Wednesday, May 30, 2012



Moil means pretty much the same as toil, which is nice because these words rhyme.  Except that moil isn't used very often nowadays, and it can mean some other things that toil doesn't mean.  So anyway, the first meaning of moil is hard work or drudgery.  And it can also be a whirling, churning, or eddying.  An archaic meaning of moil is to wet or smear.

You can also use moil to mean confusion, turmoil, or trouble.  In glassmaking, a moil is a little extra piece of glass that shows up while the glass is being blown.  When the glass is being finished, the moil is taken off.

Miners use moils to break or pry out rock.  In this case, a moil is a short hand tool with a polygonal point.

The word moil started being used in Middle English between 1350 and 1400.  Back then, the word was moillen, and it meant to work hard in wet, muddy conditions.  The ME word came from the Latin word mollis, which means soft.


I thought chilblains was an old-fashioned word for some kind of disease that is now called something else, but I was wrong.  It turns out you can still get chilblains even today.  And the only other words for the condition are pernio and perniosis.  What chilblains are is red, itchy ulcers that show up on places such as your hands or feet or ears after you have been out in the cold.

The way you get chilblains is when you are someplace really cold, and the tiny little blood vessels in your skin shrink and get damaged.  Then when they warm up again -- and especially if they warm up really fast -- they expand and break and leak blood.  This makes you end up with red patches that itch and burn and get swollen.

Most people don't get chilblains, but there are a few people who do get them because they have a family history of chilblains, or they have poor circulation, or maybe they have a condition such as lupus.  Also, young children and the elderly are more likely to get chilblains than other people are.  And women get them more often than men do.

You can treat chilblains by putting some topical stuff on them, and usually they will heal up in a couple of weeks.  But if you don't treat them, you might end up with skin ulcers, cracked skin, or infections.


Mom and I thought that this word meant somebody who was all frumpy and wore clothes that were out of style.  But we were shocked to find out that doughty actually describes a person who is brave, fearless, hardy, bold, intrepid, and resolute.  Doughty comes from the Old English word dohtig, which is related to the Old High German toht, meaning worth, and the Middle Dutch word duchtich for strong.  And all of these words go back to tukhe, the Greek word for luck.

Anyway, Mom and I were wondering how we could have possibly have been so wrong about this word, and then Mom finally remembered that the word we were thinking of was:


So when we looked this word up, sure enough, it was all about somebody who wears clothes that are shabby or lacking in stylishness.  A dowdy person can also be old-fashioned or drab.   This word comes from the Middle English word doude, which means immoral, unattractive, or shabbily dressed.


This is one of those crazy Welsh words where nobody remembered to put in a vowel!  Except that I guess the "w" is supposed to be a vowel.  Anyway, it's pronounced krüth.  Or you can just use the English word crowd instead.

A crwth is a musical instrument with 6 strings made of gut.  The main part of it is sort of like a box, and the fingerboard doesn't have any frets.  You play the crwth by using a bow, sort of like you would play a violin.

There are pictures from the 11th century that show instruments that look somewhat like crwths, so we know that this instrument has been around a long time.  A person who plays the crwth is called a crythor in Welsh.  Crwth comes from the Proto-Celtic noun krotto, which means a round object.  The bulging shape of the instrument is probably why people called it "round."

In English, as I mentioned before, the instrument is called a crowd.  So a player of the crowd was called a Crowder or Crowther, and that is where those surnames came from.  In Scotland, a crowd player was called MacWhirter or MacWhorter.


I always thought this was a goofy phrase because as a dog, I think envelopes should be eaten and not pushed.  Mom didn't understand why anybody would talk about pushing an envelope around either, so I did some research on the phrase.  And what I learned was that pushing the envelope wasn't about paper envelopes at all.  It's really about flying airplanes!

