Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ambassador of Dogs *UPDATE*

*UPDATE* So, the first thing my mom did when we dropped Max off is....almost drop him down the stairs. Not a good sign. Really, he tried to jump out of her arms, tumbled a bit on the floor, then ran down the stairs, but still. He did pull something in his hip.

Otherwise, the day was pretty uneventful. We dropped him off around 10am and picked him up around 7pm. They said he slept most of the day, took over my mom's chair, went outside and did his thing. Etc. Not much going on there. We're still deciding about trying an overnight.
As I mentioned before, Max is going to be doing some trial stays with my parents to see how they get along before Matt and I decide for sure to leave him with them when we go out of town. The first trial will be a morning-to-night tomorrow.

Pray for us. :)

In preparation for the visit, I've made a list of things Max will need (food/water bowl, food, leash, blankie, baby gates, etc). I've also printed up a colorful sheet with table foods that Max can and (more importantly) cannot have.

One thing I'm most interested in is Max's roll as Doggie Ambassador, to which he was appointed as a puppy. Max has a really great ability to convert non-dog people and some very anti-dog people to pro-dog people or at the very least, to dog-friendly people. My parents are included in this. Max has had several sucessful Goodwill Tours at my parents house.

It is a big deal. My mother has gone from totally anti-small dog to very small dog-friendly. She has even talked about getting a Scottie....after my dad dies.

He's the real hold-out here. He's convinced they CANNOT have animals in the house because of the flea problem, despite me explaing about Frontline and how it actually works. He's not giving in. He adores Max, though, and I'm hoping that Max may be able to break through that last barrier.

If so, we may soon have to fine yet another keeper for Max when we go away.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Other Woman

There is a new woman in Max's life.
Matt's parents got a Pomeranian puppy.

Her name is.....(wait for it).....

Foxy Lady. Yes, seriously.

Max is not taking this well, unfortunately. He was harassed by a neighbor's Pom when he was a puppy, and he hasn't forgotten it:
Neither have I, really. I don't like Pomeranians.

Matt is playing both sides of the fence, though. In the picture below it almost looks like he's receiving sexual favors from her. Ahem.
So, now we're stuck with trying to find a place for Max to stay when Matt and I travel. We're going to do a few trial runs parents. God help us all.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Almost Got Fired Friday!

What an exciting end to a slow and boring week! I won't go into details, but suffice it to say the head honcho needs he ego stroked way WAY more than even I thought, and after he'd calmed down everything was cool.

Still looking for other jobs! You're darn tootin' I am!

Oh, in other news, my Kiva loanee, Edith, has made 3 of her 4 payments back! Go Edith!

Also, I made a 5th sale on Etsy this weekend. I'm advertising over at Bright, Bold & Beautiful for the next two months. I hope it helps, so far, so good!

Friday, March 12, 2010

“If we live like there is no tomorrow, there won't be.”

I consider myself to be fairly anti-nuclear power. I understand that it is becoming a more popular option with our ever-growing population needing more and more energy, but the tradeoff just really isn’t worth it to me.

I wrote on my Yahoo blog about my experience as a child with Three Mile Island. I’ve moved those posts to Blogger. You can read them in order here.

Recently, a Fed that I’m friends with at work told me about a website about a woman who has gone through parts of the ‘Dead Zone’ surrounding Chernobyl. Her name is Elena, she is the daughter of a nuclear physicist. She travels on her motorcycle and takes all the food, water, and fuel she might need as well as a bike repair kit, etc, because you do not want to get stranded out there. She takes her Geiger counter. She takes her camera. Her photos are surreal. She has biked all over the area.

The only catch? You pretty much have to stay on the roads, preferably in the middle of the roads. She talks about why, it is very interesting stuff.

Her page can be found here. I would really recommend starting with the link below her Motorcycle page and then just working your way through all the sections. At the bottom of each page is a link to go to the next, like turning pages of a book. It is an incredible journey. Look through the ‘Serpent’s Wall’ bit, too. It is about the wall defending Kiev from everyone, Mongols up through the Nazis. She and her friends dig there to find history.

