Friday, January 30, 2015



This is an extremely fun word to say, and besides that, it's fairly useful.  A kerfuffle is a disturbance or disagreement, often within an organization.  Whenever a kerfuffle happens, there are bound to be misunderstandings, accusations, and defensiveness.

One definition I looked at said that a kerfuffle is smaller than a contretemps, larger than a snag, and involved more people than a SNAFU or a stink.

The word comes from the Scottish Gaelic word cearr, which means "wrong" or "awkward" and fuffle, which means to become disheveled.  The first known use was in 1946.

Unholy Matrimony (1821), by Thomas Rowlandson

The original meaning of virago was a woman who was strong, brave, and warlike.  This was a very good meaning, I think, but now the word is used in a totally different way.  If you call a woman a virago these days, you mean that she is loud and bad-tempered, a scold, and a shrew.


People who are abstemious are very moderate in what they eat and drink.  They do not indulge themselves in anything, really, and they are especially sparing in their diet.

You might think that the word abstemious is related to the word abstain, but the only thing the two words share is the abs- prefix.  The second part of the word, -temious comes from the Latin temetum, which means "intoxicating drink."  So the original use of abstemious was to describe a person who stayed away from alcohol.

The troglodyte city of Khyunglung was the capital
of the ancient Shangshung Kingdom in Western Tibet.

Troglodytes were ancient peoples who lived in caves.  Nowadays, most people live in regular houses, so troglodyte is used to describe someone who has outdated ideas and maybe even lives all alone, away from society.  You can also call a person a troglodyte if you think he or she is a brute.

An animal that lives underground can also be a troglodyte.  I think this is a strange use for the word, though, because lots of animals live underground in burrows.  Would you call a prairie dog a troglodyte?  That just seems silly!


People are always telling other people "Don't take any wooden nickels!"  So I got to wondering where this phrase came from.  Of course, it's clear that if someone gives you a nickel that is made of wood instead of metal, it is worthless because you can't spend it.  But why would anybody even think there might be nickels out there that are made of wood?

Well, it turns out that during the 1930s, when the Great Depression was happening, some banks and chambers of commerce issued wooden nickels to help merchants make change.  These wooden nickels had expiration dates, so you had to turn them back in before that date.  Otherwise you lost your five cents, which would not be a big deal nowadays, but in the 1930s, you could actually buy something with that amount.
1934 Chicago World's Fair

There is another type of wooden nickel that is used to commemorate or promote some special event.  This sort of nickel was mentioned in print as early as 1888.  Wooden nickels like this are very collectible, especially for people who do geocaching.  So if you're into this sort of thing, it would actually be good to take wooden nickels, because that is the whole point!

Monday, January 26, 2015


Mom went to the Kansas City Zoo on Friday.  I wish I could have gone, but dogs are not allowed there, so I was forced to stay home and do a little napping.  Mom did not take a camera, on purpose, because she was just going to watch the animals.  But after she saw the animals, she was overcome with a terrible urge to take pictures of them, so she used her cell phone to take some photos.  And now I am going to show you the photos that she took.

Humboldt Penguin
The weather was kind of chilly on Friday, like in the 40s, so the zoo was not crowded.  There were no school groups, which was very nice.  Mostly, there were just moms who had young children in strollers.

Some of the animals like cold weather, so they were outside, enjoying it.  But other animals stayed inside where it was nice and warm.  I think those animals were the smartest of all!

Humboldt Penguin
Mom spent quite a bit of time watching the penguins.  The Humboldt Penguins were the easiest to see close-up.  They breed on the coast of Peru and Chile near the Equator.  They get their name from the cold Humboldt Current, where they swim.  No other type of penguin lives as far north as the Humboldt Penguins.  You can see a whole blog entry about this type of penguin here.

Dinnertime!  Yum!
Late in the afternoon, the Humboldt Penguins got fed.  It takes two people to feed them because one person has to hand out the fish, and the other person writes down exactly how many fish each penguin  eats.  This way, if one of the penguins is getting sick or getting ready to molt or something, the keepers will know because of how much or how little the penguin is eating.  The kind of fish the penguins mostly eat is smelt.  All the penguins have names, and the keepers know which one is which, even though Mom thought they all pretty much looked alike.

