A few more from yours truly!
Studies in colour!
Now for something completely different!
See you in a week’s time. Hopefully with the rain here in Southern Oregon!
A few more from yours truly!
Studies in colour!
Now for something completely different!
See you in a week’s time. Hopefully with the rain here in Southern Oregon!
A couple of nerve-twisting hours!
Yesterday morning, well before 7am, we let all the dogs out for their morning walks, smells and ablutions! They are let out on our property.
Ten minutes later all of them were back home save one: Brandy!
Then followed a good couple of hours while I, and then later Jeannie and I, walked the entire property, all 13 acres, looking for Brandy. To no avail. He appeared to have disappeared. It’s not helped by the fact that Brandy has poor hearing and can’t really hear calls more than thirty feet away.
At one point I went out with Cleo, our GSD, who has a supreme sense of smell and excellent hearing, to look for Brandy. No luck!
I was getting very stressed and while Brandy at times does go for a walk on his own he had never been gone for this long.
Well eventually, with the help of our new neighbours, we located Brandy and, in time, got him back in the house. The only way off the property is via Bummer Creek, which flows across our property, under a bridge built on our driveway, that is not fenced. Only Brandy sometimes takes a stroll down the creek. Brandy had done so this morning and ended up past our neighbours property, a good quarter mile or more downstream.
It was then time to go across and thank our neighbours for their help. I was invited in for a coffee and also spent time with the eight-year-old, soon to be nine, chatting about this and that, and, towards the end of the coffee, about writing!
This was lovely and I said that if aforesaid young man was to write a story about one of their two dogs I would love to feature it as a guest post in this place!
Then when I came home I was thinking more about encouraging the young man to write some more and came across the following. I trust it is OK to republish.
Encouraging children to write a story of their very own can give them an enormous confidence boost, as well as help them consolidate their literacy learning by putting their phonics, grammar and reading skills into practice. Primary teacher Phoebe Doyle offers parents tips on how to get their children’s creative thoughts flowing.
The way literacy is taught in primary schools has changed radically in the last couple of decades; when I was at school in the 80s we copied from blackboards, had whole hours of handwriting practice and sweated over spellings without any formal teaching of phonics whatsoever. While I think the more structured approach to literacy teaching we see in classrooms today makes learning more fun and accessible, my one worry is that there’s little time left for writing creatively.
When I was at school I adored writing stories – even stories with chapters and illustrations. I know my author brother did too – we found some of his old stories a few years back, and I felt so pleased he’d had the time to write these endless pages of action, adventure, characterisation and twisting plotlines.
As a primary teacher I ensured I would have a week each term when, during literacy sessions, we would focus solely on creating stories. I wasn’t deviating from the curriculum – far from it. During this week children would be consolidating their learning of phonics and be ‘writing for purpose’, considering carefully the aspects of story and who their audience might be.
It may very well be that your children write stories at home regardless of whether they’re required to for school, because most children have a seemingly natural urge to want to do so from time to time. This is just a little guidance on how you can support them and encourage a more structured approach to their story writing.
Firstly, ask your child where the story is going to take place. It could be somewhere fictional or real, it could be a planet, a country, a town or a house – anywhere!
Then, ask when the story is taking place – now? In the future? In the past?
Finally ask what they think is going to happen. Remember that this doesn’t have to be accurate and they don’t have to stick to what they say; many of the best writers say that their plots develop organically as they write. If they do have a firm idea of where they want to go with the plot, though, they can create an outline by completing a story planner, which could look something like this:
Ask your child who is going to be in the story. How do they want their readers to feel about each character? Again, they may want to jot some ideas down. You could make a table for them to help them organise their thoughts, with these headings:
Ask your child to think of some fabulous words to use in their story writing. They might be long words or simple ones, or they might be great descriptive words or words that help create pace and tension. Encourage them to jot these down and refer to the list as they write their story.
All writers know that you’ve got to capture the attention of your readers right from the start; you want to make them desperate to read on. Ask your child to think of some good story openers that’ll entice people to find out more. Here are a few examples:
First sentences that are mysterious…
Molly had no sense of the day that lay ahead.
Story starters that use language tricks like alliteration…
It was damp, dark and dreadfully dusty when Molly entered the house.
Story openers that create tension…
Molly could hear her heart beating faster than ever before. Could this really be happening?
Stories that go straight into dialogue…
“But I don’t want to go to school, Mummy,” groaned Molly.
Encourage your child to look at some of the books they like to read and see how they begin in order to offer inspiration.
