Friday, June 29, 2012

Shining Light on the Firefly

Fireflies are bugs with a glowing, or luminescent, quality.  This light is generated from an organ in the insect's abdomen surrounded by nerves, fatty material and air tubes.  Oxygen combines with a substance called lucifern to produce light without heat.  How the bugs turn the light on and off is not known.  All in all, the Firefly has a cool light meant for the heat of love.  (Best explained in that delightful old song, Glow Worm).

Fireflies are beetles.  The adult Firefly has wings covered by a wing cover.  In many species only the male has wings.  The female sometimes looks much like a larva, which is to say, she resembles a heavily segmented worm. 

The average Lightening Bug tastes bad.  The glowing may serve to warn predators to avoid eating them.  In some species, not only are adult Fireflies luminescent, the eggs and larvae shine too.

Romance is believed to be the main reason for the Firefly's luminescence. Different species have different patterns to their light flashes.  After all that enlightenment, the male and female find each other.  They mate (sometimes the female eats the male in the afterglow).  Within two days, the female lays eggs in the ground.  In a month or so, the eggs hatch into larvae.  The larvae live in the dirt eating slugs, snails and worms.  Over the winter, the larvae hibernate.  In spring, they emerge in a pupa stage.  By summer, they are adults ready to mate. 

Illuminating Firefly Facts

- approximatley 200 species
- they appear on every continent except Antarctica
- average life span larva: 1 year
- average life span adult:  2 months
- size:   1/4-1 inch long

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Breed Profile: Brussels Griffon

The Brussels Griffon is a small sturdy dog with a distinctive face.  Griffons have bulbous eyes, a walrus mustache, a pushed in nose and a prominent lower jaw.  The coat comes in red, belge (black and reddish brown), black and tan, and black.  Coat texture comes in two varieties, wiry and smooth. 

Katie has a black wiry coat.

The smooth-coated are called Brabancons or Petit Brabancon.  The smooth coat is recessive, so naturally the wiry coated Brussels Griffon are more common.  Griffon, after all, means wiry.

At first known as the Griffon d'Ecurie (Stable Griffon), this dog was used in stables as ratters.  The combination of the Affenpinscher and the Belgian street dog (a dog resembling a Fox Terrier) are believed to be the beginnings of the Griffon d' Ecurie.  Later, some Pug, King Charles Spaniel and English Toy Spaniel were added to the mix to create the Brussels Griffon we know today.

Nowadays, the Brussels Griffon's job is companion.  Still, he retains the verve that made him beloved back in his stable days.  The Brussels Griffon tends to be a climber and therefore may "escape".  This is especially problematic because he lacks a homing instinct (this from his Pug heritage, along with the pushed in nose). 

The Brussels Griffon gets along well with other dogs as well as other pets. He can be a little bossy, however (Terrier heritage).  He likes attention and affection, particularly from his favorite loved ones. He is a good watchdog and proves it by barking, sometimes a lot. 

Some Facts Griffon

- life span 12-15 years
- the tail is typically docked to 1/3
- weight:  8-10 pounds
- height at shoulder:  9-11 inches
- also known as:  Griffon Bruxellois, Griffon Belge, Belgian Griffon
- old Belgium folk songs tell of "bearded dogs"

Brussels Griffon Manifesto

I am an indoor dog,  I want to be close to you, guard you, and let you heap praise upon me.


Next Breed Profile:   Old English Sheepdog!

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Smell That?

Something smells in my house.  And it ain't oven fresh cinnamon buns.  It isn't even dog.  It's a wrong smell.  It seems to be coming from the basement.

It's probably not bugs either, but it's bugging the bleep out of me.  See, bad smells are OK as long as they are in the style of asparagus scented urine.  In other words, you don't like it, but you know why it is happening and you know it will not last long.

So what the heck is that smell?  Mold?  Dirt?  A dead animal?  Satanic visitation? (Remember Amityville Horror?!).  It smells vaguely like bitter armpit rotten stump topped off with skunk scat.  It also kinda smells like a sinus infection coupled with a garbage can that has been stewing in the garage for several days in August. Of course, I can't be sure anymore because my nose cilia have fled in fear.

