Thursday, September 30, 2010

President Ford and Liberty

President Gerald Ford was born on July 14, 1913, but of course he was not the president then.  In fact, he was not even named Gerald Ford then.  It turns out that when he was born, his name was Leslie Lynch King, Jr.  But then what happened was that Baby Leslie's mother left his father 16 days after the baby was born.  And the reason she did that was because her husband used to hit her, and also he threatened to kill her and the nursemaid and the baby with a butcher knife.  So it seemed like a good idea to get away from there.

Anyway, the mother of the president-to-be went and lived with some relatives for a while and then she eventually married Gerald Rudolff Ford, and they changed the name of their son to Gerald Rudolf Ford, Jr., even though his stepfather never officially adopted him.  And President Ford grew up in a happy home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with three half-brothers.  But here's something funny to think about:  if the baby's name had never been changed, he would have ended up being President King, and that would make him have two titles instead of just one!

While he was growing up, Mr. Ford became an Eagle Scout, and he played football in high school, and he did some boxing.  Then he went to the University of Michigan, where he also played football.  And another thing he liked to do was play golf.

He graduated with a degree in economics, and then he got a law degree from Yale in 1941.  After that, he went back to Grand Rapids and opened a law office, and he worked to try to keep America out of the war, but after Pearl Harbor happened, he enlisted in the Navy.  For a while, he taught at a pre-flight school, and then he was on a battleship from 1943 until 1944.



After the war, in 1948, Mr. Ford married Elizabeth Warren, who was mostly called "Betty."  She was a fashion consultant and before that, she had been a dancer.  They had four kids whose names were Michael, John, Steven, and Susan.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ford got elected to the House of Representatives, and he had that job for 25 years.  He was really good at getting people to work out their differences, and everybody thought he was a very nice man.  Eventually, he got to be the House Minority Leader while President Johnson was in office.  And after that, when Mr. Nixon got to be the president, Mr. Ford helped him get laws through Congress.

Then a surprising thing happened, which was that Vice-President Spiro Agnew resigned because of some bad stuff he had done back in Maryland.  So Mr. Ford got chosen to be the new vice-president.  And then awhile later, President Nixon also resigned because of some scandal thing called Watergate, and Mr. Ford became President Ford.  Which meant he was the only person ever in U.S. history to be the vice-president and also the president without getting elected either time.

But now I can tell you the most important thing about President Ford, which was that he had a golden retriever named Liberty.  But when he first got to be president, he didn't have a dog.  All the Ford family had was a Siamese cat named Shan.  In the past, the Fords had had golden retrievers, and one lived to be 13 years old, and the next one lived to be 9.  So Mr. Ford's daughter, Susan, and the White House photographer, David Kennerly, decided that the president really needed a dog to keep him company while he was doing his lonely and stressful job.


So they got an 8-month-old puppy from a breeder in Minnesota who had a lot of champion dogs.  And this puppy's name was Honor's Foxfire Liberty Hume, and she was born on February 8, 1974.  Mr. Ford decided to call her "Liberty," because that seemed like a good name for a First Dog.



Anyway, Liberty really loved her dad, and she didn't care whether he was the president or just an ordinary person.  She liked to follow him around, and she hung out with him in the Oval Office.  Also she got photographed on the south lawn, which seems to be a place that every First Dog gets its photo taken.  And Liberty had a rubber stamp with her pawprint, so that she could autograph her photos for her fans.


One time President Ford took Liberty out late at night for a little walk on the White House lawn, and he didn't tell the Secret Service he was going out, so they locked the doors and the elevator, and the president and his dog could not get back in.  But they made a lot of noise in the stairwell, and then the guards let them come in.

Oh, and here's a clever trick that Liberty could do.  If her dad was talking to somebody in the Oval Office, and he didn't really want to talk to them anymore, he gave Liberty a signal, and she would go over to the guest and wag her tail and that would make a break in the conversation.


