One Rat I can get behind

Throughout the world, places that have been involved in war and/or civil strife often have large minefields that still need clearing.  In 2013, it was estimated that there was a global average of around nine mine-related deaths every day.  The situation is especially dire in Africa. 

Typically, clearing a minefield involves men in body armor walking in very precise lines with metal detectors.  Anything (from a rusty nail to an old ammo cartridge) that sets the detectors off must be investigated before moving on.  A new method of bomb detection using rats, however, is flipping this process on its head.  A Belgian NGO called APOPO has developed a way to train African pouched rats (named for the storage pouch in their cheeks) to sniff out bombs quickly and safely. 
They used this rat because it has an incredibly fine-tuned sense of smell and a long lifespan (8-9 years) to yield returns on the nine months of training they undergo.
They're called Hero Rats, and NOT ONE
has died in the line of duty since the program started in 1997. 

The average mine requires 5 kg (roughly 11 pounds)
of weight to trigger an explosion,
but even the biggest of these rats
are only around 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds). 
Since they're trained to sniff out explosives exclusively,
they aren't distracted by other metal objects
the way human minesweepers are. 

  They can effectively search 200 square meters
in less than 20 minutes.
A team of humans would need
around 25 hours to do the same job.

Since they're in the African sun a lot,
the Hero Rats get sunscreen to keep them cancer free.
If a rat does get cancer,
it receives full medical treatment.

The rats are "paid" in avocados, peanuts,bananas and other healthy treats.
After about 4-5 years on the job
(or whenever they lose interest in working),
they're allowed to retire.

Retirement consists of eating all the tasty fruit
their little hero heart's desire.
Reprinted from

Maybe my most important blog post ever.

 Taken from A Hopeful Act in a Perilous time

 Pam Houston's Dedication

When I was four years old my father broke my femur. I believe he meant to kill me, and for the next fourteen years it became my mother's job to try to keep him from getting another chance.  Needless to say, my childhood home was nervous at best and terrifying at worst, and it turned me into a woman who always takes notice when a man threatens a woman's life.

My father said to me often, Pam, one of these days you are going to wake up and realize you spend your whole life lying in the gutter with someone elses foot on your neck.  It was the closest thing he had to a world view.  Looked at a certain way my entire life has been dedicated to making his words untrue.    

Maybe its because I grew up in my fathers house that I can see Trump so clearly for what he is.  A desperately insecure bully, with no moral center--no center of any kind really--who feels momentarily powerful only when he is able to break those unlucky enough to step into his path.  

Trump has already vowed to destroy (or threatens by his very being) every single thing about my life that I value: the remaining wilderness, diversity of all kinds, education, art, animal rights, choice, affordable health care, compassion, tolerance, honesty, hard work, kindness, peace.  I have not lived well these 54 years just to end up with a sociopathic narcissists foot on my neck.

So I dedicate my No-Trump Vote to my four year-old self, smiling bravely for the camera in her 3/4 body cast, and for every little girl who lays awake at night in her room afraid, and to Hillary Clinton, who has dedicated much of her life to the betterment of girls and women, and who each day puts on her bulletproof vest and stands up for us all.  

To Dedicate Your No-Trump Vote, Click Here

PAM HOUSTON is the author of two novels, Contents May Have Shiftedand Sight Hound, two collections of short stories, Cowboys Are My Weakness and Waltzing the Cat, and a collection of essays, A Little More About Me, all published by W.W. Norton.  Her stories have been selected for volumes of The O. Henry Awards, The 2013 Pushcart Prize, and Best American Short Stories of the Century. She teaches in the Low Rez MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, is Professor of English at UC Davis, and directs the literary nonprofit Writing By Writers. She lives at 9,000 feet above sea level near the headwaters of the Rio Grande and is at work on a book about that place.

Help Stop the Deportation of Endangered Chimpanzees

Finally, chimpanzees have been recognized as an endangered species and, in its first test of how their protection will be implemented, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, failed miserably.

Perhaps a backlash is in order.

"For almost two years, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University has been working to send seven chimpanzees to a zoo in England, prompting the outrage of several animal welfare and conservation groups because the zoo is unaccredited and there are American sanctuaries ready to accept the chimps." From the NYTimes.

Here is the latest update in our critical campaign to stop the transfer of Emory’s Yerkes 7 endangered chimpanzees—Agatha, Elvira, Faye, Fritz, Lucas, Tara, and Georgia—to Wingham Wildlife Park in Kent, England. 

Immediately upon hearing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s decision that New England Anti-vivisection Society NEAVS and its coalition lacked standing to stop the export permit, and upon reading the Court’s language regarding the export, including that “FWS’s [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s] broad interpretation [of the Endangered Species Act] appears to thwart the dynamic of environmental protection that Congress plainly intended,” it is obvious that the legality of this export permit was successfully challenged. (As background we have attached the entire court ruling, but most important are pages 56-58; key sections highlighted.) The Judge’s ruling places both Yerkes and FWS under a glaring spotlight. Even with the permit in hand, the illegality and accompanying immorality of this export is no longer in doubt. It is confirmed. 

