Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Hoodlum 'possum on the porch
has a thing or two about empty bowls
not bearing gifts of duck food
he thinks by right, belong to him
so each night, seeking revenge,
he knocks off the bench,
yet another glass mixing bowl—
his calling card of shattered stars.

Monday, February 24, 2014


When conversation
is a whinefest, it becomes
a bitter vintage.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Old Posts, New Posts

Distracted by surgery, and by a rocky recovery (pain meds and I didn't see eye to eye and upchucking is not my favorite extreme ab sport), it seems I've neglected to post anything for 2014, and here we are marching up to March.

This is not to say that I haven't been active. I've some drafty pieces lifted from Facebook posts to process. I've also been busy rearranging my old posts from the 1980s and 1990s that were crammed into the years 2007 and 2008. Yeah, I get that it was an inelegant solution. But I had to post them somewhere.

While attempting to consolidate my poems alphabetically on a linear timeline—think apples and oranges—I got the bright idea to store the ABC titled poems in January 2008, DEF poems in February 2008, and so on. Tediously swimmingly is all I can say about the process. It's a real pain in the blog to attempt to do this on Blogger. But, I can no longer find anything, and who remembers poem titles anyway?

Having old news stories from the 1990s stashed amid poems and prose written in 2007 was particularly frustrating. I couldn't find anything, and I was double-posting poems.

As I was moving some posts, I accidentally typed 2005 instead of 2008 on one poem as I hit the publish button. The poem took off for the hinterland. I thought, uh-oh. I guess that post will disappear into cyber space. Lucky I have back ups.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I could backpost work from previous to 2007, this is before blogging was invented. I proceeded with caution thinking there's no way I could possibly publish 2001 work under 2001. It worked!

I was off to the races, rearranging old posts to the point of completely gutting most of my 2008 and 2007 posts. I left the Letters section stet, and I'm running into some SNAFUs with alphabetizing poems in 2008 as I actually wrote other things in 2008. Debate is to do everything by creation date. But poems are notoriously hard to keep track of in this format.

I guess I should've used a different template (none were available way back when in 2007 when this blog was first hatched). Why I had so much room during 2007 was because I let the blog lie fallow for a year or two—which also prompted my filling up years 2007 & 2008 with old stuff.

What I need is another room in my blog, a storage locker, or an attic for poems—so I can arrange them alphabetically, not just by creation date. Or perhaps I should begin a 2nd blog for poems, but I dread the thought of splitting my work. I'm a messy writer, I like to brood over my words. I don't know if I'll keep this format, but it sure is nice to have a gaggle of old poems at the ready. I've been cut off from them for decades. It's like finding old friends.

Poems from the 1980s and 1990s now live in the 2008, beginning with January here or here:
►  2008 (152)
(I haven't decided what to do with poems written during 2000 to 2006, whether to keep this format, or post by year, now that I can move them around. Poems from 2007 to time-present are now posted by creation date which creates a right mess. What year did I write it? I can hardly remember how old I am. And daily getting older, so it seems. Did I mention I was also dyslexic?

Old news posts that were previously crammed into 2007 are now listed by year created. Imagine! Except the Letters. They should move too, but I'm tired and I've more concerns about my old poem files as I've discovered I can't open many Word/Works 4 files, and if I can open them, they're loaded with crazy symbols and artifacts.

In fact, most of the Word 5 poems, even with the Word Translator, are a bit gobbelygooky—especially the foreign language words, and translations AGH!!! Adding another level of stress to the chore. Will it open? Do I have a backup? OI hate obselescence. But here it is on my bloggy doorstep. I won't mention what I had to do to rescue those news file, let's just say several old computers and new file expanders were involved. It all began to go south when my PPC iMac bit the cyberdurt. I was blissfully unaware, that Snow Leopard would freeze me out and be so incompatible.Tiger, it ain't.

What's left of 2007 is here:
►  2007 (54)

Only caveat with all this activity, is that at the moment Blogger thinks I'm a spammer, or a robot, so if I post anything new, like this piece, I get the captchas form hell. 

All old posts are now listed by year created. So much easier to comprehend.
My mind is still blown that I can even do this. I've been spending an inordinate amount of time admiring this list. When did Blogger allow backposting by year decades before Blogger itself was even hatched? I know I tried to do this ca. 2009, and again in 2010, to backpost blogs previous to a 2007 founding date, and I got all kinds of dire warnings and red flashing bits. Still holding my breath, so far, so good..

