As we were getting ready to leave to see the mommies and Random Granddaughter, I noticed a distressed look on my wife’s face. When I queried her, she said, “I feel like I am going to throw up. I do not want to make anyone sick. You go. I will stay home.”

When I got to the mommies, RG was talking on the phone. Mommy (my daughter’s partner and RG’s birth mother) said, “She is talking to her dad. He is Amsterdam with his mom.”

RG has flown to Virginia and to Chicago, but not to Europe. Mommy said, “Dad keeps threatening to take her to Europe.” I am sure when that day occurs, RG will take Europe by storm as she has America.

Mama (my daughter) stayed upstairs and studied her calculus and statistics for her graduate school class. She explained what she is studying a little bit. I tried to look alert and comprehending, much as Sylvie, the mommies’ adorable cat, tries to loot alert and comprehending when we explain to her when she wants to go outside that she can’t because the raccoons and the coyotes who live in the city will eat her.

Mommy and RG and I went to the Arboretum to feed the ducks. The mommies are very nutrition conscious, so we didn’t bring stale white bread. RG had a bag of organic oats. RG threw oats at the ducks. It is hard to read the expression on a duck’s face, but I suspect the ducks’ faces said, “We would like stale white bread crumbs just as well, thank you.”

We then walked for a bit and then RG spied something interesting on the shore of a lagoon. We went to examine it. “That’s a dead beaver,” said Mommy.

RG stared at the dead beaver for quite a while with interest. I didn’t tell her that the dead beaver’s name, when alive, was “Existential Dilemma.” Or perhaps it was “I build dams, damn it!”

We then returned to the small house in the medium-sized city. As Mommy fixed us a nice lunch, she told me that her mother, who is 69, has arrhythmia in her heart. She is not in any danger of dying immediately, but the doctors have been inserting tubes up into her heart and trying to get it to beat in the proper rhythm. The process in very painful and uncomfortable.

My cousin Julie told me that my Aunt Henriette was told she needs an operation on her heart. Henriette has always believed that good nutrition and exercise would help her live forever, but she has agreed to have the operation. Her son Carl, who has been very estranged from his mother, is flying out to be with her. He has no money, so Julie is paying for his plane trip. (She calls it a loan, but I doubt that she is holding her breath waiting for repayment).

I try to be very nice to my daughter and her partner and that she will be able to afford the ferry trip to visit us when the time comes. At the moment, my blood sugar is at an acceptable level, and my blood pressure is at a good level as well, and my heart goes into the training level on the treadmill fairly readily, but one never knows.

A few weekends ago, Mommies and Random Granddaughter visited us, in part to help celebrate my wife’s 62nd birthday.

Shortly after they arrived on Saturday afternoon, we walked over to the Friendly Neighbors so the mommies could buy some fresh eggs and so RG could pet the chickens and view the ducks.

Mommy (my daughter’s Out of Law Partner and RG’s birth mother) teaches at a private school for high-IQ children I call for blog purposes SVBC (School for Very Bright Children). When Mommy decided to move RG to the school’s preschool, the school rejected her as a) not smart enough and b) too introverted. However, a while later, SVBC said, Let’s rethink that and tested RG again. This time they said, very, very smart; we will be happy to enroll her.

The mommies have been considering whether to enroll RG in public kindergarten or SVBC kindergarten. As we walked to the Friendly Neighbors, RG told me, “I will be going to SVBC.”

I was a little surprised. I thought the decision was not coming for a couple of months.

Later, the mommies told me that SVBC (which is very expensive, as befits a private K-12 school that is rather like a version of Harvard, Princeton, Yale, or Stanford for small children) had made a very generous financial aid offer. I realized that the mommies wanted to send RG to the school but had been worried about the cost, especially as my daughter will be quitting her job and taking another stab at graduate school next fall.

Mommy also confessed she had peeked at IQ scores of other students. As a teacher she is allowed to do so. Even among this collection of carefully selected little smart asses, RG scores as one of the brightest there.

Madder Than a Dry Duck

August 18, 2008

Last night we had the Friendly Neighbors over for dinner. As my wife gets very tense just before company comes, we only screamed at each other once. Just as we were calming ourselves, or maybe drawing breath to start yelling at each other again, the doorbell rang, ten minutes early. (They had been a few minutes late once, the time my wife had been preparing a soufflé; so now they worry about being late.)   As we opened the door, I invited them to watch the special entertainment we had prepared for them, called “Fighting in front of your guests.”

They updated us on their chickens and ducks. One of the chickens is injured. As best they can tell, it has a leg which is either broken or dislocated. They have prepared a field hospital for it, and they are providing loving and tender care to see if it survives. (I presume so they can eat it at a later time.)

 I suggested they purchase a small chicken wheelchair for it.

