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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Settling Into Oregon

"All that we see and seem is but a dream within a dream." ~Edgar Allen Poe; American Writer, editor, and literary critic (1809-1849)

   I've been living in Gresham, Oregon now since mid-December. I am pleased to be a help to my flat mates: my youngest daughter Sparky, my daughter-in-law Kelli, and my foster daughter Mary, who refers to me as her Pond Mom, since I lived across the pond in Britain. We all share a similar sensibility and sense of humor. Life is tough these days in the USA and it takes everyone contributing and pooling resources to make ends meet. I make the weekly menus and the grocery lists, purchase the groceries, and cook the meals. Now my chickens, as I call my girls, are eating proper meals. Before I moved in they were eating fast food and prepared processed food products from the grocery mart. Each of them works a different shift so someone is always coming in or heading out.
   I also live with a herd of felines! I am over the moon to live with cats again. I am the mobile petting station, as their food bowl is on a table near the end of the couch which is also my bed. Like furry sharks, the felines circle past me on their way to the food bowl, the litter boxes, and the dog's water bowl which they drink out of, getting up on their hind legs and leaning in to the bowl. From behind the cats appear to be scrying in the water which cracks me up. I have developed a relationship with each one and they with me.
   I have been saving ideas for this blog on bits of paper and I finally sat down with them all, determined to get this post written. Without further delay here are some interesting things that have crossed my path in the past two months:

