Friday, February 15, 2013


Suddenly he's discovered the fireplace and is very interested to know where it leads.  And i'll apparently be looking for something a little heavier to keep him out...maybe since the sun's finally out he realized christmas time must be over and he didn't get any of the things he asked for so he's looking for santa, who must have gotten stuck because he was overloaded with toys for him.  He was, after all, a very good cat last year.

Podclub sort of...Animals

Well me and my phone had an argument about wether or not it should download this week's podcast pick Hen house, and well, after trying a few times it disappeared completely and I gave up.  So I decided to just dedicate this blog to animals and maybe somewhat to animal cruelty which is what the podcast was suppose to be about (I think).

When I first got married I would ride along with my cattle hauling husband just to be with him.  It wasn't too bad unless I needed a restroom in the middle of the night when nothing is open and parking spots for truck and trailer are few and far between.  When we went to the packing plants (or slaughterhouses if you don't know what that is) I knew what happened there and had heard the stories but did my best to not think about it.  I stayed in the truck and distracted myself.  One night we had to wait for a truck to unload in front of us.  It had a side load trailer on and for the sake of not having to describe it to you I'll just say they are really old and hard on the cows and should be illegal.  I guess you could say what's the difference if they're just going to die as soon as they get in the plant, but I sat there and watched the cows (who are already weak and old and thats why they're there) stagger off barely able to stand because of the long ride in that particular kind of trailer.  I started crying and asked why they were acting like that and was told it was the trailer and that they shouldn't even be using it.  I watched them finally make it out of the chute and slowly, painfully get herded towards the plant doors.  I don't know what those animals felt.  Maybe relief for a moment as they felt solid ground, but the moment they started towards the doors you could tell they knew what was inside and became immediately terrified.  Maybe they smelled the death awaiting them, maybe they didn't know and since I was already upset I imagined they must be.  I don't really know why this particular group of cows affected me so much.  I've watched other groups walk that walk before and since then and while I do think its sad its never caused me to refuse to return to that particular plant ever again or actually any plant for awhile.  It didn't make me stop eating meat, but it did give me a lot more respect for how it's gotten.  I'm not going to go into the eating meat debate here but I will say that even though sometimes I feel like people get a little too crazy with animal rights, I'm glad they're there fighting for them.  They have no voice and a lot of times are forgotten because they're old and weak and not worth anything anymore so they're about to be shipped off to the packing house, but they still deserve the dignity and respect that all life deserves.

All right so there's my animal cruelty story.  The other thing that happened when I got married was that my sister in law gave me this perfect little grey and white kitten.  It was my first animal outside of the ones we had when I was little and the not one of those ever bonded with me like this kitten did.  His name was Rusty and he was feisty and independent and just so full of life and curiosity.  I didn't even consider keeping him inside.  Of course he was welcome inside, but he came and went as he pleased.  I didn't live in a safe area really.  The little boy across from us thought shooting things with his BB gun was cool (which made me want to shoot him with said gun) and the freeway was pretty close.  He disappeared for days at a time and I would worry about him, but I felt like limiting his life so that I could have him a little bit longer would be wrong.  Some cats are obviously happy as inside cats and he was obviously not.  He always came home though.  For ten years he taught me things about loyalty and love and friendship.  He was there for me when no one else was, became uncharacteristically snugly when I was alone and needed it the most.  Every year at halloween, 4th of july, and new years I'd rush home from wherever I was to lock him up in whatever house we were living in because I would worry that some partying teenagers would catch him and torture him for fun because I'd heard of it happening.  Every time he disappeared for too long I'd spend some time outside calling him and he'd eventually hear me and come running and I can't tell you the happiness of seeing that grey shape coming towards me declaring that he'd escaped danger once again.  Other cats came and went and of course I loved and mourned them too but every time I'd feel relief that it wasn't Rusty that didn't survive the dogs or the cars.  I liked to imagine him having grand adventures, getting more skilled in his various cat tricks every time.  The morning he disappeared for the last time I woke up to dogs outside our window.  He had a habit of leading them to where we were in the house if he thought he couldn't get away because he knew we'd come out and chase them off.  I leapt from the bed and ran out the door, blind, in my pajamas, and crazy haired yelling at the dog, who of course immediately realized he was dealing with a crazy person and left.  At that point I realized our landlord was also outside yelling and since I could see his general grey shape safe and sound on the deck I went back inside.  That was the last time I saw him.  I called and watched for him for months, laid in bed unable to sleep because all I could think about was how I didn't check to see if he was hurt.  He'd been okay so many other times I'd taken it for granted.  I would like to pretend that he went on one last grand adventure and is still out there roaming.  I still catch myself watching for him sometimes even though it's been almost a year and I know he probably didn't make it past that last day.  Looking back, even though it was painful for me and still is, I'm glad I let him live as he wanted.  He lived a long time and I'm also glad he went out doing what he loved exploring and being the neighborhoods top cat as opposed to getting old and sick and dying slowly.  I worry that eventually that will happen to Caspian because he's definitely the happy indoors kind of cat.  Right now though he is full of life and generally runs this house and its occupants with the flicks of his tail.

