March 7, 2017: Dangerous Cats, Biking in Wind, Broken Glass, Muffin Bread, Spring, Carrion

March 7, 2017:  Dangerous Cats, Biking in Wind, Broken Glass, Muffin Bread, Spring, Carrion

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Cats are a danger to humans: tripping and diseases are hazards.

Cats serve humans as surrogate non-needy friends, or as substitute children.  Setting aside the disagreeable task of cleaning their litter boxes, they do pose significant actual dangers to humans.  They get underfoot and can trip the unsuspecting and cause broken wrists, broken hips, and brain-threatening concussions.  Even when falling is avoided, they trigger emotional distress when humans step on them and make them yowl.

“Gawdamit!  Sorry, cat!  I did not mean to step on you.  Stoopid cat.  Get out from under my frisking feet.”

Some seconds later, when panic begins to fade, to self, muttering, “Geezus I hope I did not break that cat’s leg.  Crimony.  Not my fault.  Fricking cat.”

Most concerning are the cat-born diseases.  Toxoplasmosis can be transmitted by felines and is a parasite that may negatively impact risk assessment.  No human needs to be worse at risk assessment: their skill level is horrible in the modern world.  Infection rates among adult humans in the USA are about 18%.to 19%.  Look it up.  Approximately 60 million adults in the USA are/have been infected with Toxoplasmosis.  This figure roughly corresponds with the number of humans who voted for he who must not be named.  Coincidence?

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Wind is the biker’s enemy

Androp went biking in winds that hovered near 12 mph on an overcast, 50 F morning.  Riding out into the wind was brutal.  Riding back was a breeze (pun intended).  Hint: ride out into the wind, and back with the wind.  Pay attention.  Also, when a rider reaches 8 to 10 mph on a bike, nearly all of the riding resistance comes from wind.  The weight of the bike matters little: given a human weighting 200 lbs, pedaling a bike that weights 35 lbs versus 25 lbs only add 4.4% to the load.  Riding resistance is impacted even less.  Likewise, tire tread and tire circumference add little riding resistance.  Google Sheldon Brown (insert biking subject) for more information.

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Puddles of crushed glass are hard in bicycle tires.  Garbage trucks have been leaking.

Speaking of biking and broken glass: the wife successfully sleuthed the source of puddles of broken glass that appear on the street in our cul-de-sac: garbage trucks.  This is bad news for biking, especially for non-puncture-resistant youth bike tires.  Bummer.

The culinary notes are sparse: Androp made pulled pork, coleslaw, baked beans, green beans, and fresh English muffin bread this week for the family Sunday meal.  Pulled pork and coleslaw on buns is yummy.  Cook the pork slowly for tenderness: in the oven at about 310 for 4 hours.  Use a fatty roast, such as “butt roast” or “Boston Butt” or “shoulder roast.”  These are all from the shoulder area.  Pork loin sucks for pulled pork: too lean.  English muffin bread (also called toasting bread) is probably the easiest yeast loaf to make for the first-time baker.  No kneading, no stand or hand mixer needed, and only one rise required.  The loaves are firm and can be sliced thin for toasting.  All recipes for this loaf are similar.  Pleasing, bigger loaves will result if the baker adds about 25% to all ingredients from most recipes.

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English muffin bread (one loaf partially consumed, above) is easy for first-time bakers.  Pulled pork requires a fatty roast, slow cooked.

 

Signs of spring are abundant in Androp’s home town: decorative magnolia trees and Bradford pears are in bloom.  Generally, this means one more freeze on the year.

Finally, Androp has a friend who feeds carrion to Turkey Vultures in his back year.  They need to eat, too.  An interesting note: no wintering Turkey Vultures were recorded in Androp’s home town during the Christmas bird counts until the 1990’s.  More than a dozen were observed along Missouri River bluffs during Saturday’s bike ride.  The reason is unknown, but the appearance of vultures does correspond with the building of sewage ponds, and of wildlife conservation ponds, in the area.  Could dead ducks have attracted the wintering vultures?  The curious await a better explanation.

