Thursday, November 29, 2012

IS THERE AN EARTHQUAKE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

I have written about earthquakes a couple of times before, and back in 2010, when there was that big earthquake in Haiti, I wrote a really brilliant blog entry about what makes earthquakes happen.  You probably remember from your reading that there are these things in the earth's crust called tectonic plates, and the plates are all the time rubbing against each other and making rumbly, shaky stuff happen up on the surface, where we live.  But even though this goes on all the time, day and night, usually we don't even feel it because (1) we might not live above the crack between two plates, or (2) the earthquake is just a little one that can only be felt by somebody who is very sensitive, like that girl in the "Princess and the Pea" story.


But scientists like to know about every tiny earthquake that happens anyplace in the world, so they invented some instruments that can tell if the earth is shaking, even just a tiny bit.  If you are also a person who likes to know about earthquakes and other such happenings, there's a website where you can go and waste a lot of time checking out all the latest events.

This site is called the Global Incident Map site.  The page I like to look at most often is the one about earthquakes, which is here: http://quakes.globalincidentmap.com/   This page is constantly being updated to tell you what's shaking, so to speak.  I checked out the site at about 11:00 p.m. CST on Wednesday, which was when I was getting ready to start writing my blog entry, and I will tell you about some of the earthquakes I saw listed then.  But by the time I post this blog entry Thursday morning, I'll bet a whole bunch of new quakes will have happened.

First of all, I was surprised to find out that there had been an earthquake right here in Missouri, down in the southeast part, only 30 minutes before I looked at the site.  It was just a little quake, only 2.7 on the Richter scale.  There had been some bigger earthquakes four or five hours before that, like for example one in Fiji that was a magnitude 5, and one in Argentina that was a 4.9.

A cow with foot-and-mouth disease
Okay, well, if you want to look at something besides earthquakes, you can go to the Disease Outbreaks Map.  This is really a scary map because there is a ton of disease going on!  India is pretty much totally covered up with little disease symbols.  Indians are getting sick and dying from all kinds of things such as dengue fever, avian flu, swine flu, and encephalitis.

The very first swine flu victim of this year was in Pindi, Pakistan.  Uganda has ebola virus, and Australia has a few cases of avian flu.  The disease map also tells about animals that are getting sick, which is one reason why I think it's a scary map.  For example, in China, there are animals with foot-and-mouth disease.  In Armenia, two cows died of anthrax, and in Kruger National Park in South Africa, thirty hippos also died from anthrax.  Yikes!  Closer to home, in Springfield, Missouri, more than 100 birds were found dead near a certain intersection.  And the most scary thing of all is that there were two new cases of canine brucellosis in Argentina.


Another page on the Global Incident Map website is about Amber Alerts.  It shows who is missing, who has been found, and who was found dead.  It also shows where somebody tried to kidnap somebody, but they got away.





There's a map about Border Security Issues, and I was shocked to learn from this map that two male humans had been caught smuggling drugs in California on the Del Mar Dog Beach.  I hope they weren't doing anything bad to the dogs!


Gang graffiti
Here are some other maps you can look at, if you are interested:  Non-Terror Aviation Incidents, Human Trafficking, Food/Medicine Incidents, Forest Fires, Drug Interdictions, Gang Activity, and HAZMAT Situations.  There are also two maps where you have to log in before you can look at them, which I have never done, so I haven't seen at these maps.  One is called Presidential Threats and the other is Terrorism Event Predictions.








Anyway, I think you can tell that the Global Incident Map website has plenty of things for everybody to look at.  So if you are curious about this stuff, get busy looking.  Who knows, maybe you will find out there was an earthquake in your backyard while you were sleeping!






Tuesday, November 27, 2012

GENERAL: A CIVIL WAR DOG

A smooth St. Bernard, 1919.
I think General the Civil War dog
might have looked sort of like this.
This story starts out with a human, Bryan Grimes, who was born on a plantation called Grimesland in North Carolina.  The plantation was very prosperous, so young Master Grimes was able to attend some very good schools while he was growing up.  At the age of 15, he went to the University of North Carolina. After he graduated in 1848, he returned home and learned to be a planter.  A year later, his father gave Grimesland to him, and he also gave him about 100 slaves to do all the hard work.

In 1851, Mr. Grimes got married.  His wife died just six years later, but first she had four children, and one of them died very young.  Mr. Grimes was so sad that he went on a trip to Europe to try to feel better.  When he came back home, the Civil War was about to get started.  He joined the Confederate Army as a major in the 4th North Carolina Infantry on May 16, 1861, and he fought for the first time in the First Battle of Bull Run, two months later.