Another typo—I discovered that you can't post before 1970. OK, so I'm shifting everything to its creation date. A work in progress.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Lá Mór na Gaeilge

Right now in Derry, Northern Ireland, 10,000 duine ag siúl ar son na Gaeilge. An estimated 10,000 people are marching in solidarity for Irish Language today. Lá Mór na Gaeilge. Wanted: Language Rights, Human Rights! "There is no other country in the world where people are considered eccentric for using their own language." Ar iarraidh: Cothrom na Féinne #LáMórNaGaeilge Wanted: Language Rights, Human Rights! Follow #LáGaeilge on Twitter. West Belfast is An Ceathrú Gaeltachta. Many republicans in Northern Ireland, including Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, learned Irish while in prison. Tír gan Teanga, Tír gan Anam. Time for the British to get out of Nothern Ireland. A nation once again! An Gaeltacht Nua. Maith thú!

In Northern Ireland, the Irish themselves are a minority in their own country (about 40%—vs 60% Protestant, pro British)) and, as such, they are treated as second-class citizens. But the times they are a changin.' This 1989 article notes the resurgence of Irish. "The recent revival, many scholars say, is the most significant because rather than remain a pet cause of the intelligentsia, it has woven its way into the fabric of the working class, particularly those of West Belfast, Ireland`s biggest ghetto."

Agus as sin go hAlbain! In Northern Ireland there is still a faction strongly against supporting Irish. "29% of people were "against" Irish language usage in Northern Ireland, with 17 per cent of that "strongly against it." Muller agrees: "We're still seeing the working of a deep-seated, long, ethnic conflict in the north of Ireland, and that's why the issue of identity, and of language, is still capable of raising people's emotions."

"It's the same story in Scotland – even if the overall numbers of Gaelic speakers are decreasing, thanks to an ageing population of native speakers, Gaelic-medium schools have become a popular option. No schools are required to teach it, and there's no move to make it mandatory, but Minister for Scotland's Languages, Alasdair Allen, commented "the number of people who speak Gaelic is around about 60,000, and the population is quite scattered…Thirty or 40 years ago, no one would have heard Gaelic from a teacher; you've gone from that to a situation where about a third of primary kids in the Western Isles have their education in Gaelic units. Despite what you sometimes read in some papers, Gaelic is not actually that contentious. There's broad public support."

What did I have, said the fine old woman
What did I have, this proud old woman did say
I had four green fields, each one was a jewel

But strangers came and tried to take them from me
I had fine strong sons, who fought to save my jewels
They fought and they died, and that was my grief said she

The song is interpreted as an allegorical political statement regarding the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. The four fields are seen as the Provinces of Ireland with Ulster being the "field" that remained part of the United Kingdom after the Irish Free State separated. The old woman is seen as a traditional personification of Ireland herself (see Kathleen Ni Houlihan). The words spoken by the woman in Makem's song are taken directly from "Cathleen ni Houlihan", an early play by W. B. Yeats.

"But my sons have sons, as brave as were their fathers;
My fourth green field will bloom once again," said she.

I'm connected up with Irish Tweeters and GoogleTranslate is my friend. I usually can read tweets as Gaeilge, but can't answer, except for simple stuff. Irish is not an easy language. Russian's easier. At least the prepositions don't conjugate!

And may the roads rise up to meet you. Just make sure that the wind that is always at your back, isn't broken. Downwind's a btch.

1. Open Google translate. (
2. Input some dots (…………….).
3. Select “Japanese”.

4. Click “Listen”.

Walrus love

A couple of guys took umbrage at my recent Facebook posts on walruses and were obnoxious about it as it offended them to see a walrus do tricks. I get that, but I am not the target—especially not on my own wall. They fed each other's wrath and flamed me. One guy I blocked, the other at least had the decency to apologize. 

I'm no fan of zoos and marine parks, but this big fellah is very happy to work out for fish—and since they need high level of stimulation or they're easily bored, the workout kills several birds with one stone: it makes people aware of walruses (who are so cool), and the commands are all part of their vet check commands—show the vet your flippers (for sores), show the vet your teeth, etc., it just also happens to be stinkin' cute too.

Walrus habitat is melting, and they've liable to become extinct by 2095, along with the polar bears (but bears seem to be adapting better than walruses) when all the northern ice packs melt. With the exception of Russian and China's poached walruses, most these guys in captivity were orphans—and they need to be bottle-fed for two years! Imagine a very stinky snuggling 4000 pound lap walrus!

