Juice pouch for hummingbirds

Build a better juice pouch and the birds will beat a path to your door. This is not your preschooler's CapriSun. It's a NectarGem anaerobic reusable papaya-flavored hummingbird feeder with added calcium. Like most mommies, female hummingbirds need calcium and vitamin D to produce strong eggshells.

Does it work? Too soon to tell. It was a year-end teacher gift, and I just now hung it on my patio hook. If it lives up to its claims, it will have far less fungi in the feeding mixture, and fewer problems with mold, bees, and ants. One drawback from a lizard's perspective is this feeder lacks a tanning deck. We've had some interesting interspecies turf wars around the old-style hummingbird feeder in previous years.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


The sky is going to fall

A bright green medium-size anole lizard has been scurrying along the top of the privacy fence, north to south, south to north, since three p.m. He cocks his head to squint at the sky, puffs his pink dew lap, and proclaims, "The sky is going to fall."

Down at patio level, an olive green medium-size anole lizard has been having the time of his life. He's ridden on the wings of a hummingbird garden ornament, jumped from the metal bird's beak onto a solar garden lamp and into the shadows, and scaled a garden hook looking like Greg Louganis climbing to the Olympic diving platform in a Speedo.

Alas, I have spent to much time scurrying, and not enough time scaling.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Fame & fortune & browned butter

Don J. wrote me today asking for the Czech "Prune Song" music I had promised in a June 2004 blog post. This blog was almost a year old when I wrote about Bohemians in Pierce, Nebraska. My mother was still healthy and anticipating a great vacation in Santa Fe. My dad was still cleaning maple tree helicopters out of his gutters, making all of us very nervous. And he would still start singing "The Prune Song", Svestkova alej, when Mom made plum dumplings with browned butter.

Blogging hasn't brought a fortune, but there have been wonderful enriching moments connecting with people with similar interests. As for fame, this blog is the first hit when you Google Svestkova ale!

Should you need the music for "The Prune Song", you can find it and many other Czech resources at Penfield Books in Iowa City. Enjoy the dumplings.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


#60 on the library hit parade

The latest addition to my library life list is the Pritzker Legal Research Center at Northwestern University. Danger Baby has pretty much lived in this library for the past two years, rarely looking up from his work to scan Lake Shore Drive and Lake Michigan toward Navy Pier.

"Who was this Pritzker fellow?," I asked him. Some billionaire. Indeed. Jay Pritzker and his family started the Hyatt Hotels as just one facet of their financial empire.
Danger Baby and I also visited the namesake Pritzker Pavillion at Millennium Park for my first real life encounter with a Frank Gehry design. The pavillion made me remember curling irons and hot steam rollers, not to mention carrot peelers. I'm not saying that's a bad thing.
Since I was visiting the city of Wrigley, Gehry's design also made me think of Doublemint, Spearmint, and Juicyfruit. How many foil gum wrappers would it take to make a pavillion?
This was not, but could have been, named the Farrah Fawcett Archery Range.
© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Dr. DeSoto

I first met this mouse dentist in the office of Dr. Martha Tarpay, my eldest's asthma and allergy doctor in Oklahoma City. We spent many hours in Dr. Tarpay's waiting room for allergy shots in the late Eighties. Dr. Tarpay must have had a fondness for William Stieg's picture books, as we also read about Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.

Hoping I've not been a dangerous patient at my dentist's office, in need of out-witting. My dentist is a marathoner, not a mouse.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


I kindled on the flight to Houston Hobby, between two iPod users with earbuds, one of whom was reading Laura Bush's new book. I'm still very new at this technology, and I'm using it to read a field biologist's book about observing turtle migrations in a swollen spring stream. The author, David M. Carroll has a blog and a video online. The illustrations on the blog are better than the illustrations on the Kindle.

The Kindle was a birthday gift from my sons and their wife/fiance/girlfriend special persons. The boys were more interested in halfshell heroes than real swamp reptiles in their childhood.

