Sunday Scribblings #27 - Skin

Skin. That is this week's topic for Sunday Scribbles.

When I think of skin - I think of the exchangeable parts on my technology stuff. I think of cell phone skins, web skins (templates) and Media player skins.

I also think of human skins and races, and animal skins; skin cancer (
The Skin Cancer Foundation), skin diseases; dinosaur skin and feathers; scales, fur and hair; membranes.

Skins can be applied when speaking of drums and their coverings.

Aircraft have skins (and can show "skin" in the form of nose art!)

Sausages have skin.

There is skin as in "sex sells". Skin flicks.

Then there is "slip me some skin", as in sliding your hand over your friends in some cool manner.

We can skinny dip.

We can skin something - peel the rind from an apple, or in a more graphic sense we can flay the flesh from a living body. We skin chicken to get rid of excess fat before cooking (some of us do, at any rate.)

Skin can be "degloved" from fingers, toes and other body parts when those parts come in contact with mechanical devices (such as what often happens when some poor animal's tail get caught under the wheels of a car.)

You can skin up the mountain, which means to climb it awkwardly as if by scrambling.

Are your jeans skin tight?

You can skin a tree.

Skin is short from for "skinhead". In other slang, Skin and blister is East Ender for "Sister".

A skin diver is one who does SCUBA, or uses a snorkel. It is also a five pound (Sterling) note.

If you don't know what a skin flute is, I promise you it is something you hope your daughter is not learning to play in band class!

A pond can "skin over" with ice.

Skinful is just enough alcohol (plus some!) to make yourself too drunk to function.

The Skinny is not just a term for those "skin and bones" models who have to run around in the shower to get wet - it also means "the lowdown" or "the details".

Skins can be cigarette papers, but usually refers more to those used in a "joint". (Skinning up means rolling a joint.)

To be skint is to be poor.

Beauty is only skin deep.

Don't you hate it when you fall and skin your knee?

To skin someone is to fleece them, or to take advantage of them.

Some people are very thin skinned, and the slightest insult all but kills them. Others are thick skinned and hardened.

There are days that I get through things by the "skin of my teeth" - by the smallest margin of sanity! There are days that some people really get under my skin.

SOS!!! Save Our Skins!!! (It can also be read as Save Our Souls.) People have been known to lie to save their skins.

101 Dalmatians - get those puppies!

I really don't mind if you don't leave a comment about this - it's no skin off my nose!

(Yes, one tattoo in the picture is on my own skin, the other belongs to Better Half. We have several between us.)

A Hollywood Legend

Lu Mininni Totin:
actress, director, author, theatrical instructor...
and Hollywood Legend?!

Thank you, Annie, for the link: Lu Mininni is famous!!!
::: big grin :::
It's not real, you know!

TAG! A Meme for Bibliophiles!

I was tagged by AnnieElf today. I thought: "Hmm, no big deal. This could be fun." Little did I know that Better Half and I would spend the next half hour trying not to piss ourselves from laughing too hard.

The Rules of this tag game are:
1. Grab the book nearest to cheating!
2. Open to page 123.
3. Scroll down to the fifth sentence.
4. Post text of next 3 sentences on to your blog....

I grabbed a book, one that I am currently reading (R.A. Salvatore's Legacy of the Drow, Collector's Edition), and followed the Meme instructions. I found myself giggling, realizing that the lines, taken out of context, would read like a rather tantalizing paragraph from a dime store romance novel. The scene, between the Dwarven King and his Barbarian friend, consisted of the Barbarian on his knees before the dwarf, and the short three sentences could be seen as a bit sensual. EEP!

On to the next book! Better Half's collection is handy - Star Trek Rules of Engagement! Ah, nooo. What is with page 123 and catching characters in a situation that isn't what it would appear to be if more than three lines were read? Well, it is Captain Kirk, after all. But, no. I could never post that on my blog and expect mothers to allow their children to stop by.

Next book! The Post Man, by David Brin. Flip to page 123. It reads, in three short lines, like a pedophile having his way with a boy behind an oak tree. EEP! NO.

Next book! Richard Marcinko's Rogue Warrior: Green Team. Page 123. Damn. The F word, the S word, and thus the "not acceptable for small children readers".

Next Book! David Brin, don't fail me again! Earth. 123. Double damn. It reads like a romance novel. I must be cursed!

The bible! The Holy bible! Flip to page 123, anticipating a long, boring passage. No. NO! Spilling seed. Unclean beasts. Oh Lord.

An old Roget thesaurus. That surely won't fail me. Wow. I didn't know there were that many words to describe something so natural.

I turn to a tome of poetry from 1891, a collection of works for public audiences. On page 123, the sixth sentence begins the sobbing woes of a mistress pleading with her lover to leave his wife, for the wife can not pleasure him as well as her own body does. How risque.

A paleontology tome? Page 123? Suspected breeding habits of theropods. Charming. Better Half has tears of laughter edging his eyes.

Something dusty catches my eyes. Eh? Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J. K. Rowling. This should prove safe, and it does. So, I give you the tag, now completed:

"Fred, George, and Ginny were nowhere to be seen, though the path was packed with plenty of other people, all looking nervously over their shoulders toward the commotion back at the campsite. A huddle of teenagers in pajamas was arguing vociferously a little way along the path. When they saw Harry, Ron, and Hermione, a girl with thick curly hair turned and said quickly, "Ou est Madame Maxime?"..."

I'm tagging: Roadchick, Sophie, and David. Thanks for bemusing this muse, Annie!


Cleaning Mode

Better Half and I cleaned the dining room today.

"Aut, it took you all day to clean one room?"

Oh, I'm sorry - I don't mean clean. I mean clean. Most people would consider a deep clean something as simple as wiping dust off stuff with a Swiffer and sucking the cobwebs off the cheap light fixture with the handy shark vac. Not in this house, Buster.

To clean, to truly clean, one must remove everything from the surfaces of furniture. The furniture is washed (yes, washed, with wood oil soap), wiped dry and buffed, and then polished with wood oil (by hand, with a rag. None of that Pledge junk.) The baseboards and all wooden trim are treated likewise, with careful attention paid to the 80 year-old French doors leading into the dining room (they still have their original glass and hardware. Well, all the doors have their original hardware, thank you.) The rug is cleaned, stains removed, and then vacuumed (no wood floors yet, but that is our second project, followed by removal of the ghastly drop ceiling in the dining room and replastering.) All brick-a-brack is cleaned, thoroughly, including the antique coffee urn, the cherished soup tureen. Everything is put back in place, and the changing of drapery (of course, with my love of textiles, I have drapes for each season... summer, autumn, and spring.) The lights on the wall, by the way, are the remnants of the gas lights that once hung as the only source of light in the room. The "newest" fixtures are a pair of ugly florescent fixtures (seen in the picture above) tucked into the drop ceiling. Yes, must change that out, ASAP.

Better Half kicked ass on the wood trim, although I would not trust him to do the furniture. That painstaking work is reserved for a woman, who knows just how much pressure is needed when buffing in oil (sorry guys, you may rock when you build the stuff, but we rule when it comes to maintaining it.) Nothing in the dining room, with the exception of a few candles, pictures and pottery, is under the age of 50. Most of the furniture is older than my mother. The textiles, of course, are new.

The hard work was worth it, although I have to fix the drapes. I hung them up on the fly, and then tore off to teach a class, so they are a bit shoddy looking. Some careful attention will get them looking proper in no time.

Tomorrow is the living room, and then the kitchen. We'll progress up the stairs, taking it a room at a time, as our bodies allow. It is well worth the effort, and the house will sparkle just in time for the holiday season to blow through. I'm so lucky to have Better Half to help me. He's a patient fellow.