My friend's Scottish father used to long-distance swim in the North Sea. He couldn't see very well without his glasses, and was once observed chatting up  a wayward wild walrus, also near-sighted, thinking it was another mustachioed swimmer. Quite the pair. When Wendy's father returned to shore, everyone wanted to know what he thought he was talking to. His chat with the walrus provided years of family entertainment. What I wanna know is did the walrus answer him back?

What I gleaned on my walrus Googling: is that those basic choreographed movements are necessary for vet checkups. They have been incorporated into a skit—which enhances public awareness of the plight of walruses. There are currently 17 walruses in US zoos, and all were orphans—rescue animals bonded with their keepers who bottle-fed them for two years. The "tricks' are command movements needed to care for the animals. Moving them from one place to another, show their flippers for sores, and the health of their teeth, etc.

Attachment happens!
Meet Nikolai the Dutch walrus getting a surprise birthday fishcake on his birthday. Note that he's sitting up, and using his flippers like hands.

From the Daily Mail
Bashful walrus can't believe his eyes. This bashful walrus can't believe his eyes when his keeper brings him his favourite fish dish. Weighing a heavy 1,200 kilogrammes, Nikolai the walrus loves his 'fishcake' prepared by Bert van Santen at a zoo in Harderwijk in the Netherlands.  —From the Daily Mail

Walruses don't breed well in captivity (they don't breed well, period (think of their enormous girth), and it takes about 5 years to raise one calf). They're threatened in the north due to global warming. Walruses are a keystone species, and we know so little about them. It's thought that they'll become extinct by 2095, due to loss of sea ice. ANY positive human interaction at this point is a good thing.

These walrus folk have been a captive audience in our zoos for 30+ years. They think they are people too. The behavior modification process began as a way to handle them in captivity, like when the vet comes to visit, and the patient weighs 4000+ pounds.

Luckily, the gregarious walruses love to interact with trainers. Despite their enormous girth, they're way smarter than seals. They may be blubbery boys, but they can understand an amazing range of hand and vocal commands. They're just not as cute as those dolphins putting on a show for us at zoos, aquariums and at Hawaiian hotels.

Apparently walruses are serious hams and love to play. They don't let a little thing like their enormous girth get int the way. Most walruses are amiable and easily trained. (Will work for fish!) But males called Toothwalkers by the Inuit, can become aggressive, so it's better to have a strong relationship with them, and have them on your side, than not. 

Meet E.T, the orphan walrus. (video of ET
"When he first arrived in Tacoma on 17 August 1982, ET was an orphan, rescued by oil workers after they watched him wander alone for three days over the arctic tundra in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. These oil workers gave him his name because of his resemblance to the famous movie character. he baby walrus was dehydrated and weighed only 155 pounds when the Alaska Zoo received him and began caring for him. Walruses are unusual zoo residents, with only 17 individuals kept in US collections. Of course, their size probably plays a large role in this, since a full grown walrus weighs almost as much as an adult elephant. For example, ET, now an adult, weighs more than 3400 pounds. An animal this large can be dangerous to work with, so zoo workers trained him to do a number of simple tasks so veterinary staff can safely monitor his health and carry out simple tasks, such as cleaning his teeth. This training was so successful and ET was such an eager student that zoo workers began training him to do other behaviours on command ... behaviours such as producing a variety of sounds. In this video, we watch (and listen to) ET produce his own little concert of amusing sounds: For those of you who worry about ET's social life, he has been joined by two female walruses, Basilla and Joan, in the hope that these animals can be bred in captivity. Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is located in Tacoma, USA. They are on facebook and can also be found on twitter @PtDefianceZoo"   Guardian
 "Walters said the biggest challenge is keeping the animals mentally stimulated. “In the wild, they would spend almost their entire waking time looking for food,” he explained. The keepers train the walruses to fetch and wave, which are fun activities, but which also serve a purpose. “The presenting of the foot and open mouth is basically a veterinary exam,” said Walters. “It’s a simple way of looking at the animal to make sure its mouth is okay and the flipper is okay.”  (video)
Pinnipeds, and walruses often seek novel stimuli through play. So these walrus wranglers have developed program of earning fish, which builds on the walruses' social relationships and teaches cooperation. It also offers meaningful enrichment for these intelligent and highly social animals.
"The concept of boredom in non-human mammals in captivity is very relevant to understanding the welfare needs of pinnipeds in captivity. Boredom has been defined as impaired ability to actively focus attention upon, and interact with, the environment ... how impoverished that animal’s life in an aquarium will be with most or all of these all of these stimuli being absent from the captive environment."—Pinnipeds in captivity - the Seal Conservation Society
Walruses rule. Check out this video of a dancing walrus. It'll melt your heart. Workin' it on out. I am the walrus. Too cute to choo!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Boschka Layton (Betty Sutherland) 1921 - 1984