Anyway, the envelope for a plane is made up of stuff like how high and fast it can fly and still be safe.  So if you dive the plane at a really high speed, you are flying "outside the envelope," and it's pretty dangerous because you might end up doing the crash-and-burn thing.

Nowadays, people are talking about pushing the envelope in lots of other fields such as business, advertising, TV, and movies.  For example, if a TV show has a lot of violence or sex, it may be pushing the envelope to see how much it can get away with before the censors crack down and the advertisers back out.

And right now, when I am writing this late at night, I am pushing the envelope to see if I can stay awake until I finish writing!

Monday, May 28, 2012


We don't know what breed Mike was, but there is one picture of him, and we can see that he was a fairly small dog, and he was either black or brown.  Mike belonged to a Vermont blacksmith named Patrick Colligan, who was born in Ireland in about 1840.  There are lots of other ways to spell Colligan, and here are some of them:  Calaghan, Callighan,  Calighan, Callogdhen, Callaghan, Callaghen, Colloghden, Calleghen, Colloghen.  Which just goes to show you that the Irish can be kind of crazy sometimes.  But the descendants of Patrick Colligan decided to spell the name "Colligan," and that's the way I'm spelling it, too.

Anyway, Mr. Colligan came to the U.S. when he was a teenager.  He lived with a blacksmith and his family in Rutland, VT, and that's how he learned to be a blacksmith himself.  In 1861, Mr. Colligan joined the Vermont Infantry for three months.  After his three months were up, he re-enlisted in the First Regiment of Vermont Cavalry.  He held the rank of blacksmith, and he kept that rank through the rest of his military service.

The Army Forge, by Edwin Forbes

Mr. Colligan's dog, Mike, liked to think of himself as a scout, and he used to go out ahead of the cavalry to look for the enemy.  He seemed to actually like the noise of the cannons and muskets firing.  One time, Mike was sitting on the seat of an ammunition wagon when Confederate soldiers shot the horses that were hitched to the wagon.  One of Mike's front legs was shattered, but he survived the wound.  Another time, at the battle of Kelly's Ford, he lost the tip of his tail.  But besides that, Mike got through the war in good shape and was welcomed as a hero when he came home.

The one picture we have of Mike was made by an artist named Edwin Forbes, who worked for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper.  Mr. Forbes followed the Army of the Potomac around, making sketches of anything that he thought would be interesting for the paper's readers to see.  One day he made a sketch of a cavalry blacksmith shop, and he saw a bossy little dog there, which of course was Mike.  So Mr. Forbes put Mike right in the middle of his picture, and this just goes to show exactly how important Mike was to the whole operation.

Edwin Forbes ended up being one of the most important artists of the American Civil War.  He was very good at painting, etching, and illustrating.  Before the war, he made a lot of pictures of animal life, but during the war, he drew pictures of many important battles and other wartime events.

The Sanctuary, by Edwin Forbes

Here is an etching by Mr. Forbes that shows a family of African-Americans when they first see the Union troops coming, and they know they are safe.  I like this picture a lot because it also has a dog in it, which in my opinion, makes any piece of artwork better.

But getting back to Mike the dog and his human, Patrick Colligan, I am sorry to say that I don't have any information about what happened to Mike after he came home from the war.  Mr. Colligan decided to move out West, and I like to think that he took Mike along to Rolla, Missouri, which is where he settled.  In that town, he met and married Mary Ann Saltsman on September 10, 1869.

After about a year of marriage, the Colligans moved back to Vermont.  They raised a family of seven children in West Rutland.  Mr. Colligan kept on being a blacksmith until 1908, when the asthma and malaria he suffered from during the war made it too hard for him to work.  He died on January 31, 1917.  Mrs. Colligan died a few years later, in 1924.

The Colligans are both buried in West Rutland, in unmarked graves, in St. Bridget's Cemetery.  We don't know where Mike was buried, but it was probably also in an unmarked grave somewhere in West Rutland.