Well, he's also a good hearted fellow. We are watching the new season of Animal Precinct, and he's trying to hide the fact that he's a bit teary-eyed over the condition of some starving dogs. It really is a troubling sight (the dogs, not the good-hearted Husband), and I have to wonder what the hell is wrong with people... why they would bother to own a dog if they can't take the time to maintain it.

Yes - the room is red.


Knitting and Recipe Swaps... EVERYTHING SWAPS!

Let me be perfectly clear: I do not knit. I don't know how to knit. I can crochet - long ropes that do nothing (and I have not done that since I was 4 or 5.) I would love to learn to knit, but there are no knitting circles in my area.

I have found a lot of knitting blogs while poking around online. Many knitters participate in some of the same of the weekly writer's forums as I do. When I peek at their blogs, I find myself gazing in amazement at the pictures of handcrafted goods that they are proudly showing off. Socks, scarves, sweaters, blankets - to someone who does not knit, those goods appear to be testimonies of countless months of knitting by true professionals. They happily trade yarn (and yarns), and often recipes. It truly looks to be a peaceful existence, one that seems to allude me every time I pass the knitting aisle in the local crafts store. What must it be like, to turn a bundle of yarn into something as comforting as a sweater for your child or husband.

I enjoy swapping recipes, as well as goods between the US and other countries. A dear friend in the UK once sent me a box of teas, a tea strainer and some other delights - and just breathing in the deep smells of that box transported me across the Big Pond. We have a collections of art and brickabrack from Japan, the Ukraine, and the Republic of Georgia - given to us by our exchange students a few years back. Better Half has bits of ocean artifacts from his days of travel, and a few military-themed trinkets. Most of my overseas souvenirs are packed away, in a box in a shed somewhere in Colorado (Better Half, I really would like to get those boxes one of these years!)

Better Half participates in a Battle Tech website where members trade mechs (little futuristic robot things made of plastic or metal), and usually he can find a missing part or a rare find just by asking if anyone would be interesting in swapping parts for other mechs.

And so, I got to thinking: If knitters and gamers worldwide can unite and send each other traded yarn and mechs, why can't the rest of us start an exchange program? We could place a section in our links for others who are interested in the exchange program, and perhaps have a themed blog set up with sections for people to list what they wish to trade. Quilt swaps, tea swaps, cookie swaps, menu swaps, button swaps, tapestry swaps, sari swaps, toy car swaps, book swaps, doll swaps... the possibilities seem endless.

It has my mind working (I feel a bout of insomnia coming on!)

Musings On A Blustery Day

I actually ventured out today, for more than just a quick meal. That is not to say that I am entirely back in the groove, but it is a vast improvement to just sitting about the house with heating pads on my back and pharmaceuticals on board (the legal kind, thank you very much.)

The cotton ball forms of Cumulus clouds raced overhead as I wound my way down our small town's main street, and I couldn't help but be fascinated by the patterns of light and shadow the traveled almost at the same speed as I. The sun guided the vehicles in front of me, opening its arms wide to embrace us all as we speed along our way. Trees and lawns, grown lush from our recent rains, shifted their hues of green as the filtered light gave way to brilliant sunshine, only to fall back into a brooding shade moments later. The air was warm, but the breeze lent a nip to it, praying with the brims of old ladies' Sunday hats, and rippling the decorative fall and Halloween flags festooning the porches of the quaint homes along the street.

The wind breaks in gusts upon the sides of our home as I write this, and its whispered keen is a pleasure to my ears. Our window sashes are thrown wide to better capture the last moments of summer air and chase away any remaining stale scents trapped within the house itself. I find myself shivering now and then as a particularly strong gust whips through, and the lace curtains in the bathroom can be heard snapping from all the way down the hall. On occasion, a door will slam as if some temperamental ghost roamed the halls, and the dogs will bolt for cover under the bed or to the furthest corner of the room in frantic anticipation of Better Half or me coming over to investigate the phenomenon that has sparked their fears. Had this been Colordo, we would expect to hear high wind warnings (or, as we think of them, "Small Dog Warnings") broadcast on the television or radio.

Today will be an excellent day for taking refuge in my favorite chair, my cashmere throw wrapping my legs in comfort as I sip hot tea and delve into a good novel. Later, I'll curl up in a warm bed, the thick comforter pulled snugly around me, and the window will be cracked just enough to hear the serenade of frogs and crickets.

On a totally separate note - those of you who find history interesting:
Today is the anniversary of the U.S.S. Enterprise. In 1960, this aircraft carrier, (the first nuclear powered one!) was launched at Newport News, VA. Going back almost one hundred years from then, today is also the anniversary of Black Friday (1869), in which thousands of businessmen were ruined in the Wall Street catastrophe caused when financiers Jay Gould and James Fisk attempted to corner the market in gold. Three years earlier, in 1896, F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minn... he is best known for The Great Gatsby, but also wrote This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and the Damned. And, in more modern times, Dr. Suess (Theodore Suess Geisel) died in La Jolla, CA, in 1991.

Nothing gets me as pensive as a blustery day.


Sometimes you just have to climb up to the roof, jump about, and act like a fool. I, on the other hand, am satisfied with a simple outcry of "YES!!", having just loaded the new template to this blog. If it looks the same, you need to hold down your ALT key and click on your refresh button at the same time (this is called a "hard refresh".) Be patient as it will take a few seconds to load.

The background is a photograph that I took at the Pittsburgh Zoo earlier this summer. I included it in this post, because it really is hard to see the thing with the side columns in the way - but the columns remain by popular demand. The template you see had the fundamentals generated by
Psycho's Free Template Generation program. The hardest part was transferring my old items onto the new, as part of them were written in a foreign language. It was a nightmare, but at least (I hope) everything is loaded and working.

Anyway, I worked on this while Better Half enjoyed (and is still enjoying) our new box set of The Complete Monte Python's Flying Circus on DVD. To be honest, now that the hard work is done for my online blog hobby, I might just kick back and watch it with him (i.e. give it my full attention.) If you'd like your own brain-numbing boxed set, you can pick it up on The SET; they have it listed for $99.95, but if you're savvy and have a Half Price Books/ near you, you can get it for half that amount.

So, enjoy the new Bemused Muse - I'm off to enjoy Python.

Template changes to come

Those were the very words that I said in February of this year, and I spent a month tinkering with HTML to accomplish what you see today. Now, I fear it has become stale (to me), and thus I think I shall be undertaking a new mission over the next week or so - providing I can find the spare time.

While my house colors (or my furniture or curtains) can stay the same for decades, I find that my amusement with my artwork or web sites runs dry shortly after I have completed my efforts on it. Perhaps I just love new challenges. Perhaps I just think the work I do for myself sucks, while the work I do for others is much better.

Perhaps I just have subconscious issues, and should go visit
Dr. Andrew and ask for his advice.

What ever my reasons are, rest assured that The Bemused Muse will be changing over the new few weeks. I want a bit more pizzazz! I want to streamline things. I need to consolidate a bit more, so it doesn't take a fortnight to load the damn thing. I'm open to suggestions, as well.

Hi ho, hi ho, off to codes I go.

Sunday Scribblings #26 - Instructions

Instructions. That is the topic of the week from Sunday Scribblings. Yet, they failed to give us any further instructions on it.

It is tempting to write something satirical, perhaps rehashing the Hashi instructions, or else bemoaning the instructions that accompany ready-to-assemble toys and furniture (often written in English with severe grammatical errors.) I am also tempted to write a short piece concerning "Instructions for Mankind", replete with wise proverbs and suggestions that could be applied to everyday life.

Instead, I think I will write about the instructions we are given beginning at birth - which you might think is none at all.

The person you are today, the person who sits here reading this post, was molded over a lifetime of instructions that were, often, unheard and unreadable. These lessons were imparted to you over time, from the moment of your birth, via your parent/s and teachers, peers, the media, your chosen religion (or lack of religion), and events.