Boschka Layton (nee Betty Sutherland) 14 May 1921 - 14 Feb. 1984 ©Maureen Hurley
A dear friend, Boschka Layton, who left us far too soon—is being discovered in Canada. I can't say "re-discovered," because she was largely ignored during her lifetime—especially during her Canada years with her husband, Canadian Poet Laureate and Nobel Prize nominee, Irving Layton. (WikiThey had two children Max, and Naomi.

Boschka (nee Betty Sutherland), half-sister of actor Donald Sutherland, and second wife of Irving Layton, left Canada to raise her daughter in California—in an anarchist commune on the bohemian shores of Big Sur during the 1960s. Then she moved to the Russian River in the 1970s. (I think). Somewhere along the way, she went to India and got hepatitis.

When Betty left Irving for good, she changed her name from Bashka (the Rusisan-Jewish equivalent to Elizabeth—as she had converted to Judaism when she married Irving) to Boschka—after the painter, Hieronymus Bosch.

After the sheer hell of living in Montreál with Irving Layton, a formidable debater, who bombastically described himself as "a quiet madman, never far from tears", for Boschka, California was the promised land—a garden of earthly delights. She never let us call her anything but Boschka. Betty/Baschka was dead and buried in Montreál.

Boschka suffered from an enlarged heart, a result of having had rheumatic fever as a child in Nova Scotia, and when she gave birth to her daughter Naomi in 1950 in Montreál, she had heart trouble, the valves of her heart were damaged— followed by a bacterial infection, or virus (when? ca. 1970s?), which left her stricken with Bell's Palsy.

Boschka had a funny poem, Is There Hope for the Future, Cry the Loud Bells of Palsy? in her first, and only book of poems, stories, and drawings, The Prodigal Sun (1982), about scaring all the small children half to death when she smiled at them.
If I don't survive the next San Francisco earthquake
don't live to see the second coming of Christ in two thousand and twenty
I may be remembered for a line in Layton's poem to this third wife… 
from Is There Hope for the Future, Cry the Loud Bells of Palsy?
Boschka Layton, The Prodigal Sun
It was almost impossible to find any information on Betty-Boschka on the internet. In the notoriety of Irving's wake, she's been reduced to a footmark, a modernist muse, a second wife.

Someone described Betty as statuesque—she wasn't tall. Irivng's sister-in-law Eckie, who worked with Betty at Gallagher's Grill in Montreál, and introduced her to Irving in November of 1942, described Betty as crazy as a loon, always drawing, and having movie star looks: "a cross between Ingrid Bergman and Greer Garson." Maybe, but I never saw photos of her when she was young. She had great cheekbones. But most people only saw how Bell's Palsy had ravaged her looks.

Boschka was a gentle, kind person, both quiet and unassuming. She moved carefully, almost shuffling to conserve energy because she had heart trouble. But she had a razor sharp intellect—and wit—to match.

Naomi came to California with Boschka, Naomi was a brilliant guitarist, and like her older brother Max, she learned chords at the knee of Leonard Cohen, and she later studied with Segovia. We kept in touch for a few years after Boschka died. But we lost touch. Naomi was a fragile being. I know Boshcka worried about her. I would also love to know how she is as well.

Boschka lived in Guerneville, CA, in a basement flat/studio. Just before she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, she moved to an amazing cabin at Goat Rock, near Jenner-by-the-Sea, a lifelong dream, but she didn't live there long. Several of us took turns caring for her in a hospice situation in Santa Rosa. She kept insisting that her jaundice was a relapse of hepatitis. At any rate, she was very orange—which made her grey-green eyes startling to see. Like an orange Celtic Krishna come alive.

A misdiagnosis—but from what I understand of pancreatic cancer, it's swift. Steve Jobs managed to live several years with his diagnosis. Boschka was gone within two months. On Valentines Day.,I had strange prophetic dreams with metaphors of horses, and hearts beating like a drum just before she died—as if I was with her on the journey to that country from which no traveler returns. I also was running a high fever—bronchitis.