NEAVS appealed directly to the Emory University President and its Board of Directors. You can view the letter here:

And to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, who soon will welcome Dan Ashe, Director of FWS under which this highly unethical and blatantly wrong interpretation of the Endangered Species Act has occurred. You can view the letter here:

NEAVS and its coalition of chimpanzee and conservation experts, former Yerkes caregivers, and animal advocates will leave NO STONE UNTURNED to stop this export of endangered lab chimpanzees. As we write, our lawyers are planning our prioritizing our next steps. Our staff are working hard on internal strategies.

We are now asking YOU to SPEAK OUT in opposition to this illegal export permit as it is in clear violation of what the U.S. Congress intended within the language of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 


1. Express your strong disapproval of the export permit TODAY by contacting Emory University President, Claire E. Sterk, Ph.D. at, or call Dr. Sterk at 404-727-6013. Implore her to make certain that Emory stops Yerkes’ complicity and blatant disregard for U.S. law and instead exhibits nothing less than the highest ethical standards of behavior by sending these and all of their chimpanzees to U.S. sanctuaries.

2. Contact Dan Ashe at FWS and ask him to suspend this export permit given the scathing language of the court calling into question why FWS thinks it has the right to “sell permits” when its mandate is to protect endangered species. You can contact him at or 202-208-4717.

Keep those emails and calls coming and spread the word. They need to be reminded that FWS did not prevail in this lawsuit on merit. The judgement was with NEAVS and the thousands who oppose this export. They prevailed on a legal technicality. And shame on them if they take advantage of that to the detriment of these 7 chimps, all captive U.S. chimps, and all chimpanzees worldwide.

Theodora Capaldo, EdD
Chief Executive Officer
New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS)

An off topic pet peeve

It drives me crazy to ask for water in a restaurant and have it come with a slice of lemon in it. When I order water, friends, in unison, will add "NO LEMON!" before I can. I know. In the scheme of all that can go wrong in one's life, this is silly. There are floods, fires, earthquakes, Zika, the Presidential campaign, what the hell is the big deal about a lovely slice of lemon in an icy glass of water?

First of all, I don't like the taste. I don't like bits of pulp drifting around in my water like mosquito larvae in puddle. I like water cold and crystal clear. But my main gripe is I don't know where that lemon has been. Was the skin washed before it was sliced? If not, what happy little, water-loving pathogens are swimming laps in my glass of water?

Ha! Vindication is mine! I'm not crazy, you lovers of lemon-in-my-water drinkers are.

You Should Never Ask For a  Slice Of Lemon In Your Drink 

Alice Sholl for Yahoo Health

Researchers  "found that almost 70% of those samples produced some kind of microbial growth, and included 25 different microbial species. . . Restaurant patrons should be aware that lemon slices added to beverages may include potentially pathogenic microbes.”

Reposting of a blog by Maya Khosla

I know Maya Khosla from when she was a presenter at the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference a number of years ago.  Last week, a mutual friend sent this blog post of Maya's. I contacted her and asked to reprint it. It's been driving me nuts that every newscast about the fires here in California, and elsewhere, all refer how many acres have been "destroyed." Houses, businesses, and lives can be destroyed, but given time, the land rebounds, and there are native species that thrive after a fire. I hope you'll take the time to read this. It will give you a new perspective on wild land fires.
By Maya Khosla, posted on April 25, 2016

Fire Works

How valuable are forests of the American West that have experienced wildfire? With over 10 million acres that burned across the region in 2015, that question has sharply gained in prominence. Many of us understand that an average of 30 million acres burned annually in wildfires of the 1920s and 1930s – and acreages were even higher during prior decades (according to U.S. Forest Service records). 
Even so, the sheer power of today’s visuals often pose a challenge in accepting that wildfires –  with all their natural variables including low, medium and high severity – have been an integral part of western ecosystems for eons. 