Friday, May 25, 2012


Once upon a time, in 2003, a young woman named Megan Leavey joined the Marine Corps.  She enlisted after she had first tried going to college and then quit.  Her parents were very unhappy about her being a Marine, because she was the only child they had.  But Megan said, "Dad, I have to put myself in a situation where I can't quit and get to see what I'm made of.  That's the only way I'm going to grow up."

So Megan's parents stopped arguing with her, and she went off to training.  She ended up in a K9 unit, and her partner was a German Shepherd named Sgt. Rex.  He had already been to the war in Iraq with his first handler.  Rex was trained to sniff out any of the ingredients that might be in a bomb, and when he smelled them, he would lie down as a signal.  Then Megan would call the bomb squad to come and fix the bomb so that it wouldn't blow up.

Photo from Megan Leavey

Corporal Leavey and Sgt. Rex were deployed twice to Iraq.  They went on hundreds of missions, and they found lots and lots of bombs.  On September 4, 2006, they went on yet another mission.  They were always tethered together when they were working.  The two of them walked out ahead of five Humvees, and they found four bombs.  Then, after about four hours, they came to an intersection, and before Rex could even start sniffing around, a bomb went off.  It was set off by some bad guys who were watching from a distance.

Sgt. Rex and Corporal Leavey got thrown about 10 feet into the air, and they landed in a ditch.  But luckily, they both survived the bomb blast.  The reason they survived was mostly because the people who put the bomb there buried it too deep, so the shrapnel and stuff just went into the ground instead of into the Marine and her dog.

Photo from Megan Leavey

Afterwards, they had to spend some time getting healed up.  Corporal Leavey had traumatic brain injury and a hearing loss.  Rex got an injured shoulder and also a hearing loss.  They both were flown back to Camp Pendleton, and they were in recovery together.  Corporal Leavey was diagnosed with PTSD, which stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and she got treatment for that, too.  She received a Purple Heart Award, and she kept it in a box by her bed.  But then someone stole it, and she never got it back again.

Ms. Leavey left the Marines in 2007, and she tried to adopt Sgt. Rex at that time.  But Rex had totally recovered from his injuries, and he was still needed as a bomb-sniffing dog.  So he got a new handler, and Ms. Leavey went home to New York without him.  The people at Camp Pendleton kept her updated on Rex, and one time she even went and visited him.  Meanwhile, Rex's first handler, Mike Dowling, wrote a whole book about him, and it is called Sgt. Rex:  The Unbreakable Bond Between a Marine and His Military Working Dog.  You can get this book from, and 41 readers gave it a rating that averaged out to five stars, so it must be a very good book.

Anyway, Ms. Leavey went on with her life as a non-Marine, but it was hard for her because she gets depressed and anxious sometimes.  She was sad because she didn't think she would ever be able to adopt Rex.  But then last year at Christmastime, she found out that Rex had developed facial palsy, and he was being retired.  He was 11 years old by then.  But there was a whole bunch of paperwork, and everything takes a long time in the military, and Ms. Leavey was afraid Rex might be put down before she could adopt him.

So she started contacting some people who help veterans, and then Senator Charles Schumer got involved.  He put out a press release saying that he thought Ms. Leavey should get to adopt Rex.  Lots of people heard the story in the news, and they signed a petition, and there was a Facebook page and everything.  One person who got interested was Mindy Levine, who was a big dog lover, and also the wife of Randy Levine, the owner of the New York Yankees.

Then one day, Ms. Leavey got a call from an officer at Camp Pendleton, and he told her that her adoption of Rex had been approved.  So after that, Ms. Levine paid for Ms. Leavey and herself to fly out and pick up Rex at his retirement ceremony on April 6.  They flew first-class, and on the way home, Rex got to ride in the first-class cabin, too.

