Wednesday, May 25, 2011


While walking back to my car on Friday I spied a squirrel in a pine tree. He was eating...something. A pregnant pause later it dawned on me that Mr. Rat-with-a-fluffy-tail was holding the body of a lifeless birdie, its beaked head stuck in his mouth. The squirrel then flipped the bird corpse around with his front paws while doing some sort of nibbling action, but not drawing blood. It was almost like he was eating fleas off it.

He was also looking over at me occasionally. It felt like I caught a dirty old man masturbating in a library. Some version of "ew ick nasty" escaped my mouth and the squirrel moved a bit higher with his dinner in the tree. When I got home I did some internet research and it turns out that yes, this is a thing squirrels do.

As it was the day before the predicted apocalypse I briefly wondered if it was a sign of the Beast. Or perhaps it was the opposite, and the sparrow was being raptured.

When I woke up on Sunday and the world was still here, I saw an albino squirrel I saw racing up the trunk of a different pine tree. The next day, I saw a Norway rat on someone's front lawn while I was walking to the gym. He had a very soft and beautiful-looking coat.

I was a little worried when I saw he hadn't moved on my way back from the gym but when I walked by a third time on my way home from work he was gone, and I was relieved. Because otherwise I would have been compelled to perform a McPolack mercy killing, and I just was not in the mood.

Monday, May 23, 2011


On Saturday the sun came out for the first time in a week and though I have a deadline and many things to do I could not stay indoors. So I hung out with Walnut and her mom at the cemetery, paying my third visit in as many weeks to the owl babies, who will soon fledge. While there I finally learned that it's the wood thrush that makes the lovely tinkling call I've admired for many years, snuffled some delightful-smelling blossoms, and watched a bumblebee bumble.

Later Walnut joined me and a few folks from the LNFU to watch a fellow LNFUer and her mom beekeep. The first order of business was pouring a box of bees they'd ordered into a hive. They keep their bees on the deck of their condo in quite the densely populated area (though they do have a bit of a backyard). We all stood round and watched and listened and touched and smelled. Then, after part one of the lesson, we walked calmly through a light mist of bees buzzing around their new home and into the condo, closing the door behind us.

Pissing off the new bees' neighbors was the second order of business.

While we watched from behind a row of windows, my fellow LNFUer and her mom gamely pried some frames out from the established hive for us to look at. The bees had been very busy making babies, which is good news for honey production but bad news for us because when there are lots of bee babies, the grownup bees get especially angry. "Listen to the change in pitch of the buzzing" said one of the keepers, in a delightfully plummy voice. Bees buzz differently when they're mad.

Unfortunately, I got to hear the difference up close when one of the angry bees flew inside and got tangled up in my hair. Fortunately, for both me and the bee, the stinger stayed attached to his ass and not stuck in mine.

Then we had tea with honey and everyone got a jar to take home. The bees most likely fed on Walnut's scarlet runner bean flowers, because she lives close by. I don't have any plants for bees to eat but I did care for Walnut's deck garden when she was away, so I like to think I too had some small part in creating the jar of honey that's now on my kitchen table.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hand dwyer

Today at the LNFU I was shown yet another secret underground passageway. Woot! I also revisited a loo I found that has the craziest hand dryer I've ever seen. Or should I say cwaziest, as it is made by the guy who said "I just think things should work pwoperwy."

The maker claims this hand dryer does its work in 6 to 10 seconds. I haven't timed it out, but it felt like longer to me. And it's not like I have man hands.

It did do a snappy job on my feet , though, when I stuck 'em in there after a stroll in the rain this afternoon. (I also dried my flippie-floppies.) I couldn't fit my whole foot in because I didn't want to touch the sides of the device, but I am quite grateful to yoga for making me flexible enough to stick it in there in the first place.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bird is the word again

Heard from someone in the ornithology department at the LNFU that there was good news on the hawk front. The nesting female red-tail I'd been following was successfully rehabilitated. And apparently when they released her back into the wild, she immediately attacked the chick (heehee) her man had been shacking up with while she was away.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Honor among thieves

On days when I think I am turning into the Babcia, I remind myself that Little Brother was the first of the McPolack siblings to purchase a chest freezer so that even if my apple didn't fall far from the Polack thrift tree, at least it's got company.

Of course I highly doubt that Little Brother haunts Goodwill with the frequency I do, if at all.

Anyhoo. The Babcia loved the GW and so do I. I took a good 10-year break from the place because it became hip to shop there, which meant there was never anything good to buy. It's no longer that hip.

It is, however, a place where desperate people hang out, and one of them stole my wallet last weekend. This of course sucked. I had to go through quite the process to cancel my credit card. Then, when I went to the police station with Walnut, she filled out the witness section of my police report, and asked me if it was OK to put "whitish" under her ethnicity. I said she should put Ritz, because that's what color cracker she is. Whereas I am more Saltine. Then she lent me 100 dollars and drove me home. What a blessing it is to have Walnut living so close by.

