Celery Sing-Along

I'm rediscovering the deliciousness of creamy peanut butter this summer. Last week the preschoolers dipped apple slices in peanut butter. Today they made good old "ants on a log"; celery filled with peanut butter and decorated with raisins. While I was assisting in the construction of these gourmet delicacies I kept trying to remember the bump on a log song. It was difficult to concentrate when the lovely peanut butter smell kept enfolding me. Up from the deep, mucky recesses of my brain I finally got an image of the Magic Drawing Board on the 1950s Captain Kangaroo show. The lyrics percolated up like slow bubbles in a peanut butter geyser:

There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea

There's a hole in the bottom of the sea
There's a hole in the bottom of the sea
There's a hole, there's a hole
There's a hole in the bottom of the sea.

There's a log in the hole in the bottom of the sea
There's a log in the hole in the bottom of the sea
There's a log, there's a log
There's a log in the hole in the bottom of the sea.

There's a branch on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea
There's a branch on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea
There's a branch, there's a branch
There's a branch on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea.

There's a bump on the branch on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea
There's a bump on the branch on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea
There's a bump, there's a bump
There's a bump on the branch on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea.

There's a frog on the bump on the branch on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea
There's a frog on the bump on the branch on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea
There's a frog, there's a frog
There's a frog on the bump on the branch on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea.

There's a tail on the frog on the bump on the branch on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea
There's a tail on the frog on the bump on the branch on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea
There's a tail, there's a tail
There's a tail on the frog on the bump on the branch on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea.

There's a speck on the tail on the frog on the bump on the branch on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea
There's a speck on the tail on the frog on the bump on the branch on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea
There's a speck, there's a speck
There's a speck on the tail on the frog on the bump on the branch on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea.

There's a fleck on the speck on the tail on the frog on the bump on the branch on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea
There's a fleck on the speck on the tail on the frog on the bump on the branch on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea
There's a fleck, there's a fleck
There's a fleck on the speck on the tail on the frog on the bump on the branch on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea.

It's good to have that settled!

Unfortunately, I can't seem to find my Bela Fleck cd now! Plus, I have an urge to wade in the mud-bottom of Willow Creek in Pierce, Nebraska as it was in the late Sixties. O my frogs, polliwogs and squishy, slurpy, muddy toes all cool and refreshed!

A peanut sat on a railroad track,
His heart was all a-flutter,
Round the bend came Number Ten.
Toot! Toot! Peanut butter! SQUISH!


Oh, I went down South
For to see my Sal
Sing Polly wolly doodle all the day
My Sal, she is
A spunky gal
Sing Polly wolly doodle all the day
Fare thee well, Fare thee well,
Fare thee well my fairy fay
For I'm going to Lou'siana
For to see my Susyanna
Sing Polly wolly doodle all the day

Oh, a grasshopper sittin'
On a railroad track
Sing Polly wolly doodle all the day
A-pickin' his teeth
With a carpet tack
Sing Polly wolly doodle all the day
Fare thee well,Fare thee well,
Fare thee well my fairy fay
For I'm going to Lou'siana
For to see my Susyanna
Sing Polly wolly doodle all the day

My grocery store hasn't begun restocking Peter Pan peanut butter after the salmonella problem of last winter. I guess I'll have to choose Skippy or Jif. [And if I ever happen to become a hardcore traditional condo owner, I will name my dachsunds Skippy, Jif, and Peter Pan. ] So maybe next time I'll visualize that celery as fleas on a dachsund!
© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Leonard Bernstein, the snail, and I

Recharged my creative batteries this afternoon watching a snail travel along the edge and then crisscross a canna leaf. I'm sure I was intending to accomplish something important when I sat down at the computer, but the snail just outside the window was hypnotizing.

A soundtrack for the snail's ballet slowly percolated to consciousness--one of the slow movements of Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals." Which movement was it? Not the elephant. Not the famous swan. Of course it was the tortoises.

Leonard Bernstein explained it far better in his classic 1962 televised New York Philharmonic Young People's Concert which we watched on our little black and white t.v. Basically, the tortoises movement is the can-can song in very slo-mo.