Photo by Seth Wenig/AP

Then on May 13, the Yankees had a big celebration of Rex's adoption.  They gave Corporal Leavey a Yankees shirt, and they also gave her a replica of the Purple Heart that got stolen.  Being at the big, noisy ball stadium was kind of scary for Corporal Leavey because of her PTSD, but she felt much braver with Rex beside her.

Mostly, she was feeling incredibly happy because she got to adopt Rex.  "Just to be able to care for him and to give him the best last years of his life I can, it means everything," Megan Leavey said.  She also said that she had a nice fenced yard for Rex to run around in with her two other dogs, Rocky and Patriot.  And she has plenty of toys, too.

North County Times photo

Ms. Leavey works as a dog handler for a private company.  Rex sleeps and does whatever else he wants to do.  "Rex is my partner; I love him," Ms. Leavey says.  "We have been through so much together...I've spent day and night with the dog.  It's a very strong bond."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


If you have something called distemper, it might sound like you are just in a bad mood.  But distemper is actually a horrible, awful disease that can KILL YOU, so if you have it, you have an excellent reason to be in a bad mood!

Our word distemper started out as the Middle English word distemperen, which meant to upset the balance of humors.  Messing up the humors was a bad thing, because people back in those days thought that the body was made up of several different humors, and that if you were going to have good health, they all had to get along nicely with each other.  But anyway, the Middle English version of the word distemper came from the Old French word destemprer, which meant to disturb.  And this French word came from a Vulgar Latin word, distemperare, which described something that didn't mix properly.

In the world of doggy diseases, distemper is a Really Big Deal, because it is so contagious and deadly.  Other animals besides dogs can get canine distemper, and some of these animals are:  raccoons, ferrets, African wild dogs, lions, and seals.  Cats usually don't get it, but they have their own distemper-like disease to deal with, which is called feline leukemia.

A picture of paramyxovirus.
Don't be fooled by the pretty colors--
this is mean and nasty stuff!
The name of the canine distemper virus is paramyxovirus.  It is related to the virus that causes measles in people and rinderpest in hoofed animals such as cattle.  People can't get distemper, but if you are a dog, you should be Very Afraid of this disease unless you have been VACCINATED, and then you are safe!

A French veterinarian named Henri Carré first described a case of distemper in 1905.  The vaccine was developed in 1950, but many dogs don't get vaccinated, and that's how distemper spreads among dogs and also to wildlife.

There are lots of ways to get distemper.  You can get it very easily from an infected animal by coming into contact with their pee, poop, saliva, or the gunky stuff that comes out of their noses or eyes.  You can also get it by breathing in little droplets that fly into the air when sick animals cough or sneeze.

Puppies who are between 4 and 6 months old are the most likely to get distemper.  This is because even though they still have a little immunity left from their mamas, it's not enough to kill off the virus.  But it is enough to keep their vaccinations from being very effective, at least until they have had the whole series of shots.

Distemper can have lots of different symptoms, and some of these symptoms are the same as the ones for other diseases.  So it is hard to know for sure if a dog has distemper.  The most usual symptoms are vomiting, loss of appetite, dehydration, diarrhea, coughing, difficulty breathing, and fever.  Sometimes distemper affects the nervous system, so there might be twitching of the mouth and legs.  And if it's a really bad case, the dog can get seizures and paralysis.  Also, older dogs might have a condition where the footpads and nose get really hard.

Dogs who have neurological symptoms probably won't survive, but even if they do, they may have a permanent tic.  Later on, they might also have seizures, and they might go blind.  Puppies could end up with teeth that don't have all their enamel.  This is because the virus kills the cells that make the enamel.  So if there is no enamel to protect they teeth, they will end up rotting.

There is no real way to treat distemper, but a dog can get antibiotics so that he doesn't end up with a bunch of bacterial infections.  Some dogs get totally well again, but others will always have some twitching and other leftover effects, as I mentioned before.