We all said Boschka died of a big heart. And her heart was big, she was an amazing, generous, witty multi-talented woman.

I hand-calligraphed posters—cheaper than typesetting. 1980
Boschka was a poet-painter, like me and we were great friends. I produced many events at Sonoma State, and curated gallery shows there for the Student Union and the InterCultural Center. Her art show was the first time she had a retrospective with sculptures, paintings, drawings, poetry reading, etc., together—Naomi played guitar. It was a wonderful event.

Pre-desktop publishing, black mimeograph 8.5 x12" 11/1980

We belonged to a weekly writing group, the Russian River Women Writers. But I was kicked out of the group because I hand-calligraphed Margaret Ellingson's very long name on one line for a poetry poster for the Russian RIver Writers' Guild, so it was smaller than the other names. This was during the pre-desktop publishing days, hand-calligraphed because no one could afford typesetting. I was the default (free) calligrapher because no one else wanted to do it. I was a sitting duck.

Barbara Baer and Peggy Ellingson were the ringleaders, they were bullies out for blood, the others were sheep: with Mary Ellen O'Banion, Laura del Fuego—even my friend Marianne Ware—taking sides. Grown women acting like a gang of vicious schoolgirls. I was devastated. Only Boschka stood up for me. But that was later. I was supposed to accompany Boschka to Nova Scotia to visit her father, their petty brouhaha nearly cost us our friendship.

Boschka took a perverse delight hearing of my tales of love gone bad, it cemented our friendship. She likened her relationship with Irving Layton to that of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. For both of us, at one point or another, the siren call of a (dirty) oven beckoned. What probably saved us was that we were both casual housekeepers. Was Sylvia's oven spotlessly clean, I wonder?
Sticking your head
in the oven
you thought you were terribly clever—
guest editor from Mademoiselle
brilliant author of first novel
up to your neck in poems 
In my dream you rolled
all over the bed with me.
Put one long dark
cloth red leg over mine.
We flashed together
under yellow silk
of sari, red
If you didn’t make it
how can i?
You outwrote me
ten times over
before thirty 
In the long evening
I piece together
a novel
like crocheting
or knitting twenty rows
before bed-time. 
Boschka Layton, The Prodigal Sun
Boschka spent the remainder of her years processing that once-in-a-lifetime relationship that gave her joy, two children, whom she loved deeply—and ended with a lifetime of pain. Boschka's stories of day-to-day living with Irving for 15 years, left me shaken—I never could read his work, except with a jaundiced eye. After all that he had done to her. Left her to starve. Literally.

But when I finally met him after hearing horror stories for five years, I understood the attraction, his leonine charisma was still evident—even after all those years.

A poem I remember Boschka reading at one of our poetry workshops: 

I open your latest book
of eighty-two poems
another blitzkreig
and see you're taking up the cudgels
against another wife:
I wonder how she's taking it?
I see. She's leaking headaches
trembling in corners
and she's only had two years of you.
The reason, perhaps, appears on page 75
you squirm over your neighbour's crotch. . . .
After twenty years I am still angry
I will say it for us all
Faye, Aviva, Harriet, myself:
We're not, Irving, merely strumpets
for your pleasure;
we're almost numerous enough
your wives
to unionize, vote you out
if you think that makes poetry
you've got another wife coming....

                 Boschka Layton, ca 1983

The irony is, that Irving had cast Boschka aside for Aviva, Wife No. 3, but when Boschka had an affair with one of their friends, Irving instinctively knew of her infidelity. Boschka said he reached up under her dress, felt her wetness, and began to beat his head against the wall, raging and crying. The old double standard. The cock at half-mast. And yet, decades later, Irving sent Boschka a copy of his latest book. I think this poem was in response to The Gucci Bag. The publication date's right—1983. I remember the cover. And I clearly remember her outrage.

In Waiting for the Messiah, Irving Layton wrote:
I was attracted to Betty, but not only physically. There was something about her personality that I knew with certainty fated me to know her beyond this brief moment…her light brown hair blowing wildly in all directions. Now a strange thing impelled me. I stepped over to her and took her in my arms as if we were going to start a dance. We did in fact do a few steps, then I embraced her more closely. "Betty," I said softly, "you and I are going to have beautiful children."
That part was at least true. I hear Boschka repeat it more than once.

