March 31, 2007

Massanutten Impression

Massanutten Mountain and Moreland Gap as seen from Mt. Jackson, VA


I was looking for info on birdhouses and came across two interesting articles on
  • Wind farms are often criticized for endangering birds, but the newer forms of wind turbines are not as much of a hazard. However, reader comments offer some interesting rebuttals (but you have to wade through some childish name-calling to get to them.) See Common eco-myth.
  • Mercury in CFL's that is released when the energy saving bulb is disposed of is in a form more able to enter the food chain than that released by power stations. The article includes a comment that LED's may be the coming thing in energy-saving lighting and a reader's tip that Ace hardware stores in some states take cfls for recycling.

March 30, 2007

A tree at Fishers Hill

Fisher's Hill Battlefield, south of Strasburg, VA
In September 1864, the Sheridan's Union Army dislodged Early's Confederates from their position at Fishers Hill. The battle resulted in over 1700 casualties.

Squirrel wants the block of birdseed

March 29, 2007

Events added on websites

  1. One of the sites that I regularly update is Spiritual Singles. Tonight I posted their events for April '07 which include movie nights, discussions on spiritual philosophies, a singles dinner, and a "house concert" featuring Maryland-based singer-songwriters Jesse Palidofsky and Len and Wendy Seligman. Len and Wendy actually met at a Spiritual Singles event in 2000!

  2. The CSDA has several meetings scheduled in Maryland. Speakers include Dr. Alan Vinitsky, an environmental medicine specialist; Bill Currie, an expert on treating pest problems without patented chemicals; Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, who will discuss global warming; and Natalie Golos, Associate Fellow of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine. See my Chemsense site for details.

Greek Food in Stephen's City

There aren't many restaurants serving souvlaki in the Shenandoah Valley, and Frank used to eat it frequently when we lived in Montclair. So last night we went to the Roma Restaurant with some friends. It's almost an hour away in Stephen's City just off I-81. Anyway, he really enjoyed the food. I had a stripped-down gyro salad which was okay considering I had to have it without cheese (to which I am allergic).

On Wednesday nights the restaurant features a "belly dancer." Her outfit was less revealing than some figure-skating costumes and the dancing was not racy compared to what you see on MTV, although she shimmied like Shakira. She was attractive in her sequined dress and made her entrance wearing a headdress decorated with lighted candles! It looked more risky than risque'.

March 28, 2007

Spring Sprouts in the Shenandoah

daffodilsWe are enjoying warm weather this week and flowers are starting to bloom.

Since we bought this house at the very end of last summer, I didn't know whether spring flowers would surface. Now it's apparent that there are streams of daffodils lining the driveway.

Along I-81 the forsythia is blooming and the grass is brilliant green. Hooray for Spring!

March 27, 2007

The view yesterday evening

Two brief items from today's news

  • San Francisco supervisors vote to ban plastic bags in stores. Aside from the petroleum required to manufacture them, plastic bags are blamed for gumming up recycling machines, taking up space in landfills and killing or sickening marine mammals.

  • Dog Does 'Heimlich' on Choking Owner. Toby, a golden retriever in Maryland, jumped up and down on the choking woman's chest, dislodging a piece of apple and saving her life.

Post number 653

I see that I've posted to this blog over 650 times! I started my blog in June 2005. Even though I haven't written any great essays or gotten a whole lot of hits, I've found posting to be a good way to motivate myself to work on my digital photos and keep them fairly much up to date.

Now if I could just get my family albums up to date, I'd feel better about all those old photographs still filed in boxes.

March 26, 2007

Doggie Diner

dogNow that Guppy is 15, he's showing signs of old age. I bought him this raised dish stand at Petco so that he does not have to bend down to eat. He likes it! In fact, he seems to be eating more, which is good because he has gotten skinny.
To buy Healthy Pet Diner, look here.

Final installment, Tacoma photos

I thought I was finished with posting cute kiddie pictures, but here are a few more. Now I'll stop. Really.

If you want to see more you can visit the Boyles blog.

March 25, 2007

Bradley Lake Park

These are photos that I took at Bradley Lake near Puyallup, Washington. We walked around the lake and Josie enjoyed the playground.

