Thursday, July 31, 2008

Miracle in the Suburbs

Another so-so day at work.

Last night there were two extra cars in the neighbor's driveway. Either visitors or mourners; I hadn't seen the man (father) since he was driven away by EMS.

This afternoon there were three cars in the driveway and out on the street. I pulled my garbage container from my backyard to the curb (Fridays are garbage pick-up days). As I walked back to my porch, I heard, "Ma'am?"

I looked up and it was the young woman who'd made the long-distance call. She said, "My mama said she'd pay for the call."

"That's fine, " I said, "but I won't know how much it is until the bill comes in."

"And I can take your garbage out to the curb," she offered. "It comes tomorrow, right?"

"You don't have to do that," I pointed to the curb. "I've already taken it out."


"Well, when the bill comes in I'll bring it over to your dad." (She doesn't live there.)


"Is he doing okay," I asked.

"Oh yeah."

"He's home now?"

She nodded, and I smiled and said, "That's good."

She went back to her house and I unlocked my door and went in to greet my birds.

She was so polite I'm tempted to let the bill go! There may be hope for the next generation after all.

Then I decided it was a good day for bird torture. That's right -- I took each bird into the bathroom and gave each of them a spray bath. There was much fussing and struggling, but the deed is done and now I have four little wet birds preening their beautiful feathers.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

PDD Update

Public release date: 29-Jul-2008
[ Print Article | E-mail Article | Close Window ]

Contact: Kristen Bole
University of California - San Francisco
UCSF researchers identify virus behind mysterious parrot disease

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, have identified a virus behind the mysterious infectious disease that has been killing parrots and exotic birds for more than 30 years.

The team, led by UCSF professors Joseph DeRisi, PhD, and Don Ganem, MD, also has developed a diagnostic test for the virus linked to Proventricular Dilation Disease, or PDD, which will enable veterinarians worldwide to control the spread of the virus.

Results of the study will be published in Virology Journal and will appear online in August. The findings also will be presented in full at the August 11 annual meeting of the Association of Avian Veterinarians, in Savannah, GA.

The new virus, which the team named Avian Bornavirus (ABV), is a member of the bornavirus family, whose other members cause encephalitis in horses and livestock. Working with veterinarians on two continents, the group isolated this virus in 71 percent of the samples from infected birds, but none of the healthy individuals.

"This discovery has potentially solved a mystery that has been plaguing the avian veterinary community since the 1970s," said DeRisi, a molecular biologist whose laboratory aided in the 2003 discovery of the virus causing Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, in humans. "These results clearly reveal the existence of an avian reservoir of remarkably diverse bornaviruses that are dramatically different from anything seen in other animals."

The discovery could have profound consequences on both domesticated parrots and in the conservation of endangered species, according to DeRisi and Ganem, both Howard Hughes Medical Investigators at UCSF. Those species include the Spix's Macaw, currently one of the most endangered birds in the world, whose number has dwindled to roughly 100 worldwide and whose continued existence is threatened by PDD.

The research was spearheaded by Amy Kistler, a postdoctoral fellow in the DeRisi and Ganem labs. Together with veterinarians Susan Clubb, in the United States, and Ady Gancz in Israel, Kistler analyzed affected birds using UCSF's patented ViroChip technology.

The ViroChip, which DeRisi and Ganem developed, is a high-throughput screening technology that uses a DNA microarray to test viral samples. The team was able to recover virus sequence from a total of 16 diseased birds from two different continents. The complete genome sequence of one isolate was captured using ultra deep sequencing.

The virus they identified is highly divergent from all previously identified members of the Bornaviridae family and represents the first full-length bornavirus genome ever cloned directly from avian tissue. Analysis of the Avian Bornavirus genome revealed at least five distinct varieties.

PDD is a fatal disease that causes nervous system disorders in both domesticated and wild birds in the psittacine, or parrot, family worldwide. The disease has been found in 50 different species of parrots, as well as five other orders of birds, and is widely considered to be the greatest threat to captive breeding of birds in this family, the researchers said.

The disorder often leads to the birds' inability to swallow and digest food, with resulting wasting; many birds also suffer from neurologic symptoms such as imbalance and lack of coordination. Regardless of the clinical course the disease takes, it is often fatal.

Scientists have theorized for decades that a viral pathogen was the source of the disease, but until now, no one had been able to identify the likely culprit.

"This provides a very compelling lead in the long-standing search for a viral cause of PDD," Ganem said. "With the development of molecular clones and diagnostic tests for ABV, we can now begin to explore both the epidemiology of the virus and how it is linked to the disease state."


Co-authors on the paper include Amy L. Kistler, Peter Skewes-Cox, Kael Fisher, Katherine Sorber, Charles Y. Chiu and Alexander Greninger, from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Medicine at UCSF; Ady Gancz, from The Exotic Clinic, Herzlyia, Israel; Susan Clubb, Rainforest Clinic for Birds and Exotics, Loxahatchee, Fla.; Avishai Lublin, Sara Mechani and Yigal Farnoushi, of the Division of Avian and Fish Diseases, Kimron Veterinary Institute, bet Dagan, Israel; and Scott B. Karlene, of the Lahser Interspecies Research Foundation, Bloomfield Hills, MI.

The research was supported by funding to DeRisi and Ganem from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Funding for US specimen collection and veterinary care was provided by the Lahser Interspecies Research Foundation

The DeRisi Laboratory is part of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, known as QB3, a cooperative effort among private industry and more than 180 scientists at UCSF, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz. The collaboration harnesses the quantitative sciences to integrate and enhance scientific understanding of biological systems at all levels, enabling scientists to tackle problems that have been previously unapproachable.

