Saturday, March 24, 2012

Teddy is a different beast

It's been awhile since I reported on the doings of dear Teddy, who first incorporated himself into our lives in October of 2009. He's quite the little family member, always entertaining, always companionable, always up to something. In so many ways he's just like his predecessor, Winston (RIP), but in one major way, Teddy is most definitely his own guy. Winston loved, adored, sought out physical contact with us. If it wasn't forthcoming to his liking, he would shove his head under the nearest available human hand in the hope of a good scratch on the chin or a back-rub, in response to which he would purrrrrrr happily. If I brought his brush out and ran my fingers over the bristles he would awaken from the deepest sleep anywhere in the house and come running for a good grooming, so happy to endure it as long as we were willing to keep it up. When he was a baby, he would sleep lying on my chest, over my heart, and later, as a big cat, glued to my side all night.
Teddy, however, isn't so interested in physical affection or even much in contact, and in fact instead of doing what most cats do and arching his back when a hand comes down to pat him, sometimes he ducks and moves away, with an irritated little "mew!!" (translation: you know I'm not into that, so STOP IT!). All of this is a shame, because he's a particularly yummy cat to hug, with soft, soft fur, and a buttery little squeezable body.
As he "matures" (relatively speaking) he has come to tolerate brushing for a few minutes at a time, and now, if he's in the mood, lets me pick him up and cradle him like a baby while scratching his neck and behind his ears, closing his eyes contentedly while I work on squeezing a bit of purring out of him.This makes me at least as happy as it makes him.
But what Teddy really responds to and thrives on (besides anything that resembles play) is being told he's a GOOD CAT!! A gooooood boy, a sweet, pretty little pooddy-tat, mommy's favorite kitty, and that he's the best love-kitty ever... He flops over on the floor or the bed and looks me in the eyes, rolls over, squirms, rolls over back again so he can look at my face, stretches, balls himself up, stretches, all the while doing the "milk tread" (kneading) until purrs start to pour out of him.
Teddy was yelled at a lot in his growing up years (well, OK, we still yell now and again,  intent on interrupting whatever little trouble he's making at the moment).  Now sometimes if I yell at him (TEDDY!!! STOP DESTROYING THE MINI-BLINDS!!!!) he'll let out a hurt, pathetic MEEEWWWW in response.
Isn't funny that this feline so adores being told he's a Good Cat, and is so sensitive to the tone of my voice that he cries when assaulted by harsh words? 
Why would anyone ever need to YELL at Teddy?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring is here, and we have interesting visitors

Vernal equinox, marking the start of meteorological spring, doesn't arrive for two more days, but the temperature is expected to reach nearly 80 degrees in Chicago today, as it did yesterday, and it's time for me to admit it, whether or not it seems right that the trees are leafing and the forsythia are bursting forth a good three weeks earlier than usual.  Hence, we enter into the 2012 Spring Edition of Amusing Musings. The butterflies aren't here yet - at least I don't think so - but spring always heralds the arrival of interesting visitors, such as migrating birds, that we're just beginning to notice.
This blog gets an assortment of visitors too, besides my much-appreciated regular readers. That's why I use a sitemeter (click on the tiny badge to the left of the top of this post) to get a sense of who's nosing around. At least 80% of visitors are automated web sweepers of various kinds. Google shows up as having been here several times a day every day. That's so it knows what's here, should someone be searching on "polar bears of Churchill" or "Laguna Pueblo" or "Puerto Rico 1912" or "Norman Maclean" or "Norman Bradburn." Sitemeter  identified the following particularly intriguing source of a recent search: 
Click to enlarge for detail
I hope this means the White House is considering asking Mr. Bradburn to consult, or perhaps to be honored in some special way!
Sadly, sitemeter also sometimes yields unwelcome information, for example, that photos posted here are being used elsewhere without my knowledge, permission, or approval.  So from now on, with my apologies, those of my photos I know are most likely to attract attention ("dolphin mother and baby" is, believe it or not, by far the most common search term bringing people to Amusing Musings, and my photo of a polar bear cub being loaded into the hold of a helicopter has been lifted and published on someone else's blog, albeit with full credit to me) will be made un-stealable with DO NOT USE WITHOUT PERMISSION marring the image. It's a great shame we have to go that route.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