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Photodocumentation of carrion being fed to a Turkey Vulture in a suburban back yard.  All birds have to eat.  Vultures were going to get this dead animal anyway.

 

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February 27: Best-selling Car; Odd Use of a Urinal; Potatoes and Onions; Pileated Woodpecker

February 27: Best-selling Car; Odd Use of a Urinal; Potatoes and Onions; Pileated Woodpecker

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The Cozy Coupe: Best-selling car in America – for good reason.

The best-selling car in America is the Cozy Coupe by Little Tykes.  No child can resist the allure of this riding toy, in production since 1979.  It seats up to four, including two on top, and is powered by humans: no greenhouse gasses are produced in excess of those produced by living humans.  WHAT A CAR.  Androp has never much desired automobiles of any sort, but the cozy coupe is a must for children.

Androp spent several days in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and came away unimpressed by the city itself.  No food that scored above “okay” was consumed.  Some said that the city had charm, with art deco buildings.  Mainly, Androp saw monolithic downtown structures designed to impress plebeians.  This reminded him of the People’s Square in Taipei City, which actually is way more impressive, although in a blue-smoke-filling-the-air way.  As for the art deco: Napier, NZ, has more beauty and charm (not close).  The meetings attended included visits with many old friends, which is always the highlight of any conference.

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Cultural icons of Tulsa, Oklahoma.  The food was bad and the hand washing was creepy.

A note: Androp is invariably dreadfully uneasy in large groups of humans he does not know.  Basically this represents mild to medium agoraphobia.  Probably this is common: small group primates should mainly not be relaxed in large groups.  Some stranger may be looking to steal your resources.

The culinary note this week centers on fried potatoes and onions.  These are made and eaten approximately once a week at Androp’s house.  The keys are (1) cut the potatoes into small, even-sized cubes with a sharp, 20 cm (8 inch) chef’s knife, and (2) cook the potatoes until almost done before adding the onion, which cooks much faster.  The cooking shows that add many different kinds of vegetables to a fry pan at once are insanely wrong:  And for gawd’s sake, never add garlic to a fry pan more than two minutes before food is removed from heat.  Bitter, burnt garlic is unappetizing.  Any advice from any celebrity chef that recommends adding garlic early can and should be safely ignored.

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Potatoes are nature’s perfect food.  To cube: square off, plank, form posts (not shown), cube (end product shown).

In nature notes, Andorp acquired photo-documentation of a Pileated Woodpecker on the back deck.  This was a first.  Spring is early: the daffodils are nearly blooming.  Finally, the wife heard coyotes yipping from both sides of our urban cud-de-sac at once.  The urban peninsula is about 50 m wide, with wooded ravines on either side.  One group of coyotes was on one side, one on the other side.  They were close enough, apparently, to actually see the wife and the little dog on the sidewalk, because they stopped yipping when the wife approached.  Likely, they were spooked by the appearance of a human, not of a little dog.

The level of anxiety that he who must not be named is causing Androp’s friends is distressing.  Staying ignorant of events is not responsible, but staying constantly frantic is not healthy.  Hopefully, most will find some happy medium.

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February 21, 2017: Weird Weather; Big Meals; The Park

February 21, 2017: Weird Weather; Big Meals; The Park

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Warm weather enabled outdoor activities.  This child was allowed to play until clear signs of leg muscle and brain fatigue were apparent.

A vast quantity of humans in Androp’s home town spent some of both days over this past week-end outside.  Conditions were unseasonably warm: a new record was set on Saturday with a high of 77 F.  Normal high (average of previous 30 years) is 46.  Hint: Weather Underground has great information posted online; their weather app is good as well.

Androp got in an early Saturday morning bike ride and a trip to the park with the youngest grandchild.  The slide was accessed and used more than 30 times.  The first experience in a ‘big girl’ swing resulted in great joy as well as a fall.  Jumping off a moving swing resulted in a face plant into weathered chunks of shredded trees.  Hint to adults: children younger than about 5 years or age are not ‘swing aware:’ they will walk right in front of a moving swing.  Small children do need some help with decision making.

