Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Shirty Pierre: The Slippery Slope

We are NOT the kind of people who talk to their pets, referring to each other as "Mommy" and "Daddy."

We do not call the dogs "our kids," although Beez does refer to them as his little Pirate Band.

We never, never dress our dogs up in clothes. Well, hardly ever, if you insist on counting those darling little Halloween costumes that Dadd.. oops, I mean Beez bought last year.

Leny the Pirate

However, little Bertie Pierre has an underarm itchy thing going on that he insists on scratching. The only thing that stops him is an antibiotic ointment that he finds soothing, but tasty. To keep him from eating the stuff, the vet's office (forgetting his diminutive size) suggested having him wear one of our tee shirts. We did better than that--I found some baby onesies at Walmart and cut off the bottom half of each one. With a bit of tailoring, we had ourselves a wardrobe, @ 5 for $10, and Bert is leaving his itches alone.

Introducing Shirty Bert in his finest midshipman attire

Oh no you don't, I draw the line at midshipman pants!!

Sorry, got to run

Can we go to Gap Kids next time, please?


Monday, September 28, 2009

Niger: A Crash Course Via Documentary Film

This documentary was produced by Daniel Balluff in 2005. The actual film is 29 minutes long; here you can watch the first five minutes or so, exploring some of the land and hearing some of the music.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Laguna "del Mosca" for Skywatch Friday

The Laguna del Perro, located in Torrance County, New Mexico, is actually a large group of salt lakes and ponds. You can see a satellite photo here and an aerial photo here, all taken by other photographers.

The photo on this page is mine and is, to me, evocative of the hot stillness of the place. What you can't see in the photo, besides the discarded tire that I cropped out, are the flies--there must have been millions of them and quite a few hitched a ride with us in our car when we left.

Laguna del Perro, of course, means Lake of the Dog or Dog Lake. Our family calls it Laguna del Mosca (Lake of the Fly).

This photo has appeared before elsewhere on this blog. It remains one of my favorite shots from the past summer.

For photos of skies from all over the world, be sure to visit Skywatch Friday.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More About Niger: Introducing the Eden Foundation and Esther Garvi

If you read Monday's post about Niger (Learning About Niger) and watched the documentary, you saw a bit of the Garvi family. Josef Garvi is the coordinator of the Eden Foundation, which "has been working with hundreds of farmers in one of Niger’s most arid zones to disprove the reigning logic that the desert is a tough place to nurture plant- and human- life..." He says that nature has abundant answers to Niger’s perennial food insecurity problems, but "people are not looking close enough. They look for quick answers, handouts from international aid agencies, big expensive hard-to-maintain irrigation projects, or programmes that help politicians look good, but do little to help farmers.” These quotes come from the report, Niger; Fighting Hunger One Tree at a Time (from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs).

The Eden Foundation was founded in 1985 in Sweden, and has been active in Tanout, Niger since 1987. Their website states the aim of their project in Tanout as "helping the farmers and their families achieve a sustainable life with the means available to them." Their solution is "to bring them trees and bushes that can grow naturally in this dry area and give food, even in times of need."

You can watch a slideshow by the Foundation, entitled Life in Tanout.

To meet another member of the Garvi family, please go to the delightful blog, Esther Garvi aka Ishtar News. Here you will learn all about life in Niger, and you can ask questions, too. This is what Esther has to say about herself: Born in Sweden, but came to Niger at the age of six. Still around. Am the greatest Niger fan you can find and cannot think of a better way to live my life than working for Eden Foundation in the Tanout zone. This blog is about living life as an unpaid volunteer and trying to make the best out of every day (sometimes possible, sometimes not) while helping the people of the least developed area of the least developed country in the world achieve a sustainable life.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Learning About Niger

Here is something a little different for this blog. Perhaps I am more affected by the beginning of school than I realize, but I find myself wanting to learn about a new subject: The countries of Africa.

Naturally, I will share what I learn with you. Today's post is an introduction to the country of Niger, one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. It is located in western Africa, southeast of Algeria, and is slightly less than twice the size of the state of Texas. It is desert land--over 80% is part of the Sahara--and is one of the hottest countries in the world, subject to recurring droughts. (Information from The CIA World Fact Book).

The following documentary is about a purported famine in Niger in 2005. According to its YouTube commentary: "The Famine Scam" [below] is a controversial documentary which has won several awards, and was awarded third prize in the Monte Carlo TV festival in June 2008.

