Monthly Archives: March 2009

Peregrine peddler: a job for hard times?

Peregrine: adj. wandering, roving

Peddler: n. one who travels about selling wares

I think these terms are redundant, but heck, they both begin with P and describe a business opportunity for this economic downturn.

Running a bricks and mortar store is expensive. You have to keep an inventory and pay for rent, utilities, insurance, and a sales staff. Because sales are down, many people have closed their shops and are attempting to conduct their business online – some successfully, some not so much (yet, anyway).

An acquaintance of mine, a jeweler, was one of those who shut his shop. This was unfortunate because at a charity auction some months earlier I had  bid on a $50 gift certificate towards a piece of jewelry or a repair at his store.

I consoled myself that at least the charity had gotten the $50.

But then last week he called to say he’d be in my neighborhood and could swing by and take a look at  repair work. From his old-fashioned doctor’s bag emerged all sorts of tools and spare parts. On the spot he fixed a broken earring, measured my finger for the ring that needed to be bigger, dated, appraised and gave me some history on my grandmother’s watch, and helped me decide how best to convert an old pin into a pendant.  He put all my bits that needed bench work  into those carefully labeled little envelopes jewelers use for repair orders.

My jeweler is forging a new life as a mobile craftsman. (He already had a loyal clientele who trusted him – he’s also bonded – and he’s listed his service on the web.) Now twice a week  he makes the rounds of our county picking up and delivering jewelry from people’s homes.  On the weekends he completes the work in his studio.

Until he gets his mobile business more established he’s gone back to work for a major jewelry chain.  Meanwhile, I sure appreciated the convenience and undivided attention of the house call. And he says he likes getting out too.

Is this the wave of the future?

Prime time for Plant Pests

Prime: adj. first in time, first in significance

Plant: n. vegetation

Pest: n. a plant or animal detrimental to humans or human concerns (as agriculture or livestock production)

Plant Pest invading my asparagus bed.

Plant Pest invading my asparagus bed.

I posted this unidentified plant pest last week and asked for help identifying it, so I could figure out how to attack it.

A sharp-eyed reader suggested that my plant pest was actually a lovely wildflower known as the marsh marigold or cowslip (Caltha palustris).  And indeed the picture looked right.

But the description of its behavior didn’t match. The marsh marigold stays green all summer; mine disappears by June. The marsh marigold isn’t considered invasive.

Mine is DEFINITELY invasive. It’s not just in my asparagus bed now, it’s cozying up to a rose bush and I just found a plant in the midst of my ground cover by the front door.

I googled “marsh marigold” and “invasive” together and bingo! What is flourishing in my yard is the Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria). In the olden days it was known as “pilewort” and used to treat hemorrhoids (piles) because its tubers looked like them. (Well, it made medical  sense back then…)

Removal will take persistence over several years because it spreads by every possible means: stem nodes AND seeds AND  deeply rooted tiny tubers. The tubers are attached to the plant by the slimmest of long root hairs, and when you dig you break the root hairs and the tubers just smirk in their dark hiding places.

Despite my normally organic practices I’m going to hit it with Roundup tomorrow – giving it 24 hours to be absorbed to the roots (I hope), and then I’m going to do my best to rout them with my shovel. Wish me luck.

The pitfall of pets: painful pratfalls

Pitfall: n. a hidden or not easily recognized danger or difficulty

Pets: n. animals kept in captivity by their “owners” for companionship

Painful: adj. uncomfortable, agonizing

Pratfall: n. an awkward blunder or mishap, a fall on the buttocks

Our beloved pets may lower our blood pressure but a new report indicates that they also can bring us a world of hurt:

Dogs and cats cause more than 86,000 falls requiring emergency room care each year, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that may be among the first of its kind. That translates into about 240 people who are treated for injuries caused by pets every single day in the United States, the study found.

Cats are involved in some of the falls, but dogs — man’s best friend — are the real culprits, responsible for seven times as many injuries as cats, often while they’re being walked, the report found.

And though more pet-related falls occurred among children and adults in mid-life, elderly people were most likely to break a bone, which can have serious long-term consequences, said Dr. Judy Stevens, the C.D.C. epidemiologist who wrote the report. Women were at more than double the risk for injuries than men.

I certainly can speak to this! I’ve only been to the emergency room once in my life and it was when I tripped over my black standard poodle in the dark and split my lip bigtime on a concrete pillar. Lots of blood, many stitches. No lost teeth, thank god, but I still have the scar.

A few months ago I was walking the same dog and she suddenly cut in front of me (a squirrel!!). I tripped over her leash and slammed into the pavement hitting my chin, hands, elbows, hipbones and knees simultaneously. No hospital trip, but I was crippled for a week and over the next couple of months I became a profit center for my chiropractor.

My sister also has a black standard poodle (it’s a family thing). Last spring she fell over her on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, resulting in her first emergency room visit ever – and a broken collar bone.