On September 14, 1975, Liberty had a litter of 8 puppies in the White House, and everyone was very proud of her.  Mr. Ford kept one of these puppies, who was named Misty.

In the 1976 election, President Ford ran against Jimmy Carter, and he lost the election, probably because people never quite forgave President Ford for pardoning President Nixon.  Anyway, after that, Mr. Ford went back home to Michigan, and he did a lot of good things, including a lot of stuff for the Republican Party.  And he also wrote his autobiography.  He and President Carter even got to be good friends, and they did a lot of things together.

President Ford died on December 26, 2006, and at that time he was 93 years old, which made him the oldest former president ever.  

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Dog Named Vandy

This true story about a very brave boxer girl just happened last week in Austin, Texas, which is where Aunt Cheryl lives.  And of course my boyfriend, Hank, lives there too.




And what happened was that this boxer named Vandy was in a shelter in Dallas, but nobody adopted her, and the shelter was really, really full.  So some of the dogs, including Vandy, were going to be euthanized (which is a fancy way of saying "killed").  But at the last minute, a group of nice people called Austin Boxer Rescue decided they could take Vandy, and she went to live with a foster family in a town called Pflugerville.  Which is a very funny name for a town, if you ask me.





Anyway, a day or two after Vandy got to her foster home, she was out in the yard with the foster family's boxer and her foster dad and the family's little boy, who is 16 months old.  And everybody was running around in the yard while the dad grilled hamburgers, and then the dad saw something moving in the grass, so he told everybody to come away from there.  The family dog and the little boy did that, but Vandy went and got in front of the boy.



And then it turned out that there was a rattlesnake there in the grass!  So Vandy got bit, but the little boy was safe.  Then Vandy's foster dad killed the snake, and he thought everybody was okay.  But Vandy's neck swelled up really big, and she started acting sick, so the family took her right to the emergency vet clinic.  And there she got anti-venom and also some IV fluids, so she didn't die.  And now Vandy is home again, and her story was on TV and it was on the internet, which is where I saw it.

So the moral of this story is that even the most ordinary shelter dogs can turn out to be heroes.  All they need is somebody to love them and give them a chance.

Oh, and another moral is that unless you are trying to save somebody's life, you should stay away from rattlesnakes!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bengal Tigers


It is still the Year of the Tiger, so I guess I had better tell you about some more kinds of tigers while I'm thinking about it.  So that's why today I am going to tell you about Bengal Tigers.  Sometimes these tigers are called Indian Tigers or Royal Bengal Tigers.  Their fancy scientific name is Panthera tigris tigris.  They are the most common type of tiger, and they live in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Bhutan, and southern Tibet.  They are the national animal of India and Bangladesh.


Nobody knows exactly how many Bengal tigers there are, but people think there are about 1,411 in India, 200 in Bangladesh, 155 in Nepal, and 67-81 in Bhutan.  These are not very big numbers, as you can see, so that is why the Bengal tiger is ENDANGERED.  And the way it mostly got to be endangered is because the tiger habitat is getting smaller, and also people keep killing the tigers to get their skins and bones to sell, which it is illegal to do, but that doesn't stop them because they can make lots of money by doing it.  Mostly, the skins are sold in Nepal and China.  And the tiger bones are sold in China because they are used in folk medicine for stuff like rheumatism and for making muscles stronger.


India has set up a bunch of reserves for tigers in the foothills of the Himalayas.  The people there are trying to make a safe place for the tigers so that no one will kill them, and also so they can have lots of baby tigers.  Of course, there are Bengal tigers in zoos all over the world, too, but I don't think there is any plan to teach these tigers to be wild again.


Bengal tigers can be yellow or orange, with black or brown stripes.  But they can also be white with black or brown stripes, or white with no stripes at all.  Bengal tigers can even be black with tawny, yellow, or white stripes.  A boy tiger weighs about 420 pounds and is 6 feet long, with a 3-foot tail.  A girl tiger weighs 310 pounds and is 8 feet long, including her tail.  Tigers have a roar that can be heard almost two miles away!