Many people fail in life because they choose not to learn from past mistakes. Others fail because they feel they need to forge ahead without using any instructions at all. Some choose to take self-defeating instructions to heart. Some people do well until a negative event mars them, and they spend days, weeks - or even their entire life - with this event embracing their every thought, to the point where they will fall aside on the road to life if they do not get help from a qualified therapist.

Our ability to utilize the lessons we learn in life depends greatly upon our mind set and approach to it. There is a Taoist thought process concerning the inability to change the actual bad 'happening'. Let's say you have a favorite tea cup, and it crashes to the floor and breaks. You can cry out, rant, and scream curses because the cup is broken, but that will not change the event that happened. A Taoist approach would be to accept that the cup is broken, allow yourself to grieve for the loss, and then sweep up the shards and go about your day. You will always miss that cup, but its loss should not destroy your own happiness. Only you can control your feelings of happiness, after all. (A further expansion of this thinking is: no one can insult you without your permission!) A Christian mind set might accept that it is God's will that the cup broke, and the lesson learned might be "Don't put so much desire into the material, which is fleeting."

As we move about through life, we should always keep our eyes (and minds) open to new learning experiences, for these will be the instructions needed for later events. A bad experience is only bad because of the way we perceive it. For instance, if as a toddler we burn our finger by touching a hot cup, we will store this bit of instruction for the rest of our lives... in the future, we will not just stick our hand into hot liquid or grab a hot item. Rather then dwell on the actual moment of the burn, we will remember that hot is hot. The instruction is imprinted in our minds. As our world expands around us, we will encounter even more negative stimulus. We can either learn from our own experiences, or the experiences of others (such as reading about a drunk driver killing a family, and vowing never to drive drunk ourselves.)

Today, as you go about your normal routines, keep your eyes sharp for the ways in which your life provides instruction. They may be written or verbal, such as those given by a teacher or employer (these are instructions for the betterment of a project or lesson.) They might come from a friend or family member (advice.) But, most usually, they will come from events that befall us all. Combine those events with a keen mind, and you will find yourself able to overcome all situations, striving forward as you convert the lessons learned into instructions for the future.

But, for those of you who need instructions for just about everything, I offer this fantastic website: - Clear Instructions on How To Do (just about) Everything

PS: once again, picture uploads are not working on Blogspot.

Poem, Interrupted

The view from my window,
on a crisp Autumn day
normally is lush
until leaves fade away.
But today they are dancing
the herald of things to come
and I sit pensive
Imagining each one
is a silent partner
in the grand ball
quiver and spinning...

Better Half has just thrown a damp rag on this. "It's not Autumn yet. It's Autumn on the 21st," he says.

Well, damn. So much for that.

Other than having the desire to capture a bit of beauty from my office window to share with you, I really have nothing else scheduled for the day. We were to drive up to Pittsburgh for Better Half's VA appointment today, but he woke up feeling ill, so that had to be rescheduled - and I will have to wait even longer to return the defective pizzelle iron.

Today is somewhat pain-free; that is to say, the medication is keeping things manageable. I don't feel groggy, but I am physically drained. I'd like to get out and see a movie, or stop by Seven Creeks and take some photographs of the changing seasons. I've also been meaning to get to Franciscan and take some photos of the Stations, for Annie. Ah me, so many things I could be doing, and my body is letting me down this week.

Better Half and I have been thinking of opening a local coffee shop, as there is only one in town (and it is not all that great.) We've been polling the local university students, to see what their needs are. We've already nixed the idea of a juice bar/smoothies (those are just messy to clean up all day long), and we'd like to incorporate spices, teas and coffees. Only time will tell. Business rents are cheap out here, but we'd need funds to purchase the initial items. We could certainly sell spices and teas for half of what the local places charge, and imported coffees are a good thing. We'd operate as a "Mom and Pop" for a while, because workmen's comp and other employee things would strap us financially. Although the business would not need to keep us covered for home expenses, it would need to draw in enough income to support itself entirely.

Damnit. We are out of milk. Time for Better Half to go to the store. He laments that he has only Goldfish crackers to eat - of course, we have a freezer full of meat, cupboards packed with can goods, and lots of healthy things. "Lunch meat and bread," he says as he grabs the keys.

As for me - a good book and bed. I'm starting to feel some pain.

And why, oh why, can't I get pictures upload to Blogspot? Am I the only one frustrated by this hosting forum?

Nothing New To Report

It's been one heck of a weekend. I didn't get much done (alright, I didn't get anything done), with the exception of finishing our CPS classes for foster applicants. That at least, is a good thing.

For those who don't know about how hellish it can be, I welcome you to read
Dysmenorrhea, an entry concerning it that I did in June of this year.

My God, I just can't write when I feel like crap. Please forgive my horrible lack of connection, the freakish sentence structure, and the myriad of typos that I'm almost certain will exist by the time I am done with this entry!

I can say that I accomplished one fantastic, extraordinary thing today. Alright, it's hardly extraordinary, and fantastic doesn't even come close. I cleaned the bathroom. "Whoopie. Big deal," you say in a dry, monotone voice? But, it is cleaned, and sparkly, and germ free. Trust me on this - when I'm knocked on my butt by physical pain, any little accomplished task is a major celebration.

Better Half also took me out to dinner, which was very sweet of him. And, he woke up early and steam cleaned a nasty stain in the upstairs hall, and took out all the trash in the house. It's on days like this that I could just cry, because there is no way that words can express how grateful I am that he's in my life and takes care of me when I can't function.

"Ok, Autrice, it was just a stain, and just trash. Don't get all emotional over it."

Bite me.

You should expect major mood swings from me during this time of the month, by now.

Sunday Scribble #25 - Research, Leafy Seadragon (Phycodurus eques)

I rarely go back and add to work after it is published here, but perhaps an explanation is needed. So...

My article below is an example of research and the presenting of facts... a very basic technical writing style. It is not presented in an essay format (and is not copy/paste from other web sights, with the exception of two referenced quotes.)

Alright, I am starting to assume that most people find research (and the presentation of facts) dry. EEK! "Entertain me! Autrice wrote a boring
Sunday Scribblings!"

I could go back through this and spice it up with buzzwords and catch phrases, but the purpose of my presenting my research on the Leafy Seadragon, as it is, is two-fold:

First, creative writers are often gnashing at the bit to write - and they can't resist adding color to their work. It takes a great sense of discipline to write just the facts, without throwing in too much opinion (in hard-line documentation, no opinion is warranted or needed.) So, the material often reads like a mini book report or basic biology class assignment. In the case of my entry below, I detailed the basics. Were it an article for journal publication, I would have to expand on various things - and include a whole mess of scientific data (which I actually ripped out of the article before posting it here.) I could have opted to write a lengthy essay which incorporates those facts.

The second reason is that, in a non-essay work, facts should speak for themselves, in a concise manner, so other researchers don't have to hunt through paragraphs for pertinent data.

The first thing a scientist needs or wants to know is: what is it? In the case of zoology (or even paleontology), we want a breakdown of where the animal sits. The phrase "Kings Play Chess On Fat Girl's Stomachs" comes into play here. That phrase is the sing-song way of remembering ranking: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Species. Classification is everything! A Nudibrach is a Mollusk... and knowing this, a Scientist can made a general assumption that a Nudibrach will behave in a "Mollusky" way. If it veers from Mollusk rules, the article will mention it.

Of secondary interest is the animal's size and/or shape.

The third thing a zoological scientist is interested in is the animal environment. Where does it live? Is it threatened or endangered? Will it kill me if I touch it? How hardy is it?

All three things are usually presented in the beginning of an article, in a very brief manner - although many articles list these facts in a small info-box within an article or at the end.