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. For further information, please visit

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Weekly Piano Lesson

aarrrgggghhhhh . . . chords!

The Law

Spent over half an hour on hold yesterday trying to speak to an IRS agent, to find out why I haven't received my incentive check. I'm so not looking forward to calling again.

Got a summons today for jury duty. I don't mind jury duty that much; I really do think it's my responsibility as a citizen. Old-fashioned, I know.

And, of course, spent nearly half an hour on the phone with GoDaddy this morning. Perhaps I should just move there.

The Evil Committee began its down-hill slide yesterday; some things got done incorrectly and there was confusion so we left early. I haven't figured out a way to smuggle whiskey into the meeting room, though. Which is probably for the best.

Sugar Franklin was perkier than usual yesterday, running back and forth in her cage until I brought her out where she proceeded to run back and forth on the coffee table and on me.

I love the way parrots (and I guess other pets) just assume possession of a human's body. Charli will move from the back of the couch by hopping onto my shoulder (without asking, of course) and then scoot herself to my chest so that she's in perfect position to be scritched and then to take a nap. Like I was put on earth to meet her needs and wishes, and that I wouldn't dare move lest I inconvenience her. My parrots have claimed my shoulders, my back, my knees, my chest, and my lap, and sometimes my feet -- though my feet are loudly proclaimed by Sugar Franklin to be Evil and in dire need of hissing at.

What I wouldn't give to know what they think.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

No Good Deed

I went out for an early supper and when I got home two women were sitting on the porch next door; one looked like a teen-ager, the other in her late twenties. From what I could tell the guy had not yet come home from the hospital nor had the woman with the two babies returned. There were no cars in the drive or in front of the house.

I asked how things were, and the women said their dad was okay. Hmmm, he didn't look old enough to be these women's father, but I'm a terrible judge of age.

The older one asked to use my phone so I said, "No long distance, right" She shook her head and made her call. She talked for about five minutes then gave me back the phone. I checked the number and sure enough -- it was out of our area code. I went across the yard and said she'd have to pay for the call, that I don't have free long distance. She looked astonished and said she'd only called her sister. I repeated that it was long distance. Then she said she only talked for a minute. Like that took care of everything.

sigh . . .

I said I'd bring the bill over when it arrived and would expect to be paid then.

Yeah, right, like I'll ever get a dime out of her.

O, my piano teacher, is also a rental agent for this neighborhood. She happened to mention a few months ago that she'd signed up a nice young quiet woman with a baby to rent the house next to me. I nodded and said they'd all been moving in the weekend before.


"Yeah, she's young and he's maybe in this 30s or 40s and some other guy."

"No," she said. "This was a young blond woman with a baby."

"Nope," I responded. "These people are black and I haven't seen a baby." I don't care who lives next door to me as long as they're quiet, don't throw trash in my yard, and aren't making meth or holding sex slavery auctions. In the years I've lived here I can't count the number of folks who've moved in and out of the rental houses on either side of me.

I could tell O was confused by who I said was living there, but I haven't mentioned it to her since, and I don't know what she did about it. Or if she did anything about it. There's also been a woman who faintly seems Asian coming and going who's always got her hair wrapped in a towel as if she'd just gotten out of the shower. And lots of other friends who come and go.

Well, I won't lend my phone to any of them again.

It's been a nice day today. Beautiful weather, though maybe 10 degrees too hot for me. I had the cockatiels out for a couple of hours, watching their busy goings and comings. Then I had Charli out for a couple of hours and scritched her head for most of that time.

Tomorrow starts the work week, then I have to get serious about getting myself ready to go to Vermont week after next. I've already made arrangements for L to bird sit for me, so I've got to get the keys to her soon.

I wish I could stay home from work like my birds and have someone scritch my head.

Update: Someone rang my doorbell twice at 11:30 pm, but I was too tired to get up. And this morning there's yet another out-of-state car in their driveway.

Hey -- I'm the nosey neighbor; it's my job to look as I drive off.

Rental Property

Instead of taking a nap yesterday afternoon I decided to get my hair cut. I informed the birds of my intention and opened the front door.

To find an EMS truck, complete with flashing lights, blocking my driveway. I walked out to the porch just as the paramedics brought out a stretcher from next door, carrying the young man who lives there. Well, I assume he lives there -- he's there a lot but then so are a lot of other people. It's a rental house so I never know.

Anyway, the paramedics loaded him into the truck and climbed in after him. And then nothing. I, based on my vast knowledge of EMS and ER activities based on my extensive reading of medical blogs, knew they were probably getting vitals and starting an IV.

I noticed the storm door had been propped open, so I went over and closed it then went back to my porch. A few minutes later the wife/girlfriend/young woman came hurrying out, carrying two babies in carriers. I didn't realize there was anyone else inside; otherwise I wouldn't have bothered the storm door. She got them settled in just as one of their friends drove up. She called to the friend and they talked for awhile.

And still the EMS truck didn't move. I wasn't in a hurry so it didn't matter to me how long they parked there.

Finally the truck pulled out. I waited until it was well on its way off my street, then started my car and backed out. The friend was getting back into his car, so I rolled down the window and asked if everything was okay. (duh) He said yes, his friend couldn't move his hip and the paramedics wouldn't let him enter the truck to see his friend.