The places where Bengal tigers like to live are grasslands, rainforests, scrub forests, deciduous forests, and mangrove swamps.  Their stripes help them stay hidden while they are stalking their prey, and then when they get close enough, they pounce.  Bengal tigers have fangs that are 4 inches long, which is the longest of any animal in the cat family.  They also have big, retractable claws that help them climb trees or kill prey.  And these tigers are so strong that they can drag their prey almost half a mile, even if the prey is heavier than they are.


Tigers don't eat any veggies or fruit.  They only eat meat.  And the kind of meat they eat is stuff like wild boar, water buffalo, antelope, and deer.  Sometimes they also eat smaller animals such as hares, monkeys, or peacocks.  Or they might eat a baby elephant or a baby rhino, if they can get one, or maybe some yummy dead animal that they find lying around.  And occasionally they eat other predators, like leopards, wolves, jackals, and crocodiles.  Sometimes tigers eat livestock, which makes farmers mad, and then maybe the farmers will shoot the tigers, which is illegal, but they do it anyway, to protect their livestock.  Usually, tigers don't eat people, but if people get into their territory or too close to a mama tiger's cubs, those people might get killed and eaten.


Lions like to hang out in groups, but tigers don't do that.  And the main reason they don't is because the daddy tigers don't help at all with raising the tiger cubs.  So mostly what happens is that all these tigers stake out a territory for themselves, and they mark it with urine so that every other tiger knows it is already claimed.  The male tigers usually have bigger territories than the females.  Then they mostly stay out of each other's territories until it's time to breed.


Male tigers are all grown up when they are 4-5 years old, and females are grown up when they are 3-4 years old.  After that, they can make baby tigers.  Usually, a mama tiger will have between 1 and 4 cubs in a nice, hidden place in the bush or in a cave or somewhere like that.  The cubs weigh about 2 pounds each when they are born, and their eyes and ears are closed.  They stay with their mom until they are almost 2 years old, and then they go find their own territories.


Anyway, that's most of the important information I found out about Bengal tigers.  It is very sad that they  and all the other kinds of tigers are so ENDANGERED.  I hope none of the tigers that are extant right now go extinct, like some other kinds of tigers already did.  If that happened, the situation would be even sadder than it already is.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

PUPPY MILLS! GRRRRR!

This is a horrible, awful, very sad subject that I don't even like to think about, let alone write about.  But everybody needs to learn about the evilness of puppy mills, so that is why I decided to quit avoiding the topic!

First I will tell you that the state of Missouri, where I live, is the Puppy Mill Capital of the whole United States.  About 30% of all the U.S. puppy mills are located in Missouri, and in these mills there are 200,000 dogs making 1 million puppies every year.  Then these puppies get sent to pet stores in places like New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Seattle, and other big cities.  So the total puppy mill income for Missouri is about $40 million.  Which, if you ask me, is an awful lot of money to make off of the misery of poor, innocent dogs.

Anyway, just in case you don't know what is so terrible about puppy mills, here is a list of their bad qualities:

  1.  The dogs are kept in little cages that are hardly big enough to stand up in, and many times dogs have to spend their whole lives in these cages.
  2.  Dogs might get into fights with their cage mates and get injured.
  3.  The bottom of the cages is made of wire so that pee and poop will fall through it, but the wire hurts the dogs' feet.  And sometimes a dog gets its leg caught in the wire, and the leg gets broken or cut off by the wire.
  4.  There is no medical care for a dog that is sick or that has a broken leg or whatever.
  5.  Girl dogs start making puppies as soon as they are old enough, and they have to make puppies every time they come into heat.
  6.  When dogs are too old to breed anymore, they are killed, usually by smashing their heads or by shooting them.
  7.  Dogs may be de-barked by sticking a metal rod down their throats to destroy their vocal chords.