The Philharmonic concerts on CBS were truly special and worth viewing. Somewhere along the line "a television special" stopped meaning quality cultural programming, and began to mean Geraldo in search of Jimmy Hoffa in the basement of a Dunkin' Donuts. I'd sure rather watch a snail.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Ducks Like Rain, Root Beer, and Pretzels

The thunderstorm hit today slightly before class dismissal, a mite earlier than yesterday when we had already taken the children to the playground. Two things surprised me as we sat in a circle for a sing-along:

1. These children are too young to remember Hurricane Katrina. For months after the hurricane kids worried about Katrina flooding whenever we heard thunder.

2. I couldn't remember the words to the Raffi song, "Ducks Like Rain." In the late Eighties I thought those lyrics would never, ever leave my head.

My Woolly Mammoth son doesn't remember back when he was a Raffi duck song addict. It's one of those things I'll toast him with at his wedding rehearsal dinner, along with his fondness for the music from Disney's "Little Mermaid" at naptime (Everything's better down where it's wetter, take it from me!), rainbows, goldfish, and hot air balloons.

I drove thousands of miles in the blue Ford Aerostar minivan with Raffi singing duck songs for little Steven in his carseat. When we weren't driving, I was pushing him in his stroller around the Hafer Park duck pond on Bryant in Edmond, Oklahoma. [It's a very nice duck pond, renovated in 2004.] Once little Steven could walk, I hauled him out of the duck pond when he fell in due to over-duck-dose excitement. His older brothers tended to fall into fishing lakes and the prairie dog habitat at the Henry Doorly Zoo. It's good for each sibling to find his own niche!

In searching for the "Ducks Like Rain" song I found an online video as performed by Dubya. It's not a great video, but it has the whole song.

Ducks like rain! Ducks like rain!
Ducks like splishy splashing in the rain.
Ducks like rain! Ducks like rain!
Ducks llike the rainy weather
Water running off their feathers
Ducks like splishy splashing in the rain

In those politically incorrect Aerostar days the Duck Trifecta was "Ducks Like Rain", "Five Little Ducks Went Out to Play", and "Six Little Ducks That I Once Knew." The six little ducks included:

Fat ones, skinny ones,
Fair ones, too
But the one little duck
With the feather on his back
He led the others
With a quack, quack, quack

When the five little ducks went over the hills and far away back in those days, only the mother duck went quack, quack, quack to call them back. Papa Duck was probably staying at the Embassy Suites and enjoying the complimentary breakfasts and happy hours.

If you are of a certain AARP-age, you may remember "Little White Duck." It was recorded by Burl Ives, Danny Kaye, and others for children's records in the Fifties:

Little White Duck
Written by: Bernard Zaritzky and Walt Barrows - © 1950

There's a little white duck sitting in the water
a little white duck doing what he oughter
he took a bite of a lily pad
flapped his wings and he said
"I'm glad I'm a little white duck sitting in the water
quack! quack! quack!"

There's a little green frog swimming in the water
a little green frog doing what he oughter
he jumped right off of the lily pad
that the little duck bit and he said
"I'm glad I'm a little green frog swimming in the water
ribbit! ribbit! ribbit!"

There's a little black bug floating on the water
a little black bug doing what he oughter
he tickled the frog on the lily pad
that the little duck bit and he said "I'm glad
I'm a little black bug floating on the water
bzzz! bzzz! bzzz!"

There's a little red snake playing in the water
a little red snake doing what he oughter
he frightened the duck and the frog so bad
he ate the bug and he said "I'm glad
I'm a little red snake playing in the water
hiss! hiss! hiss!"

Now there's nobody left sitting in the water
nobody left doing what he oughter
there's nothing left but the lily pad
the duck and the frog ran away, I'm sad
'cause there's nobody left sitting in the water
boo! hoo! hoo!

My little sister had an Australian preschool teacher who sang this song, so we always sang it with an Aussie accent. We loved rhyming water with daughter:

Have You Seen the Little Ducks

Have you seen the little ducks
Walking to the water
Father, mother, baby duck
Grand-mama and daughter

Root beer and pretzels were the special treats I used for distracting my little sons during tornado warnings in Omaha and Oklahoma. I have some fond memories of our basement storm parties. Having a festive family ritual for potentially scary events kept us calm and focused on the joy of family. If I'm ever going to be wiped off the face of the earth in some act-of-God catastrophe, please let me enjoy my last moments with good company, duck songs, pretzels, and root beer!

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Thanks, Darth, I needed that!