Because they seem so silly and mundane, these accidents were never studied until now. And on reflection, it seems so obvious that pets can be hazards… how many times have you heard yourself describe your cat or dog as “always being under foot”?

To make the math easy, let’s assume that each ER visit costs an average of $1,000. That’s $86,000,000 right there. Then we add on followup visits, chiropractor visits, lost work time and we’re talking real money.

Pets need to come with a warning label and glow-in-the-dark jackets.

From pedantry to palatable power: Yay Toastmasters!

Pedantry: n. a stodgy, unimaginative, and often ostentatiously learned presentation

Palatable: adj. easy to swallow

Power: n. the ability to act or produce an effect

Last night I came in second in our Toastmasters Club speech contest. I was actually happier than if I’d won first because it was such a triumph for the woman who won.

We started our club right after Bush won re-election in 2004 with the goal of training progressives (mainly Democrats) like ourselves to become more effective at talking publicly about our progressive values.  We were fed up with Rovian framing and wanted to put George Lakoff’s communication principles into action.

Our messages were often serious, and we practiced pontificating for our causes. You can’t participate regularly in a Toastmasters Club and not become significantly more skillful at expressing yourself, and we’ve all done that.

We’ve also become more skillful at delivering a serious message in a light-hearted manner, which is often more effective because it’s palatable.

Last night’s winner – a master composter and environmental activist – reworked a speech she’d given at least a year earlier. It was about vacationing in Hawaii and finding it hard to relax because she couldn’t compost or recycle the waste her group was generating.

The original speech had funny moments but she couldn’t break herself away from trying to educate and convert us.

Last night she cut out all the preachy stuff and turned it into a battle between her “on-it” environmentalist self and her vacationing ‘”what-the-hell” self.  She had an appropriate hat and posture for each self.

By exaggerating both her goody-two-shoes side and her hedonistic irresponsible side she not only made the speech very funny, but her message became much more powerful. We could all identify with that eternal struggle–wanting to do the right thing, but finding the comfort of doing nothing so much easier.

I had worked with the speaker on the original speech, but at that time she was still too serious to allow the story to take off .  This time, with the benefit of time, distance and more experience, she was able to see the script freshly – axing the excess, adding theatrics and comical images.

She goes on to the Area Contest next Friday and we’ll all be there to root for her.

Pious pretext, prurient interests? Selling lingerie in Saudi Arabia

Pious: adj. marked by or showing reverence for deity and devotion to divine worship; marked by conspicuous religiosity

Pretext: n. an appearance assumed in order to cloak the real intention or state of affairs

Prurient: adj. marked by or arousing an immoderate or unwholesome interest or desire


In Saudi Arabia women the religious police,  formally known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice make sure that women are covered from head to toe in robes and veils, sit in a separate room from the men at the mosque, and otherwise keep themselves away from men’s prying eyes.

OK. I keep my lip zipped on what I think about this situation. But here’s the absurd thing: most retail stores in Saudi Arabia are staffed solely by men. Including women’s lingerie stores.

Imagine being one of these super-cloistered cloistered woman, having a strange man measuring your bust, discussing uplift or separation or your cleavage. Helping you choose lacy bikini panties. (Saudi women wear them too…).

And putting myself in the salesman’s shoes – it would be torment – like touching the devil. Tzzzt!!

One brave woman is fighting against this, setting up a Facebook page to rally others, suggesting that women boycott these stores till things change.  You go girl!

Posting performance: a progress report

Post: v. to write and upload a blog entry to WordPress

Performance: n. the execution of an action; something accomplished; the fulfillment of a claim, promise, or request

Progress: n. movement toward an objective or goal; gradual betterment

Yesterday’s post was my 350th since my first on April 4, 2008. To reach my goal of 365 posts in one year (an average of one a day) I need to pull together 15 posts more in the next 14 days.

I believe I’ll make it. And yet I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of great P-words. The question is, will I continue to post so regularly?

Probably not, because I’ve got some other writing projects in the fire that need more attention.  But then, P-words are addictive. Once you start looking for them, you realize there is a plethora of plummy ones patiently waiting to be plucked and picked apart.

Proverbs of Satchel Paige

Satchel Paige (1906-1982): a great baseball pitcher and aphorist. (I’m a Paige too, but don’t believe we’re related..)

Proverbs: n. A short pithy saying in frequent and widespread use that expresses a basic truth or practical precept.

Satchel Paige once said:

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”

A couple of days ago I was walking the dog in the spring air and felt like I  was 43. Paige also said:

“Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.”

Today is my birthday and though I feel 43 from the knees up, from my left ankle down I feel 100 and I mind.

Some time between Thursday’s walk and Friday morning I tweaked my ankle. I haven’t a clue when, where, or how — but for the past two days it feels just like I sprained it – stiff, slightly swollen, and ouchy.