In culinary news, Androp made way too much food for the family meal on Sunday: pork ribs, sausage, coleslaw, glazed carrots, rice, broccoli, baked pears, fresh pineapple.  The pears were effectively baked on the grill in a covered dish.  To accomplish baked pears, slice about 4-5 pears into cut into large (1 -2 inch) chunks, and toss them in 0.5 c sugar and 1 generous tsp cinnamon (a touch of ginger helps too).  Add a tbl or two of butter on top.  Baking time for pears can be quite variable: whether they are firm or soft, just pretend that was the idea.  Channel Julia Child and act like you meant them to be exactly as they came out.

Carrots enjoy being glazed – you can seem them quiver with excitement when sweet stuff is added.  Just boil them first, drain, add back to the pan, and then add a tbl of brown sugar or, better, real maple syrup and a tbl of butter and a tsp salt.  Heat them a bit.

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Pork ribs that can be eaten off the bone. Cut out every other rib close to the bone and the remaining ribs will be extra meaty.  Ribs are consumed with rapt enthusiasm by most humans.  Androp prefers to let guests add their own seasoning or BBQ sauce.

Ribs benefit from slow cooking.  Hint: St. Louis style pork ribs offer a good compromise between not meaty enough and too meaty to be called ribs because they cannot be eaten off the bone (as are some baby back ribs).  Ribs eaten with a fork are just pork chops or something – avoid this.  Androp usually simmers his in water with 0.25 c vinegar added for about 30 minutes, then drains, and places them on a hot grill to add a little crispy on the outside.  Seasoned salt is added before grilling.  Huge hint: to serve, cut every other rib out (close to the bone).  The chef or his favored assistant(s) should eat whatever meat is left on these ‘waste ribs.’  Everyone can add what they want later in terms of BBQ sauce.  Most humans will simply eat them hot off the grill with seasoned salt.  Few dishes are eaten with more blissful enthusiasm than ribs.  Two large racks were consumed Sunday, without use of any sauce at all.  Seasoned salt can be easily made at home: 2 tbs salt, one tsp sugar, one tsp paprika, and then lesser amounts of powdered garlic and onion, and dried mustard.

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Painting on frames covered in cloth was added as a leisure activity.

Finally, the younger daughter has discovered painting as a hobby.  She brought canvases and paints for everyone and all of the kids and some of the adults made paintings.  It was a fantastic idea, and a great outlet for creativity.  The children were quite pleased with their own efforts.

Odd note under inquiring minds want to know: why do humans buy un-hulled pistachios when they could buy delicious, ready to gobble down, cashews?  This seems to make little sense.

February 12, 2017: Pancakes; Biking; Owls and Woodpeckers; Conspiracy Theories

February 12, 2017:  Pancakes; Biking; Owls and Woodpeckers; Conspiracy Theories

The culinary news involves pancakes.  The wife’s grandmother left a buttermilk pancake recipe that has been used, presumably, for more than 60 years.  Results from this formulation are always exceptional: perfect fluff, browning, and taste.  The recipe is remarkable because a full batch calls for 12 cups of flour. Most modern recipes call for 2 cups of flour.

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Go big or go home on pancakes: use buttermilk; eat real butter and real maple syrup. Dab maple syrup drops onto the cooking pancakes if you want (lower left).  The pancakes on the cutting board will be frozen and fed to children later.

Hints on pancakes: (1) a person can place drips of real maple syrup in them before they are turned and successfully feed them to small children later (even after freezing), (2) use real butter on them if consuming hot; do not be timid, (3) use real maple syrup if maple flavor is desired – go big or go home.  Pancakes can be successfully cooked in a cast iron pan, but this is one case where a large, electric cooking surface may prove useful, if many people are to be served at once.  For the record: Androp Gerard does not have an electric cooking surface, and would pay hundreds of dollars to avoid owning one.  He is a minimalist.

