Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Surviving Christmas alone: how your faith can help you through it

Many articles have been written about surviving Christmas alone. Most of these articles deal with finding a way to break free from being alone. Service in homeless shelter, finding a family or group of friends to join for the holidays, or throwing your own party are common suggestions. Yet, there are times when you are truly alone, and survival tactics for this wilderness of true aloneness are necessary for your emotional and mental health. This season of anticipated joy is filled with many people who find themselves far from home, have few to no friends, or are in the midst of a tragedy such as a death of a loved one or a divorce.

The following six steps might be just enough to help you survive being alone on for the rest of the article

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I Am No Poet (a silly poem with lessons on rhyming built within)

So, I thought I would write a poem for a humor poetry contest. Instead I ended up with this poem, which teaches rhyming styles by modeling them and mentioning them throughout the verses. Now the side notes on what styles are referred to in each stanza are not meant to be in the body of the poem. They are just there for this blog post. This is certainly one of the silliest things I have ever written.

I am No Poet (a dirge of commonness)

I am no poet (1) broken rhyme
and I know it
I am broken
I always blow it

my strange addiction (2) double rhyme
sad affliction
is oft doubled
within my diction

I have tried to hide (3) assonant Rhyme
my moral bind
but lessons lurk
within ass'nant lines

repeating within (4) inside repetition
my mortal sin
it lunges large
and it screams again

I have tried to end (5) simple, masculine
this single trend
be masculine!
but I always bend

now trying to quit (6) consonant rhyme
but never quite
cons'nant struggle
not ever quiet

I can not fake it (7) imperfect rhyme
please or placate
out falls my mistake

If given an or-ange (8) scarce rhyme
squeezed like syringe
scarce my options
still all will cah-ringe

this evil duress (9) light/unstressed
lightly unstressed
would fall away
If I weren't careless

with my dreams too high (10) wrenched rhyme
it cuts to my
soul so wrenched it
pains me but few cry

This, my rich idol (11) Rich Rhyme - homonyms
once thought idyll
now I find that
it leaves me idle

repeating my words (12) identical repetition
my type of words
repetitious words

like macaroni (13) Macaronic Rhyme/multilingual
plain bolonga
it will be known
gwladwr ydw'i

so I am destined (The Final Mourning)
to be questioned
and ridiculed
whenever mentioned

wrong time to be born
now I must mourn
hanging my head
live up to my scorn

You see, in this time
metered sublime
free verse is loved
but poets can't rhyme

Friday, November 20, 2009

Galileo's Middle Finger

After more than a hundred years missing Galileo's tooth and finger have been returned to the public. Here's a picture of his middle finger.

That's right after all these centuries Galileo is still giving us the middle finger. I want scientists to cut off my middle finger when I die.

Here's the story

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Notes on Betrayal

Over the course of the last couple years, I have experienced a high degree of betrayal from the hands of church leaders who have lied and/or gone along with the lies. Coming out on the other side has been both difficult, and liberating.

I am not sure that all levels of betrayal have that same redemptive dynamic. I have experienced a new level of betrayal from someone who is supposed to be a friend recently, and wonder, "Is it possible to come through these things, and find a silver lining in the dark cloud."

Beyond this life - I suppose. In this life, I am still convinced as I have been for quite some time, that not all things make sense. Betrayal does not make sense, and I am sure that is part of the dynamic of redemption - not to make sense out of the senseless, but to save us from it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Party's Final Note (song lyrics)

my forensic studies tell me that
life is short, its troubles bad
but I don't want this to be
the party's final note when you look to me

my wit is sharp, but my jokes are bad
my mistimed cues tip the hat
but I don't want this to be
the party's final joke when you look to me

peace on earth, goodwill toward men
who is it who sees this end?
someone out there must live this dream
i'll pray it's you and me

i like songs that make people think
i try to resolve, but it's in the wrong key
i don't want this to be
the party's final note when you look to me

sarcasm is my best defense
but the closer you get the less it makes sense
I don't want this to be
the party's final joke when you look to me

if there's a god who loves to laugh
is He smiling now, or fighting tears back?
someone out there must live His dreams
I'll pray it's you and me

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Duck Daddy Revisits the Month

That's right it's been a month since I last posted. Originally I was going to write about the ducks until they were finally out of the brooder and into the yard with their own pen and duck house. Well they've accomplished that now, and they've grown up, but a few things have happened in the last month which make for good story about Pato (the female impersonator) and his harem.