Layton remained legally married to Betty during his 20-year relationship with Aviva. Layton finally divorced Boschka to marry a former student, Harriet Bernstein, only to divorce her too. But Boschka kept his name to the very end.

We held Boschka's wake and memorial at her snug house overlooking Goat Rock. Irving, Naomi, Max and Donny—that's what Boschka called her famous actor brother—all came to the event. Plus the poetry community of Sonoma County.

At her memorial service at Goat Rock, I remember Irving read:

BOSCHKA LAYTON: 1921*-1984
Because each act of creation is a miracle
that happens again and again
until it becomes familiar as an autumn leaf
or a ripening apple tree in full sail 
I shall remember you not as charred bone and ash
to be given to earth's mad alchemy
but as the full-bosomed women whose lips
mouthed my awed whisper "We shall make handsome children." 
Your heart's vital joy in the eyes of friends,
in children's smiles and the smiles of old women,
it is presumptuous to speak now of your crazy defiance
idlde to praise the harsh devotions of your life 
Ordinary miracles to pry open the eyes of the blind
happen every day. Yet my deep faith holds:
sun, wind, rain, and the dark nights will change
my Boschka's cinders to deathless apples and poems. 
     Irving Layton
     Santa Rosa,
     Feb 17, 1984
"Everything except writing poems and making love ends up by finally boring me." Irving said goodbye to one love of his life, the muse that brought him to the knees of poetry, and then, like Diana, escaped the ruthless hunter.

And yes, we did spread Boschka's ashes under apple trees in a Sebastopol orchard. And yes, we did eat them in the form of pies the following fall. Only I wasn't invited.

*Differing birthdates 1919, 1920, 1921—Irving wasn't beyond changing facts.

A drawing I made of Boschka as she lay dying.
In Memoriam Boschka Layton, Valentine's Day, 1984

Hard to believe that it's been 30 years since Boschka died on Valentine's Day, and harder still to believe that I never wrote a blog about her. Even after three decades, her passing is still raw, I can remember snippets, but no stories. It's as if I hermetically sealed it all away, never to return.

And then there was the family to consider, but Irving is dead (2006), and I found Max's website online—I had no idea Max could sing. Boschka would be so proud to hear his CD. A first CD at the age of 60, when he found his eyesight failing. Max's candor about the relationship was liberating. Maybe now, thirty years after her death, I can finally write about her.

Boschka Layton (Betty Sutherland) 14 May 1921 - 14 Feb. 1984 ©Maureen Hurley

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


The weekend storm was merely a drop in the drought bucket—except on Mt. Tamalpias, and on the ridge above Rio Nido. There it was a deluge in biblical proportions. During the weekend, the Pineapple Express dumped over 23 inches of rain all in one place!  The mountain stole all the rain (that's why we need trees—to tickle the clouds and attract moisture). There's a reason why Mt. Tam is so steep on the ocean side, the rain shears the sides. Like in Hawaii. I'm trying to wrap my mind around 23 inches all at once! That's more than San Francisco's collective annual rainfall of 21 inches in nine months. San Francisco received little over two and a half inches. Most of of the rain wound up in the Stinson Beach parking lot and it swept it out to sea. Was a time when the the Seadrift spit was an island and Bolinas Lagoon was open on both sides. A little more rain, and Seadrift might be an island once again. Meanwhile, parched South Bay got almost no rain at all, nor did the rest of California—from Sacramento on south. San Jose received a quarter of an inch of rain. Wow. We're still in drought mode, folks. Batten down, and carry on. Don't flush twice. It's all right.

see also

I Remember the Stars

I remember the stars. As a kid growing up in West Marin (before there was light pollution), and later in West Sonoma County, I spent many nights just gazing up at the stars. By the time I grew up, it was almost impossible to escape the pollution from city lights. Who among us has really seen the stars in all their glory with no light pollution at all? It's truly amazing. Rare times at Sonora Pass, the Galapagos, or high in the Andes during the early 1980s, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa—unfathomable myriad stars that took my breath away. Who among us ?