Be sure to read her description of the accident at Chernobyl. Keep in mind that the ONLY real thing that kept this from happening in Harrisburg was that the steam didn’t blow the reactor chamber apart. They vented it out instead. That’s it. We had the steam bubble, we had the melted control rods. It was so close. I was so close to be living what she’s describing. So. Close.

What really got me wasn’t the pictures. I've seen pictures of ghost towns before. Her descriptions, though, are thought provoking, frightening, and touching. Sometimes she makes funny comments, too. It is obvious that her life has been changed by what happened here…

All the following pictures and words are from Elena’s sites, as well as the title of the post, above:

The roads are blocked for cars, but not for motorcycles. Good girls go to heaven. Bad ones go to hell. And girls on fast bikes go anywhere they want.

In Ukrainian language ( where we don't like to say "the") Chernobyl is the name of a grass, wormwood (absinth). This word scares the holy bejesus out of people here. Maybe part of the reason for that among religious people is because the Bible mentions Wormwood in the book of the revelatons - which fortells the end of the world....

The sarcophagus will remain radioactive for at least 100.000 years. The age for the pyramids of Egypt is 5,000 to 6,000 years. Each cultural epoch left something to humanity, something immortal, like Judaic epoch left us Bible, Greek culture- philosophy, Romans contributed law and we are leaving Sarcophagus, the construction that going to outlive all other signs of our epoch and may last longer then pyramids.

There are many places that not structurally safe, or have collected pockets of intense radiation. There are places where no one dares to go. One such place is the Red Wood forest and another is the Ghost Town Cemetary. The relatives of the people who are buried there can not visit, because in addition to people, much of the radioctive graphite nuclear core is buried there. It is one of the most toxic places on earth.

All of this happy horseshit was for the May 1st Labor Day parade.

Ghost Town is a modern Pompeii. The Soviet era is preserved here - in the radiation for all this years.
…Or we can stand looking at the Chernobyl equivalent of Niagara Falls. Radiation level here is same as in Kiev. Standing on this bridge is as safe as standing on bridges in Venice. But never forget this is Chernie, where you can walk a few hundred meters away and be in a dangerously radioactive place. There are several hundred unmarked burial sites of radioactive waste materials in the Chernobyl area and no one knows where all of them are. The people who buried them are now buried themselves- may they rest in peace, for we the living can not. For safety, Geiger counter must always be turned on.

The only buildings in area that is not ruined are churches. Traveling through the whole of Chernobyl region I have yet to see any ruined church.

Reading of geiger counters tell us more than reading official reports, but it tells us less than reading from the book of nature. In Chernobyl reading from the book of nature is easy, here facts themselves speak eloquently of the truth... wherever I turn, I stumble upon a fact that humans are outlawed and banned from life. I strain to hear, in hope to receive an answer, but all I can hear is the voice of Nature strongly saying to the human race, -I DON'T NEED YOU!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


You know how sometimes you are doing something and your mind wanders? Happens to me all the time, and I wake up to find that I’m thinking about something kind of odd, or something in an odd way. Today, it was whistling.

I’ve been listening to my Sly & the Family Stone CD lately, and I found myself whistling along with the horn part on Take You Higher. And I started to think about whistling.

Where do we learn to whistle? I mean, have you ever really paid attention to what you do, physically, when you whistle? Try it, find some music that is fairly complicated: fast paced and also containing high and low notes pretty close together, and whistle it. Hallelujah Chorus. Try to whistle that.

It is a pretty exact science, isn’t it? You don’t just move your lips to pucker, and you don’t just move your tongue to form the notes, and you don’t just move your jaw to get the right amount of air movement. You do it all at the same time so quickly and in such a specific way that I can’t imagine how we could have learned to do it.

Seriously, how did you learn to move all those things at the same time to form one note and then not even a full second later do it all again to form another totally different note? How did we learn this??

Is it learned? Did you seriously do enough whistling as a kid to learn how to do this? Or is it innate? Physics? Like when you catch a ball in mid-air when you only saw it a split second before, but your brain could do those wind-speed, travel-arc, incredibly detailed calculations that put your hand JUST SO to catch that ball.

Is that what whistling is?