General Byran Grimes
Major Grimes was in most of the battles in the eastern part of the country, including Gettysburg.  He got promoted several times because he was such a good officer.  On February 15, 1865, General Robert E. Lee made him a Major General.  This made General Grimes the last man appointed to that rank in the Army of Northern Virginia before the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865.

In September of 1863, General Grimes had got married again.  He and his second wife eventually had ten children together.  This is a lot of children, if you ask me, but no one did.

Okay, so that's the part about General Grimes, and now I will tell you the more important story, which is about General, the dog.  In June of 1864, at Cold Harbor, Virginia, the Confederates had been fighting the Union soldiers for a while, and then the Union soldiers started to retreat.  So the rebels took over the yankee breastworks and camps.  General Grimes wrote this in a letter to his wife:

Here I captured a fine St. Bernard dog, which was protecting the corpse of a Colonel of a Pennsylvania regiment, who upon inspection was found to have on steel breast plates which had protected him so long as his face was to the fire, but upon retreating had received a mortal wound in the rear...

General Grimes named the dog General, and he kept the breast plate "as a memento of the battlefield" and "Yankee cowardice."  General became a mascot for the regiment and went with them through some of their hardest fights.  Sadly, General eventually "succumbed to the hard marching, broke down and was lost, not having the endurance of men."


Grimesland
After the war, General Grimes moved back to Grimesland and became a farmer again.  In 1877, he was named a trustee of the University of North Carolina.  He died in 1880 when he was shot by a hired assassin named William Parker.  Probably the reason Mr. Grimes was shot was to keep him from testifying in a criminal trial.  Mr. Parker was tried, but he got acquitted.  He went away for several years, but then he showed up in Washington one day and got drunk and boasted about killing General Grimes.  He was put in jail, but a bunch of men came the next morning and took Mr. Parker out and hung him.  Nobody seemed to care too much who had done this, so there was not really any effort to find the assassins of the assassin.

Anyway, I wish I could have told you more about General, the dog, but there wasn't much information about him.  So that's why I had to mostly talk about General Grimes, the person.  But he turned out to be at least somewhat interesting, so I hope you still learned something.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

ADOPT-A-SENIOR-PET MONTH

November is the official Adopt-a-Senior Pet Month, but I sort of forgot to mention that fact, and now the month is almost over.  But not to panic!  There is still one whole week left in November.  And besides that, you can adopt a senior pet during ANY MONTH, and it will still count as a very good thing to do!

So anyway, here are some poor, homeless, senior dogs and cats who live at the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City, where Mom volunteers.  If you are in the Kansas City area, you can rush over and adopt one of these wonderful animals.  But if you live someplace else, you can go to your own local shelter, and you are sure to find some very nice older animals there to adopt.




MARCY
Marcy is part Australian Cattle Dog and part Australian Shepherd.  She is very cute and friendly, and she gets along well with other dogs.  She is 8 years old and weighs 66 pounds, which is more than she really ought to weigh, so she is on a diet.  Marcy's human wasn't able to take care of her anymore, so that's how Marcy ended up at the shelter.







PERSIA
Persia is 9 years old, which is not all that old for a cat.  She is slender and sleek.  She likes to rub against your legs in that way that cats do and talk to you while she's doing it.  Persia is a small girl.  She's affectionate, and she likes other cats, as long as they are calm and polite.









JEZEBEL
This little dog is a dachshund/chihuahua mix.  She weighs 19 pounds, but she needs to lose a few pounds.  She lived with the same person for many years, but then her person had to go to a nursing home or someplace like that.  This was very sad for Jezebel and probably for her person also.  Jezebel is wary with people she doesn't know, and she barks at them until she decides they are okay.  She loves treats and going for walks.  Jezebel needs a nice, quiet home where someone is home a lot.  She is fine with other dogs.






MITZY
This is a very sweet dog who is 11 years old.  She is a German Shepherd mix, and she gets along well with other dogs.  She seems to be in good health, so hopefully, she has quite a few more years ahead of her.  Mitzy's family moved, and they brought her to the shelter because they didn't want her anymore.  Personally, I don't understand how anybody could do such a thing to their dog or cat, especially to an old one, but humans do a lot of things that I don't understand, as I have mentioned before.  Sometimes it makes me really mad, though, and then I just want to bite somebody on the ankle!