I never thought I'd be thanking the Creepy Veep for inspiring an elementary art lesson , but it's definitely time for fracturing some fairy tales. Yes, the Constitution is falling! Oh, gosh! We must go and tell the king! Henny Penny Goes to Washington:

What is that awful smell???

"White House of Mirrors" 6/24/07 editorial NYTimes

...Vice President Dick Cheney sets the gold standard, placing himself not just above Congress and the courts but above Mr. Bush himself. For the last four years, he has been defying a presidential order requiring executive branch agencies to account for the classified information they handle. When the agency that enforces this rule tried to do its job, Mr. Cheney proposed abolishing the agency.

Mr. Cheney, who has been at the heart of the administration’s darkest episodes, has bizarre reasons for doing that. The Times reported that the vice president does not consider himself a mere member of the executive branch. No, he decided the vice president is also a lawmaker — because he is titular president of the Senate — and does not have to answer to the executive branch. That is absurd, but if that’s how he wants it, we presume Mr. Cheney will stop claiming executive privilege to withhold information from his fellow congressmen.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Ridin' & ropin'

Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.

Will Rogers

Get along little dust bunnies. It's time for me to drive the herd to the summer range. Moving the computer to greener pastures is a job for Gus and Call straight out of Lonesome Dove . Only things missing are Blue Duck, those swarming water snakes, and Pea Eye wandering around naked in the snow. I could be wrong on some of that, since I read Lonesome Dove just after moving to Texas in 1990. The book took longer to read than it took the Hat Creek gang to drive those dogies from Texas to Montana.

Rope tricks are on my mind whenever I have to lasso the computer cords. I've come a long way from my dude ranch days. Back then I had to use Sharpies and masking tape to make tags for each end of each cord so I could get it all plugged back together and working. Back then I had techno teen cowboys here at the ranch to do most of the herding and riding fences.

Almost visited the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore, Oklahoma, last drive north. Maybe next time. Instead I enjoyed a visit to the beautiful Philbrook Museum gardens in Tulsa. Still remember the exhibit of gorgeous saddles at the Memorial from the last time I visited----in 1962.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


A deep cleansing breath

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Excavation mark!

Eureka! I've dug and sorted down to the surface of my art table! I'm so excited, I'm punctuating with what my little students call "excavation marks".

The haystacks and landslides of collage materials had reached the point where creative work at the table was impossible. I'm intrigued by the ratios of structure and chaos needed to promote learning and creativity. That's one reason I chose to work as a Montessori class assistant this year.

My theory so far is that learning happens best in an uncluttered, structured situation free of emotional stress. We master stringing beads. We match the colored nuts and bolts. We listen to the stories while we sit in the safety of a parent's lap.

Imagination, pretend play, and creativity require somewhat more flexibility, I think. They need the freedom to pull materials from more than one drawer. Building a Braums ice cream store may require using the wooden blocks, the Hot Wheels cars, AND the play dishes.

Art uses learning's structure and imagination's flexibility. Art adds in the analytic process to observe and compose. It requires an uncluttered mind for this analysis. It demands the discipline to master materials to depict, represent, and communicate the observed, analyzed, and composed material. At the artist's best moments, it feels like pure, uncluttered child's play flowing out onto the page.

Just like child's play, the excitement of creation may leave one too tired to clean up the mess. And so, the mess has been blocking artistic play. When I can't make art, I get depressed. Too depressed to tackle the mess. It's an ugly pit to be in, and so I share my progress with the excavation.

Archimedes is supposed to have exclaimed,"Eureka! I've found it!," when he suddenly understood buoyancy in the bathtub back in ancient Greece, as we East High Spartans learned years ago. I exclaimed the same in Target when I found the Sterlite stacking 12 x 12 inch three-drawer units for $2.48!

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


A Keith County Journal junkie

Yellowlegs! Just as I crossed the state line from Kansas into Nebraska on US 75, I spotted a large gray and white bird with yellow legs standing on a fence post. It seemed shaped like a shorebird. What fun, but what?!

Not again! My copy of John Janovy's A Keith County Journal is nowhere to be found. I must have given it away to someone I like, AGAIN. Since Dr. Janovy's book was published in 1978, I bet I've owned six copies. The only books I've read more times are Little Women, and Ron Hansen's Desperadoes.