Once they’ve got all of these ideas in place, they can start writing. They could do a draft in the first instance and then a neat, polished version later. They may wish to write in short chapters, use illustrations, or make their own book to write in – let them use their imagination and creativity when it comes to presentation, and make sure you show how much you value the end product by keeping it to read again with the other books in your house.
If your child finds writing a story a little daunting, start with something small from our list of 9 fun writing projects to do with your children.
We also recommend the free art and creative writing challenges on the Night Zookeeper website; your child will be contributing to a co-created animated television show.
You could also try a great story-making app and get your child writing fiction on their tablet!
It’s a great video by the way. Plus, it is a good article and I hope that I can bring it to the attention of my neighbour and thence onto his son.
And I really hope that in a while I can feature him and his guest post in this place!
A few photos from home.
More of the dogs
And for something completely different!
And some more of our dogs from home.
Still got Ruby and Sweeny to come.
Just a few of our dogs from home.
That’s not all our dogs but nevertheless some of the better photographs!
And I am not speaking of the Autumn!
To be honest, dear friends, I really agonised over whether or not to republish an item that I saw on The Conversation blogsite last Friday. For it has nothing to do with dogs, nothing to do with learning from dogs, and everything to do with being the ‘wrong’ side of 65 years old.
But then one day last week I was out watching some tree cutting being undertaken by Jimmy Gonzales and his crew and heard the phoning ringing in the house.
I ran for the steps leading up to the deck and missed the bottom step.
I fell but luckily managed to grab the handrails seconds before I could have smacked my head into the steps. However, it did scare me especially when I reflected that it wasn’t even 9 months since my medical emergency following my fall from my bicycle.
It confirmed the sense in republishing the item. Republished within the terms of The Conversation site.
September 21, 2018
By four authors:
Baby boomers, who once viewed themselves as the coolest generation in history, are now turning their thoughts away from such things as partying and touring alongside rock bands to how to they can stay healthy as they age. And, one of the most important parts of healthy aging is avoiding a fall, the number one cause of accidental death among people 65 and older.
The issue is growing more pressing each day. More adults than ever – 46 million – are 65 and older, and their numbers are increasing rapidly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in four older adults will fall each year. Falls are the leading cause of injury and injury deaths among older adults. And, they are costly. Falls are responsible for an estimated US$31 billion in annual Medicare costs. This estimate does not account for non-direct medical or societal costs.
People who fall can lose their physical mobility for life, go into a hospital never to be discharged, require skilled nursing or other caregiver support, or become so fearful about falling again that they dramatically limit their daily activities.
The good news is that most falls are preventable, research has identified many modifiable risk factors for falls, and older adults can empower themselves to reduce their falls risks. This means there are opportunities to intervene in clinical and community settings to promote protective behaviors and improve safety.
A life-changing event
Falls can cause fractures, traumatic brain injuries and other conditions that require an emergency room visit or hospitalization. An older adult dies from a fall every 19 minutes, and every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in an emergency room for a fall-related injury. About one in four falls results in needed medical attention, and falls are responsible for about 95 percent of all hip fractures. In addition to the physical and mental trauma associated with the fall itself, falls often result in fear of falling, reduced quality of life, loss of independence and social isolation.
There is no single cause for falling. Falls can result from issues related to biological aging, such as balance problems, loss of muscle strength, changes in vision, arthritis or diabetes. Taking a combination of several prescription drugs can also contribute to falls. Lifestyle behaviors such as physical inactivity, poor nutrition and poor sleep quality can also increase the risk for falling. Environmental hazards inside the home, such as poor lighting and throw rugs, and outside, such as bad weather, standing water and uneven sidewalks, can create situations where falls are more likely to occur.
It takes a careful village
Because falls can be caused by many things, the solutions must also include a diverse set of systems, organizations and professionals. Toward that end, 42 active or developing state fall prevention coalitions, which coordinate initiatives and serve as advocates for policy development and community action, are in place. Their activities foster collaboration across the aging services network, public health and health care system. They do such things as host health fairs and fall risk screening events, fall prevention programs, and awareness-raising events to inform decision-makers and legislators about ways to make communities safer for older adults.
Here are some of the key objectives that the coalitions are working on to reduce hazards from falling:
There are many fall prevention programs offered in communities to promote healthful behaviors and to reinforce positive mental perspectives about falls being preventable.