FANCY
Fancy, the Akita, is living in a foster home now, and she seems to like the home life just fine.  She is 11 years old and has spent much of her life in the shelter, which is really sad.  Fancy is getting along well with the other dog in her foster home.








SOLOMON
Solomon is mostly all rottweiler.  He's 7 years old, weighs 68 pounds, and is very handsome and mellow.  He is good with other dogs and even with cats.  Solomon would like a quiet home with no kids because he shows a little fear aggression around people he doesn't know.  He was found as a stray, and the people who found him brought him to the Humane Society.








GIGI
Gigi has also spent most of her life at the shelter.  She is 9 years old now, and she first arrived as a feral kitten.  She does fine with other cats and also with people she knows.  Whoever adopts Gigi will need to be patient while she gets used to her new home and new family.









MAGGIE MAE
This kitty is probably 10 or 12 years old.  Her humans didn't want her anymore, but instead of bringing her to the shelter, they just abandoned her at their house when they moved away.  Maggie Mae had long hair that was so matted it had to be shaved off, which makes a cat look really weird.  Her hair is growing out again now.  Maggie Mae likes to purr loudly.  The best kind of home for her would be a calm, quiet one.



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

ST. GEORGE AND THE DRAGON

15th Century painting
by a Georgian artist
Here are the questions we need to answer today:


1.  Who was St. George?
2.  What made him saintly?
3.  How can you recognize him if you see him?
4.  What was going on with that pesky dragon?


Back in the really old days, nobody kept good records or gave out birth certificates, but we think St. George was probably born sometime between the years 275 and 281.
George's father was a Greek named Gerondios, from Cappadoccia Asia Minor, and his mother was also Greek.  Her name was Polychronia, and she came from the city of Lod, which is in present-day Israel.






St. George, 1472,
by Carlo Crivelli



Little Georgios was likely born in Lod, and since his parents were both Christians from noble families, he was also raised as a Christian.  George's father was an officer in the Roman army.  He died when George was 14, and his mother died a few years later.




George decided to become a soldier, too, so he went to Nicomedia, which was in what is now Turkey.  Back in those days, Nicomedia was the imperial city.  Young George was welcomed by the Emperor Diocletian, who had known George's father, Gerondios, and he was given a place in his army.  George did well as a soldier, and by the time he was in his late 20s, he had already earned the rank of Tribunus, serving as part of the imperial guard at Nicomedia.










14th C. illuminated manuscript

Everything was going pretty well until the year 302, when Diocletian made an edict that said all the Christian soldiers in the army should be arrested.  George did not like this edict, so he went to Diocletian himself to explain why it was a bad idea.  Then he stood right in front of the emperor and all the other soldiers, and he said he was a Christian, and he would always worship Jesus.  Diocletian tried to convert George by offering gifts of land, money, and slaves.  All George would have to do was make a sacrifice to the Roman gods.  But George refused to do this.

Diocletian did not want to lose one of his best tribunes, but in the end, he ordered George's execution.  First George was tortured in a lot of horrible ways, and then he had his head cut off in front of the Nicomedia city wall.  The date when this happened was April 23, 303, which is why April 23 is now celebrated as St. George's Day.





St. George and the Dragon,
Gustave Moreau
Okay, so what about the slaying of the dragon?  The Crusaders might have brought this story back to Europe in about 1000 or 1200.  There are several versions of the tale, but I am only going to tell you one which is found in a book called the Golden Legend.

The story took place in a town called Silene, Libya.  There was a lake near the town, and a horrible, scary dragon lived in the lake.  This dragon liked to wander around the countryside and poison people by giving them the plague.  For a while, the villagers appeased the dragon by feeding it two sheep a day, but after a while, the dragon wanted more.  So then the people had to give the dragon one of their children each day.  They drew lots to decide which unlucky child would get eaten.











St. George and the Dragon,
Briton Riviere
One day, the king's daughter, Sadra, was chosen to be fed to the dragon.  The king went crazy with grief, and he told the people they could have all his money and half his kingdom, if his daughter could be spared.  But the people refused.  So the princess was sent out to the lake, dressed as a bride.

Meanwhile, George just happened to be riding through that area, and when he saw the princess by the lake, he asked what was going on.  The princess told him to go away, because he was in danger, but he insisted that he would stay.  Then the dragon came up out of the lake, and George charged at it on his horse.  He wounded the dragon very badly with his lance.  George asked the princess to give him her girdle, and he put it around the dragon's neck.  (Back in those days, a "girdle" was a sash or belt, and not one of those those stretchy undergarments that is supposed to keep your stomach flat.)