An album on Picasa

The View from Squirrel Ridge
I created an album of all my recent blog photos on Picasa. So far I have not made it searchable to the public, though I may do so later. So far folks can find the pictures using Google. I don't worry much about anyone "stealing" my photographs because I usually size them small. A small image loads quickly and is not particularly good for printing or enlarging but is just fine for viewing as an illustration.

If someone wants an enlargement, they should write to me.

March 23, 2007

Children Playing

Keep Xylitol away from pets

I read in the paper that Xylitol is toxic to dogs. Xylitol is a sweetener used in some diet candy, toothpaste, and dietetic pudding. Since pets will sometimes steal treats from the table, store products containing Xylitol out of reach of pets. Here's the ASPCA story on Xylitol's toxicity to dogs.

A little progress for the environment

There's so much bad news on the environment what with icebergs melting and such, I was glad to see something positive. Starting next year, Wal-Mart will ask its electronics suppliers to evaluate the environmental impact of their products, and it will use the assessment to determine which merchandise to sell in its stores. This is part of an environmental initiative from the huge retailer. Also, Wal-Mart has vowed to cut energy usage and reduce waste at its stores.

More Pictures, Josie and Ryley

At the playground

Josie and Ryley

March 22, 2007

Google has a sense of humor

I sometimes use Safari as my web browser. I am trying to set up a spreadsheet using Google Docs and got this message:
Safari support for Google Docs is coming soon!

We have heard loud and clear that many of you really want it to work, and we are working hard to make this happen. In the meantime, please try us on: Mozilla Firefox...

And below that is this:

If you are working to fix problems with a specific browser and would like to bypass this check, just add &browserok=true to the end of the Google Docs & Spreadsheets url.

Please note that it is a violation of intergalactic law to use this parameter under false pretenses, so don't let us catch you at it.

And, it won't work very well -- really.

Riding on Grandpa's Shoulders

March 21, 2007

Susan's Family

Things I didn't get to see

On Saturday I was too sick to join a trip to Northwest Trek. Sorry I missed it; looks like fun. Susan and Doug take the kids there fairly often.

Frank took these pictures.

Marie Interviewed about her book

See Marie's Interview at The Well. The site refers to her as the peregrinating Marie Javins.

March 20, 2007

Cute kids

Josie and Ryley

Story time

Ryley and Josie love a good storybook (or even a mediocre one if it's colorful and read with enthusiasm). If you visit them, plan spend some time reading out loud.

Ryley can read and write and is in the advanced reading group in kindergarten.

Not impressed with United Airlines

Our flight home was uneventful, although I think United Airlines should be ashamed of the way they crowd passengers into seats with no elbow room and insufficient knee room. We could have upgraded ahead of time to slightly more knee room for $49 each but I didn't see a way to do it using frequent flier miles and we didn't want to spend any more money, having spent a lot on travel already.

There are small maintenance issues of the planes too. Getting good sound for the movie is a matter of luck - I gave up on the flight out and was only able to get sound on the way back by using a rubber band to hold the little plug in the armrest. I noticed a previous passenger had used masking tape but it was pretty much torn off. Worse, only one restroom in our cabin was functional so there was a really long line. The reading light for the person next to me was broken, as was one two rows ahead. I noticed that one because someone tried to force it to work and a part came flying off.

I noticed some housekeeping issues too, but it was the little mechanical failures that bother me. Cutting back on maintenance is not what you want in an airline.

Our previous trip was on Jet Blue and I must say it was roomier and well maintained, although the headphones were almost useless. I might fly Jet Blue again but I will think twice about taking UAL, even though I have used them for many years.

By the way, they don't provide free meals any more. I pack food anyway so it isn't a problem for me.

March 18, 2007

Young gardeners

Ryley and Josie water the flowers.
(Yes, it's springtime in Tacoma.)

Recall, canned pet food

Menu Foods Recall (Adobe Acrobat file, PDF)

Links to many brands of canned pet food affected by this recall - HTML page.

My dogs are picky eaters and the canned food that I use to spice up their kibble is not affected by the recall. It's Merrick Pet Food and even Guppy likes it.

March 17, 2007

Don't fly with a milk tummy!

I'd have to say Thursday's flight on United was the most uncomfortable I've endured yet. They pack you in tightly, almost no leg room. And then I got sick.