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Many were out enjoying a 70 F degree day over the week-end.

In biking and nature, the weather allowed a pleasant trail ride.  A Great Horned Owl was seen from the trail.  This species is more often heard than seen, and not that often heard.  This was a rather uncommon and exciting observation.  Two Bald Eagle nests were also spotted.  One clearly had a mature eagle on the nest.  Interestingly, these two nests are less than 3 km apart, which seems a bit close.  Finally, a Pileated Woodpecker was seen slide4in the yard.  Sightings occur less frequently than one per year, in general, so this was another exciting wildlife observation.

Androp has been considering the origin of conspiracy theories. Belief in conspiracy theories, superstitions, and religions seem to be in the same family of human behaviors. These spring, basically, from the need to explain patterns, past events, and future possibilities – all to reduce anxiety.  To the extent that conspiracy theories are different from religious beliefs, the following observations apply:

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Conspiracy theorists enjoy few benefits.
  1. Conspiracy theorists are by most definitions in the minority within a society, although they may often be members of a majority religion.  This may tend to diminish the direct social benefits of belief.Few conspiracy theorists gather regularly to perform rituals: (songs, chants, responses to prompts).  These types of activities offer benefits similar to meditation, as well as enhancing social bonding.
  2. Belief in conspiracy theories does not effectively sooth anxiety, even though these beliefs spring from anxiety. Religious adherents (who are not at the same time conspiracy theorists) are generally soothed via belief.
  3. Conspiracy theorists see those in control of events as malevolent. No reward is offered for belief.  Religious believers see their god(s) as loving, and adherents are rewarded for belief.
  4. Conspiracy theorists generally lack trust in many or most institutions and their representatives. Believers in majority religions make up the institutions and their members.

The most prominent conspiracy theorist in the world today is Donald J. Trump.

Feburary 9, 2017: Jiffy Pop; Breakfast Tacos; Cortisone Shots

Feburary 8, 2017: Jiffy Pop; Breakfast Tacos; Cortisone Shots

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Jiffy Pop: As much fun to make as it is to eat!

In culinary news, the grandchildren made Jiffy Pop.  Androp Gerard remembers when that was a new thing: “As much fun to make as it is to eat!”  None was ever popped at the boyhood home.  This was a first for both for the papa and the grandchildren.  For that reason, approximately a third of the kernels did not get popped.

In things you do when you are semi-awake when you should be totally asleep: in the wee hours Androp failed to properly identify which grandchild was talking, and therefore needed tending.  Since nobody was talking when he got up to check, he just went back to bed.  “That one talks in her sleep.”   Later:

Child, “Hello!  Bye bye!”

The wife gets up.  Me, “(Names a child) is talking in her sleep.”

The wife, “No. It is not that child.  There is a cat locked in the other kid’s room.”

Thump thump thump.  Meow. Upon extraction of the cat, the child apparently went back to sleep fairly quickly.  Not so much for Androp and the wife.

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Breakfast tacos require modest culinary skill but require massive clean-up.

Breakfast tacos were made and consumed for brunch the next day.  These require a surprising number of bowls and prep time: eggs, bacon, refried beans, tomatoes, raw onions, cubed potatoes, salsa, cheese, plain yogurt, hot peppers, and tortillas.  Those containers plus plates added up to more than 20 dishes and two pans.  Probably more than 30 serving spoons and forks were used.  Buy stock in dishwasher makers.  When someone says breakfast tacos are simple, that means anyone can make them.  Prep time and clean-up can be somewhat daunting: they are hard in some regards.  One culinary hint: whip the eggs with a whisk and then salt them 15 minutes before they are cooked.  Add one tbs of cold butter for each 2 eggs when scrambling.  Do not over-cook: they should be a bit gooey when removed from the pan.

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Trail use is amazingly high, even on cold days.  Four bike shops serve a town of only 120,000.