  8.  The food that the dogs get is really cheap and bad quality, so the dogs have lots of dental problems.
  9.  Sometimes the dogs' teeth are so bad that their jaw falls apart.
10.  The dogs are usually dirty and their hair is matted.
11.  The dogs don't get any petting or loving or socialization.
12.  Some dogs have to live outside all year, even in really cold or really hot weather.
13.  Dogs who live in kennels inside have to breathe ammonia smells from the urine, which is not good for their lungs or hearts.
14.  Some dogs get so bored that they turn in circles or bark at the wall for hours.
15.  Puppies are sent to pet stores when they are only 6 or 8 weeks old.
16.  They are often shipped without enough food, water, air, or shelter.


17.  Lots of times, these puppies are sick or will get sick after somebody buys them.
18.  Some of the puppies have genetic problems such as hip dysplasia because their sire and dam weren't tested before being bred.
19.  Sometimes puppies have emotional problems because they weren't handled and socialized.
20.  Puppies may not be purebred, even though the breeder says they are.  And sometimes breeders lie about a puppy's pedigree.






So like I said, Missouri is the main place where all this puppy mill stuff is going on, but here's an exciting thing that is happening in Missouri:  On November 2, there will be an election, and there is something called Proposition B that people can vote on.  This proposition got put on the ballot because thousands of people, including my mom, signed a petition.  And now, if enough people vote for Proposition B, the puppy mill situation will get a little better.




Because what Proposition B says is that breeders can only have 50 breeding dogs; these dogs have to get enough food and water; any veterinary care that they need; protection from extreme heat and cold; enough space to turn around, stretch, and lie down; regular exercise; and rest between breeding cycles.  Breeders with fewer than 10 breeding female dogs are not affected, and neither are people who raise hunting dogs or livestock.









If I could vote, I would vote for Proposition B over and over again, but I'm not old enough to vote.  Mom says she will vote for it, but she is only allowed to vote one time, which doesn't really seem fair.  Anyway, I am really hoping that it will pass.  A lot of people are against it because they say that dogs are just products, the same as carrots or chickens, which is totally not true, in my opinion.  Also, these people think that if we pass this law, then the next thing will be to pass a law that says you can't breed a bunch of cattle or pigs.

Sometimes people just get way too crazy and excited about stuff when there's no reason to get that way.  But like I said, I hope that Proposition B passes.  It would be better to just outlaw puppy mills totally, but I guess that would be too simple.  At least Proposition B should put some of the puppy mills out of business.  And in the meantime, DON'T BUY PUPPIES FROM PET STORES!  Because if you do, it makes puppy mill owners think they should keep making puppies!  Instead, you should go to your nice, local shelter and adopt a poor, homeless dog.

Friday, September 24, 2010

GINKGO TREES

Under a female ginkgo tree
In our neighborhood, we have a few ginkgo trees, but not very many.  There is one that lives about a block from us, and it is a female ginkgo tree, which means it gets very stinky at this time of year.  And also if you walk under it, you might step in the slimy seed things that fall off the tree, and then you might slip and fall down.  So in the fall, which officially started yesterday, we don't usually walk under this tree.






Fossil gingko leaf
Gingko trees have been around for a really, really, really long time, like maybe 270 million years.  There used to be several kinds of gingkos, but now there is only one kind, which is called Gingko biloba.  Scientists have found fossils of gingko leaves that look almost exactly like the gingko we have around today, so this is why the gingko is called a "living fossil."






Bonsai ginkgo
Lots of gingko trees are growing all over the world, but these are trees that people have planted.  Ginkgos may be extinct in the wild, or maybe there are a few left in two small areas in eastern China.  These might be wild gingko trees, but they also might have been planted by monks during the last 1,000 years or so.

