Monday, April 09, 2012

Magical nose teapot

Despite judicious use of hand sanitizer, including the small amount I rubbed on my lips after I realized the adorable fat baby who'd snuck his hand in my mouth last week had the same cold everyone around me seemed to, my throat started feeling scratchy around 8 PM last night. I went right out and got some zinc lozenges. Alas the Easter candy wasn't half-price yet, which meant I had to go back out to the store again today.

I am now in full-on sickness assault mode: fluids, lozenges, eucalyptus steam, magical nose teapot (aka neti and also apparently aka nose bidet-gross!). Only, guess what? Zinc on an empty stomach makes you nauseous. And tea doesn't count towards stomach filler. At least I got a nice nap in post nearly-dry heaves, though I missed out on flipping between General Hospital and Dr. Phil the mustachioed blowhard.

The Daphs was on her heating pad perch on the top of the sofa watching me sleep. When I awoke she stretched out one of her long furry limbs, which is her signal that she would like some attention please. If this signal is ignored the meowing begins. If the meowing is ignored, she's discovered that deploying a single claw to an exposed face part is quite effective. This only happens if I am actively sleeping, though.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The horrah

The fish care person at the LNFU bought some more critters for the tank behind my desk recently, including a pleco who spends the day nibbling his way around, some snails, and a couple of tiny frogs. One of the frogs died right away and I didn't see the other for so long that I assumed he had died as well. But then he made an appearance at feeding time and I figured he was just timid.

Last week, I turned around to find the danios dragging the frog around the tank by hig legs at top speed, and occasionally engaging in a gruesome tug-of-war. I figured the frog was dead but I wasn't sure if the danios were eating him, and if they were, if it was safe for them to eat him. So I called a couple of students over. At which point I realized Sir Froggy was alive. 

This is why I don't watch nature programs. Everyone's getting along on the plains in Africa and then something cute gets gored by an elephant or eaten alive while its family watches. I know nature is cruel. I don't need the visuals.

Anyway, I got over my squeamishness about sticking my bare hands in the tank and dipped a plastic box full of water and frog. One of the students helped me set up a separate tank for him in another part of the lab. We gave him some plants and a rock and an air supply and some worms. He was dead by nightfall.

Over the weekend my favorite fish, Stu the misanthropic darter, swam under the rainbow bridge. Stu'd always had a forlorn look in his eyes. 

It got forlorner when one of them swelled up about a week ago. 

But at least he'd had a good long life. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Post notes 1

I had an interesting morning last week and I emailed myself the following as a reminder:
nantucket lightship
building w/downstairs room restrooms plus observation deck and weird room
people on train

I'll start with "people on train". On my subway ride to the LNFU following a meeting near the harbor, a middle-aged chunky white woman with medium-length brown hair started a panhandling spiel employed by drug addicts. Hers was a bit different from one I'd heard before; she said she needed four dollahs to get some food at McDonald's because she was stahving and could anyone spare fifty cents.

Now I know that when you assume you make an ass out of you and me, but I was pretty sure this woman wasn't stahving, and I will refrain from saying perhaps she was a bit peckish because that is too mean. Anyway, I wasn't going to give her any money, but I did rifle through my bag because I had several pieces of fresh fruit in there, and I thought perhaps I would offer her an apple.

While I was rifling through my bag a young non-white man to my left called her over and she said "ya got fifty cents?" and he said "here's a dollar" and gave it to her. Then a young non-white woman to my right gave her fifty cents. Everybody else on the train, including me, ignored her. She got off at the next stop, presumably so she could hassle people in another car.

I told the guy to my left that what he'd done was very nice, and he said thank you.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Museum quality

The LNFU natural history museum, which I have long admired, has been undergoing a lot of renovations recently, and the department I work for is next. I was invited to attend the initial planning meeting for what to put in the exhibit. I was told I didn't need to attend if I didn't want to. Of course I attended. I will be sad to see the trio of weirdly named fish make their exit - farewell sergeant major, pudding-wife, and slippery dick! - but who wouldn't want to work on a museum exhibit? I do have to be careful not to overstep my bounds, however.  I have no scientific degree. I have no museum degree.