St. George and the Dragon,
 Edward Burne-Jones
Anyway, after that, the dragon followed the princess meekly back into town, where everybody was scared to death when they saw it.  But George told them that if they would all agree to become Christians and be baptized, he would kill the dragon right there in front of them.  So the king and all the people started lining up to get baptized.  There were more than 15,000 people who converted that day.  Then George slew the dragon, and its body was taken out of town on four ox carts.  The king built a church on the spot where the dragon died, and a spring of water came from the church altar that could cure any disease.







So how did George become Saint George?  Well, back in the days when George became a martyr, the official process of canonization didn't exist yet.  In fact, it didn't get invented until the 12th century.  But Pope Gelasius declared George a saint in the year 494 because of the brave way he died for his faith.




St. George's Cross
You can usually tell St. George apart from other saints because he is shown as a soldier in a suit of armor or chain mail.  He is often riding a white horse and carrying a lance tipped with a cross.  He may have St. George's Cross on his armor, shield, or banner.  And of course, you may see him busy killing a dragon.

St. George is the patron of many groups and countries, including most especially England.  He was likely chosen the patron saint of that country not long after the Norman conquest.  In 1222, the National Synod of Oxford ordered April 23 to be celebrated as St. George's Feast Day.






It appears that the British really get into celebrating St. George's Day.  There is even an ale made especially for the occasion by a brewer named Wadworth.  You can only get this ale during March and April.  As a dog, I'm not much into drinking ale, so I'm not sure I would want to go to England just to do that.  But if they were serving a nice, juicy leg of lamb along with the ale, I think that might make it worth the effort to go there.




Sunday, November 18, 2012

A BULLDOG NAMED PIPER

Photo ©Jessica Stone
Today I'm going to tell you about a one-eyed bulldog who lives in Austin, Texas, which is where Aunt Cheryl also lives.  This bulldog is named Piper, just like me, and she paints pictures and sells them online to help make money for rescue groups.  I know that this does not seem like it could be a true story, but it is, and now I will explain how it all happened.

There is this artist living in Austin, and her name is Jessica Stone.  She and her husband Jeff had a Staffordshire Bull Terrier named Roxie, and they decided they would get a second dog.  Jessica really wanted a bulldog, and she wanted to adopt one with special needs.  So she went to San Antonio Bulldog Rescue, because there wasn't a bulldog rescue group in Austin.



Photo ©Jessica Stone
Soon the rescue people contacted Jessica and Jeff to say they had a bulldog who only had one eye, who was very grumpy, and who had bad hip dysplasia.  The dog had been turned in by her owner because he was afraid of her.  She was a dog who needed a lot of patience because she got startled easily, would snap at you if you woke her up, and didn't like to be picked up because it hurt her hips.  But Jessica and Jeff fell in love with her right away and took her home with them.  They worked with her and taught her that she was safe living with them, so she didn't have to be so defensive about everything.












Piper's very first painting
After Piper got used to her new home, she would go every day and sit in her mom's studio and watch her mom painting.  Jessica finally got the idea that Piper might like to do some painting herself, so she let Piper hold a brush in mouth.  Then Jessica held some paper up while Piper chewed on the brush and moved her head around.  And that's how Piper made her first painting.














"A Gift of Joy" by Piper
Now Piper has become sort of famous as a doggy artist.  She has her own Facebook page, her own website, and she sells paintings on Etsy.  An original painting costs between $55 and $144, or you can buy a print reproduction for $20.  There are also some other things for sale, such as photos of Piper that her mom took, t-shirts, and notecards.  Ten percent of the profit from these items goes to various rescue groups, such as San Antonio Bulldog Rescue.  Piper's used paintbrushes are also donated for charity auctions.  Not long ago, one of these brushes sold for $250.










Jessica Stone says she has not taught Piper anything about painting.  All she does is choose the colors and hold the paper while Piper paints.  Piper calls Jessica her "sidekick."  If you want to see Piper paint and hear an interview with her sidekick by the Texas Country Reporter, you can go here:  http://www.pawnation.com/2012/05/09/one-eyed-bulldog-paints-masterpieces/


Photos ©Jessica Stone


I have been thinking maybe I should become an artist and paint pictures myself.  But then I think maybe I should just stick to writing a blog.  I guess, in the end, I just don't want to start any other activities that would take away from my napping time!

