Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Darling Tarsier

Jason's photo
My friend's son is traveling in the Philippines and on the island of Bohol he encountered the tiny (5 oz. average) totally captivating tarsier, one of the smallest mammals on the planet. It also has the highest eye to weight proportion of all mammals - oh, those googly eyes!!

Nicely adapted for life in a dog-eat-dog world, it's carniverous and consumes insects, birds, crabs and bats. In turn, it can be on the lunch menu of lizards, snakes and owls. Here's the part I liked...if a tarsier is being attacked and there are other tarsiers in the area, they all band together and attack the predator. Imagine being swarmed by hundreds of these little creatures? You'd die of cute!!!

But the tarsier has many resources and evasive mechanisms to protect against capture. In case a quick escape is necessary it's long, long legs - twice the length of head and body together - enable jumps up to  40 times it's own length -  the equivalent of a six foot man jumping 240 feet. A vertical clinger, the tarsier spends much of the time on tree branches, hunting at night, moving kind of like frogs, leaping on insects. The darling head conveniently swivels 180 degrees, a necessity because the eyes, while large, are fixed.  The large ears can move around in all directions but can also be folded back flat against the head when sounds are too loud. Great sensory system for early warning.

When it jumps and lands on a branch or tree the little grasping hands have long padded fingers covered with a sort of non-skid skin which makes clinging easy. 

They bear young one at a time with a gestation period of six months. The young are born fully furred and start moving on their own in a couple of days. They can live 12 - 20 years in their natural habitat and don't do well in captivity. In a short video, filmed in a Bohol sanctuary, the director said that the tarsier will stop breathing when held in human hands. I read elsewhere that they have been know to commit suicide in captivity by smashing their heads on bar cages. People tried to keep them as pets and they were once very popular in Japan. Now they are endangered and mostly protected.

As if the little thing isn't sweet enough, I read that they have high pitched voices and do many kinds of vocalizations.  The males and females sing duets together at the beginning and end of their foraging day.

More information about this fascinating little creature can be found here: 


and here:

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Lunch Mystery

What I made for lunch the other day:
What is it? Look here for the answer: Nancy's blog

Friday, July 22, 2011

Book Club June

 Our book selection for this month was "Lake of Dreams" by Kim Edwards. Most thought the story was okay - it had a few moments but overall the themes were trite and the writing tedious. The story took place in the beautiful Finger Lakes district in Northern New York state. Here's some photos of what it might look like: 
Canandagua Lake from "I love the FingerLakes"
Seneca Sunset by

The heroine has a love interest who is a glass blower who makes objets, perhaps something like this?

From Glassart5

and the mystery of the story involves a stained glass window......a woman is the central figure in one of them:

Woman at the Beach, sketch for stained glass, Lessing
I hosted the meeting and didn't get many photos unfortunately but there are a few of the group eating. We had a Honey Baked ham, a couple of salads, a lovely vegetable dish, pickled asparagus, sliced watermelon, TJ cookies and chocolate for dessert. Plenty of wine.
Next month's book is "State of Wonder" by Ann Patchett and we are meeting at the library for a change of pace.

Hypergraphia and Illustrated Manuscripts

Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich manuscripts are believed to be written between 1404 and 1438. I was searching for information on graphology and hypergraphia when I came across them and I was amazed at how contemporary they look. 

By comparison, here is a page by Jane LaFazio, a celebrated local artist and teacher:

Sample journal page, Jane LaFazio from her web page
And another by Vivian Swift, author:
Vivian Swift, from "When Wanderers Cease to Roam" page
The Voynich book has been described as "the world's most mysterious manuscript". Illustrated journals fascinate me. It's all I can do to get words on paper - how some extremely talented people have the ability to not only write but to decorate each page as they go is beyond me.

One of the many interesting things about this journal is that nobody has been able to translate it. The language is not known and no one can break the code if it was written in code. One can infer from the illustrations what various sections are about.  From Wikipedia: The book is named after the Polish-Lithuanian-American book dealer Wilfrid M. Voynich, who acquired it in 1912. The Voynich manuscript is owned by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University, and is formally referred to as "Beinecke MS 408". The first facsimile edition was published in 2005.[5]  It's now owned by Yale University. 

Voynich Manuscript

Voynich Manuscript

Voynich Manuscript

Voynich Manuscript

Finally, I found my way to information on Hypergraphia. What is it? From Wikipedia: Hypergraphia is an overwhelming urge to write. It is not itself a disorder, but can be associated with temporal lobe changes in epilepsy and mania in the context of bipolar disorder.

Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland, is said to have had hypergraphia.[4] In his lifetime he wrote over 98,000 letters varying in format. The letters were written backwards, in rebus, and in different patterns, such as the "Mouse Tail" in the former book. Some examples of his letters can be found here.

The Reverend Robert Shields maintained a diary chronicling every 5 minutes of his life from 1972 until a stroke disabled him in 1997. The hypergraphic work filled 81 boxes and contained approximately 38 million words.[5]

Outsider artist and writer Henry Darger would appear to have been a case of hypergraphia, having produced what has been described as the longest novel in existence, The Story of the Vivian Girls.

American composer Alan Hovhaness is acknowledged as one of the most prolific of the 20th century and may have been affected by hypergraphia. He carried paper and pen wherever he went and is known to have composed almost everyday, in shopping malls, restaurants, and even on buses. He claimed to have thrown over 1,000 of his early compositions into the fireplace in the 1940s whilst still a young man, and even at the time of his death, in 2000, had penned around 500 more, most of which are published.

Former United States Senator Bob Graham has maintained a meticulous account of the daily events of his life. Between 1977 and 2003, Graham filled almost 4,000 notebooks,[6] recording such varied items as the movie he and his daughter rented on the eve of his grandchild's birth (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, which, he noted, he rewound and returned), as well as details of strangers he'd met at airports so that he could follow up with a friendly letter. Each notebook, color-coded by season, covered two to three days. His daily entries included minutiae like his weight, clothes into which he changed, what he ate and where, as well as serious matters of state. When the company that manufactured Graham's notebooks ceased production, Graham bought up hundreds of the remaining stock. During the 2000 Presidential race, Vice President Al Gore considered Graham as a potential running mate, but campaign insiders worried Graham's habit of filling notebooks with daily minutia would be perceived by the public as eccentric.[7] Finally, late in the selection process, Gore decided against Graham.[8] Nevertheless, Graham maintained his notebooks were not diaries—as they contained no introspective commentary—but rather an efficient system for life management.[6] "I would rather have more detail than less," Graham told Time magazine in 2000. "I use [the notebooks] as a working tool. I review them for calls to be made, memos to be dictated, meetings I want to follow up on and things people promise to do. I would be reticent to be too open in describing personal feelings and emotions."[9] In the same article, an anonymous source close to Graham suspected the suicide of Graham's half-brother spurred Graham to seek control and discipline, one form of which was Graham's notebooks.[9]

Arthur Crew Inman (1895 - 1963) was a reclusive and unsuccessful American poet whose 17-million word diary, extending from 1919 to 1963, is one of the longest English language diaries on record. The diary was edited by Daniel Aaron and published in 1985 by Harvard University Press.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ipad hatred

I hate typing on my Ipad. After working with it for a couple of months I still find the keyboard awkward and the absence of a delete button confounding. Highlighting with the touch pad and "cutting" takes so much more time and it's so difficult with the small letters. Perhaps I delete more than most writers? Inputting much more than a search on Google is more trouble than it's worth. My plan was to use it for email while traveling. Well, maybe to read email, but my correspondents won't be getting more than a one sentence reply. Yes, I know I can buy an external keypad - Sharper Image has four or five styles, most built into a case, but then I might as well have a laptop. Before I give up on it entirely, I'm going to attend the Apple store Ipad tutoring session to see if there are some tricks or shortcuts that might help.

Streaming radio on the thing is a problem with many stations. I get them working and they suddenly stop and then won't work again. I'm sure there are solutions to these glitches but do I want to search for them and figure it out? My husband bought a lunchbox radio recently for the grove. It has two knobs, one for dialing in the station and one for volume. Brilliant.  

The reader is great. I enjoy the back lit text and the ability to make it larger and smaller. I love being able to write notes on marked pages and to refer directly to the dictionary or to Google. And who doesn't like paying less for books and getting them instantly! But you can get most of these features with with any ereader.

For the money, I'm not sure I wouldn't have been better off with a slim, light laptop.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

De Luz Picnic

The picnic invitation stated that eating would begin at 3:15. We arrived at about 3:00 and were shocked to see how few people were there. Our fabulous volunteer fire department had settled in but only a handful of people were gathered around a single table. I added my teriyaki chicken wings to the long, long master food table next to the other 3 dishes. Hmmmm.