Well it looks like this blog is turning into sort of a downer so sorry for that.  I guess what I want to say is that having these special animals in my life has shown me how unique they all are.  I wouldn't trade away any my time with them to escape the pain of losing them.  They aren't interchangeable, disposable, or useless.  They are beautiful and each one is unique and can bring something into our lives that wasn't there before if we let them.  There are people out there that are okay with hurting them because they don't understand that.  To them they are just commodities, or pointless because they don't bring them any personal gain.  I can't imagine what brings them to that point other than greed and maybe sometimes just conditioning and how they were brought up.  Maybe somehow they just stop seeing the beauty in life, and thus they stop caring about it.  That is on its own incredibly sad and makes me think maybe we should be pitying them too.  I'm just glad there are people out there watching for it, so that as sad as these people are they can (hopefully) be kept away from the animals they should never have been around.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Bees and Body Language

Stuff You Should Know; How Bees Work

I have mixed feelings about bees.  Kind of like how I feel about birds I guess.  I think their beautiful and interesting but I don't really want them anywhere near me.  Maybe comparing them to how I feel about birds is unfair actually, because birds cause genuine terror when they get too close to me and bees cause more of a mild concern.  I can only remember being stung once, though I think its happened a few more times than that.  I was playing outside, in the mud if i remember correctly, when a bee decided I was getting too close and stung me in the arm.  I think I was more surprised than hurt really but thats when I learned my first facts about bees.  That it only stung me because it thought I was a threat, and that it probably died afterwards.  Which of course gave me this extremely romanticized image of some brave little bee throwing itself tragically into the way of danger to save its family, only it was even more sad because that danger was only me and I had no interest in finding his hive or stealing his honey.  This view never really changed much I guess.  I grew up hating creepy crawlies that showed up uninvited in the house or just grossed me out in general because of how they looked or behaved.  With bees though I always had this mental image of them being a little more mysterious and special.  I knew they made honey (though if you had told me it was basically their vomit at that point I would have been less than thrilled), wax, these beautiful little homes where they lived together under some sort of monarchy, and unlike other bugs that creep around and hide in dark places they seemed to love sunshine and flowers and family so much they would die for it without a second thought.  I knew enough to stay away from them because I didn't want to get stung or cause one to die, but I didn't exactly develop any sort major fear about them.  That is until I discovered wasps and they seemed like the villains of the bee world, taking on their general form but turning into some sort of monster.  I know that seems silly because even wasps have a beauty about them, but I think once I learned they could sting as much as they wanted without dying they became like any other bug I would run away from rather than kill or swat away.  Even now if a wasp is around I go back inside, but if its just a normal bee I might just try to stay out of its way unless it seems particularly interested in me.  

This podcast seemed like a good review of things I already knew about bees, there is so much to say about them I can see why they just quickly mentioned some things but I kept wishing they would just focus on a few interesting things maybe not so well known.  I also found it a little distracting that they kept presenting information in a way that made it seem like they weren't quite sure of it or that it was sort of just their impression but they didn't actually research it.  Maybe it was just my own perception of how they talked, or maybe they did it on purpose to make it seem like more of a discussion than a lecture.  I did enjoy listening to it though so i'll probably give some of the other ones a chance before I decide I need to hear facts from people who seem a little more sure about them.  

My favorite thing about bees is their dance.  They come back from foraging and tell others how to find food by dancing in a figure eight pattern that varies with distance and quality.  I love that they have their own little language and that its a dancing language.  Hearing about it on the podcast reminded me of a short article I read in a book about how its possible that bees see the sixth dimension where things like quarks live.  A mathematician (Barbara Shipman) who just happened to grow up around bees noticed that their dance followed the lines of a sixth dimensional object called a flag manifold.  I won't try to explain it because thats about as much as I understood.  I don't think its been proven and since this was a book about monsters, myths, and legends I doubt it's all that accepted by other scientists, but I loved the idea of it and as mysterious and unique as bees are it wouldn't surprise me.