Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Endings and Beginnings

(Picture is Sugar Franklin spreading her wings -- she was really mad at me when I took this picture. The other cockatiels are Flash and Nicholas.)

The end of another year! I really hadn't thought about things until I was reading my favorite blogs -- all of which talked about what had or had not occurred during the year.

So here's my take on 2008

Continued to work and deal with all manner of BS at work.

Continued to love and slave for my four babies.

Lost a couple of people who were important to me.

Celebrated my mom's 79th birthday.

Continued working on getting a union going where I work.

No major illnesses or accidents.

Made a couple of new friends.

Didn't come to the end of any friendships.

Had almost all my clothes pooped on.

Came back to continue this blog.


Became addicted to numerous blogs.

Wrote numerous articles, some of which I actually got paid for.

Continued having fun with the women's chorus.

Helped some people with their parrot behavior problems.

More stuff I'll think of later.

Goals for 2009

Write more articles (and get paid for them)

Continue to love and slave for my four babies.

Find some legal beneficial way to deal with the Evil Person at work.

Transfer to a better job.

Maybe actually keep the backyard up.

Get the driveway paved.

Read more books (rather than listening to them on tape)

Make more new friends.

Continue working for unionization.

Continue singing in the women's chorus.

Help more people with their parrot behavior problems.

Take more pictures of my babies!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Origin and Evolution of Birds

I can barely wade through the technical stuff in this article, but it's interesting if you've ever wondered just how long parrots have been around.

What Parrots Tell us About the Origin and Evolution of Birds

Friday, December 26, 2008

My Little Flash

Flash, the little cockatiel pushed on me at a bird fair by a rather unscrupulous breeder, doesn't like me much. He'd rather die than allow me to pet his head or touch him -- unless he needs transportation across the room.

That's okay; I love him anyway.

I took him in for his annual well-bird exam, and the vet found a little spot on the hock of his right foot. It looks like a little scab from a burn, but it isn't on the part of the foot he uses or sits on. He has a heated perch but the temperature is so low I don't see how he could have burned himself on it or how he could have sat on the perch in such a position to injure that part of the foot, and temperature of the perch is different from the base to the tip so he has total control over where he stands. And he doesn't use the heated perch much. I've never seen him favor his foot or show any sign of discomfort at all.

Anyway, we don't know what it is. The vet told me to watch it and if it didn't look better in a few weeks, come back in. Then the blood work came back, and the vet said there was an increase in some kind of enzyme that denotes tissue damage. She thinks it's probably from the place on his foot, but I have to take him back in a couple of weeks to be sure.

Naturally, Flash isn't what you'd call willing to let me look at his foot, but I persist. Usually I can sneak a look at the place by twisting my head and looking kind of upside down at it without touching him (it's visible from the back when he's in a normal stance), but sometimes I have to pick him up. And then give him an extra treat for the "trauma" of it all. I feel guilty because I didn't know he'd hurt himself, and because I don't know what caused it.

Flash has a crooked beak, which makes his little face look off-center, as you can see in the picture. It doesn't affect his eating at all. I don't care -- I'd love him if he had two crooked beaks.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Stephen Frye and Threatened Parrot Breed

For those who don't know, Stephen Fry is a comedian, and used to do movies and comedy acts with Hugh Laurie. I think he was also Jeeves with Hugh Laurie being Bernie in a BBC series (but I could be wrong!). Here's the link to the article.

Fry filming threatened parrot breed

Stephen Fry is spending his New Year visiting a threatened species of parrot whose breeding chances are being boosted by the use of a special perfume.

Fry is filming in New Zealand from Boxing Day until mid-January for BBC2 show Last Chance To See, which will be broadcast in later in 2009.

The five-part series celebrates 20 years since the Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine book and radio series, which profiled eight species teetering on the edge of extinction, including New Zealand's native nocturnal parrot, the kakapo.

An unusual technique being developed to encourage breeding is the use of a synthetic stink for male parrots, in a bid to make them more attractive to female birds, following research into why some males have greater mating success than others.

Bird odour is thought to play a prominent role in the breeding success of kakapo males, according to Associate Professor Dianne Brunton of New Zealand's Massey University.

Prof Brunton said: "Some males do extremely well... females queue up and wait for them even when other males are available."

Last Chance to See will portray the issues surrounding some of the planet's most threatened species and the techniques conservationists have used to help them survive.

Kakapo numbers have almost doubled since the original series from writer Adams and naturalist Carwardine, but there are still currently thought to be only around 90 of the parrots left in the world.

In New Zealand, the protected areas of Codfish Island and Anchor Island offer the kakapo a safe haven from predators and allow ecologists to closely monitor the species and mating behaviour.

Fry and his crew are visiting five conservation sites on the mainland and on off-shore islands, those behind the show said.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Another Oldie But Goodie

Please accept with no obligation, express or implied, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2009, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures, and without regard to the race, creed, colour, sex, age, physical ability, religious faith, or sexual preference of the wishee.

By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms:
This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal at any time. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others, is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher.

This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Fruit Cake Recipe

Holiday Fruitcake Recipe

1 Cup water
1 Cup sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups dried fruit
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
lemon juice
1 gallon whiskey

Sample the whiskey to check for quality.

Take a large bowl.

Check the whiskey again to be sure it is of the highest quality.

Pour one level cup and drink.


Turn on the electric mixer, beat 1 cup butter in a large fluffy bowl.

Add 1 teaspoon sugar and beat again.

Make sure the whiskey is still OK. Cry another tup.

Turn off mixer.

Break 2 legs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of died fruit.

Mix on the turner.

If the dried fruit gets stuck to the beaterers, pry it loose with a drewscriver.

Sample the whickey to check for tonsisticity.

Next, sift 2 cups of salt. Or something. Who cares?

Check the whickesy.

Now sift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.

Add one table. Spoon. Of sugar or sumting, Whatever you can find.

Grease the oven.

Turn the cake tin to 350 decrees.

Don't forget to beat off the turner.

Throw the bowl out of the window.

Check the whic...wishh..jug.

Go to bed.

Who the heck likes cruitfrake anyway?

(Written by Anonymous)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Seems Like a Long Time

Seems like it's been awhile since my last post.

I've been working on a new blog with a friend -- keep your fingers crossed it makes us both a ton of money.

Let's see -- birdies are all well and fussing at me as I type. Nicholas still flicks his little wing but not as much.

I've moved most of my domains over to, which is cheaper, has an easier-to-understand control panel, and 24/7 American support -- us Americans need all the jobs we can get, and when I'm wrangling with a tech problem at 8am on Sunday morning I do not want to fight the language barrier or hear how the offices are closed.

Piano lessons continue, one slow key at a time. Just when my fingers get used to being on one range of keys, O makes me move them to another range! But I'm trudging through anyway.

The women's chorus I'm in was requested to sing (for money!) at one of the international companies here in town. We covered all three shifts at different days, going in 90-minute sessions. I went last Saturday; it was fun to sing Christmas carols and the workers really seemed to enjoy it.

We're having our first winter storm of the season. Sleet, snow, ice. brrrrr

Now for the neighbors!

There have been the usual variety of unknown cars coming and going, especially on weekends. One weekend there were three cars in the driveway and about three more parked out in the street. But they're all quiet and no one comes around asking to use my phone to make long-distance calls.

Last Wednesday, the young woman who comes to clean my house (thank you gawd!) while I'm at work said the police stopped her at the entrance to the neighborhood (which is mostly rental property), demanding to know if she knew any of my neighbors. She said there were police cars and even those big police trucks, all surrounding a house about three doors down. She wanted to know if I knew them or any reason the police would show up.

Nope. There's only been one "incident" I know anything about and that was maybe eight or nine years ago. A couple of college boys, who lived in the SAME house, got drunk one night and started shooting guns out the door and in the house. The police evacuated everyone and by five in the morning, the kids were passed out and what seemed to be the entire police department were in the street. The police finally stormed the house and took the boys to jail and we were all released to go back to our homes.

I don't know what it is about that house.

Anyway, I happened to run into my next-door neighbor yesterday morning. He said he was home that day and "I was scared they were going to shoot me! They have their rifles drawn and everything," he told me.

Evidently nobody got shot and whoever they were after came out peacefully. And the neighbor was very nice and personable. As always.

