Backyard Dinosaur Count This Weekend

It’s time to count the dinosaurs—
It shouldn’t be that hard
Just grab yourself a window
That overlooks your yard
A pencil and some paper
To make a little list
A “field guide to the dinosaurs”
To name the ones you missed
The count begins this Friday,
And by Sunday night, it’s done
It’s time to count the dinosaurs…
So won’t you join the fun?

That’s right, this weekend (which has already started in Australia, so I’d better post this!) is the annual Great Backyard Dinosaur Count (ok, they call it the Great Backyard Bird Count, but as cool as birds are, everything about them is cooler when you remember that they are dinosaurs).

It’s very easy to do, and can take as little as 15 minutes at some point over the weekend, or (if you happen to be an obsessive birder… which phrase might well be redundant…) you can spend every waking moment and a substantial portion of your dreams, from Friday morning to Sunday night, looking out your window and noting the different dinosaur species.

You can guess which end of the spectrum I fall on.

Because. Just Because.

The American Dialect Society, which does this sort of thing, has voted that the 2013 Word of the Year is “Because”. Because reasons:

Presiding at the Jan. 3 voting session were ADS Executive Secretary Allan Metcalf of MacMurray College, and Ben Zimmer, chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society and executive producer of Vocabulary.com and the Visual Thesaurus. Zimmer is also the language columnist for the Wall Street Journal.

“This past year, the very old word because exploded with new grammatical possibilities in informal online use,” Zimmer said. “No longer does because have to be followed by of or a full clause. Now one often sees tersely worded rationales like ‘because science’ or ‘because reasons.’ You might not go to a party ‘because tired.’ As one supporter put it, because should be Word of the Year ‘because useful!’”

“Because” was a runaway winner, which I think is wonderful, given that its competition included “twerk” and “selfie”.

The announcement is actually a pretty neat read, with the top five vote-getters in the “Word of the Year” category, but also “Most Useful”, “Most Creative”, “Most Unnecessary”, “Most Outrageous”, “Most Euphemistic”, “Most Likely To Succeed”, “Least Likely To Succeed”, and “Most Productive”. For people who have a fondness for words, it’s great fun.

Besides, I have a fond place in my hearts for “Because”.

Because

I’ve examined evolution, and I think I understand
Though the evidence is shaky, still I think the theory’s grand
But it’s only just a theory, so it’s only just a start
And an open-minded person should try picking it apart.
No belief without a reason! Give me proof of what you claim!
And the more I look, the more I see the evidence is lame!
When considering a tangled bank, I choose to see God’s Laws
And the reason I believe it? Just because.

Charles Darwin drew a picture of an ever-branching tree
From the earliest of creatures all the way to you and me
Other limbs produced the fishes, beetles, lizards, monkeys, ants,
Paramecia, bacteria, creationists and plants;
He supported it with evidence of every kind he could
Which I’ve critically examined, as a thinking person should;
Now I know that he’s mistaken in the picture that he draws
And the reason I believe it? Just because.

If you analyze it critically, as science says we must
You’ll find laws of physics broken, so the theory is a bust:
The second thermo-something law is busted into pieces
By the fact that evolution means that entropy decreases!
And random changes couldn’t make the creatures that we find,
So the evidence is clear, that we cannot be un-designed!
With castles out of playing-cards and armies made of straws
There’s the reason I believe it: Just because.

Now, with Darwin and his evolution clearly in the tank
There is only one alternative, if I am to be frank;
That’s the theory found in Genesis, the Holy Word of God,
And with natural selection out, creation gets the nod.
But we can’t be disrespectful to our deeply held belief,
So our critical examination, this time, must be brief
There’s no clothing on this emperor, not even filmy gauze—
But the reason I believe it? Just because.

Sure, the logic may be iffy, and the evidence is slim—
Who created the creator? And then, who created him?
Why the Genesis creation? Why not something else instead?
Can we guarantee the story is exactly what God said?
Is it literal or metaphor, or maybe outright fiction?
What’s the proper course of action when we find a contradiction?
I’m ignoring any nagging doubt within me where it gnaws
And the reason I believe it? Just because.

If I’m right, I go to heaven, which I’d really like to do
But I’ll go to hell for sure if I suspect that it’s untrue
It’s a simple little wager, there’s no reason to think twice:
You get punished if you’re naughty, you get presents if you’re nice
From the guy who watches all of us, from there behind his beard
(And who cares if it’s millennia since last time he appeared?)
And so, even if it’s really just a grown-up’s Santa Claus
Well, the reason I believe it? Just because.