People concerned about falling should contact their local Area Agency on Aging to find out where these programs are offered and which can be most beneficial. Also, seniors should ask their doctors about fall-related risk factors and what they can do to reduce risk. Communicate your concerns about falls with your health care team and social network, tell them about what you learn during your fall prevention programs, and report back about how they are making a difference in your life.
About 70 percent of older adults have one or more chronic conditions, many of which can increase the risk for falling. For example, people with diabetes may have vision problems and problems with sensation in their feet. Also, the medications used to treat these conditions can increase fall risk. And, taking five or more medications has been identified with increased frailty and higher risk for falling.
While health care access and utilization are important for chronic disease diagnosis and management, 90 percent of health care happens outside the health care setting. Therefore, older adults need to manage their diseases better. To do this, however, they often need help. For starters, they should discuss the side effects of all medications with their doctors and also how best to adhere to prescribed treatment regimens, such as when to take medications, whether to take with food and whether there are possible interactions of one medication with another. Seniors also can consider enrolling in evidence-based disease self-management programs to improve their knowledge and confidence to manage their conditions as well as enhance lasting skills for goal setting and action planning, such as being physically active for 30 minutes a day for five days a week.
About 44 percent of falls occur inside the home. In-home risk factors for falls can include dim lighting, clutter on floors, throw rugs and ottomans, missing railings, uncovered wires and extension cords, children and pets underfoot and unsafe bathrooms. A unsafe bathroom is one with an inappropriate toilet height, high shower or bathtub walls and no grab rails.
To identify possible risks in the home, the CDC created a user-friendly safety checklist that can safeguard older adults by eliminating environmental hazards.
Daily lifestyle behaviors such as physical activity, nutrition and sleep quality can influence fall risk, and these are never too late to change. Interventions can be successful for people of all ages. Among the most important is physical activity, namely safely performing lower-body exercises to increase strength, balance and flexibility. Additionally, seniors should work with their health care team to have medications reviewed and eyes checked regularly. Also, they should ask about their vitamin D levels and possible nutritional supplementation.
Yes, when it comes to being more careful on our feet once again our dear dogs offer us a much better way: Have four of them!!
Just look at the ease of our dear Brandy scampering through the woods yesterday morning!
Our dear, sorely-missed Pharaoh demonstrating the advantages of four feet!
So my good people – you be careful out there!
The scientific findings of how the height of trees affects their ability to cope with drought.
I subscribe to the online Physics World website and a recent article tickled my fancy. Because it was supported by what we see here at home.
That is that shorter and taller trees do not handle drought conditions as well as medium-height trees.
First the article and then some supporting evidence from home.
04 Sep 2018
Forests with canopy heights of around 18 metres are more resistant to the effects of severe drought than those with shorter and taller trees, according to researchers in China and the US.
In the past, studies have disagreed on whether forests with lower or higher canopies will be more likely to make it through prolonged spells of hot, dry weather. The discrepancy has made it difficult for forest managers, who need to know which tree heights to encourage to ensure the highest growth and survival rates during extreme drought.
Study leader Peipei Xu at Beijing Normal University in China and her colleagues believe the issue is increasingly pressing. “Climate data indicate that warm areas of land are increasing, and the warmed areas are also drying,” says Chuixiang Yi at the City University of New York, US. “Hot-dry-induced forest mortality poses a significant global concern for the future as carbon dioxide continues to rise and the climate continues to warm.”
Xu, Yi and the rest of the team aimed to quantify the relationships between canopy height, growth and survival rates during drought accurately for the first time. They analysed data gathered during a severe drought in the southwestern US in 2002 that showed the effect on the ring widths of tree trunks, a useful indicator of their yearly growth. In addition, satellite data revealed how the density of vegetation changed over the course of the drought; the team used this to calculate both leaf growth and tree mortality rates.
The results revealed that trunk and leaf growth under drought conditions increased with canopy height for trees shorter than 18 metres but decreased with height for trees taller than 18 metres. “Our results indicate that both high and small trees have relatively low drought resistance,” says Yi.
After establishing these relationships, the researchers could determine the biological mechanisms governing tree growth and survival during drought.
“All organic matter in a tree is formed on the leaves at the top of the tree by photosynthesis,” Yi explains. “Tall trees have a longer water transport path from roots to leaves and [it’s] more difficult to overcome tissue resistance and … gravity, particularly under dry conditions. The roots of small trees are short, and their abilities to access water and nutrient supplies unavailable to the surface soil layer are extremely limited.”
