Flowers in my yard this week (the sequel)

Some time back, I posted some photos of wildflowers growing in various parts of my yard. Today, I took photos of the ones that sprouted up since the rain we got last Thursday.

Rain Flowers and Drought Grass 1

Rain Flowers and Drought Grass 1

Rain Flowers and Drought Grass 2

Rain Flowers and Drought Grass 2

There are two varieties of Rain Flowers, but the Drought Grass is all the same. And, yes, those are technical terms. I made looked them up. I think the white flowers are actually called rain lilies, but it may be the yellow ones — or they could be related. Oh, wait. I have a book. So, okay, the white ones are rain lilies, or evening stars, and the yellow ones are copper lilies. The Drought Grass is generally crunchy, only not so much since the rain. How that’s relevant is not important.

Next photo shows more of the effects of the drought. The tree looks made for Halloween decorations, except when you think about all the other trees in the area that are in more or less the same condition, just waiting for that next big wind to fall across power lines, or a road, or a car, or your head. This poor individual doesn’t appear to have much left to lose. Or much chance to recover. Still, I have to keep hoping for more rain.

Drought Yard with Drought Tree

Drought Yard with Drought Tree


Prehistoric Badass

Looks like BillyBob got a little too close to the mammoth.

Looks like Ugg got a little too close to the mammoth.

I was visiting my favorite place in the world not too long ago, and toured through the new Hall of Paleontology, (which is awesome!) and took a snap of this poor guy getting batted around like a soccer ball by a couple of mammoths. Ah, life — and catastrophic boo boos — in the Stone Age.

Really big teeth

Really big teeth

As usual, I wasn’t reading all the labels, so I don’t remember for sure, but think this is some kind of giant crocodilian, cruising around, waiting for Ugg to fall in the water. I think the effect of the shadows looks cool.

A Pterydactyl, about the size of a robin.

A Pterydactyl, about the size of a robin.

I always thought the little fliers were cool — about the size of a “pocket dragon.”

Hey, how'd you get in here?

Hey, how’d you get in here?


How I spent my summer Part 2

I went to summer school. Yes, I know I said I was done with taking classes, notes, tests, etc., etc., but I took a class in the spring semester to finish up the mediation certificate course, and found I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to take some more. Just a glutton for punishment, I guess.

Or it might be that the course instructor has a large impact on whether or not the class is engaging. That probably varies from student to student, too. Someone I think is brilliant may bore someone else to tears.

The instructor for the civil litigation class was a smart, high energy, sassy woman lawyer who knew her stuff. And she thought some of my offbeat comments on the legalese in the textbook (we had to turn in a “what I learned vs. what I had trouble with” page every week) were hilarious. And then I made 100 on the first test. And on the third test. Of course I would end up liking the class.

Getting that A went straight to my head. I figured I should go back to grad school and get my doctorate. It would be a snap. As long as I stayed away from math and chemistry (there’s goes the doctorate in any kind of biology). Hmmm. I thought hey, maybe political science, and I could be a lobbyist or something. So I looked for some classes to lead in that direction.

I signed up for two classes in the summer: online Cultural Anthropology for the first term, and Social Psychology for the second. The anthropology class was interesting, but I found I missed the face to face interaction with the instructor. At the beginning of the second term, I found out the psychology class had been cancelled, so I opted for a Texas Government class in the same time period. That instructor was another high energy soul who didn’t take himself too seriously, and I got a lot out of the class. Including a couple of perfect test scores.

I also had a chat with him about my idea for a PhD in political science. Turns out all they do, at least at the local university, is run statistical analyses on stuff. Ugh. Isn’t that math? Yes, it is. But Prof suggested that since I seem to be more interested in the stories, that maybe history would be a better fit. Which it might be. Except that at the same local university, you don’t just have to have a bachelor’s degree (in anything) to get into their grad program, you have to have 24 undergrad hours of History, and then get the M.A. degree, and then you could go for the doctorate. Huh! It would be easier to just get books from the library and teach myself.

I’ll let y’all know when to start calling me Doctor Crazybasenji.