March 10

Today, March 10, 2012, would have been the 100th anniversary of Mary Eleanor Lawton Sebeok's birth. My mother was born  to Charles and Mary Cullin Lawton, in Chester, Pennsylvania, but raised in Puerto Rico and educated there and at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. She earned her master's degree in linguistics at the University of Michigan in 1947. Also in 1947 she married Thomas Sebeok, who soon after became a professor at Indiana University; a few years later, I came along, and was to be her only child. 
Mother taught English as a Foreign Language and related subjects under various programs at IU from 1947 to 1973, when she and my father divorced, but she continued to teach at the University of Puerto Rico until long after she retired in 1979. She was often honored by her students wherever she taught, and some became lifelong friends. She also consulted, edited, served on numerous committees, ran language labs, and directed special programs at IU and UPR. In 1963-1964 and again in 1971-1973, she taught English and Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) in Spain. In 1993, she moved from Puerto Rico to Florida, where she organized and maintained the residents' library at The Landings at Sea Forest, the community where she last lived.
Mother was a great lover of animals. After her return to Puerto Rico in 1973, she lived in a ground floor apartment with a small, sheltered patio just right for enjoying balmy evenings with a drink in hand, chatting with friends, neighbors, and family to the music of the coquí:
(turn on your sound to hear the sound-track of my mother's patio every evening of the year)
Other creatures shared that patio as well, among them stray cats, and some brought their broods of kittens along. Being sympathetic, my mother put out bowls of cheap generic cat food, figuring it was better than what the cats might scrounge on their own. Unfortunately it was a little too cheesy for the cats and they didn't eat much of it, but she came out to the patio one evening, flipped on the light, and what should she see but a bowl full of immense toads chowing down on the cat food.  She continued to buy the cat food just so the toads would have a nice meal every day. Oh, and she captured the cats, adopted one of the kittens, and took the rest to the shelter in the hope they could find good homes.
Mother was an energetic world traveler. Shortly after she married my father, they sojourned in northern Scandinavia, bringing back photos of themselves in Finnmark (aka Lapland), "Land of the Midnight Sun" with a detour to Budapest, where my father's mother lived. Here they are with their Lap guide. He seems rather taken with my mother, does he not?
In the early 1960's, the whole family spent a summer Europe-trotting, with stops in England, Paris, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Moscow, Hamburg. As I've blogged before, she spent a total of three academic years in Spain, one with me as an eighth-grader, and two alone. And none with her husband (as he was a difficult man, it was just as well). In each of those years she had a car, and traveled widely around the Iberian peninsula, with little forays across the Straits of Gibraltar and to the Canary Islands. Here she is in Casablanca, 1963:
Being fluent in Spanish, she got the most out of those years; later, she and a lady friend took off for South America, exploring numerous countries to the extent their budgets allowed. We cruised the Caribbean together one Christmas week, and in another year, she steamed up the coast of Canada to Alaska with her oldest childhood friend from Puerto Rico days.
She was known as a generous hostess. My father ran a small research center at Indiana University that frequently hosted visiting scholars from around the world. When someone particularly noteworthy descended in our midst, my parents would throw a party. This is the delicious punch she made that somehow never gave a very accurate impression of being as loaded with alcohol as it was. Many a renowned pundit waxed silly by the end of an evening at our house. Note the samples of punch, and handle with care if you decide to make it:
She was also an extraordinarily good cook. Bloomington didn't have much by way of an international grocery trade in those days, but she managed to find or adapt recipes from around the world to produce fantastic facsimiles of exotica. She made wonderful bacon, sour cream, and paprika-laden chicken paprikás and oh-so-tender, better-than-Hungarian goulash (the secret ingredient of which was a can of Campbell's tomato soup). She even made completely convincing Peking duck. Of course she prepared Puerto Rican food like a native. But best of all were her All-American fresh blueberry pies and peach pies. Lucky were the visitors who were invited for an intimate dinner rather than a bash in a punch bowl!
She was always frugal with her money, but nonetheless was admired for  being an elegant, tasteful dresser. A big contributing element was her tall, life-long slim stature, which she enjoyed until her last few years robbed her skeletal strength and she literally pancaked into little old lady-ness. But here she was at her early best in this 1933 photo taken of her as a college student on a visit to West Point ("where the boys were"):
Eleanor Lawton Sebeok lived nearly a century, and what a century it was. Puerto Rico was an undeveloped agricultural economy when she was born, and now, it is a world-contender in tourism, banking, pharmaceutical manufacturing and other industries. She witnessed the beginning and the end of the Cold War, two World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam wars, and the Great Depression. When she was born there was no treatment for infectious diseases;  as happened to many families, her sister Louise succumbed to a streptococcal infection, but just 20-some years later her father, following surgery for cataracts, suffered an allergic reaction to newly-available sulfa antibiotics, but his sight was saved. We even sent a man, and more, to the moon during the prime of her life. She came from a background in which few women pursued degrees, but she not only graduated from college, but went on to take an advanced degree and enjoyed a long teaching career in academia. Well into her 80s, she got to swim with dolphins (Discovery Cove, Florida). She looks as happy in this photo as in any I've seen of her!
She died on January 24, 2005 following a fall, just weeks short of her 93rd birthday, in New Port Richey, Florida. KLK and I returned her ashes to the Atlantic Ocean off the shore of Puerto Rico, near the site of her favorite childhood home, in February 2006. Rest in peace, Mother, you led a remarkable, long life, and you left a wonderful legacy of memories for me.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

As long as U can be (very) patient

While cleaning out some files today I came across these undated prints - I suspect they go back a very long way. If they can wait, say, another 30 or 35 years, it'll work for me!

Always nice to see that someone has a cheery take on a dreary subject.