1. Back on September 10th Paul Allen from The Centre for Alternative Technology in Mid-Wales was here in Salem to give a lecture at our church. I had arranged this event along with a couple other speaking engagements through my new business venture CeltiConnect, and so Paul was at my mercy since I was the driver, and schedule maker.

In the afternoon he came to our house with his partner Rebecca to lay down awhile. Paul fell in love with the ducks. Well, Rebecca said he would. He had wanted to get chickens, but she did not want chickens. While Paul and talked inside the house for a while, Rebecca stayed outside in the yard. When we looked outside we saw her enraptured with the ducks and taking pictures - lots of pictures.

They live in Machynlleth Wales - not too far from Welshpool. Welshpool is the address home of the Indian Runner Duck Society. I suggested they contact them. I still need to follow up and see if they have. Just think, our ducks could have influenced The Centre for Alternative Technology! maybe they deserve a Nobel prize or something.

2. They have started laying eggs. It has been a little over a week since they started, and it is starting slow. Just one a day. Sometimes a little one - slightly smaller than a large chicken egg, and sometimes a big one - about 25% larger than a large chicken egg. I am quite enjoying breakfast, which is really not my favorite meal, but duck eggs are just too good, and particularly on French Toast, which I do like.

3. Pato started to chase my feet when I would walk away. He would act a little aggressive and peck at my feet while I walk. Of course even barefooted it does not hurt, but he might get hurt, so I have been picking him up and carrying him around when he does this. he does not appreciate being held like that, so he stops his toe attacks. I am sure he is simply playing the big man and chasing me off his girls.

Those are the newest developments at Duck Daddy's house. Fall is here and Winter will come soon. We are wondering how life at with ducks will be in the harsh New England winter.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Duck Daddy and Hmmmmm..Uh, Oh

It has been almost a month since I last wrote about the ducks. I was going blog about these endeavors with the ducks until they were grown up and outside. Since day 1 back on May 20th, the duck stories have been followed, and they have been outside for quite some time now.

They changed rapidly. One of the original six girls died at a couple weeks old. They pooped like crazy. They loved the water like, well, like ducks. Bev got duck poop in her eye. The squeaked like crazy for lettuce. They eventually developed their quacks, and their feathers. We learned lessons about ducks, and then the girls made the cover of the Runner Duck Newsletter, and they also made the news in a local story on Urban Farming.

Well the last month has tow major duck developments:

1) they are in their new house. It has been built into the shed. Next to their shed is our duck pen. It is wire fence almost six feet high, and netting over the top to keep out predators. It is a fine black plastic mesh netting. So far it works just fine. The only visitor we've seen in the duck pen is a groundhog. He lives under the shed, and came out to say high to the ducks. It was in the middle of the day, and it looked like a standoff. The groundhog was staring at the ducks, and the five ducks were staring back at the groundhog quacking.

I was in the kitchen talking with Val. She saw a creature in the pen, and said, "There's a creature in the duck pen. I think it's a beaver."

I thought to myself, "There's no chance it's a beaver. We don't have beavers in Salem." But, I ran out to see what kind of predator it might be. The groundhog ran off when he saw me.

2) We discovered that one of our ducks is not. We have not named the ducks, because they all looked the same, and even the small differences were difficult to follow through the changes as they were growing up, and changing so quickly. That is all except one. One of the girls was bigger than the others. She was a little darker. She seemed like the duck in charge - always alert, and a little protective of the others. As she grew up her feathers came in a little later, and her down stayed a little longer. Her quack was whispery and hoarse compared to the honking of the other girls.

Okay, you duck oficianados and farmers already know what was going on.

Bev decided to name the one duck we could tell apart from the others. She named the duck "Pato." I though that the name was too masculine and did not like it. Well, I suppose that Pato is a fine and appropriate name, because one day over the last month, it dawned on Bev despite the little white band around the leg which came with the duckling as assurance that we had 6 girls, Pato was not a duck. Pato was a drake. After over 3 months of duck raising poor Pato was thought to be a girl the whole time.

Now instead of Duck Daddy and his 5 girls what we have is Pato and his Harem. Sheesh. He looks pretty proud in that photo, doesn't he? So much for my previous post titles - I can not call this Duck Daddy and His Five Girls anymore.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls - 11 weeks

So the girls are about 11 weeks old. Feathers are all over the yard. They are loosing, pulling out, and spilling feathers with some downy edge to them, and these feathers are everywhere in the lawn.

