Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Orangutans Have Feelings Too.

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If you give a champagne a screw driver he'll break it; if you give a gorilla a screw driver he'll toss it; but if you give an orangutan a screw driver he'll open his cage and walk away. 
- Sumatran Orangutan Society

Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty apes.  - Charleston Heston, The Planet of the Apes, 1968

The Planet of the Ape movie series has given us mixed messages about Orangutans.  They, in fact, share about 97 percent of the same genetic material as humans.

They're smart - they use tools, apply insect repellant and use soap.  They have feelings like love, empathy and a sense of humor.  They also lie.  (Just like us.)

And they are in danger of going extinct.

With all that in mind I read the most tender obituary in the paper the other day.  It was written just like a human obituary but it was for Bonnie, a 31 year old orangutan, who died in surgery when the folks at the Miami Zoo were trying to save her and her unborn baby.  The sweetest and most humanizing line in the obit was the last one which read:

She is survived by her mate, Mango.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Miller's and Ammo

A week ago yesterday, as we do every Saturday, we walked through my favorite hardware store, Miller's Hardware in Winter Park, Florida.  We usually cut through the store to get cooled off but sometimes we buy something as well.  And we are always treated well no matter how little we spend our how much help we need.  Because that's what Miller's is all about.

But a week ago yesterday I was greatly disturbed because the big clapboard sign on the sidewalk out front said "Ammo."  I wasn't disturbed because they sell ammunition but because the store is located about five miles from the Pulse Night Club where the massacre of 49 young people took place only weeks ago, I thought the sign on the sidewalk was in poor taste and offensive.  However, I said nothing.

But I thought about it for several days.  And then on Thursday there was a letter to the editor in the paper about the ammo sign.  This made me feel bad because if I'd said something Miller's might have removed the sign from the sidewalk and avoided the bad publicity.

So yesterday I was determined to tell them, in a loving way, how I felt.  But when we got there the sign had been removed so the problem was solved.

What I wanted to remind them of was that the big "ammo" sign on the sidewalk is not who they are.  They are not about dividing people.  They treat every person with kindness.  Decades before the big box stores started treating women with respect because they realized it made them richer, Miller's was known as "the women's hardware store."

They are fair and impartial.  For instance, they are selling Chia heads of both Trump and Hillary.


Friday, August 26, 2016

The Best Restaurant in the Country - Or Is It?

This week's New Yorker Magazine has an article by Nick Paumgarten that I couldn't put down.  Damon Baehrel is the name of both the chef and the restaurant that  Bloomberg News calls  "the most exclusive restaurant in the U.S."  It's also the hardest to get into.  Mr. Baehrel says he's booked up through 2025.

The restaurant is located in Earlton, New York, in the basement of his home.  The dining room can accommodate only 16 diners.  FoodieHub named Damon Baehrel the best restaurant in the world in 2015.  Writer Nick Paumgarten tells us:

Baehrel derived his ingredients, except meat, fish, and dairy, from his twelve acres of yard, garden forest, and swamp.  He made his oils and flours from acorns, dandelions, and pine; incorporated barks, saps, stems and lichen, while eschewing sugar, butter, and cream; cured his meats in pines needles; made dozens of cheeses (without rennet); and cooked on wooden planks, soil, and stone. 

I am not a gourmet but I know some.  And, apparently, folks fly in from all over the world who either have, or want to, eat in this basement.  One man told Paumgarten he hated long meals but Baehrel served him and his friends twenty-three courses over seven hours and the time "just flew by."

The food prep takes days and weeks and years.  For instance, he makes his flour from cattails, pine, dandelions, clover, goldenrod, beechnut, hickory nuts and acorns.  It takes one to one and a half years to make acorn flour.

Following is a description of the first course (of nineteen) Baehrel served Paumgarten:

The first course was served on a slab of sawed wood.  It was a small rectangle of what looked like salami atop a curled cracker.  He said, "It takes me sixteen to eighteen months to make cedar flour...so the crisps is made from cedar flour, with a little hickory-nut oil, duck-egg-white powder, water, sea salt, which I sometimes render....The rectangle of meat, he said, was blue foot chicken cured in pine-needle juice, pulp and powder for eighteen months.

Baehrel is a one man show, chef, waiter and clean up guy.  So the writer found some of his claims hard to believe - like what kind of records would have to be kept by one person to handle ten years worth of reservations.  Other food critics have reservations as well.  But most of the skepticism iso about the reservation list.  One reviewer called it "Brigadoon" because it seems to pop up only occasionally.

Ken Morris, who once worked for Damon Baehrel calls him a "crazy genius."