The weather was good enough to bike, although the wind in the face was stinging more than invigorating.  The Bald Eagles (one of them anyway) are supervising their nest site, although none was seen on the nest.  A surprising number of humans were out walking near trail heads, including many couples and families.  In Androp’s city of 120,000, four bike shops that carry four different flagship major bike maker brands occur.  A medical school and three major hospitals also occur.  So anyone who has a bike accident will likely be seen by a passing Doc.

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Androp’s initial cortisone injection was given by a person who was later disqualified from cramming long needs deep into other people’s flesh.

Androp got a cortisone shot in the shoulder for adhesive capsulitis.  Recall that he had a terrifying experience the first time he got one (see December 8, 2016, journal entry).  This time, the Attend Physician (teacher who was supervising the Fellow or Resident Doc for the earlier injection) was in charge.  The procedure was fast and mostly painless.

Me, “That was fantastic, Doc.  You were supervising someone else, a Fellow or Resident Doc maybe, when I got my first injection.  That did not go so well.”

Her, “Really?”

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The radiology waiting room was not very inviting.

Me, “Ya. (I provided some horrifying quotes similar to the ones I gave in the December 8 post).”

Her, “Oh I am sorry.  I usually try to be more discrete with the patient in the room.  Was it (insert description of Fellow or Resident student Doc).”

Me, “That was her.”

Her, “She never did get it.  I stopped letting her give injections.”

Me, to self, “Oh just gawdamned fine.  I was given an injection by a trainee who failed the course.   A proven failure at giving injections crammed a needle 6 inches into my body.  Possibly, her failure was in large part due to how much she screwed up on me.  There are two witnesses standing here.  Get their names.”

Hint: ask for the Attending Physician, not a Fellow or a Resident.

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This dog will spook from nothing.

In nature news, coyotes were heard yipping from Androp’s cul du sac dog walking route.  The little dog was spooked.  But then, the little dog spooks from a leaf blowing across the sidewalk.  And often, she jumps due to nothing visible in the external environment (e.g. brain worms).  To anyone who has not heard coyotes: they make a lot of noise, but it is not howling, it is yipping and barking.  Probably at least two were yipping on Sunday evening.  The number is impossible to tell, since they can make a lot of noise.

Politics remain pretty much the same.  Those who think he is trying to discredit the press are incorrect: he has already successfully discredited the press.

January 30: 2017: Baking and Roasting; Birds and Bikes

January 30: 2017: Baking and Roasting; Birds and Bikes

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American Robins and Cedar Waxwings were seen dining in the neighborhood flowering crabapple tree in significant numbers.

In nature news, the American Robins and Cedar Waxwings have been stuffing themselves on the tiny apples of a flowering crabapple tree in our neighborhood.  Large numbers, sometimes with these two spcies mixed, were seen this past week-end.  The apples have been on the tree for a long time, but are just now being consumed.  Are they a little fermented and therefore easier to digest?  Or are hungry birds just here in greater numbers?

 

The Sunday meal was filed under extreme cooking and large-meal dining.  We consumed mass quantities of herb and garlic roasted chicken, fresh cinnamon swirl bread, whipped potatoes, and baked pears with brown sugar and cinnamon. Lemon iced lemon donuts were for desert.  The youngest grandchild helped both by consuming and obtaining food through conspicuous, determined shopping.

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Determined shopping resulted in food acquisition.

The only culinary hint included here: cook the chicken slow (so the white and dark meat both get done at about the same time), and let it cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing..  In a convection oven, that might mean 2.5 hours or more in a 325 degree oven.  The skin will brown in a convection oven at that temperature, but otherwise start the foul at 500 and immediately turn the oven down so the skin will brown (of course, you need to rub the skin with oil or butter to get it to brown).  When the meat has pulled away from the end of the drumstick, and the drumstick is loose on pushing up and down, the bird is done.   Androp Gerard cannot generally stick an instant read thermometer into the thigh (the slowest part to cook).  A chicken’s thigh is surprising difficult to locate.  A thermometer is an unneeded and often misleading tool for this kind of work. slide3

Under notes for first-time adult bike riders, I would provide the following.