The ducks are also uneven in color. Will they stay this way, or will they get darker on their fawn colored parts as they loose their young ducky feathers and grow the next crop of them? This is our first duck adventure, so we are not sure, but here's how they look right now.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls - Duck Party!

We had a duck party last week. About 50 people from the church, and the neighborhood showed up. Our yard became a combination petting zoo (with ducks that really didn't want to be petted), and amusement park (with kids swimming in the pools, and sliding on a slip and slide). After the kids were done swimming, we put the ducks in the large kiddie pool as the party wound down. Here's the video:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls 8th week: a Duck is Like a Pickle

I am convinced that the only reason the neighbors don't mind our quacking ducks is because a duck is like a pickle.

There are certain words, and their connected thoughts or actualities that bring a smile simply by mentioning them. The words sound light-hearted and funny, and almost bring a smile whether one says those words, or hears those words. The accompanying image of the meaning behind the words furthermore is humorous, because the object which the noun names is in itself a peculiar or clownish thing.

Pickle is one of those words. It feels funny in the mouth. It sounds funny to hear, and dances on the tongue like a nursery school rhyme. Say the words a few times and see if it does not make you smile.

Well, duck is another one of those words. Say the word a few times and see what it does to lighten your heart. Duck, duck, duck....

A duck is like a pickle. Don't you think?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls 8th week: Urban Farming and Quacking Ducks

Well, we purchased Indian Runner Ducks because they lay lots of eggs - maybe 300 a year, which is like a 6 day work week. We also liked them, because they were funny and seemed to be the clowns of the duck world. Furthermore they are highly sociable, and this is nice for someone who wants to pick their ducks up, and cuddle with them - okay "cuddle" is not quite the term for a duck, but you know what I mean. Last of all, we heard that they were quieter than other breeds - right.

First thing in the morning when we let them out they run around the yard quacking up a storm of noise. Now, this is not a tight urban neighborhood with no yard space. We have a quarter of an acre, but we have one of the largest yards in the neighborhood. So abutted to our yard is 6 to 7 other homes which all look down from their second and third story windows into our yard. Salem is really the northern edge of Boston urban, and we live just outside the downtown area.

So, the other day Bev was inviting neighbors with kids to our duck party. (Yes, we are having a duck party tomorrow.) One of the neighbors, whom we do not know well, said to Bev, "Oh yeah, everybody's talking about the ducks."

"Uh-oh," thought Bev.

In the last couple weeks this has been one of a few interactions with the neighbors which has caused us to wonder if the ducks might be disturbing our little sub-urban neighborhood.

The people across the street mentioned that they could hear the ducks, and that their girls run to the windows to see the ducks when they hear them quacking. Mark loves the sound of ducks. (+1 ducks)

The next door neighbor on our street came over to see the ducks, because she heard them. We apologized for their noise, and she said that she enjoyed hearing them. "Oh no, we love the sound of the ducks. I wanted to get my own chickens, but my husband won't have it." (+2 ducks)

A second person who abuts our property and can look down on our yard stood on her tip-toes to speak over the fence and said, "do you have ducks?"

"Yes," we replied, "are they too loud?"

"Oh no, they are so cute." She replied. (+3 ducks)

A third abutting neighbor, whose back fence is directly next to the duck pen was outside painting his house. I came home in the afternoon, and the ducks always start quacking loudly when I arrive, because they know I will let them out to free range the yard for grubs, and worms, and bugs and the like. I will also throw them some lettuce in a little kiddie wading pool we have in the yard for them, and of course this gets them quacking wildly until the lettuce hits the water. Even then they make quacking noises while eating, and dunking their heads.

The Painting neighbor said, "the ducks are excited about something." I apologized and mentioned that they are noisy in the morning and late afternoon.

He said, "I don't mind it at all. I like the sound of the ducks. I'd get my own if I could." (+4 ducks)

Then a fourth neighbor who lives a block away had been walking past, and heard the ducks. She returned later with her grown sons, and they all came in to check out the ducks. They had seen bills, and heard quacking. They came over because they were excited about the idea of ducks in the neighborhood. (+5 ducks, 0 grumpy neighbors - so far.)

