Pademelons

Greetings from Queensland, Australia. I am enjoying a week with my friends Craig and Daryl before heading to Sydney for a conference on medical cannabis. Yesterday we visited Mary Cairncross Reserve, a lovely place to walk and view native flora and fauna. We had the good luck to see a Pademelon. Not familiar with the creature? Well, no worries mate!  As usual our good friends at Wikipedia can help.

Pademelons are small marsupials of the genus Thylogale. They are usually found in forests. Pademelons are some of the smallest of the macropods. The name is a corruption of badimaliyan, from the Dharuk Aboriginal language of Port Jackson(Sydney region).

Pademelons, wallabies, and kangaroos are very alike in body structure, and the three names refer to the three different size groups. Besides their smaller size, pademelons can be distinguished from wallabies by their shorter, thicker, and sparsely haired tails. Like wallabies, they ambulate by hopping.

And here is a picture, although not one that I took.   Cute, right?  Well, I don’t travel with the kind of camera gear anymore that could help me capture that kind of picture. These days I travel with my iPhone XS, a phenomenal computer/camera.  And inspired by social media I am trying my hand at more videos.  So, I am proud to debut my first WordPress video post.  Not the best but my little Pademelon does have a cute butt.  😀

 

 

 

 

Vienna

Recently I had a chance to visit Vienna, Austria. You know Austria. It’s where Julie Andrews sang to the hills in the 1965 movie, “The Sound of Music.”

The sound of music really does describe a lot of Vienna’s history. Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert and Johann Strauss II, among others, were associated with the city. You can visit a room where Mozart, a precocious youngster and musical genius, dazzled his audience with his virtuosity. There are concert halls that have heard the premieres of some of the finest music known to man.

There is a lovely opera house, the Wiener Staatsoper, first built in 1869 (and rebuilt after WWII).  It was popular during the Third Reich with frequent performances of Wagner’s operas. Ironically the last performance before Allied planes started to rain bombs on the city was Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. The title “refers to a prophesied war among various beings and gods that ultimately results in the burning, immersion in water, and renewal of the world.”  The bombing of Vienna must indeed have seemed like götterdämmerung.  In February and March 1945 alone there were 80,000 tons of bombs dropped on the city.

I’m a bit of a history buff, especially about WWII, and I can’t visit Europe without reflecting on the horror of that war. It’s especially easy in Vienna because the streets seem so familiar from documentaries and movies. The mind’s eye can easily visualize Nazi troops marching down the broad strasses (streets) and brave partisans lurking in bombed out buildings.  When I find myself in these places that have seen such awful destruction I often will think of a line from the Joni Mitchell song The Three Great Stimulants, “No tanks have ever rumbled through my street/And the drone of planes at night has never frightened me.” I have lived such a blessed life and certainly the #1 blessing is to have not experienced war first-hand. It is a wretched business and I am infuriated when someone of Donald Trump’s ilk throws out threats to Iran or North Korea or Venezuela. War is almost always a result of male egos.

But I digress. Back to beautiful Vienna, thankfully well recovered from world wars. It is vibrant and lovely.  I was in the city for a medical cannabis conference and I had one day for sightseeing. I spent most of that day on a “hop on/hop off” bus which I rode around the loop twice. I was just seven weeks removed from having a hip replaced and my stamina was not what it could be. I was grateful to have made the trip at all so seeing Vienna from a bus that was filled (off and on, of course) with happy people speaking languages from around the globe did not seem that bad to me. Along the way I saw lovely boulevards, historic architecture and hot rods…yes, hot rods, miniature hot rods. Out of place?  Definitely.  I laughed out loud.

 

I knew I had one good foray in me in terms of walking and enjoying a particular site. It was a difficult choice. Friends who have visited the city before urged me to visit the opera house, or the Schönbrunn Palace, or one of the multitude of art museums, or the Lippizzaner stallions. But once I saw the Naturhistorisches Museum, the Natural History Museum, and learned that it has the largest display of meteorites in the world I knew where I wanted to be.

The building is imposing, with 94,000 square. It opened in 1889 and was built to hold the collections of the Royal Habsburg family. Like so many institutions of that time the design exalts art and beauty. Entering the main hallway is like walking into enlightenment.

Obviously I did not manage to visit all 94,000 sq.ft. The meteorites were up the stairs and through the mineral rooms which had an extraordinary array of rocks, ores, and gems.

 

Just getting through the minerals was hard work but the gem room led to the Meteorite room and I must admit the museum has an extraordinary collection of cosmic debris.

The Knyahinya meteor, I have learned, is not exactly the largest meteor known to man but it was in 1866 when it fell to earth in the Carpathian Mountains in quite a spectacular fashion. The meteor weighs more than 600 lbs. and is quite lovely.

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Knyahinya Meteor

The Meteor Room, fittingly, led to the dinosaurs and, once again, the Vienna Natural History Museum did not disappoint.