1. Relax Melodies. My oldest daughter introduced me to this app by Ipnos and I love it. It is a sleep application which I downloaded to Les' Kindle Fire. There are graphics that look like the wooden blocks that hang on the end of chimes. Each one plays a different sound. One can choose as many sounds as one wants, layering them together to save as mixes to play when one wants help to fall asleep. My mixes include layered sounds with names like Night River Owls, which reminds me of mooring up on NB Valerie near the woods with owls hooting at night. Wind Chime Storm layers a delicate wind chime with the sounds of a thunder storm and rain. Evening Chorus is a layer of lapping water, owls, frogs croaking, Loons calling, and crickets. Cottage Sonata layers wind in trees, wind chimes, fire crackling, and a river. I find it extremely difficult to shut my mind off and fall asleep. This app is incredibly relaxing and effective. You can try it for free which gives one access to about fifteen sounds. I bought an annual subscription for $23.00 and have access to over thirty sounds.
2. 1 Tac Safety Lights/Roadside Discs. While these amazingly tough lights were developed for use in vehicles as accident hazard lights, I can also see how they would come in extremely handy for boaters as well. They can be set to flash like police lights, blink, or static brightness, and they are magnetic, waterproof, and tough enough to drive over with a truck. The link for these in the USA is here; the link for these in the UK is here. They are sold in a pack of three. 
3. BBC Reel. Since I can no longer access the BBC stations in the USA , I go their website for European news with my morning cuppa. I find the BBC website far less biased than their TV news and some of the add-ons available are fascinating. The home page offers a Playlist link in the upper right. This will take you to different short videos clustered around ideas like Culture, Villages, Physics, history, Living in the Future, and The Science of Everyday Life. I've watched intriguing short vids about villages in Spain selling houses for €1 and entire villages for the equivalent of $30,000.00. I've been captivated by Japan's mysterious keyhole tombs, the flower that blooms every 12 years, the map (of the world) that survived 700 years, the rarest fabric on earth, creating leather from mushrooms, why Swedes won't talk about wealth, a rem]mote town made form Opal mines, secret worlds: a journey to the most recondite and hard to access places and communities, the secret world beneath Alhambra, is our perception if time wrong?, and the origins of the mysterious Guanches! What might those be, you ask?  Check them out on BBC Reel. 
4. Dezeen. This is an architecture and design magazine with a weekly newsletter that covers the world of design in all things: architecture, clothing, shoes, jewelry, automobiles, AI virtual beings, and technology to name a few and many of the design pieces favor reader input. It also offers links to design and architecture job openings if you are so educated and inclined. These recent stories on Dezeen caught my eye: Scientists at Tufts University have created xenobots, tiny robots made from frog skin and heart cells that can walk and heal themselves; Samsung has developed AI-powered virtual beings that look and behave like real humans, much to reader disgust; the car design inspired by the movie Avatar. Mercedes-Benz's Vision AVTR concept also incorporates battery technology centered on a graphene-based organic cell chemistry that is free of "rare earths" and metals such as nickel and cobalt. The materials used to make the battery are compostable and fully recyclable, making the car free from fossil resources. The Vision AVTR interiors are also made from sustainable materials such as vegan leather seats, with a floor made of rattan. Practice Architecture worked alongside hemp farmers to erect this zero carbon home in Cambridgeshire, England, from pre-fabricated panels in just two days. Who's buying that information? Danish Architecture firm BIG has branched into smart home products. Controlled via smartphone, the Friday Smart Lock can automatically unlock a door when it senses the resident approaching, lock it as they leave, or allow them to remotely control who has access to the property. Designed in Hackney: last summer Hackney architects Studio Weave turned an old narrow boat into a floating cinema that toured the canals of east London. You can go to the web page of the newsletter and type narrow boat, canals, or canal boat into the search function and all sorts of design stories related to your search will turn up to intrigue and perhaps disgust you!
5. Wordsmith. If you are a logophile--a lover of words--then this website and free daily word email will satisfy your need for verbiage. Nearly 400.000 people in 170 countries have a free subscription to the Word of A Day email which always includes a new word, its pronunciation, etymology, definition, usage, and a thought for the day, and each week's words follow a theme. Created by Anu Garg--a computer programmer from Northern India, it is the only daily email that I am reluctant to consign to the rubbish bin after reading. Yesterday's word was Faff and of course it made nostalgic for Britain. My thanks to my dear friend Karen Barron in Pullman, Washington for sending me the link and getting me hooked!!
6. Black raspberries. Black raspberries have the highest amount of ellagic acid compounds of any fruit, and Oregon produces 90% of the world's black raspberries which are neither blackberries or raspberries. According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center clinical studies indicate the anticarcinogenic effects of ellagic acid against liver, esophageal, prostate, and colorectal cancer cell lines. It was also shown to induce apoptosis and potentiate all-trans retinoic acid myeloid differentiation therapy in human leukemia HL-60 cells. Human research studies at the University of Ohio have worked with one farm in Mt. Hood, Oregon and one producer who provides a standardized black raspberry product used for their human clinical studies which show that a paste of black raspberries on pre cancerous mouth lesions can stop the progression to cancer and return the cells to normal functioning. According to James Wong, a British Kew-trained botanist, with a Master of Science degree in Ethnobotany, he has pursued his key research interests of underutilised crop species, ethnopharmacology and traditional food systems through field work in rural Ecuador, Java and China. On his website Wong says, "A Phase 1 clinical trial at the University of Ohio suggested that consuming the fruit reduced the markers of DNA damage in oral cancer survivors . Additional test tube and animal studies also suggest their consumption may be linked to the inhibited growth of esophagus and other cancers. The researchers are careful to not make claims that go beyond their limited data & more clinical trials are underway."
   I follow Chris Wark's website and blog. He chose alternative treatment to heal from colon cancer at the age of twenty six. He investigates both western allopathic cancer treatments and alternative treatments and I highly recommend his web site to anyone facing a cancer diagnosis. I only wished I had found it when Les was diagnosed in 2013. His blog post for this week happened to be about black raspberries and he has a video interview with the man who produces the standard black raspberry product used in human clinical trials at Ohio University and also in research at Oregon State University. I encourage you to read through this blog post from top to bottom as he also has links to research on this subject.
7. My Modern Met. Somewhere along the way on my thousands of sleepless nights I came across this website and fell in love with it. If you love art and culture in all its myriad forms, you too will enjoy this site. MMM has a weekly newsletter delivered by email without any adverts. Here are some of the topics I've discovered through this weekly newsletter: Land Artist Surprises Beach Goers By Leaving Striking Stone Arrangements Along the Coast; People Are Shocked to Discover That Not Everyone Has an Inner Monologue; Finland Solves Its Homelessness by Providing Apartments for Anyone Who Needs One; Bees Create Heart-Shaped Hive When There Aren’t Frames Up to Guide Them. My Modern Met also has an online store with some fun and intriguing items that make fabulous gifts. I love the vertical Jenga style game made with elegant wooden cats cut out to stack, and the GI Joe plastic soldier figurines in rainbow colors. None of the soldiers are holding guns; instead they are engaged in holding a yoga pose! There are vivid super saturated water colors in a small book no bigger than a small mobile phone for easy transportation, and handbags that appear to have the front cover of either Pride and Prejudice or The Raven by EA Poe on them.
8. A lovely woman I know named Mary Kunkel has become a writer in her golden years. She writes slice-of-life pieces about 500 or so words and there is a link to her blog over on the right, titled, Lightly Tethered to the Earth. Recently she wrote about Ravens in a post titled "Learning a New Language". In it she references wilderness explorer and writer Craig Child and his piece about Ravens which appeared in The Sun magazine, which I think you will find fascinating. Mary's piece led to Craig's book The Animal Dialogues. Child's writing is simply beautiful. It is deeply resonant. He paints word pictures of great depth and feeling about the wilderness, the animals which cross his path, and his small place in the larger picture as he interacts with them. I highly recommend it.
   Until next time!