Another kind of penguin at the zoo is the King Penguin.  This is the second-biggest penguin, after the Emperor Penguin, which you might have seen in the movie The March of the Penguins.  Some of the King Penguins were swimming around a little bit, but not too much.  When they swam around, they kept looking down in the water, like maybe they expected to see a yummy fish down there.

King Penguin
Some of the Gentoo Penguins are busy raising chicks.  Mom tried to take a picture of one of the chicks, but it would not pose nicely for her, so all she got was the chick's rear end.  The chicks do not have all their feathers yet, so if they fell in the water, they could freeze to death.  This is why they have to stay in little pens right now.  One of the chick's parents stays with it for 24 hours, and then that parent comes out, and the other parent stays with the chick for 24 hours.  I guess this is kind of like shared custody for penguins.

The Gentoo chick (left) is only 5 weeks old, but it is already getting big!
The penguin on the right is one of its parents.
A very nice zoo docent told Mom all these interesting facts about the penguins.  He also told Mom that when penguins molt, they lose all their feathers all at once.  Then they can't go in the water for about 2 weeks, until their feathers grow back.  If they go in the water without their feathers to keep them warm, they will freeze to death.  So in the wild, penguins who are molting can't go hunting for food until their feathers grow back in.  Often, they will eat a bunch of extra food before they start molting, so that helps.

This penguin has been named Remi or maybe Reki--
it's hard to read the bands.
Right now, most of the penguins have colored wing bands that show which zoo they came from.  But if you donate a certain amount of money, you can name a penguin, and then it will have wing bands with its name.  I don't know how much money you have to donate to do this.  I think Mom should give the zoo some money so that she can name one of the penguins "Dorrie."  Wouldn't that be a good idea?

These are Moon Jellyfish.  They look pretty, but I wouldn't want to get stung by one!

Here's a friendly llama that came over to the fence to check Mom out.  She even got to pet its nose, but she was careful because she didn't want to get spat on or bitten.  The llama was eating some hay.  There was also a white llama, but it seemed more interested in eating than in visiting with Mom.

Inside the Discovery Barn, the ring-tailed lemurs were all bunched up at one end of a branch, taking a nap.  This seemed to me like an excellent thing to do on a chilly afternoon!

These are Amazon Milk Frogs.  They come from the Amazon River Basin.  I thought they were cuddling, like the lemurs, but Mom said that amphibians don't usually cuddle.  She thought maybe the two frogs were doing something else, or at least thinking about it.

Here's a little squirrel monkey who kept jumping up and down acting silly right by the glass where Mom was standing.  There were some other monkeys in there, but they didn't pay any attention to Mom.  Mostly, they were busy ripping up paper towels, which is a really fun thing to do, as I can testify.  Squirrel monkeys live in Central and South America.

Anyway, that's pretty much all that Mom saw at the zoo.  She didn't go to the Africa section or the Australia section or lots of other places.  She went to see the polar bear twice, but all he was doing was sleeping on some white rocks which are supposed to look like ice, so it was kind of hard to even see him.  Maybe another day he will be swimming and playing in the water.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


If you are like me, you never heard of this horse breed before.  And if you are not like me, I humbly suggest that you try to be more like me, because I am such a darling and perfect little dog in so many ways!  Hahahaha!

Akhal-Teke, cremello color
But anyway, now I will talk about Akhal-Tekes, which are very beautiful horses with a special, unusual sheen to their coats.  They have slender bodies and necks, long legs, and sparse manes and tails.  They look like they might need to wear a horse blanket all the time to keep warm, but they are actually very tough and well-adapted to the harsh climate of Turkmenistan, which is where they came from originally.  In that country, they are much loved and are considered a national emblem.

Turkmenistan Postage Stamps
The ancestors of the Akhal-Teke breed have been around for a very long time, like maybe as long as 3,000 years.  They were known as Nisean horses and by some other names at first.  The people of Turkmenistan used them for traveling long distances and for raiding.  Because the horses were so important to the survival of the people, they were thought of as treasured possessions.  They were carefully bred, and their pedigrees were kept in the oral tradition.
Akhal-Tekes were ridden into war against the Russian Empire, but Turkmenistan lost that fight, and their country was swallowed up by the Empire.  The Russians admired the horses, though, and soon started breeding them, too.

Uzbekistan Postage Stamp
Eventually, Akhal-Tekes made their way into lots of other countries.  Currently, there are probably about 6,600 of them throughout the world, but the biggest numbers are still in Turkmenistan and Russia.