"Snails and Tails" by Piper

Friday, November 16, 2012

WANT TO BUY A MOTEL?



There's an old motel in Kansas City, Kansas that Mom drives by a lot on her way to the shelter to play with the poor, homeless dogs and cats.  Ever since Mom started driving by this motel, which was several years ago, she noticed that it was for sale, but nobody has ever bought it.  Mom says the motel is "quaint" and "interesting," but I think words like "run-down" and "ugly" are better.  At least Mom and I agree that we would not want to spend the night there!




Back in the old days, there used to be lots of little motels like this one, but now you don't see them very much.  Instead, what you see is big motel chains like Holiday Inn or Super 8.  If anybody bought this old motel, which is called West Haven, they would probably just tear it down and build something else there.  Maybe you could make senior housing or dog kennels out of it, but I still think it would be better to knock it down with a bulldozer and start over.




We don't know when this motel was built, but it was maybe in the 1940s or 1950s.  At one time, it was probably a very nice little motel, with a restaurant and even a swimming pool.  People still like to stay at motels that have swimming pools, especially if they are traveling with children.




The West Haven pool even has a diving board and a little bit of water in it.  Of course, you might want to paint the pool and add more, cleaner water before you actually went swimming in it.




There are a couple of nice chairs where you can sit and watch the swimmers.




The motel is painted tan and red, which gives it kind of a Southwest look.  But if you get up close, you can see that the paint is peeling off.



And one of the canopy things over the door is gone.  Mom looked in the windows of a couple of rooms, and here's what she saw:  1) chairs, 2) mattresses, 3) bed frames, 4) toilets, 5) plaster and dirt.



The restaurant is also closed, but you can either buy it or rent it.



The office is also closed.





But you are still not supposed to park outside the office unless you are a customer.






We don't know how much money the owner of this motel wants, but we think it's probably not a whole lot.  At least I, personally, would only want to pay for the land and whatever it costs to tear down the buildings.  Not that I have any money, since I am just a dog.  But I will say this, that the very first thing I would get rid of is the swimming pool, because I really, really hate water!










Wednesday, November 14, 2012

WORDS!

KUMMERSPECK

This is actually a German word, but it is a very useful word, and it's a shame we don't have a word in English that means the same thing.  If you are sad or upset about something, you might eat a bunch of yummy food to make yourself feel better.  Except that all the extra eating makes you gain weight, and that is called kummerspeck.  If you translate kummerspeck literally, it means "grief bacon."

Of course, if dogs get stressed, they are more likely not to eat at all.  So for that, we need a word that means "even bacon doesn't tempt me right now"!








GLABELLA

If you are a human, your glabella is the smooth place on your forehead, above and between your eyebrows.  A lot of people may not know that they have a glabella, but they do.  I'm not sure why we need a word for this part of the body.  I think the writers of the anatomy books just dreamed up names for lots of things so that their books would be longer and cost more to buy.

The word glabella comes from the Latin glabellus, which means "hairless."









FROWARD

This is kind of an old word that you don't hear a lot anymore.  In the past, it seemed to be used pretty often to describe children who were naughty and disobedient.  Froward can also mean obstinate, contrary, wayward, ungovernable, or peevish.

The word started being used in Middle English between 1150 and 1200, so you can tell that there have been froward people around for a long time.






PERIWIG

A periwig is what you call those wigs that were all the rage with men back in the 17th and 18th centuries.  Another word for a periwig is a peruke.  You have probably seen pictures of people like George Washington or J.S. Bach wearing periwigs.  A lot of times, the hair of the periwig was tied in the back, like kind of a ponytail.  But other periwigs were very long, with curly ringlets.  Periwigs were often powdered.  In the U.K., judges and barristers still wear periwigs when they are in court, which makes them look a little silly, if you ask me.

The word periwig was originally perwyke, which was an altered version of the Old French perruque.




COULTER

Those of you who have lived on a farm probably know this word already, but I am just a city dog, so it was a new word for me.  A coulter is a blade or a wheel that is attached to the beam of a plow so that it makes vertical cuts in front of the plowshare.  Sometimes it is spelled colter, especially in the U.S.

The word comes from the Old English culter and Old French coltre, which are both from the Latin word culter, meaning "knife" or "plowshare."





TIFFIN

A tiffin is a light meal that is eaten between breakfast and dinner.  So in other words, it is a light lunch.  You can also use this word as a verb, as in "I'd like to tiffin now, but Mom says I can't because I only just finished breakfast!"