Saturday, February 27, 2010

Who Ya Callin' Chicken?

I'll be honest. Chickens used to freak me out. When I was very young a giant (well, it seemed giant) rooster attacked me for no reason while I was playing in my grandfather's back yard. I know you're probably thinking that I pulled his feathers or mocked him or something, but I swear, he was just a reprobate.

These days I love chickens. What changed my mind? Ironically, it was another violent act, this time perpetrated by a hen. My mother-in-law was house-sitting a small farm in Florida when we dropped by for a visit. Several hens wandered the back yard. We shared a bit of bagel with them, but one was more interested in stalking something hidden in the palmettos. Quick as a flash, she came up with a small lizard, tossed it into the air, and swallowed it down. Unbelievably bad ass! I had always thought of chickens as idiots, but here was one that would have made its dinosaur forebearers proud. Don't get me wrong, I'm not only a vegetarian, but I have a special fondness for lizards. Still, the hunting prowess of this bird was amazing. Maybe there was more to chickens than I thought...

So now I count myself as a chicken lover. I've even been known to collect a bit of chicken art, if
it depicts these noble birds in all their multi-faceted splendor.
That's why I was so excited when I spotted this wall hanging in Tatty Tiara's etsy shop. It came in the mail today, and I love it! It's even better in person than in the picture.

I also love these vintage stuffed chickens from BlueBirdSales. They're cute, but not in a condescending way.

Then there's always the custom chicken option. These guys, from HedwigzInch, are made to order. Who wouldn't want a one-of-a-kind felt hen? I know I do!

So, take time to appreciate some chickens today. In all of their bad-ass, lizard-and-bagel-eating glory.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Give Away Time!

It seems that 300 people are foolish enough to follow this blog! My evil plan is working perfectly. Next step: World Domination! Or, maybe just a little give away to thank everyone for dropping by. Both seem plausible, but the give away seems easier to accomplish on a Sunday morning. So I suppose I should amend the plan: first, 300 blog followers. Second, a little giveaway. Third, world domination. Let's get started!

Here's the prize:

Or, if you don't wear earrings, one of these tiny beaded bottles:

All you have to do is post a comment telling me which suits your fancy. Want an extra chance to win? Go to my etsy shop, then come back here and tell me what you like best in a separate post. I'll use a random number generator to choose the winner. The drawing will be held on February 28th, 2010. Good luck!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Day at the Dog Park

Most city dogs love dog parks. Given the chance, they like to socialize with other canines even more than with us humans. Sure, we feed them, pet them, buy them expensive squeaky toys... but we steadfastly refuse to sniff their nether regions. We also don't like it when they jump on our heads. But at the dog park? No problem! There are always plenty of other dogs that understand the mystique of nether-region-sniffing and don't mind having their heads jumped on. The need for dog parks seems like a no-brainer.

But, surprisingly, there was no such thing before 1979. Sure, there were areas where folks and dogs met up to play, but they weren't official. That means there were no doggie water fountains, rest areas, or double gates. So who do we have to thank for the modern miracle of dog parks? The credit belongs to a little bird called the snowy plover.

In the late 1970s snowy plover numbers were plummeting along America's Pacific coast. One big culprit seemed to be off-leash dogs running amok through their nesting areas. So the dogs and their people moved inland, and started using parks instead of the beach as their playground. Naturally this caused some friction with those that wanted their parks to be dogs-on-leashes only zones. A compromise was reached in 1979 when the Experimental Dog Park was opened in Berkeley. It was the world's first dog park. The concept was so new that many people stopped by to ask what kinds of experiments were being done there!

Since then almost 1,000 dog parks have opened across the U.S. The Experimental Dog Park has been re-christened The Martha Scott Benedict Memorial Dog Park. And the concept has spread around the world. Helsinki seems to have the most, and nicest canine playgrounds per capita. Sadly, the worst one is supposedly right here in Los Angeles. But that's okay. There are plenty to choose from. And our city dog prefers any day at the park to a day spent lounging on the couch.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Live! At the California Academy of Sciences!

First, a small disclaimer. There wasn't really any live music at the Academy of Sciences. But there was a DJ, and drinks, and a whole lot of living animals, and fish, and plants... So I think that, in aggregate, I can get away with calling it "live".

We spent a total of about 36 hours in San Francisco last week, where it fell to me to set the agenda. My birthday, my tour priorities! Compared to Los Angeles there is a lot to do and see there, but I knew that we couldn't pass up what Wikipedia says is one of the ten largest natural history museums in the world. Then I found out that they host a 21 and over night every Thursday. I remember touring a museum after hours with my girl scout troop when I was a kid; the mystery and illicit feeling of being there after the unwashed masses had gone home. No way was I going to miss the opportunity to do that again, especially if champaign cocktails were on hand.

When we arrived I was astonished to see that the place was packed! Even in February, in the driving rain, this was clearly the place to be on a Thursday night. And with good reason. The museum has been in existence since 1853. It was formed just three years after California joined the Union, but even back then it was striking blows for gender equality. Almost immediately a resolution was passed to "approve of the aid of females in every department of natural science, and invite their cooperation". At the time it was housed in China Town, but soon the 80,000 visitors it attracted each year forced it to move to Market Street. Sadly, it was badly crippled in the terrible 1906 earthquake, but it rose from the ashes to set up shop in its current location in Golden Gate Park.

Disaster struck again in 1989 when the Loma Prieta earthquake damaged the grand old building and rendered the aquarium portion almost unusable. Never a backwards-looking institution, it was decided to take the opportunity to completely re-imagine the building. Today it is one of the "greenest" museum designs in the world, right down to the insulation in the walls which is made out of scraps of recycled denim.

Incorporated into the new design are bits of the old art nouveau Stienhart Aquarium, which lend a bit of intimacy to the shiny new public spaces. Since we were there after dark there were added bonuses too: most of the nocturnal animals were wide awake and extremely active, including a giant Pacific octopus which was much wider than my outstretched arms. Was it responding to the music or just annoyed at the invasion of its privacy? I won't speculate, but I will say this: child or adult, nothing beats a night at the museum.

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