I got a new ID card at the LNFU and began what turned out to be an epically shitty workweek. Before I could get around to ordering a new drivers license, a package from the "loose in the mail" division of the USPS appeared in my mailbox. Inside was my wallet, sans cash but avec everything else, including the $25 Starbucks card I got from the Easter Bunny.

I felt SO grateful to get that wallet back. Grateful and warm about the world. I don't really blame anyone but myself for getting my wallet stolen. I wasn't paying enough attention. It's not that I approve of stealing but that I understand it. Especially living where I do.

Interestingly, in a documentary about pickpockets in India I saw recently, the teenage boy they followed on his "workday" took all the rupees out of the wallet he'd grabbed, and then dropped the wallet with the rest of its contents intact into the mailbox. As India goes, so goes the world, I suppose.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Stinky Cheese

After our tour of the cemetery, McMumsy, PolackPappy and I stopped at Whole Paycheck (which Pp of course LOVED). We got some food and saw some more twitchers. These ones were vibrating in the direction of a hawk family nesting across the street.

Later, while drinking coffee and eating stilton, Pp waxed poetic about this French mountain sheep cheese that gets made over the course of a day and has ash in the middle that he used to buy when he visited Dr. Moo. It smelled so bad she wouldn't let him keep it in the house. Which is pretty ripe given the sort of aroma that wafts off Dr. Moo herself at the end of a busy day.

Anyhoo, Pp couldn't remember the name of the cheese. Suddenly Mm piped up, in her best French accent, what she thought it was: "diarrhea du shawn-say". Shawn-say as in Chauncey the Wonder Corgi. Diarrhea as in that's what he had last week because Dr. Moo's hill people hick hound dog gave him hookworm.

Unwed & childless

When you are see above on Mother's Day and someone has stolen your wallet, and the grandchildren are unavailable, sometimes you get lucky and your mother comes to you. And so it was that McMumsy and PolackPappy drove down from the woods and picked me up for a trip to the Mount Auburn cemetery to see some super-cute great horned owl babies and some super-dead famous peoples' graves and mausoleums, and also sniff lilacs and crabapple blossoms and generally revel in the beauty of nature.

There was an owl pellet under glass at the visitors center, where a guide helpfully traced the quickest route to the home of the producer of that pellet. As we were heading out the door, my parents ran into the people who'd been sitting behind them at church that morning, an entire state away. In another curious coincidence, the husband of the couple had worked at Audobon for many years and he had a more technical term for my rhymed "bird nerds": twitchers.

There were some serious twitchers by the owls nest, including an older lady with a well-stuffed, many-pocketed vest, but what's nice about weirdos who watch birds is that they're friendly and will gladly let you look through their fancy spotting scopes and answer your questions. Unlike people who own birds, who in my experience tend to be much more socially awkward weirdos.

There are great photos of the bird babies here. Also, check out what an optimist (as Pp rightly noted) Isabella Stewart Gardner was.

Pp and I climbed to the top of a tower and surveyed the city beyond. Later Mm showed up, despite her fear of heights, and pointed out the Mormon temple off in the distance. We McPolacks are quite fascinated by Mormons. I am not sure why, but it's always nice to have a variety of common interests.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

You're welcome

Yesterday at lab meeting I learned about a special symbiotic relationship between flora and fauna. The flora is a pitcher plant. The fauna is a shrew. The picture shown was of a sheepish-looking shrew nestled so perfectly inside the pitcher plant that it seemed to be designed for him, and in fact it may have been.

Also I nearly peed myself laughing because here's how the symbiotic relationship works: The shrew hangs out atop the bowl of the pitcher plant, which produces sugary goo for him to enjoy. And digest. Ahem.

And then he craps di-rect-ly into the bowl of the pitcher plant, which is conveniently located below his poo-hole. And his poo helps the pitcher plant grow.

The lecture included a really great picture which you can see here. Note how embarrassed shrew looks. It's got a bit of that astronaut diaper feel.

On an unrelated note, there's this.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Craft night

Thanks to my friend Amy's plugged-in journo husband who called her the second he heard, I was able to watch the reaction to news of Osama bin Laden's death as it unfolded. I was unimpressed with the drunken frat boys running around outside the gates of the White House, but thanks to cable TV, I had eight news outlets to pick from. Whenever the frat boys showed up, I changed the channel.

Sunday evening went from sitting at my kitchen table amongst a group of women making tissue-paper flowers, knitting sweaters, caging beads, felting puffins, and eating ginger muffins to sitting in my living room with some of those same women, watching history happen.