Anyway, the very best thing to do about distemper is to GET VACCINATED!  I know those needles are sharp and it doesn't feel good when somebody sticks one in you, but I'm pretty sure it would feel much worse to have distemper!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


A couple of weeks ago, Mom was in a thrift store, and she found a really goofy piece of pottery that somebody made by hand.  We think it is maybe supposed to be a vase.  Or else you could drink out of it, like a glass, except that it isn't made of glass.  It's not a mug because it doesn't have a handle, and mugs are supposed to have handles.  So it's likely a vase.  Or I guess it could be a pencil holder.

Anyway, the weirdest part about this pottery thing is that there are really ugly people painted on it.  Also there is a dog.  Or if it's not a dog, it might be a dinosaur.  So when Mom saw this thing at the thrift store, she looked at it for a while, and then she walked away, and then she came back and looked at it again, and finally she decided to pay $3 for it, just because she thought it was so ugly that it was charming.  Which doesn't make a bit of sense to me.

In my not-so-humble opinion, the only reason to buy anything is if (1) it can be eaten, (2) you can sleep on it, (3) you can play with it, or (4) you can chew it up.  And this pottery thing did not fall into any of those categories.  But it's Mom's money, and if she wants to totally waste it, there's not too much I can do about it.  Mom said she might drill a hole in the bottom of the ugly vase thing and use it as a flower pot.  She does that sometimes with pottery she buys at thrift stores.

Okay, so now I am going to show you some pictures of the ugly painted people.  On one side, there are two people who are kind of fat and lumpy-looking.  The one on the left might be a man, and the one on the right might be a woman.  I can tell that she might be a woman because she has flowers on her dress.  She has feet that are sort of shaped like people's feet ought to be, but he has feet that look more like a goat's feet.  And both of them have hands that also look like goat feet.

On the other side of the vase, there is another couple, and they are normal sized, not overweight.  He is wearing glasses and a hat that definitely looks like a man's hat.  Also he has on a jacket and trousers.  She is wearing a skirt and some sort of flat hat on her head.  They have feet that are shaped like feet, but their hands are kind of pointy and strange.  Next to the woman, it looks like the artist started to draw another person or a creature of some type, but then there wasn't enough room.

If you turn the vase around a little more, you see what I think is a dog.  Other people may think it is something different, but I'm pretty sure I'm right, just because I usually am about these things.  I believe this dog is wearing a birthday hat and is standing under a balloon or maybe a piñata.  The dog has his mouth open, and you can see that he has sharp teeth, which he is probably hoping to sink into some birthday cake.  The dog probably belongs to one of the couples, but I'm not sure which one.  I think it might be better if he belonged to the fat couple, since they are more likely to celebrate his birthday with a big, yummy cake.

Under the dog, you can see the name of the artist, which is TEWKS. And then it might say 09, but it's kind of hard to read, so it could be some other year.  As far as I am concerned, it is a total mystery why Mr. or Ms. Tewks would make a piece of pottery like this and paint such ugly people on it.  And another mystery is how this item ended up in a thrift store, where the people who work there probably said, "Oh my gosh, look at this crazy thing!  Who is ever going to buy it?"  And then when Mom came along and actually bought it, I think they probably had a really, really good laugh!

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Most people have heard this nice story about the Owl and the Pussy-cat who were in love with each other, and how they sailed away together, and after a while they got married.  The whole story is told in a poem that was written by a man named Edward Lear.  Maybe your mom or dad read this poem to you when you were a child.  Or maybe you read it to your children or grandchildren.  Anyway, in case you forgot exactly how it goes, here it is, along with the drawings that the poet himself made:

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!'

Pussy said to the Owl, 'You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?'
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

'Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?' Said the Piggy, 'I will.'
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of  
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the   
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,

They danced by the light of the moon.

Of course, the first thing we need to ask about this story is "What the heck is a runcible spoon?"  And the answer is that runcible doesn't mean anything at all.  It's just a silly word that Mr. Lear made up.  He seemed to like this word quite a bit, because he used it in some of his other poems, too.