Buddhists revere the gingko, and that is why they plant this tree in their temple gardens.  They have kept records of the trees that were planted, and some are over 500 years old.  The ancient Chinese called the ginkgo "the tree with leaves like a duck's foot," which is a very good description of it, in my opinion.  Another name for the tree is maidenhair-tree because the leaves are shaped like the fronds of a maidenhair fern.






Male gingko
Anyway, like I mentioned before, there are female ginkgo trees that produce stinky seeds.  And there are also male trees that aren't stinky at all.  The male trees make cone things with pollen in them, and then the female trees make seeds.  I thought those things growing on the female trees were fruits, but after doing my research, I learned that they are really soft, squishy seedpods.   



Gingko trees are popular because they grow nicely in towns, and they hardly ever get diseases or bugs or anything like that.  Of course, in some places, it is illegal to plant female gingkos, so a lot of people plant a male cultivar called "Autumn Gold," which probably got its name because in the fall, gingko leaves turn bright yellow, which makes them very pretty to look at.




Gingko seeds without the slimy seedpods
In Asia, people use the gingko seeds in their cooking.  Also some people think that if you take gingko biloba as a medicine, it will keep you from getting Alzheimer's, but there is no proof that this is true.  What ginkgo can do for sure is it can help your blood circulate better and maybe keep you from getting blood clots.  And having your blood flow better can help you maybe not have headaches, short-term memory loss, depression, or ringing in your ears.



Now I will tell you an amazing story about how strong and tough gingko trees are.  If you remember your history lessons, you will know that in 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.  Well, guess what!  Six ginkgo trees survived this bomb, even though they were very close to the center of where it exploded.  And after a month or so, they budded out again and went on growing, and they are still alive today.






Charred trunk of Anraku-ji  ginkgo
Here is a picture of one of these ginkgo trees, and it's located at a temple called Anraku-ji.  It was 2,160 meters from the bomb blast.  The temple was rebuilt in 1948 with a hole in the roof to give the tree room to grow.  The plaque says, "This Gingko withstood the atomic bombing on August 6th 1945.  There are still scorch marks on the upper part of the trunk from the blast."










Okay, so that is all I'm going to tell you about this interesting tree.  Of course, if my brothers were writing this blog entry, they would say that gingko trees are also good to pee on, but they think any tree is good to pee on!  I will just give you the advice that if you want to plant a gingko tree, you should make sure to plant a male one!
Ginkgo leaf designs make nice artwork


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Popular Human Names

Mom thinks names are interesting, for some reason, so she likes to find out what the popular names are that everybody is naming their babies.  I think dog and cat names are much more interesting, but I already wrote about that topic.  So when Mom said maybe I should write about popular human baby names, I said okay.  And actually, this subject is sort of related to dogs because a lot of dogs end up with people names, not to mention living in houses with people, some of whom have popular names.

Anyway, Mom's favorite website for looking at baby names is the Social Security site, which you can find here:  http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/index.html   On this site, you can really waste a lot of time looking up names to see how popular they were in certain years, going all the way back to 1880.  Or you can look up a certain year to see what names were the most popular in that year.

I will tell you some examples of stuff you can find on this website, starting with the most popular names for 2009, which was just last year.  The names for 2010 aren't on the site yet because of course 2010 isn't finished yet.  So here are the top 20 most popular boys' names:

  1.  Jacob
  2.  Ethan
  3.  Michael
  4.  Alexander
  5.  William
  6.  Joshua
  7.  Daniel
  8.  Jayden
  9.  Noah
10.  Anthony
11.  Christopher
12.  Aiden
13.  Matthew
14.  David
15.  Andrew
16.  Joseph
17.  Logan
18.  James
19.  Ryan
20.  Benjamin

And here are the most popular girls' names:

  1.  Isabella
  2.  Emma
  3.  Olivia
  4.  Sophia
  5.  Ava
  6.  Emily
  7.  Madison
  8.  Abigail
  9.  Chloe
10.  Mia
11.  Elizabeth
12.  Addison
13.  Alexis
14.  Ella
15.  Samantha
16.  Natalie
17.  Grace
18.  Lily
19.  Alyssa
20.  Ashley

Mom and I were surprised to see that Isabella is now the #1 girl's name, because Emma has been #1 for a while.  And also Ethan is now more popular than Michael, which was the #1 name for several years.  And another thing that's interesting is that many of these very most popular names are what you might call "old-fashioned" names that were popular in the late 1800s.  Which just goes to prove that "what goes around, comes around."