This room was populated mainly with excited children who dashed from one model and display case to another. They were too hyper to sit which left the benches more or less open. Those who did sit were tired parents and contented grandparents. Perhaps some of them, like me, were reflecting on life’s fragility. One minute you are in Eden, the largest beings on earth, munching leaves and grass contentedly when a bright light above you seems to portend a change.  Another götterdämmerung…. ❧

Mushrooms!

Here in Western North Carolina it has been a wet summer. Lots of rain and damp morning fogs makes for a soggy environment. I’m in the Nantahala Forest and, according to Wikipedia,

The word “Nantahala” is a Cherokee word meaning “Land of the Noonday Sun”. The name is appropriate as, in some spots, the sun only reaches the floors of the deep gorges of the forest when high overhead at midday.

Well, there are parts of my small plot that stay shady and damp most of the day and that leads to some great mushrooming. I’ve often written about NC mushrooms. My neighbors Bonnie and Renee love to harvest the chanterelles and they are having a good harvest year.

But smaller critters like mushrooms too. The accompanying photo is a scene I have often stumbled upon and wanted to record but the angle has never been quite right to tell the story. Something — squirrel, chipmunk, vole, — really enjoyed this small mushroom which, I think, is a Beechwood Sickener (Russula mairei). From the name you would think it is poisonous but it is edible and, according to my mushroom book, “very hot when tasted.”  That might explain why the ‘shroom was devoured over two days.

I have no interest in tasting the Beechwood Sickener. I’ve never been very experimental when it comes to food. And we all know some mushrooms are really bad for you. As the saying goes, “All mushrooms are edible, but some only once in a lifetime.”  ❧

 

Uh Oh ….

Remember Buddy?  Dog of the lost collar?  I wrote about him just the other day.  Well, that’s him snoozing on my porch.  He showed up yesterday as I was cleaning out my van (way overdue on that chore). Tango was in the van because he thinks it is his living room on wheels (he’s kinda right about that) and he doesn’t want to miss out if I’m going somewhere. So Buddy comes wiggling-waggling around…the dog is always happy. At one point it looks like he’s going to get in the van so Tango was forced to engage but it went far better than I would have expected. Tango didn’t do his usual posturing with unknown male dogs. He just got up and gave Buddy a look which was quite effective. Then Tango got out of the van and the two of them began that weird dog-dance which involves a lot of circling, smelling and peeing.

Tango quickly bored of the game but Buddy was stoked. I could tell he was ready to come in the house and maybe catch a little chow. He was told, in no uncertain terms, that he is NOT coming in the house. Which may lead you to remember the funny writing about the stray cat who shows up in the yard but won’t be fed.

But it’s hungry.
Okay it can eat in the garden but not on the porch.
It’s raining.
Okay, the cat can eat on the porch but not in the house.
It’s cold. Okay, the cat can eat in the kitchen but can’t stay in the house overnight….
And on it goes.

Wish me luck. I’m hoping Buddy doesn’t fit into stray cat story which, if you don’t recall, ends with the cat sleeping happily in bed with its humans. ❧

Buddy

Meet my new friend, Buddy. I’ve written about another Buddy, the Fawn Hill Buddy who belongs to my friend Bonnie and lives just above me here on Fawn Hill. He barks to scare the thunder away … it doesn’t work.

This is a new Buddy and he lives on Potts Branch Rd. which runs just below Fawn Hill. That’s him on the left. I’ve seen him before, running free with two or three of his buddies. Many dogs run free up here in Franklin. They become street and woods savvy. Usually they will steer clear of humans that aren’t their own. Generally speaking they are no bother and I have to admit I have stood on my porch and watched Buddy with his buddies running or walking along Potts Branch, occasionally veering into my yard where they pick up Tango’s scent and pee to let him know they are around. They look very happy.

So today I was doing some yard work. Tango had chosen to stay inside (the heat is tough on Aussies) and I found Buddy’s collar on my lawn. He’s current with his rabies and registration plus he had a nice name tag with his address and phone number. I called the number and asked if their dog was missing, explaining I found the collar. Buddy’s owner said that he had come home last night with no collar but he was fine. Since the address was just up Potts Branch Rd.  I told her I would just place the collar on my mailbox and she could collect it when she went by. She said that was fine.

I walked to the mailbox and placed it on top, as promised. Then I turned back towards the driveway and there was this handsome, reddish/brown dog looking at me, about 20 feet away.  He had started to turn away — as I said, they tend to avoid humans who aren’t theirs. But something told me I knew this dog.  “Buddy?” I said. Ears perked up, tail wagged, and Buddy walked right over.

He is well named because he is a Buddy. He was up for some petting, especially belly rubs. I turned back and collected his collar. “Is this yours?” I asked. The dang dog walked right up to me, sat down and let me put on the collar–which was a perfect fit. I couldn’t help but laugh. Buddy looked very pleased with himself and asked nicely for another belly rub.

I called his owner again who, at this point, was a bit confused but we both laughed when we ascertained this was indeed Buddy. I told her to expect him to come tonight with his collar. He followed me up the drive but reached a point where Tango’s scent was too strong and he turned around, running down the hill through the apple orchard. Off to another adventure.  ❧

 

Trump got you down? Buy a Roomba.