Porcupinefish photobomb. NBC News/Weird Science

I used to tweak the tails of pufferfish. They exploded into thorny blimps, it was hard to take their threats seriously. They'd puff up, and drift like hot-air balloons and scull with tiny fins. Their whimsical fish-lip smile didn't exactly scream Danger, Will Robinson. Then I noticed how they had indigo eyes—like the heart-shaped eyes of peacock feathers—saying: please don't eat me. OK, so this is a photo of a porcupinefish, not a pufferfish—but they're close kin. Just don't eat their Japanese cousins. Because fugu or sayonara might be the very last words you'll ever say.

added & revised 2/17

Storm on Tam

Our first big storm of the year was merely a "wee drap" in the drought bucket—except on Mt. Tamalpais. There was a deluge. The Pineapple Express dumped over 23 inches in less than 24 hours! The mountain stole all the rain (why we need trees—to tickle the clouds). Apparently the Stinson Beach parking lot got a year's worth of rain all in one go. That's more than San Francisco's annual rainfall of 21 inches. 

Talk about a cliché: when it rains, it pours. Make that a deluge. If Mt. Tam snagged the lionshare of the storm—nearly 24 inches, I wonder what Cazadero Ridge and Seaview Ridge snagged? (Someone said 20+ inches). When it comes to rain in epic proportions, Cazadero never disappoints. On the other hand, Willits (one of the seven towns about to run out of water along with Healdsburg and Cloverdale) only got 6.6 inches. A drop in the bucket.

Meanwhile, the South Bay got almost no rain at all (a half an inch,) nor did the rest of California—from Sacramento on south. Drought means salt water intrusion in the freshwater Delta. Which translates to poor water quality in the South Delta which feeds water to the Bay Area, including Santa Clara County and East Bay cities like Fremont and Livermore; the Central Valley and Southern California. We're still in drought mode, folks. Batten down, and carry on with that rain dancing thing that you do.

added 2/17
see take 1. Deluge

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Everybody put your rain-dancin' shoes on.
Dance hard for some rain in California,
and for the greater Southwest from New Mexico
all the way to Mexico, and beyond.
Dance like seagulls drumming for worms.
KQED News sez: It looks like the Bay Area
will get its first real deluge through the weekend,
with 3-5 inches possible in some regions.
It would be the biggest storm in 14 months,
but will not be enough to end the drought.
We'll take any drops we can get. In the bucket.
Or otherwise. Wish we had cisterns.
And some real rain-dancin' shoes.

February 5, 2014
added, rev 2017

Monday, February 3, 2014

physical therapy

I started post knee surgery physical therapy today. I even rode the stationery bike. It took a while before I could tear the scar tissue enough to get a full rotation on the pedal. Poco a poco. Having surgery is better than coping with knee injuries. Some people advised me not to get surgery but the injury was significant so I'm glad I did it. I had torn meniscus on both sides of my knee, and some gnarly cartilage behind my patella was removed. Cortisone shot really made the last few months bearable, it lubricated the knee joint, and gave me much more mobility. But it was merely a bandage. I'm still pretty limited in terms of mobility, and am easily tired. But at least I'm off the post-op pain killers—blasted pills nearly killed me. But there's hope at the end of the tunnel. Maybe even dance again. Now workman's comp has denied physical therapy treatment as well. so sick of this kneejerk (pardon the pun) stupidity. I'm not used to being so wimpy, or getting nauseous from pain. But hey, if Rita Moreno can twirl again after two hip surgeries, well, then, so can I. 

February 3, 2014 

Post knee surgery recovery saga

A friend, Katelin asks: How does the knee feel? Tell me it's healing and you are doing okay!

I had my first physical therapy today. I was actually was able to walk without gimping. They did electrical stimulation—muscle groups, 10 minutes on the bike—I went from not being able to do a complete wheel rotation to full pedal in 5 minutes.

I can feel some tearing, then they iced me. Now I have almost all my flexion back—I can almost bend my knee fully. Feeling queasy after PT, though. Barfy.

Finally I am completely off pain meds—just time-release Motrin. Tramadol was way better than Oxycodone. In general, the side effects were so awful, I couldn't wait to stop taking them. Skilled barfing with the big O, and nausea with Tramodol. Guess I'll never become a drug addict.

Therapy is cruel to be kind, scar tissue needs to be torn in increments or you'll lose mobility. And I have keloid scars. Definitely feeling a little queasy now.