The moral of the story is this: Ducks are like pickles. Know what I mean?

If you don't understand you will have to check in tomorrow.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls - Days 47-52

So the ducks are a coming on 8 weeks old now. They are outside in their pen through the day, and free-ranging our yard when we are home to let them out. They really enjoy getting out in the yard, and honk up a storm of noise in the late afternoon when I get home. This photo is them standing at the door of the pen waiting to be released.

The old 6' by 10' foot family sized kiddie pool brooder has now been turned into a duckie pool, and they love swimming around in it. When they first jump in they go crazy, and start swimming around splashing, and diving, and one of the girls will do laps under water.

They are fully feathered except for the largest of the girls, who has a little tuft of fuzzy down sticking out on the back of her head. They run around the yard flapping their wings like they are trying to fly. Okay, now I was told that Runners don't fly - well, one of them was getting out of the extra large kiddie pool former brooder, and took a leap off the edge and flapped a good 3-4 feet through the air landing softly and then took off on a run. This looked suspiciously like pre-flight practice to me.

They are sleeping outdoor in their temporary night home - a doghouse with a hinged lid, and a screened door, and a latch to lock them in.

I sat outside late last night near their night hut, which is currently near our back door, and a skunk came walking around the corner toward us (me and the sleeping girls in their duck night hut). I gently said, "hey their little buddy." What does one say to the King of the Urban Jungle - the skunk? Fortunately skunks are not typically up for a fight for no reason. He took a funny little hop when I spoke to him, and then ran off across the yard. I was surprised how fast he ran. Skunks are not typically fast runners. Skunks waddle rather confidently, because they have such power they never need to run. Okay, sometimes they do get bested - Holly our greyhound killed a skunk once - dang, that was a mess! And Bev ended getting rabies shots for that event.

Well, she might not like me telling that story, so I will sign off on the duck update before I get in deep ducky doo-doo.

Peace and Duck Dreams to You.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls - Day 46

"Like a duck to water." This saying makes more sense to us than it ever did. Ducks do love their water. In fact ducks need their water.

They forage through the mud in search of yummy bugs, and end up with a mouthful of mud. After foraging for awhile one of them decides it is time to clean their mouth out with water, and they all run to the pool to drink like madmen.

Now keeping their water clean is important, but impossible. Right now we have two small kiddie pools we use to let them swim and simply get wet. One in their pen, and one out in the yard.

This is what the one in their pen looks like after having been emptied and refilled with clean water just a few hours earlier. So much for being green. Ducks are as brown and muddy as it gets, and they seriously overuse water. Now we do have rain water barrels, but those barrels will not keep up with the ducks need for water.

Well, its late, and I think I need to move along, because even though I have a couple more things to do I would rather head for bed like a duck to the water.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls - Days 41-45

The Girls are outside all day now. The pen is complete, but the house is not. Unfortunately, the week they needed to get moved out I was away, and so their pen could not be finished. Now it's close to done, but good enough for then to be outdoor all day long.

Their little house for night sleeping is not yet complete though, and that will hopefully be done tomorrow. The pen has a net over the top to keep predatory birds (like the hawk which has been seen in our trees) from killing the girls.

So this is what the scene at the Wymsn house looks like. The ducks are still in the 10' by 4' inflatable pool brooder in our back room at night. The weather had still be insanely wet and cold up until yesterday, and between the bad weather, and my being away they were not outdoors as much as they needed to be. Yet now each morning they go out into the pen. If we are at home, they free range around the yard finding bugs, and grubs, and worms, and eating grass.

We have two small kiddie pools outside. One in their pen, and another on the lawn. The ducks are spending more time in the water, and less time eating. They are not quite the eating machines they were a couple weeks ago.

They also appear to be acting a little more independently, but in a moments' notice they all get excited and start running after us, or if we are out of site they start quacking for us. Fortunately all our neighbors are pleasantly intrigued by the girls, and are glad that there are ducks in the neighborhood. This definitely helps the urban farming project.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls - Day 40

Now Duck Daddy had been away in Washington DC for nearly a week, and returned to find his girls had grown up.

So here are the tales of the days I was away:

While in Washington the girls ended up in another public appearance. Last they posed for Runner Duck magazine, and now we find that they have once again appeared in print this time as teenage heartbreakers in Art Throb. Follow the link to read the story.