We come to the meat of the article after the initial facts are presented or outlined. These are the more wordy portions that add better description to the subject being studied. If sources are used, it is in a technical writer's best interest to cover his or her butt and list or refer to them! (References should always be within the article, usually at the end.)

As I have no major discovery (that is my own) to report, the article is merely information concerning what we already know about the subject. Often, there might be an "In conclusion" section, where the author has a bit of liberty to exress his viewpoint on the subject.

So, is dull worthwhile? Yes. If a researcher can't step back and approach a subject in black and white from time to time, facts get lost in the confusion of poetic writing. And, yes, it pays well. Had I studied my subject personally, I would have spent some time diving with them or near them, testing reported facts against my own observations. The culmination of a lengthy research undertaking is, of course, the "research paper".

Since I first submitted this to Sunday Scribbles, I noted that the topic has changed from "Research" to "Google". I hope that it still falls into the theme, as I did have to Google information for it. And, I hope it helps shed some light on the reason why so many papers and articles in the world read in a sterile manner. If you would like to learn more:
leafy seadragon - Google Search.

Anyway, enjoy! I'm hoping a lot of other people don't do the "dry" approach to this week's topic. I really enjoy reading the essay style much more!

~ T. Wheeler (aka Autrice)

Examples of research articles, and the different ways in which they can be approached:

Palaeo Portfolio: Southwestern dragon
(Essay Style) Darren Naish: Tetrapod Zoology: Are Sumatran rhinos really ‘living fossils’?
The Sea Slug Forum - Flabellina iodinea
"Bambi" the Velociraptor


Phycodurus eques -or- Leafy seadragon

Family: Syngnathidae (Pipefishes and seahorses), subfamily: Syngnathinae
Order: Syngnathiformes (pipefishes and seahorses)
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)

Max size: 35.0 cm TL
Environment: reef-associated; non-migratory; marine; depth range 4 – 30 m
Climate: subtropical; 31 degrees S - 38 degrees S
Importance: fisheries: of no interest; aquarium: commercial
Resilience: Medium, minimum population doubling time 1.4 - 4.4 years
Distribution: Eastern Indian Ocean: endemic to southern Australia.
Biology: Usually occur over sand patches close to reefs with kelp, feeding on mysids and other crustaceans. Ovoviviparous. The male carries the eggs in a brood pouch which is found under the tail. One of the most spectacular examples of camouflage: neither prey nor predators recognize it as a fish.
Threat Status: none; harmless to humans.

Red List Status:
Year Assessed - 2006
Assessor - R. Connolly
Evaluators - Morgan, S.K. & Martin-Smith, K (Syngnathid Red List Authority)
Justification - More information is available about leafy seadragons than when the species was last assessed, and this has resulted in a reassessment of Near Threatened (NT). There remains a paucity of information describing population fluctuations, population size and life history traits, therefore the assessment focuses on criterion B (geographic range). Population sizes have probably been reduced marginally through incidental impacts of fishing and the species' habitat certainly has been adversely affected by pollution. However, these reductions have not been measured and probably represent a small proportion of totals of fish abundances and habitat extent. Some issues point towards criteria within the Endangered (EN) category, and these points are described below. None of the information provides compelling evidence for trends in occurrence or occupancy, however this is largely due to the absence of data, rather than information that points towards population stability.
The extent of occurrence is estimated to be 1,400 km², which is below the 5,000 km² threshold for EN B1 and well below the 20,000 km² threshold for Vulnerable (VU). Total area of occupancy is possibly less than the VU threshold of 2,000 km² (given the approximate extent of occurrence calculated above), but at this time is unknown. Criterion B2 therefore cannot be used.

EN B1b(iii) (continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat) is met. Seadragon habitat such as algal covered reefs and seagrass meadows are being adversely affected by human activities and loss in quality and quantity of habitat has been documented (Baker 2003). The loss of habitat is most severe near major urban centres (e.g., Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne), where discharge of storm water and treated sewage leads to eutrophication and increased sedimentation. Losses of seagrass have been particularly severe along the metropolitan coasts and are well documented (Short and Wyllie-Echeverria 1996). The threat to seadragons may be lessened to an extent by the occurrence of seadragons at sites distant from these population centres, provided that these areas are biologically connected through movement or dispersal.

Seadragons have been sighted at numerous locations within the range but it is impossible to determine how fragmented occurrence is. Therefore, sub-criterion B1a cannot be used at present.

In summary, the lack of trend data means that seadragons cannot be described as meeting any of the threatened categories at present, but it nearly meets Endangered under criterion B (currently only on sub-criterion (B1b(iii)) is met). Therefore it is assessed as NT.

Continued monitoring is required to establish population trends. Research is also needed to establish areas of occupancy.

Description and Behavior:
The Leafy Seadragon's (Phycodurus eques, Gunther 1865) name becomes clear when we view these magnificent animals. Their leafy appendages, which are not used to move about, allow them to hide from predators among seaweed and other water plants. Their principle method of locomotion is via translucent fins. The small pectoral fins, found along the sides of the head, allow the Leafy Seadragon to steer and pivot. The Seadragon propels itself using dorsal fins found alone the spine. Movement is very graceful, which allows the Leafy Seadragon to mimic the swaying motion of the kelp or seaweed around it. Please note the long, tubular snout.

The Leafy Seadragon can be found in ocean waters near Australia (southern Western Australia, South Australia, and near the coastline of Victoria province) and it is a protected species under Australian law, as demand for aquarium specimens threatens the species to extinction.

Food Sources:
Small crustaceans and other tiny prey, as well as plankton, are primary sources of nutrition for Leafy Seadragons.

"A unique characteristic of the seahorse, including the Leafy Seadragon, is the parenting role of the males. After male and female seadragons pair up in late winter, the female develops around 300 orange coloured eggs in her lower abdominal cavity and the male develops about 120 small pits or 'egg cups' on his tail. The eggs are transferred from the female to the male and fertilized, then carried by the male for an incubation period of about four weeks before young seadragons hatch over several days. At birth the young are around 20mm long and so highly susceptible to predation from fish, crustaceans and sea anenomes. The hatching itself is staggered to assist with dispersal and avoid competition for food amongst the young. The young dragons are fast growing, reaching 20cm after one year and attain mature length after about two years. It is not known how long wild seadragons live. Whilst they can reach up to 43cm in the wild the average size is closer to 30cm."2

With the exception of the photograph at the beginning of this article, all photographs are from my personal collection (artists unknown). (The initial photograph was taken by me at the Pittsburgh Aquarium. I apologize for it being so fuzzy.)

In conclusion, the Leafy Seadragon is a fascinating and graceful addition to Australian waters. Under legal protection, they should inhabit the reefs and seaweed beds for many generations to come. Captivity should be left to professional aquariums, as the illegal pet trade market is the primary danger to this species success in the wild.

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-Eastern Australia. Crawford House Press. Pp. 437.
Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland. Pp. 433.
Dawson, C.E. in Gomon, M.F, C.J.M. Glover & R.H. Kuiter (Eds). 1994. The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. State Print, Adelaide. Pp. 992.

1. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 2006
2. The Marine Emblem of South Australia - Leafy Seadragon


Stupid Things and Stupid Moments


This phrase is reserved for those special moments in life when I am stunned by the asinine actions of another, I hear some bit of horrible or shocking news, or after the committing of miserable act brought on by my own stupidity.

I often mumble the words, "Oh my God" on those occasions. If it is an especially bad situation, I might pepper the minutes afterwards with expletives ranging from "crap" to the Big Gun F-word. (Words such as "shoot", "dadburnit" or "dang" have no place in my vocabulary. If one must cuss, cuss for the full effect. Don't play with baby words.)