                                    Rim fire spotted owl. Credit: Maya Khosla
The curious conservation biologist who hikes through post-fire forests will inevitably be rewarded with a number of sights that attest to their high ecological value. A more focused way to understand the forests is to venture out in search of rare birds. In 2014 and 2015, teams of biologists worked on protocol surveys to quantify the nest density of black-backed woodpeckers, which are increasingly rare in the Sierra Nevada-Cascades Region. With their glossy black backs, the woodpeckers are ideally equipped to live in burned forests abundant with high densities of snags (standing dead trees), each of which quickly grows rich with wood-boring beetle larvae – the woodpeckers’ preferred food source. Also colonized by bark beetle larvae, the “snag forests” support Lewis’s, pileated, hairy and white-headed woodpeckers, sapsuckers, northern flickers, nuthatches, an astonishing bustle of wildflowers, buzzing insects, song birds and other wildlife including deer, bears, and even Pacific fishers. Mornings are little short of dazzling.
The teams of biologists who began their surveys in 2014 were led by Dr. Chad Hanson (Director, John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute) and senior biologist Tonja Chi. For a thorough study, both burned and unburned forest plots were randomly selected across national forests of the Sierra Nevadas. Surveys were conducted in triplicate, within 300-hectare plots. Each plot contained three 100-hectare subplots, making it convenient for three biologists to survey one subplot at a time. 
                                                 Black-backed woodpecker.
Preliminary results indicate that nesting black-backed woodpeckers are found almost exclusively in recently burned forests. The woodpeckers are also found in unburned, “beetle kill” forests (with snags that are abundant with beetle larvae).  In both forests, the common denominator for black-backed woodpeckers is high densities of snags. True to their reputation as keystone species, the woodpeckers provide nests for a host of other birds including mountain bluebirds, western bluebirds, wrens, nuthatches, mountain chickadees and even for squirrels. During the 2015 surveys, team members also documented other rare birds in the post-fire forests, including the northern goshawk, California spotted owls, and Williamson's sapsucker – all in post-fire forests.
These forests typically include areas that have burned with high severity (where most trees turn into snags), moderate severity (anywhere between one quarter and three quarters of the trees had turned into snags) and low severity (where it’s mostly the understory that has burned). While fires may scorch large patches, many trees charred by the flames remain alive at the crown. They flush with new growth soon after the burn. However, post-fire forests are still misunderstood and routinely logged, so they are highly threatened habitats.
                                                 Pileated woodpecker
According to many experts, fire and black-backed woodpeckers are inextricably linked. The long-term black-backed woodpecker study will continue through the 2016 field season and is anticipated to corroborate results of existing data from other sources, and to provide valuable data about the woodpecker’s habitat uses.  Solid estimates of the Sierra Nevada-Cascades population of black-backed woodpeckers are also expected to result from the study. 
Many other observations are revealing the high value of post-fire forests. A year after the King Fire in El Dorado National Forest, carpets of conifer seedlings were observed rising from the ashes along with three rare plants. One of them, the longfruit jewelflower (first described by Glen Clifton and Roy Buck in 2007), had never been sighted in El Dorado before. Two years after the 2013 Rim Fire in Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest, vast areas with mature pines that were presumed dead had bounced back to life. Seedlings were popping up everywhere in the high-intensity burn areas. 
Authors Jon Keeley and others demystify the abundance of regenerating plants by explaining the “fire-generated chemical stimulus for germination” found in many plant families.” An exciting new book, The Ecological Importance of Mixed-Severity Fires: Nature’s Phoenix (edited by Dominick DellaSalla and Chad Hanson), gives us dozens of examples of the high biodiversity found in post-fire forests, and an ever-increasing number of studies are speaking reams about the value of forests after wildfire.

Author Bio

Maya is a biologist and writer who worked with the black-backed woodpecker team in 2014 and filmed them in 2015. She has written Web of Water: Life in Redwood Creek and Notes from the Field (Golden Gate Parks Conservancy Press); Tapping the Fire, Turning the Steam: Securing the Future with Geothermal Energy (World Wide Fund for Nature); Heart of the Tearing: Poems (Red Dust Press); and Keel Bone (Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize; Bear Star Press). She has received writing awards from Flyway Journal, Headlands Center for the Arts, Hedgebrook Foundation, and Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation and filming awards from Patagonia, Sacramento Audubon Society (for the Searching for Gold Spot project) and the Save Our Seas Foundation (For the Turtle Diaries project).

Playing Environmental Jenga


Jenga is a game . . . where players take turns removing one block at a time from a tower constructed of 54 blocks. Each block removed is then balanced on top of the tower, creating a progressively taller but less stable structure. The name jenga is derived from a Swahili word meaning "build".   From Wikipedia


Here on the north coast of California, August usually sees all the coves filled with floating masses of Bull Kelp, Nereocystis luetkeana, which is an annual, and food for at least 50 organisms. It covers rocks and washes ashore on the beaches, attracting birds to the flies it draws. Down the coast in Monterey, it's where the sea otters nap. 

This summer the coves look more like this.
photo by Ron LeValley
Bull kelp has been disappearing, presumably eaten by an abundance of spiny sea urchins. Sea urchins are preyed upon by starfish, properly call sea stars, but there has been a die-off of sea stars from what has become known as "Starfish wasting syndrome."

"As voracious predators on the ocean floor, sea stars are ‘keystone’ species that have a large role in maintaining diversity in their ecosystem."

In a study done at the Cornell University , the disease was found to be a parvovirus commonly found in invertebrates.  