Now they also started doing things they had not done before. We were ready to put them outside permanently at about six weeks, which we are just coming to now. Well, at five weeks I was away, and they started giving Duck Mama heck - just like teenagers.

They got faster, they started showing a little more independence, and did not want to come back inside after being out for hours. But, of course that independence was not independence from one another - only from us. They did not want to be picked up, so our extra large family sized pool brooder became a difficult place to catch these now Olympic speed duckies.

They also started quacking loudly. Now that their voices were changing from cute little squeaks to larger than life honks, once Bev would take one duck outside all the rest would start making a fuss. Of course the fuss does not stop until they are together again. Duck Daddy laughs when this happens. Duck Mama does not, and becomes a little flustered hoping the ducks won't hurt themselves as they jump onto the back deck and try to run in the house to be reunited with their sisters who still haven't made the transport outside.

Upon my return I noticed that there were some significant changes in the girlies. They had some rather ugly feathers on their wings before I left for DC. As can be seen in the pictures their quills were showing making them look like they needed to join the Hair Club for Men. Upon my return their feathers had all filled in, and their wings looked significantly better.

Having returned from DC, I am now setting up their outside pen. The area is about 16' X 16' and I will eventually make part of the shed into their duck house. A hole will be cut into the side of the shed, and a duck house will be built inside the shed. For now we have a dog house which will do the job.

That's all for now. More observations tomorrow I am sure. The ducks amaze us more each day.

Did you get your own ducks yet? We are advocating for urban mini duck farms, and having your own eggs each morning.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Some Ducks Videos, and the return of Duck Daddy

Duck Daddy has been away in Washington DC, and just returned. After all this time away, the girls grew so much, and are faster, and crazier than ever, and definitely ready to move outside.

The ongoing chronicles of Duck Daddy should return tomorrow. Until then here are few video shots of the girls from a couple weeks ago. Thanks to the inimitable and funny John Harding for these shots of the girlies.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls - Days 29-32

These last four days have been quite busy, and I haven't had the time to post. So, here are the basic observations over the last four days:

1. These ducks are getting big, fast, and what they are going to look like when their feathers are fully in is more obvious.

2. These ducks love to forage in the yard. Bugs, grass, weeds, flowers - all these things are up for eating. Like people they are omnivorous. They especially love a muddy little hole to forage through. One of the girls caught her first worm yesterday - darn she was happy!

3. They love to duck (obvious to me now why we use this term for a quick submergence under the water) and dive in the little pool we have for them. One website suggested putting certain food at the bottom of about 4 inches of water so that they can "wash their eyes." These girls don't need any eye-washing encouragement.

4. They are pretending to be a little more independent. They will run off in some meaningless direction in the yard when we take them out, but after about 5 yards they will make a circle and come back to forage around my feet.

So what follows are a few of the eye-washing, feigned independence, and foraging pictures from the last few days:

This last picture shows what happens when I stand still. Please send shoelaces.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls - Day 28

Well, the girls are getting famous now. They will be on the cover of the Indian Runner Duck Association Newsletter. Wow! They're Covergirls!

The newsletter is still upcoming, but the a photo of them is up and can be found on the front page of IRDA website.

With the the continuing saga of why our ducks are not white: Glyn writes to us after reading yesterday's blog post:

"I have just read your blog and wanted to let you know that your ducks aren't white ducks they are fawn and white. Far more attractive in my view. This is obvious from day one, white ducklings have pure yellow down with no other colours.

Good luck


Thanks Glyn

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls - Day 27

Yesterday was the third day that we turned off the heat lamp in the evening. It has remained cold the last few days, but the girls are bigger now, and we figure they can handle 60ยบ at night when they huddle together. We are now only using the light after they swim and go back into the brooder wet. Of course the 6' by 10' inflatable kiddie we have set up is not really a brooder anymore. It is more like an indoor duck pen.

The ducks are getting scraggly - some fuzz, some feathers, some stuff in between that looks like they haven't shaved in days. These are some li'l Bohemian ducks right now.

When we take them outside, which is a couple times a day, they run right for the pool, and want to swim. I have to trick them by moving the location of the pool to keep them from spending the whole time swimming. They are supposed to be Runner Ducks, so I figure they need a little running.

Well, even more than yesterday it looks like our little Indian Runners are not white Indian Runners. Their incoming feathers are getting darker each day.