I hope everyone is having a good holiday season. I'm going to my mom's and over eat!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Nicholas Update Update

Last weekend I figured Nicholas was fine and that it was probably my overactive imagination at work, but then I saw him scratch his head by moving his leg under his wing instead of over it. So Monday afternoon I took him back to the vet.

She did a good exam and found three short blood feathers under his "arm pit," and thinks maybe that's making him uncomfortable enough that we would move his leg under his wing and flip his wing the way he's been doing. She said give it a week or so for the feathers to grow out a little more, and if there's still a problem we'll do X-rays.

Above is a picture of Nicholas, though it's a bit overexposed. And below is a picture of Flash with that darling long curled crest. I swear, I have the cutest little birds in the whole world!

Sunday, November 30, 2008


L and I went to see The Changeling last night -- the 9:50 showing. We spent some time considering if we could actually stay awake long enough to see a movie that late, but Clint Eastwood made a movie you can't snooze through. I got home around 12:20 and because I'd had so much iced tea and coke, I stayed up until around 4, cruising the internet and learning about the true story the movie is based on. I think I'm too old to do that kind of stuff much anymore.

Cold and rainy here. I've spent a lot of money this weekend but mostly I've stayed home and played with birds and watched TV and even took a bunch of birdie pictures, which I haven't moved from my camera to the computer in my study and then moved back to my laptop (it's complicated). I did manage to write an article I'd been dreading, and I'm "working" on another one (letting my brain write it for me first, i.e., procrastinating).

Nicholas is the same. No difference between being on the pain med and off. I decided it was my imagination because he flew across the room the other day and does the eagle wing stanch, wings out, with no hesitation or problems. But yesterday morning I watched him scratch his head by moving his leg under his wing. Cockatiels normally move their legs over their wings to scratch.

So back we go to the vet tomorrow after work.

Oh, and I found a couple more parrot blogs this weekend, too.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

How to Stuff Your Parrot on Thanksgiving!

This has been around for years -- I don't know the author, but they've sure given us a lot of laughs over the years.


Sweet Potatoes
Mashed Potatoes with Gravy
Green Beans
Cranberry Sauce
Hot rolls and Butter
Relish tray
Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream
Hot Coffee

Get up early in the morning & have a cup of coffee. It's going to be a long day, so place your Parrot on a perch nearby to keep you company while you prepare the meal.

Remove Parrot from kitchen counter and return him to perch.

Prepare stuffing, and remove Parrot from edge of stuffing bowl and return him to perch.

Stuff turkey & place it in the roasting pan, and remove Parrot from edge of pan and return him to perch. Have another cup of coffee to steady your nerves.

Remove Parrot's head from turkey cavity and return him to perch, and restuff the turkey.

Prepare relish tray, and remember to make twice as much so that you'll have a regular size serving after the Parrot has eaten his fill. Remove Parrot from kitchen counter and return him to perch.

Prepare cranberry sauce, discard berries accidentally flung to the floor by Parrot.

Peel potatoes, remove Parrot from edge of potato bowl and return him to perch.

Arrange sweet potatoes in a pan & cover with brown sugar & mini marshmallows. Remove Parrot from edge of pan and return him to perch. Replace missing marshmallows.

Brew another pot of coffee. While it is brewing, clean up the torn filter. Pry coffee bean from Parrot beak. Have another cup of coffee & remove Parrot from kitchen counter and return him to perch.

When time to serve the meal:

Place roasted turkey on a large platter, and cover beak marks with strategically placed sprigs of parsley.

Put mashed potatoes into serving bowl, rewhip at last minute to conceal beak marks and claw prints.

Place pan of sweet potatoes on sideboard, forget presentation as there's no way to hide the areas of missing marshmallows.

Put rolls in decorative basket, remove Parrot from side of basket and return him to perch.

Remove beaked rolls, serve what's left.

Set a stick of butter out on the counter to soften - think better and return it to the refrigerator.

Wipe down counter to remove mashed potato claw tracks. Remove Parrot from kitchen counter and return him to perch.

Cut the pie into serving slices. Wipe whipped cream off Parrot's beak and place large dollops of remaining whipped cream on pie slices.

Whole slices are then served to guests, beaked-out portions should be reserved for host & hostess.

Place Parrot inside cage & lock the door.

Sit down to a nice relaxing dinner with your family - accompanied by plaintive cries of "WANT DINNER!" from the other room.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nicholas Update

Dr. Z said all of Nicholas' lab work and gram stain results were all normal. I'm glad he's okay, but I also feel like an idiot. A poor idiot. His well-bird exam was due next month and would have cost me about the same, so I have nothing to complain about.

She reminded me that some problems are not related to blood chemistry and that we can do more diagnostics or, if I think he's in pain we can give him a drop of pain meds. I have some questions about that, and I'm waiting for her to get back to me.

But I think I'm going to try the pain meds. He's still flipping his wing, so it's obvious it's bothering him though we don't know why. I guess X-rays are next if he doesn't stop soon.

I really need to take more pictures of my birds. I'm so entranced with all the wonderful pictures and videos Parrot Musings posts, and it always reminds me I need more pictures.

Thanks for the kind wishes, everyone! Only you can appreciate how it is to worry about a little parrot.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


For several days now I've noticed that Nicholas' eyes are not quite as bright as usual. It's a subtle thing, so subtle I keep thinking I'm imagining it.

A few days ago he got himself between the couch and the wall and hurt his wing -- he cried for a minute and held out his left wing. Then was fine. Of course, I wasn't allowed to go near it, but he acted fine. Except every great once in awhile I'd see him flipping that wing once or twice.

His weight is normal, his behavior is normal, his interactions with Flash and with me are all normal, he's eating normal foods and treats and veggies, and his poops are normal.

I couldn't stand it any longer and took him in to Dr. Z this afternoon. She did a well-bird and drew blood. And did a gram stain. He has something with a long name on his left wing, a little bump, which she said was like an ingrown feather, and to just watch it to see if it gets larger. She didn't think that was why he was flipping that wing, but it's possible.

Dr. Z said that she saw what I saw in his eyes -- some of that brightness is gone. Of all my birds, Nicholas has always been the most "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed." Fearless and curious and nosey and has never met a stranger.

Dr. Z said she could give me some meds that are anti-inflammatory if I thought he might be in pain, but I can't tell -- you know how aggravating these parrots are about expressing their feelings. Then she said she'd rather wait till we see what the kidney values are like, which will be tomorrow.

$245.00. Nicholas can't die for a long time -- I haven't got my money's worth out of him yet.

Right now he's on his heated perch, preening, as pretty and normal as you please. He's quite aware that it's past his bedtime and that I'm not going to do a thing about it.

Little Nicholas is my miracle rescue bird. We don't know how old he is (between 16 and 23 years old) and his early history is unknown, but I'm certainly not ready for him to think about dying.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Craig's List

So I put an ad on Craig's List last night, in the Personals section. I used my account in case someone I know answers the ad. I was very frank in the ad -- just want to chat, should be intelligent and have a sense of humor, and not assume sexual favors will be bestowed just because we exchange enough e-mails, etc. I said if something happens between us we'll act like adults, but not to expect anything. After I read it I thought it was pretty hard ass and no one would respond.

So imagine my surprise to find two responses in my account. One evidently copy and pasted and barely looked at my ad, and the other one had read my post and thanked me for being frank.

Nothing ever comes of these ads, but I like to give them a try every year or so just to see. I know how cynical I sound but as I said in my ad, 99 percent of the men I've met and dated are liars, married, drunks, or druggies -- but I really enjoy the remaining one percent.


I found out today that Meijer's no longer sells birds, so I was so happy to go shopping there again. I got a weather station to replace the little one I've had for 10 years or so. I don't want to replace the old one, but it won't tell the temperature correctly anymore, no matter how I position to outside wire.

It rained most of yesterday and today, but this afternoon -- just as the news predicted -- the rain has turned cold, and the rain will probably turn to snow.

My birds have been wonderful, as usual. Charli eyes me warily whenever I have Sugar Franklin out, counting the minutes to be sure Sugar doesn't get more attention than Charli does. The Bobbsey Twins rarely come out of their cage, unless I deliberately take them out and put them on the play stand or play basket. Whereupon they immediately go into Sugar Franklin's cage to eat her food.