Old postcard of an Akhal-Teke wearing "jewelry" around the neck.

The first Akhal-Tekes to come to the U.S., in 1979, were imported by Phil and Margot Case, of Shenandoah Farms in Virginia.  One of the mares they brought to their farm from an auction in Russia was named Oliva.  She was a descendant of a famous Akhal-Teke dressage stallion, Absent, who won medals at the 1960, 1964, and 1968 Olympics.  Soon the Cases were producing lots of purebred Akhal-Tekes who competed well in jumping and dressage.  In 1982, they founded the Akhal-Teke Association of America.
The thing that this breed is best known for is its coat, which is very shiny and not like the coat of any other breed.  The reason for the sheen is that within each hair, the opaque core is reduced in size or may be totally absent.  That leaves more space for the transparent part of the hair.  This transparent part bends the light as it enters and sends it out again, sometimes with a golden cast.

Photo by Artur Baboev, Wikipedia
This special sheen can be present in any coat color, but it shows up best in horses that are buckskins, palominos, cremellos, and perlinos.

Akhal Teke Stalliion - Samovar (his color is Perlino)
Owned by Central Asian Equines
Photo by Heather Abounader
Akhal-Tekes are still very athletic, just like they were in the days when the Turkmenistan tribesmen used them for raiding.  Nowadays, the most common activities for the breed are dressage, show jumping, eventing, racing, and endurance riding.

Free-jumping stallion Dirkhan, 2009 (Dargan-Formoza) line Kaplan
Photo:  Artur Baboev     Wikipedia

So my advice to you, if you like shiny things and animals with a special sheen to their coats, is to get an Akhal-Teke horse.  I don't think you will be sorry!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


It's been a long time since we had any foster kittens, but now we have FIVE!  They are all very cute, or at least they look cute in their photos.  Mom put the kittens in the Kitten Room, and she has not let any of us dogs or older cats go in there yet.

Our Uncle Rob, who lives in Los Angeles, helped Mom decide on some names for the kittens.  Usually, Aunt Tania names kittens before they ever go to a foster home, so Mom doesn't get a chance to name them.  But there were some special circumstances for these kittens, which meant that Aunt Tania hadn't got around to naming them yet.  What happened was that a nice lady found the five kittens with their mama, and she took them in because the weather outside was cold and nasty.

Zephyr, Zigzag, Zydeco
This nice lady named the mama cat Baby, which is a really dumb name for a cat (or dog) -- especially one who has babies of her own.  But that is just my opinion, which no one asked for, but I'm always glad to tell it to you anyway.

Okay, so the nice lady kept Baby and her kittens to the Humane Society to be vetted, but then she fostered them until the kittens were old enough to be weaned.  After that, she brought the kittens back to the shelter and left them there.  She might keep Baby herself, but we don't know exactly what's going on with that.

Anyway, there are 3 boy kittens and 2 girl kittens, and they all have names that start with "Z".  The girls are Zephyr and Zinnia, and the boys are Zigzag, Zydeco, and Zenith.  Their estimated date of birth is November 30, so that means they turn 7 weeks old today.

Zinnia and Zephyr are what are called "patch tabbies."

Zephyr has really long hair, and Mom thought she was a tortoiseshell, but Dr. Regan said she was a patch tabby.  It's hard to see the stripes on her body, but you can see them on her legs.

Zydeco is the shyest one, or at least he was at first.  Now he's getting much braver.

Some of the kittens like to sleep in the scale.  Mom calls them the "self-weighing kittens."

Zinnia and Zydeco
The kittens like to go exploring in Mom's plants.  They have already knocked several off the shelves, but they have not broken any pots so far.

At first, the kittens did not eat very well, but Mom has been trying some different food, and now the kittens seem much hungrier.  If they don't eat everything, Latifa is always glad to help clean the dish.

Okay, so now I will tell you something about the kittens' mother, which is that she is FIV positive.  FIV stands for Feline Immunovirus, and it's like the kitty version of HIV.  Having FIV will not kill you, or at least not right away, but it weakens your immune system so that you are more likely to get some other disease that really might kill you.  It's not the same as Feline Leukemia, which is a different disease.