By 3:12, 150 people descended on the place. The long table was completely covered with dishes and at 3:15 precisely, tops were off the food and the eating began. I love this event and the great home cooked dishes people bring. Wonderful enchiladas and tamales, cous cous, Thai salads, elaborately carved fruit, fried chicken, spare ribs, casseroles of all manners and descriptions. There's a nominal dessert section, but few people have the strength or eating stamina to cram down a dessert after the main event. By 4:30, everything's cleaned up and the last cars pull out for home. 




Introducing new neighbors

Monday, July 18, 2011

Six Million Dollar man

We met Transplant Carl yesterday at a party. He's 74 with the heart of a 32 year old convict (chilled out in prison) beating in his chest. He's had the heart for a year and feels like a million bucks. Or rather 6 million bucks which is the total of his medical bills so far. $1100 worth of drugs a month are necessary to maintain the overhaul. A former competitive bike racer, he's living life with zest and enjoying the new vigor and stamina. The only visible physiological effect of the new ticker on his body is that the hair on his arms and chest is growing faster. Medications?
Transplant Carl

Copper river salmon

The celebration was for my brother-in-law's 76th birthday.

Birthday boy

He baked his own "Flapper Pie"for the occasion - quite a culinary feat for a man who literally couldn't boil water a few years ago.

Carnal urge suppressing Flapper Pie
Flapper pie is a very old-fashioned custard pie in a graham cracker crust topped with meringue. It became popular in Canada in the 20th century and is still a staple of the Canadian prairie culture. We ate the pie with wild abandon growing up, not realizing that we were curbing our unhealthy carnal urges (see below). No wonder there are only 34 million Canadians.

From Wikipedia: The Graham cracker was originally marketed as "Dr. Graham's Honey Biskets" and was conceived of as a health food as part of the Graham Diet, a regimen to suppress what he considered unhealthy carnal urges, the source of many maladies according to Graham. Reverend Graham would often lecture about the adverse effects of masturbation or "self-abuse" as it was commonly called at the time [1] One of his many theories was that one could curb one's sexual appetite by eating bland foods. Another man who held this belief was Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the inventor of the corn flakes cereal.[2]

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I love a parade

 I love zany parades.  The Doo Dah in Pasadena is my all-time favorite. I haven't been for years but it used to be tons of fun.

Doo Dah: Synchronized brief case drill team circa 1979
Some of the recent entries have been: BBQ & Hibachi Marching Grill Team, The Shopping Cart Drill Team, The Bastard Sons of Lee Marvin, The Men of Leisure Synchronized Nap Team, The Marching Lumberjacks, Claude Rains & the 20-Man Memorial Invisible Man Marching Drill Team and the Committee for the Right to Bear Arms, a group that marches in precise formations while carrying mannequin arms.

Here's a great parade - it's a beer ad for the Australian beer VB.

Shouldn't we have one of these in Fallbrook?

Ice Cream: Variations on a Theme

From, Vintage Ice Cream poster
From the Huffpost Weird News:

High-end ice cream is the order of the day at the RM seafood restaurant at Mandalay Bay.

The restaurant offers a 16-flavor dessert challenge where patrons get 16 different one-ounce servings of one-of-a-kind ice creams and have to figure out the name of each flavor. At $18, it's a relative bargain compared to the $1,000 sundae, but what it lacks in expense it makes up for in difficulty, according to head chef Anthony Fusco. "The flavors range from simple infusions with fruits or herbs, spices and seasonings, to some savory flavors," Fusco said. "It's something we have here to express our creativity."Creative is right. The flavors change frequently, but a recent sampling included lavender, chocolate Guinness and even Sriracha, a hot sauce.

"A lot of this is seasonal, depends on what we have coming out of the ground," Fusco said. "And, of course, whatever inspires us through the course of the year." Each person who takes the challenge gets a sheet with 16 circles, arranged four in a row."Everything changes, except vanilla bean," Fusco said. "That's the guide." The taster -- or tasters -- sample each flavor and write down what they think it is. At the end, the waiter corrects the sheet and gives the score.