Why do we collect things?


While I work on Part 2 of how I spent my summer, I thought I’d recycle a one or two of my older posts.

Originally posted on Crazybasenji:

I’m no psychologist.  But I wonder, what if collecting things is a holdover from much earlier, less settled times in human history, when it might have made sense to gather and hang on to portable, edible items?  Hmm.

This is completely unscientific, of course, but if you do a web search, you’ll find that websites with the word “collection” or “collections” in them generally have something to do with debts.   Type in “collectibles,” on the other hand, and that’s a whole new world.  But it still boils down to having a collection of something.

Some collections are whimsical, of value only to their owners.  Others vary in value; some are beyond price.

I suppose it all depends on your point of view.  I have a few collections of my own.  And there is a class of collections that is of special concern to me — natural science and natural…

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How I spent my summer, part 1

Remember when you were a kid in school and the teacher had you write an essay on the first day back after summer vacation all about what you did? Do I hear groans of recognition? Yes. Well. It’s that time of year again. School will be starting again for lots of kids, and plenty of adults as well — me included. It will also soon be time for my high school class reunion, and I’ll refrain from mentioning how many years. But I started thinking about some of my high school classes and teachers, and thought I’d blend some of my artsy stuff into my reminiscing stuff and share a bit. This first painting is the result.

Recreation of a high school art project

Recreation of a high school art project.

One of the projects the teacher had us do was a “non-objective” painting. Mine looked something like the one above.  I figured I’d get a bad grade because the painting looked like giant yellow eggs sitting in “trees.” Instead, the teacher liked it so much she hung it on the wall at the front of the class for the rest of the semester. I was kind of embarrassed. Weird, huh?

I was a bit hot under the collar when I did this

I was a bit hot under the collar when I did this.

I remember learning in my driver’s ed class to avoid driving while in an “emotional state.” Considering all the road rage out there, I guess they don’t teach that anymore. Whatever. No one ever said not to paint while in an emotional state. Once when I was mad, I tried to paint a volcano erupting. It was garbage. This time, I decided to just try and evoke the lava, rather than the whole volcano and surrounding countryside. I used only four colors: yellow ochre, azo yellow, cadmium red, and burnt umber. It was very therapeutic. And, hey, I’d hang it on my wall.

Gotta love fireworks!

Gotta love fireworks!

This was a lot of fun. But then, fireworks always are. These, however, are safe even in extreme drought conditions. They also don’t scare the dogs.

Imaginary nebula as seen from an imaginary telescope.

Imaginary nebula as seen from an imaginary telescope.

When I got finished with this one, I had to laugh. I call it the “My Little Flying Pony Nebula.” I’ve always loved images of stuff in deep space, taken by the Hubble and other telescopes. Always wanted to try and capture those colors. I see many more paintings like this in my future.

Just three colors went into this one.

Just three colors went into this one.

My “alien landscape” was a surprise, as well. I used three colors: vermilion, cerulean blue, and parchment. I stared with cerulean at the top, then blended in the parchment toward the middle. It was the first time I got that to work the way I wanted. Then I worked up from the bottom with the vermilion. Don’t ask me why I wanted garish red land/ocean — I really don’t know. I just like the color. I may have been thinking of a sunset when I started out, but then I just started playing with the brush, jabbing it against the surface, and I started liking how it made tree-like/rock-like shapes. I needed something a little darker in the foreground, so I added some cerulean to the vermilion. I was not expecting the indigo blue. But I really liked it.

And, yes, I threw all the paintings on the floor of my kitchen/breakfast room in front of the patio door to photograph them. It was the only place I could get almost good enough light. Obviously, there is room for improvement in all my artsy methods. :)

The Long, Hot, Summer of the Soul

There are times when you just have to step back, you know? Take a break, reassess, get grounded, or (insert your favorite catch phrase here)whatever, and hope that when you get back to the grind, something will have clicked into place, and life will progress more or less smoothly, and generally in a “forward” direction. Sometimes, there’s no noticeable click, but you realize you have to drag yourself back into the Twilight Zone (some prefer to call it reality), whether you’re comfortable there, or not.