 Another of the chickens fell into the duck pond. Mrs. FN found it up to its neck in water. She rescued it quickly. “A wet chicken is very heavy,” she complained. She dried it off with a towel, put it in the sun to dry out and fight hypothermia, and worried that it might not survive. However, the next day it seemed to be making a full recovery.

Although Mr. Friendly Neighbor drained and cleaned the pond; since the chicken fell in, the ducks have refused to get into their pond.

I suggested this was something like the “color” line of the old days of segregation. “We just don’t get into pools where chickens have been swimming,” the ducks say firmly.

 I expect to see mass chicken splash-ins any day now.


2V I Shot the Bunny

August 28, 2007

(Sung to the tune of Bob Marley’s, “I Shot the Sheriff.”)

The following story is rated R for extreme violence. Sensitive people are advised to skip to another blog.

When a Masai boy in Kenya notices a lion killing off cattle (or less politically correct, when he simply notices a lion), he uses a spear to kill the lion so he can complete his rite of passage to become a man.

When I was 12 years old, I held our aggressive Muscovy duck while a neighbor chopped off its head. However, I am out of practice at getting in touch with my inner savage. Now that I have reached the emotional age of 13 at the chronological age of 63, it’s time for me to get in touch with my inner savage again and take another whack at the rite of passage business.

Although we have no cattle pasturing and no lions roaming on our five acres of woods, we do have rabbits preying on Mrs. Random’s organic vegetables, bringing her quickly in touch with her inner savage. First I helped her kill a rabbit with rocks, and finished it off by stomping it with my boot. The next day, by herself in the garden, Mrs. Random killed off another bunny by herself.

Both of us grossed ourselves out by getting in touch with our inner savages. As is typical of civilized humans, we decided to make it easier to kill by using a weapon of remote destruction, namely an air rifle that shoots pellets.

The day after our first futile effort with the air rifle, my wife said, “There’s a rabbit in the front yard.”

I loaded and cocked the air rifle. The rabbit was nibbling weeds in our front yard. As it was not in the garden, perhaps I violated the Rules of War. Nevertheless, as it was about 30 feet away, it was at the distance to focus it in the rifle scope as I leaned my arm on the porch railing. Convenience trumped civility. I leaned my arm on the porch railing. I sighted carefully, took a breath, squeezed the trigger. The rabbit moved a couple of feet, and then stopped, apparently mortally wounded. I reloaded and fired several more times. The rabbit collapsed. I examined it. It looked pretty dead. I tossed it into the woods for the convenience of the crows or the coyotes, whichever scavenger was more convenient.

I suppose we could have cleaned the rabbit and eaten it. I have been told that the wild rabbits are infested with viruses, and are not good for humans to eat. It is more convenient for my inner squeemer to believe that.

Later the same day, I saw another rabbit, closer to the garden. Circumstantial evidence made it easy to infer evil intent. As Cameron noted, rabbits sometimes move very fast. However, rabbits have two responses to danger: flight or freeze. The rabbit moved into a pile of brush left over from a chainsaw outburst and froze. It might have been hidden from a coyote looking from the side, but it was visible to a human looking from above. I came to the conclusion that rabbits are sort of prey on training wheels for beginning hunters.

It took several shots before it stopped writhing and twitching. I am not sure of the etiquette of savagery here. Is it more appropriate to stomp it again, although I find myself reluctant to do this again, or is it acceptable to shoot several pellets into it until it stops writhing?

Perhaps Michael Vick can provide me with some guidance.


As chairman, I am pleased to introduce our guest speaker, the renowned Renaissance Woman, Random Granddaughter. She will tell us about her latest scientific research and artistic endeavors.

[Thunderous applause.]

Thank you, thank you. It is a great privilege to address you again.

Let me begin by talking about basic concepts of artistic endeavor.

Some artists are product-oriented. I sometimes work in this mode. As you can see from the slide I am projecting, I painted the following water color of my canoe trip with my Mommies. In so doing, I created a product that I could give to my grandparents.

Providing grandparents with a product creates an effect I call goo-gah. Goo-gah grandparents are likely to spoil you. [Thunderous applause.]

My grandfather, who is usually as dumb as a brick, did notice that I am twice as large as my Mommies in the picture. He observed, “It is only an unfortunate accident of nature that preschoolers are smaller than adults. If there were any justice in the world, preschoolers would be as big as adults are now and adults would be as small as preschoolers are now.” [Thunderous applause.]

Occasionally, Grandpa does get a clue, though it’s not often.

However, many artists are process oriented. For example, one of Mama’s favorite artists is named Andrew Goldsworthy.

As you can now see projected on the wall is a web page about Mr. Goldsworthy. He makes artistic creations out of natural objects.

His artistic creations exist for only a brief time and should be enjoyed for the moment.

This is known as an artistic convention. By limiting your materials you sometimes create greater effects.

In my early stage, I worked in watercolor in water. I swirled a brush with water color in water. The colors swirled and changed, as I am demonstrating before you on my lectern. Each color lasted for a moment and then was replaced by another. It was purely to be enjoyed for the eph…ephe…ephemer…ephemeral moment. There, I knew I could say it.