A Keith County Journal made me the recycler I am today, and cemented my bird-watching relationship with my mother. It gave me permission to seek the divine through observation of the natural world each and every day. It made me want to pop the Doors' LA Woman in the car tape player.

I can't play a biologist, even on t.v. I can't pretend to be religious, but I savor the experiences that fill me with wonder. I'll never forget nor correctly remember Janovy's chat with God who has appeared in the form of a beautiful blonde driving a Mustang convertible. "I think I'll follow my yellowlegs this year," God tells Janovy.

In that brief exchange the cosmic cycles of migrations, seasons, and tire rotations are set forth in humbling priorities for humankind to ponder. To ponder, and to study the field guide to birds as a daily devotion. To consult the owners manual kept in the glove box as an act of penance. To keep watching for the surprise appearance on a fence post.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

Thank you, Lady Bird!

It's a six hundred fifty mile drive from Lincoln, Nebraska to Dallas, but possible for the solo driver. With the cruise control, good music, and cooperative weather it's a very relaxing day for me.

Summer of 1962, our family made the same trip taking two full days to reach Dallas, and three to go back to Lincoln. We three kids sat in the backseat of the '54 Chevy with our little sweaty legs stuck to the car seat and dust blowing in the open windows. We were fussy, irritable, and asked endless "are we there yet" questions, I'm sure. It's possible that we were also having chain reaction carsickness. I don't think we were spilling our grape snowcones that particular trip!

My parents were tense. The demands of any road trip with little kids was aggravated by the stress of two-lane highways and the oppressive visual clutter of roadsigns and billboards right up to the shoulder of the road. It was an ugly scene.

On my drive south on US 81 from York, Nebraska, and through Kansas, the four-lane divided highway was edged with masses of wildflowers in almost every color. I love driving I-35 through north central Oklahoma, imagining the wildness of the country at the time of the Land Run and the Territorial years. As I cross each river I scan for places bandits might have hidden to elude lawmen, and I appreciate not having to look past tacky, dilapidated, and misspelled signs. Passing through the Arbuckle Mountains and Ardmore as the lush raspberry twilight deepened into violet iris evening the view was unmarred by lighted billboards except around the Indian casinos.

Lady Bird Johnson did much to elevate public expectations for pleasant driving experiences across our beautiful country. That the Congress passed even the flawed compromise Highway Beautification Act of 1965over the objections of the powerful outdoor advertising industry was a gift to future generations from Lady Bird and LBJ. Her influence is in those roadside banks of wildflowers, and in our landscaped highways. I would be hard pressed to name a contribution by any other First Lady in my lifetime that impacts as many people on a daily basis.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Long distance

"I'm on the phone long distance, Mom used to say. You didn't interrupt when your parent was "talking long distance," unless you or your sibling was bleeding from an artery or barfing in a center pivot irrigation spray pattern on the carpet. We didn't interrupt for linoleum, no matter what.

I imagine my grandma sitting down in her wooden rocking chair, placing her feet up on the hassock, and picking up the receiver of the basic black rotary dial desk model. The lamplight is golden. Moths flit outside the screens. A print resembling Gainsborough's "Blue Boy" hangs over the itchy horsehair sofa. Grandma tells the operator she wants to place a long distance call, and after a little chat, gives the desired number in a combination of letters and numbers.

Long distance was for birthday wishes and for emergencies. Birthday wish calls were "placed" after the rates changed at five. Emergency calls were later in the evening, probably after our eight o'clock bedtime. Mom would stop the loud dishwasher mid-cycle. Dad would sit at the dining table "talking long distance" on the black rotary dial wall phone. We knew to play quietly in the living room, then to get changed quickly into our Huckleberry Hound pajamas. If a parent was "talking long distance" we knew we would get our goodnight kiss and tuck-in after bit.

As a newlywed thirty years ago, my whole local telephone bill was $7.48 a month. We rarely called my in-laws "long distance" because it was so expensive to call. Our few far-flung friends received and responded to hand-written letters sent via the U.S. Mail!

On the phone with Dad as I am nearly every evening. We chat about his meals and my students, our weather, and his home aides. We decide any day no one pees on their Velcro shoes is a good day.

We chat, glad to be connected by one flat fee for unlimited long distance. True, the monthly bills for my landline and for cellphone service for myself and two sons, is a huge chunk of my budget. Then there's the cable internet charge for staying in even more constant contact with legions of friends, coworkers, relatives, and sons.