  1. Sheldon Brown’s web site is the best source of unbiased information, even though he passed in 2008. Google “Sheldon Brown bikes” or “Sheldon Brown (insert bike subject).”  Colleagues of his have kept the site reasonably up to date.  His writing was exceptionally clear and his knowledge of bikes was legendary.
  2. Don’t buy a bike at a big-box store. Buy one from a local bike shop (LBS).  Big box stores carry lower quality bikes.
  3. A new bike worth owning will cost about $500. In this price range, the wheel set, tire puncture resistance, and shifters will all be significantly improved over entry-level models that start around $370. Those improvements are well worth the cost.  The $370 bike is going to leave you broken down within 200 miles: a flat or a bent wheel or a shifter that will not work, etc.
  4. Beyond about $550 up to close to $1000, up-grades may relate to the frame (slightly better aluminum, why?), fork (slightly lighter or more rigid carbon forks), brakes (disc brakes are not needed), grips (those are mainly for looks), seats (a nose-less seat should be purchased and installed; seat up-grades are therefore useless), and the shifters (mainly, these go from 21 or 24 to 27 gears, and they get lighter – who cares?). Bells and whistles might also be added like carrying brackets or light sets or fenders.  For some riders, these might be worth the cost.  Not, generally, for first-time buyers.
  5. Each bike maker now has a confusing array of bikes called by different names. The concepts associated with names (e.g. “urban” or “recreation” or “dual sport”) among bike markers don’t entirely overlap in meaning.  The LBS will help.  A few styles far out-sell other types, for good reason.

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    Modern bikes come in a confusing array of styles.  The Local Bike Shop can generally help.
  6. Don’t go into the LBS with strong biases. Let them steer you after you let them know how and where you will be riding. Listen.
  7. A few well-earned biases of Androp Gerard:
    1. Bike shorts and gloves improve riding comfort a great deal.
    2. Wear a helmet. Yes, Androp Gerard has fallen on a bike path twice in approximately the past 3000 miles.  Once, his helmet hit hard.
    3. Bike shoes also improve comfort a good deal, especially on longer rides. They are recommended but not essential at first.
    4. Old-fashioned nylon toe clips keep feet from slipping off the pedals when things get damp. This is an important safety feature, but not essential.
    5. Front fork and seat suspension components improve the ride maybe a tad, but they also add weight. Most bike path riders decide they do not want or need the suspension.
    6. An upright riding position appears easier and more comfortable that a ‘leaned forward’ position, but the opposite can just as easily be true.  A rider that is too upright will have a butt that is hurting: all the weight is on the cheeks and none on the arms, shoulders, and wrists.  Pedaling can also be significantly more difficult if the riding position is too upright.  That might not matter for 10 minute rides, but it will for 30 minute rides.
  8. If you like to buy used cars, go ahead and get a used bike. At the LBS, to me, they seem too pricey – at least half but approaching two-thirds the cost of the bike when it was new.  If you are buying a used bike, similar to a used car, take along someone with at least a little bit of experience.
  9. Many LBS’s have at least a couple of styles of bikes for rent. This allows you to try out the style you think you want.  Hint: the styles they rent are the ones that sell, and probably you want one of those styles.

Politics are just too absurd to comment on.  What country on earth would want to emulate American Ideals at this point?

 

January 26: Ready to Eat Again: The Strike is Over

January 26: Ready to Eat Again: The Strike is Over

Androp Gerard is ending his hunger/non-blogging strike that began in protest to the election of he who must not be named.  To blog followers: sorry for not announcing the beginning of the strike.  But this is the end of it.  Resistance will continue.  Life goes on.

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The child does not care who is POTUS.  She wants more chocolate though.

The older child went on a cruise and the wife and Androp had three grandchildren and two extra dogs for 10 days.  The grandchildren were delightful.  The dogs were as much fun as a visit to the dentist.  (Androp despises dentists).