And then there are times when you go walkabout and just get lost…

Or I could spin this past year as a sabbatical, and that I was doing serious research… yeah, maybe not.

What started off last summer as a break to “get off the planet” as it were, and immerse myself in rereading all the books in the Foreigner Series, by C.J. Cherryh, turned into one delay after another in getting back to work on my writing, and all the other stuff I put on this blog. But, oh, well, these things happen. Instead of boring you with all the details in one long blurt, I’ll just proceed like I’ve only been gone a week, instead of a year. That okay with everybody?

The biggest change to the Crazybasenji household is the addition of a non-basenji canine. I know. What a shock. She qualifies as completely crazy, though, so that should count for something. Darby is a Spinone Italiano, an Italian Pointer (or Setter, depending on how loosely you translate). She’s a big, shaggy thing, and goofy as hell. And if there’s one thing I do love, it’s a goofy dog.

Darby belonged to a man who was going through chemo and radiation therapy and just didn’t have the energy to care for her and his other big dogs any more. She came to live with me on a trial basis at first. I wasn’t sure if Ramses would warm up to her. He’d been getting peculiar around strange dogs on our walks, and I was hoping that constant exposure to a very different dog would be good for him. Turned out I was right – at least as far as Darby is concerned. She’s so mellow, that even when he’d snarl at her in the beginning, she’d just stand still – very non-threatening – until he chilled.

Now they’re fine together, and the different energy levels keep things interesting.Image

So I can get back to doing more writing, and painting, and spend less time enabling a spoiled rotten only-dog. Maybe…

A Few Photos

Thought I’d share some of the pictures I’ve been taking of things I’d like to paint.

Clouds in the North at sunset

Spectacular lighting in the clouds.

Tortoise-shell cat

“The extra dog” finally sat still for me to get a picture of her face!

Backlit clouds at sunset

The gate, the road, the mailbox, and those clouds.

A comfy chair in the shade

This just cries out to be painted.

A group of delicate mushrooms

These little mushrooms showed up after a rain, then disappeared. They were so pretty and delicate.





“Failure is Always an Option”

I watch “Mythbusters.” Maybe not as avidly as my brother, but there are a few episodes I’ve seen more than a few times. Jamie and Adam often say they learn at least as much from things they do that don’t work, as from things that do work. Adam even wears a shirt sometimes with the quote in the title printed across the front. That same expression applies to live in general, I think, and maybe especially to those hard lessons a lot of us have to repeat frequently throughout our lives. You can probably come up with a list of those for yourself without much trouble.

They generally fall into two main categories, don’t they? Lessons from “the outside,” from other people or the environment; and lessons from inside, when you listen to those nasty voices in your head, or when you have a disordered internal system. For now, I’m going to stick to the lessons from inside – the ones that make you feel like your own worst enemy, or like you’re at war with your own body. The kinds of battles it seems like so many people around you think you should be able to win in one blow and get on with your life (and stop making them feel guilty for whatever reason they feel guilty). After all, it’s all in your head, right? That’s what “everyone” says, right? So you should just be able to make it stop, right?

As if. Why do people even continue to believe that, you wonder, with all the evidence from medical and psychological studies saying that we each have a unique recipe for the biochemical soup that keeps us cooking along.

Since I’m most intimately familiar with chronic pain conditions, I’ll start with that as an example. Whatever the cause of the pain, there must be some set of chemicals – in the cells of the body as well as the brain – that act together to (sometimes) continue producing those pain signals long after the initial “injury” is healed. There’s (finally) an entire medical specialty devoted to studying and treating all types of pain, and I’m sure they understand a lot more about it than I do. I can only talk about my own experience with any degree of knowledge.

To begin with, I’ve been plagued with back pain since I was a teenager. Scoliosis tends to show up during puberty (or not “show up” – mine was so slight as to be superficially imperceptible). Yet I complained of back pain and numbness in parts of my back – and was told simply, “stand up straight.” Which didn’t make anything all better.