Gawd, to be able to walk a mile. Today I had no crutches, no knee brace, I felt almost naked!  The worst part  of surgery is the lingering cloud in your head, mostly from the drugs and anesthesia. Recovery is such an alternate reality. Like being stoned sans drugs day-in, and day-out. When will I get my brain back?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Happy Groundhog Day

Remember the tongue twister:
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
A woodchuck would chuck all the wood he could
if a woodchuck could chuck wood.
But I learned a slightly different variant of the ditty (sung like a livestock auctioneer's croon):
How many chucks could a woodchuck chuck
if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
I learned that woodchuck is a Narragansett Algonquian word: wuchak. Whatever you call the harbinger toothy rodent of spring, Happy Groundhog Day. Hope the blasted critter stays underground, we need more rain. Good news: I awoke to a drizzle. Every little bit helps, but it'd have to rain in biblical proportions in order to make up for the deficit.

Punxsutawney Phil Wiki
I guess Phil didn't see his shadow. Six more weeks...  Go back to bed, Phil. Now. No shadows to be seen here. Move along. Move along.
"Since the Groundhog’s first prediction in 1887 (through 2013), Phil has seen his shadow 100 times and not seen it on just 17 occasions. There are nine missing years in the record, but Phil has issued a forecast without exception. No one questions Phil’s dedication to prognostication, but his accuracy is an unending source of controversy."
 —Wa Post
How did we ever adopt a hairy, hoary groundhog, aka a woodchuck, as a harbinger of spring? In the north, he's known as Punxsutawney Phil or that Southern imposter, General Beauregard Lee. The name of a lowly burrowing rodent preserves vestiges of old Civil War lines. I can't even pronounce Phil's name. His official abode is on Gobbler's Knob, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
According to  tradition, if Phil sees his shadow and returns to his hole, he has predicted six more weeks of winter weather. If Phil does not see his shadow, he has predicted an "early spring." The date of Phil's prognostication is known as Groundhog Day in the United States and Canada, and has been celebrated since 1887. Punxsutawney Phil became a national celebrity thanks to the 1993 movie Groundhog Day. A select group, called the Inner Circle, takes care of Phil year-round and also plans the annual ceremony. Members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle are recognizable by their top hats and tuxedos. —Wiki
  Suspension of disbelief much?
According to lore, there is only one Phil, and all other groundhogs are impostors. It is claimed that this one groundhog has lived to make weather prognostications since 1886, sustained by drinks of "groundhog punch" administered at the annual Groundhog Picnic in the summer.According to the Groundhog Club, Phil, after the prediction, speaks to the club president in "Groundhogese", which only the current president can understand, and then his prediction is translated for the entire world.—Wiki

So what in blue blazes is a groundhog? The groundhog (Marmota monax), is a very large rodent, a kind of ground squirrel—otherwise known as a mountain marmot
during the rest of the year. A groundhog is one of 15 species of marmots—there are six species in North America (once there were nine). 

According to Wiki:
There are marmots in the Alps, Apennines, Pyrenees; Eurasian steppes, Carpathians, Tatras, and northwestern Asia; the Deosai Plateau in Pakistan and Ladakh in India; the Black Hills, Rockies, Cascades, Pacific Ranges, and Sierra Nevadas in North America. Four marmot species of western North America—Alaska to California—are a subgenra—Petromarmota. Bigger critters. Yellow-bellied marmot, the most common. 
Apparently Nevada and Arizona had two distinct marmot species, as did Nebraska, and China. I bet they wound up in a lot of stewpots during the famine months.

Wiki goes onto say:
"Herodotus described the golden Himalayan marmot of the Deosai Plateau, as "gold-digging ants" because the Minaro tribes collected gold dust excavated from marmot burrows.The etymology of the term "marmot" may have arisen from the Gallo-Romance prefix marm-, meaning to mumble or murmur; or from post-classical Latin, mus montanus, meaning "mountain mouse." 
and on another Wiki page:
The Groundhog Day celebration is rooted in a Celtic and Germanic tradition that says that if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on February 2, the Pagan holiday of Imbolc (known among Christians as Candlemas Day), winter and cold weather will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, legend says, spring will come early. In Germany, the tradition evolved into a myth that if the sun came out on Candlemas, a hedgehog would cast its shadow, predicting snow all the way into May. When German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania, they transferred the tradition onto local fauna, replacing hedgehogs with groundhogs. Wiki
I'd say the Teutons and the Celts have it over the Romans. A wildcat-sized marmot resembles no mouse, not even a dormouse! And can they ever scream bloody murder. Make you yellow-bellied scared shitless to boot, if you're not expecting that blood-curdling scream.  Enough to shake the gold out of your fillings.

Happy Imbolc, and Groundhog Day. And let's hope that Bill Murray finally gets it right.