Here’s an interesting note: these grandchildren are all younger than 7.  Yet, they understood that they were to stay with us for an extended period.  Consequently, their behavior around the house as longer-term guests was immediately strikingly different versus their behavior during frequent visits.  Even young humans can be remarkably smart and perceptive.  Startling.slide2

Recall that the goat sacrifice worked, and days continue to lengthen.  In anticipation of warmer weather, serious research on youth bikes has ensued.  The two older grandchildren need bike up-grades: both learned to ride last fall.  They need lighter, youth-specific bikes:

Adult Weight (me):                     215 lbs

My Bike:                                   28 lbs

Percentage                               13.0%

 

Kid Weight (7 YO)                           55 lbs

Kid Bike (mainstream maker)      28 lbs

Percentage                                           50.9%

 

Woom and Islabikes are the two youth-specific bike makers that seem best based on review of web sites.  Spawn has mainly boys bikes.  Cleary will not publish the weight of their bikes.  Trek may have one model worth looking at, but Jamis, Specialized, Giant, Diamondback, Schwinn, and Kona have no reasonable youth bikes.slide3

In nature news, four white-tailed deer were attracted to a pile of corn the neighbors put out during a cold spell.  During a snap of colder weather, bird activity at the feeders and bird bath increased.  Eastern Bluebirds are seldom seen unless all water in the area is frozen, save what is in our bird hot tub.  The most abundant species this year has been Goldfinches; White-throated Sparrows seem down from last year.  A presumed nesting pair of Barred Owls have been heard hooting back and forth on several occasions these past 10 days.slide1

Finally, in politics: this blog will attempt to address this subject only on the rare occasion in the future.  Androp Gerard needs to practice better coping mechanisms to maintain personal resilience.  Avoidance of news is one strategy.  The most striking recent revelation seems to be increasing paranoia in he who must not be named.

“You’d be paranoid too, if everyone was out to get you.”  –  Frank Burns, M*A*S*H

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Frank Burns: POTUS

 

January 3, 2017: Sickness, Hallucinations, Stand Mixers, Cats, Bike Rides, Northern Cardinals

January 3, 2017: Sickness, Hallucinations, Stand Mixers, Cats, Bike Rides, Northern Cardinals

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Sleep disruptions from sickness can cause hallucinations.

Androp Gerard contracted a virus that caused a limited-time burst of gastrointestinal symptoms between Christmas and New Year’s.  Many members of the immediate family also had the illness, which probably was Norovirus.  Since about 2009, children have been vaccinated against Rotavirus, and all three (vaccinated) grandchildren were sick.

Interesting, spatially-dissociative hallucinations were one symptom of the illness.  These happened just as Androp was falling asleep (on the couch).  They were incongruously pleasant.  They involved a feeling of being suspended beneath large, heavy objects which were floating above.  Thoughts ran along the lines, “That is weird.  I am obviously dreaming.”  Possibly, this is how some drugs impact some people.  Being a redhead, drugs really do not impact Androp very much.  Possibly more details later.

slide4Androp got a book on the science of food, a wine glass labeled ‘Pa Pa’s Sippy Cup,’ a new stand mixer, and bike shorts for Christmas, among other things.  A book review will follow later.  Recall that the old stand mixer was wounded when the wife and daughter used it for making a volume of cream cheese frosting normally prepared only in commercial kitchens.

Me, looking at the new mixer as I unwrapped it, somewhat dazed, “So.  The motor really was burned out on the old one, then.”

Her, “Well, no.  It is fine.  But the beaters keep coming out of their little holes.”

Me, “Oh. Right. **pause** Of course.  That is annoying.”  Confession: the beaters had never come loose on me.

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Two birthdays were celebrated. Prune cake with brown sugar frosting was consumed in high volumes after some initial skepticism.

Birthdays for one child and one grandchild occurred between Christmas and New Year’s.  Grandma’s prune cake with brown sugar candy frosting was requested.  The cake recipe was executed via use of the new stand mixer.  Prune cake was viewed with skepticism by uninitiated neophytes among the dinner guests.  Squeamishness was overcome by flavor, and a large volume was consumed during the first sitting.