Dad and I chat, and a fly circles my desk, landng on the sliding glass door. Skwoop! Without thinking or pondering the squandered long distance pennies, I reach over for a vintage National Geographic map of Hawaii and swat that bad boy against the glass. In one fell swoop I've smote/swat/away what might have taken 6-7 days to communicate by mail. I must be in the zone to get a fly on first try.

At Grandma's we would be thinking about a little dish of vanilla ice milk with some chocolate syrup...

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

No need for Mapquest

The almost five year-old boys are discussing birthday party invitations:

My dad doesn't know how to get to your house for the party. Why don't you just have the party somewhere my dad knows how to go--like Legoland?

Why indeed?

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Flagrant squirrel

My dad is a bad influence on me. No, he doesn't smoke in the house or bet on the greyhounds. He doesn't squander money on Elvis decanters, or drive around without buckling his seat belt.

At age eighty-four, it's hard to revel in many sins and vices beyond hoarding a huge collection of condiments in the refrigerator. Still, Dad manages to model behaviors that his youngish daughter shouldn't pick up.

Yes. You guessed it. Dad yells at squirrels. Sometimes he slams the windows shut-open-shut to emphasize his disgust with squirrels. And now, I'm embarrassed to admit, I've slammed a door and yelled my displeasure at a squirrel.

True, the squirrel deserved it. I kid you not. The squirrel deserved to be handcuffed and sent up river to the Federal Pen at Leavenworth for tax evasion. The squirrel showed absolutely no remorse and exhibited every indication of being a serial finch feeder criminal. The only good thing I can say about the aforesaid squirrel is that it had no visible tattoos or piercings. I'm betting it used steroid performance-enhancers, though.

Dad has lived in the same house since he bought it with a VA loan in 1958. The house sits on an oversized lot, and if you climbed the hill in the backyard back in 1958 you could look out to the far horizon in three directions. You could watch for the Echo orbiting satellite or the country club's Fourth of July fireworks display without anything obstructing your view.

The tiny pine trees planted on the perimeter of the backyard were about knee-high to a three year-old. Wildlife in the neighborhood consisted of large, plentiful, scary grasshoppers, bagworms on the juniper bushes, and the dogcatcher chasing after our neighbor's runaway springer spaniel.

Dad's backyard looks like a wildlife refuge these days. Peaceful, idyllic, Disneyesque? No. That's just a veneer, an illusion... Dad claims the Squirrel Mafia controls the turf, and barely deigns to let him keep living in the house, even though the mortgage was paid off years ago.

I know next to nothing about Tony, Carmela, and Paulie Walnuts. When I've caught the occasional "Sopranos" rerun on A&E, I've thought Tony looked like one of the very well-fed squirrels in Dad's backyard. A squirrel who wants you to know it will do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, no matter who gets whacked. A squirrel who munches maple tree whirlybirds while it chooses oldies on the jukebox.

This arrogant behavior can unleash a certain level of resentment that plays out as ineffectual yelling and slamming. The resentment is passed along to the next generation.

Back home, this resentment breaks out when a squirrel pillages my thistle seed-filled finch feeder. I come unglued at the squirrel's in-your-face leap from fence to feeder. The invader slurps down the food honestly and legitimately provided for hard-working small business-owning rosy house finches.

I slap the window glass. The squirrel keeps slurping. I open the patio door. The squirrel eyes me with the contempt a gum-chewing eighth-grader extramural star gives the teacher who sponsors the AV club nerds.

I explain in loud and no uncertain terms that the squirrel is an unwanted intruder at the finch feeder with no legal rights or privileges. The squirrel just dares me to do something about it. The Squirrel Mafia already controls both the condo association board of directors and the management company.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Class acts

There are tough jobs I'm grateful someone is able to perform, because I sure wouldn't want to do them. I wouldn't survive a day as a roofer in the summer in Texas. I wouldn't want to fight oil well fires with the late Red Adair. I just don't have the stomach to be in the press corp covering the presidential candidates, especially Hillary. And I really wouldn't want to be the preschool class pet the first week of summer school.

Talk about a tough assignment! For most of this first week of summer school the real class pet rabbit must have wished he was a velveteen rabbit. Being real is a really hard job in the preschool classroom. The new students are split between those who are screaming mimi terrified of the pet, and those who are crazed in their vigorous pursuit and high-volume loving of the bunny.

