Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Raawwwk On!

Every day, as evening approaches, dozens of small airplanes fly over the house, headed northeast for the airport--package planes, Dave says. And at the same time, crows in huge numbers fly in the opposite direction. For several hours, they can be spotted winging their way southwest over our yard. Clearly, they have declined the lucrative small-parcel routes that FedEx and the like specialize in, but for a long time we didn't know what they were up to, or where they were going.

Our crows--the family we like to call the Walnut Boys, who live in the big Douglas fir across the alley--head out too. But their friends are also streaming in from much farther afield. It's a daily mini-migration. As far as we can tell, every dang crow in the metropolitan area goes flapping in the same direction at dusk.  Come morning they're all back again and ready to join the dawn raucous. I mean chorus.

We've learned that some of them convene for the evening in the larger neighborhood trees, but those are just minor cliques and outliers. Most of them are bound for downtown. Hundreds. Thousands. We happened upon them during a walk. They had settled in a large construction site. The tarmac was lined with them. It was the softest parking lot in town. Some of them spruced up in puddles and the rest hung out behind the velvet rope until it was time to hit the club. Currently they're favoring a stand of trees near Portland State University.

That's what it's all about. They're going to a roost where they can let it all hang out. It might seem like having a slumber party every single night makes it less special, but they're fine with it. Maybe there are a few introverted crows out there but you don't see those. They're nestled into their favorite conifer boughs with Jane Austen and a scavenged bag of chips.

The experts have theories about why they gang up. Perhaps they're warmer, particularly if they're downtown. Perhaps they feel more secure against the rare marauding urban owl. Perhaps they exchange information about which humans need pooping on, or about good food sources they found that day.

As if! Please. They might talk up a good dumpster find, but nobody's giving away any coordinates. They're just social. They're all about family and friends. It's hard to tell the age of a crow. The very youngest have bluish eyes, but other than that it's a sea of conformity. Everyone gets a uniform. And the kids don't leave. They'll be kickin' it with the adults for at least a year and sometimes two. But you can get clues to their maturity by their behavior, and there's no better place to observe that than at one of their sleepovers.

For a while it's all yap yap yap and nobody is really listening to anyone else. Then the old ones nod off. The teenagers stay up and flirt. Midway down on the broader branches is where they have the Twister game set up. The adolescents are playing Truth or Dare for a while until they split off into smaller groups and swap implausible rumors about where eggs come from. The second-year juveniles sneak off as soon as the adults are asleep and head over to Ross Island to toilet-paper the heron rookery.

That leaves the youngsters, egg-fresh and blue eyes fading, to hold up the banner of innocence. As if! Please. They're the ones making all those crank caws.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

How To Prevent Sagging Breasts Naturally

The author, six years younger.
The following article was published in The Science Of Eating. My notes were not.

Every woman wants to have perfectly shaped breasts throughout her life. This is pretty much what we live for! Sadly, this is not possible in most cases. Just the lucky few who die before age 25. Breast sagging is a natural process that happens with age where the breasts lose their suppleness and elasticity. Not so! My breasts are supple enough that I could slather them in marinara sauce and ricotta and roll them up like manicotti and if it weren't for the parmesan on top nobody would ever know the difference. A drooping pair of breasts can severely undermine how a woman feels about herself, and may feel it lessens her attractiveness in the eyes of the opposite sex. This is because it does. Learning what causes breasts to sag and tackling this issue proactively can offer a lot of help. Or not. It might be more advisable to acquire a life.

What Causes Saggy Breasts Spoiler alert: gravity.

For starters, breasts do not have muscle, they are made of fat, connective tissues and milk-producing glands, and they need proper care to keep them in good shape. Though saggy breasts usually start happening after a woman reaches 40, it can occur earlier. For instance, say you're an 18-year-old woman who has just gotten on birth control pills for the first time. Say it's 1971 and those pills are the size of ottomans and contain enough estrogen to incite a civil war among Amazons. Your breasts are going to go completely Hindenburg on your ass and when you finally get done tearing everyone you've ever met a new one because they've suddenly become SO irritating, you go off the hormones cold turkey in favor of getting some piece of hardware that looks like a paper-clip jammed up your uterus, and then your Hindenburgs wilt into shriveled little party balloons striated with stretch marks. Oh, the humanity. According to various studies, it is understood that when a woman reaches her late thirties, the skin can become loose. Sure can. Even if you put up posters and someone shows up with your missing skin, you'll have hell to pay to get it all back in the old corral again. Apart from age and pregnancy,  other factors that cause sagging breasts are menopause, rapid weight loss or gain, strenuous exercise unless conducted upside-down, nutritional deficiencies such as starvation, smoking, over-tanning and wearing a poorly fitting bra.

Some diseases like breast cancer or respiratory conditions like tuberculosis can also cause breasts to sag. It's all the coughing. Excessive consumption of alcohol can also contribute to the problem. And the solution.

A wide variety of creams and lotions are available on the market to tighten and tone up sagging breasts. However, if you prefer natural methods, there are many simple and easy home remedies that you can try. Like a block and tackle.

There are a number of home remedies for regaining the firmness of saggy breasts, including massaging. This actually increases the firmness of the penis.

If you gain and lose weight continuously and fail to stay at a healthy optimal weight, it could take a toll on your breasts. Screw your psyche at this point. Your perkiness is at stake. This continuous stretching and relaxing of the skin makes it droop and sag over time. And also over your belly.

Drink Plenty of Water

According to experts at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals, the skin is comprised of cells that are predominantly made up of water. Pretty much all cells are. Lack of water takes a toll on the skin, and can make the skin over your breast look shrunken and dull. Shine it up with K-Y Jelly and see where that gets you. Always combine healthy eating with exercise. Improper weights such as the breasts can also cause your breasts to sag. Drastic weight loss in a short span of time would definitely cause your breasts to lose their fullness. Eat up. It's essential to eat foods that are nutritionally rich and contain proteins, vitamins, calcium, minerals, silicone, carbohydrates and essential fats etc.


This fruit is considered a wonderful anti-aging ingredient and can help prevent sagging breasts. In most cases, a minimum of sixty pomegranate seeds placed in a Ziplock bag and taped under the breasts will be required. Pomegranate seed oil is rich in phytonutrients that can lead to firm breasts. Especially if they're lined up on the driveway to the Playboy Mansion.

Massage your breasts at least 2-3 times per week with coconut or olive oil to help add firmness and increase the elasticity to the skin as well as improve the skin tone and texture. Add sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, and a dash of lemon zest for a tasty summertime treat. Massage draws blood to the surface of the skin, increases blood flow, while stimulating muscle growth although we just told you there is no muscle in the breast.

Ice Massages

Ice can help tone the skin in and around the breast region. All you need to do is rub a few ice cubes over your breasts in wide circular motions. Try this massage at regular intervals throughout the day to firm your breast muscles and skin. Eventually you can get your entire body to tighten up just by walking toward the freezer door.

A wrong sized bra can make your breasts sag in no time at all. Not wearing a bra would not help as well. You're screwed.

According to the results of a 15-year study in France, bras provide no benefits to women and may actually be harmful to breasts over time. Jean-Denis Rouillon, a professor at the University of Franche-Comte in Besancon, measured and examined the breasts of more than 300 women, aged 18 and 35, taking note of how the additional support provided by bras affects the body over time. M. Rouillon notes that many more years of research will be required. Rouillon noticed that nipples gained a higher lift, in relation to the shoulders, on women who went braless. In fact, some of them could sling 'em over their shoulder like a Continental soldier. Rouillon cautioned women who have worn bras for a long time, like several decades, that following these recommendations may have less chance of seeing as much benefit. Yes. Because these women have old breasts. You're not Dr. Frankenstein; they're not going to perk up.

You know what, Petunia? Someday soon you're going to die. Maybe someone will think enough of you to throw you in a blast furnace and scoop up your carbonaceous remains, but your breasts are going to be vapor. You know when you forget the fat in the frying pan? It's all going into the air except for a nasty bit of sludge left behind. Your breasts are going to be one episode of bad odor followed by blessed nothingness just like the rest of you, so you might as well find something appropriate to give a damn about or at least offer to rub oil in someone else's breasts while they still have nerve endings. Jesus Johnson, it's not always about you.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Big Pair

Well bless my heart, the city of Portland said "Sure you can take down your tree." Just like that. The email with the permit in it beat us home by several hours. We were on foot. We're analog, that way.

And now it begins. The whining of chainsaws! The screaming of hippies! Bring it on!

My niece is in the same fix. She has a tree that's going to come down, and what it would like to do is come down on her house when it feels like it and not a second later, but she was hoping to persuade it otherwise. And the estimates she got for the deed were in the $4000 range. I figured felling a tree was a scary proposition but I didn't think it was $4000 scary. That's really scary.

The other thing my niece has besides the ominous tree, which is five thousand feet tall and wide even after you strip the brass knuckles and nunchucks off it, is a boyfriend with a serious jones for taking down a tree. Hercules has been trying to talk her into letting him take down their tree for months now, and she won't let him. She likes him a whole lot and isn't done with him yet, and she'd rather take the chance of losing a couple of licensed, insured, strapping 25-year-olds in sexy safety harnesses than lose him. Apparently you can put a price tag on love. It's at least $4000.

But my tree, which we are calling the Big Easy, is a whole different matter. My tree pretends to be big but it's all hat and no stuffing. "How about," I suggested to my niece, "if we set Hercules loose on my tree, and he can get it out of his system?" The idea is that my tree might damage him a little, but not kill him outright. I get my tree down, and she gets to keep her boyfriend more or less unmaimed, and he can go on to other projects.

Done! The very next day Herc shows up at nine o'clock with the requisite splendid beard, a big pair of forearms, and a big pair of hand saws. Yes. Hand saws. It was the Stealth Felling. He sawed off the lowest branch and worked his way up. Just whoosha whoosha whoosha all day, so subtle that a flock of bushtits went in to land in their usual spots that evening and dropped to the ground like fuzzy hail. In five hours, almost without the neighbors noticing, our scarlet oak was down to a flagpole, with Herc furling gently at its top. The branches were cut up in two pickup-loads and carted away. Really, scraping the hippie out of the top of the tree was the trickiest part.

Herc thought it was fun. He enjoys the workout and he enjoys the puzzle of figuring out just how to take a tree down strategically without killing himself or, might I add, my precious shrublets. I enjoyed watching my tree come down for the price of a salami sandwich--he doesn't even drink beer--and being able to return him to my niece in shiny original condition.

But the scheme was not flawless. Now he thinks this proves he can take down her tree, and that I'll back him up on that. I think he probably can, but I'm not going to mention it.

Where did she find this dude, you ask? I'll tell you. She found him in the woods. The rest of you looking for your true love on, or in all the gin-joints in all the towns in all the world, can think about that for a while.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Stupid Tree

The biggest tree in my yard needs to come down. That's my opinion, but it might not be the opinion of the City of Portland, so we just dropped off our application for permission to remove it.  The application ran to four pages. They wanted color glossies of the tree. They wanted its size, weight, lipid profile, zodiac sign, and likes and dislikes. They wanted to know exactly what I intend to replace it with. They wanted a site map showing location of the house and all the trees and which ones are staying put. I drew that up in two colors for extra credit. I want to get a good score.

On page two of the application, they want to know why I want the tree to come down. I want it gone because it's a stupid tree and I hate it. I didn't put it exactly that way, but it's true. I could have planted anything fifteen years ago when there was nothing in the yard. And I read up on trees, but I missed some clues somewhere. It's like how people make little lists of what they're looking for in an ideal mate: handsome, well-educated, sense  of humor, likes to socialize, picks up all his acorns, that sort of thing. The only thing I wanted was a tree that would get nice and big in a hurry, and that had a deep root system that wouldn't interfere with anything I planted under it. Scarlet Oak seemed to fit the bill.

But the problem with making lists for your ideal mate is you never really get the whole picture. And there you are stuck with a handsome well-educated funny mate who makes these excruciating juicy noises whenever he eats until it could drive you right up the Great Wall of China and into the arms of a vicious, yet somehow attractive, Mongol.

This tree got big in a hurry. But it's not the right kind of big at all. The branches go straight out horizontal, for like miles. It's on track to shade the entire yard and not just the half I had in mind. Here's where the stupid comes in. Those horizontal branches do not have twigs and leaves on them. They have nothing on them until they get to the very tips, miles from the trunk, and that's where, with great reluctance, they eke out a few petulant leaves. A petunia patch probably sequesters more carbon. If you look at the tree from the street, it looks like a big leafy tree. But it's an empty shell. It's all shade and no habitat. Birds hate it. If birds liked it, I'd keep it, even though.

In the part of the form where I was supposed to say why I wanted the tree down, I wrote a lot of stuff about native plants and bird habitat and threw in words like Diversity and Density and I might have intimated my tree was in favor of coal trains, big banks, and the assholes in the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. I said I wanted to replace it with not one but three native Socialist Democrat vine maples and a spotted owl. They still might say no.

At which point I will look at it sneering at me, and I will think I brought you into this world, and I can take you out, while trying not to think about Bill Cosby. But I won't take it out. I'll keep the stupid tree and feel glad I'm in a community that cares about itself more than it cares about any one lone cowgirl and her stupid mistake of a tree. I think, mostly, things work better that way. I'll keep the stupid tree.

Then I'll blast it with a liquid suet cannon and crust it over with thistle seeds. Maybe hang up a little bell and a mirror. If it dies, it dies.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Schrodinger's Cabin

If Schrodinger opened all his Christmas presents and left an empty box on the floor, his cat would jump in it. I guess that's the only thing we ever know for certain about Schrodinger's cat. Because if Schrodinger cares at all about his Christmas tree, he's going to tape that cat in the box good and tight. And then nobody will know a darn thing about it.

Schrodinger developed his famous boxed-cat thought experiment in order to point out the absurdity of some of the ideas floating around the new field of quantum mechanics. Some were positing that subatomic particles must exist in all possible states at once and remain that way until the instant they're observed. He tied the viability of a cat to the state of a radioactive atom and suggested, chuckling to himself, that the cat must be alive and dead at the same time and wouldn't resolve one way or the other until someone opened the box and had a peek. Which is silly. It could just have a little kidney infection. Even Schrodinger thought this was silly with regard to cats. The problem is that some things that are very, very, very small don't act according to Newton's laws. Not cats. Kittens, maybe.

It doesn't have anything to do with physics, but I've always subscribed to the notion that unobserved things might not even exist. One doesn't want to go about sticking one's head in the sand--even ostriches don't do that--but I no longer feel an obligation to be aware of every last crappy thing that happens in the world. In the course of a life there's enough crappiness to go around and I don't think I need to be exposed to all of it. With that in mind I'm putting off a trip to our cabin.

Trunks of two of the three trees that aimed at the cabin
We do need to go to the cabin. We haven't been in three months and by this time it's possible the only thing holding it together is mildew. Worse, there might be a tree on top of it. That's actually likely. There's nothing but trees around there and there's nothing much keeping them up except force of habit. We've had a ton of rain lately. This turns the soil into pudding. The trees, which are more than 200 feet tall, don't actually have a very deep go-it-alone root system. They're not libertarians. They band together in more of a co-op. Given a little push, like, say, the recent great winds that have accompanied the recent great rains, they'll go down like bad drunks. Bunches of them at once.

This is such a likely scenario, in fact, that we pack up and leave when it's been wet and gets real windy around there. One time three massive Douglas firs came down right alongside the cabin and just nicked the fascia board on the corner. They were stacked up like cordwood on what used to be our deck. If I had been inside at the time they came down, the authorities would have found me stone dead in a puddle of pee.

Anyway right now the cabin is unobserved. It could be alive or dead. I like to imagine it's still standing. I'd hate to think of it all smashed to kindling just because I had the temerity to go have a look.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Push-Button Fire

Suddenly, Tater noticed something.
Almost forty years ago we bought a Vermont Castings wood stove and put it in the kitchen. Now it's gone.

It's done a great job for us. A lot of the time we didn't turn on any other heat. Over the years, the house got bigger and bigger, but the wood stove meant that in the winter, the man, the woman, the dog, and the cat were always in such close proximity that a single small explosive device could take us all out at once.

Our dog Boomer was really fond of the wood stove. She would park herself a foot in front of it and stick one hind leg straight up in the air, exposing her, well, her highly personal region to the heat. She always kept her highly personal region very clean--gracious, how clean she kept it! She cleaned it and cleaned it and cleaned it; you never saw a dog so devoted to personal hygiene. Why does she do that, I'd ask Dave, and he'd say because she can. And then she'd air it out in front of the stove.

Things change. Forty years ago, I hung out in the liberry for months and researched efficiency and quality and ratings and requested mail brochures to find the very best wood stove at the very best price. We had fluff blown into our old walls and had storm windows made and caulked everything in sight but the dog's highly personal region, and Dave and his brickie buddies put in a hearth and a chimney and installed the stove themselves.

This time, one of us mentioned that it might be a good idea to replace the old stove with a natural gas fake one. You know: some day. The next morning, Dave pantomimed standing in the kitchen and pushing an imaginary remote control button aimed at the stove: click. That afternoon, we Googled gas appliance retail outlets, picked one we could walk to, found a stove that looked okay, whipped out a VISA card, and started grousing about having to wait three weeks for installation. The guys are here today to install it. They're taking away the old one. I feel like we're abandoning an old friend. But I get over things like that fast. Especially if I have a remote control. Click.

The only downside is that Dave has devoted a lot of time since his retirement to looking in Dumpsters for dimensional lumber to scavenge for firewood. He'd haul it home in the pickup and saw it up and stack it. It's a little hobby. And now that the wood stove is gone, his Dumpster-diving is just going to look sad.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Oh Say Can You D.C.

I've never had that much interest in the Constitution. It's old and cranky and set in its ways, and every time I visit, it just rags on and on about the olden days. But I had a look when I found out how important it was to them there Patriots who are holed up in a bird sanctuary with a bunch of assault weapons because they don't want anyone to get hurt.

Evidently there's some part of the Constitution that restricts the amount of land the Gummint can own, and that means the Bureau of Land Management is in a heap o' trouble, boy. Cliven Bundy, an antique deadbeat cow collector with fourteen excess children, says it's right there in Article One, Section Eight, Clause-a-Mercy, Schedule D, Passive Carryover Limitations, or some such. So I looked it up. And that got me thinking about the District of Columbia.

I've always been fond of the District of Columbia because it was square and also because there was that liquor store on McArthur Boulevard that didn't check I.D. I was born in Arlington, Virginia, which is really a sloughed-off part of the original square, but I never knew how the boundaries came about. What's not to love about a square city! You could almost prick yourself on it if you stood in the right place. But when Arlington slid off, it wrecked the cool squareness.

The plans for the District, as it turns out, are right there in the Constitution. They made it a square because a star would have been too hard to survey. It was to encompass a hundred square miles. If they'd tried to come up with an exact hundred-square-mile entity using all the normal squiggly boundary lines, they'd have to determine the area using calculus, and the Founding Fathers weren't up for that, although my father would have been. So. Square it is. Or was, before Arlington fell off.

It was scotched together in 1790 out of pieces donated by the states of Maryland and Virginia, which was nice of them. But Virginia was tired. She had basically caved on territory by that point. She'd already ceded Maryland, for instance, but that was the least of it. Initially Virginia was pretty much the whole country. In 1620 they decided everything above the 40th parallel would be something else, but it was still Virginia out to infinity in the western direction. They didn't know what was out there, except that it was just more Virginia, dammit, and no mistake. But bit by bit it got carved down until it was only the size of modern Virginia plus West Virginia. West Virginia was too hilly for plantations and eventually got sheared off for insufficient slave-holding. By the time Virginia was asked for another little slice to make D.C., they figured, what the hell.

But if you looked at that square, there was the Potomac River chugging through the southwest corner like a rip in the fabric. I always figured good old Arlington came about because it got torn off the square and succumbed to gravity at the bottom end of the map. But no. After Virginia had graciously ceded its portion of D.C., there came a rumor that someone might outlaw slavery there. And the once and future Virginia portion was a major slave market. Sure enough, in 1850 slave trading was outlawed in the District, but not slavery itself. You could still probably win slaves in Bingo or something.

Unacceptable! The town of Alexandria begged Virginia to take it back before anyone lost money. And so the cool square was ruined, and I eventually showed up as a citizen of Virginia at a time when slavery was technically outlawed but the descendants of slave-owners still didn't have to fret about sharing any space or treasure with the descendants of slaves.

So, back to Bundyworld. Yes. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution does state that Congress could acquire property to establish a seat of government, not to exceed ten miles square. That would be your District of Columbia. It doesn't say anything at all about limiting government land ownership otherwise.

There is something about being able to organize and discipline the militia to suppress insurrections, though.