David M. Carroll's book helped me remember that wild species don't belong to one spot. They generally have a range that they travel through the seasons. We may pat ourselves on the back for preserving a small spot, but the encroaching development disrupts the range.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Bridesmaid kharma & Facebook whale tagging

Oh that this too, too solid flesh:

A year ago I stood on a busy Cincinnati street and took photos of a violent altercation while a son tried to reach police. This year I stood in a public place in Chicago and took photos of a different crime, gross aesthetic bad judgment and cruelty to friends. A bride with an enormous party of wedding attendants was having a photo shoot in Millennium Park.

Holy Rubenesque Renoirs, Batman! Why does the bride want her best friends and closest relations to look like boiled hot dogs? Just a few blocks away the Chicago Art Institute has an exhibit of Matisse's "Radical Invention" centered on the artist's World War I-era monumental nudes.

Back in the Wonder Bread all-white Sixties we had "flesh" Crayola crayons in our box of 128. Never, ever would any third-grader choose "flesh" for a paper doll's fashions. In 1970, Lefler junior high girls shunned flesh-colored pantyhose, aka "nude", preferring the fake "suntan" sandal-foot shade.

Today I learned that young persons tag photos when they want their Facebook friends to view uploads. "If you want a friend to see your picture of a whale, you tag it with that friend's name." It's clever, certainly, but wide open to misinterpretation. Please, please don't tag blubbery photos with my name! And please, please don't ask me to wear a flesh-tone satin bridesmaid outfit.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


One giant leap for ladybug cow

I took this photo with my phone, AND managed to email it to myself. Giant leaps in technology. Leaping almost as high as the ladybug cow above the Talbott Hotel across the street from Danger Baby's apartment building.

Last Friday through Sunday the Talbott was a lovely place with helpful doormen and beautiful flower boxes around the sidewalk tables. I was pretty focused on the street level and not getting too lost on my Chicago walks.

Monday the street was jam-packed with construction equipment and water utility trucks making traffic 1-lane instead of three. I went out to see what the racket was about. Loitering out front I finally noticed the ladybug cow hanging above the entrance. So much for my powers of observation.

The Talbott's cow remains from a "Cows On Parade" project in 1999. It's Latin name is Cowccinella Novemnotata, aka Nine Spotted Lady Bug Cow, by artist Brian Calvin.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Will Shortz wonders what to pack

Sudoku--check. New York Times crossword puzzle--check. Extended weather forecast offers bare shivery bones info. Here in Texas we avoid wearing a jacket whenever possible. People wear flipflops unless it's an ice storm. In Chicago they wear jackets most of the year it appears. I'm puzzling.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


A chick in a car and the car won't go

I'm hoping my future daughter-in-law's car will go when she picks me up at the airport. I haven't been to Chicago since the Valentine's Day when Danger Baby was two and the Woolly Mammoth was in his second trimester. Chicago was ridiculously cold and snowy, even to an Omaha resident. Danger Baby loved the view from the top of Sears Tower, beginning a long interest in aerial views and maps.

Next weekend the same Danger Baby who looked down at all the itty bitty Hot Wheels from that viewpoint will graduate from Northwestern's law school. I'm just a wee tad proud of him! I'm pretty fond of his dear fiance. And I'm really hoping to visit Millennium Park for something new, and the Shedd Aquarium for something old. If the weather cooperates we will grill on a rooftop, and go to a baseball game.

Right after their wedding, Danger Baby and his bride will move to Yew Nork City:

A chick in a car and the car won't go. That's the way to spell Chicago.

A knife and a fork and a bottle and a cork. That's the way to spell New York.

These rhymes come from The Rooster Crows, by Maud and Miska Petersham.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Spider gems

My photo doesn't adequately depict the magic of the experience. Decided to kneel and observe this sheet web made by a grass spider or a funnel web spider. My field guide says these spiders are "quick-running", and that is an understatement. See the circle in the upper right corner? That's where the little brown spider waits inside the curled leaf. The spider has constructed a system of telegraph lines around the web.