If you are a foodie, you will love this ten page article by Nick Paumgarten in the August 29, 2016 issue of the New Yorker.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

We Still Have Our Marbles

Two Healthy Brains - So Far
As you know Dave and I work hard to stay healthy.  But we do normal boring stuff and have for decades.  That means eating right, exercising, blah, blah, blah.

I love the ads for really expensive creams and such that will "reverse aging."  What?  I always think about having to explain to a four year old why "reverse aging" is doable or even a good thing.

The three things about aging that scare us the most are cancer, heart disease and dementia (Alzheimer's decease.)

We've been waiting for a magic bullet for Alzheimer's for a long time but it has not yet appeared.  Now new research out of the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in July suggests that - guess what - the same boring things we do for our physical bodies over the decades may also be what's needed for dementia.

Here are the six changes they're suggesting:

1.  Keep your heart healthy.  Look out for high blood pressure and, cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes.  And how do we do this?  You already know.  (Besides the diet and exercise I eat a piece of dark chocolate and drink a glass of wine every day.  But the trick is not to eat a box of chocolates and a bottle of wine every day.)

2.  Exercise.  Apparently, it keeps your brain as well as your body ship shape. 

3.  Learn new stuff.  Read and write.  It's simple and fun. 

4.  Be social.  Easy to do if you have close friends and relatives but if not, get out there and find some. 

5.  Treat depression.  Hint:  If you are sitting at home in your P.J's watching Fox News all day - stop it. 

6.  Sleep Well.  I have to work hard at this.  

OK, this is what they now tell us to keep our healthy brains.  And - guess what? - it doesn't cost much of anything - and it makes us happy.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Another Python Story

Python that has eaten something BIG.
I've written several times about our trespassing Burmese Pythons that hang out in our Everglades.  Apparently there are more than 150,000 of them.  They're not indigenous to Florida.  They got here courtesy of the exotic pet industry that continues to smuggle strange beasts into our state, sometimes in their underwear.

The problem is that the pythons eat our Florida wild life, including protected species.  A while back, as a solution to the problem, the state sponsored Python Challenge was begun.  This last time 104 pythons were killed in the hunting contest.  And this time an examination of the digestive systems in these pythons produced the remains of the following:
Python eating an alligator

7 Alligators
2 Deer
38 Birds
16 Rats
8 Opossums
7 Muskrats
3 Raccoons
3 Rabbits
2 Squirrels
1 Wood Stork

For the life of me, I can't imagine who would want an 18 foot Burmese Python as an "exotic pet."


Friday, August 19, 2016

The Contemporary Resort Hotel

Around 1974 my husband Ken, our four small children and I went to Disney World in Orlando and stayed at the splendorous Contemporary Resort Hotel.  It was, at that time, a futuristic icon.  The atrium was larger than a football field.  The main hall has one of the world's largest mosaics, 90 feet tall, with 18,000 hand-painted tiles representing an artistic view of the Grand Canyon.

The year before we were there President Nixon chose the Contemporary to deliver his "I am not a crook" speech.

But the coolest thing about this space-age hotel is that the Disney monorail goes right through the lobby.  And the most exciting thing to happen to us was, as we boarded the monorail, our little daughter, Sarah's flip flop fell off her foot and floated several stories down.

18,000 hand made Mosaic
tiles in the lobby
We were all new to the magic of Disney and so for years we told the story of how Sarah lost her flip flop on the monorail.  It became legendary.

 I still think of the Contemporary as....well...contemporary.  But it's not.

The hotel is being celebrated this month, along with other architectural landmarks,  as the futuristic icon that Walt Disney World unveiled in 1971.  So, while I may think of the Contemporary as still contemporary, it's no longer new.  It's 45 years old.

And my four little kids have grown up to have big lives of their own.  Including Sarah who was then and is still, an undeterred force of nature.  I remember several years ago seeing her, as an assistant district attorney, give instructions over the phone to have a guy arrested while she was making dinner for her own four kids.

But I still remember too - like it was yesterday - our whole family watching her flip flop float down several stories from the monorail in the Contemporary atrium.


More Beach Tales

Dave and I just spent another few days at the beach.  We talked about how fortunate we are to live 45 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean.  (Some climate change folks, including me, think we might be getting closer all the time.)

Moon Jellyfish
Florida has about 1,500 miles of beach.  All good.  But our favorite is New Smyrna on the East coast.  Right along side the ocean runs the Intercoastal Waterway, all the way down the coast.  We wondered, again, how the first visitors to Florida felt about the magnificent waterway, sometimes called the America's first highway.

We saw lots of jelly fish washed up on the sand.  But just the beautiful clear umbrella/bell shaped caps.  No tentacles so there was no threat of stings.

We met interesting people.  We ate shrimp and grouper at JB's Fish Camp.  We are blessed.