Somewhere there ought to be a Velveteen Class Pet Rabbit Rest Ranch and Retirement Community (gated) for those bunnies who have so bravely served our nation's preschoolers. I want to know where the candidates stand on improving conditions for elderly preschool pets!

Think on that a bit, then think on this sculpture in the garden of the Philbrook Art Museum in Tulsa. Is he wondering how the tortoise beat him, or the preschooler? "Thinker on a Rock", 1996, by Barry Flanagan, bronze.

My dad has bunny babies in his backyard. They have more to worry about from the neighborhood dogs than from overly enthusiastic three-year-olds. Thought I knew a lot about rabbits, having read Watership Down once. North American cottontails are very different from the Northern Europeans rabbits in that work of fiction.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's Nebraska Wildlife Species website includes this information on eastern cottontails:

A rabbit uses above-ground structures called "fomms" and underground holes such as those of badger, prairie dog and woodchuck for escape and shelter. Fomms are pockets the rabbit creates by trampling down small areas of grass and small shrubs. It uses fomms at night and during daytime rest periods throughout the year, even during the reproductive period. After her litter is born, the female cottontail stays in a fomm near the nest, only visiting her nest at dawn and dusk. The cottontail uses underground holes for emergency escape throughout the year and during winter for shelter.

A rabbit nest is a shallow depression that the female digs and lines with grass and fur. Because the female does not stay at the nest after the litter is born, she covers the young with grass and fur to help protect them from predators while she is away.

The breeding season begins in February in Nebraska. With a gestation period of 28 days and the capability of a female to become pregnant the day after giving birth, litters can be produced on a monthly basis. By late June this efficiency breaks down and the female may not breed for several days or not at all after giving birth. A female cottontail may have five to seven litters of four to five young in one year. Therefore, many rabbits can be produced in a year that has suitable weather for food availability and nest survival. In several studies the number of juvenile cottontails taken by hunters in the fall compared to the number of adult rabbits is 80-85%, which is an indication of very high reproductive rates.

Young rabbits are an easy-to-catch and plentiful food for many predator species from weasels to coyotes to birds of prey, making them a very important part of the food chain. As vegetative habitat dries in the fall, escape cover is reduced and the rabbits become more and more exposed to predators. Many of the young produced each spring and summer are not alive by winter and even fewer are available for breeding the next spring. This is the typical reproductive strategy of such a highly used prey species -- produce large numbers of young quickly to ensure that some will survive to reproduce the next year.

Wild rabbits would probably wish to have the easy life of a classroom bunny. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it!

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Working on the "D" sound next!

The preschoolers were discussing birthday parties, and birthday cakes. One little boy announced that he had a Sperm-Man cake. Then he demonstrated shooting Spidey webs.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Our next contestant

"Guess My Salad" is back after a brief summer hiatus. The returning preschoolers started the game today, just as soon as I unzipped my thermal lunch bag. The ratings weren't as high as the Sopranos finale or the NBA finals, but the small demographic audience loved it. Some of the new students caught on, and offered their guesses--cheese, carrots, cherries?
I may have to create a spinoff of "Cheese and Cracker Squares":

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Phavorite, OK

Jesus Moroles, the Texas sculptor, has a fascinating piece in the sculpure garden of the Philbrook Art Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I walked around and around it until I got dizzy.

The Philbrook Gardens guide explains it far better than I could:

Jesus Moroles, American, b. 1950 / Vanishing Edge Round, 2004
Dakota mahogany granite...In Vanishing Edge Round, modern, abstract sculpture is created from contradictory reatures: rough to smooth, solid to transparent, abraded to polishe. A massive granit form soars weaightlessly into the air...unyielding respect for the raw material of the sculpure is constant. The viewer is aware of the hewing of the original block of granite that Moroles slices with a surgical finesse.

The optical illusions created by the changing tree shade and sunshine on the polished surfaces, and the bright noon light seen between the comb teeth make the stone mass seem to disappear. When the sun goes behind a cloud, the sculpture is a heavy hewn stone that would sit comfortably beside either ancient Egyptian busts of pharoahs or calligraphic Chinese scrolls.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Trouble with a capital "T" in Yutan

Thirteen and a quarter miles west on 275/92 aka W. Center Road from my former home in the Omaha suburb of Millard, is the little Nebraska town of Yutan. I'm referring to my Millard home where I planned to raise my sons and live the rest of my life. I loved that house on the lot backing up to the greenbelt where I could watch swallows flying loop-de-loops and awaken owls in the trees along the creek. Life took different loop-de-loops.