Could it be the accumulation of countless odors collected in the structure of an old old house?  Is it the ramped up version of what happens when somebody has a garlic and cumin seasoned lunch?  You know, the curious dynamic that takes something that was pleasant going in and turns it into a new and decidedly unpleasant incarnation oozing out.

What can be done to kill this stench?  There are many things that don't do any good.  Walking around the house sniffing things, for instance,  has proven profoundly ineffective.  Ever hear of that volcanic rock that is supposed to absorb odors?  Well, there are several plastic mesh bags of those rocks hanging in the basement.  Every few months you're supposed to re energize the rocks by putting them in the sun.  Every few years you're supposed to rejuvenate the rocks by soaking them in salt water for 24 hours, rinse them off, then put them in the sun for several hours.  I whipped up a batch of salt water and soaked the bags.  The next day the sun obligingly came out to shine it's magic on the bags of rocks.  Now, the salted, rinsed and baked rocks once again hang in various areas of the basement.  Suspicion grows that these bags of rocks are not only symbolic, but provide only one function:  dubious decoration.

Meanwhile, outside the smelly house, the honeysuckle are in bloom.  This is the first time I can recall not finding the assertive scent of honeysuckle cloying.

Throw open the windows!  Run some fans!  Air out the house!  That's the ticket.  Dang, the temperature is in the high eighties and the humidity is also in the high eighties.  Let's hope that nice thick air will be more forceful with the smell then a delicate breeze would be.

OK.  Let's crank up the dehumidifier.  Something is happening!  We've had to empty the collection bucket again and again.

The Handsome One helpfully lit a scented candle in the basement.  Alas, it did not mask the smell.  On the bright side, since we did not blow up, we know for certain that the smell is not gas.

Something else must be done!  Speaking as one inclined to obsessive hand washing, how do I proceed without going extreme?  Bringing in a garden hose and blasting everything is probably over the top.  Let's tone it down a little and try a good bucket of sudsy water and a good sturdy brush.  If that doesn't work I may wait for Divine intervention.  While I'm waiting, it couldn't hurt to  apply procrastination.  This would allow the smell time to fade surely and gradually, the way my youthful skin tone did.

Smell results here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Appaloosa are Spot On

Appaloosas are best known for their spots.  The spots these horses sport vary from little pointillism dots to large blotches, or blankets,  in pretty much every color horses come in.

Cro-Magnon man drew pictures of spotted horses on cave walls.  Chinese Art from 500 BC displays horses with spots.  Greek and Persian heroes were said to ride beautiful spotted horses.

Spanish Conquistadors brought some of these horses to the New World in the 1500's.  The Nez Perce' tribe of the Pacific Northwest bred what they called the Palousy- named for a small river that flows into the Snake River in Southeastern Washington.  The Nez Perce' needed horses to help hunt buffalo.  That job required a quick, agile, brave and cooperative horse.  The Palousy was well suited to the job.  Their attractive appearance was a happy extra.  These selectively bred horses are considered the foundation of the Appaloosa. 

In the 1800's, the Indian Wars wiped out many of the horses.  In 1938 the Appaloosa Horse Club was formed to protect and preserve the breed.

Some Appaloosa Qualities

- height: 14.2-16 hands

- four general coat patterns:  blanket, spots, blanket with spots, and roan

-  the coat patterns are further described:  leopard, snowflake, frosted, marble

- the skin is mottled (spotted),  this is most noticeable on the genitals, muzzle and around the eyes

- white sclera- the white area encircling the iris of the eye is visible

- vertically striped hooves

Appaloosas are prized not only for their beauty but for their hardiness and versatility.  The Appaloosa is described as calm, gentle, sweet tempered, fast, docile, and enthusiastic- just to name a few of the compliments heaped on this splendid horse. 

The Appaloosa is adept in both western and eastern applications.  Here's a list of Appaloosa accomplishments:

pleasure riding
harness horse
barrel racing
distance competition
middle distance  (220 yards/ 8 furlongs) racing
service horses for the handicapped
mounted police

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