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The New Year’s Day bike ride was cold.  Cats do not believe in regular exercise.

The weather allowed for a traditional New Year’s Day bike ride, this year with new bike shorts (worn basically over pantyhose, but for men these are called “base layers”).  Some cold-ish exercise resulted.  In contrast, cats for whom a ‘jungle gym’ was purchased just lounged.  Felines do not believe in exercise, so in that regard they are like Donald Trump.

Finally, in signs of spring, one Northern Cardinal was heard and observed singing a territorial song for the first time since last summer.  Recall that the sacrifice of the unblemished goat worked to ensure days are getting long.  Maybe the Cardinals have noticed.

Under New Year’s resolutions: Androp Gerard notes that change is constant, and will come at different rates across time.  No need to make sweeping, dramatic decrees on any given date.

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A Northern Cardinal was heard signing an on-territory song for the first time since last summer.

December 29, 2016: Christmas – Caution, Androp Gerard is Scrooge

December 29, 2016: Christmas: Caution, Androp Gerard is Scrooge

slide1Christmas, 2016, is past.  Androp Gerard has already progressed to trepidation about the impending Christmas 2017.  Here’s the reality: in the USA, many tend to want more than they can possibly get at Christmas, in every way.  Disconnection from expectations rooted in reality is widespread.  Acute, pervasive, near-insanity is the outcome.

 

dec-29-2016The progression of the seasons can be marked by Nature’s schedule: nobody knows the date of the first blooming daffodil of the spring, first singing Cicada of the summer, or first returning White-crowned Sparrow of the fall.  None of these come with unrealistic expectations of personal fulfillment and family bliss.  Maybe that is why they are delightful, even joyful.

Christmas is just the opposite: too much is planned and too much is expected.

 

December 22, 2016: Exercise is Meditation; The Days Should Get Longer

December 22, 2016: Exercise is Meditation; The Days Should Get Longer

Androp Gerard is an animal when it comes to exercise.  His nickname is Spanish is “El Animal.”  That means “The Animal.”dec-22

Exercise summary for calendar year 2016 (almost done): a total of 270 days (73.97%) included some aerobic exercise.  A typical gym routine includes 15 minutes of weight lifting followed by 50 minutes of aerobics.  A typical bike ride takes 1 hour, 40 minutes to 2 hours, 25 minutes.  This seems similar to training for an Iron Man competition.  For the record, Androp Gerard will not be participating in any Iron Man competitions.  For one thing, he cannot swim.  More on that later.

Mental health is improved via aerobic exercise.  Reasons may vary among individuals, but for Androp Gerard the reason seems simple:  repetitive motion is like meditation.  “Mindfulness” is a different word for the same concept.

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Androp Gerard asserts that aerobic exercise improves mental health.

Anything that causes the brain to pay attention to what it is doing now, rather than what it did earlier or what it will do later or what some other human did or will do serves as meditation.  Exercise makes a human breathe deeply, which also has a positive physical impact.  It seems like breathing deeply while reading, watching T.V., or playing a video game would have similar benefits.  Anyone who would rather sit cross-legged with their fingers making little “O’s” on their knees and hum is welcome to try that.  The position is uncomfortable for Androp Gerard.

The concept of mindfulness does not obviate the need to plan ahead or to contemplate social situations.  However, doing these things continuously will increase anxiety.  Mindfulness just gives the brain a rest that seems different from sleeping, somehow.

dec-22-goatFinally, a note on the days getting shorter: reduced day length has been keenly charted over the past several weeks.  Little dogs, for example, end up piddling in the dark rather than in the light during morning walks.

Per recommendations in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, Androp Gerard sacrificed an unblemished goat to god on December 21.  The back deck was a surrogate alter.  Holy water (Androp Gerard swore curses at the water in god’s name to sanctify it) was sprinkled on the spot of the sacrifice.  The days should get longer now.  God is appeased.  The goat was actually just verbally berated for 5 solid minutes.  She seemed thoroughly chastened.  That should work.  We will know by this evening.