The film, which is the work of a Norwegian research/photography team, discusses the media portrayal of crisis in an African country versus the reality as understood by those who live there. It brings up a number of complex issues regarding western perceptions of African culture, and the consequences of food aid from foreign countries. What happens if free food is distributed when it is time to sow the crops that will insure future food supplies? What happens to the local economy when there is a glut of free food on the market?

What does “food racism” mean?

A quote from a Niger agricultural worker in the film: “They come here without knowing us, without understanding our problems.”

Part 1 of the film begins here. At the end of each part you will be directed to the next section.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Okay, Here I Am Going on About Craigslist Again

I tried reading that vampire novel today--you know the one, it's got that gorgeous Edward in it. And I discovered that I still have a hard time with some chick lit. That would be the kind of book that doles out the description of the heroine in sneaky bits like where she stares at herself in the mirror and notices her own anxious brown eyes... Or where little advertisements are slipped in: [I] spotted Edward leaning motionlessly against his polished silver Volvo.

I yawned, I fidgeted, and I finally took a little nap. There was still plenty of reading time left, however, so I used it all up by perusing The Best of Craigslist. This was a much better use of my time: I giggled, I snorted, and I wiped away tears of laughter [from my sparkling green eyes].

You really ought to take the time to read these. I've done all the hard work for you by wading through the porky ones and the pornish ones and the other ones that are written from the point of view of the spunky girl in the hijab [notice her flashing dark brown eyes] who just wants to have fun (Confessions of a Muslim Chick).

So, here is my short list of the Best of the Best:

Large, dirty fish tank, contents

That was no brindle "chow" (Warning: This one is bittersweet)

That's about as far as I can go. If you want to read about bathtub incidents, a load-cell company in India regrettably named Fairy Sensors, or what people want to trade for bookshelf assembly, you are on your own.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Heading West for Skywatch Friday

Having lived for so long in New England, I have always found that the sight and sound of a long freight train means WEST to me.

We saw this train rumbling along under stormy skies, somewhere in central New Mexico. For photos from all parts of the compass, be sure to visit Skywatch Friday.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Bit of Information About Craigslist

The Clovis/Portales area finally got its own craigslist recently. I was very pleased, because we had been asking to get our own section for a couple of years and were having to make do with the nearest craigslist sites--Roswell and Albuquerque in New Mexico; Lubbock and Amarillo in Texas--none of which made much geographical sense.

As soon as I found out that there was a site for Clovis and Portales, I did what I could to spread the word to everyone I knew locally, only to get puzzled replies back saying, "...err, what's a craigslist?" So I set about finding a nice craigslist definition and a little bit about its history.

According to Wikipedia, craigslist is a centralized network of online communities, featuring free online classified advertisements – with sections devoted to jobs, housing, personals, for sale, services, community, gigs, résumés, and discussion forums.

I use craigslist to find out about communities where I might like to move, so I look at craigslist's real estate ads, and then at various other ads that give me an idea for the "feel" of the community--pets, miscellaneous for sale, farm and garden, etc.

Here is some of the organization's history:

Craigslist began as a simple mailing list put together by its founder, Craig Newmark. Starting in San Franciso in 1995 as a website for free classified ads, it became a company in 1999.

According to a 2008 Marketplace report on National Public Radio, four years after becoming a company:

... the phenomenon known as craigslist would appear in nine other U.S. cities. Now, it is a staple in over 450 cities spread across 50 countries. Even though craigslist is for-profit, the driving force behind the company is less the blind accumulation of wealth than to create a social community within a given city.

The site's revenue comes only from charging for paid job ads in several cities ($75 for one ad in San Francisco, $25 for New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Boston, Seattle, Washington D.C., Chicago and Portland), bypassing other possible sources of ready revenue from charging for other ad categories.

The craigslist Fact Sheet tells us that craigslist gets 20 billion page views per month, which places it as number 7 worldwide in terms of English language page views. In addition to English, craigslist is available in French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Portuguese. Its users self-publish about 50 million new classified ads each month.

Here’s the part that is so fascinating. Picture a newspaper or any traditional print media outlet publishing 50 million classified ads per month. How many employees do you think that would take? Because craigslist uses the power of technology and the community itself to self-publish its own ads, it employs just a whopping 30 people working out of offices in San Francisco.

Ready to look at the craigslist for your area? Just go to the craigslist Online Community page go see an index of craigslist sites, in the U.S. and around the world.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Let's Do Our Homework: The President's Plan for Health Care Reform

It's time to go to work to get this health care reform plan passed in Congress. You can send a letter of support to your members of Congress by going to this page. Pass this on to everyone you know. Here is the information on the plan, right from Organizing for America.

If you have health insurance, the President's plan:

Ends discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions

Limits premium discrimination based on gender and age.