So I guess it's official now -- I'm the nosey neighbor.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Birds and Mother and Saturday

I swear, I wouldn't recommend GoDaddy to my worst enemy. I've transferred my domain names from them to a new provider and GoDaddy won't let go of them. My sites are not showing up because "transfer is denied," because it's "registered," it's "private," I need to log onto this and click that and then log in over here and click that other button. This has been going on all damn week. So if you tried to access my blog and couldn't, it's because GoDaddy wouldn't release the domain name.

The other situation with GoDaddy is so convoluted it would take me months to explain it due to the impossible happening for three friggin' years. I'll have another site set up later. Even the most advanced tech person I know said it was "possible but highly unlikely," which from him means "impossible." sigh . . . .

I've been on the phone almost all morning to, trying to get through to tech support and then trying to make myself understood by the folks in India.

Sugar Franklin was declared okay -- Thursday's gram stain only showed one little yeast thing, so she's okay. I put her water bottle back in place, and I suspect she's glad to taste "normal" water again.

My physical therapist is from South Africa, which explains her accent. We talked for a few minutes about apartheid; she said she and her family left in the mid-80s because of apartheid (she's white and didn't want her family living in that kind of environment). She said it's all open now except that there are no jobs any more for whites, and that Indian women get first pick as doctors. I think it's fascinating to talk to someone who lived there during apartheid, but we didn't have time and I don't exactly know her well.

She did some ultrasound on my shoulder then I did some arm rotations on a machine like a bicycle, then she gave me more exercises to do. Because of vacations I won't see her again until mid-August. My shoulder didn't feel good after the session like last week.

My mom came to town today (she lives about 60 miles away) and I took her out to lunch. She makes beautiful, award-winning quilts, and she wanted to go to one of the fabric stores here. She seemed a bit more calm today, thank goodness.

Charli bit me last night. I had her out for over two hours, giving her scritches, letting her nap on my chest, and even letting her chew up safe things on the coffee table. And then the phone rang.

Charli cannot abide the phone or for me to use it. I've learned to either put her down or hold her far away from me when I have to answer the phone, and that's always worked. But last night she bit my hand several times and wouldn't let go. I had to shake her off, which wasn't good for either of us. It was a terrible way to end such a nice time we had had, and I feel awful about it. I got her in her cage and gave her a good lecture then ran ice cold water over my hand to stop the bleeding. I gave her some more scritches later in the evening to show I forgave her; this morning she's fine and back to her normal sweet self.

I think I deserve a nap.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Good News

I took Sugar Franklin in for her follow-up on the yeast thing. I should know soon.

While I was there I asked Dr. Z if she knew about my deceased friend's birds. It turns out that my ex-friend (who took the birds in) did not give one of the birds to the woman who mistreats her birds! And that she wouldn't even consider doing so. I cannot express how relieved I am. It was incomprehensible to me that my ex-friend would do such a thing, but people change and I haven't talked to her in over a year. But the birds are safe!

My friend J called late last night and left a message. His brown-headed parrot had bitten his hand several times and I could tell he needed to talk about behavior issues. The bird is 3 years old and has never bitten him before.

I chatted with him via e-mail today. From what I can make out, the bird was doing the skirt dance and J interrupted her a bit too abruptly. And took her to the cage when she wasn't ready to go. I think. It's impossible to know for sure. Anyway, I told him it's important for the bird to feel it has some control over its environment, that next time ask her to step up and if she refuses, go away and do something else for a few minutes. Then ask again; the odds are good the bird will be more than happy to step up because it will be her choice. And that he must watch her body language at all times -- 99.99 percent of the time a parrot will warn you when it's going to bite.

People who own parrots must be insane. I know I am.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In Anticipation of Rain

The weather people are promising thunderstorms today, and I hope they're right. I could use a big ole' thunderstorm about now -- lots of lightning and thunder and pounding rain that rushes into the street and down the sewers.

The Evil Committee was its usual evil self yesterday. It's what you'd imagine a committee in Hell would be like -- a little conference room with a white screen and no windows, tables in a square formation with little chairs around them. The tables have dried rings on them from countless wet glasses and cups. Pictures of males on the walls along with plaques for excellence in employee satisfaction or housekeeping or softball -- all slightly crooked. Extra chairs and odd broken pieces of equipment piled in the corners, so there's really not much space to move around in. The computer only shows half of the document on the screen, and everyone peers at it and then someone will ask about a particular word, then someone else will chime in about that word and another word. T will write everything down on her copy, L will bring up something that has no relation whatsoever to the subject at hand, A will address L's comment, so that P and M have to express their opinion on the matter. Then C will jangle her bracelets and state her views, causing T to mark out what she'd written and write something else down. The room and meeting are all self-contained, with no escape. I drink my tea or water very, very slowly and wonder why I'm even there and how I'm going to survive another one.

Our summer chorus taper rehearsals have been moved to Mondays instead of Sundays, and the place we normally meet at has broken air conditioning so we're now meeting in a big church basement. Last night's rehearsal went pretty well, all things considered.

Got my Vermont workshop workbook yesterday, and it's about what I expected. Some writers included stuff that's simply incomprehensible to me, others included respectable work. Maybe it's just because I'm older but I strongly believe a poem should be about something recognizable, notwithstanding "language" poems, which I look at as exercises rather than poems. I'm concerned that my instructor is not Bruce Weigl, who I signed up for, but someone named Baron Wormser. Never heard of him (her), and I don't appreciate the switch with no explanation. I wrote Louise to see what was going on, and she said Bruce had health problems and then Jack bailed. I hadn't gotten the e-mail about Bruce, so it was all a surprise to me.