Friday, January 24, 2020

Les Biggs, In Remembrance



"A thousand words won't bring you back; I know because I've tried. Neither will a thousand tears; I know because I've cried." ~Kily Dunbar, grieving mother

Les died three years ago today at 9:08 am. It seems like yesterday...I count myself so very lucky we found each other and loved one another for a brief span of time. I tried to post a few of my favorite pictures of him, but Blogger kept deleting them when I tried to add captions, and then shuffled them out of sequence, so I will just go with this one as it captures so well Les' joy for life. He loved to laugh and how he made me laugh!! He was and always will be my brown eyed handsome man, my heart's desire...
Les on our deck under the Lilac tree at Cloudhouse in Pullman, Washington, August 2011. Do you know I viewed this picture many dozens of times before I realized he was making rabbit ears at me!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

A Little of This, A Bit of That

"Find a place inside where there is joy, and the joy will burn out the pain." ~Joseph Campbell,  Author, American professor of Literature and Myth, 1904-1987

   It has been awhile since I last posted. I am not experiencing a lot of inspirational things in life lately; just digging in with fingernails and hanging on. I've recovered from five weeks of Shingles followed a week later by a gall bladder attack that required emergency surgery to remove it, followed the next day by a second surgery to sweep gall stones from my bile duct. The pain was far worse than any labor pains I had and I hope to never hurt like that again.
   Doors appear to open to me and then are suddenly slammed shut in my face. I've moved down to Pullman, Washington in October in anticipation of a job which I interviewed for and was told would be mine permanently in May--a contract leading up to May was signed, and then a registered letter arrived three weeks after I settled in, paid for a post office box, had all of my belongings brought down to a storage shed in Moscow, Idaho, and registered with a local GP and dentist, to say the offer had been rescinded due to upheavals down the line, etc. etc. so here I am getting ready to move again. To say I am tired, and depressed, and finding little joy in life is an understatement, however...
   I have found a few things that delight me and so I shall share them in the hopes they might delight others as well.

1. As hurricane season was barreling its way across the Atlantic in August I came across a cracking good web app which produces a globe of the world and shows current wind, weather, ocean, and pollution conditions, as forecast by supercomputers, on an interactive animated map updated every three hours. It is a nifty thing to watch as the world's air and water currents move continually. Hurricanes, typhoons, or cyclones depending on where you are around the globe appear with pink to red wind and water currents. To view and download the web app, click Here. It has served as an invaluable tool in explaining British weather to Americans!
Image result for nullschool.net
Image result for nullschool.net

2. One evening I came across a video of a smashing group of musicians and singers. Post Modern Jukebox takes old classics, 90's Motown, hip-hop, doo-wop ballads of the 50's and early 60's, and modern songs by folks such as Bono and U2, Billy Idol, Sam Cook, Jackson Five, Roy Orbison, Elton John, Aerosmith, Guns and Roses, Beyonce and Rihanna, and reinterprets them in several different genres covering seventy decades of distinctive music styles such as ragtime, straight ahead jazz standards, gospel and blues, and doo-wop. Begun by Scott Bradlee, there are over fifty singers and musicians with whom he works to bring his interpretation of music to the world. You can visit PMJ's website for more details including concert dates in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. These are two of my favorites: Lovefool, and All About the Bass.