The Bobbsey Twins chew up these little toys as fast as I put them in the cage, so I bought 12 more. Then I realized that what they do is chew the balls off the plastic chain and watch the balls fall to the bottom of the cage. Where they stay.

So I put about 15 of the fallen balls into a bowl back in their cage, in hopes they'll chew them up.

I've got to write an article about cockatiels in the coming week -- and it's got to be around 1,000 words long. I think I know what I want to say, I just don't want to be preachy about it but it's not a subject you can treat lightly.

I'm not ready for snow. I need to buy a new winter coat, and I can't find one like the one I have, which I love. It has five pockets and a hood and is made of fabric and a warm lining and is car-coat length and has never failed me in the years I've had it. But I haven't been able to find one. I may have to break down and go to Sear's and see if they've got a Lands End one I can afford.

I know things change, all the time, but that doesn't mean I want to keep up with 'em.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Everywhere I Turn

Everyone I meet or talk to or communicate with online had the same reaction to Obama's election. Tears. Pride. Relief. Joy. Hope.

Hope where there has been none for nearly a decade. Hope that doesn't have to hide or be ashamed. Suddenly, it's okay to let it be known that we love our country and we want to build a better nation.

Obama brought us hope again, and now he is tapping into that. As was said on his web site -- after September 11, we were all dying to DO something. And what did Bush do with all that power and energy that was just raring to go? He told us to go shopping. Obama's site ( encourages everyone to let their story be known, to speak their vision of America, to see behind the scenes.

I imagine the servers for that site are straining from the traffic. And that gives me even more hope. Everyone has a story and everyone wants that story to be heard. Finally someone in Washington is listening.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Day After

I went to bed at 9:30 last night, unable to stare at the numbers on the television any longer.

When my clock radio clicked on this morning the first thing I heard was McCain saying they'd fought the good fight -- and I knew Obama had won.

I continued to listen and heard Obama say, "If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."

And I cried. Because I've nearly lost faith in this country many times, and I don't want to ever feel that way again.

This is a beginning that's finally on the right track, a new beginning for all of us -- not just the rich or powerful or connected. All of us.

"And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can."

Yes. We can.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Night

I voted (Obama, of course) this morning around 8; waited about 10 minutes. A couple of other precincts were in the same auditorium, and they had very long lines. In some parts of the city the wait was up to three hours.

Our state is known as a solid Republican state, though we have more registered Democrats than Republicans. We have had a very serious senatorial race going on in this state, and it seems to be neck and neck. I dislike both of the candidates so I didn't vote for either one.

A woman I know is winning the vote for a seat on the city council; I'm pleased because I know her well enough to know she'll do a good job.

I hear that voter turnout has been overwhelming all over the United States. My mother is a poll worker in her small rural county, and she said they were busy all day long, which is rare for them.

It's 7 o'clock now. The polls closed at 6. Now we wait.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Update on Effigy

Two men have been arrested for the effigy of Obama. It was reported on the news that they were remorseful and said it was just a prank that got out of hand. They said they got the idea from the Palin effigy in California that made the national news earlier this week.

If it was just a prank, why choose Obama -- a black man (half black and half white, remember)? Why not McCain or Biden or Palin?


As in not knowing anything of history, of what such a thing means to people of this state and this nation. Ignorance of how long and hard people have worked to overcome racism and sexism. Ignorance as in not being aware of how your behavior affects others, how a small act of hate or ignorance just sends out waves of more hate and ignorance.

I'm proud these guys were caught so quickly. It sends the message that such behavior will absolutely not be tolerated here, that we're a better people than some "prank."

Alex the Parrot; a Year Later

Last night I read Irene Pepperberg's new book, Alex & Me. An easy but emotional read for those of us who followed Pepperberg's work.

And last night Nightline did a segment on Alex.

A lot of us still miss Alex.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Someone placed an effigy of Barack Obama in a tree on our university's campus last night. With the neck in a noose.

I am ashamed and enraged that someone in this state would do such a thing.

Have we not learned anything about racism and hate in the past 50 years?

Who are these people who teach their children to hate people who are different from them?

Update: The president of the university sent out a strong letter to the university community, denouncing the act, as did the governor. Later on the afternoon news, the president, the governor, and the person who found the effigy all said that this does not represent the people of our state nor reflect badly on our state.

I did a Google on "effigy of Obama" and found this has been done on dozens of campuses across the country. So it is some small comfort that our state was not singled out.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

'Extinct' Cockatoo Rediscovered in Indonesia

Oct. 23, 2008 -- A species of cockatoo feared to have become extinct has been "rediscovered" with the sighting of a handful of breeding pairs on a remote Indonesian island, researchers said Thursday.

Ten Yellow-crested Abbott's cockatoos were found on the Masalembu archipelago off Java island, the Indonesian Cockatoo Conservation group said.

"We were excited when we found them in residential areas on Masakambing island," researcher Dudi Nandika said.

The group included four breeding pairs and two juveniles.

Despite the discovery the Yellow-crested Abbott's cockatoo (Cacatua sulphurea abbotti) remains the rarest species of the bird on earth, he said.

It hasn't been seen since scientists observed a group of five in 1999, researcher Dwi Agustina said.

It was assumed that number was too low for the cockatoos to reproduce and the species had died out, Agustina said.

The local population of the cockatoo has been threatened by hunting and capture for the pet trade.

link to story here

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Rain today and cold tonight. Cold forecast for tomorrow as well.

The rain is very welcome; we're in a moderate drought here, but other counties in the state are in a severe drought.

But the first of the autumn rains means summer is over. And I'm not ready.

I've started back with my piano lessons, which means learning chords and trying to get my fingers to stretch and move independently of each other. But during today's practice I actually played two songs in mostly correct time and with chords. Yea!

A friend had to put down her German Shepherd yesterday. Looking over this blog I realize how many deaths that have touched me in some way there have been this year. I'm in my mid-50s now, and I guess I should get used to it. But I don't think you ever get used to it.

My mom had her 79th birthday Tuesday. For several months now she's been saying, "In a year I'll be eighty years old!" in an alarmed voice. I told her she'd better be enjoying her 79th year rather than worrying about something a year away. An old boyfriend called her, but said he didn't realize it was her birthday. Their breakup was bad; they're both stubborn and contrary and they both need to lighten up a little. But it's her business, not mine. She and I are kinda taking bets to see if he calls again and asks her out.

As for the neighbors . . . this past weekend a white Cadillac was in the driveway. Last Friday I finally got an Obama/Biden yard sign and I stuck in the yard. A few days later I saw the neighbors (who live on the corner) had put one in their yard, right at the corner.

Then maybe Monday when I parked and opened the car door, two of the puppies (now a lot bigger) came running over. I knocked on their door and said their dogs were out; the young black woman who I never see outside anymore said they had let the dogs out, they hadn't "escaped" from the fenced-in yard. She apologized, and I said it was fine -- I just didn't know if they were supposed to be out or not. While we were talking the puppies were all over my feet, playing.

Charli is still picking at her leg feathers. I think/guess what's happened is that I give all my babies Nutriberries as a nighttime treat, plus Charli eats her veggies and so on plus my dinner, which means she isn't eating as much of her Harrison's high-potency. When she doesn't eat Harrison's high-potency, she plucks. So I'm cutting back on the Nutriberries and putting more Harrison's high-potency pellets in her Special Treat Dish. She ate them last night, so I've got my fingers crossed that's why she's plucking her little leg feathers.

Well, I need to go. Sugar Franklin is on my shoulder, demanding scritches.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


I uncovered Charli this morning and was dismayed to see about 40-50 down feathers on the bottom grate. Charli was in her Hide 'n Sleep, acting afraid.

I got her out and she seemed to be coming out of that poicephalus freeze I imagine she had been in. It scared me to death.

She's had night frights and been afraid before but she's never pulled out feathers. She just finished a big molt so the feathers weren't coming from molting.

She just has a well-bird exam last week and passed with flying colors -- as usual. About a year ago Dr. Z and I noticed Charli was chewing on her little legs. We don't know why; Dr. Z said it could be habit or anxiety and recommended lots of foraging for her. Many of the feathers on the floor of the cage this morning were those small leg feathers.