No meetings today, so I can deal with this pile of work without having to leave my office right in the middle of it. I had a lot of phone calls yesterday, so I may just let the system take messages today.

Sugar Franklin has been drinking her special water more and more, without a problem. Seems to me she's a bit perkier, but that could be my imagination. We go back for a gram stain on Thursday.

Charli has taken to sleeping on the other side of her cage, on top of a half-chewed toy. Parrots can sleep in the oddest places in the most contorted postures; clearly they don't have arthritis, or at least they don't have it yet.

On the drive to work this morning, I heard on NPR that McCain's latest commercial blames Obama for the increase in gasoline prices. There is no twisted form of logic or madness available to me that would make that make any sense whatsoever.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Blogs and Politics

At 9 am it's already 90 degrees. I managed to haul myself out of bed early enough to go have breakfast at one of my favorite places before the pre-church crowd wandered in. I was thinking that maybe the art of blogging is just translating the more literate stuff that rolls around in your head -- of course, some blogs are commercial or deliberately political, but I'm talking about the casual blog. Like this. I know I have the most perfect wonderful charming entrancing parrots in the world, but I can see how someone else could get bored hearing about them.

I took all 20 pounds of the Sunday paper to the restaurant with me, of course. And there on the local section's front page are pictures of yet another funeral of yet another poor kid killed in Iraq. What angers me is how the friends and some relatives will stand around and say, with true heartfelt sincerity, that "he died so those people could be free," or "he gave his life to keep us all safe." I can understand how the immediate relatives may be forced to say and believe such things in order to keep their sanity, but no one else believes that stuff. There is no doubt in my mind that Bush stole both elections and that he went into the White House determined to wage war against Iraq.

And meanwhile, Osama bin Laden is still out there. And we're throwing away our citizens over there -- for what?

I am registered independent, and in this state independents can't vote in the primary unless an independent candidate is running. But if I were registered Democrat, I would have voted for Hilary. I just don't think Obama is seasoned enough to handle it.

But I'm voting for him in November, and he can damned well learn. He's a lot wiser than Bush was/is. McCain gets up there and talks just like Bush -- who among us wants another four years of Bush-ism?

sigh . . . don't get me started.

The birds were beside themselves when I got home; calling at the top of their voices and running back and forth. I think Charli is over her hormonal surges -- she's happily been sitting on my knee and climbing to the back of the couch to chew up a fresh roll of adding machine tape -- no interest at all in the coffee table.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Virtue of Salads

I don't have a thing I have to do until rehearsal tomorrow evening, though there are zillions of things I should do.

I finaly braved the 90-plus heat and went over to Texas Roadhouse for a late lunch. Now I know that some Texas Roadhouses are not excellent, but this one is. I've never had a messed up order or bad dish and the service is always excellent. My only complaint is that it's so crowded after 5 and on weekends. I love their little sirloins, ribs, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, baked beans, fresh baked rolls with honey and cinnamon butter, and salads.

Rather than my usual 6 ounce sirloin I had their veggie plate: mashed potatoes with brown gravy, apple sauce, baked beans, iced tea unsweetened, and a salad.

I love a good basic garden salad, though I don't know why. One of my grandfathers ate nothing but eggs and meat (he died of a stroke; they didn't know the connection back then). My other grandfather was almost as bad and died of heart failure. My dad rarely ate veggies and had a heart attack (he died of Alzheimer's though). My mom will eat a vegetable if I fuss at her long enough. So my love of salads is certainly not genetic.

I've had lots of bad salads and lots of superb salads -- I'm talking garden or side salads here; no Jell-o salads or weird stuff people like to bring to potlucks. The ones I like are about like the one I had today. Cold variety of dark leafy lettuces; a little iceberg is okay as long as it's not the bulk of the salad. A sliver or two of red cabbage, some shredded cheddar cheese, croutons that break easily with a fork, some hard boiled egg (both white and yolk), lots and lots of fresh cut tomatoes, maybe some shredded carrots. Mushrooms and a sprinkle of crisp crumbled bacon are welcome additions, as are thinly sliced cucumbers. No onions. My favorite dressing is lime and honey, but not many restaurants serve that. So I end up with french or sun-dried tomato or thousand island on the side. I also like O'Charley's Black and Blue salad, which comes with cooked sirloin strips and bits of blue cheese and all the other salad things I like. Ditto for the Southern Chicken salad they have: crisp tender bits of chicken breast.

On my way home from lunch there was a bad wreck; maybe three cars. The police hadn't arrived yet. One car was hit front driver's side so badly ain't nobody gonna ever drive that car again. There were maybe eight cars pulled off to the side and maybe 12 people standing around. Beside the totaled car a woman was laying on the hot asphalt, moaning, while a couple of people talked to her. I hate it when people stop and gawk at wrecks, though I myself always slow down just a little bit, even though I think it's rude. If I'm not involved and the police or some kind of help is there, it's none of my business, and the best thing I (anyone) can do is get out of the way.

I stopped at the little convenience store in my neighborhood to get my lottery tickets and one of those huge colas for 69 cents. I love Pepsi in bottles or cans, but for fountain drinks nothing beats a Coke.