Artwork by Stu Ord

Another thing we should ask is why a cat and an owl would be attracted to each other.  In real life, an owl who saw a cat running around might just grab the cat with his big, sharp talons, and then carry the cat off to eat for lunch.  But in stories, just like in life, strange things sometimes happen.

"The Owl and the Pussy-Cat" was written for a 3-year-old girl named Janet Symonds, who was the daughter of the poet John Addington Symonds, who was a friend of Mr. Lear.  The poem was first published in 1871.

Painting by Mark Frudd

Edward Lear never had any children of his own, but he seemed to like writing nonsense verse for other people's children.  Or maybe he just wrote it to entertain himself.  He also wrote limericks, and he made this form of poetry popular.  But mostly, Mr. Lear was an artist.  He traveled around the world, and he painted lots of landscapes.  He didn't quit writing funny verses, though, and he liked making pictures to go with the verses.

Edward Lear's painting of Masada, in Israel

Mr. Lear was born in 1812, in a town called Holloway, which is in Middlesex, in England.  He was the 20th of 21 children, and he was the youngest to survive.  His oldest sister, Ann, who was 21 years older than he was, doted on him and took care of him all his life until she died when Edward was 50 years old.

Edward Lear portrait, by Wilhelm Marstrand

Because he sometimes had seizures, Edward didn't much like going out in public.  He was very ashamed of his condition.  Also, he had bronchitis and asthma.  His first job was with the London Zoological Society, where he made pictures of birds.  Later on, he wrote travel books.  He settled in Sanremo, which is on the Mediterranean coast in northern Italy, and his house was called Villa Tennyson.

Mr. Lear had a bunch of friends and people he wrote letters to.  Also, he had a cat named Foss that he loved very much.  Two different times Mr. Lear proposed to the same woman, who was 46 years younger than he was.  But she turned him down both times.  In 1888, Edward Lear died at his villa.  He had suffered from heart disease since at least 1870.  Sadly, none of his friends could come to his funeral, so it was kind of a lonely affair.

Artwork by Janet Nelson

Today what people mostly remember about Mr. Lear is that he wrote all those funny verses.  He poked fun at a lot of stuff in Victorian society, but even today people can relate to the humor.  And people still seem to like those silly little drawings he did.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Do you remember my basenji boyfriend, Hank?  He lived with Aunt Cheryl in Austin, Texas.  Well, yesterday Hank had to go to the Rainbow Bridge because he was very sick.  I am really, really sad about this, but I think Hank and Gabe are playing together now, and maybe they are also playing with our three little foster kittens, Janey, Jilly, and Jeeves.

Hank was 14 years old.  He found out he had Fanconi Syndrome when he was 4 years old, and he had to take lots of sodium bicarbonate tablets and other supplements.  Mom's first basenji, Trixie, also had Fanconi, like I told you once before.  Anyway, Aunt Cheryl was always very good about giving Hank all his pills and trying to get him to eat, even when he didn't feel like eating, which was a lot of the time lately.  Personally, I always feel like eating, and so does Barry, but sometimes Gabe used to not want to eat.  And Nicky feels that way sometimes, too.

Well, Aunt Cheryl could hardly get Hank to eat anything for the last few days, and then yesterday he started vomiting a whole bunch, and he was all kind of twitching, like he was having little seizures or something.  So that's why he went to the Rainbow Bridge.

But now I'm going to tell you some of the good things I remember about Hank.  First of all, he was very handsome.  Instead of being just a regular tri-colored basenji, he was what's called a "trindle," which means that the tan parts were actually brindle.

Hank was very friendly, and he let everybody pet him.  He would sit and lean his back up against a person, so that it was very convenient for them to pet him, and then if they stopped petting him, he would put his head back and look up at them, and he seemed to say, "Why did you quit?"  So then they would of course start petting him again, because it was so cute when he did that.