"There are 10 million viruses in a drop of seawater, so discovering the virus associated with a marine disease can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. . .Not only is this an important discovery of a virus involved in a mass mortality of marine invertebrates, but this is also the first virus described in a sea star.”

“It’s the experiment of the century for marine ecologists,” said Harvell (of Cornell.) “It is happening at such a large scale to the most important predators of the tidal and sub-tidal zones. Their disappearance is an experiment in ecological upheaval the likes of which we’ve never seen.”

This may be one block too many pulled from the stack.

Act locally, Think globally

Second Chance Rescue started out finding homes for old, mostly small dogs, often ones whose owners had died. It was started in Hayward, California, by Jeanne Mocker and Steve Sapontzis. The idea being that small dogs would be easier to find new homes for, and that there were older people out there who would benefit from having a companion. 

I remember my mother saying, when our last pet died, that she was too old to get another one. I pooh pooh her. Now I am her. I'm not quite at the age where I don't buy green bananas, and I'm as drawn to kittens and puppies as the next person, but to be fair to the animal I take in, it doesn't make sense to adopt a baby anything. (If you've read this blog before, you know I have a 35 year old parrot,  Parrots & PTSD, who can expect to live another 50 years.)

Jeanne and Steve also linked up with animal rescue groups in other counties. For example, the Fresno County shelter couldn't readily find homes for small dogs but could for larger dogs. Steve and Jeanne created a swap program. 

Some of the dogs left at shelters had treatable illnesses, but were virtually un-adoptable. Destine to be euthanized, Steve and Jeanne took them. When they reached eight in number, they decided to attempt to provide medical care for people who wanted to keep their dogs but couldn't afford to treat their illnesses. Then came the recession. People were losing their jobs and homes, and more and more dogs were brought into shelters and humane societies by owners who could no longer afford their pets. Steve and Jeanne realized if they could help low income people keep and care for their animals, fewer would be given up. They linked up with the Fort Bragg Food Bank, and the rest is history. Below is a link to a seven-minute video produced by one of the many volunteers now helping fulfill the needs of low income pet owners on the Coast.

Fundraising efforts and donations have kept this program alive, but Steve and Jeanne absorb most of the cost. To donate, please go to 
and if you know of grants available please let Steve know. 

I try not to be political in public...

In April of this year, four friends and I did a houseboat on the St. Johns River in central Florida. It was too warm to see many manatees: they congregate in cold weather in 74 degree springs, but disperse when it's warm. We saw one and were thrilled. A few weeks before we went to Florida, there was a huge die-off of fish south of where we were going. According to a CNN article, this was due in part to an abundance of El Nino rains in January, rainwater that eventually picked up fertilizer and other pollutants on it way in the Indian River estuaries. This, coupled with a warmer than usual winter, allowed toxic algae to bloom, deleting water of oxygen.
fish kill in the Indian River
This breaks my heart, but what pisses me off is it gets blamed on Obama by Florida's governor, Rick Scott.
"The same suspect (toxic algae) has been linked to the mortality of more than 150 manatees in the area over the past four years, as well as the deaths of brown pelicans, bottlenose dolphins and many species of fish. Earlier this year, an algae bloom in the same waters caused the area's worst fish kill in memory — yet another chapter in the horror story." 

"While dike repairs are years overdue, the pace on the project depends on funding set by Congress, not by the president or the corps. And the condition of the dike would be less critical if state leaders did more to reduce pollution in the water entering and leaving the lake (Okeechobee), along with other waterways throughout the state."Orlando Sentinel Star

The above are quotes from an editorial in the Orlando Sentinel Star. Perhaps, if you're not in Florida, or from Florida, like I am, it won't mean much to you, but it should. Florida may be the canary in the coal mine. But I, for one, am sick and tired of the politicians, like Florida Governor Rick Scott, switching blame for their politically motivated actions to Obama. We are going to be the ones paying the piper for the leadership we select.
In Florida, it gets worse.

Take precautions to prevent deadly bacteria infection  from Florida Today 7/15/16

And how about Climate Change. Even some Republicans, with the exception of Marco Rubio, are getting on board in Florida, and with good reason.

Where's Marco?  From Newsweek

"While the Greater Miami area’s mayors cast around for a big mascot to lead the community on climate change—maybe someone like a pro wrestler—their junior senator has been a no-show, and was so even before primary politics took him away from home and the Senate. Area civic leaders, facing the greatest threat in history to the future of their community, if not their state—rising sea levels—are asking, Where’s Marco?"

“This is an issue for people in our party that takes some courage and some coming to terms with, because for so many years it’s been expected that Republicans disregard these concerns,” Curbelo says. “But members are getting there. A few have even come to me with suggestions. More Republicans are coming around to our side. Unfortunately, time is not.”  Newsweek

  In June, Trump, was in California. 