I had all the birds out earlier, except Charli. She's awfully hormonal or something these past few days. I bring her out and scritch her little head, then she decides she wants to chew everything on the coffee table. I pick her up, she goes back and hangs upsidedown and climbs down to the shelf of the coffee table and proceeds to chew everything there. I pick her up and she nips me and tries to get to the coffee table again. I give her a couple of her favorite toys to chew on and she's destroyed one of my crossword puzzle books, but no -- it must be the coffee table. Sugar's cage is next to the coffee table, and Charli also likes to climb on top -- which Sugar certainly does not appreciate.

So Charli comes out separately so I can keep dragging her away from the coffee table.

And Nicholas is in full voice today. I swear he hasn't stopped calling and chirping at the top of his lungs all day. I may have to take some aspirin.

Physical Therapy and PEAC

I was planning to sleep late today, but I forgot that Nicholas doesn't approve of people sleeping once the sun comes up. I wanted to get up early so I could out and have breakfast before the crowds and then go downtown to the farmer's market for some fresh veggies -- but I also wanted to sleep late. Either way, both the restaurant and the farmer's market will be swamped at this time of day. Too many people for me. Plus it's going to be murderously hot again today.

The physical therapy session wasn't too bad yesterday. She said it's tendonitis in the shoulder and we spent an hour measuring my range of motion, working on my posture, and going over a bunch of exercises I'm to do at home. Next week we'll be doing something with a machine. My shoulder felt a lot better after the session.

The therapist is an older woman, with thin blond hair cut blunt and held back with two bobby pins. Her accent is either Irish or British, or something non-American. She talks alot, like she's got so much knowledge and enthusiasm she just can't contain herself. I liked her right off.

I got an emergency note from my friend B in California. She created PEAC (Parrot Education and Adoption Center), and funds are running dangerously low these days so she's asking members for donations. For those who don't know, PEAC is a great organization and I'd give anything to have a chapter here. They have a chapter in Alaska, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. They foster parrots until homes can be found; staff and adoptors and foster people all have to pass classes in how to understand and deal with parrots. And yes, I made a small donation.

Well, I guess I'd better get up from the couch and go do my shoulder exercises -- that is, if Nicholas doesn't mind too much.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My Poetry Manuscript

C and I ran a small literary press back in the early 90s, and he has since gone on to run his own publishing company. So when I ran into him at the Book Fair three years ago, I said, "Well, you've published everybody else we know. When are you going to publish me?"

He told me to send him my manuscript, which I did. And never heard from him again. His company publishes a lot of literature and local interest stuff, and C's made a good name for himself and his press.

I was talking to JBH a month or so ago about sending my manuscript to a Louisville press and I mentioned C. JBH told me to keep after C, even after three years of silence. So I did.

And . . .

I just heard from C; he said he does want to publish my poetry manuscript but that it wouldn't be until late next year. The press is booked (so to speak) that far ahead. (And no, he wouldn't publish me just because we're friends or if he didn't think he could make money from it.)


Of course, I was planning to send my manuscript to the Louisville press during their submission period but now I'll have to see if C accepts simultaneous submissions.

C said to go ahead and tinker with the poems since poets are always tinkering with their poems (this is true; poems are never finished, they're just abandoned).

Double yea!

My book about brown-headed parrots is still with the publisher; he wrote me a few weeks ago to send him some more pictures for the cover and back, so I asked the folks on the brown-head parrot list to contribute. And did they ever! Three people sent in almost a hundred pictures, which I forwarded on so the publisher can choose.

I wore one of my nice suits to work today, just in case I do have to give a disposition.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sore Fingers & Dr. D's

I had Charli out for a little over an hour, scritching her little head and letting her sit on my hand and preen, dropping the occasional feather.

Then I let out the cockatiels; Sugar Franklin on my shoulder and the Bobbsey Twins on top of Sugar's cage. They like to eat her food and play with her toys -- even though it's the exact same food and toys they have in their cages.

Yesterday I got my free sample of bird pellets from Dr. D's Avian Pellets. Someone on Tiel Talk was bragging about how much their parrots loved these pellets, so I paid $8.95 shipping for a "free" five-pound sample.

Charli at a few, then ignored them. Sugar ate maybe three and ignored them. The Bobbsey Twins ignored them altogether.

Honestly, I was a bit concerned about the list of ingredients -- for example, it lists "forage product (alfafa)." Why not just say alfalfa? Ground limestone? Parrots don't need grit, so I'm a bit uncertain about limestone, though I'm sure it's a very tiny amount.

Not too bad a day at work. One of the lawyers stopped by this afternoon, and we went over some of the documents. Then, after three or four phone calls, we decided that I probably won't have to give a disposition after all. Yea!

Wandered around and found more blogs last night. Barista Brat (blogger works at StarBucks)' SoCal Cabbie; and The Blog That At Manhattan (physician and cook).

I need to stop following those enticing links!

Monday, July 14, 2008

No Rest for the Wicked

After the Evil Committee meeting I ran into the manager of the Patient Education Center in the hospital lobby.

"Everybody's looking for you," she said.

I laughed because no one ever looks for me.

"No, really. A bunch of lawyers are here and they're dying to talk to you. We've been calling everybody, trying to track you down."

Oh lord. I was already late but I allowed her to call the office where the lawyers were going over things with Risk Management. Two very handsome, well-dressed white male lawyers trotted into the Ed Ctr and we found a private office to go over things.

Turns out I have to give dispositions anyway -- and here I thought Risk Management was going to take care of it, like they always do. So now I've got about three zillion documents to read and "refresh my memory" with.

I was almost late for the women's chorus rehearsal, but I have my priorities!