Planting A Seed…

So I sold only a handful of (War Against) Christmas books (e-version here)–not terribly surprising, since it was a last-minute idea that came to fruition right at the time I had the least possible free time to promote it. The only bad thing about it is that with fewer units sold, there was relatively little profit to be sent off to charity.

So I rounded up. As far as I know, there aren’t a lot of organizations that promise that over 100% (in this case, about 103%) of the profits will go to charity. But that’s how we roll here at the ‘fish.

The cause supported (and still worth supporting, although the fund-raiser is only going on a couple more days) is the Women’s Leadership Project (about which more here). Like I just said, there are only a couple more days in their fund-raiser; yes, they have met their matching challenge, but as I look out my window, and note that the thermometer here reads -6.7 F, I can’t help but think ahead to when I’m planting my garden… and I know how much gardens (both literal and metaphorical) can cost, and how much more they are worth. The WLP could use as much seed money as you can spare them–so if you don’t want to buy my book (same deal applies–at least 100% will go to charity–the WLP if still available, even if I have to hand bills to Sikivu Hutchinson myself, or another cause if need be)–you can give directly. Here’s the direct link–you only have a couple of days.

Two-Year-Old Boy Carries Unborn Twin

It’s rare, of course, but not unheard of. This recent case from China:

…reminds me of the last time I visited this subject, thanks to Shelley at Retrospectacle (now defunct), when the muse was a… unique… knitting project.

“Teratoma”, or “Knit me a Sister”.

“I have an invisible friend”, I said,
“But she doesn’t hide beneath my bed,
Or in my closet–no, instead,
I keep her tucked inside.”

“We do not mean to condescend,
But we all know, there’s no such friend;
This fabrication now must end.”
My Mom and Dad replied.

“But Mommy! Daddy! Please, I swear!
She’s closer than my teddy bear!
See my tummy? She’s in there!
I even feel her growing!”

My parents didn’t scream or shout;
They trusted me, despite their doubt,
And had a doctor check me out
When something started showing!

My friend was real! I hadn’t lied!
At first, my twin, but then she died.
The doctors cut me open wide
And shoveled out my basement.

I never knew I had a sister,
But once my friend was gone, I missed her;
So, knitting till she raised a blister
My Mom made a replacement!

Waiter! This Coffee Doesn’t Taste Like Shit!

I grind my coffee fresh each day,
A hearty, fragrant scoop
With hints of citric acid, and
A note of civet poop
But with the market full of fakes
I might just have to quit…
I mean, who wants a cup of joe
That doesn’t taste like shit?

Via NPR, the latest on Civet Cat Poop Coffee.

The beans are literally harvested from the feces of the tree-dwelling civet cat in Indonesia. The idea is that a trip through the animal’s digestive tract partially ferments the beans and imparts a much-sought-after flavor to the coffee.

The exotic processing makes the coffee, called Kopi Luwak, exceptionally rare — and expensive: Think $600 per pound. And thus, experts suspect that much of what’s sold as civet coffee on the market is actually either fake or made from low-grade beans.

And worth every penny. Think about it–the only possible reason to buy a cup is conspicuous consumption–showing off–and even more than dusty wine and stinky cigars, nothing says “I’ve got money to burn” more appropriately than paying outrageous sums for a cup of literal shit.

But the story is actually pretty cool. Actually, a lot of coffee chemistry and psychophysics is pretty cool. And the picture of the coffee-bean civet cat shit is classic (the living conditions of the animals, considerably less cool). And while I’d be willing to be part of a blind taste test to evaluate the extravagant claims, there is no way I’d pay for the privilege. Anyone who has seen my wardrobe knows, I am not one for conspicuous consumption.

National Dog Day

So, yeah, I only found out a bit ago from Mano that it is National Dog Day* here. Knowing that I have written quite a lot about dogs, I thought I’d do the lazy thing and see what sort of dog verse (doggerel?) I could dig up. I’ve written quite a few doggy things, from celebrations of rolling in garbage, to wedding weirdness, to religious metaphors, to sirius serious science… and a verse that is taught in schools in India. (And there is so much more–I keep forgetting how damned much I have written over the years–and a non-trivial percentage of it is actually pretty good.) And then I saw this one. And I cried. And kept crying for quite a bit. So, for National Dog Day, the saddest verse I have ever written.