From USAToday "Trump said state officials were simply denying water to Central Valley farmers to prioritize the Delta smelt, a native California fish nearing extinction — or as Trump called it, "a certain kind of three-inch fish.”
Crap like that might actually be given credibility by FOX News buffs, but I, and 37 million other people, live in California. I live on the north coast where we are least affected by the drought, now in its fourth year. I'm on a well. To conserve water, there is a bucket in my shower to catch what would otherwise go down the drain. There's a jug in my sink to keep rinse water from being wasted. I'll spare you the rules on toilet use. But the Donald said, no such dry spell exists.

Trump said, “We’re going to solve your water problem. You have a water problem that is so insane. It is so ridiculous where they’re taking the water and shoving it out to sea. . ."

I sure hope that BS seals Trump's fate in California, and that the next gubernatorial election, Florida finally comes to its senses and gets rid of its buck-naked emperor.





Guest Blog: Jill-Michele Lewis, photographer and poet



Life leaves it marks, all sizes and shapes
Some are hard to see and some you notice at a glance

Some are by nature and some are by hand
Some are deliberate and some are by chance

The Eagle on my shoulder is the freedom I crave
The Ying Yang below is the hope I long to save

The one on my knee is from a slide into third
it’s a jagged line from side to side

The one on my calf really hurt,
but oh what a ride

The dolphin tail on my back began as an escape
that lead me to find true love

The peace I yearn for shines from the sun
artfully scribed just up above

The scar on my soul is vivid but ensconced
It was left by my stolen youth

The symbol on my hip resembles a butterfly in flight
It is a reminder of the truth

The scar on my heart reminds me that you’re gone
Poignant and permanent, like the words of a song

The design on my stomach is fire and words
Consumed by passion and flame is where I belong.

What keeps me going after so many markings
Is the hope and light I see in you

It’s the desire to know the who or the what
That will design the next tattoo


So long as I am of this earth
A beat left within my heart
Whether from near or from afar
There will always be someone that loves you
Heart and Soul, more than life itself

But when my time is done here
If it is to the sky that I do fly
There will be an angel watching over you
I’ll be the flicker of light from up high

But if in heaven they don’t want me
If it is the fire that calls me home
I’ll be the breathe of heat upon your neck
You feel when you’re alone
The tepid breeze at your back
That always keeps you warm


Jill-Michele Lewis was born April 1969 in Florida.  Although she left Miami to further her education, her love of the ocean brought her back.  No matter how far she travels or resides …  She will never be too far from the Florida shores.

She loves sports; softball, swimming, jogging, any and all forms of exercise (although her two left feet keep her from dancing anything more than a VERY SLOW sway) and will pretty much take on any sport that requires a racquet.  She practices martial arts, Tae kwon Do and Jujitsu, as a means of exercise, self-discipline and self-defense. 

A lover of words:  Since she was able to talk, the freedom of expression was always a key point in her life.  The spoken word, words that were sung and eventually the written word.  Recently her love of expression and the desire to communicate on an even larger scale led her to the study of the Spanish language.  Although still not perfect, this is now another language of words to choose from as means to express herself.  Words are like butterflies.  They are cocooned until they mature to full thoughts and sentiments and then long to be set free and to share their beauty with the world.


Mientras que yo sea de esta tierra
Un latido aun dentro de mi corazón
Ya sea de cerca o de lejos
Siempre habrá alguien que te ama
Corazón y alma, más que la vida misma

Pero cuando mi tiempo aquí ha terminado
Si es para el cielo que yo vuelo
Habrá un ángel que velara por ti
Voy a ser el parpadeo de la luz desde lo alto

Pero si en el cielo no me quieren
Si es el fuego que me llama a casa
Voy a ser el soplo de calor sobre tu cuello
Que sientes cuando estás solo
La brisa tibia en la espalda
Que siempre te mantiene cálido


La vida deja que marca todos los tamaños y formas
Algunos son difíciles de ver y algunos que notan a simple vista

Algunos son de naturaleza y algunos son a mano
Algunos son deliberada y algunos son por casualidad

El águila en el hombro es la libertad que anhelan
El Ying Yang a continuación es la esperanza me largo para ahorrar

El de mi rodilla es de una caída en la tercera
es una línea quebrada de lado a lado

El de mi pantorrilla realmente duele,
pero oh qué un paseo

La cola del delfín en mi espalda comenzó como un escape
que me llevan a encontrar el amor verdadero

La paz os añoro brilla el sol
ingeniosamente descrito justo arriba

La cicatriz en mi alma está viva pero ensconced
Se dejó por mi juventud robada

El símbolo en mi cadera se asemeja a una mariposa en vuelo
Es un recordatorio de la verdad

La cicatriz en mi corazón recuerda que te has ido
Conmovedor y permanente, como las palabras de una canción

El diseño en el estómago es el fuego y las palabras
Consumido por la pasión y la llama es donde pertenezco.