When I blew a puff of air at the telegraph line, the little guy came dashing out of his cave to check his web, before I could get my camera ready. I was in awe of the dewdrops still sitting on the web at noon. I'm wondering if the story-weaver of the 1001 Arabian Nights was inspired by a similar spider to create the tale of Aladdin.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Take me out of the bathtub

"Blogging" means "plumbing repair procrastination" in some primitive languages. My lavatory faucet needs to be replaced. Besides being ugly and lime-encrusted, which I'm used to, it is dripping waaaaaaayyy too much. Bought the replacement faucet at Home Depot. I know I can do the job if I say the right primitive incantations, but it is too daunting after a day at work.

Plumbing is the tune of the day. I couldn't help myself, and broke into song reading Alan Katz title poem in the picture book Take Me Out of the Bathtub right in front of innocent children. I'm usually so self-conscious about my tone-deafness, that I lip-sync "Happy Birthday To You", but the silly song versions broke past my inhibitions. The children couldn't stop singing "Take Me Out of the Bathtub" the rest of the afternoon.

I tried looking it up*, but I can't find it. I'm sure I read statistics that the song known by the most people in the U.S. is "Take Me Out To the Ballgame", with "I've Been Working On the Railroad" second, ahead of "Happy Birthday", "Twinkle-Twinkle", and our national anthem. The report suggested if you ever had to lead a sing-along to keep people from panicking in an emergency situation, you had better lead off with the seventh inning stretch song. I find this useful information, and if I ever again have to bravely lead a group of children away from a barf scene to prevent copycat up-chucking, I will burst into baseball song.

*In 1941 Thurber published a story titled "You Could Look It Up," in The Saturday Evening Post. It dealt with a baseball manager who in the course of a tight game sent a midget up to the plate because his strike zone would be so small that the opposing pitcher couldn't help walking him. After the count had reached three balls and no strikes the pitcher, desperately trying to get the ball over the plate, threw such a fat pitch that the midget couldn't resist swinging at it. The ball dribbled a few feet, and the midget was thrown out. The story ended with the manager's setting a new record for throwing a midget.

And thanks to my boss for wondering aloud about the history of the baseball song. Jack Norworth wrote the lyrics in 1908.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Swinging in the rye

"I heard about the caterpillar homicide," said the preschool mom. We were visiting on the playground while she pushed her daughter on a swing. I was on the verge of a panic attack as clueless red-headed tots toddled way too close to the swingset.

Officially, I was not supervising the playground at the school picnic. Unofficially, that's a tough duty to turn off even when parents are present to monitor their own offspring.

Glad the caterpillar's violent end is talk between the preschoolers and their parents. Respect for living things, and the reality of death have to be discussed. I'm sad about the sensationalized tabloid reporting and harsh treatment of the very young caterpillar stomper.

Glad, too, that my sons eventually learned to "pump" on the swings so I didn't have to push. Seven year olds can do that.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Mower disasters in modern art

My parents had very inexpensive art reproductions on the walls when I was a kid. I honestly believed the Paul Klee picture in their bedroom depicted the day my dad ran over our water sprinkler with the lawn mower. I felt guilty about the thrill of witnessing the sprinkler's destruction before my very eyes. Seeing my dad make a mistake and swear about it made a big impression, too.

I'd been fond of that lawn sprinkler with its two bent arms doing an angled dance. Years later when we got our grocery store encyclopedia set, I saw images of many-armed Hindu gods. I hoped Dad wouldn't mow into the sensuous, revolving sprinkler dance.

Buying their first and only house in 1958, my parents also bought out the previous homeowner's share in a co-op lawn mower. Our next door neighbors each owned the other thirds of the mower. Owning part of a mower should have warned me about condominium ownership!

I loved lounging on my parents' bedspread staring at the Klee print and making up stories. There's a child watching a dog, a duck, and a fish...a sprinkler...a mower.

After the calamity we had a rainbow arc water sprinkler, but it never had a pot of gold or the fascination of the dancer sprinkler. Instead I coveted my neighbor's sprinkler. What did Moses' tablets say about those sprinklers that traveled along the hoseline looking like mechanical tractor ants from "The Twilight Zone"?

Our yardkeeper hit a brick with his mower, not a sprinkler. Good nightie night.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


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