Another thing Hank liked to do was sleep underneath a blanket, so that you couldn't even tell he was there.  A lot of basenjis like to sleep under blankets or bedcovers, but I don't like to do this, and neither did Gabe, and neither did Trixie.  Mom thinks that maybe the three of us did not learn to like sleeping under the covers because we all started our lives in kennels, instead of sleeping in beds with humans.

But getting back to Hank, he was often called Hankster Prankster because he was always being naughty and getting into stuff he shouldn't be into.  He learned to open the refrigerator door, and one time he pulled out a great big package of hamburger.  Then Hank's brother Leo, who was a Great Dane/Lab mix, ate all the hamburger and the package, too.  Which made him very sick!  Finally, Aunt Cheryl and Uncle Art got one of those refrigerators that has the freezer in a drawer on the bottom, and Hank couldn't open that.

Anyway, there are a lot of stories about Hank getting into stuff and stealing stuff and being a very naughty basenji.  But I can't remember all those stories at the moment.  In fact, I can't remember any of them at the moment, and this is probably because when I'm writing this, it's late at night, and my brain has already gone into "sleep" mode!

I just wish that Hank didn't have to get so old and sick, and that he didn't have to die.  I'm going to miss him, because the next time we go to Texas to visit Aunt Cheryl, Hank won't be there.  And that will be strange and also very, very sad.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


The Social Security Administration just announced what the most popular baby names were in 2011.  There were a few surprises, and a few not-surprises.  First of all, one surprise was that Isabella isn't the most popular girl's name anymore.  It got beat out by Sophia, and Isabella is now in 2nd place.

In the boys' name list, Jacob is still number 1, but suddenly the name Mason has leaped into 2nd place.  In order to get to 2nd place, Mason had to jump 10 spots, and it knocked Michael out of the top 5 for the first time in 63 years!  The reason why Mason probably got so popular all of a sudden is because Kourtney Kardashian, who is some famous reality TV person that Mom and I never watch, had a baby and she named him Mason.

But anyway, here's a list of all 20 most popular names for girls in 2011:

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

And here are the 20 most popular names for boys:

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

Well, while I was looking at baby names on the SSA site, I had to check on Piper, of course.  And what I learned was that this name is getting more and more popular.  The first time Piper was even in the top 1000 was in 1999, when it was #701.  In 2010, it was up to #144, and last year it was #110.  I think that's pretty good progress, and I am very proud of my name!

I also looked up my mom's name, Eva, which was #81 in 2011.  This is up from #91 in 2010 and #99 in 2009.  Eva ranked its lowest in 1993, when it was #349, but by 2000 it was still only up to #294.  The most popular rank ever for Eva was in 1889, when it was #31.  In 1912, when the Titanic sank, the name Eva was ranked #49, which is still more popular than it was last year.

And speaking of 1912, I found out what the the top five names for boys and girls were that year.  For boys, they were John, William, James, Robert, and Joseph.  And for girls, the names were Mary, Helen, Dorothy, Margaret, and Ruth.

Okay, here are a couple of other top-five lists, and then I will stop writing about names.  You can also look up the most popular names in each state, and sometimes you get different results than you do with the national lists.  The last year they have state lists for is 2010, but here they are.  In my state of Missouri, the top five names for boys were Jacob, Mason, William, Logan, and Jackson.  For girls, they were Isabella, Emma, Olivia, Sophia, and Ava.   And in Kansas, which is right next door, the top five boys' names were Jacob, William, Alexander, Ethan, and Elijah.  The girls names were Isabella, Ava, Sophia, Emma, and Olivia.

So anyway, if you are having a baby, and you want him or her to have the same name as several other kids in the class, you can pick one of these popular names.  But if you want your baby to have a name that is a little more different, you will have to look further down the list, or else make up a name that's totally new!