The researchers believe that using their results to inform the active management of canopy structure could safeguard vulnerable forests. As climate models predict hotter, drier droughts becoming more commonplace, this could be essential to combat forest dieback – a phenomenon that will also drive climate change.
“Our findings provide insights into how to manage forests or plant what trees to increase forest drought resistance in facing hot-dry climate conditions to mitigate climate change,” says Yi.
The team reported the findings in Environmental Research Letters (ERL).
So turning to home.
Here are a couple of photographs of tall trees to the Northern side of the house that are clearly showing some stress.
Now in stark contrast look at the trees in the photo below. (Oh, that’s the smoky summit of Mount Sexton, elevation 3,829 ft., in the distance.)
As our taller trees are felled each year we are planting new young trees, two for every tree felled, in one of our grass fields.
Because it is not just Jeannie and me, and all the wild birds, who love our trees!
Will close with another photo with a tree in it taken a few nights ago.
We must never, ever lose our trees!
Just one very domestic, doggie scene!
Some days Jean takes an afternoon nap.
One day this last week, it was last Wednesday, Brandy decided to join Jean.
Although I tried ever so quietly to steal into the bedroom without making a noise, Brandy did notice! Of course!
Then last Thursday afternoon I took a couple more when Brandy was sleeping on the tiled floor of our dining-room adjacent to the kitchen.
The first one is more or less a crop of the full image while the second one is greatly edited including applying some ‘sharpening’. (I use Picasa.)
Plus a couple more from earlier times!
Then the final one showing Brandy the day he was ‘rescued’ and brought home.
What a wonderful animal he is!
A very inspirational essay from George Monbiot.
It is said that there are only two certainties in life: Death and Taxes.
I think that is one short: The Unexpected. As in Death, Taxes and The Unexpected!
As evidence of The Unexpected, one could put falling off one’s bike or being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Or the many other ‘hiccups’ that are an attribute of the real world that we humans live in. Put in the words of the street: Shit Happens!
Now read this very inspirational essay from George Monbiot. Republished here with Mr. Monbiot’s very kind permission.
16th March 2018
I have prostate cancer, but I’m happy. Here’s how.
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 14th March 2018
It came, as these things often do, like a gunshot on a quiet street: shocking and disorienting. In early December, my urine turned brown. The following day I felt feverish and found it hard to pee. I soon realised I had a urinary tract infection. It was unpleasant, but seemed to be no big deal. Now I know that it might have saved my life.
The doctor told me this infection was unusual in a man of my age, and hinted at an underlying condition. So I had a blood test, which revealed that my prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels were off the scale. An MRI scan and a mortifying biopsy confirmed my suspicions. Prostate cancer: all the smart young men have it this season.
On Monday, I go into surgery. The prostate gland is buried deep in the body, so removing it is a major operation: there are six entry points and it takes four hours. The procedure will hack at the roots of my manhood. Because of the damage that will be caused to the surrounding nerves, there’s a high risk of permanent erectile dysfunction. Because the urethra needs to be cut and reattached to the bladder, I will almost certainly suffer urinary incontinence for a few months, and possibly permanently. Because the removal of part of the urethra retracts the penis, it appears to shrink, at least until it can be stretched back into shape.
I was offered a choice: radical surgery or brachytherapy. This means implanting radioactive seeds in the parts of the prostrate affected by cancer. Brachytherapy has fewer side effects, and recovery is much faster. But there’s a catch. If it fails to eliminate the cancer, there’s nothing more that can be done. This treatment sticks the prostate gland to the bowel and bladder, making surgery extremely difficult. Once you’ve had one dose of radiation, they won’t give you another. I was told that the chances of brachytherapy working in my case were between 70 and 80%. The odds were worse, in other words, than playing Russian roulette (which, with one bullet in a six-chambered revolver, gives you 83%). Though I have a tendency to embrace risk, this was not an attractive option.
It would be easy to curse my luck and start to ask “why me?”. I have never smoked and hardly drink; I have a ridiculously healthy diet and follow a severe fitness regime. I’m 20 or 30 years younger than most of the men I see in the waiting rooms. In other words, I would have had a lower risk of prostate cancer only if I had been female. And yet … I am happy. In fact, I’m happier than I was before my diagnosis. How can this be?
The reason is that I’ve sought to apply the three principles which, I believe, sit at the heart of a good life. The first is the most important: imagine how much worse it could be, rather than how much better.