On the way to the airport I experienced some nausea but decided to ignore it. Other than feeling cramped, all went smoothly on take-off. But as we left Dulles far behind, I felt a sharp pain in my abdomen. Uh-oh, milk tummy, I thought. I cannot digest cow dairy products, and pain in the side is part of the symptoms. We had eaten out the night before and our efforts to be sure my meal had no butter must have been in vain.

The pain grew sharper, like appendicitis, except that my appendix was removed years ago. And my abdomen seemed to be swelling. I tried the remedies that were in my snack bag - an antacid, Benadryl, and later an herbal capsule that included okra. Squirming in my seat, I found no comfort in the tight quarters. For a while I tried to lie on my left side with my head on my husband's shoulder. I tried walking around but it didn't help.

The pain continued for most of the 5-hour flight. But a funny thing happened as we approached Seattle. The pain lessened and became minor discomfort. I believe this was due to the lower altitude. By the time we were on the ground the pain and swelling were gone, although I felt a bit nauseous.

Apparently the high altitude had caused the increase in swelling and pain, turning a minor reaction to a small amount of butter into excruciating pressure.

From the web: At a cruising altitude of 30,000 feet, the cabin is pressurized to 8,000 feet. A typical individual may suffer from swelling, tiredness and disorientation from flights at this elevation.

March 14, 2007

Civil War Winchester

Yesterday we drove to Winchester. Frank had some documents to take to a shredding service. We also had lunch and visited the Civil War Orientation Center at Shenandoah University. On the way out of town we stopped briefly at Stonewall Jackson's Headquarters and I took some photographs.

March 13, 2007

This may be a record...

Our cocker spaniel has had digestive upsets off and on since January. On February 6, I took him to the vet for diarrhea and grouchiness. I mentioned that he seemed to have swallowed a small cloth coaster the previous day. Well, five WEEKS passed before he threw it up! Yep, two days ago he coughed up the coaster, wadded but still recognizable. No wonder he's been irritable!

He's no longer a puppy but I still have a problem with him eating paper and cloth. Here he was yesterday with a sheet of paper.

March 11, 2007

Sitemeter problems

Sitemeter is my "counter," recording the number of visits to this blog along with some other information. (No, I can't see who you are - I have to guess.) Well, it hasn't worked properly in days so I finally worked my way to their blog and learned that they are working on the problem. It says: We wanted to let all those on sm1 know that your stats are still be recorded and no data is being lost.
We discovered an error in the data when it was transferred to the new server and we are investigating the cause and looking for a solution. We hope to have you back online shortly.
We’ll post an update here when we’ve resolved the problem.

Avoiding airport parking

aerialPark Sleep Fly features hotels near airports that have shuttle service. You can reserve a room and parking for your vehicle at the same time... Useful for those of us who fly out of Dulles.

Postscript: It didn't work for us. Maybe if we'd chosen an expensive hotel, a room would have been available.

Don't throw Compact Fluorescent Bulbs in the Trash!

I didn't know this until recently, but fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury and should not be thrown out when they are no longer useful. This includes those oft-recommended compact fluorescent bulbs, said to be the greatest energy saving device since, well, turning off the switch.

Mercury is a highly poisonous substance, and while the amount in a bulb is small, the cumulative effect of hundreds of bulbs in a landfill can be a real hazard. So what are you supposed to do? Here's the word from Wikipedia:

Safe disposal requires storing the bulbs unbroken until they can be processed. Consumers should seek advice from local authorities. Usually, one can either:

* Bring back used CFLs to where they were purchased, so the store can recycle them correctly; or
* Bring used CFLs to a local recycling facility.

Realistically, are people going to do this when we fail to recycle half of our aluminum cans and soda bottles? Will dangerous mercury wind up in our groundwater? I don't see anything on our county's website about fluorescent bulb recycling. And I see that an environmental organization is trying to pressure Wal-Mart to adopt a national recycling program to help lessen the mercury threat posed by CF bulbs.

March 10, 2007

Upcoming Civil War Tour

phillippi bridgeNVCC has published it's summer schedule. Dr. Poland's field trip will follow "The Civil War in Northern and West Virginia 1861." Trip dates are 5/18 through 5/20. For more information, see the bottom of this page.

I expect the trip will be similar to this tour, which included Grafton, Phillippi, Corrick's Ford, and Cheat Mountain.