Doin's in Yutan aren't usually front page news, but "Break-ins to view porn raise issues: Yutan officials, library debating legality of using Web filters on computers for public use" was printed on page 1A of the Lincoln Journal Star last Tuesday. Five times in the last three weeks two young teens, ages thirteen and fifteen, have picked the lock to enter the library after hours to view porn on the Web. The Yutan library shut off all internet access until the library board purchases filters for the computers.

Nobody wants kids to see online porn, especially at their public library. Does that mean libraries shouldn't have public access internet computers? No. Does that mean libraries must have filters on their public access internet computers? No. Does that mean libraries should have better locks on their doors to protect their materials, records, and equipment after hours? You betcha.

The Yutan Public Library is only open 26 hours a week, and has a staff of two half-time employees. Over half of the town residents are library users. Are those residents flocking to the library to view porn during regular hours? Of course not. They are likely using the internet to get the trade-in value of their F-150s, research the genealogy of the Hillvandelmer family, find better deals on auto insurance (especially with that cute lizard), view Doppler weather radar, learn about the life cycle of our friend the beaver, ponder trendy baby names, find lyrics to that Creedence Clearwater Revival song about the "bathroom on the right", analyze regional variations in sloppy joe ingredients, and verify the legal drinking age in each of our fifty states just like you and me.

Must a library limit the access of these regular internet users during normal business hours to prevent the illegal after-hours viewing by petty teen criminals who, GASP, leave their 7-11 Slurpees next to the computer when they flee? That would be like tossing out all the Snickers bars from the freezer next to the cooler containing cartons of live bait just because some kid drove off without paying for a tank of unleaded at pump #3. It just doesn't make sense.

Yutan doesn't need internet filters. What Yutan needs is a boys' band! Let's call in Professor Harold Hill:

Well, either you're closing your eyes
To a situation you do now wish to acknowledge
Or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated
By the presence of a library computer in your community.
Ya got trouble, my friend, right here, I say,
trouble right here in River City.

Why sure I'm a internet user,
Certainly mighty proud I say
I'm always mighty proud to say it.
I consider that the hours I spend
With a mouse in my hand are golden...

We've surely got trouble!
Right here in Yutan!
Remember the Maine, Plymouth Rock and the Golden Rule!

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


Retirement planning


Don't get embarrassed, and don't put your fingers in your ears. I changed your diapers, though I know you don't want to contemplate that. At this point I know way too much about your grandfather's plumbing as related to his quality of life. I'm just asking that you stay informed about prevention of prostate problems the way that women have learned to stay aware of breast and cervical cancer prevention. I don't want to talk about urology over our future Thanksgiving dinners with your lovely wives and remarkably well-behaved children. I don't want to talk about it at all, and I know you are squirming. We are all more comfortable discussing gingivitis, root canals, and preventive dental flossing. When you think about your daily (and nightly) quality of life, the way you want to live as an older person, don't just plan for your financial needs in retirement! Order the grilled salmon and steamed fresh veggies. I won't mention it again.

Diet and prostate cancer
Much of the research on prostate cancer prevention focuses on nutrition. Key factors include:

Fat. Prostate cancer rates vary greatly from one country to another, with the highest rates appearing in countries where people tend to eat a lot of fat. In fact, the number of prostate cancer deaths in a given country rises in direct proportion to the average total calories from fat in that country's typical diet.

Vegetables. Some studies link a diet high in vegetables to a lower risk of prostate cancer. For example, one study found that men who ate 28 or more servings of vegetables each week had lower rates of prostate cancer compared to men who ate less than 14 servings.

Fish. In one study, prostate cancer was two to three times more common in men who ate no fish as in men who ate moderate to large amounts of fish. Types of fish that are rich in the fatty acids that protect against prostate cancer and other diseases include salmon, herring, and mackerel.

So far, research does not support definite nutritional guidelines for preventing prostate cancer. However, you can reasonably act on these suggestions:

Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Reduce intake of saturated fat and cholesterol.
Limit sweets and salt.
Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation, if at all.
Eat moderate-sized portions and control calories.

Your mommy said so.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder


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