Lo que me mantiene después de tantas marcas
Es la esperanza y la luz que veo en ti

Es el deseo de conocer el quién o el qué
Eso será diseñar el próximo tatuaje


Jill-Michele Lewis nació abril 1969 en Florida. Aunque salió de Miami para continuar su educación, su amor por el mar la trajo de vuelta a Miami. No importa lo lejos que viaje o viva ... Nunca estará demasiado lejos de las costas de la Florida.

A ella le encanta el deporte; softbol, natación, correr, cualquier y todas las formas de ejercicio (aunque sus dos pies izquierdos le impiden bailar nada más que una influencia muy lento) y sin lugar a dudas jugara cualquier deporte que requiera de una raqueta. Ella practica artes marciales, Tae Kwon Do y jiu-jitsu, como una forma de ejercicio, la autodisciplina y la autodefensa.

Amante de las palabras: Desde que era capaz de hablar, la libertad de expresión siempre fue un punto clave en su vida. La palabra hablada, las palabras que se cantaban y, finalmente, la palabra escrita. Recientemente su amor por la expresión y el deseo de comunicarse en una escala aún mayor la llevó al estudio de la lengua española. Aunque todavía no es perfecto, este es ahora otro lenguaje de palabras para elegir como medio para expresarse. Las palabras son como las mariposas. Están en capullo hasta que maduran a pensamientos y sentimientos completos que luego ansían ser puestas en libertad, para compartir su belleza con el mundo.

Happy Hunters

Years ago, my friend Teresa and I took her then 15 year old son, Robbie, to kayak the Johnstone Strait in British Columbia. We had two desires: to see Orcas and to see a Spirit Bear. Orcas we saw in abundance, once so close it was nearly heart-stopping. And we saw a black bear, but not a Spirit Bear, the unique white subspecies of the black bear.

Here's a link to more information on Kermode, the Inuit name for the rare white bear. This is a quote from

"Due to their special color and rarity, the kermode bear is revered by local Native American culture. They are referred to as the spirit bear or ghost bear. According to Native American legend, the spirit bear is a reminder of times past, specifically the white color of ice and snow. The master of the universe created one white bear for every ten black bears as a reminder of the hardships during the ice age. During this period glaciers and cold blanketed the planet. The spirit bear also symbolizes peace and harmony."

The odd-looking bear killed by a hunter last month is finally identified.
A week or so ago, I saw the story about hunters killing what they thought was a cross between a polar bear and a grizzly bear. My first thought was they had killed a Spirit Bear. It turns out, according this article, that they had "harvested" a blonde grizzle bear.
Odd-looking bear killed by hunter isn’t a grolar or pizzly after all  

I'll leave it to you to be sickened or not. 

Spirit Bear video 

Where do all the Horses go?

My novel, The Outside of a Horse, was published six years ago. It's the story of a daughter's struggle to help her war veteran father deal with his wounds through their shared love of horses. It met with some success and though it was a Scholastic Book Fair selection, the publisher decided it was too dark for middle-grade readers, and would not be of interest to the dystopian-loving, vampire-reading, age-appropriate, young adult audience. It never came out as a more affordable trade paperback.

Doggy-Dog World: Dystopia & Utopia

Premarin: The horses, the drugs, the women | TUESDAY'S HORSEI don't write for the fun of it. I write to inform. There are millions of animals living real dystopian lives: Captive dolphins and Orcas, chimpanzees in research, elephants is circuses, dogs in puppy mills and research facilities, and thousands of horses--like Premarin mares. (The hormone replacement drug Premarin is made from Pregnant Mare Urine.)

This article from USA Today makes it clear nothing has changed. When I was researching The Outside of a Horse, the number of horses slaughtered annually was 100,000. It's now 150,000. The number of organizations that rescue them has also increased, but there are too few and the few there are are always strapped for funds. This USA Today story is about a guy who makes his living either selling horses to slaughterhouses, mostly in Mexico, or ransoming them. If you've got the stomach, it's below.

"The USDA tracks horses that are shipped to Canada and Mexico but does not identify the reasons for the export, which could range from slaughter to sales to equestrians.The numbers indicate the(US) slaughter ban only shifted the industry: In 2006, when the United States still housed slaughterhouses, about 36,000 equines crossed into Canada and Mexico. Those numbers have steadily ticked up, and in 2014, more than 105,000 horses crossed the southern border while 45,000 went north."

picture by Patty Joslyn at the Circle of Horses   

Circle of Horses

What can you do? Donate to an Equine therapy center, or one of the many rescue facilities. And if you are post-menopausal, DON'T USE PREMARIN as your replacement hormone drug.

Bodybuilding Couple Starved, Abused Horses - ...