Hence, my afternoon began with OMG, and had experienced a light drizzling of follow-up "potty mouth". I had to simply walk away, and get my mind off the situation, before attempting to continue my work. (By the way, it is when I'm pissed off and don't cuss that you should be really worried - a horrid hurricane of anger is building to catastrophic proportions in those cases.)

What in God's name (you blasphemer!) are you prattling on with, Aut?

Please allow me to enlighten you: if you are not a Paleontologist, Anthropologist, or Dental Hygienist, the tediousness of the work might escape your imagination.

Up until ten minutes ago, I was hunched over a small table, the bright fluorescent overhead lights illuminated a work field of brown crumbs of debris. My hands ached as I guided a small curette (that is a sharpened instrument normally used to remove particles interproximally between teeth) over the surface of my project - I had to allow the tiny sensations guide me as I prized stuff out of the cracks and channels. Every so often, I would offer the project a puff of gentle air and a sharp whisk from a stiff brush - it is hard to see what you are working on when too much foreign material is in the way. Careful... careful... each movement was a controlled scraping of the stainless steel of my curette. I did not work in feet or inches, but in millimeters, one square part at a time. It is an agonizing job, trying to coax the actual object from its embedded tomb without damaging the object or the instruments. My neck began to stiffen, and my spine whined in protest, but holding myself steady was essential if I didn't want to damage the project too much.

Am I uncovering a juvenile velociraptor skull, or perhaps tiny bits of femur? Is it an ancient seed pod that lies caked in the concrete-like stuff? Am I on the verge of a whole new discovery, one that will put my name in the Paleontological journals on an international scale?

Oh Hell, no. I'm trying to degunk my pizzelle iron after I had (so stupidly) forgotten to grease it.

Trust me, opening that pizzelle iron was a complete OMG moment, followed by a stunned WTF - and about 45 minutes of F's, S's, and GD's. Very few things bring out the sailor in me. Sewing tapestry fabric of inferior quality, proximity to the ocean, and stupid Autrice Actions are the three things. A fourth might be Better Half pissing me off, but as that is a monthly occurrence (he can't help it, the poor dear. PMS sucks), I usually do fine if I avoid tapestries, boats and doing Stupid Things.

Here I am, fresh from recovering from a Tapestry moment (that was yesterday and I am pleased to report the project is done) when I go and do a Stupid Thing. It didn't seem to be a Stupid Thing at the time, though. I have never made pizzelles before, and so I am mastering the technique on a huge learning curve. I can usually think ten steps ahead, and thus avoid Stupid Things. However, who would have foreseen that my ten minute break (talking to my Mum, of all people) would mandate that I re-spray the pizzelle iron prior to dropping in two dollops of dough?

Better Half is downstairs working on it now. I promised to rip his lips off should he give up and dump the whole iron in water (it can't be submerged.) Oh, here he comes now with a progress report...

"It's my back. I got four rows done. That's it."

Better Half best do more than four rows.

Now he's mad at me for saying that.

He really should learn to read my mind - he would be able to hear the silently thought expletives.

Those are not aimed at him, of course. After all, it was my own Stupid Thing.

I can not help it. It is my bitchy time of the month. I'm not going to rip my wings off over it, however. There is a bright side to all this:

1. I learned that pizzelle irons are evil, foul - ahem - that I must grease the iron if it sits too long.
2. Dogs enjoy burnt pizzelle crumbs.
3. Never call my Mum to gloat about how well I master something until I actually master it.

The pizzelles made before the Stupid Thing happened are absolutely delicious.

A Butterfly Emerges

I wanted to write an entry today, but my mind held too many topics for a single entry.

I wanted to write about Endymion Spring, a debut novel by Matthew Skelton, which took my breath away - it is written for the book lover in each of us! (Hint: buy the book, and embark on a journey. You won't be disappointed.)

I wanted to write about Blogger word verification - a true horror story for the dyslexic! Perhaps that will earn its own spot here eventually.

I wanted to write about Autumn a bit more, but that would surely bore my readers.

I wanted to write about my lack of writing anything on 9/11 - not because I choose not to remember, but because it was a statement of "would we even think of tragedy faced by others of all walks of life if not for those events?"

I wanted to write about getting my curtains in the wash, making my favorite Italian soup, and starting the basics of my new tapestry (which will be a project unto itself!) - but then my mind refused to settle until I wrote about...

A butterfly.


Yes, a butterfly.

Not a literal butterfly, the small insect which begins its life as a horrid worm-like thing, eating my plants and spinning itself into a cocoon. No, this butterfly is the symbolism of emotions.

We all carry a butterfly within us. It is not something that goes through a single cycle - birth, metamorphosis, death. The butterfly simply repeats this the same cycle... beginning, cocoon, transformation, glory and beauty, and then end... to start anew. These stages represent the stages (on a simple scale) of our own emotions picked up from the point of sadness: pain/loss makes us feel horrible, like a lowly worm with no purpose. We draw away, wrapping ourselves up in a state of darkness and seclusion, and we are without protection and exposed to all sorts of danger in our weakened state. But, eventually, that protective cocoon (inside which we are actually going through transformation) cracks, and we burst forth in glory, back in stride, our wings brilliant in the sun. Eventually, we will face a difficulty or hardship that will take us back to the caterpillar phase, and once again we will embark on the healing process. For many, the cocoon is so thick that they feel as if they will never break free of it - and they sadly choose to stop the cycle by their own hands, not realizing that part of the phase will eventually end.

I met a butterfly online just as her wings had started to wilt a bit. She had her splendor, and she was still able to breathe deeply in the sun. Yet, the struggles were drawing in, and each day she shrugged off a bit more of her color and hue as her body prepared for the cycle.

I did not mourn the loss of her wings, nor did I pity her, although I could empathize with her pain. I saw the potential for her healing phase, and I knew that she would again emerge in glory. So, I waited and prayed for her strength as she cocooned herself, and many offered her the words in our hearts when she all but became silent. The power to heal was deep within her, and God tended to her metamorphosis each day.

Today, I was finally able to sit down and do more than compose a short blog entry. So I chose to flit around a bit myself, dancing from blog to blog as a bee visits their favorite flowers. And then I found her. Her wings were spread wide in dazzling form, and the sun was warming her newly reformed senses. She was perched, tentatively, having poked her head out of her cocoon recently, and seemed to test the air around her. The things that had drawn her to slumber in darkness were still present, yet she had gathered her strength again (and is still gathering it), prepared to face them in a better light. She really is a wonderful creature, so full of creativity and life. I know her wings won't last forever (neither will mine, or yours, dear Reader) as this is a normal cycle we all go through. But, at that moment, seeing her there awash in this rebirth, touched me more profoundly than any subject that I could consider writing about today.

Welcome back, Butterfly. It's so good to have you with us again!

A Touch of Autumn, and Musings on Weather

Fall is my favorite season, and I revel in the climate changes that transpire with each passing day. Our trees will soon burst into the bouquets of Autumn, and our eyes will drink in shades of maroon, umber and ochre-gold. (Not satisfied with waiting for these colors I spent the afternoon festooning my front porch with garland!) It is more than just harvest time. It is our land shrugging off the last moments of summer as it prepares itself to bed down for the colder months.

Autumn heralds the approach of winter, and all the gifts that winter bestows upon us - chilly mornings soothed by steaming mugs of hot chocolate, pristine blue-white landscapes caressed with blankets of snow (and the tracks of small animals who crossed my yard in the dead of night), dazzling icicles dangling from my porch, casting prismatic lights as the sun bathes them.

Of course, my joy of the seasons runs thin towards the end. I sense the changes in the air, and I crave for the season to be upon me fully. My eyes starve for shades of green in the winter, and I celebrate the first buds peaking from the trees. As spring runs its course, I daydream of summer and warmth. As the warmth becomes tedious, I beg for a chill in the air. And, when that chill hits, I mourn the loss of summer, for my world will be depleted of natural green for several months. I could never exist in climates such as Florida... seasons are the treasures of my soul.