Low Humidity Monday or Blogs

I am officially addicted to blogs. It all started when I signed up for Google alerts for parrots. Google sends me news items and various bits and pieces from the internet any time parrots are mentioned. One post was about a little cockatiel who was bleeding from the mouth and the owners rushed it to the vet's. I clicked on the entry and ended up at Incremental Degrees. I bookmarked the site and clicked the next day to see how the bird was doing -- the bird was fine, though no one knows what happened. And the writer of the blog is a very, very good writer so every once in awhile I'd stop by to see what was going on in their life.

A year or so later another Google alert mentioned Parrot Musings, so I started reading that one, too.

And last year I started my own blog, out of boredom at work primarily. Then I stopped until about a month ago.

Then, somehow I don't recall, a few weeks ago I stumbled on ERnursey's site and I've been reading blogs ever since.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Unrequited Love

Flash and Sugar Franklin are both on the back of the couch. Flash has moved to about 8 inches of Sugar. Any closer and she hisses and snaps at his tail. Sugar thinks she's a human and doesn't want to be bothered by some "bird." Poor Flash. She's just snapped at him so hard he flew off to stand on her cage with Nicholas. Even from there he watches her.

Nicholas is a different story. When I first saw Nicholas he was in the lobby cage at the avian vet's office. He looked like no cockatiel I'd ever seen -- grey with all his feathers curled up, and he was very thin. But with bright eyes and a lot of energy. I asked what was wrong with him and everyone said they couldn't find anything wrong with him, and I knew my vet wouldn't put him in the lobby if he was sick.

He always shrieked at Sugar Franklin, and when we would leave the clinic I would hear him call after us in the parking lot. Poor thing was in love with Sugar, I thought.

A year or so later one of the vets asked if I wanted him. His curled feathers had molted out to be replaced with a sleek soft plumage, and he still proclaimed his love for Sugar loudly. She, of course, ignored him.

The vet assured me there was nothing chronically wrong with him; he'd been through all the tests. He was thought to be 13 to 15 years old. One of the vets had rescued him from a woman who bred cocktiels but never cleaned cages and smoked two or three packs of cigarettes a day and kept him on a seed-only diet. Poor thing should have been dead. He weighed about 68 grams.

So I took him home in his old ratty cage, which I threw out as soon as I got him settled in one of my nicer ones.

Once he realized Sugar was "not interested" he eased up on the shrieking, and just a few months ago I learned he was given to me because he shrieked at everybody. And here I thought it was because he loved Sugar.

He always calls a different call when someone pulls into the driveway or steps onto the porch, even if I can't hear him. He's better than a dog about that. He's up to 78 grams now and is still bright-eyed and rarely stands still. I've had him several years now, and I love him dearly for his enthusiasm and optimism. He has loud calls and moderate calls; he loves to do the wolf whistle, only he messes up the first two notes. Charli doesn't like Nicholas' loud calls, and she'll chirp loudly at Nicholas to shut him up. Which rarely works.

Sugar Franklin, by the way, is drinking her special water but only when she's so thirsty she can't avoid it. She'll take a drink, look up at me, and then back away from the dish. Poor baby. I tasted the water and there is a very, very slight trace of vinegar.

I'm sure Flash would rescue her from water with vinegar and honey in it, if only she'd let him.globe_blogs.gif

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Vinegar, Honey, and Water

I mixed up the first batch for Sugar this morning and I do see evidence that she's at least stuck her beak in it -- a few soggy pellets. I'll probably have to change her water bowl eight times a day. But that's okay. Dr. Z said all of Sugar's lab work looked "fantastic." I told Sugar the news but she just continued preening.

This morning Nicholas and Flash were fighting beak to beak about whatever manly cockatiel thing male cockatiels fight about. I tapped on the cage (gently) and told them to hush. This scared poor Flash to death. He jumped, crest in alarm mode, and stared as if I'd just placed a hawk in the cage. I talked to him and put my hand in the cage and he bit me - first time ever. So I left him alone and went to the grocery and ran errands.

When I got back he was back to his shy, scared self. He's never liked anyone to touch him, including me. Breaks my heart, but I love him anyway.

Charli is diligently chewing up her roll of adding machine tape, her most favorite toy in the world (and cheap too!). She's never tried to make a nest of it; she just chews it into long strips that end up on the bottom of her cage or on my floor.

I've got about three more loads of laundry to do and then make a trip to Wal-Mart, which I've been putting off for about month -- I hate shopping at Wal-Mart unless it's three in the morning.

Then fill up the car with gas, and I'm really dreading that! Gas is $4.15 here now. Well, I'm sure Bush and Cheney need the money more than me . . . grrrrrr

We're on the verge of a big ole' thunderstorm, which I love. We've had thunder for about 10 minutes and it's started raining. Yea!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Later that Night . . .

Got some rude boilerplate e-mail from GoDaddy, so I sent e-mail to the prez.

Sugar Franklin was a tyrant at the vet's today; screaming and fussing as if her wings were being sawed off with a pocket knife. I had her tested for everything; she's ten years old and hasn't had blood work for about five or six years now. Plus a gram stain and urinalysis. We had to wait about 20 minutes for her to poop/pee for a sample -- nothing like standing around waiting for an angry cockatiel to poop.

Her weight was 108, so no worries there.

$186.00. These birds are going to bankrupt me. But it's far cheaper than having blood work done every year. Dr. Z says the trend now is to not do blood work every year unless something is up; only every few years. Easier on the birds and easier on the wallet. Results tomorrow.