Last night I found some old treats she loves -- little balls made of strips of white stuff wrapped around a seed ball. It takes a lot of effort to get the strips off and get to the seed inside, but Charli is always up for the challenge. I thought maybe she was having a reaction to it, and that was causing the feather loss. So they went in the trash.

She soon came around to her normal self -- trying to chew up the table, climb everywhere, eat my important papers, and so on. She's fine now, or seems to be.

I baked a big batch of Harrison's Birdy Bread, which is always a hit. And every birdy in the house seemed to enjoy it.

Autumn seems to be here already. I'm not ready. But things are beautiful here in teh fall.

At chorus rehearsal tonight, O and I made arrangements to get back to my piano lessons. I'm meeting her at 5:30 on Tuesday -- I haven't practiced in so long I'm not even sure where middle C is!

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Things have been relatively quiet lately. All is quiet with the neighbors. A never-ending stream of those awful political ads for senator of our state. Got a haircut today, too short, like a man's haircut -- but it'll grow out soon enough (I hope). Got a pedicure and manicure today. Got a full tank of gas and enough food and supplies to keep me for a month if necessary, and enough bird foods for a month or so.

Not that I'm paranoid, you understand. If this sort of thing interests you, just Google for October 7, 2008 and/or for web bot project. Two other sites are and

I have no doubt we're on the verge of an economic collapse. We can't keep living on credit the way we have been (businesses, government, individuals) without paying the price -- so to speak.

If there's any doubt among my two or three readers -- I'm voting Obama. I cannot abide the thought of another four years of Bush in the guise of McCain. Several of my friends and I have been having a wonderful time exchanging links about Palin and the October 7 "event" and the economy. Things can look so bad you have to laugh or lose your mind.

My little birds are perfect, as always. Nicholas makes kissy noises after bedtime -- I think he's fussing at me for staying up past his bedtime. I've been keeping Sugar Franklin out longer than usual and giving her more scritches -- she's been short-tempered with me lately and I think maybe she's been shortchanged (or believes she's been shortchanged) on attention from me. She's responded well to this extra attention, though she still bites my ear once in awhile just because.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Neighbors, Neighbors, Neighbors

Saturday I happened to glance out the window at my backyard -- there were three or four of the neighbors' puppies playing and rolling around in the yard.

I walked over and the young black woman (whom I haven't seen for several weeks) came to the door and came out on the porch. About the same time the puppies came running across my front yard to the neighbors' front yard. I leaned down and petted one of them (they really are cute), while the young black woman apologized several times. The man who lives there watched all this from inside the living room.

Haven't seen the Asian looking woman for several days, though the red car she drives is parked in the street (presumably so the man can get his big copper-colored truck in and out of the driveway).

More news as it happens!

The picture of two baby cockatiels is from I figured a picture of baby cockatiels would nicely complement a small story about puppies.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman

If there was ever an actor with class, it was Paul Newman. A magnificent actor, a man married to the same woman for 50 years, a creator of a successful charity, a fast race car driver . . . .

And he never had to appear on Entertainment Tonight to show himself off. Very few actors have the kind of natural presence he had.

As handsome at 83 as he was at 25, I've loved every movie of his I've seen -- I'm sure I haven't seen them all and I guess there'll be a run on his movies at the video stores for awhile.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Neighbors & Bailing Out Wall St

I had what I thought was a friendly moment with the Asian looking woman this afternoon. She had come out of the house to put some mail in their mailbox just as I was coming in from work. Five of the puppies followed her out the door. They wandered over to my yard and she frantically tried to shoo them back to her yard. I complimented the puppies several times; they really were cute little things, and I asked what breed they were. She said they were "blue pits," and she was going to sell them for a friend.

I am extremely unhappy about this bailout of Wall Street. Thanks to Reagan's deregulation and "trickle down" theory and the Republicans gorging at the public trough, we've all been getting screwed for decades now. And now these guys want the government to bail them out; they want a blank check and they want it right now. Just ask Paulson; he'll tell you the economy will tank if Congress doesn't bail them out within a week.

And what, exactly, are we, the lowly taxpayer, getting out of this? (Pass the vaseline, please.) I've watched my 401(k) drop by nearly half this year, most of the losses from the past four months. I'll never be able to retire with what I and my employer contribute to my 401(k) as long as this crap keeps happening. Yes, I know eventually the economy will turn around, but how many years will it take?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ken Globus

Ken Globus' methods were decried by numerous parrot behavior consultants because those methods depended on the technique of flooding, but there are several parrot owners out there who found his techniques effective through all the years he practiced.

Ken Globus: March 7, 1946 - Sept. 10, 2008
The Bird Whisperer

Dear Friends:
This will come as a surprise to many people who didn't know he was ill, but Ken Globus passed away on September 10th. Ken, who hadn't been a smoker for about 25 years, was diagnosed with lung cancer that had spread to his esophagus. What's truly shocking is that, between his original diagnosis and his death, only 10 weeks had elapsed.

Most of you are receiving this email because you're on his mailing list. So most of you know him as The Bird Whisperer.

Here are some things you may not know about how Ken got started working with aggressive and phobic birds. Our parents used to own a tropical fish store in Inglewood, California. One day, our mother cleared out some space in the store and asked Ken what he thought would be a good idea to put there. Ken thought about it, then suggested that they might start carrying a few birds. Since our parents knew nothing about birds, they put Ken in charge, and he got to work reading books and researching bird behavior before he bought his first bird for the store. Keep in mind that, in those days, almost all birds sold in stores were wild caught, not bred in captivity - so they were usually pretty terrified and unruly. What Ken discovered - to his great surprise - was that very little of the advice in the bird books was appropriate for dealing with aggressive birds. So, through trial and error, he learned how to work with them.

One of the many qualities that made Ken so successful with birds was his patience - he could simply persist until a bird decided that being aggressive wasn't working to drive Ken away. Another quality that served him so well was his flexibility - if one thing didn't work to calm a bird, he'd try something else until he made progress. (Parenthetically, it's a quality that also made him a great father.)

When my parents reached an age when they were no longer able to run a demanding business, Ken went out on his own, doing private training sessions for bird owners. It was at one of those sessions where an immensely grateful client said, "Ken, you really are a bird whisperer."

Ken called me and mentioned the incident, and I suggested he use the name The Bird Whisperer because I thought it would quickly convey what he was capable of doing. But he was reluctant to use the name because he thought some people might think it was a bit pretentious. As a marketer, I reasoned that, at the very least, it was very easy for people to remember, where Ken Globus was not. He finally agreed.

Over the years, a lot has been written and said about Ken's techniques. You are certainly free to dismiss what I'm about to say as the biased rantings of a grieving brother, but I was simply blown away by what Ken was able to do with birds. I traveled with him both to private sessions and public workshops, and I watched him calm birds that couldn't even be touched by their owners. I saw people sobbing at the the sight of Ken stroking a bird's neck, a bird who wouldn't allow even its owner to come near it for over a decade. And I saw this happen many times.

His bird-training sessions really picked up when he set up his web site. For the first time, people outside of the Los Angeles area where he lived could get a sense of what his techniques were all about. He began to be interviewed by news organizations, magazines and newspapers, all of them interested in how he was able to tame birds so quickly. He was hired by zoos, bird stores, and rescue organizations to deal with birds they'd given up on. And somewhere along the line, Ken got a phone call from a woman who identified herself as Kate Capshaw. Thinking it was a joke perpetrated by one of his friends, Ken hung up on her. She called back and informed him that she and her husband, Steven Spielberg, would like Ken to come to their house for a private session. He gulped, and agreed. And as Ken showed Kate how to handle the bird, Steven walked all around him with a video camera, recording the entire hour-long session. Talk about pressure!

Through his many interviews and public appearances, Ken got to be pretty adept at dealing with one kind of pressure or another. The type that gave him the biggest problem came from his detractors who often wrote vicious and totally untrue things about him, and he would sometimes forward to me the more outrageous items. Usually we would giggle like schoolgirls, but I found some of these things to be appallingly mean-spirited, and I would want him to post an angry rebuttal. But, for the most part, he wouldn't. He simply felt that these people were uninformed. I always thought that was a most charitable way of looking at it, especially considering that many of the most shamelessly idiotic things were perpetrated by some of the more authoritative people in the bird world, people who felt more comfortable sniping at him from a distance rather than bothering to actually attend one of his events. But I digress.