I have never comprehended those who whine about weather. I have friends and family members who curse the rain upon seeing it in the morning. These same people will gnash their teeth when they contemplate frosty streets, or lash out towards mother nature when we are granted a day far too warm for our fans or air conditioners to chase away. "All those damn leaves in my yard!" or "This stupid rain makes the day gloomy." What would anyone expect during a season? Should the leaves stay put so the trees won't complete their cycle? Is there something negative about a gloomy day that makes it so unwanted?

Fog is something this area seems to revel in. We have fog year-round, and it clings to the hills and woodlands. For is not the same as haze out here, but is an actual living entity, lurking so thickly that there are mornings where I can't see my own hand in front of my face. It envelopes you in a coverlet of moisture, making clothing and hair damp in its wake. It is almost eerie to see bright Christmas lights shining through the thick soup during the winter, as if they were beacons for invisible ships crossing the lawns at night. Fog is also the cause of many problems around here, as people forget that they must reduce their speed.

So, is the weather really to blame for tragic things? (I am not talking of grand catastrophes such as hurricanes!) I don't think we can hold the weather accountable, when we ourselves refuse to admit that we are not masters of our domain. If we can not hold a respect for weather, or for seasons, we pit ourselves against a foe that is far superior to us. God, or whatever thing you choose to believe in, did not plunk us down on this planet to be separate from it. We are living creatures in a living ecosystem, and weather is not our foe.

Weekly Blog Pick - Discernment

A new weekly participation blog! I just love these things, so when an online friend asked me to help them sort through HTML for their idea, I eagerly lent a hand. Discernment is a Christian-based devotional blog. Like many of the co-operative blogs out there, Discernment tosses us a theme each week and asks us to write about it in our own blogs. The difference between Discernment and other Co-ops is that the group asks that bloggers actually pray or meditate before the post, allowing the Holy Spirit to move them in their writing.

Discernment is open to all denominations and faiths, and they simply ask that people accept that everyone has a different walk (i.e. be respectful of other's beliefs or line of thinking.)

Stop by and check them out! This week's subject (their first one ever) is "Prophets".

Wildlife Warriors Worldwide and Steve Irwin

By now, the shock of hearing of Steve Irwin's death has worn off for many people. They have gone back to their daily lives, perhaps catching reruns of Croc Diaries on cable or vowing to watch the tribute on Sunday.

Part of me is thinking of a family of people, a group dedicated to their work in wildlife, in a zoo in Beerwah, Australia. The Irwin children are back home with Mum, living as spectators while the adults plan the funeral and running of the park. They are young, and perhaps only Bindi is old enough to totally grasp the concept that "Daddy isn't coming home again." Bob, the youngest child, knows that Daddy isn't there. Wes, Kelsey, Lilly and the crew do their best to keep things running, but every path they walk holds deep memories of a dear friend. And Terri, Steve's wife, does her best to comfort the kids and go about things... were I in her shoes, I would probably torn between constant tears and laughing at all the good memories shared. I'm reminded of something Steve said about his own Mum, after she had passed away. "Oh gosh! I miss you, Mum. I miss you every minute of every day, and the pain of losing you tears my heart out. But I'll stay strong; I promise you I'll stay strong - for it was you who taught me to be a "Wildlife Warrior"."

Some people live their lives hoping to make the world a better place... and in doing so, they invite us to share in their struggles and accomplishments. We will perhaps never have another "Crocodile Hunter" like Steve (or a hundred more may rise to take his place as far as conservation is concerned!), but we do have the memories of a man who dedicated his time towards being a good steward of the land and its inhabitants.

If you would like to make a donation to Conservation, a special fund had been set up in Steve's memory. You can find out more information at
Australia Zoo - Home of the Crocodile Hunter - this is the direct link. Why is this such an important thing, anyway? Why bother?

I took a brief tour of "The Good Old Days", a photographic journey of the Zoo's history that Steve set up on the web site. Many people think that conservation begins with established zoos. It does not. This journey will show you how the dreams of just a few people expanded to include the dreams of many.

Conservation does not start with zoos, but with people. Conservation starts at home, in your own backyard.

How can you better the world around you today?

Wildlife Warriors Worldwide - Home
That direct link is:

Please make sure that you have the actual link. I am saddened to report that some bloggers have set up false links in an effort to steal from well-meaning people. Make sure the website is official. When in doubt, go to the Australia Zoo website itself ( and visit the donation link from there.

You can also contact them to make a donation
Email: By sending an email to
Phone: +61 7 5436 2026
Mail: Cheque made payable to Wildlife Warriors to PO Box 29, Beerwah QLD 4519
Any ANZ Bank: Donations can also be made to any ANZ Bank to the Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors Worldwide LTD - A Tribute to Steve Irwin Account

Italian Comfort Food

This is been one of my "bad weeks", as my articles this week probably reflect. Those who know me completely understand this statement. Those who do not can read into it at The Bemused Muse: My Return. I woke up on Monday (waking up is a good thing!) and vowed to put off the day's activities until the morrow. I have made that vow every day this week. Finally, facing a busy weekend, I pushed aside the physical issues and got busy in the kitchen.

The kitchen?

I had a few things I wished to accomplish this past week.

1. Wash and press all the curtains, tapestries and hangings. Included in this would be linens. As we have pets, fur tends to build up around here, and the appearance of those articles would best be described as "fuzzy" at the moment.
2. Make sauce - and thus, make comfort food.

Hence, we come to the kitchen. I can put the washing off another day, but unless I make sauce, the other fresh foods that I purchased last weekend will go to waste. I spent yesterday making marinara and browning sausage (thank you, Better Half, for all your help. You so rock!!) While other people are content to crack open a jar of Prego (or worse), I keep a bit of my heritage and make a vat of the stuff the old-fashioned way. This involved herbs, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and a copious amount of standing and stirring. Once it has cooked for several hours, it is proportioned into containers and frozen. No MSG or preservatives in this house! (And the sodium content is very low.)

We can't have a vat of sauce on the stove if we don't have fresh Italian Sausage to go with it - Better Half runs to the local Italian market for me. "Honey, pick up some grated Romano while you're out!"

We can't have a vat of sauce and freshly made sausage in the house if we don't have some lovely tortellini! - Better Half pulls out the pasta pot and dumps in the frozen goodies.

We eat, we enjoy! And then we run to the county foster class. No rest for the weary.

Today I made my eggplant parmigiano - my supreme comfort food. It really is a simple recipe, but it entails vast amounts of work. Eggplants must be sliced (thank you, Better Half), coated in egg, dipped in flour, and friend bit by bit. (Two good sized eggplants take me about an hour of constant work, or two hours of working while taking small breaks to relieve the pain in my lower legs.) After being friend, they drain on paper bags for another good hour. Assembly soon follows, layering marinara sauce, eggplant, cheese, and sausage bits. Surplus servings (I usually get three or four out of two eggplants) are frozen, and one is cooked the day it is made. Afterwards, Better Half and I scrub the oil and flour from the frying pans, stovetop, the counters, cabinets, floor, wall, dogs, ourselves, and anything else that needs it. No one said this wasn't a messy recipe.

Ahhhhhhh - heaven has nothing on an Italian kitchen.

My Dad, if he is reading this, might just frown a bit. It might be because he isn't here to enjoy it... but also because I am half-Hungarian and rarely cook dishes so loved by that culture. It isn't that I can't cook Hungarian food - I can - but rather because many of the recipes begin with "Take 2 pounds lard..."