Dr. Z just called; the urinalysis was fine but the gram stain showed some budding yeast. So I'm to give her 1 teaspoon of organic vinegar in 4 ounces of distilled water with two drops of honey a day for two weeks (or offer it; I can't make her drink it). And come back in two weeks. No problem but Sugar uses a water bottle and I'll bet the honey will clog up the spout. She'll just have to get used to a bowl for two weeks.

Now I'm going to eat some Haagen Das and watch Gray's Anatomy and Hopkins. Keep your fingers crossed the GoDaddy pres gets to the bottom of my stolen domain name.

Busy Thursday

It's always rain or drought. It's been so calm and peaceful and under control the past month, then, just like that, things are getting crazy busy again.

Fired off an official fax to GoDaddy about my site, which I fully expect to be restored to me since they ILLEGALLY sold it to someone else (no, it was not up for renewal).

Finished one project at work yesterday, and had twice as much more work dumped on me every day this week.

Start physical therapy next week for my shoulder; my PA said it would probably hurt as much or more than the original pain. Gee, I can't wait.

In less than a month I'll be at Vermont College of Fine Arts for their post-graduate week-long residency. Of course, I've barely gotten my poems in on time to be included in the workshop books -- four new ones (bad) and two old ones (not bad) -- and am in no way ready to go anywhere. It's been 18 years and I don't know if I can still write good poetry. I used to be very, very good but quit for several reasons. JBH, my mentor here, was thrilled when I called him about going back to Vermont, so I'm holding on to his good energies.

I'm flying, which I dread because of the way airlines treat passengers. Plus I'm determined to fit 7 days' worth of clothes and sundries into two small carry-ons. All I need are tee-shirts and shorts and underwear.

Today is the Staff Senate, and all the newbie senators will be attending -- all innocent and full of faith and good will. Just wait till reality sinks in.

Summer chorus rehearsals will begin this coming Monday for the women who tape the practice CDs and "spot," i.e., be sure the tapers are singing the right notes. I agreed to learn how to be a spotter, so Monday night is shot.

Tomorrow is T's birthday, so R and I are taking her out to nice lunch.

O gave me another "difficult" piano piece to learn. Sigh . . . I don't have enough fingers to play all those notes! She says I'm doing very well, but it doesn't sound that way to me.

And at 5 o'clock today, Sugar is due at the vet's for her blood draw. Her weight is up to 115, whereas it's normally 108 or thereabouts. The vet said she's probably getting to lay an egg, but that was last week and there have been no eggs. That means either that Sugar is gaining weight and I'll have to put her on a diet, or something horrible I don't even want to think about. We'll see today.

All the birds got some Harrison's birdie bread last night and I ate some Haagen-Das, so a good time was had by all.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Piano Woman

Tonight is my weekly piano lesson. My teacher is a young woman from Russia who has X-number of degrees in musicology and is also the pianist for the women's chorus I'm in. When she fusses at me her accent is so thick I usually can't tell what she's saying. But she's a good teacher and good person and a great musician and I think she's great.

She won't be pleased tonight. She gave me three pieces to do, one of which is "difficult" at my level, and I haven't been able to do it. The notes are all weird -- like playing middle C with the left hand instead of the right. But she'll explain it and I'll learn it and it might even make sense.

Or not.

I got my committee assignment today for the upcoming Staff Senate: Staff Issues, which is a bummer since most of the people on that committee and the chair don't believe there are any staff issues.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Monday, Monday

I took off Thursday so naturally I had to pay for it today. I walk into my office and there are 9 pieces of work that had been faxed to me (four of which have already been taken care of and are duplicates but no one knows why they were resent to me, and three of them were filled with scrawls no one is able to decipher), a stack of mail, about 30 e-mails, and a subpoena for some documents.

Got the subpoena dealt with, then slogged through the rest of it. Then it was time for The Retreat.

I work for a hospital, shuffling papers for administration. I do not come within five miles of a patient and maybe talk to a physician once every other month or so. My office is three miles off-site. I deal in language; I do not comprehend data collection and core measures and quality indicators and percentages and so on that goes on in any medical organization. So naturally, The Retreat was all about quality indicators and core measures and how we're all a "team." There have been some reorganizations (surprise; they only reorganize once a year), so we got to see the new "organ" charts so we would know who is most important this week. My favorite part was one of the administrators saying how important it is to motivate and appreciate staff. Right.

Mr. Perky (not his real name, of course) was there. I call him Mr. Perky because he's always upbeat and happy and full of positive thinking. He's one of the lower level administrators and since he makes over $100,000 a year I guess he's got a right to be perky. I bet he feels appreciated and motivated.

They encouraged us to voice our concerns and ask questions, so several people mentioned that we need more staff and more cooperation from the clinical folks. Don't worry, said the administrators, we're going to take care of it. Interpretation: We will continue to need more staff and cooperation from the clinical folks (who also need more help).

The Retreat was supposed to be over at 5, but of course the administrators kept talking until 5:20, at which point I just got up and left with a couple of other folks. There was absolutely no reason for me to be there. None. But I can't say so lest people think I have a "bad" attitude. $100,000 a year would help my attitude a whole lot.

I had to stop at Wal-Mart where they didn't have the frame I was looking for, so I got dinner to go from Subway. My parrots like the bread and lettuce and cheese (in teeny tiny amounts) from Subway. It's Monday, which means House is on so all is not lost!