What Ken was able to do with birds wasn't magic. Ken was just an incredibly sensitive and intuitive person who, in a very short span of time, could figure out the best way to get a bird over its fears. At this I'm fairly certain there were few like him.

I can also tell you that as a brother, there were none like him. He was kind, funny, incredibly bright, supportive, generous, and courageous - qualities he displayed up to his dying breath.

Last week there was an occasion I'll never forget. It was only a few days after his passing, and my wife wanted to put together a "remembrance", where a few friends could gather to talk about what Ken meant to them. Even though this was thrown together at the last minute, over 60 of his friends showed up, and I'm certain that, given enough time, a few hundred might have been there. Ken was loved and appreciated by so many people. There were folks there from various stages of his life, all relating stories about Ken that helped to paint a complete picture of him. And what a picture it was!

He was a great guy. A talented man who could do so many things well. And he was my best friend for 57 years.

- Dennis Globus

Neighbors (again)

Let's see -- the young black woman hasn't been seen in several weeks, but the young Asian looking woman has evidently taken up residence.

A month or so ago an older white woman was visiting or staying there, and there was a big metal milk crate full of gray puppies, all squeezed in there together. It was hot, and they had no water or food -- just sitting out in the front yard, yelping like puppies do.

A couple of times I've seen the Asian woman with one or two of the puppies (now nearly grown, though I don't know the breed) out in the side yard. When we make eye contact I always smile, but we rarely make eye contact. In fact, it seems to me she gathers up the dog(s) and puts them inside when she sees me, but that could be my imagination.

The dog, Champ, who gets loose all the time is generally kept in the house, and barks a lot when he's in the backyard.

When I got home from work the copper colored truck had all its doors opened. There were two toddlers in the back seat and the man who lives there had one of the gray dogs, but I didn't stop to see if he took it in or put it in the truck. He closed the back doors, climbed into the driver's seat, and the Asian woman locked the front door and got in the passenger side of the truck. And off they went.

I don't know if they're breeding dogs or what. And I don't much care.

Work was fine until the Evil Committee -- I've made it clear to my supervisor that I want a transfer. She's promised to help, if anything comes up on the job sheet. I'm also requesting a job reclassification in order to get some more money; if I have to put up with certain people on a regular basis and can't get transferred, I deserve a hell of a lot more money than I'm getting now.

This weekend I added my name to Google Alerts, just in case someone out there is using my name in vain. I have a name that is not very popular or common, so I've only gotten three or four alerts -- all obituaries.

Charli and Sugar Franklin are having snits now. I had them both out for awhile until the pizza arrived. So I put them back so they could have some crust with me. Now, neither one wants to come out and let me scritch their head. Even the Bobbsey Twins are ignoring me.

Charli is due for her annual well-bird exam next Tuesday.

Wonder if my babies have forgiven me yet . . . .

Update: Little Flash just flew over to me from his cage, unbidden. I picked him up and gave him my daily little kiss and thanked him for coming over and cheering me up. I'm a lucky girl.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Jim BH called me this morning; he's my writing teacher/mentor. He seemed out of breath and when I asked he said he thought he'd told me -- he has rheumatoid arthritis-associated pulmonary fibrosis. I knew about the arthritis, but not this. No treatment, no cure. And yes, it's fatal if it progresses. He said he's been pretty stable but really about all he can do is sit. He said he does walk around the house, very slowly, a few times a day.

He's breaking my heart.

I still think of him as that man who'd bring in a jug of wine to class, and we'd all sit around drinking and smoking and talking about one another's poems. Then after class we'd all go over to Tolly Ho's to eat greasy cheeseburgers and drink pitchers of beer and talk about poetry and writing. I took his poetry classes for years, two semesters a year. He changed my life.

Now of course, a teacher would be fired for bringing alcohol to class, and I guess if the administration knew then they would have fired him. But we never told anyone. And smoking is prohibited damn near everywhere these days.

He won teacher of the year once, and he was our state poet laureate for a year. His work was published in numerous magazines, and one of his books was nominated for some high-level prize that I've forgotten the name of. He and wife had a big party, invitation only, to celebrate the nomination. One year he brought his own work to class, not only for feedback, but to show us that he struggled with the same poetry and language things we did. The few people who didn't love him respected him highly, and still do. But the number of people who loved him and love him still far outnumber the others.

He lives far out in the country, beyond the interstates and state roads, with his wife, who has published three novels herself. He used to have his special students out for dinner, including me, where we ate wonderful meals and drank too much wine and talked about writing and writers. He was friends with a lot of writers, many of whom would visit for a day or so, but who are dead now.

The wind is howling outside this afternoon, and the leaves of the trees are showing their undersides -- precursors to a huge storm, though the tail end of Ike isn't supposed to reach us at all. Romantic that I am, I assume it's the universe's way of sympathizing with my pain at his illness. Sometimes the wind can howl far better than I.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thursday Blues

Between dying cockatiels and the black hole of despair at work I'm starting to get depressed.

Luckily, coming home and scritching birds helps lower my blood pressure. I was thinking perhaps I should go down to the crossroads at midnight, like Robert Johnson, and sell my soul to the devil. But what would I ask for since he's already got the lock on the blues?

I watched Charlie Gibson's interview with Sarah Palin on ABC News tonight. She had the audacity to twist Lincoln's words to explain her statement that the war was a "task from God" in her church. Lincoln must be turning in his grave. When asked what she thought of Bush's doctrine, she stopped dead and then, recalling her obvious coaching, said, "What aspect of it?" Translation: She had no clue what he was talking about.

God help us, every one.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Only people who live with parrots can understand why this is such an endearing picture. There's nothing much cuter than a really wet parrot.

This is Tweety, who owned Jenn, for 13 years. Tweety died after a long illness on Monday, September 8.

People who have never lived with parrots cannot understand. Yes, it's devastating to lose a loved pet, but parrots are different. Parrots are not like dogs or cats or reptiles or rabbits or guinea pigs. Parrots are mostly smarter than we are. They're the descendants of dinosaurs. They teach us to play complex games with them. They talk to us in our language. They scheme for ways to trick us and amuse us. They fly. Mostly, they're the magic we deserve to have in our lives.

Nearly everyone on Tiel Talk cried with and encouraged Jenn through Tweety's illness and trips to the vet, and we rejoiced when Tweety improved and became her mischievous self again. We understand because we live with parrots, too.

Jenn was so lucky to have Tweety for so long, and Tweety was so lucky to have Jenn for so long. Jenn is a better person for having had Tweety. And I imagine Tweety was a better bird because of Jenn.

Jenn's house is silent now, that awful terrible silence left behind when the magic goes away.

But Jenn will always have some of that magic in her heart in a special light place, even though she can't see it right now or even comprehend that she'll survive the grief.

Those of us who share our lives with parrots have all been given great gifts of magic and wonder. And even though the loss is unbearable what remains is a gift of love, a connection to nature and to the higher parts of ourselves. It is an honor and a blessing to live with parrots, no matter how short the time seems.

Rest in peace, little Tweety. We loved you well.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


I'm scheduled to report for jury duty at 9:00 a.m. Monday.

This morning I woke up at 7:38, and realized I'd overslept and would barely barely be able to get downtown in time. So I raced through a shower and went into the bedroom to throw on my clothes -- and then stopped. The radio, which I keep tuned to NPR, was playing a little tune they only play for a Sunday morning program.

Sunday? I thought back to last night -- I'd fallen asleep waiting for Mad TV, which comes on Saturday night. I checked the date on my computer. Yes! And to be 100 percent sure, I opened my front door and found the big Sunday paper awaiting me. It was Sunday and I didn't have to be anywhere.


So I did a piece of writing I hope sells. I've been playing with birds, and reading some essays. And had a nice, well-earned nap.

Charli and Sugar Franklin both are molting -- green and yellow feathers all over the place, and those little wisps of white down feathers occasionally floating through the air.