Eggplant parmigiano is my favorite food. I may adore lamb, or gnocchi, or chicken papikash, but the eggplant takes me back to my Nonna's kitchen. It evokes a flood of wonderful childhood memories - my Nonna and I playing kickball in the driveway behind her building, or of sitting on the floor of her apartment, a bowl of creamed wheat and a coloring book at hand. And I find myself recalling more - the nap of the rug and how it felt so strange under my fingers (from this comes my love of Berber), or the way her kitchen always glistened in the morning as the sun came through the apartment windows. I remember the tick of her anniversary clock on the buffet in her tiny dining room. And, most importantly, I can remember her hugs and the scent of her skin. I recall how soft her arms were to the touch. I can hear her voice as she chats with me while she works. As I complete each step of my recipe, her words echo from the past... salt these, and then press them so the extra water comes out; only flour lightly so the oil doesn't get dirty; don't use too much flavor so you taste the eggplant and the sauce. I never actually helped her to cook; I was too young. I usually wandered into the kitchen to ask for more milk or a biscotti, and then toddled away again to amuse myself with a book or toy. In my childhood innocence, Nonna would always (always, always!) be there and when I was older, she would teach me all the secrets.

When I grew older, Nonna moved away to be with her daughter in Missouri, and later she relocated back home to Steubenville to be with her other daughter. She died in the early 1980's, and I, finally old enough to want to learn how to cook, was left with a Nonna-sized hole in my heart back in California. How could Nonna go away like that? How could she possibly want to be with my cousins and aunts when she had me? For a very long time, I hated Steubenville. I hated seeing the post-mark on envelopes. I despised hearing about her times apart from California (after she had moved away.) I wanted her back with me, and I wanted nothing that was imitation-Nonna.

My mother is not an imitation-Nonna - she is my Mum. She is very different from her mother, yet they share so many good qualities. My Mum is also an excellent cook, but she was Emeril before Emeril ever thought to say "Bam!" There is nothing my Mum can not recreate in the kitchen, and she is a master of her skill. Yet, despite her spicy sauces and meatballs (which I can never seem to duplicate), the one thing that I wished she would make me was my Nonna's marinara sauce. It seems that no one can do the recipe right. I don't even try, preferring to use my own invented recipe. My Aunt does cook the recipe like Nonna used to make, but she won't tell me how it is done - I suppose she fails to see why it is so important to me. Alas for her.

Having just moved here only a year ago, I find that I am kicking myself for not spending more time cooking with Mum. It isn't that I didn't want to spend time with her in the kitchen - but she is used to cooking alone, and my presence distracts her (usually causing her to forget to add an ingredient. Never, never, EVER ask if you can bake Christmas cookies with my mother!)

Which brings me to my last kitchen project - pizzelles. No one makes pizzelles like my mother! They are a thing of absolute pride during the holidays. I am not an anise fan (bleh), but her pizzelles are the best! She sent me some this past Christmas, and I brought them to church - even the little old Italian ladies raved over her recipe. So, when she came out this past summer and asked if there was anything special I wanted for my birthday - I begged for a pizzelle iron. Done! I have desired to make pizzelles all week, and baring crippling pain, I will make those cookies! I have decided upon lemon, as I will never be able to eat more than one anise flavored one (licorice, bleh.) Mum will get a mailing of half the batch, and I'll farm the rest out to the class this weekend (one batch makes several dozen.)

So I leave you - I am off to cook some more.

PS - the eggplant was delicious.


Sunday Scribblings #24... adapted to "What you should never write..."

This week we have
Sunday Scribblings: #24 - I would never write...

I have faced many challenges in my life - when it comes to writing! I can say that I have "done it all", even if my part in it is minute. I have written training tomes, (bland) thesis papers (sometimes ones that were not even my own damned thesis or subject!), self help hints, articles, transcripts... fiction and non-fiction, poetry... any style, any subject. The only thing I have never endeavored to do is "self-publish" (my faithful readers will tell you that I find people who must resort to self-publication do so because they couldn't hack it with the big boys. Sorry if that statement offends you, but as a writer, you should be paid for your work. Professional writers do not pay a press for the glory of having their work seen in print. If you have made the mistake of going through the self-publication route, and now wish to seriously undertake a career as a professional writer, by no means should you ever divulge that you have made the mistake of self-publication. No one will take your work seriously after such a horrid error in judgement.)

I digress...

Many writers find that their style of writing helps to define them as a person. While some people are content to focus of flowing phrases and cute quips, others find that a phrase carries more impact if it is concise and chuck full of simple wording. I tend to write for my audience, and my work changes depending on the readers I am trying to appeal to.

A writer should never say to himself or herself, "I don't like that genre or subject, so I won't bother with it." Find the one thing you would never consider doing, and spend time doing it. It will challenge you to expand your boundaries and form new views. It will sharpen your skill. You might even learn that you have better talents in that genre. But, you might also learn that the "challenge" genre is one that you lack all skills in, and that in itself will serve as a lesson.

The old adage "write what you know" is... asinine. Not knowing something is a perfect excuse to learn everything from a fresh point of view. Before you undertake the endeavor to write about a subject you have no knowledge of, take the time to research it. Embrace it! Do not limit yourself from that subject just because some poor, unpaid schmuck on a blog, web site, or self-help book has laid down that commandment. Have you always wanted to write about black history, but restrict yourself because you are of a different ethnicity? Do you desire to write science fiction, but have never seen Star Trek or read Asimov? Would you like to be the next JK Rowling, but are uncertain of how to approach writing fantasy? What is holding you back, my dear reader?! Only you can prevent yourself from advancing to the next level.

I have a different line of thinking when it comes to "I would never write..."

Please consider "what you should never write!"

You should never write...

1. Anything that is meant to intentionally bring another harm for the sake of your glory or your own ego's betterment. Jess, a fellow Sunday Scribbler, explains why in her recent post
The Journey Of A Catholic Revert: Sunday Scribbling #24 - I would never write.... A dear friend of mine once said, "Getting revenge on a person by spanking them publicly is not a smart idea - it will only make you look like an abusive person with anger management problems."

2. Anything that will come back to haunt you. Seriously!

3. Your opinion on a subject in a manner that is obnoxious. The right to free speech does not mean "I have the right to be a banal jackass." Remember: opinions are like assholes; everybody has one.

4. Romance novels.

5. Anything that steals from the creativity of another. You simply can not write about Jerry Motter and Pigboils School of Witchcraft. Nor should you steal heavily from any other work. Yes, you can capture a bit of the creativity as a model for your own work, but you can not abuse things by stealing concepts, phrases, characters, fictional settings, etc.

6. Romance novels. There really are too many, and surely you are more creative than that?!

7. An entire work in "third person" about yourself! Very few people can utilize this method well. I have met one very talented women via blogging who has the ability to do "third person" in a way that is not dull or tiring -
Roadchick - most people come across as silly or pretentious. Roadchick keeps it "real" and down to earth.

8. Anything that doesn't require you to expand your vocabulary, unless it is a children's book. This is very important! You must be able to twist phrases so as to captivate the reader, without settling into repetitive phrasing. Characters convey thought into spoken word, and when they do so, they do not always simple go "said." Does that make sense?

A. "I would like some bread," Mary said.
B. "I would like some bread," Mary stated.
C. "I would like some bread," Mary begged.
D. "I would like some bread," Mary moaned.
E. Mary lurched across the room toward the kitchen. She knew she would be too weak to untwist the tie, and she regarded John pitifully. He watched her, unsure of her motives. She pointed to the package of Wonder bread, her eyes shining with hope - would he understand her needs? Her dry lips tried to form words that her parched throat would not permit her to utter. She pointed again, and the single tear trickling down her face told John of her pain. (Yes, that was so damn cheesy that John could slap it between slices and turn it into a sandwich. The point is: use your words! Invest in a cheap dictionary or thesaurus. Pick up a used vocabulary book from the swap meet. Do something so that your characters can do something other than: said, walked, ran, sat, laughed, cried.)