Hmmm . . . wonder what House would have done in today's retreat . . . .

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sunday Afternoon

I've had a wonderful anti-social day. I've spent it reading Carved in Stone and reading more medical blogs. I fiddled around with my blog, changing the colors and layout.

I had all the birds out at different times, then I gave them all dishes of water for baths. Charli and Sugar really got into theirs; the Bobbsey Twins just stood on the edge of the bowl and looked at the water.

The next door neighbor had a visitor who left their car running and their car radio blasting out that bass THUMP THUMP THUMP at 700 decibels. I finally had to go over there and ask them to turn the damn thing down. Who leaves their car running for over 30 minutes these days anyway?

While I was out I found an unlit firecracker in the front yard. Then I went around the house to be sure none of last night's fireworks hit my house.

I've been leaving the television off on weekends until about 9pm, and it's amazing how much more I get done and how much less frazzled I feel. I do keep the radio on at a low volume, tuned to NPR though.

Tomorrow at work we're having a "retreat," and I've been dreading it for a week. Three hours of "positive" talk and reminders to work harder and do more with less and how we're all great people -- never mind that they pay us the bare minimum. Just be positive about it, okay? grrrr

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Big Scary Purple Vet Tape

Yesterday I bought some vet wrap to put on Sugar's sandy perch. She watched me remove the perch, wrap the tape all around the perch, then put the perch back. Would she go into her cage? No -- something scary in there! So I stroked the perch and talked to Sugar and petted the perch to show it wasn't going to eat me -- but she wasn't convinced. This morning I saw that she was walking under the perch and running around on the perch side of the cage, so I figured she wasn't too scared.

Around noon I had lunch with a friend, and when I got home there was Sugar, sitting on the purple vet-wrapped perch! Just as pretty as you please, preening her beautiful self.

So I went into the kitchen and made a big batch of Harrison's birdie bread, which my birds love more than Nutriberries, which I didn't think was possible.

It's so hot and humid today I don't think I'll go back out. I've been invited to a big cookout party in an adjoining town but I don't want to get caught in the rain, and the humidity and heat just make me miserable.

I bought the book Carved in Sand, so I think I'll stay home, curl up, and read that.

But the damn idiots with fireworks around here aren't going to let that happen. After hearing two blasts that shook my patio doors I called the police. Who showed up about an hour later. Very nice but the fireworks were over by then. No broken glass though, which is good.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Fourth of July

I've had a quiet day -- on purpose. I went to Target for some vet tape to tape Sugar's sandy perch -- she has a callous on her right foot and the vet said to wrap it, While I was there I picked up a bunch of junk food. After I wrapped the perch I put Sugar back in her cage with results you probably guessed -- she wouldn't go near it. In fact, later in the afternoon she took a nap on the floor of the cage beneath the perch in order to avoid it. There's another cloth perch in her cage so she's got plenty of things to climb on. I hope she gets used to the tape.

I'm still dumbfounded that my ex-friend might give a bird to that woman who doesn't know how to treat birds. But I keep reminding myself that there's nothing I can but hope it all works out for the best of the birds.

I called my friend's father, even though I'd only met him once. He sounded broken. I told him I had been friends with his daughter, that she was a remarkable person, and that I'll miss her very much. Then I told him to take very good of himself and we hung up. Now all afternoon I've been wondering if he's all alone in that big house. I hope not.

It's after five and I've got all three cockatiels out; Sugar's on my shoulder, Flash is sitting on Sugar's cage door, and little Nicholas is sitting by my side, watching me type. Charli is in her cage since she believes cockatiels should be personally removed from the universe.

I didn't go to the big downtown festivities this year; it's been too damp and dreary -- plus huge crowds wear me out. Besides, I've discovered and become addicted to hospital and emergency nursing blogs and could spend hours reading them.

Soon there will be the usual fireworks in the neighborhood and I'll have to deal with four little birds who get scared of the big booming noises. Ah well, it'll be over soon enough.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Friendship and Death

A friend of mine and her mother were killed Monday in a terrible auto accident. She left behind three parrots that were her pride and joy. Her father isn't that crazy about birds, so an ex-friend of mine said she'd take them until homes could be found -- which was a blessing. But it's not easy to find good homes for a parrot -- with people who know how to care for parrots and how to deal effectively with their behavior.

I saw on a listserv that an old friend of the deceased wanted one of the birds, only this person is known for mistreating her birds. My ex-friend knows this yet was encouraging on the listserv. I'm just broken hearted, first to lose my friend and then to think that one of her beloved parrots might be going to this inappropriate person.

We so desperately need a parrot rescue and adoption facility here; the nearest ones I'd trust a bird to are in North Carolina and Cleveland. I've talked to a couple of friends about opening a branch of a nationally known bird adoption center here, but none of us have the time or the money or can find enough people to make it work.

Today was time for Sugar Franklin's annual well-bird exam; she looks good, but we'll do blood work on Thursday (holiday messes up delivery times so we couldn't do it today). She's been sleepy and quiet since we got home. She's all tucked in and sound asleep now, like the other three.

Tonight some fool has been firing off fireworks here in the subdivision. Just noise and smoke. I imagine him (of course it's a man) standing in the street lighting these things and hoping everyone sees him, as if the noise and smoke and light are a direct indicator of his maleness. But it's just annoying and dangerous and stupid.

I keep wondering what those three parrots have been thinking -- their "mom" vanishing and then being moved from their home into a new place. We know parrots grieve, but we also know they're adaptable. I hope they'll be okay.