Something to Cluck about.

until now has been an oxymoron.

In all the years I've been writing this blog, I've never written about a commercial establishment, but this got my attention and I think it's worth sharing. They are also paying their employees between $14 and $17 an hour.

The link above it to their website, but here is their story.  Lucky California. We have the only two locations SO FAR: San Francisco and Pleasanton.

Leading and inspiring change with the first certified organic fast food.

Every part of the Organic Coup’s business is built and inspired by our years working at Costco Wholesale. The philosophies learned at Costco have become our foundation at The Coup. We are a business filled with passionate people pushing for social change.

What’s the story behind our name? Truth be told, it started out as a typo when spelling the word “coop” while first hatching out the plan (pun intended) for an entirely new fast food concept. But, this typo actually captured the spirit of our mission and we knew we had our name.  A “coup” is a takeover – and that’s our vision: an organic takeover of the fast food industry. Totally disruptive and bold. The Organic Coup represents a new day and a new attitude about fast food – fast food can be good food.

The Coup believes in food that is raised within the Organic USDA standards.  These standards do not allow Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), toxic chemicals and pesticides, or the use of antibiotics or added hormones in livestock.  We believe in sustainability, not just for the quality of life today, but also for the future.
We believe in “Team Coup” (our employees) and we are investing in them with a livable wage that sets a new standard in fast food.

We are building an army of Coup Nation Ambassadors as the food movement is at its tipping point. Coup Nation Ambassadors – people like you – are changing the status quo by transforming the conventional and unsustainable food system through vision and action. The simple act of buying a certified organic sandwich makes you an agent of change.

We are seeing the future of food come from people with deep courage, powerful voices and unwavering vision who want to make a positive impact.  Please join us at The Organic Coup in eating your everyday peaceful protest.

Bird Safety

Luckily, my cat, Blue, isn't interested in birds. He's hell on chipmunks, but not birds. This morning, I received this email from a friend. 
"Talking about cats, Luna had become a bird killing machine (one, sometimes two, a day). In desperation I went on line and found a site - “Bird be safe.” Apparently birds can see bright colors - I bought a simple cotton collar from the site and- voila- no more dead bird gifts. I mean none. She seems almost proud of her collar and, although she can take it off easily, she generally doesn’t. If you have friends with a similar problem you might want to pass this along." 
pet cat kills between one and 34 birds a year, while a feral cat kills ... 
It's well known that cats kill millions of birds a year--Estimated at 3.7 million. If there is something that works to cut down on that number, it has to worth a try.
Want to Stop Your Cat From Killing Birds? Dress It Up Like a Clown
 If any of you try it, I'd love to hear back.

P.S. I got this from a bird-rehabilitater of the first order.
"That bright collar sounds like a fine idea. Yes, songbirds and many others can see ultraviolet light, for one thing, which creates a kind of neon glow. For another, most diurnal birds have at least four types of color cones in their retina, RGB and violet. We have three - RGB. Other non-primate mammals, most of them, have two- blue and green. Birds react strongly to color for display and possibly territory protection, and in hunters, in getting food. What a simple solution!"

A Case of the Pot calling the Kettle Black

Bumble bees pictures (1)
A few years ago, on one of our many chilly mornings, I found five or six bumblebees all snuggled together in a single flower. Though it was pretty obvious they were bundled  for warmth, I wanted to know why they'd chosen this method. I called my go-to person on all science questions, botanist Teresa Sholars. She said some species of plants actually increase their metabolism at night to attract bees. Bumblebees shiver to keep warm. A bunch of shivering bumblebees inside a flower insure they will become covered in pollen, and insuring pollination for the flower. How bloody cool is that!
 I, unlike bees, love sleeping in cold room with lots of blankets. This morning, I found a very numb bumblebee in my bathroom sink. At first I thought it was dead, but when a leg moved, I edged it onto a piece of toilet paper and carried it outside.

Nearly every morning, I'm awakened by ravens gathering to follow my animal-loving, but rather peculiar neighbor, who goes by, rain or shine, just at dawn, pulling a cooler full of stale bread, which she drags to the top hill to feed the assemblage. 

This morning, I'm on my upper deck trying to encourage my bee, which has crawled off the toilet paper and is now on my fingertip, into a nasturtium bloom, when I hear my neighbor coming along the road, talking to the ravens, which are flying along behind her, and I think aloud-- "Charlotte, you poor old thing, you're not all there," --then I catch sight of my reflection in the sliding glass door. Staring back at me is a seventy-plus-year-old woman, in her pajamas, with a severe case of bed-hair, and a bumblebee on the tip of her finger. 

P.S. I ended up carrying the bumblebee downstairs, put it on a piece of paper near a lamp, gave it a drop of honey, and covered it with plastic lid with a breathing hole. It drank the honey, and when it warmed up and started to buzz, I took it outside and let it go.