A bit too hot to be out much today, but I'm perfectly happy the way I am. Chorus rehearsal is at six, so I'll go to that. A bunch of us will probably go out to eat afterward -- a perfect ending to a perfect Sunday.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Day before yesterday a distraught man wrote into Tiel Talk; his little male cockatiel (a new daddy) was gasping and acting weakened. The area was in the middle of a storm and most of the town had evacuated. He called vets as far as three hours away -- none of them treated birds or had already evacuated. Then the power went out. All day yesterday and last night all of us worried about that poor little bird.

This morning I see he wrote in to say he hadn't been able to find a vet and that the bird had died gasping for breath. He said he dug a hole to bury the little thing, and cried like a baby. As far as I can tell, the hen is okay.

I tell you, if one of my birds was sick or died, I'd just have to lay down and die myself. I do not think I could bear it. I am so lucky that one of the region's best (if not THE best) avian vets is right here in town, and she knows me and my birds.

So let this be a lesson for you readers out there -- if you don't have an avian vet, go find one now.

Most vets study chickens in vet school, and parrots are not chickens. Which is to say that most vets don't handle birds in their practice, or worse, are willing to "practice" on birds brought to them without the necessary training and education. Take your parrots now to an avian vet so there's a history and a file on them -- if/when there's an emergency your bird probably won't have time to wait while you go searching for an avian vet.

On a more positive note, sort of, I trimmed everyone's feathers last night. All the birds are quite angry with that white dishcloth that "trapped" them so I could do the deed.

I need to take more pictures, especially of Flash. He has the longest crest I've ever seen, and it curls right at the top. Too cute for words. I read somewhere that cockatiels are inordinately proud of their crests -- I think they're inordinately proud of everything about themselves.

And that's as it should be.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Neighborly Update

The dark maroon sedan is gone. The big copper-colored truck is back as is the red car. I saw the young Asian-looking woman getting out of the red car as I was picking up my mail yesterday. I haven't seen the young black woman for two weeks or so.

The dog is in their backyard tonight, barking like crazy at 8:30 pm. We have noise ordinances that include barking dogs.

Perhaps I should write a soap opera, based on the neighbors.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


The copper-colored truck and the red car have been gone for several days now. This morning there was a dark maroon sedan with in-state plates in the driveway.

On second thought, I probably don't want to know what's going on over there.

Got an appointment to get little Nicholas' toenails cut tomorrow; his front nails always grow so long and so fast. The vet and I can't figure it out. Of course, the appointment just happens to be at the same time as the rescheduled Evil Committee meeting. Oh dear me . . .

Friday, August 22, 2008

Flash's Story

I deliberately went to the local bird club's bird fair with only a debit card and maybe $15 in cash. It was maybe four or five years ago. I had two birds: Sugar Franklin and Charli. I wasn't going to let myself become a victim of MBS (multiple bird syndrome).

It was a great day -- lots of beautiful parrots and toys and cages and toys and treats and toys. Baby parrots, breeder parrots, pet parrots.

I stopped by a cage full of baby cockatiels. The birds, the man at the table told me, were from a friend who had died. He raised English budgies and didn't know much about cockatiels.

He pointed out one of the babies and praised the bird for playing with toys and climbing all over the cage. "He's like that all the time," the man said. "My niece feeds him Cheerio's through the cage every day. He likes Cheerios's."

I listened politely and said I wasn't going to buy any birds, and then I turned away.

"I'm willing to come down on the price," he called.

I lifted my hand in farewell and went on to admire the parrots at the next table.

Later as I walked back by the man and his cockatiels, he stopped me and said he'd sell him to me for only $50. I stood at the cage for a long time and watched the bird interact with his cagemates. He was pretty active, I thought. But I summoned up all my strength and again said no, I already had all the birds I could handle.

I walked away, feeling very good about myself. I went outside to get some fresh air and thought about the little cockatiel the man was willing to sell for only $50.

A little later I went back inside to pick up some more toys, and I had to pass the man and his cockatiels.

"Here he is!" the man said. "Just $50." I shook my head. I glanced at the cage. He really was a cute cockatiel.

I went on and the man followed me. "I really need to sell these cockatiels and I won't take him home with me." I couldn't imagine what he would do if he didn't sell the bird.

"I only have $5 on me," I said. "Sorry."

"I'll take it," he exclaimed. "I'll give you my card and you can just mail me the rest."

Before I could say no again, I was holding a ragged box with the baby cockatiel in it.

I had an extra cage at home, so I got things set up quickly and turned the bird loose in it. I placed the cage in my study for quarantine, then called Dr. Z for a baby bird check. He was about 6 months old.

He was such a sweet baby bird -- hungry for scritches and curious. He had, I saw for the first time, a crooked beak. But he didn't seem to have trouble eating.

I watched him for a few days before naming him. At one point he was out of the cage and flew over to the table with the play stand. It happened in a flash, so that's what I named him.

Dr. Z gave me the bad news -- Flash tested positive for pssiticosis (I know I'm spelling that wrong) and he would have to receive treatment. Because all my birds shared the same air system the other two would have to be treated, too.

I called the man to tell him that his entire flock was probably infected, but he said his birds were healthy, nothing wrong with them. I explained that pssiticosis could be passed to humans, but he was "sure" his birds were fine. He hung up on me.

Flash was maybe a year or two old when Nicholas came into the house, and that was about the time Flash decided he didn't like being touched and liked me even less. He wasn't impressed with Nicholas either, despite Nicholas' joy at being with other cockatiels. Flash was and still is very interested in Sugar Franklin, but she thinks she's human and doesn't like any other birds (I blame myself).

So that's where things stand with Flash these days. He refuses to let me touch him and hisses mightily if I get too near. Everyday I "force" him to step up and take him to the basket stand or the study to be with Nicholas and Sugar Franklin, which he tolerates so he can get out of his cage. But he almost always makes heart wings at me when I'm near the cage, protected by the bars, and will often come to the bars to listen to me telling him what a big boy he is, if I'm a safe enough distance away.

I love Flash in a special way, even though he'll probably never really warm up to me.

Sometimes I offer him a Cheerio through the cage bars.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Close Call

I went outside to pick up my mail. A woman was walking her big lab on the other side of the street. We waved at one another, though I have no idea who she was.

I turned back to my driveway, looking through the junk mail. I heard a dog barking furiously, so I took one step into the grass of my yard and leaned over to see if it was the neighbor's dog.

It was. He/she was going crazy with the barking and had been tied to what looked like a coiled, wrapped wire. He rushed out at me but the wire held. For a moment. Then the stake came loose from the ground, and he ran toward me.

I froze, though I was telling myself to move! move! move! I remembered the young black woman telling me he wouldn't bite anyone, that he was very friendly. But this creature flying toward me and barking didn't look very friendly. He was running so fast that his feet didn't even touch the ground. The neighbor's dog noticed the other dog while he was about three feet from me, so he headed off toward the woman and her dog who were now on the corner, watching in horror. This entire event took maybe thirty seconds.

I ran to the neighbor's front porch and rang the bell about 4 times. The man came to the door (I noticed he wasn't that old and was, in fact, pretty good looking).

"Your dog has gotten loose and is chasing me and that other dog," I said, pointing to the woman who was pulling her dog away. The neighbor's dog was just barking but not making any threatening moves toward the woman and her dog.

"Come here, Champ," the black man called. He came outside and headed to the corner.

"I'm sure he's friendly," I said, "but it's scary to have him chase you like that."

"Come on, Champ," he called again. We didn't speak further.

I went on into my house and tried to get my blood pressure back to normal. I've never been attacked by an animal before, though I've been bitten. It was a horrible feeling.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Schedule at Vermont

Several people have asked what it was like at Vermont as far as the conference went. Here's the basic schedule:

7:30 to 8:30
Breakfast (kitchen closed at 8:30, but you could linger in the dining room)

8:45 to 9:45
bookstore open (most of the time and at other random times)

10:00 to noon

Noon to 12:30

1:45 to 2:45
lectures or private conferences with faculty

3:00 to 4:45

5:30 to 6:00

7:00 to 7:45
participant (student) readings

8:00 to 9ish
faculty readings (with wonderful brownies and apple cider)


8:00 to whenever
hosted parties or ice cream socials, etc.