But what I do have is enthusiasm and creativity and a layperson's perspective. Yesterday when we were looking at what's currently on display, a middle-schooler came up to me and asked if we were examiners. Which in a sense we were.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Book sniffer

Things at the LNFU have been going swimmingly, something I like to say mainly because I work with and for people who study fish.Yesterday I took a little break to visit the special collections room of one of the LNFU libraries. They'd advertised a display of old, interesting-looking books, and for a limited time only! - so I decided to check it out.

Little did I know that I would actually get to hold in my bare hands a small book published in 1553. And flip through the pages of a big book published in 1554. Its cover had small metal hinges on it, fastened with tiny nails. Without even bothering to see if anyone was looking -- because, to be honest, I was in a room full of fellow oddballs -- I bent down and sniffed the big book. It didn't really smell like anything, which when you think about it makes sense because it's been kept safe from anything that would make it stinky.

Once I'd finished examining the books, I looked at some correspondence the librarians had laid out on a counter nearby. One of the letters was from Charles Darwin, and was written in in his own hand. It wasn't a photocopy. This one I didn't touch. Or sniff. I just bent over it while holding my hair back so I wouldn't shed on Chuck.

Monday, January 30, 2012


I strolled Mount Auburn cemetery yesterday afternoon with Walnut and her bf. The bf is a tree fanatic and likes to gather seeds there for at-home tree propagation. I brought my binoculars and watched a pair of turkeys, a red-tailed hawk, and a woodpecker. Some dodo was making his way towards the turkeys. Lucky for him I am a volunteer nature cop. I told him to leave them alone because sometimes turkeys can be very aggressive.

Walnut's bf introduced me to the Kentucky coffeetree, whose seed pods are filled with hard brown beans encased in guacamole-esque green goo. Apparently the early settlers roasted the beans as a coffee substitute. Later we came upon a giant leaky maple and someone suggested I lick it. It didn't feel right to lick a tree in a graveyard, so instead I dragged my finger through the liquid and licked my finger instead. It didn't taste like anything. But I'm still pretty sure it was sap. I remember licking a maple tree at the corner of our summer fort at Grammy McQ's house. The fort was located in an alcove of sorts bordered on one side by a stone retaining wall and on another by a flight of cement stairs, at the top of which was a barberry bush with long red berries and lots of prickers. Apparently you can eat barberries. I was afraid of them as a kid.

There was a fair amount of creepiness at the cemetery; Walnut's bf found a fresh grave - I think the person had died nine days ago - behind a mausoleum. The ground had cracked in a rectangle, which I assumed was the size and shape of the cement box they tend to put coffins in these days. Earlier we'd peered in a mausoleum whose windows were dark and smeary, like plexiglass. What I saw inside made me want to wash my eyeballs. I don't really know why. It was a stained glass window of baby angels, but something about the quality of the light and the subject matter just made me shiver.

Luckily some douchenozzle who'd died a long time ago provided us with much-needed comic relief, in the form of a long epitaph extolling his many virtues. It continued on for at least two sides of an obelisk and used words like "thenceforth." But the best part was the mention of a trip to Europe, where he'd "ripened his powers." Ahem.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


I've been doing a fair amount of reading these days. The NYer had a fawning review of a book of collected essays by a gentleman born a year after me, and the article talked about how we're in a sort of golden age of essays. And I thought: I missed the boat on that one, big time. And I felt: jealous, and disappointed in myself.

Then I requested the book from the LNFU and gave it a read. It was pretty good. It's some of the best writing I've read in a while - a mix of pop-culture references and feelings, but with the addition of multiple literary references-a Polish poet here, a bible verse there-and a mature and unique voice that is certain but uncertain at the same time, and OK with both.

I had been expecting uber-manly or at the very least super-egotistical, seeing as how the magazine article had lauded the author as the next Tom Wolfe. But this guy doesn't come across as an asshole. Though maybe that happens over time? I don't know. Anyway, I'm glad I read it.

I then moved on to a book about a taxidermist, which I'm reading right now, along with a book about Audubon. I have one more chapter to go on Hitch-22, which has been enjoyable if a bit verbose, something which is easily remedied by skipping entire chapters.

And I'm baking. Cookies, no-knead challah, pecan sticky buns. And I'm worrying, about what at times feels like a crippling inability to support myself financially. I need to go back to basics: meditation, a day at a time, no judgment. Love.

That's all for now.