Of course, the generation I grew up in was only a hair’s breadth removed from the notion that a child with a “defect,” like scoliosis, was a direct reflection on the quality of the parents, or the parenting, and I think my mother would have been horrified by such a diagnosis if it had come in my youth. She would have blamed herself – for not being able to make me stand up straight enough to prevent it, most likely. As it was, she felt bad that we didn’t find out about it sooner, but by then, she realized it was neither her fault nor mine.

These days, I use a variety of pain-modification and pain-management techniques, all of which have had some pain-relieving effects, none of which has made the pain stay away for good. Whether it’s a brain chemical that causes me to “want” my back to continue to hurt, or some other set of substances that eventually counteracts all the treatments I throw at it, or just that I’m that sensitive to my own body doesn’t really matter. Apparently it’s not something I can get conscious control over, and switch off. One way or another, I have to find a way to live with this pain, just like people who battle addictions have to find a way to live with always having those cravings – even when they don’t give in to them.

I have a friend who is at risk for diabetes because of her family history. When she eats sugary foods, she has a hard time stopping. I think she hopes that if she stays away from the sugar, she’ll eventually just not even want it any more. I don’t think that’s likely to happen. I think her family members who became diabetic did so because they didn’t work as hard as she does to control the cravings. Somewhere in her personal, unique physiology, is a sugar junkie gene, or the equivalent, and it’s always going to make her want that second piece of cake, or that fourth piece of fudge, as soon as she eats the first one. But I don’t think occasionally forgetting and having that first piece, or even two, makes her a bad person. (And you need to stop beating yourself up about it!)

We all have to be able to forgive ourselves when we make these mistakes, or “fall off the wagon,” or when something doesn’t work (or doesn’t keep working). And then we need to get up and try again. Because failure is always an option. Giving up isn’t.

Rite of Succession

It all started when that mouse ran across the floor. But let me start with a little back story.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it many more times before I’m through. A Basenji is not your father’s Labrador. (I don’t know how many of you may remember an advertising campaign some years ago when Oldsmobile introduced their new model, “Alero,” with the catch phrase: “It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile.” I don’t know if they sold more cars with that ad or not, but I co-opted the phrase for my own purposes.) There are a number of good reasons why Labrador Retrievers are the most popular American Kennel Club registered dog breed – and Basenjis are not. I would never presume to imply that one breed of dog is superior to another. I love them all. And “blended” breeds as well. But there’s a reason I have had my little dynasty of Basenjis, instead of any other breed.

A lot of people don’t realize what a contrary individual I can be – most days I’m not that bad, so I might not seem like such an anarchist. But doing what I’m told runs a little counter to my nature, and doing what’s expected of me…oh, forget that. Small wonder I choose dogs that don’t follow orders all that well, don’t engage in typical “doggy” behaviors (like barking), and tend to like to sit back and watch quietly while everyone around them is in uproar.

My second Basenji (and my first male of the breed) was like the uber Basenji. Boomer was the pick of his litter, (the breeder called him her “Clark Gable dog”) destined for great things in the show ring, which would have meant I never would have met him. But he was born insane, and at four months of age he was engaging in extremely risky behavior – leaping onto and off of the dog houses that belonged to his Gordon Setter kennel mates. He ended up with a broken humerus bone, and in a body cast for eight weeks. At the end of which he promptly repeated the behavior…and the injury. By the time the second cast came off, he had gotten so used to running around on three legs that he continued to do so. As a result, his left front leg was always about an inch and a half shorter that his right. He was one crooked little dog.

He was two years old when I met him. It was the first time I ever experienced love at first sight.

After he came to live with me, I discovered some of his other disarming behaviors. Once when I was sitting at my computer and he was sitting next to me (one of the rare times when he wasn’t getting “into something”) I popped a piece of chocolate into my mouth. As I chewed on my chocolate, I looked down and said something to the dog, as he leaned against my shin. He melted. That’s the only way I can describe it. The smell of chocolate on my breath undid him. He just slid to the floor. And then he rolled on my foot. It was the most bizarre thing I’d ever seen a dog do. When I was a kid, my dachshund used to roll on dead lizards. Boomer was more discriminating. If I put styling mousse in my hair, he’d try to roll on my head.

