know, love is a many-splendored thing, but it is also very complex. You can't force feelings where there are none.

In the time that Sam and I were dating, I came to love him more as a brother than as a potential lover. After spending another refreshing and fun evening with him last night, I decided that enough was enough, it would be incredibly disrespectful and dishonest to string him along (Lord knows I've had my share of disappointments and people leading me on, so I know how it feels). In my characteristic awkward fashion, this evening I broke into a long discussion with him about our feelings. He is a sensitive and soulful person... My biggest initial fear was that he would be very hurt and would not want to have any more contact with me, but much to my relief... it turned out that he felt the same way I did. Through honest, heartfelt discussion, we have managed to roll this dysphoric romance back to a good friendship.

I am very grateful that he is remaining in my life as a friend. Sam is one of a kind. I just hope that he eventually falls in love with someone who will treat him right and respect him as much as I do. Thank God for clarity. I feel like a huge load has been lifted off my back.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


For those of you who missed Steven Colbert's STELLAR PUBLIC LAMBASTING of Herr Diktator (err... sorry, I mean the president) at the White House correspondent's dinner... you MUST view it HERE if you wish to complete your journey toward full cultural literacy and self-actualization. It is about a 24 minutes of bitingly sarcastic, spot-on Bush-bashing goodness, in the president's presence no less. This is some serious political soul-food.

I have always been a fan of Steven Colbert so this further cements my respect for him and his set of steel cajones. Dammit, I think I've got a crush on him now. Stop playing games with my heart Mr. Colbert :-D.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Chicago Trip

Well, I just got back from a three day weekend trip with my parents, sister, & grandmother. We flew out to the Chicago area to see my brother and some of the local sights. Let me tell you, they don't call it the "Windy City" for nothing. The wind blew incessantly while we walked the streets and was occasionally so strong that I had to walk at a diagonal pitch to avoid being blown over. The rain was a bit of a bitch, but aside from that the trip was interesting. We went up to the top of the Sears Tower, checked out Navy Pier, and went to an awesome italian eatery called Giordano's. My brother recommended it as a true Chicago pizza experience and I was not disappointed. (More pics of my trip to come. I forgot my camera in the car for a large chunk of the trip so I'm gonna try to bum some of the pics that my dad took).

Although, here is one noteworthy pic....

Bono, lead singer of U2 was at Midway Airport. My sister pointed him out at the center of an attentive crowd down the hall and said that she thought he looked familiar but couldn't place him. After recognizing him, I waited until he was no longer thronged with fans and I went over to ask him if I could take his picture, for which he politely obliged and posed. I was fortunate because within 10 seconds of snapping his photo, he got mobbed with dozens of people clamouring for his autograph and snapping pictures with their camera phones. Poor guy... oh well, I guess that's the price of fame. My dad thinks he was an impersonator. If so, he's got a spot-on act going because he "fooled" most of the people at the airport, including me.

Anywho, I also had some good quality time with my brother. We went out on a bit of a bender the first night and he kicked my ass at the pool table several times, but that's OK because I kicked his ass at darts the next evening ;). I also now have a new standard for what constitutes a good snakebite. I'm not a lush, really :P.

The flight back was pure hell. It was delayed several times and we missed our connecting flight in Baltimore because of this. Then we had to wait for the next connecting flight to Manchester (also repeatedly delayed until 2:45am). Originally we all should have been back home around 7pm-9pm on Sunday evening, but we ended up getting back to my parents' place at 6:30am on Monday morning. I now completely understand the meaning of the term "Red-eyed flight" because some of my coworkers thought I was high when I came to work at noon.

Que sera sera. It's been a long weekend. I'm exhausted and heading to bed early.