I hope we did what’s best for you
I know, at least, we tried.
I took you to the doctor
And I stayed there at your side;
I talked with you for one last time
Then held you as you died.
I kissed your head, and said good-bye
And cried
And cried
And cried.

Yeah, well… happy National Dog Day.

* I was supposed to post pictures of my dogs, apparently. Problem is, the cuttledogs are weaponized cuteness, and the internets couldn’t take it.

This Time, The Apocalypse Is For The Birds

Predictions of apocalypse
Are found in some religions
This week, for something different, it’s
The end of days… of pigeons

In Moscow, birds are dying—
Ah, but that is not the worst—
The pigeons don’t just die; they’ve been
Becoming zombies first!

They fall to earth as if possessed,
Their muscles strangely weak
They’re listless, twisted, twitching,
And they’re foaming at the beak

It’s probably a virus,
Or so the signs portend,
But others see a different sign:
The world’s about to end

So for the birds afflicted
With a tortured torticollis
Consider your predicament
And maybe take some solace:

Rasputin said the world would end
This August twenty-third…
You’ve only missed a little time,
You poor, infected bird

And if it is apocalypse,
And if it is the worst…
We’ll all be dead by Friday, but
The pigeons got there first

The video is in Russian, but the footage is very creepy indeed. Pigeons are falling from the skies in Moscow, twisting their necks around, seizing, foaming at the beak, and dying. It’s probably Newcastle Disease, according to researchers (viral, and contagious to humans), but it also turns out that the Mad Monk, Rasputin, predicted the end of the world… this Friday. So, clearly, it could be that.

Sure, we’ve seen end time predictions before–I think we’ve lived through 3 or 4 since the inception of this blog–but if you can’t believe Rasputin, who can you believe?

The Other Kind Of Blue Moon

So… I learned something new today. I had known for some time of the “second full moon in the same month” definition, but it turns out that is the second definition. Before it (and still, but less well known perhaps thanks to Nanci Griffith and Patrick Alger), it turns out that a Blue Moon is the third full moon in a four moon season–so tonight is this year’s summer Blue Moon. Or so says space.com, anyway.

Back when I thought there was only one definition, in 2009, specifically, there was a Blue Moon on New Years Eve. Which was pretty cool, if you ask me. I saw it, as I so often do, as an occasion for a verse.

A bit of an explanation first. I realized, upon reading this, that my mom is strange. You see, she has her own way of pronouncing some words–not a regional accent, just her. “Bicycle” is pronounced as if you just put “bi” in front of the word “cycle”; nobody does that. “Aren’t” is pronounced with two syllables; nobody does that. And the phrase “once in a blue moon” has the accent on the word “blue”, like “once in a BLUE moon”. Again, nobody does that. But… the tag phrase to this verse came to me, unbidden, as such things do, and it was pronounced that way. So, no complaining about the meter; I already know.

As the calendar crawls toward the end of the year
And of course, as a brand new beginning draws near
I guess it’s just human to look to the past
At the things we have done; at the lot we’ve been cast,
At the friends we have gained, and the friends we have lost,
At the things we might change, had we just known the cost.
I’ll go quite a long time without thinking of you,
But, once in a blue moon, I do.

A year full of travel, of learning, of fun,
A year I’d have sworn had just only begun
Although it was tough, this was one of the best,
With the children all grown up and leaving the nest
They’re better than me, I’ll admit it with pride,
And I think I might burst, I’m so happy inside!
And my heart doesn’t feel like the thing it once was
But, once in a blue moon, it does.

It isn’t the same, but it never can be,
As time, and as life, moves too quickly for me,
The days—hell, the weeks—are a bit of a blur
And things are not ever the way that they were.
I guess I just mean that I want you to know
That I hope you are happy and well, even though
I may miss you much more than the law should allow,
Just once in a blue moon… like now.

So, happy Blue Moon to you all!

“Foggy Bottom” Ink Review

Foggy Bottom

I purchased this ink,
To be honest, I think
For the picture adorning the bottle.
It’s a cuttle with quill,
And it gave me a thrill
In a way that–in truth–not a lot’ll.
With the ink smoothly flowing
My pleasure is showing
(I’ve never been one to be subtle)
To conclude my review
It’s a beautiful hue:
“Foggy Bottom”–approved by the Cuttle!

Ok, so the truth is, I did not purchase it; it was a gift. But other than that, I am loving this ink. It’s by the good people at Organics Studio, who also make a neat indelible black ink named for Charles Darwin. I can see why I was given this ink–just take a look at the label!