Basenjis, like most normal dogs, do the “play bow,” lowering their front ends to the floor while they keep their butts elevated. Most normal dogs wag their tails when they do this. Not so Basenjis. They are not big on tail-wagging. More on that later. Boomer had his own variation of the play bow. He would put his head down on the floor between his front legs, like he was hiding his eyes. Then he would flop over on one shoulder (with his butt still in the air), and rapidly “dig” with his front feet. Sometimes he would bite at the carpet at the same time. People who didn’t know better would sometimes ask if he was all right. “Of course he’s not all right! He’s a Basenji!” I never actually had to say that. I usually just shrugged.

Both of my female Basenjis did normal play bows, even to the point of wiggling their tails a bit. They were always more emotionally demonstrative than the boys, even though Boomer and Ramses were/are what you’d call “leaners,” leaning against my leg while I pet them. Ramses, however, does the bow exactly like his Great Uncle Boomer. (The Old Guy was too stiff and creaky by the time he came to live with us to do much bowing.)

That brings us back to the mouse.

There was a time when I was living in Kentucky in an old mobile home parked up a “holler” on a farm. Quite rustic. The place had sat vacant for a while before I moved in, with Boomer, and a whole community of mice had taken up residence. Boomer set out to decimate that population. We lived there less than a year, but he racked up six kills over the course of just a few months – when I was watching. He had the run of the house when I was at work, so I don’t know how many he may have dispatched while I was away.

I always knew when he was on the trail of a mouse, not just because he would suddenly try to wedge himself under the stove or between the refrigerator and the wall, but because he would start wagging his tail. It was the only time I ever saw him wag it. Hunting apparently made him twitchy. Or more twitchy than normal. I always found it amusing, although I was a little hurt that seeing me was never motivation enough to cause him to wag his tail.

Of course, he wanted to eat the mouse, once he caught it, and it was an increasing struggle for me to get the mangled body out of his mouth. (Mice carry all kinds of nasty diseases, in spite of being a good source of protein. I didn’t want him coming down with something bubonic.) But, of course, Boomer being Boomer, he came up with a way around me. He’d catch the mouse, one quick crunch, then swallow. A few days later he’d yak up the skeleton and a few other undigestible bits for me to clean up. Charming. I did so love living in the country.

Where I live now is every bit as rural, though not quite as wild as that place. The woods don’t come right up to my back door here, but the mice do still get in. One reason I adopted the “extra dog” was so she’d help keep the rodent population around the house under some sort of control. She’s apparently been slipping.

And these mice are bold. They charge straight across open spaces to get from point A to point B, instead of sticking close to the walls, like they’re “supposed” to. One morning last week as I sat at my computer, I saw motion out of the corner of my eye, and looked up in time to see one of the little bastards go streaking across the floor headed for the living room. Almost at the same time, I realized Ramses was no longer lying in his “spot” in front of the second couch – where I could keep an eye on him from my computer chair. I walked in the living room and saw his back end sticking out from under the end table closest to the end of my brother’s couch – underneath which had probably been the mouse’s destination.

Ramses had dived under the end table in hot pursuit, but the couch had an even lower clearance, and he couldn’t cram himself under that. He would not budge. I had to grab his back legs and drag him out from under the table, then confine him to his crate to keep him from going right back in. Absolutely channeling Uncle Boomer.

You want to know something else, friends and neighbors? That tail was a’waggin’.

That’s my boy!

Changes coming to Crazybasenji

Although I’ve been a little reluctant to cede the place of honor in the header from Boomer — the original Crazy Basenji — to his heir and great nephew, Ramses (The Puppy), I finally did so. For one thing, the photo of Ramses was of a size that allowed me to crop a section that would fill the whole space without chopping off most of the dog…well, except for his legs. He doesn’t need those, though, he’s not going anywhere. I also discovered a way to change the layout of the page that would let me use the photo of Boomer as “featured content” in a larger size than what I could fit into the banner. Yes, I’m a little obsessive about that photo. Is that a problem?

