Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tardigrades and the Honeymooners

On Sunday we took Stretch to a new exhibit that just opened at the American Museum of Natural History. Called “Life at the Limits,” it explores how some species are “so creative in their responses to the usual wear, tear and stress of life, they seem to cheat death.”

Of all the examples of amazingly adaptive organisms shown, my favorite was the “Tardigrade.” These are tiny aquatic animals with little clawed legs; the first scientist who discovered them referred to them as “little water bears.” Hmm. Seems appropriate that one of the most hardy creatures should resemble a little bear that is very clever in adapting to its environment . . .

Anyway, these little guys have been around for at least half a billion years. What fascinates scientists is their ability, when the going gets tough, to defy death by imitating it.  To quote: “When conditions turn life-threatening—whether from rapid drying, extremes in temperature, or spikes in salinity, they temporarily wind down their metabolism in a reversible process called cryptobiosis.  They curl their limbs and head inside their body, shed more than 95 percent of their water and shrivel into a blob resembling a beer barrel. The metabolic processes dwindle to less than 0.01 percent of normal activity and they simply wait until conditions improve.”

Sounds like a great plan to me! When you’re having a bad day, just curl up into a blob and hibernate until things get better. Somehow I think we lost some good qualities along the road of evolution.

Stretch wants me to mention the highlight of his trip, which had nothing to do with the museum exhibit. On the way back to Penn Station the subway was so uncomfortably crowded we decided to get out at 42 Street and stroll back since it was such a warm sunny day. This subway stop leaves you at the Port Authority Bus Terminal where Stretch had never been and he was delighted to find the statue of Ralph Kramden outside the terminal . He’s been a big fan of the Honeymooners ever since our friend Joanne introduced him to the show. (Yeah, I tried pointing out that this is a “classic tv comedy” so doesn’t that make him “so last century” too and he told me that enjoying classic tv doesn’t count.)

With that in mind, I thought this would be a good opportunity to tell Stretch about the days when Joe and I belonged to a Honeymooners Fan Club back in the late 1980s. There was a convention held each year at a local college where the surviving stars of the show would come speak and answer questions. The best part: We got to wear raccoon caps and bulging eyeballs and do the “Hucklebuck.”

Stretch:  Excuse me, I think I need to go “Tardigrade” my brain for a while after seeing that pic . . .

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Easter Parade 2015

Easter Sunday 2015 found us at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC where we celebrated this joyous holiday and then joined those strolling along Fifth Avenue. As always, some people were decked out in magnificent bonnet creations. Here are a few of our favorites:

In your Easter bonnet,
With all the frills upon it,
You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade.
I’ll be all in clover, and when they look you over,
I’ll be the proudest fellow in the Easter parade.
On the avenue, Fifth Avenue, the photographers will snap us,
And you’ll find that you’re in the rotogravure.
(Joanne, there's a Coney Island coaster here in Stretch's size!)
Oh, I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet,
And of the girl (gorilla?) I’m taking to the Easter parade.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Easter 2015

Today we thought we’d share with you some really interesting trivia about hot cross buns that appeared in our local paper, Newsday, yesterday. We’ve been huge fans of these sweet treats for years but we never remember hearing any of these stories about them, so we thought perhaps our blog readers might also appreciate this information.

Although we eat hot cross buns all through Lent here in the U.S., the article states that when they first originated in England, they were served only on Good Friday. Apparently these little buns are pretty powerful. They have been purported to protect against kitchen fires, cement friendship when shared and prevent shipwrecks when brought onboard a boat.

And a really interesting bit of lore about hot cross buns—buns baked on Good Friday are said to never grow mold. Quoting the article: “In support of this belief, the Daily Mail published a story several years ago celebrating Britain’s oldest hot cross bun, a 192-year-old specimen owned by 94-year-old Nancy Titman, handed down by her great-great-great-grandfather, a bakery owner.”

We’d love to hear from some of our British friends if they're familiar with any of this folklore about hot cross buns.

While I was working on this post, Stretch and Tiny finished eating their plate of hot cross buns for Good Friday and are busy with another Easter tradition—coloring their eggs. 

We wish all our blog readers a very Happy Easter weekend!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April Fools and a Museum Trip

So as I was debating whether it’s appropriate to write “Happy April Fool’s Day” (would that be implying that the person who reads the greeting is a fool?), Stretch showed me his latest e-Bay bill for the spring gardens he’s been working on. I laughed and said, yeah, I know “April Fool.” Then he looked at me and asked “What’s that mean?” Sigh.

Moving right along, our fellow history buffs might be interested in some trivia I found out about this day. It began in France in 1564 when New Year’s Day was changed that year from April 1 to January 1. Some people insisted on still celebrating the New Year on April 1. They became known as “April fools” and people started making fun of them and playing tricks on them.

Stretch:  Sounds like those French folks needed some anti-bullying lessons, huh? But since no one could call me a fool, this holiday really doesn’t interest me. If we’re going to have a history lesson here, how about if I share some things I learned at the museum last weekend?

After I got this beautiful miniature buffalo hide artifact from my friend Barbara to hang in my “bear cave” room, my human sidekick of course had to drag me to a museum to learn some facts about Native Americans.  Here are a couple things I found interesting:

The historic Native Americans are a lot smaller than they look on tv and in the movies.

This is a dance wand with eagle feathers that it says here was used in the Eagle Dance of the Cherokees. If I come to visit, will you teach me how to do that dance Wanda?

Wow, these guys had a Sugar Shack operation just like my cousins in Massachusetts!

We could have used one of these coats this past winter!

It says here that the Chief of the Natchez, called the Great Sun, was carried on a litter on special occasions.  Hmm.  That gives me an idea to suggest to my assistant . . .

You know Stretch, it’s a good thing I never thought of becoming a teacher because somehow my history lessons never turn out quite as I plan. But here’s something interesting I noticed outside the museum that’s a good lesson for all of us. They put all these spikes around this security camera to prevent birds building a nest on it. But one pair of birds was obviously not going to let those obstacles stop them.

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, March 23, 2015

Macy's Flower Show

This past weekend, after a wonderfully refreshing snow storm(!) to welcome the first day of spring, Stretch and I were desperate to see something blooming. I saw an ad for a flower show at Macy’s in NYC that sounded like the perfect antidote to the Arctic landscape outside my window.
Note to self: Flower displays mostly hung from the ceiling in a department store that is massively crowded normally and totally mobbed when you add a special event is not exactly the sort of peaceful pastoral setting you had in mind.

And when you take Stretch along, it’s always an adventure.

Hey look! They have a garden dedicated to me!
However, the flower displays were awesome and we brought home some pics to enjoy in the peace and quiet of our apartment.  We offer a few of those pictures here for all those who are also beginning to forget what flowery landscapes look like.

This statue of David is at the main entrance to the store. A light show flashes across the body with abstract shapes representing the different gardens on display. (Stretch is not in this pic because, as you’re well aware, he is appalled by naked statues/paintings. In his view, only bears have bodies that are suitable for public display.)

The Renaissance Garden

The Impressionist Garden

The Abstract Art Garden

The Pop Art Garden

“Hey, look! This escalator goes straight into a garden now.”
(The downstairs of the store is being remodeled, so they turned the Down escalator area into a garden.)

And finally, the place where we want to spend next winter: The Tropical Oasis Garden