9. Romance novels. I hope this sticks in your brain!

Always remember: a good salesman could sell ice to an Eskimo. A good writer could turn that "saying" into a 300+ page novel!

Waltzing Matilda and Her Woes

This is Waltzing Matilda (on the right), an eleven-year-old Lab/Dobi mix. Mattie, as we lovingly call her, is both dog and anti-dog. While she transforms herself into a clingy ball of unbridled love each time she sees us come home, she is also the embodiment of the term "bitch", and will tear into any dog that bothers her, threatens her food or source of affection, or draws too near.

Mattie has had her share of lumps in life. Jeff and I rescued her as a six-week old puppy - our neighbor threw her out in the backyard to fend for herself. She shared that cold, Colorado backyard with an adult dog of no relation to her, and not only had no food (the two dogs had to share one bowl) but had no shelter or water source. And so, on my birthday over 11 years ago, Mattie became the new addition to the family. She shared houseroom with Samantha Jane (the World's Most Gentle Chow, who passed a away a few years ago) and Gennaker, the reincartion of J. Robert Oppenheimer (the Shepherd mix with an acute understanding of physics.)

Mattie prefers to sleep in the bathtub, behind furniture or the toilet, or apart from other dogs. She growls. She snarls. She is a true bitch. On the other hand, she will shower people with "kisses", throw herself onto her back and writhe until you pet her belly, and patrol the backyard like some Special Forces she-Commando. She is well trained.

When Jeff and I were first married, I worked as a vet tech in a small animal hospital. Lucky thing - as Mattie was prone to infections due to poor nutrition her first few weeks of life. She battled a staph infection that threatened her eyes, sans complaint. When she lacerated her foreleg in a dog fight, she allow me to suture the wound with just a local anesthetic (most veterinarians will completely anesthetize an animal as they don't sit patiently for such work.) Her early days of puppy injuries and infections eventually gave way to year after year of no illness... or aging, which lead us to believe she had sold her doggy soul to the devil in return for immortality. (This contract became null and void once she left the state of Colorado, I fear, for she is getting more gray by the day!)

So, today, I woke up (feeling like shit myself) and observed that Mattie was paying a lot of attention to her hind end. I asked Jeff (who was also feeling like shit) if she had been doing that all morning, but he didn't think she had. So, after much growling and fussing (on my part - I was achy today), I managed to wrestle Mattie to the carpet and get a look at her doggy butt. Yup, just as I suspected - anal gland troubles.

If you don't have dogs, you have no idea what an anal gland (or anal sac) is. I could go into great detail about what they are and why they are needed, but I'm feeling too sore today to mess with it. Just Google it. Or go here:
The Anal Sacs Page.

Anyway, we called up our vet and off we went. Mattie is used to vets, having spent so mc uh time at work with me during her early years, and about the most exciting thing about visiting one is getting to growl and bark at people as they come in. Mattie quickly found wood paneling approximating her own fur color, and spent the next twenty minutes in camouflage mode (she does this in the dining room also, as the floorboards are almost her own hue.) She really is well-behaved in public, and despite her ass being on fire, she was content to compose herself as a lady should.

No lady, no matter how well trained, will behave nicely when their ass is squeezed, however. And so, I enjoyed squatting next to her while restraining her body and head as the nice Vet performed his duty. The abscessed side was cleaned and medicated, and for good measure he attacked the other side. Poor Mattie - how embarrassing for such a noble bitch. After he was through, she darted about, whining and wiggling with joy that the horror was over. She didn't protest too much over the injection of antibiotic, either.

That was my lovely day.


Steve Irwin - His Legacy Will Live On

To Terri and the Kids, Wes Mannion and all those who loved him best, I offer my sincere condolences. The world has lost a boisterous champion for conservation. Steve Irwin embodied the phenomenal ability to connect with the animals he so loved, and catapulted a new way of thinking about reptiles such as crocodiles, Perentie, and bird-eating spiders. His legacy will continue through the Australia Zoo, and through those who have always stood by his side.

Steve Irwin had two sides, both captured on video. He held a reverence for the animals he worked with, but also a deeply rooted love that surpasses the typical naturalist's fascination. His enthusiasm flowed freely, and he was one of the new people on this earth who could maintain a focus on something deadly while imparting vast knowledge to viewers. On the other hand, he was stern, knowing exactly what was needed in the way of care of animals at the zoo, and he would accept nothing less than the best from the staff. That demeanor was never born of arrogance or false-pride, but arose out of a desire to push individuals to new limits which he knew they possessed inside. His family meant everything to him, and his love of Terry and the kids was always visible in his expression and in his eyes when he spoke of them. I for one, am grateful that he took the effort to bring conservation to the world through his playful antics and passion for animals. I regret that I never met him in person. All the world feels that they knew him well simply because he was the sort of person who everyone would want as a dear friend.

The full story is below, as written by Brian Cassey, AP (for discussion purposes and to memorialize this emotional occasion.) Photos courtesy of various agencies.

The Zoo's web address is:
Welcome to Australia Zoo - Home of The Crocodile Hunter

Bocce Husband, and loss of sleep

Sleep is a precious thing. We don't realize that unless it is a struggle to obtain it.

I fear that I shall probably tick off Better Half today by posting this, but I am so damned tired.

Better Half? No Sleep? Hmm!

Please remove your mind from the gutters; the sleep deprivation is not due to nocturnal "frolicking". Rather, I have spent the past two nights trying to achieve REM patterns beside a being who is striving to obtain the title Human Freight Train, complete with sound effects and motion.

I love Better Half deeply. He is my dearest friend. I don't love Better Half's snoring and twitching (it begins five minutes after his handsome head hits the pillow, and winds down around 4 AM each morning.) Friday night, I sought relief in the spare room, and he finally came to his senses and traded me beds. Last night, I grit my teeth and attempted to convince myself that Better Half wasn't so bad, and sleep would be found after I tuned out the noise. HA! I think I passed out from lack of oxygen around 5 AM, the pillow I had clutched to my head having suffocated me.

Better Half is a very good person; cheerful, upbeat, intelligent, yadda yadda yadda. Last night, as I lay in auditory hell, I found myself calculating how much physical force would be needed to launch him out of bed via a good, swift kick to the small of his back. If I could somehow muster enough force behind that kick, I could send him soaring over the four feet between the bed and window, though that window, bounce him off the porch cover, and into the Azalea bushes in the flower bed below. I even named this novel sport Bocce Husband. The wife who gets her husband closest to the pallino (target ball) scores the point. Of course, extra points are awarded for style, form and finesse. 50 extra points if he misses the bird feeder. 100 extra points if he lands perfectly between the two Azalea bushes themselves.

Normally, Better Half reserves his snoring for those days when I have to get up extra early for an important activity, such as work or church. I suffer from insomnia as it is, and on those nights I just know I should reach for the phone and schedule other arrangements. It seems, however, that he is no longer limiting this behavior, and has generously chosen to now share it with me nightly. I must remind myself that they make Breathe Right strips, which help wives fall to sleep once they have inserted a box up each of their husband's nostrils. Those magical little strips are expensive, and I prefer to get my daily exercise via the Bocce workout.

It is just after noon, and I woke up about a half hour ago. I have missed church. I am aching from subconsciously clenching all night long. My hair surpasses "bed head", thanks to the pillow I wrapped around it in the early hours of the morning. And, Better Half and all other interested parties - BEWARE - I am extremely bitchy today.

Better Half has a doctor's appointment on Tuesday (just one more night, God! I can do it!), and I think I will pin a note to his chest so that he remembers how important it is to discuss this problem with her. (The note shall read: Free Husband, Housebroken, Good With Kids and Pets.) I will then schedule an appointment for the Italian Greyhound, who sleeps in Better Half's arms - the poor little fellow is probably going deaf.