I started this blog under the whole “Pro-blogging” explosion a few years ago, and I actually had a plan for what I was going to write about, and when, and how it would all eventually make some kind of income for me. Then I got sidetracked thinking I was going to find a “real job,” because I found some postings for positions that I was super qualified for and I applied. And then waited to hear. And waited to hear. And waited…and in the meantime my blogging plans sort of went south. I repeated this cycle several more times, and eventually I did get a “real job” — part time. Which didn’t do a lot for my self esteem, my bottom line, or my incentive to write. I didn’t want to write from that place of day to day sheer panic. So my blogging frequency suffered some more. And the topics I chose weren’t always cutting edge or of interest to anyone besides me and a few close friends who might just want to keep up with what I was doing.

The things that kept me going — and still do — are my dog(s), and books. And I discovered I could write decent book reviews, and could even get some of them published on a site dedicated to “reviewing books by, for, and about women.” Not long ago, my review of a book about the woman who mapped the ocean floor was chosen as review of the month.

For a while I’ve been thinking of branching out and writing a more specialized blog about books and other writerly things. I’m sure I’ll keep blogging at this site — for my four or five readers — but I’ll concentrate on only a few topics, such as basenjis, and art, and odds and ends of a personal nature. Crazybasenji is my “brand,” if you will, for good or bad, although I discovered that having the word “crazy” at the beginning of anything pretty much flags the site for a certain type of “interest,” shall we say? I won’t elaborate. Use your imagination and I doubt if you’ll come up with anything more bizarre or inappropriate than what I’ve seen in (deleted) comments.

I know I’ve hinted around before now about changing things up around here, which usually consists of finding a new theme. This time, I’ll be moving some of the content to the new site. All the book reviews — the whole category — will be moved. I’m not quite ready to launch the site yet, but it will be located at One of the drawbacks to having a fairly common name is that the domain is already taken, as is,, etc. Since my name isn’t that difficult to spell, I figured it wouldn’t be that big a deal to tack “writes” at the end, which is also not difficult to spell.

Writing on two blogs is going to be more of a challenge. I’ve already tried it, with my Linux blog, which went nowhere. I also started what would have been a biology blog, when I thought I would be teaching biology at the local junior college. When the teaching gig fell through because my actual graduate hours in actual biology courses came up short, I lost all my forward momentum on the blog, as well.

I’ve made a few decisions since then. I’ve decided not to pursue the teaching, which would mean taking only one more graduate level class. I chose to view the cancellation of the offer as a message from the universe. Teaching is not for me. Or, at least, teaching in a classroom in a “traditional” school setting is not. Never been a big fan of traditional anyway. Never felt the “fire in my belly” about teaching, although I always thought I would enjoy engaging with young people interested in learning. My actual experience was more along the lines of trying to engage with young people interested in getting “A’s” without doing much real work. (They’re not all like that, let me be quick to point out. I just seemed to end up with a significant portion of them in my classes, the few semesters I did teach many years ago.)

Starting a new career — as in going back to school and learning a new “trade” is also not in the stars for me. I’ve taken a few classes recently, and finally decided I’m tired of school. I don’t want to take any more classes, do any more homework, take any more tests. I’m done. The only exception might be to get a fine arts degree, and probably then only if someone paid all my expenses and I could go someplace other than the schools available in the immediate area. Which is bloody unlikely to happen.

The upshot of all this nattering on is that I’m going to go with what I know, which is some writing, some art work, and what I can extract from my part-time employment to pay my bills and keep doing those other things. I don’t want to descend into writing about things I regret. It’s largely for that reason that I’ve let updates to my blog lapse a few times. I figure no one wants to read about all the things I wish I had done when I was younger, or would do if I could afford it. There’s no sense dwelling on those things, but in my private mind, I sometimes do, and it may keep me absent from time to time.

I’m hoping that doing more of what I truly enjoy will reduce the amount of time I spend imagining the worst and will increase the amount of time I’ll spend being creative and remarkable. We’ll see.