Prevents insurance companies from dropping coverage when people are sick and need it most.

Caps out-of-pocket expenses so people don’t go broke when they get sick.

Eliminates extra charges for preventive care like mammograms, flu shots and diabetes tests to improve health and save money.

Protects Medicare for seniors.

Eliminates the “donut-hole” gap in coverage for prescription drugs.

If you don't have insurance, the President's plan:

Creates a new insurance marketplace — the Exchange — that allows people without insurance and small businesses to compare plans and buy insurance at competitive prices

Provides new tax credits to help people buy insurance.

Provides small businesses tax credits and affordable options for covering employees.

Offers a public health insurance option to provide the uninsured and those who can’t find affordable coverage with a real choice.

Immediately offers new, low-cost coverage through a national “high risk” pool to protect people with preexisting conditions from financial ruin until the new Exchange is created.

For all Americans, the President's plan:

Won’t add a dime to the deficit and is paid for upfront.

Requires additional cuts if savings are not realized.

Implements a number of delivery system reforms that begin to rein in health care costs and align incentives for hospitals, physicians, and others to improve quality.

Creates an independent commission of doctors and medical experts to identify waste, fraud and abuse in the health care system.

Orders immediate medical malpractice reform projects that could help doctors focus on putting their patients first, not on practicing defensive medicine.

Requires large employers to cover their employees and individuals who can afford it to buy insurance so everyone shares in the responsibility of reform.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Camel Skies for Skywatch

Sometimes in eastern New Mexico the sky is just blue--lots and lots of nice clear blue, and we're not complaining. Since I'm bringing you such plain blue skies for Skywatch, I'm including a camel. Why not?

Camel says howdy

Camel gets kiss

Camel expresses delight

Camel moseys home

For skies, plain and otherwise, from all over the world be sure to visit Skywatch Friday.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Oh, No--More Baby Blankets

Sometimes, especially if you are a frugal New Englander, you reach the point where the yarn stash is overflowing with odd bits of every color and you know it's time to start finding some new color combinations to use it all up. These are the latest baby blankets that have been sent off. I've never seen any reports on color blindness in babies, but I'm hoping that the recipients don't object to pink and orange together. And why not? This is New Mexico, after all, where colors get combined in ways you'd never imagine.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Good News Tuesday: Knitting as an Act of Love

Ready to ship 2008

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you may recall that I knit children's sweaters for Knit for Kids. As a matter of fact, I just finished sweater number 64, a fact that absolutely amazes me. I honestly never imagined that I would be able to do something so simple that could, in its small way, make the world a better place. I like to picture 64 little kids from all over the world, standing together in a great big group and giggling and fidgeting like kids do. In my mind's eye, they are wearing my sweaters and knowing that somewhere on the other side of the world is an American woman who has made a gift of love to them. I may not be able to impact our foreign policy very much, but I am doing what I can to send out good feelings to my fellow human beings, one child at a time.

One stitch at a time.

I just checked back through my records and see that I began with my first sweater in March of 2006. In just under three and a half years I have produced piles and piles of sweaters that have been mailed away for distribution, and I did it all in spare moments here and there--while sitting in community meetings, while watching a movie on TV, and while riding in a car.

Ready to ship November 2007

But this isn't about me, it's about you and how wonderful you will feel when you donate a bit of time to make everyone feel a little better.

For those of you who are beginning knitters and feel a little overwhelmed about knitting a sweater, I can assure you that the pattern is quite a simple one that is especially geared toward beginners.

Still not ready to take on a whole sweater? I just recently found out about Knit a Square, a project that provides blankets for "abandoned children, AIDS orphans and child-headed families in southern Africa, who live in dire poverty." All you do is to knit an 8" x 8" square out of wool or synthetic yarn. The goal for 2009 is 5,000 blankets: "That is an average of 25 squares per blanket, so to achieve 5,000 blankets we need 125,000 squares! As your squares arrive, they are collected, sorted and bundled into blanket packs by the ladies of Soweto Comfort Club." Those same ladies sew the squares into blankets, so all you do is make the square and pass the word on to others to make squares, too.

If you are worried about the expense of buying yarn, just ask you friends or local community group (church, PTA, etc.) for any leftovers they may have, or check on your local Freecycle, a grassroots network that is devoted to reducing waste and reusing and recycling good stuff. You'll soon find that you have your very own yarn stash, waiting for you to begin with that very first stitch.

Monday, September 7, 2009

At Last! New Mexico's Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail

If you live in New Mexico, you have probably debated one of our big questions: Who has the best green chile cheeseburger in the state? If you don't live here, you will want to plan your next vacation around New's Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail--map and guide "coming soon."