If you had a car and/or willing friends, go downtown to Julio's to drink beer and eat nachoes. Otherwise, go to your room and collapse on the bed, declaring you're going to get some sleep tonight only to lay awake until 1 reading one of the books you've bought at the bookstore.

Multiply by six days.

No TV or newspapers or radio around in the dorms, and would be unwelcome even if they were around. Some of us got news from in the computer lab; most of us didn't care what was happening in the world. Each day felt like a week, literally.

Most everyone in my workshop stuck together; we all tended to get up early and have breakfast together (along with other folks, of course), then sit together for lunch and dinner, and sit together if we attended the same lectures.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Last Vacation Day

Last vacation day for awhile. Tomorrow I have to go back to that Evil Place and shuffle papers. Oh well, things could be worse.

I feel a lot better than I did earlier. Just needed more sleep, I guess.

Heard from DF today; haven't heard from him in a long time. He's doing well, and we both promised we'd do better about staying connected. The sad thing is that we both really, really mean it.

I thought I heard the dog next door barking Thursday night, when I got home, but I haven't heard it since. Or seen it. I hope they're keeping it inside, not letting it run loose in hopes it'll run away and no longer be a problem for them. Maybe they don't know what happens when a dog ends up in the pound. Cute dog, too; kinda boxer and mutt mix -- loud bark but very friendly. People who don't take care of their animals are not people I want to know.

Finished maybe half of The Gift, and I highly recommend it to anyone with any amount of creativity whatsoever -- which means everyone. It's about, as Baron put it, the anthropology of poetry, but it's about more than that. It's a way of understanding and learning to live with what is valued in our society and what is not -- without diminishing the two.

And I am still trudging through The Art of the Personal Essay by Philip Lopate. It's in choronological order, and around about RL Stevenson I skipped ahead. The language in the earlier English stuff is too ornate for me, though I appreciate its value within its own time. I liked Seneca and the early Greek works.

I dread going back to work and seeing the English language butchered by people who truly believe themselves to be great editors and writers. When in reality they don't have a clue. Take capitalization, for example. The title of a job is NOT capitalized unless it's directly attached to the person holding that job. Chief medical officer is not capitalized unless it's Alice Doe, Chief Medical Officer. Yet these poor souls capitalize stuff like that repeatedly. More suck-up value. They don't capitalize nurse or technician or manager (and consistency is the first thing you learn as an editor). And when I refuse to capitalize non-proper nouns I get told I'm wrong and don't know what I'm talking about and to just do what the ignorant tell me to do. I refer them to any book on basic grammar, but of course, they already know everything and don't need to look it up.

I've heard people say that any noun preceded by "the" is automatically a proper noun and should be capitalized. And any title is a proper noun. Where on earth do people get this stuff?

A lot of it is stylistic, based on who makes the most money. Nurse isn't capitalized because they're mostly women and don't make as much as the male chief medical officer. It's as simple as that.

Earlier this year I came across a blog about Humphrey the parrot. His last entry was about being moved from England to America, and about being sick after quarantine. At least once every week or so I'd check on the blog to see how he was doing, but there were never any updates. The latest issue of Bird Talk reprinted some correspondence about a woman adopting a special needs bird of the same species as her parrot Humphrey, who had died six days after the last date of the blog. I wrote Bird Talk to forward a note to her. It was obvious from the blogs how loved and cherished Humphrey was, and when the owner said he was the light of her life and that his death devastated her, I knew she wasn't exaggerating. I'll take his blog off my bookmark list now.

I decided, at 10:47 am, to go to the movies today. It always feels so decadent to go to the movies during a work day. I went to see Brideshead Revisited, which I haven't seen in decades -- so long ago with Jeremy Irons that I'd forgotten what it's about.

Why is it that great literary works of art nearly always involve dysfunctional families?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Settling Back In

Went out for breakfast again; I got up too late to make the Farmer's Market and avoid the crowds. So after breakfast I went to the Good Foods Coop for some eggs and bread and bacon. I also got two bottles of melatonin since I put my usual bottle away somewhere "safe" (where I'll never find it again) and a half gallon of Newman's lemonade. I also got some homeopathic Boiron rhus toxicodendron for joint pain that improves with motion, 12 power. I don't know if 12 is stronger than 20 or not. Wouldn't it be great if I could get off piroxicam for pain altogether?

I haven't felt as perky as usual since I got home. Sore throat at night, dizziness during the day, continuing bad balance, exhaustion. I have a three-inch circle bruise high on my left shoulder, from the fall at Ellen's. Probably the airline air and change in routine and not getting enough sleep.

I received both The Gift by Lewis Hyde and The Art of the Personal Essay by what's-his-name from, so I've been reading, without the TV. In fact, I only turned on the TV last night to watch Legally Blonde, just for fun and because I was tired of reading.

TV is okay, but it's too easy to watch it or have it on all the time. I've been keeping it on during the day for the birds, so when I get home I automatically plop down on the couch and before I know it, it's eleven o'clock. Lately I've been leaving the TV off on weekends and just having NPR on. The weekends feel longer and better to me when I do that. So I think I'll just leave the radio on for the birds while I'm at work.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Home Again, Home Again

I unlocked the front door and took a few steps into the front hall. "Is anybody home?" I asked, as I often do.


I took a few more steps into the living room and looked at the cages. "Isn't anybody here?"

Stunned silence for maybe a full 20 seconds, then an alarming amount of chirping and calling.

I made a big fuss over seeing them, then went out to the car to get the rest of my stuff. They called after me, loudly, as if I might not come back.

Charli, I think, has been most affected. She's been watching me and hanging upside down, and also making a big show of eating a grape. She'll stop whatever she's doing once in awhile and just stare at me with those big dark liquid eyes.

Sugar keeps looking at me and chirping, while running back and forth.

The Bobbsey Twins, though chirping, don't seem to care one way or the other.

Got the shuttle yesterday morning at six; Leslie Ullman and another woman were passengers,too, so we talked about living in Taos, this other woman retiring as a physician, and me as a parrot behavior consultant.

The airline trip home was the usual wretched experience, but all the flights were on time.

Stopped by Wal-Mart this morning to do the one-hour photo delivery (I slept a good solid twelve hours last night), but their machine is broken and it may be a day or more. Then I went to one of my favorite breakfast places for an omelet. Instead of the usual home fries, I substituted fruit -- which turned out to be a bowl of red grapes (which I don't care for) and two tiny scraps of pineapple and three tiny chips of cantelope. I insisted on a better balance of fruits, and got it.

Had my first iced tea, unsweetened, no lemon in seven days. My life can continue now.

Stopped at Kroger's. Got a box of pre-washed mixed lettuces, some carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, apples, mushrooms, and grapes for me and the birds. Got some fresh blueberries, raspberries, and strawberry halves for Charli -- she loves fruit and the more expensive the better.

During one of my calls back home to L, she said the humane society left a big red warning tag on my door about my dog being unlicensed and wandering around the neighborhood, that a complaint had been filed about it.

I don't have a dog.

I knew, of course, it was meant for the neighbors. Their dog got out once and I told the young black woman who lives there; she apologized. I said I wasn't complaining, but I was sure she didn't want him running all over the place.

So when I got home yesterday, I marked through my house number and wrote in theirs. I rang the bell once since the big copper-colored truck was in the drive, but no one answered. So I left it hanging on the door handle. About an hour later I noticed it was gone. This morning there are two new cars in the drive. What on earth goes on over there?

Gotta go start dealing with all this dirty laundry!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


We took Baron out to dinner tonight. We laughed a lot, everyone with their own peculiar sense of humor. I stayed for Leslie Ullman's poetry reading (which left me exactly as I was when she began) and then went back for the "farewell reception." I talked with Pam for a bit. I said, "I guess there's no point in saying keep in touch, huh?" But she said yes, that she was good about that sort of thing. Baron stopped by to say goodbye, then Pam and I talked a bit about her poetry.

Naturally I've been feeling nostalgic and sad all evening -- exorcising ghosts always leaves some emptiness behind. But at least I'm not a crying mess about leaving the way I was in January of 1989.

I realize I have to rework some of the poems in the middle section of my book, based on Baron's workshop, before Charlie goes to press with it. Luckily, he gave me until the end of the year.