In the U.S., between 1.5% and 3% of healthy cats have FIV.  But among sick cats, 15% or more may be infected with the virus.   The main way that FIV goes from one cat to another is through a deep bite wound.  So the cats who are most likely to get it are male cats who go around fighting each other all the time.  This is one reason you should get your cat neutered or spayed and keep it inside your house.

We don't know how Baby got FIV, and we don't know if any of her kittens have it.  Sometimes kittens can get the virus from their mothers while going through the birth canal or by drinking infected milk, but this doesn't happen often.  Kittens may still have antibodies from their mothers until they are 6 months old.  So if they test positive for FIV antibodies before that age, they have to be retested every 60 days until they are 6 or 7 months old.

If any of our kittens turn out to be positive for FIV after that age, they might have to be sent to a sanctuary of some kind.  It's pretty hard to get somebody to adopt a FIV+ cat unless they already have one.  But chances are good that all the kittens will be just fine.  At least, that's what we are hoping.

Friday, January 16, 2015


The last couple of times Mom went antiquing, she didn't buy anything; she just took lots of pictures. Well, okay, she did buy one little thing, and it was a pin shaped like a chihuahua.  It only cost $2.95, so even after buying it, she had plenty of money left to buy dog food, and that is a good thing.

But now I will show you some of the stuff that Mom saw, like for instance, this set of teeth.  If you push the lever on the back, they open and close, just like real teeth do.  They're kind of creepy, if you ask me, especially because they look like they might have come out of a real, dead person's mouth.  I guess a dentist would keep these in his office to show you what teeth look like without the rest of your head around them.

And speaking of dead things, these cow skulls are all bleached out and ready to put in your garden, or whatever people do with such things.  A dog might like to chew on a cow skull, but only if it has some meat on it and is not so all dried out.  Oh, and you might notice that these skulls have teeth in them, too, but they are cow teeth and not human teeth.

This photo shows a knight and his bedpan.

Here's a little carriage that could be hitched up to a dog or maybe a pygmy goat.  I think it is very cute, but personally, I would rather ride in it instead of pulling it.

These are the stops on one of those old pump organs.  Another name for this kind of organ is harmonium.  It makes sounds by blowing air through reeds with a bellows.  If you want the organ to keep making sounds, you have to keep pumping the pedals.  This type of organ was popular in private homes and churches during the 19th century.  Using different stops could change the quality of the sound.  Pulling out all the stops made the organ really loud.

Here is a rock with character.  I know if has character because I read the tag!

I imagine that any bird would like living in these clay boots.

Here are some boots that are more decorative.  George and Martha Washington make up one pair.  Then there is another boot with a dog barking up at a squirrel or something.  Why would a dog do this on a ceramic cowboy boot?  That is a deep question I cannot answer.

Mom used to read Bobbsey Twins books when she was a kid.  Well, at first her mom had to read them to her because Mom didn't know how to read yet.  Anyway, it turns out that the Bobbsey Twins are much older than Mom or even Mom's mom.  The first book was published in 1904 by the Stratemeyer Syndicate.  There were 72 books in the original series, which ended in 1979.  Supposedly, a lady named Laura Lee Hope wrote all the books, but she didn't really, because there was no such person.  Instead, a bunch of different people wrote the books.  There was a second set of 30 books that were published from 1987 to 1992, but they weren't as popular as the ones in the original series.

There were two sets of Bobbsey twins.  Nan and Bert were the older pair, and Flossie and Freddie were the younger pair.  They had a mother, a father, two black servants, a cat named Snoop, and two dogs named Snap and Waggo.

This accordion used to belong to someone named Carmen.  It was very shiny and flashy.  I wonder whether Carmen could really play very well.  Did she play Mexican music, like in a mariachi band?  Whatever became of her?  It would be nice to know these things sometimes.

Here are two little raccoons wearing spectacles and carrying umbrellas.  They are salt-and-pepper shakers, which some people really like to collect.

Raggedy Ann was a character created by an American writer named Johnny Gruelle (1880-1938).  He wrote and illustrated a whole series of books for little kids.  Raggedy Ann has red yarn for hair and a triangle nose.  She was patented on September 7, 1915.  A book to go with the doll first came out in 1918.  It was called Raggedy Ann Stories, and it was very popular.  In 1920, Raggedy Andy Stories introduced Ann's brother, Raggedy Andy.  He wears a sailor suit and hat, but I don't think he has ever gone to sea.