Recently, I began my pebble period. My current convention involves throwing pebbles in water and watching the splashes. Also, Grandma, who is more practical than Grandpa, showed me how to make a pebble skip. I can throw pebbles for hours. I achieve a deeply meditative state as I watch how they splash. [Thunderous applause.]

As a sensible preschooler, I have been combining my artistic work with pebbles with my scientific research in pebble throwing.. For example, I have been studying duck nutrition. I can now offer with great certainty the scientific principle: Ducks do not eat pebbles.

[Thunderous applause.]

Also, I have been studying ballistics to determine how close I can throw a pebble to a duck without actually striking the duck. My conclusion is: very close. Please note, when you embark on scientific research, it is important to use precise measurements.

In addition, I have been studying, psychology. My research has been on the topic, how close can I throw a pebble near a duck without provoking my Mommies into a meldown? My conclusion is: Very close but not as close as I can get without actually hitting the duck. [Thunderous applause.]

Also, I have discovered that this activity produces better results if one varies one’s pebble tosses, sometimes getting closer to the ducks and then farther from the ducks. My Mama is studying something called calculus. I doubt that calculus serves any useful purpose, but pre-schoolers can engage in calculation to determine how much they can get away with. [Thunderous applause.]

2D Stone Soup for Ducks

June 12, 2007

As we walked along the path by the lake, we saw some ducks in a lagoon. As we began to approach the ducks, we also saw a great blue heron standing in the water of the lagoon, looking down into the water, probably thinking about spearing some fish with its great beak-colored beak.

As we approached the ducks, the ducks approached us, quacking for handouts. Although most people do not find beggars with signs at the freeway off ramps, asking for handouts, all that cute, many people find ducks quacking for handouts at the side of a lagoon very cute, and throw them stale white bread, though looking at the ground around the lagoon, I thought the white bread doesn’t seem to cause a constipation problem for the ducks, as it sometimes does for people.

Though just the other day, I saw a BMW stop at an off ramp, and the driver of the BMW hand a homeless person a dollar out her car window, so if ducks aren’t available, I guess you do what you have to do to entertain yourself or satisfy your urge to feel benevolent. And really, placing quacking ducks by the side of freeway off ramps probably wouldn’t work out that well, as the average driver probably doesn’t have some stale white bread handy to throw out the window.

Mrs. Random was fascinated with the great blue heron. Usually herons fly away when people get close, but this heron was evidently habituated to people and remained standing as we approached. This disappointed Mrs. Random, who told a story about seeing a couple of herons try to take off, describing what difficulty they had in getting airborne. Bad Mrs. Random wanted the see this heron take off, but Mrs. Random has a lot of self-control and a respect for the proprieties, so she did not wave her hands in a forceful manner or yell, “Boo!” to stimulate the heron into taking off.

Eventually, the heron did take off, perhaps stimulated by the force of Mrs. Random’s thoughts alone, which are quite forceful all by themselves.

RG, on the other hand, wanted to feed the ducks, and began to reach into her bag of rice crackers, evidently with that purpose in mind. Mommy (Random Daughter’s Out of Law Partner) told her that rice crackers are not duck food. (I am not sure why this is so, as ducks consider an amazing variety of comestibles as duck food, but I generally do not contradict Mommies in front of Random Granddaughter, so I held my peace.)

RG, however, decided that the ducks would consider pebbles as duck food, and began to throw pebbles into the water near the ducks. The ducks were interested for a second or two as pebbles hit the water, but then quickly decided that pebbles fell outside even their catholic definition of things to eat. In fact, the ducks seemed not amused. In fact, as birds go, ducks generally have two expressions: I am hungry and I am not amused. In fact, they often have the two expressions at the same time. Ducks may be bi-expressioned birds.

Mommy suggested to RG that she not throw her pebbles at the ducks.

“Why?” asked RG.

“You might scare the ducks,” Mommy answered.

The thrown pebbles veered away from the ducks for a minute or two, and then approached them again. I noticed that RG was discovering a game that she will probably play frequently as a teenager: How close can I get to provoking my parents into rage without actually going over the line?

Several times during the next few minutes, the pebbles would get closer to the ducks; Mommy would remonstrate with RG, the pebbles would increase their distance, and then a few minutes later would approach the ducks again. RG was obviously practicing calibration of her parent-provoking skills.

We then saw two large turtles sitting on a log. “Why are they sitting on the log?” RG asked.

“They are warming themselves in the sun,” Mommy answered.

“Why?” RG asked.

“Because they are cold-blooded animals. The water is too cold, and they would get cold if they went in the water.”

RG was silent. I’m not sure the silence meant she was processing the information or meant you have told me more than I want to know about turtle thermodynamics.

We were getting a bit cold ourselves, so we moved on.

[to be continued]