Indoor Air Quality Publication

The National Institute for Building Sciences has published a report on Indoor Environmental Quality which contains recommendations for improving the air quality in buildings in order to make them accessible to sensitive people. The result will be healthier air for everyone. There is also a brief section of electromagnetic fields.

The report is fairly detailed and contains useful information such as selecting healthy building materials, safe pest control, cleaning chemicals, and policies on smoking, fragrance use, cell phone use, and vehicle idling.

Although I am sensitive to air pollution and many fragrances, I do not react noticeably to electromagnetic fields. I have met people who do. How difficult that would be in our electrical-dependent wireless-using society.

Seattle - Tacoma area

We are planning a trip to Tacoma soon. Here are some photos from a previous trip.

One more from Washington State

March 8, 2007

Dog Training

We took Benny to a dog trainer just north of Harrisonburg this morning. This was the first time he's been to a trainer since he was a puppy, and that time it took him two weeks to learn "sit."

Today he did okay although he was afraid to go in the building when we got there. Our homework is to reward him for paying attention and obeying by giving him bits of food and also to introduce him to clicker training.

March 7, 2007

Update on my tea allergy

Last month I wrote about giving up green tea and chocolate in hopes of curing a chronic cough that had gotten really annoying. Well, the cough disappeared quickly. I figured it was caused by an allergy to tea because allergy testing two years ago had revealed that I was allergic to black tea, and green tea is from the same plant.

After a week of being cough-free, I tried chocolate again and had no reaction, so the allergy was at least only to tea, not chocolate. In place of green tea I am drinking St. John's Wort Tea and Essiak Tea. The latter is made from herbs that were supposedly used by the Chippewa Indians to treat cancer, so I imagine that it's as full of antioxidants as green tea is. It tastes good to me.

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Other topics in last month's blog

Stafford area historic sites, mountain snowfall photographs, pictures of squirrels, birds, and dogs.

March 6, 2007

Benny goes to Court court, that is.

Snapshot of LSW

lindaFrank took this picture of yours truly.

March 4, 2007

Probation for Ben

cocker spanielOur cocker spaniel Benny was so ferocious on Friday morning that Frank said we had to get rid of him. I had reached to remove the leash from Ben's collar and suddenly he started barking in a threatening way, tossing his head around like he wanted to bite someone. However he did go into his crate and I closed the door. We were afraid to reach in after the leash.

I called the vet in hopes of getting something to calm Benny down or at least medicine for his diarrhea which had come back after his previous medicines were used up. The vet did not feel that puppy prozac would help but said the diarrhea medicine would at least make him more comfortable so that he might be less irritable. Frank went to pick it up and I stayed to keep an eye on the dog and look for resources.

I fed Ben a little liquid Benadryl through the crate door to make him drowsy and went to the internet. The pet adoption sites were not encouraging -- dogs with aggressive behavior are not adoptable. Meanwhile Frank was finding the same thing out from a woman from a dog rescue organization who was at the vet's office. And if we took Ben to the pound he would wind up being euthanized, which would be heartbreaking.

I called two local dog trainers but they were not available so I left messages. By mid-afternoon, I felt braver and Ben seemed calm so I approached the cage as though nothing was wrong. I opened the door and he came out and we went outside for a walk. Afterwards he let me remove the leash and went back in the crate for a nap. Since then he has been okay.

I really don't know what set him off that morning. I suspect that something hurt him; he's reacted ferociously before when hurt, like the time he got entangled in briars and nipped me when I tried to unwrap them from around his leg.

The trainers did call back eventually. Maybe it was the way I explained it but neither thought that Ben was hopelessly aggressive. One said that he was trying to dominate and the other said he sounded fearful (which he is). The latter said that she can teach us exercises to minimize his fearful behavior. I've got an appointment to take Ben to her training facility on Thursday.

I hope we can rehabilitate him. He is good most of the time although he is not the greatest house pet. He must be kept leashed or watched closely when he is out of his crate because he knocks things over and eats inedible objects, such as paper and cloth.

I know that the Dog Whisperer would prescribe exercise and discipline. We've been working on discipline, and I admit to slacking off on the exercise because the ice and snow outside made long walks too risky on these steep hills. Hopefully the ice will stay away now.