3. Another find during an evening of web surfing brought me to a page selling porcelain and stoneware, but not just any old pattern; no this is called Calamityware! The plates, cups, saucers, mugs, bowls and platters at first glance appear to be copying the Blue Willow style of chinoiserie so popular back in 1790 by Spode. Look closer though and astonishing shapes jump out of the blue patterning: robots run a-muck, dinosaurs lurk, pterodactyls swoop, sea monsters rise from the depths, the Kraken stretches out many legs, vortices spin, active volcanoes spew, pirate ships appear in the background, plagues of frogs rise from the shrubbery, Sasquatch runs across an open section of porcelain, and zombie poodles balance on their haunches! Should the money and the need for new dishware ever cross paths in my life again, this is the dinnerware I want! Calamityware also sells aprons, place mats, scarves, wall paper, sketchbooks and playing cards with various calamitous creatures on them.



4. With my re-connection to Neill Public Library in Pullman, Washington I discovered a delightful new mystery author, Charles Finch. His Lenox mysteries run to twelve in number and take place in Victorian era England. Charles Lenox is a gentleman, son and brother of Baronets, educated at Harrow, and expected to follow his wealthy line into politics but he cannot stop his fascination with solving crimes and becomes England's first "modern" crime detective. This series is written by an American of privilege, educated at Phillips Academy and Yale University, where he majored in English and History. Finch also holds a master's degree in Renaissance English Literature from Merton College, Oxford. One would not know his American birth however as his books capture London and Victorian era England perfectly. It is only in book 11 Finch betrays his American heritage in print, but the clue is extremely subtle and only someone who is looking for it will find it! Below are the covers of the first four books in the series. 


A Beautiful Blue Death: The First Charles Lenox Mystery (Charles Lenox Mysteries Book 1)The September Society (Charles Lenox Mysteries Book 2)The Fleet Street Murders (Charles Lenox Mysteries Book 3)A Stranger in Mayfair: A Mystery (Charles Lenox Mysteries Book 4)


5. Food wise life has been topsy-turvy with several Crohn's flare ups over the summer and fall.  I've found two delicious items at the Moscow Food Co-op and both are available online in the USA anyway. The first is Karam's Garlic Sauce, a blend of garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and love!



The second food item is an amazing organic smoked soft goat's cheese from Amatheia Organic Dairy in Bozeman, Montana. It is divine on crackers and soars when stuffed inside a chicken breast with afresh Basil leaf, the chicken then wrapped in Parma Ham or Turkey ham in my case, seared for 4 minutes on each side in a really hot pan of butter and then finished off in the oven for 15 minutes at 350 F. This cheese will carry to heights of rapture when spread on a bagel in lieu of cream cheese and topped with smoked salmon. Mmmm!

smoked chevrepic.jpg

   Finally, I learned this month something which I must share: the deadly side effects of the antibiotic Cipro or Ciprofloxacin. I am allergic to at least a dozen pharmaceutical drugs and most antibiotics. During the two days I was in hospital for emergency gall bladder surgeries, I was put on a continuous IV alternating Cipro and Flagyl until I developed an allergic reaction to them both, with red raised, blistered patches on both cheeks directly under my eyes, and on my nose which was swollen. I have been left with faint scarring on both cheeks--a pink streak as though a painter brushed both sides of my face with a daub of pink. While the surgeries took place on September 7th and 8th, I am still struggling for breath, although it has improved. I could not figure out why this was occurring.  Now I know it is a complication of Cipro use.
   Last week I slept wrong and put the left side of my neck and some of my bones in my left clavicle out of place, developing Vertigo. I called the chiropractor I used to see when I lived here at Cloudhouse. He graciously squeezed me in and after looking at x-rays of my neck and spine, Dr. Carnahan asked me if I had taken any antibiotics recently. I told him about the Cipro and Flagyl and he said he couldn't give me an adjustment because Cipro causes a weakening of the tendons and a simple adjustment could tear a tendon in my neck causing me serious long term health issues. I was gobsmacked! Dr. Carnahan gave up his massage appointment for the next morning and I had a one hour massage that loosened things up enough for my bones to slowly move back to where they belonged. It turns out the Cipro can also damage one's mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited from our mothers. It is the energy furnace in every one of our cells. This would also explain why I feel exhausted all the time, and have no energy. I seem to be exhibiting most of the side effects of this drug. Forewarned is forearmed. Now you know too and can advocate for yourself should it be necessary.
   I will be planning my move to Gresham, Oregon between Thanksgiving and Christmas and hope to have a more uplifting post to share. Until then, I hope everyone has a lovely winter holiday--whichever one you celebrate. Bright blessings!

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs