If you see my wife today . . .

January 2, 2013

. . . compliment her on her tolerance, for putting up with me for 32 years so far.

I’m sure it’s not easy as it might appear to be the Trophy Wife™.  Kathryn deserves all the compliments she might get.

Real life difficulties, please stand by

March 31, 2012

Or get a cup of coffee, or an ice cream cone, and relax.

1937 map of area near Porlock, Somerset, England

Porlock is a village in Somerset, England. I wonder, where does he get the "Porlock, Jr." moniker? This is a 1937 map of the village, Wikipedia image.

It’s been a rough couple of months, personally, away from the blog.  So I’ve got the two lowest-posting months in the history of Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, back to back.

Regrets, and apologies to faithful readers (especially to Porlock, Jr., who is having some bizarre difficulties leaving comments which may require a trip to WordPress HQ in San Francisco to work out — any excuse to visit the City by the Bay, eh?).

I’ll try to clean out the drafts-to-be-posted bin, and otherwise get some life in the old Tub for you, faithful readers.  It’s not that there aren’t things that need to be blogged, nor that I haven’t had anything to say about events.  Not enough time to get everything else done, and find time to write.  I’ll try to mend that issue.  Thanks for hanging with us.

Wish me luck with the off-blog stuff, will you?  Thanks.

Spectacular San Francisco Famous Downtown Land...

San Francisco at night, photo by Jon Sullivan, Creative Commons copyright; image via Wikipedia

What a crappy week

February 10, 2012

Would have, could have, should have been a great week, especially with those 11-, 12- and 13-year old Scouts showing so much moxie and understanding of Constitutional rights and history on Monday night.

From The Guardian:  British boy scouts around a fire, 1910

Photo from The Guardian: British boy scouts around a fire, 1910; Boy Scouts provided boosts in morale, and solid security work around Britain's perimeter during World War I.

They couldn’t have had my back the rest of the week, though, and I’ve got wounds to nurse as a result.  Sorry about the pause in postings.

“Rhapsody in Blue” with the Dallas Wind Symphony on Valentine’s Day; next week looks better.

Leo Cullum cartoon from New Yorker, "Good news . . . it's a metaphor."  CondeNast store

Leo Cullum's classic cartoon from New Yorker. CondeNast store asks $125 for its smallest print; might be a good buy for me this week, if Cullum autographs it. (Click image if you want to buy one.)

January 17, and auspicious births

January 17, 2012

The First American, Ben Franklin, was born on this day in 1706.  Exactly a century later, Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, Martha, bore James Madison Randolph, the first child born in the White House (fitting that Thomas Jefferson’s grandson would be named after James Madison, no?).  And in 1990, James Darrell was born in Dallas, Texas.

Happy birthday, James!


Oranges beat the freeze

December 7, 2011

We get our first freeze of the season in Dallas tonight.  I’m thinking of the heat of the summer.

Kathryn gambled a bit, bought a Satsuma orange tree for the patio plant menagerie this summer.  To her joy and my utter surprise, it fruited.

Kathryn's Satsuma oranges in Dallas

Kathryn's Satsuma oranges in Dallas -- oranges take a long time to ripen; photos from late October 2011

Green fruit approached its final size in late June, then tortured us as it just sat there, green and unripe.  They turned orange slowly, through August and September.  An occasional individual would give up and hit the ground.  So we had samples — bitter at first, hints of sugar in September.

Two weeks ago Kathryn harvested a score of the little beauties.

Oranges on the patio in Dallas

Through the summer the oranges rested there, teasing us with their sloth . . .

First freeze tonight, but we enjoyed the last of the oranges this morning.

Horticulture teaches patience.  Horticulture is fun.

More, Resources: 

3 million and counting higher*

October 9, 2011

I estimated wrong.

Millard Fillmore's head, in wax

Millard Fillmore's head, from Futurama, tallying hits at Millard Fillmore's Bathtub.**

Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub passed 3 million hits sometime this afternoon:

  • 3,000,536 views all-time (7:51 p.m. CDT)

That’s about a month’s traffic on P. Z. Myers’ blog, Pharyngula (I’m estimating wildly); that’s a couple day’s traffic on Anthony Watts’ blog, Watts Up, even though most of the time you can’t find out what’s up from that blog, even if you need to know just the facts.

Which brings two aphorisms to mind:

  1. A lie can run around the world before truth gets its boots on.  (Let’s attribute it to Mark Twain, just to tweak the fans of Charles Haddon Spurgeon; even Spurgeon said it was an aphorism.)
  2. We’ve been fighting ignorance since 1973.  It’s taking longer than we thought.  (Paraphrase of the motto of the “Straight Dope” column.)

Truth takes longer, even for a guy who writes quickly and can post non-stop, like Myers.

For those few readers who have stuck it out, thanks.  For those new ones, stick it out for a while.  To all of you:  Hey, would it kill you to leave a comment when you drop by?

Thank you.  Thank you a lot.  Thanks, and come again soon.


*  Yeah, it’s a jab at Rutledge Taylor’s ill-tempered mockumentary, “3 Billion and Counting.”  No one can say what the 3 billion things are, and the movie is wildly error-prone, even for a mockumentary.  Plus, it’s not funny, like “Best in Show.”

** No, it’s not really from Futurama (but wouldn’t that be cool — Filllmore and Nixon together?)  I linked to the photo at Presidents “R” Us.com — but they were kind enough to link to that same photo at the Bathtub, earlier.

Smokey’s gone

August 1, 2011

Smokey in May 2009 - glare; photo by Ed Darrell, please attribute IMGP0814

Smokey in better days in 2009, expressing her displeasure at being photographed asleep

Her first night out of the pound I don’t think she slept.  Yowled all night long.  Smokey made one aware of her presence.  It was one of the endearing qualities of one of the smartest, most personable, and grayest cats I’ve ever known.

For 21 years she let us know where she was.  Uncharacteristically, perhaps, she left us quietly Saturday at 5:32 p.m.  Kidney failure.

She fought for life so long as she could.  Last Monday she ate a great breakfast.  Then she stopped eating, cold.  She stopped drinking Tuesday.  We had her into the veterinarian, and blood tests confirmed that her long-time kidney disease had taken hold.  No function showed up.  Other than that, the only outward sign was a little more crankiness (as a cranky cat, she was legendary).  So we made the hard decision, and made an appointment to put her down Thursday.

Thursday afternoon, on her clock, she came to life big time.  She fought going into the carrier and wailed as loudly as ever all the way to the vet’s office.  Another family was struggling with a terminally-ill pet, so there was delay.  Smokey’s wails were disturbing others, so we let her out of the carrier, and she headed right for the door.

Going gently?  “Get out of my way,” she seemed to be saying.  “I’ll go at home, or take somebody else with me.”  At the vet’s office, she’s famous for fighting “procedures,” one of those cats who had to be muzzled on occasion.

We let her have her way, and brought her home.

Two years earlier, she fought a nearly-fatal infection.  Kathryn and I (mostly Kathryn) had to inject her with saline solution twice a day to get her hydrated enough just to hang on.  Her kidney function showed late-term renal disease, then.  The prognosis:  Perhaps two months.  But as soon as she got hydrated, she beat the infection and sprang back to life.

A more self-confident cat I’ve never met.  Cats’ tails go up when they feel good and secure.  For the first 18 years of her life that tail never fell below full sail.  She never met another cat she liked, which created some conflict with the older, gentler rescue cat she joined and the younger, meeker rescue cat who came along later.  Smokey got along with the dogs.  They were bigger, more appropriate for her ego.

She was a cat of many names.

Smokey came from the local animal pound, a hoped-to-be companion for a cat rescued from the side of the road.  She was smoke gray from nose to tail — even her lips and foot pads.  “Smokey” was a natural name, and Kenny suggested it.  James, just one at the time, had some difficulty with the name.  “Bokey” stuck as a nickname, turned to “Pokey” for her habit of yowling to have a door opened, and then pausing, half through the doorway, to ponder several things. Then “Pokes,” and “Poquito,” and “Pokesalot.”

Compared to the longer-haired cats especially, she was sleek.  Finely muscled, she could have been the model for what a good, lean cat should look like.  Each muscle was well exercised.  There was no high place she would not attempt to get to, and no impossible balancing act she would not attempt earning the awe and jealousy of the Wallendas.  “Sleek and gray” was a name she’d answer to — “Fink and gray” when she took to knocking stuff off our dressers to get us up at her preferred rising, at 4:30 or 5:00 every morning.  On weekends, or any day we wanted to sleep late, she’d get on the bed and gently tap a nose until she got a reaction.  Sometimes she’d lick a nose (“kitty kisses”).  Once she bit me.  Once was enough for her — she went back to gentle taps.  Very smart cat.

We resolved to keep the cats indoors, both for their protection and for the protection of the birds who visit the yard.  Within a year Smokey began making runs at the open door.  Astonishingly we avoided a broken or clamped-off tail, or broken ribs.  Finally she made a dash with several yards to build up speed, and by the time she could stop she stood in the middle of the street.  Calmly, she strode back to the curb, tail up, and proceeded to groom herself.  We couldn’t catch her.  After an hour, she yowled to come in.  So she made herself an indoor-outdoor cat.

Of course she had to wear a bell, as lithe and fast as she was she posed a great threat to smaller birds.  But she learned how to shed her collar, and got it down to a record 30 minutes.  Once she figured out we’d put the collar back on when we found it, she took to ditching the collars where they couldn’t be found.

Bird deaths tapered off, fortunately.  We were grateful for her hunting prowess when she made it a personal mission to rid the neighborhood of rats who had tried to move in.  It took her almost a month to get the family of rats under the shed — one by one — but within a summer the neighborhood was safe for squirrels and other more friendly rodents.  Soon after that, she stopped hunting.  The rats never returned.

For the past two summers, blue jays brought their offspring to see Smokey lying in the sun on the patio, teaching them that this was one cat they didn’t need to fear.  After a few months of that, Smokey stopped even glaring at them.  It was almost as if they were visits from old friends, sort of a Blue and Gray reunion after the conflict.

The last year was tough.  Arthritis in her hips slowed her.  We rescued another cat from the pound, and true to form Smokey took an immediate disliking to Luna.  To avoid Luna, Smokey retreated to the back parlor, generally off limits to pets but blocked only by a child gate — which Smokey quickly learned to climb.  As the arthritis affected her more, we put a step stool on one side, a concession she took to immediately.

Smokey on the window sill, with sun and pansies

Smokey enjoying the sun from indoors, with pansies. It’s not an easy sill for a cat to balance on — Smokey would balance, and fall asleep.

The affair at the vet’s office Thursday was her last great show of will.  One thinks cats know they are dying.  Smokey would meet death on her terms, thank you very much.  By Friday she was clearly unable to walk or stand well.  Saturday Kathryn sat with her on the dining room floor.  When she wasn’t sleeping, Smokey would meow.  A stroke or two from Kathryn and she’d go back to sleep.  She had refused water until Friday night, but then started taking a little sips from a syringe.

Kathryn ran errands about 4:00 p.m., and I checked that Smokey was sleeping.  About 5:00 she woke up, wanted water, and looked around for Kathryn.  Kathryn returned a few minutes later, and Smokey relaxed, and breathed a last time.

A companion for more than two decades insinuates herself in ways one doesn’t even recognize.  Saturday night I turned off the kitchen lights to head to bed, and instinctively looked into the parlor to say goodnight to Smokey.  Sunday morning I got up to make coffee, and looked to see if Smokey wanted out.  I would have sworn she batted my nose this morning to wake me up, but no cat even close.

Sometime in the next few months I’ll take out a pair of pants or a coat, and notice it’s covered with Smokey’s gray fur.  At some point she used it for a pad, perhaps.  I’ll have to decide whether to clean the thing, or keep it as a reminder of our longtime friend.

On the 7th floor of the 6th Floor Museum

July 27, 2011

Posting is slow this week, some of you have noted.

I’m on the 7th floor of the old Texas School Book Depository building.  Teacher training, you know.  A great series of sessions put together by the 6th Floor Museum, with the Library of Congress and Texas Bar, on teaching with original documents using the resources of the 6th Floor Museum, a unique Dallas resource.

I’ll have pictures, and probably more . . . eventually.

Please feel free to comment away.

Cats in Crete and China, and evolution

October 23, 2010

Cretan Cat - photo by Kenny Darrell

A cat Kenny Darrell photographed in Crete -- notice each eye is a different color.

Darwin wondered about the genetic reasons behind white cats being blind deaf (though, of course, he didn’t call it “genetics” then).  Evolution in action:  White cats today usually can see hear.

Kenny found this cat in Crete, and got a good shot of its eyes, each of a different color — though of course, as soon as the focus was set, the cat leaned forward for a pet.

Kenny’s in China right now.  I wonder if China has cats and dogs on the streets like Crete?

Below the fold:  Darwin on white cats.

Read the rest of this entry »

Eleanor Knowles Laney

August 3, 2010

We’re all mourning the recent loss of our Aunt Ellie.  A more formidable foe at Scrabble cannot be imagined.

Eleanor wrote books, edited books, but mainly read books voraciously.   Her love of books is assumed happily by dozens of nieces and nephews, literally.

An appropriate remembrance I have not written — maybe cannot — but there is a good story about her life in the Ogden Standard-Examiner.

Happy birthday, Kenny

April 1, 2010

You know the story.  April Fools’ babies are always surprises.

Even more than a couple of decades later, they surprise and delight.

We’ll meet for dinner tonight, Kenny, Kathryn, Kenny’s grandfather Ken and I — but it’s a Scout function, and I get a spotlight there.  Is there a better testament to how good a kid is than his giving up his birthday evening for his old man?

He was down from Plano last night, quick pick-up dinner and early gifts, which made him smile.  And that made me smile.

Happy birthday, Kenny.  Many more together, I hope.

Becalmed in the Dallas Doldrums of the internet

February 16, 2010

Sorry about that.

Near the end of storm recovery in Dallas, on Sunday, our power went out.  Still out.

Well, at least partially.  I’ll leave it to the electricians, but we’ve lost all big power, 220-volts, to major appliances including the furnace and water heater, and half of our other house circuits, including the one that runs the DSL modem.

Posting will be slight while I shiver and curse and harangue Oncor Energy.

Lou Dobbs is from Rupert, Idaho?

January 27, 2010

He should have spent more time with the spud farmers and sheep ranchers.  He should have spent more time with the Basques who herded the sheep.

Few posts lately: I apologize

November 25, 2009

Posting’s been much slower than events warrant, lately.  Difficulties at work, and a six-week bout with allergies of unknown origins haven’t helped.

A visit with the allergist yesterday offers some hope — I’ve been symptom free now for almost 24 hours, for the first time since early October.

Before next Monday I hope to catch up a bit on the follies at the Texas State Board of Education, and other educational events around Texas.  While I’ve been itchy and swelling, the denialists haven’t gotten any smarter or nicer.

One horrible thought:  I may be allergic to stupidity in public policy.  The timing of the main attacks coincides with several rounds of recent raving excrement from government officers.  Avoiding contact with the offending stuff is not possible, then, in a moral world.

2009 winners of the Rachel Carson “Sense of Wonder” arts contest

October 30, 2009

You can view, and read, the winners of the 2009 Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder contest at the website of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Bee on a passion vine flower - 2nd place photo, Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder contest, 2009 - by Patricia, age 70, Peggy, age 47, Maggi, age 16 - via EPA

Bee on a passion vine flower – 2nd place photo, Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder contest, 2009 – by Patricia, age 70, Peggy, age 47, Maggi, age 16

Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder 2009 contest winners

EPA’s Aging Initiative, Generations United, the Rachel Carson Council, Inc. and the Dance Exchange, Inc. are pleased to present the winners for the

Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder project logo, EPA

Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder project logo, EPA

third annual intergenerational photo, dance, essay and poetry Sense of Wonder contest. All entries were created by an intergenerational team.

The categories are Photography, Essay, Poetry, Mixed (Photo, Essay and Poetry) and Dance.

Drop over to EPA’s site and look, and read.

2010 contest rules are already up.  You can get the entry form there, too.  Links to the 2008 and 2007 winners and finalists also reside there.

This photo caught me a bit off guard, bringing back wonderful memories.

Gina, age 36, Bill, age 64, Christian, age 1 - 3rd place photo, 2009 Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder art contest - EPA

Bill and Christian explore outdoors, photographed by Gina – Gina, age 36, Bill, age 64, Christian, age 1 – 3rd place photo, 2009 Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder art contest – EPA

Gina, the photographer, described the photo:

My father has been a good role model to me as I grew up with plenty of time outdoors. The red plaid shirt became a sort of symbol, and it was an honor to get a matching shirt myself when I was in college. Now, at just one year old, my son is continuing the tradition of wearing the red and black shirt outdoors. It was fun to photograph the two together in our rural wooded backyard, and helped illustrate that my father can continue to pass along his sense of wonder and love of the outdoors to my son, his first grandchild.

My father, Paul Darrell, wore an old jacket for my entire life — a once-fuzzy buffalo plaid red-and-black woolen jacket.  No one in the family can remember a time he didn’t have it.  The jacket was probably at least 30 years old when I was born.  He wore it when it was bitter cold — one story was that when it was well below zero one wintry morning in Burley, Idaho, it was the only coat he wore to walk to his furniture and appliance store to make sure the pipes hadn’t frozen, a walk of about a mile each way.  It was too cold to start the car.

After he moved to Utah it was his usual gardening and yard-work coat on cold mornings.  I know he took it on a few campouts with my Scout troop, and I’ll wager it went along on camping trips with my older brothers and sister 20 years before that.  I remember my father sitting warm in that jacket on cold mornings around the campfire.

We had a peach tree in the back yard in Pleasant Grove, Utah.  Frosts would come on those mountain slopes when the peaches were just ripened.  I have memories of my father picking peaches in the jacket.  He’d slice the peaches for our breakfast.  No peach has ever been sweeter or more flavorful (but I keep searching).  I remember my father in his buffalo plaid jacket, his arms full of ripe, cold peaches, coming through the kitchen door, and the smile on his face.

The red buffalo plaid coat was so much a symbol of my father that, at his death in 1988, it was one of those objects we nearly fought over.  My niece Tamara ended up with it.

I have one, now.  It’s a good L. L. Bean version, with the wool much thicker than my father’s well-worn version.  After 20 years it still looks new, compared to his.  I suspect it always will.  It could never be warmer than his.

Special tip of the old scrub brush to Dr. Pamela Bumsted.

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