 

My Roomba, hard at work.

With the New Year I made a significant investment in a robot…yes, a robot. The Roomba vacuum cleaner, which can be seen to the right with more at irobot.com, is about as cute as R2D2, moves in a similar fashion and is just as much fun to watch. In these troubled times it is comforting to encounter something that simply does what it is says it will do.

And the joy of having a device that vacuums while I do other things…well, that is priceless.  Even now, as I type, Roomba is working her magic, clipping along at a fairly good pace, gently tapping against various obstacles and moving on, finding dirt and dog hair all over my tiny Florida home. In the spring it will travel to North Carolina with me and work its wonder on the 80 foot modular home on Fawn Hill. That will be a real workout for it and I have no doubt she will shine.

Regardless of where I hang my hat, living with a cat and an Australian Shepherd  (or, as I sometimes call him, my Australian Shedder) has its problems. Tango, my Aussie, has  “blowouts” at seasonal points in the year creating a different form of a “bomb cyclone.” Huge welts of discarded fur will join together and waft across the floor, collecting under beds and tables. In these times it becomes necessary to vacuum every day.  So boring but so necessary. Now I can just turn on Roomba (I can even do so via my iPhone!) and away she goes…no complaints, no heavy sighs, just a dedication to get the job done.  Now that’s Making America Great Again!

It is amazing but is it a harbinger of darker forces? Will the Roomba that is so dedicated to cleaning floors someday rise up against its master and make demands? More rest periods? Better attention paid to its need for periodic cleanings? Less space to clean?  Of course not. But the role of robots and artificial intelligence (AI) in our society is raising concerns. Just as my Roomba may put some maid services out of business so too, on a far grander scale,  AI may contribute to the loss of many, many jobs in the future. Robots are already performing tasks that once employed people. Robots can build cars, perform surgical operations, drive cars, sort items, and appear as true-to-life models of American presidents at Walt Disney World.

Politico Magazine has recently written about the coming change in an article entitled “How Robots Will Break Politics.” (https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/01/05/robots-politics-automation-technology-216220)  It’s a good read and helps explain these extraordinary times in which we live.  Ryan Avent writes, “Long before we find ourselves dealing with malevolent AIs or genetically engineered superhumans, and perhaps just 10 to 20 years from now, we will have to deal with the threat technology poses to our social order—and to our politics.”

That seems inevitable and given the dismal state of our political affairs I know there are many people who will cry, “Bring it on!”  The next decade will be tumultuous with many changes to social institutions as well as political.  I don’t know how I feel about all that but I sure love my Roomba. Watching her work is almost mesmerizing. It can, for a few minutes, make you forget the chaos and clamor that is all around. Watching Roomba…a 21st Century meditation exercise. It’s getting weird folks. ❖

 

Road Trip – This is the Wrap

 

Alice’s Route 4/23/17 – 6/4/17  — 8,710 miles, 42 days

The odyssey is over. Tango and I are safely arrived in Franklin, NC, where we will quietly enjoy the summer.  No road trips anticipated.  😀

Zeke, Kelli, me, Taryn, Orion, Skylar and Erin… Mother’s Day in Long Beach, CA

Brenann, Evan, Mike, Alice and Stacy..the O’Learys in Hailey, ID.

Tango in the Turnbull N.W.R. near Spokane, WA.

We traveled 8,710 miles! Honestly, I never expected that.  Side trips got added and the end result was many more miles than I anticipated. But those detours allowed me to visit with family, some of whom I had not seen in a long while.  That was grand.

We made a completely unexpected trip to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and met a family who I felt that I knew but had never met.  I wrote about that in my blog, “On the Road — Memories and Magic.”

There were three conferences–two on medical cannabis where I learned so much my head is still spinning.  This issue, that has consumed forty years of my life (see aliceolearyrandall.com), is simply exploding with new knowledge. The discovery of the endogenous cannabinoid system is a blessing for us all.  Lives will be better in coming years thanks to the tireless work of so many activists, healthcare practitioners and researchers.

To those shaking their heads and asking why a 69 year-old woman, and her faithful companion Tango, would undertake such an adventure I can only shake my head in return and ask, “Why not?”  Perhaps it was growing up with the weekly Dinah Shore Show in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Sponsored by a U.S. carmaker, the singing star would always sign-off with her catchy jingle,  “See the USA, in your Chevrolet/America is asking you to call/See the USA in your Chevrolet/America’s the greatest land of all.”  Darn right Dinah!  It is a wonder of a land and those who don’t take the time to visit its wonder are squandering their own wealth. And I can add this, if any of my fellow baby boomers are looking for those wide-open roads of our youth they still exist in the vast Western states of Montana, the Dakotas, and Idaho. (P.S. Stick to the secondary roads, they are the greatest.)

To my faithful readers – thanks. Your comments and observations made things all the more enjoyable. I’ll try to post some pictures from the trip in coming weeks.

Happy trails! ❧