Anyway, just to compare, here are the top 20 boys' names from 1880:

  1.  John
  2.  William
  3.  James
  4.  Charles
  5.  George
  6.  Frank
  7.  Joseph
  8.  Thomas
  9.  Henry
10.  Robert
11.  Edward
12.  Harry
13.  Walter
14.  Arthur
15.  Fred
16.  Albert
17.  Samuel
18.  David
19.  Louis
20.  Joe

And the names for girls:

  1.  Mary
  2.  Anna
  3.  Emma
  4.  Elizabeth
  5.  Minnie
  6.  Margaret
  7.  Ida
  8.  Alice
  9.  Bertha
10.  Sarah
11.  Annie
12.  Clara
13.  Ella
14.  Florence
15.  Cora
16.  Martha
17.  Laura
18.  Nellie
19.  Grace
20.  Carrie

Well, of course, I was interested in the name Piper, since it is such a special name, so I did a search on it. And what I learned was that my name was not even on the chart before 2000, which means it was not in the top 999 names.  But when it suddenly showed up in 2000, it was #509 on the list, and by 2009 it was all the way up to #147.  So this means my name is getting to be really popular really fast!

Okay, so I also checked out Mom's name, which is Eva.  This is an old name that goes way back, like all the way back to the first woman ever created, according to the Bible.  I guess this means that in the year of the Creation, Eva (or Eve) was the most popular of all girls' names, but the Social Security website doesn't go back that far.  Anyway, Eva is one of those old-fashioned names that is getting to be more popular again.  In 2009, it was #99, and that was up from #294 in 2000.  And Ava, which is really just another version of Eva, has been in the top 10 for several years now.  The most popular year for the name Eva turns out to have been 1889, when it was #31, but during most of that decade it was ranked somewhere in the 30s.

Maybe you were also wondering what people are naming their twins, and so now I will tell you just a few of the most popular pairs of twin names.  Here are the girls:

  1.  Isabella, Sophia
  2.  Faith, Hope
  3.  Olivia, Sophia
  4.  Ella, Emma
  5.  Hailey, Hannah
  6.  Ava, Emma
  7.  Heaven, Nevaeh
  8.  Madison, Morgan
  9.  Mackenzie, Madison
10.  Ava, Olivia

And the boys:

  1.  Jacob, Joshua
  2.  Matthew, Michael
  3.  Daniel, David
  4.  Jayden, Jordan
  5.  Jayden, Jaylen
  6.  Elijah, Isaiah
  7.  Isaac, Isaiah
  8.  Ethan, Evan
  9.  Logan, Lucas
10.  Logan, Luke

And for boy/girl twins:

  1.  Madison, Mason
  2.  Taylor, Tyler
  3.  Addison, Aiden
  4.  Emily, Ethan
  5.  Emma, Evan
  6.  Ella, Ethan
  7.  Emma, Ethan
  8.  Jayda, Jayden
  9.  Jada, Jaden
10.  Aidan, Nadia

So that's a whole bunch of stuff about human baby names that maybe you didn't even want to know, and if you didn't, I hope you already quit reading.  But if you think this kind of thing is interesting, like my mom does, you can go to that website I told you about, and you can look up your own name to see how popular it is or was.  And if you are going to have a baby, you can get a bunch of ideas for names.  Or you might even find some names for the next pets you adopt.