"The bumblebee is either sick, too old or too cold to fly. If it is sick or infected with a parasite then I'm afraid there is not much that can be done. However if you find a grounded bumblebee early in the year, just at the start of the first warmer days, then it is probably a queen. She may have been caught out in a sudden shower or a cold spell. If the temperature of the thorax falls below 30 oC the bumblebee cannot take off (see temperature regulation). The best thing you can do it pick her up using a piece of paper or card, put her somewhere warmer, and feed her. When she has warmed and fed she will most likely fly off. You can feed her using a 30/70 mixture of honey and water in a pipette or eye dropper, or just a drop of this on a suitable surface within her reach, but be careful not to wet her hair or get her sticky. By saving a queen you may have saved an entire nest. If the weather is really unsuitable for letting her go, or if it is getting dark, you can keep her for a day or so if you are willing to feed her."

Pretty Bird and then some, revisited.

 I wrote this post last month then came across this video today. Too cute not to share.

As someone owned lock, stock, and barrel by this parrot for the last 35 years, I found this article a fun read. It was sent to me by Bill Bonvie, a fellow writer and author of Repeat Offenders.

Parrots Are a Lot More
Than ‘Pretty Birdfrom the NYTimes by Natalie Angier.

‘Feathered Primates’ 

"Parrot partisans say the birds easily rival the great apes and dolphins in all-around braininess and resourcefulness, and may be the only animals apart from humans capable of dancing to the beat."


"The most celebrated dancing parrot is Snowball, a sulfur-crested cockatoo with a trademarked name whose YouTube dance performances to Queen, Michael Jackson and the Backstreet Boys have been viewed some 15 million times."


Hopi was hand-raised and came from a breeder. India, Mexico, South Africa are the source of many illegally imported parrots, none of which, if they survive, will ever make good pets. The stress alone can cause them to sicken and die. If you want to own a parrot, please get one that is hand-raised, preferably by you, and purchased from a breeder. Also recognize, it will be lifelong commitment. They can live 80 or more years, and are messy to a fault. Ask any of my friends.

 Parrots make up for almost 50% of bird trade in India, experts say


  Unsustainable Grey Parrot Trade in South Africa | National Geographic ...

Makes me ashamed of my attempt to grow my own potatoes

Snow Crab
Last night a group of friends got together for an Alaskan snow crab dinner. Here on the north coast of California it is dungeness crab season, except it isn't. Because of domoic acid poisoning, a deadly neurotoxin, this year's crab season remains closed. I brought all the shells home to compost. This morning, I read this story about a family raising 6000 lbs of food on a tenth of an acre. They make their own gasoline out of cooking oil and only use $12 a month in electricity. I was already feeling ashamed about how much crab I ate last night, then wake up to a reminder of what we each could do to become less of a burden on the planet. I'll be out composting the crab shells while you enjoy the video.

Dungeness crab

 "Domoic acid, which can cause seizures or death in humans, began showing up in crabs after colossal algae blooms caused by unusually warm ocean waters started disgorging the neurotoxin in April. Recent state testing still detected it in a few northern areas such as Fort Bragg, and it’s those test areas that commercial crabbers are hoping will come up clean soon so the season has a chance of finally starting." SFGate story  By Kevin Fagan and Jenna Lyons


story by Seth M

Left to Starve

If you've read this blog even once, you know that I come down on the side of animals whether it's to rant against the horrors we inflict when we lock them in cages to test our drugs, cosmetics, pesticides, and chemicals on them, or make them do tricks for our amusement. If any of these things make your stomach turn, you're my choir. I can only hope that once in a while a potential new member stumbles upon one of these posts and wants to help. And it's why I write for children, who are our last best hope to make us a more moral species.

Left to Starve
"Ponso is one of dozens of chimps who were stranded on a string of abandoned islands after the New York Blood Center (NYBC) finished years of painful testing on them."

Chimp Abandoned On Island Welcomes Rescuers With Open Arms

 By Ameena Schelling for the Dodo

 "The decision was met with widespread condemnation. At the time, Jane Goodall called the announcement "completely shocking and unacceptable." Duke University primatologist Brian Hare told the New York Times, "Never, ever have I seen anything even remotely as disgusting as this."

Oddball and the Fairy penguins

From my friend, Molly, in Australia
Adding this to my bucket list.
"Tomorrow we are going camping to a little island called Phillip Island. It is home to these cute Fairy penguins  There is a movie called Oddball that I watched. It's a true story (that takes place on a different island near us). All the penguin were getting eaten by foxes, which had learnt to swim over to this island. So the sent a dog called Oddball to scare away the foxes. Oddball did that and he loved those penguins. I don't know if you have heard of it before, but it was really cute. I found this picture for you of Oddball the dog with a penguin and, of some fairy penguins too."

I looked on Netflix w/out luck.