Then I called L to check on the birds and the state of things at home, and when I hung up I realized I was homesick. I miss my birds. I miss my little house and its little piles of clutter, my Irish shamrock plant, my keyboard and music books, my piles of books. I miss my mother calling and talking forever about her sisters and her church and the neighbors. But most especially I miss my birds. I want to kiss little Sugar Franklin's yellow breast feathers, which she pretends to hate; I want to feel Charli jump onto my shoulder from the back of the couch; I want to watch Nicholas and Flash scurry from the basket stand to get to Sugar's cage so they can eat her food and play with her toys (all exactly like the food and toys in their cage, but still).

The shuttle will be picking me up at six tomorrow morning to take me to the Burlington airport and, if the airline gods are smiling, I'll be home by two.

Homesick. As simple and profound as that.

Last Day

I was sitting outside the Stone Science building, watching a far-off soccer game on the quad and the occasional person walking down the sidewalk. So many of these people seem so close and intimate yet I'll forget their names in a few days, forget what they looked like, what we talked about. Six such intense days. Even if we stay in touch, as we say we will, it will all be different.

Baron was, as always, wonderful in our last workshop. I asked if you shouldn't "know" what a poem was about, the subject matter of it. Just like JBH, he said no. That was the thing about art; it isn't necessary to "know" or to figure out the "meaning." He said in his two books on writing poetry the word "mean" does not appear; it isn't important. Just like JBH always kept telling me and I keep forgetting. Open yourself to the experience without judgement; that's how you grow. To search for meaning is reductive, Baron said. To be open is expansive.

I asked him how to know when a piece of writing is an essay or a poem, and he said it would become obvious the more I wrote.

I can't get over how much like JBH he is. They laugh in the same places of discussion, they both come from the same sensibilities.

When will I learn and remember that things fall into place in their own time? Baron came, completely unexpected and unplanned, at just the perfect time.

As I expected, he said to unpack the poem "Return," and to write more about the last two stanzas of "River Blues." And here I was certain that "River Blues" was finished. But I can see his point and even see now where I could expand it to make it more powerful.

Write more, he told me during our conference. He said what marked the professional from the amateur was the use of big words like "time," "world," "justice," "we." That amateurs indicated, filled in the blanks, used a kind of shorthand rather than delving deeper into the language. I swear I learned more this week than I did in one whole semester getting my MFA. And that's saying a lot.

He lives here in Vermont, in a round house. He said it made him more aware of the space around him. And that he only does these types of workshops once or twice a year, so it doesn't get boring.

A beautiful day today, sunny. Last night I went to the ice cream social. Yep, they served Ben & Jerry's. I got some butter pecan and walked back to Dewey Hall with Cathy. Everyone was going to tell ghost stories, but I didn't want to stay and listen. I figured if they told a ghost story about Dewey Hall I'd lay awake all night thinking about it. Instead I started packing.

Last night I got online and ordered $71.00 worth of Nutriberries and those little chew toys the cockatiels like, especially Flash. sigh . . . .

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Where to Start . . . .

It's Tuesday, and still raining in the mornings and nights and sunny during the day.

Sunday night was Ellen Lesser's party, which was fun except that I fell down on those awful rock steps, wet, and in the dark. But no damage was done (and no, I wasn't drunk).

Last night they had a jazz band come in and an open bar. Several of us got up to read poems while Tony (the trombone player), the sax player, and the pianist did jazz riffs or various renditions as background. Everyone's work was so good heard that way. Near the end I finally let myself be talked into reading. I read "Dancing with Prozac," and I'd told Tony to play something black humorish and ironic. He did, though I have no idea what song it was. Kathleen began laughing so hard she was literally falling out of her seat, which made those around her laugh, and then I started laughing while I was reading. Cathy read a wonderful poem about her friend Jane not having a husband or even dates, and how all these men should be filling Jane's mailbox and answering machine with notes and calls and so on. And when Jane would finally get married all the other men would gather behind Cathy, holding their roses and boxes of candy, watching Jane drive off, all looking the same way. Droll and hysterical with that flat language and matter of fact tone.

Had my private conference with Baron yesterday, and it was much shorter than scheduled, which was okay. He said his instinct and based on the work I'd sent in was that I should really think about doing personal essays, that all the work I'd sent in could be "unpacked" and easily developed into essay form. He didn't imply that they weren't already poems or couldn't be poems, but that I might find the essay form a lot more freeing. I think I'll give it a try. God knows I write enough letters. Then we talked about JBH (my mentor), who Baron knows and likes.

Today's workshop was fun; we all laughed a lot. We're taking Baron out to dinner tomorrow night (our last day). I told him we were going to get him drunk and make him speak Latin. He gave the most extraordinary reading last night -- one of the best I've ever heard, and I'm not saying that because I like him. Two women from our workshop and I decided we'd do The Wave at him when he got up to read, but we all chickened out.

Tonight after the evening readings there's the "bonfire and ice cream social," only they've had to cancel the bonfire part because the ground's so wet. They mentioned Ben & Jerry's ice cream and we've decided they'd better not bring us any other kind of ice cream since we're in Vermont where Ben & Jerry's is located.

I called L yesterday to check on my babies. She said Charli bit her the first night, but she'd since warmed up and was happily playing and chirping, and that Sugar Franklin and the Bobbsey Twins were also doing great. And here I was hoping, in a way, that they missed me. Seriously, I suspect they do miss me, but L brings them lots of treats and they're certainly no fools about treats.

I found Antonya Nelson in the computer lab and asked her sign her book for me. This afternoon Sue Silverman is doing a lecture and I'm going to have her sign her book for me, too. Sue's Love Sick is an astonishingly good book, though it's subject matter is scary and risky. Antonya's book of short stories, Fun, is excellent, too.

And, of course, I bought two of Baron's books -- The Road Washes Out in the Spring: Living Off the Grid, which is good; and his chapbook about a made-up character named Carthage who's the prez of the US. And he graciously signed them for me this morning. I'm planning to read Off the Grid on the flight home.

Well, gotta go get ready for Sue's lecture on "Savory Metaphors."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Birdie Postcards

These are cute -- and free!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Baron Wormser

Though I imagined he might have a royal emblem stitched on his shirts or something, he turns out to be a nice, intense middle-aged man.

He doesn't use the usual Iowa Model in the workshops. Instead, he has someone else read your poem, then he asks questions of the class (you have to be silent, of course). Where is the narrator in this poem and what, if anything, has happened to the narrator. Why is this a poem and not an essay? Where in the poem does the ending begin? And so on. Very intense and articulate. The class responds to this very well, though occasionally someone will slip back into "Well, I feel the image in this line should . . . "

I like his style.

We're doing one poem of each member each day. He said my poem of the day was more expository writing and that I should reconsider it as an essay. I was stunned because I would never have thought of that in a million years. It was not a criticism of my language or skill but just a different perspective. I can't wait to see what happens with tomorrow's poem (which is a poem and not an essay. I think).

Even though our poems are for workshop I've been surprised at some of the work. Some people simply cannot get to the heart of the poem, are not skilled enough in the use of language to make it say what you think you're trying to say. JBH always said you have to risk something in your work -- if you're not risking something don't bother writing. This is far, far easier said than done, but at least it's the right direction. But so many people use clever language and turns of phrases to skate over the emotion in the poem, as if language was a way to avoid any risk whatsoever.

And what can you say to those people? We all have our defenses and our own good reasons for staying out of those dark risky places -- but I don't think you can ever do good work, especially in poetry, if you don't get down to those dark and risky places. The skill in using the language is crucial, of course, but secondary to the risk.

Of course, I've had two whiskey and waters and can expound all night about poetry as if I were some sort of expert in all matters of art.

It's a beautiful night here, chilly with a half moon hanging in the sky.

My birds are at home, asleep by now. I wonder if they miss me -- there's not really any way to make a pet understand that you'll return to them when you have to go. They become accustomed to the daily absences, I think, but when a flock member "disappears" what is the parrot to think? In the wild, a disappearance means that the flock member is dead, lost, gone, never to return.

And what must they think when you return -- out of nowhere -- as if nothing has happened? It must be a shock, and good reason for the punishment they mete out on you. I wish I knew some way to make them understand.

Well, I think the thing to do now is go back to my room and have another drink.