When you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, your condition is ranked on the Gleason Score, which measures its level of aggression. Mine is graded at 7 out of 10. But this doesn’t tell me where I stand in general. I needed another index to assess the severity of my condition, so I invented one: the Shitstorm Scale. How does my situation compare to those of people I know, who contend with other medical problems or family tragedies? How does it compare to what might have been, had the cancer had not been caught while it is still – apparently – confined to the prostate gland? How does it compare to innumerable other disasters that could have befallen me?
When I completed the exercise, I realised that this bad luck, far from being a cause of woe, is a reminder of how lucky I am. I have the love of my family and friends. I have the support of those with whom I work. I have the NHS. My Shitstorm Score is a mere 2 out of 10.
The tragedy of our times is that, rather than apply the most useful of English proverbs – “cheer up, it could be worse” – we are constantly induced to imagine how much better things could be. The rich lists and power lists with which the newspapers are filled, our wall-to-wall celebrity culture, the invidious billions spent on marketing and advertising, create an infrastructure of comparison that ensures we see ourselves as deprived of what others possess. It is a formula for misery.
The second principle is this: change what you can change, accept what you can’t. This is not a formula for passivity. I’ve spent my working life trying to alter outcomes that might have seemed immovable to other people. The theme of my latest book is that political failure is, at heart, a failure of imagination. But sometimes we simply have to accept an obstacle as insuperable. Fatalism in these circumstances is protective. I accept that my lap is in the lap of the gods.
So I will not rage against the morbidity this surgery might cause. I won’t find myself following Groucho Marx who, at the age of 81, magnificently lamented, “I’m going to Iowa to collect an award. Then I’m appearing at Carnegie Hall, it’s sold out. Then I’m sailing to France to pick up an honour from the French government. I’d give it all up for one erection.” And today there’s viagra.
The third principle is this: do not let fear rule your life. Fear hems us in, stops us from thinking clearly and prevents us from either challenging oppression or engaging calmly with the impersonal fates. When I was told that this operation has an 80% chance of success, my first thought was “that’s roughly the same as one of my kayaking trips. And about twice as good as the chance of emerging from those investigations in West Papua and the Amazon”.
There are, I believe, three steps to overcoming fear: name it, normalise it, socialise it. For too long, cancer has been locked in the drawer labelled Things We Don’t Talk About. When we call it the Big C, it becomes, as the term suggests, not smaller, but larger in our minds. He Who Must Not Be Named is diminished by being identified, and diminished further when he becomes a topic of daily conversation.
The super-volunteer Jeanne Chattoe, whom I interviewed recently for another column, reminded me that, just 25 years ago, breast cancer was a taboo subject. Thanks to the amazing advocacy of its victims, this is almost impossible to imagine today. Now we need to do the same for other cancers. Let there be no more terrible secrets.
So I have sought to discuss my prostate cancer as I would discuss any other issue. I make no apologies for subjecting you to the grisly details: the more familiar they become, the less horrifying. In doing so, I socialise my condition. Last month, I discussed the remarkable evidence suggesting that a caring community enhances recovery and reduces mortality. In talking about my cancer with family and friends, I feel the love that I know will get me through this. The old strategy of suffering in silence could not have been more misguided.
I had intended to use this column to urge men to get themselves tested. But since my diagnosis, we’ve discovered two things. The first is that prostate cancer has overtaken breast cancer to become the third biggest cancer killer in the UK. The second is that the standard assessment (the PSA blood test) is of limited use. As prostate cancer in its early stages is likely to produce no symptoms, it’s hard to see what men can do to protect themselves. That urinary tract infection was a remarkably lucky break.
Instead, I urge you to support the efforts led by Prostate Cancer UK to develop a better test. Breast cancer has attracted twice as much money and research as prostate cancer, not because (as the Daily Mail suggests) men are the victims of injustice, but because women’s advocacy has been so effective. Campaigns such as Men United and the Movember Foundation have sought to bridge this gap, but there’s a long way to go. Prostate cancer is discriminatory: for reasons unknown, black men are twice as likely to suffer it as white men. Finding better tests and treatments is a matter of both urgency and equity.
I will ride this out. I will own this disease but I won’t be defined by it: I will not be prostrated by my prostate. I will be gone for a few weeks but when I return, I do solemnly swear I will still be the argumentative old git with whom you are familiar.
It appears to be a unique aspect of the human mind. I am referring to our ability to worry about the future, to struggle to break away from ‘habitual’ responses to unanticipated crap coming along, to see the glass as half full as opposed to half empty, and so on, and so on.
Oh, to be like our dear, sweet, wise dogs.
Just let the world roll by!