Monday, March 08, 2010

Genealogy (or What the Hell is Lettish??)

Matt’s family came from Russia. Or the Ukraine. Or maybe Poland. Possibly Kiev. They were Jewish. But maybe they weren’t. And they aren’t now. And no one knows when except for “the late 1800s,” except for what his grandfather said, and his grandfather lied like you and I breath (pretty regularly).

Recently, we watched a movie called “Everything is Illuminated.” If you only watch 5 movies this year, make this movie one of them. It is a story about a young American Jew who goes to Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. He is guided by a Ukranian man about his age (“who’s English isn’t so primo”), that man’s grandfather, and the grandfather’s ‘officious seeing-eye bitch’ Sammy Davis Jr., Jr. It is not a holocaust movie. It is a drama, but it is also very funny in places as well as sad and poignant. It is very good, and of course the story in the end turns out to not be what the main character (played by Frodo Baggins) expected to find, but….everything becomes illuminated.

So, of course this got Matt talking about his family. I asked him if he wanted me to look into it, and he said sure.

I’m very lucky, my parents have traced a lot of my own family back into the 1500s and on my mom’s side even as far back as the 1300s. In Germany, no less!

I’ve truly never had much interest in genealogy per se and while I know it is all very interesting, a good hunt is really what I enjoy. I’m a researcher. It is what I do. I’m very good at it. I joined up temporarily with and 3 hours, 4 censuses, 5 passenger lists later and I had some answers for Matt about his origins.

But I had a lot more questions. Not the least of which is why the native language on two of the censuses was listed as ‘Lettish.’ Remember, this was all hand-written and at first I thought it said ‘Yittish’ as in a incorrectly spelled Yiddish, with two Ts instead of Ds. But, no, it was definitely ‘Lettish.’ So I go looking for Lettish.

It is the language spoken by the Letts. Stupid! Of COURSE it is! Who the hell were the Letts?

Lithuanians. Isn’t that interesting? Lettish was spoken around the area of the Baltic including Poland, Sweden, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, and Latvia, among others. So. There is Clue #1: Lettish. Thank you, Wikipedia.

I also found a passenger list (among several possible contenders) that had a hometown for GGGrandfather Leopold as ‘Suwalken, Russland.’ It was a German ship, and Suwalken translates to Suwalki, which is currently part of Poland (remember, a lot of these borders were fought over and changed often). It is smack dab on the Lithuanian border. Clue #2: Suwalki.

I go looking for Suwalki on a map. Interestingly, not 20 miles south of Suwalki is a town called Augustow. Matt’s GGrandfather’s name was August, and possibly the GGGGrandfather, too. Clue #3: Augustow.

Coincidence? Very possibly. It could mean nothing. All of these clues could be red herrings and mean absolutely nothing. But it is what I have to go on right now, so I’m using this as my current working theory.

Next was the fun part. A friend of mine just happened to call last night. She’s Polish. She and her husband and two boys applied to leave Poland after the wall came down in the late 80s or early 90s and they’ve been here ever since, more than 20 years. I mentioned all this to her and when I got to Suwalki she said that was the area where her mother was from. She spent all her summers there as a kid, it is the ‘lake district’ for Poland, big on tourism. Very beautiful, she said. She still has family there and offered to help out with translations and tracking information down, if we need help. I told her the last name variation, too, and she said it translates to ‘frost.’ She said that variation is absolutely not Lithuanian, it is Polish. So, that’s something, too.

We’re frosty!

There are a lot of loose ends, though. There is another August showing up with his family in a different town (Hoboken) from the one that Matt’s family was in (Piscataway). I thought it was an unconnected coincidence…until I found a connection in the GGGrandfather’s funeral book signatures, complete with ‘Hoboken’ beside it. Really bizarre. Could it be Leopold’s younger brother? The age difference is only 10 years, it couldn’t be another son. Maybe a cousin?

There is also a floral arrangement listed as being given by “The official family of Piscataway.” What the hell does that mean?? There have always been rumors of Russian Mafia in the family, could that be the ‘official family?’

