Sunday, March 25, 2007

Going, going....

So, after hearing some disgruntled comments about comments appearing on wikifray, I set up the Feedbite links below. Since then, the number of people who've used the links to leave comments without appearing on wikifray is...


Of course, it's entirely possible I haven't written anything worth commenting on. Still, I think it's going to have to go.

Last chance: list your objections (on feedbite is fine with me), if you have them. If not, why waste the space?

I heard my ornithologist friend was visiting Southern Utah this year,

so I offered to consult my parents on the topic of birds to watch for (my parents are avid birdwatchers). I spoke to them last night, after taking my children down for dinner.

My mother took her well-worn, dog-eared and note-filled copy of “Birds of North America” (some early 1960’s edition, I’m sure) with her whenever we were traveling. “Oooh, oooh, stop the car! It’s a Lazuli Bunting!" was a common enough exclamation whenever we were on a car trip, or taking a drive up one of the canyons. Or going to the dentist; perpetually late, mom never hesitated to stop the car and admire some rare avian or another. Dad accommodated when he could, I think more in appreciation of her enthusiasm than to see whatever she’d spied (my brother and I were less appreciative. Not being in control of the car, however, there was little we could do about it). There is always at least one set of binoculars in the glovebox of my parents’ car.

So they were happy to suggest my friend visit Lytle Ranch, if at all possible, in Southwestern Utah. There are migratory birds there that can be seen nowhere else in the state (and few places elsewhere, apparently). Dad suggested my friend watch for Hooded Orioles and Phainopepla. Mom directed me to the local birder website, where one can find not only a Lytle Ranch fieldguide, but guides to various other locations as well.

I remember mom directing my attention to hovering kestrels, Blue Herons, teaching me the difference between a scrub jay and a Stellar’s jay, pointing out the differences between the silhouette of a hawk versus an eagle in flight, and shocking various houseguests with her freezer full of brightly plumed birds which had brained themselves on their plate windows. She put me on the lookout for burrowing owls, when I visit the west desert, and was quick to note the sighting of a nest of barn owls on a route I frequently take (I believe I saw one, taking off suddenly from a fencepost as I drove past. Mostly, it left the impression of something very, very big winging away in a flurry of abrupt motion).

Mom got the results from her latest CT scan yesterday. The nodule on her lung, which had been dormant, perhaps due to her efforts (IV vitamin C, radical diet stuff) has grown from 8 mm to over 2 cm, and smaller ones have proliferated. She’s weighing her options, and considering a trip to a clinic in Mexico. She’s no more spare lung to take – they’ve taken lower lobes on both sides already.

It’s impossible to anticipate the permanent absence of someone who has always been there. Mom hovers around the periphery of things most of the time, swooping in to take center stage at only the most unfortunate moments, when she wants to share something with her grandchildren: something they will neither understand nor appreciate, though I hoped they’d eventually come to recognize the value of her desire to share, across that peculiar gulf that seems to separate my mother from the vast majority of people. She harnesses more intellectual firepower than my father, and has only learned late in life to temper her enthusiastic desire to share whatever obscure passion she happens to be pursuing: not so much out of respect for the listener’s limitations, but more as the late-learned impact of her eccentricity on her relationships.

She has a brightly burning mind, and her lack of appreciation of larger society is more than counterbalanced by the intensity of her examination of the areas in which she finds satisfaction. It is difficult for me to imagine how such a thing could be extinguished, and all the insights, observations and trivia will fall silent, except in the memories of the people who love her.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

So this is a Nor’easter

I’m impressed. I’m also snowbound, and my flight’s been cancelled.

It took me over two hours this afternoon to make the return leg of a trip I’d made in 20 minutes this morning.

I was able to order a pizza earlier tonight; neither rain, nor sleet, nor blizzard will daunt the intrepid Domino’s man. I went out to the lobby area of my motel a little while later, and saw a couple of people had persuaded the desk manager to break out some of their continental breakfast supplies. I gave them the rest of the pie, so I got to feel like a good guy after feeling like a bad guy (for eating pizza). If this kept up for three weeks, I wonder if Donner-like strategies would start occuring to people.

Impressive accumulations – I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get out of here. I’m reluctant to give up my little motel room, but I may end up staying in the airport, if the flight scheduled for tomorrow afternoon ends up getting cancelled after I surrender my card key and rental car.

I hope the power holds out.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Doesn’t everybody diet in the Spring?

I lost a lot of weight awhile back, but I’ve some of it back on (you know, stress, domestic laziness, tobacco-abstinent), so I’m back on the diet bandwagon in anticipation of summer.

I lost all my weight before by refusing to diet (though I didn't have much time to exercise, either). I decided diets are all about satiety, so I took all of the simple carbs away (incl. White flour, though I’ll continue to eat whole wheat flour), and most of the fats. I decided my body needed to reacquaint itself with glycogen production and utilization, and sugars were the absolute worst thing I could eat.

Splenda had just come out, and I developed a set of recipes that proved to be tremendously helpful. This was my most successful – I ate about a thousand of these (gotta’ have something to grab on the go, or when I’m craving carbs/have the munchies, etc.).

Killer diet bran muffins

Break up two bananas and microwave for two minutes. Mash with fork.
Add: 2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 ¼ cups milk
three beaten eggs (egg substitute works fine)
Two cups all bran cereal
½ cup TVP (of the “Bob’s Red Mill” variety)
Raisins to suit
Let soak for a couple of minutes

Add 1 ¼ cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup (or more, if you like them sweeter) Splenda
1 Tablespoon baking powder
Cinnamon to cover the top of the bowl

Use cooking spray (preferably the “baking” variety with the added flour) and fill a dozen muffin cups (a little overfull is fine). Bake at 400 for about 25 minutes.

Particularly tasty with some of that liquid butter-substitute, hot out of the oven.

These muffins need to be refrigerated (sugar acts a little like a preservative, apparently, because these will mold in a couple days if left out).

Can substitute dried cranberries or diced apple (or both) for raisins.

I’ll figure out the protein / carbs later, but trust me when I say: they’ll do the trick when you’re jonesing for carbs (particularly if you make them a little on the sweet side), and when you’ve eaten one you feel like you’ve eaten something.

I love TVP: instant protein (satiety, remember?) and you can slip it into a lot of things. I’d add equal amounts TVP and water to oatmeal while I was cooking it (hardly notice it, especially if you’re adding Splenda, Raisins and Cinnamon) – about ¼ cup (each) per serving.

Another (I made again last night) is…

Fat-Free Clam Dip

1 cup fat free cottage cheese
1 cup fat free sour cream (gotta’ be the brand in the cow-print container).
2 cans minced clams, mostly (but not completely) drained.
Worcester sauce and Season Salt to taste (maybe a little regular salt, if the season salt is getting to be too much).

Sometimes for variety, I’d add a couple tablespoons of my favorite (sweet) chili sauce (Homade, which despite the evocatively inappropriate-seeming name, is available most everywhere).

Fantastic on cut vegetables.

I’ll post a couple pancake recipes later.