Despite the pain, yesterday morning I took a couple of ibuprofen and went walking with my best friend.  My ankle didn’t bother me much because we were engrossed in talking. But today it’s no better and when I looked up treatment of sprained ankle in my health book it said to give it RICE.

Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. None of which I’ve done.

GRRR. I’d expected to go to yoga, take Molly on a walk, mow the lawn for the first time since fall.  I wanted my birthday to be a celebration of my vibrant health. Instead I’m experiencing its frailty.

Other sayings of Satchel worth thinking about today:

“You win a few, you lose a few. Some get rained out. But you got to dress for all of them.”

“Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”

“Don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.”

“Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching.”

Population boom: teen and unmarried mothers

Population: n. : the whole number of people or inhabitants in a country or region

More babies were born (4.3 million) in the US in 2007 than any other year in our history. Two particular statistics fly in the face of rhetoric from the religious right:

1. The teen birth rate is up again, for a second year in a row. So much for “abstinence only”.

Even at the low point in 2005, the United States had the highest rates of teenage pregnancy, birth and abortion of any industrialized country. Because teenage births carry higher risks of medical problems and poverty for mother and child, state health agencies, schools and private groups have mounted educational campaigns to deter teenage pregnancy.

2. Forty percent (40%!) of last year’s births – to mothers of all ages – were to single women.  Which leads me to believe that heterosexuals don’t much care about the institution of marriage …  and it has nothing to do with gays marrying (or not).

Along with the boom in birth (less contraceptive use?), we’re seeing a decrease in abortions.

What I want to know is how many of these new babies were really wanted by their mothers? And if many were not wanted, what problems with troubled children are we going to see in a few years?

Another worrisome trend is the continuing increase in C-section use:

In yet another record high, the share of deliveries by Caesarean section reached 32 percent in 2007, up 2 percent from 2006. Experts have repeatedly said some C-sections are not medically necessary and impose excess costs, but the rate has steadily climbed, from 21 percent in 1996.

Not only are C-sections expensive and invasive, but the baby’s long-term health may be jeopardized:

Swiss researchers are reporting in the journal Thorax this month that a Caesarean delivery is linked to a much higher risk for asthma compared with babies born vaginally.

In a study of nearly 3,000 children, the researchers found that 12 percent had been given a diagnosis of asthma by age 8. In that group, those born by C-section were nearly 80 percent more likely than the others to develop asthma. The explanation may be that a vaginal birth “primes” a baby’s immune system by exposing it to various bacteria as it moves through the birth canal.

President OKs peas; nixes beets in his garden

President: n. the tall skinny guy who’s trying to put the country back on its feet.

Peas: n. the small edible seeds or seedpods of the legume Pisum sativum

Packets of Power! by Kerstin Anna-lise

Healthier than Peas! Photo by Kerstin Anna-lise

The local food activists like Alice Waters evidently got through to Michelle Obama. The First Family is putting in a vegetable garden at the White House – the first since Eleanor Roosevelt planted a victory garden in WW II.

Tomorrow they’ll begin digging up the south lawn for a garden that will not only provide some fresh veggies for the Obamas, but also serve as a demonstration garden for visitors, especially school children.

They’re planting peas, and lots of lettuces and greens, but the president has decreed “No beets!” because he doesn’t like them.

Michelle, are you going to let him get away with that??

He may not like (super-healthy) beet bulbs, but I bet he’d like their yummy greens. And what kind of example is “I don’t like beets!” for his kids?  They should learn to try everything.  Indeed, is there any reason Michelle and the kids shouldn’t enjoy beets when Daddy is traipsing around the country doing the People’s Business??

Come on Michelle, don’t let him off the beet hook.

La Primavera in Posy Portraits

Primavera: n. the Italian word for the season of Spring. In French it’s le printemps.

Posy: n. flower

Picture: n. a pictorial or graphic representation

Peppercress (pesky edible weed) and Daffodils

Peppercress (pesky edible weed) and Daffodils

My birthday is March 21, which I consider the first day of spring, although this year the equinox actually falls on the 20th. No matter.

When I was a child growing up in New England, I always hoped it would snow for my birthday, because in late March the ground was usually an ugly mixture of mud and dirty clumps of old dehydrated snow.

Now, in the verdant Pacific Northwest, plants are actually beginning to bloom, even if the rain persists. These are some of the P-posies I found in my yard today:

Pussy willow

Pussy willow

Primroses in the rain

Primroses in the rain

Peony sprouts

Peony sprouts

Pieris japonica

Pieris japonica

Patterns in moss

Patterns in moss

Plant Pest invading my asparagus bed.

Plant Pest invading my asparagus bed.

I don’t know what this last plant is… it’s invasive. It grows from tiny bulblets deep in the soil which are attached to the plant by a threadlike root which instantly breaks if you try to dig or pull the plant.  And Roundup doesn’t faze it either.  This is a problem I need to solve! Any ideas?