Flavor challenge at Mandalay Bay

Some odd-ball ice cream art:

Tim Berg and Rebekah Myers

Ray Murphy, Chainsaw artist

"Hot with a chance of a later storm", Glue Society of Sydney, Australia

Claus Oldenburg, Dropped Cone, Cologne, Germany

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Films: From one extreme to another

The movie theatre was over-cooled and at about 60 degrees; we were freezing. Fortunately I brought a shawl and both of us huddled under it while watching, or being assaulted by the trailers for the remaining summer block busters. Explosions, fantasy creatures and special effects blasted, screamed and crashed on the screen. We plugged our ears and waited for it to cease.

Elle Fanning
Finally Super Eight started up and we sank easily into the nostalgia of 70's. In a typical middle class neighborhood, a grieving boy and his appealing young movie-making buddies are looking forward to summer fun. We relaxed and started to engage with these winsome kids making their zany zombie film. The young actors in this film are great. But then the first crash came - a train wreck blasting onto the screen. A train wreck is a horrible event right? When we want to emphasize a catastrophe we compare it to the worst possible thing - a train wreck. But J. J. Abrams and crew had to make it train wreck + ++ and it ends up like a nuclear blast. It goes on and on and on with explosion after explosion, rail cars fly into the air...grinding, screeching, squealing. The film proceeds to slide downhill faster than greased pig on ice skates.

After watching J. J. Abrams deliver a TED talk on creativity I was so looking forward to this film. I knew it was heavy on the homage to Steven Spielberg. Fair enough. But it ended up being nothing but cliches and strings of imitative bits from all the classic horror/disaster movies ever. You'll recognize Alien, Close Encounters, ET, Stand By Me, King Kong,  even District 9 -  and they all fall flat. Seven or eight story lines are squished into the few minutes between explosions and chases - they flash by at warp speed, impossible to connect with.

Si Si Lui, Bai Qing Xin
By contrast, earlier in the week we watched "Springtime in a Small Town", a well reviewed Chinese film about nothing. There are three or four characters in the film and absolutely nothing happens and you don't get to know the people. If you like watching old ladies knit, you'll love this film.

The winner of the week for us was "Secretariat" which we watched on On Demand. A wonderful tale, told well - nicely balanced between the action of horse racing and the interesting stories of Secretariat's breeding, training and gutsy female owner. A great film to watch just before Del Mar opens next week!
Diane Lane and John Malkovich


Monday, July 11, 2011

Shipwreck Survival

Location of the wrecked ship Newry
Dabbling in genealogy I found out recently that my great grandfather James Armstrong, left Ireland in 1834 on the "Newry" bound from Belfast to Quebec. The ship was blown into the rocks in a storm and sunk in Wales on the Bay of Carnaron, but James survived, went to England where he worked and saved enough money for another passage to Canada. Eventually he made it to March, Ontario where he farmed and lived to be 100, dying appropriately on St. Patricks day, 1904. He had 11 children, the last one born when he was 65, the old devil. 

According to newspaper reports the crew of the "Newry" were pretty despicable. The captain ordered the mainmast be cut down to make a bridge for the passengers to get off the sinking ship, but the crew commandeered the bridge and rushed to save their own skins. Only the first and second mates stayed with the captain to help get passengers off the ship. They were assisted by a couple of local men. The survivors were aided by the honorable and kind local Welsh people who took them in and gave them what they could as they made their way to Holyhead and a ferry back to Ireland.

I imagine my great grandfather, naked, penniless and shivering but somehow having the guts and determination to get back to work and accomplish his goal.

The aunt I was named for survived not one but two ship wrecks in the twenties. I think of her every time I set foot on a boat. She was lucky enough to be on ships where the Birkenhead Drill was observed.     

HMS Birkenhead
The Birkenhead Drill is also known by the phrase "Women and children first". When the HMS Birkenhead sunk off the coast at Capetown in 1852, troops who were being transported on the ship were ordered by their commander Colonel Seton to stand fast while the women and children found places in the few life boats. 193 of 643 on board survived. Rudyard Kipling later immortalized the soldiers chivalry in the poem,  "Soldier an' Sailor Too":  

To take your chance in the thick of a rush, with firing all about,
Is nothing so bad when you've cover to 'and, an' leave an' likin’ to shout;
But to stand an’ be still to the Birken’ead drill is a damn tough bullet to chew,
An’ they done it, the Jollies - 'Er Majesty’s Jollies - soldier an' sailor too!
Their work was done when it 'adn’t begun; they was younger nor me an' you;
Their choice it was plain between drownin' in 'eaps an' bein' mopped by the screw,
So they stood an' was still to the Birken'ead drill, soldier an' sailor too!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Farmer's Market Temecula