You see, they can't make up the map until they've stopped adding newly nominated restaurants around the state. Here is the current list of nominees.

Just to get your taste buds in gear, here is the description of our state's favorite burger from the New website: A juicy thick patty grilled over an open flame or sizzled on a griddle, then blanketed in molten Cheddar or other cheese, and topped off with enough New Mexican green chile to tingle the tastebuds—what could be more glorious?

Don't forget to vote!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Where Oh Where Has My Little Bertie Gone?

I was really having a good time posting various Bertie adventures on this blog. That sweet little Bertie, what a boy, so cute, so absolutely adorable... For quite some time now, however, I haven't been able to tell you much about our boy because... well... Bertie has entered adolescence.

Bertie in more innocent days, snuggling with Leny and the poor old sock monkey

You know how it happens with kids. A once sweet and biddable child suddenly gives you The Look--you know the one--that rolling-eyes look that tells you that you have no idea what you are talking about and that you dress funny, too. You suddenly realize that your child, who was a good and loving friend just the day before, no longer wants to be seen with you, or anywhere near you.

And so it is, apparently, with a tiny adolescent chihuahua-mix boy pup. One day he's all about the treats and sitting on laps and wanting attention. The next day he's giving you The Look and the realization sinks in that he is focused on one thing and one thing only. I hesitate to even whisper it here on this G-rated blog. It's (ahem) S-E-X.

See what I mean? The X-rated pose and The Look that says "What???"


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Strange Clouds for Skywatch

These peculiar clouds had me running from the front yard to the back yard the other night. (Click the photos to enlarge them).

Here is what I saw over the fence in the back yard looking west.

From the front yard, looking a little further south, the darkening sky was the most delicious shade of blue that I have ever seen. It looked like this:

Running to the back yard once again, I caught the sunset colors on those strange clouds:

I hope that you Skywatchers can tell me the name of these clouds. [Later note: You will see, thanks to QuietPaths in the comments below, that these are mammatus clouds. For more photos of these and other rare cloud formations, go here.]

For clouds of every variety as seen all over the world, be sure to visit Skywatch Friday.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Recipes for Ben

Polenta Pie

Our very own Auntie Bucksnort was surprised this morning to hear a few statistics from my other blog--one being that we expect to break the 500 post barrier there quite soon.

What? You didn't know there was another blog? I was actually kind of hoping you'd say that, just so I could take the opportunity to tell you all about it.

You may have noticed that I am absent from The Zees Go West every once in a while. That's usually because I am working on Recipes for Ben; A Family Heritage Project. I started the recipe blog for my son in October of 2008 in response to his many cross-country suppertime phone calls asking for one recipe or another. The very first recipe published was for Cheese Biscuits, a yummy appetizer that I had learned to make from my friend Cindy, who worked with me in the Government Publications Division of the University of British Columbia Library in Vancouver, British Columbia, back in the early 1970s.

See what happens? Food, in our family, equals the history of our family. I couldn't just say "Cheese Biscuits" without telling you a bit about myself. In fact, I am amazed at how merely writing down information about dishes that I have cooked and served to my family over the years is very much like writing my autobiography.

If someone asked me to write the story of my life, I would have no idea where to start. On the other hand, I could just begin with a simple recipe for Cheese Biscuits. And so I did.

To make this project even more fun and fulfilling, Ben joined the blog in March of this year, starting with his recipe for Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Onions. He brings a new kind of cooking to share--that of a thirty-something urban bachelor who loves bacon and isn't afraid to make up recipes. His first note makes me laugh: Thanks mom for letting me join this blog as a collaborator. And, of course, thanks for giving me a few hundred recipes to re-tune my taste buds and re-live fond childhood memories. It's been nice to print up the recipe cards (using Avery Postcard Stock #5889 and the corresponding word processor template), put them into my little wooden box, and enjoy the family culinary legacy...

Obviously, we share more than a love for cooking, as you can see by his side comment about the "Avery Postcard Stock #5889." As Linda (7MSN) commented: And only the son of a librarian would figure out how to convert all these to Avery index cards to file away in a wooden box. The acorn doesn't fall far from the tree..

Now, for those statistics:

Recipes published at the time of this writing: 438

All recipes entered (at the time of this writing), including those scheduled for future publication: 458

There are more labels than I wish to count, but they range from "Appetizers" to "Yeast Breads" and include some fairly surprising ones like "Insects" (sorry, you'll have to wait until Sept. 14th for that one).

We hope you'll visit soon. Wait, what am I saying? Just click here to go there right now!