We have no information on parents or siblings of GGGrandfather Leopold. Unless we can find something, that may be the end of the line. This is why I’m pursuing Suwalki.

So, I’ve decided I’m going to keep my membership for at least a couple months. It isn’t cheap, I know a lot of people don’t join because of that but it is an incredibly good resource. If anyone wants me to look anything up, please email me and let me know detailed names and dates. I’d be happy to use my membership to help out.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Work Photos, Part 2

Another round of photos from my work computer. I noticed when uploading this batch that I seem to have a lot of fire and disaster pictures. I wonder why?

This is from one of the several wildfires that hit El Cajon in the past few years:
Loved this one, my Navy cousin sent it to me. It is referring to the Seal team that took out the Somali pirates that were holding the US crew of the cargo ship:

I can't remember where this bridge is, but isn't the picture gorgeous?

Obviously photoshopped, but still fun:

One of my favorite artists is Daniel Merriam. I had no idea he was so cute. Always colorful, you could look at his work forever and always see something new:

Another fun artist is James C. Christensen. This work is entitled: Sometimes the Spirit Touches Us:

Another wildfire in California picture. If I'm ever in a wildfire, I want this to be my house:

Not a huge fan of snakes, but loved this picture. Notice the eyes aren't where you first think they are:

Still another wildfire picture, this time of the smoke layer:
So! I may do this with the items on my home computer this month sometime....I hope you enjoyed.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Work Photos, Part 1

I was going through the 'My Pictures' file on my work computer the other day and decided to share some of the pictures I've saved over the years. These are (mostly) pictures from news stories that struck my fancy for whatever reason. I sometimes peruse through them and get a laugh because they are so random.

This photo is from the Lebanon/Israel conflict that happened a few years ago. This shows the Lebanese(?) troops and their...pack llama. Assault llama? Whatever, I thought it was funny:

This shows South Korean soldiers playing in what I'm pretty sure is some aqueous firefighting foam:

Sometimes I'll caption photos. This is the woman who was the Secretary of Education under Bush II at the news conference after her appointment. I caption this photo: do the hokey-pokey and you turn yourself around...." But I love her glasses:
This is a photo of a terrorist and the bombing that he was supposedly responsible for. A very serious subject. I don't get why people don't really look a the pictures they publish for serious topics. This one looks to me like: do-do! Gotta sing!!!

I saved this pic to use as my desktop in October:

Sunset in Afghanistan:

A crab-looking spider:

One of my coworker's daughters spent some time working in Yemen. She took this picture. I think it was in Yemen, but she did travel a bit so it could have been somewhere else:

I saw this ad in a local paper online, and I just giggle every time I read the job title:

Stay tuned for part 2!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

March NaBloPoMo: Strange(r)

The National Blog Posting Month website has named March the month to post Strange(r) stories, so I think I'll do that. It just so happens I have a great story to tell. This recently happened to a friend.

Duane stopped by on Sunday to drop something off. Duane is 30-something and still lives with his parents. He asked us if he told us about their cat. No, he hadn't.

Duane was working the night shift and when he pulled into their driveway he noticed their cat laying under their mailbox, dead. Duane stopped and checked. He told us he hunts enough and he knows dead, but apparently it had just happened.

He loaded the cat into a box he had in his car, drove the remaining 50 yards to the house, put the cat and box into the garage, and he went up to bed.

The next day he got the cat, box, some hay, and a shovel. He went up the hill, dug a three foot hole, layered it with hay, and buried the cat.

2 days pass.

Duane's dad runs into the house: "Duane! You've got to come out here and see this!"

Duane does. The cat is walking calmly out of the garage.

"It had hay on its back," he told us. "That's the part that really got me."

Duane's dad was freaked out. "You told me you buried that thing!" he said.

"I buried it three feet down!" Duane told him.

2 days after that, they finally found out that the neighbors apparently had a cat with almost identical markings. They didn't know that for two very strange and interesting days, though.

Duane said he even walked up to the grave to see for himself. He said if an animal had been digging there then he would have seriously been spooked, as it would have looked like the cat had dug itself out.

So, that's my most recent strange story. Since then I've been singing the Muppet Show version of The Cat Came Back.