Monday, May 14, 2012


When Mom was a little girl, she had a picture in her head of what God looked like, and she thought everybody else had this same picture of Him.  In Mom's head, God looked tall and thin and old, and he wore a white powdered wig, just like George Washington did.  God stood up in the clouds, which was where Heaven was, and in front of Him there was a conveyor belt.  Everyone said that God made babies, and Mom knew that people made things by putting all the parts together.  So she figured that God had lots of parts of babies on his conveyor belt, and He put them together, and that's how He made babies.

Well, one day while Mom was hanging out in the house, waiting for it to be suppertime, she decided to look up God in the Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia, which her family had all the volumes of, right there in the living room.  Mom wanted to see if there was a picture of God in the encyclopedia.  And it turned out that there really was a picture, but Mom was shocked to see that in this picture, God was a big, muscular guy, and he had his arms spread out over the clouds.  He wasn't wearing a wig, and there was no conveyor belt for making babies.

So Mom went and asked her mom, my Grandma Helen, why the picture in the encyclopedia was all wrong.  And Grandma Helen said it was because God was a spirit, so nobody really knew what He looked like.  And in fact, He didn't look like anything at all, because you can't really see a spirit.  But people imagined Him in all sorts of different ways.  This was kind of a hard idea for a little girl who was maybe 7 or so at the time to understand, but eventually Mom stopped thinking of God as a tall, thin man with a powdered wig.

Well, I got to wondering what other pictures people had made of God, even though He can't really be seen.  I am just talking about the God of the Jews and Muslims and Christians.  There are tons of other gods, and people have made lots of pictures of them, but I don't have time to talk about them all, so I have to set some boundaries, as Mom's therapist would say.

A lot of people believe that God created the earth and all the animals and everything else in it.  So God shows up in many pictures as The Creator.

Here's a picture of God creating all the animals that live on earth.  This painting was done by "R," whoever that is.  I have looked for a dog in this picture, but I have not found one.

This painting is by William Blake, who was also a poet.  When he wasn't busy writing poetry, Mr. Blake liked to paint.  This painting is called God as an Architect.

I don't know who made this picture, but I would tell you if I knew.  Anyway, this shows God resting after He finished all the hard work of  Creation.  He is using the earth as His foot stool.  I just hope His feet are not too heavy, so that nothing gets smashed!

A very famous painter named Michaelangelo painted several pictures of The Creation, and he painted them on the ceiling of a place called the Sistine Chapel, which is in Rome.    In this first picture, God is dividing the light from the darkness.

And here He is making Adam, who was the very first man.  In this painting, God is sort of holding onto an angel with one arm, and he is also being held up by a bunch of angels.  At least I think they are angels.  I wonder if God needs to do this so that He won't fall out of Heaven.  But I'm not an art critic or a theologian, so I don't understand these things.

Anyway, this picture by Michaelangelo is really, really famous, so a lot of people have made their own versions of it.  Here's one where God is reaching out to a photo that was taken by the Hubble space telescope, so it looks like He is creating the stars and galaxies and everything else that's out there.

But this is my very favorite version, because it shows God creating Dog!

Okay, well, the rest of the pictures I found of God are mostly just called God the Father, like this one is.  They do not show God creating anything.  This one was painted by an artist named Francesco di Giorgio Martini.

Here's a painting of God dressed sort of like a pope.  The name of the painting is God Inviting Christ to Sit on the Throne at His Right Hand, and the artist is Pieter de Grebber.

This is a painting called God the Father, by Cima da Conegliano.

Léon Frédéric painted this picture, which is also called God the Father.  By the way, in all of this artwork, you can tell that God is very old because He has white hair and a long, white beard.

Here's a picture of God from 1860 that was drawn by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld.  I don't know why God has no feet in this picture, but maybe they are hidden in the clouds or in a ray of light.  Or maybe the artist just didn't like to draw feet.

And finally, here is God writing His blog, just like I write my blog, so now I know that when I write in my blog, I am doing a Very Good thing!