Thursday, September 28, 2006

Face-to-face with Xar. Last night at the Police Academy, they brought the dog. Xar, a trained, award winning police dog, 82 pounds, born and trained in Czechoslovakia (his trainer, Officer Jason Harvey, uses Czech for commands). Xar is just about 2 years old, still with some puppy characteristics. On a leash, he sat by his officer's feet with his toy, chewing it constantly. His coloring was a dark sable, as Jason Harvey explained, being bred in Europe, this color is more common than in the US. Also, training German Shepherds is a sport there. When Jason first went to the California kennel to select the dog, his team put about 30 dogs through the paces before selecting Xar, for courage, stability, and skill. So when this dog strolled over to me, put his toy on my lap, and "slimed" me, imagine how thrilled I was. He just came over to me, calmly looked at me, and allowed me to pet him for about 2-3 minutes, then returned to his owner. Wow.
Jason told us that Xar is a pack animal, and recognizes Jason as the alpha dog. Xar wouldn't recognize anyone else as alpha, even Jason's wife, as Xar is a 24-hour commitment, living at home in an outside kennel and considered part of the family. But Xar came back to me, looked me in the face for a few seconds, then put his front legs on my lap and kind of climbed up closer (which was fine with me). He stayed there looking at me calmly, until I decided I was a little more alpha than he and just clicked my fingers to command him to get down -- which he did promptly. What a beautiful animal, and very intelligent.
Then we went downstairs to see Xar in action. Here another police officer put on a black trench coat and arm guard for protection (we did see slides of dog bites; Xar is trained to "hold" but if the suspect resists, he will bite to hold his suspect). Here Xar is all attention. He loves his job and works for the reward, the arm guard is his toy. Xar's smelling skills allows him to find hidden suspects (primarily in building searches or out in the field) far more quickly and safely than a human officer; he often finds the suspect before the officer just by smell alone. It was a privilege to meet him.
For more info on Xar and Source of Photo, go to the Gazette Times archives at:  Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Most of the time, if we think of quilting, we think of it as beginning in Western Europe in the 17th or 18th Century. However, research in a fine paper by Kateryn de Develyn. writing on the history of quilting, talks about the very ancient practice of quilting, including several rare illustrations. Some information from her 61-page PDF format paper:
  • Romans used a type of quilt to sleep on (the traditional three layers of cloth, top, cover and filling), which accounts for the spread of the quilt really throughout all of Roman Britain.
  • Evidence of Chinese and Indian quilting came about as Buddhist monks pieced together scraps of cloth that we surmise today came from traveling pilgrims. One site is dated between the 6-9th Centuries at the Cave of 1,000 Buddhas in the Berinda region in India (along the Silk Road).
  • Egyptian sculptures have been discovered showing a pharoah wearing a quilted garment (@3,400 BCE) (though Cynthia is careful to point out that the garment could be woven). More directly relevant to the history of quilting is the discovery of a royal funeral canopy which is actually a quilt made of dyed gazelle skins in a variety of colors. Date 980 BCE.
  • That famous 14th Century shift to significantly colder weather prompted widespread use of quilts throughout Europe.
    Several articles talk about the Crusaders bringing back quilts from the Near East; however, Marco Polo did go to China and quilted armour was used by Chinese, Japanese, and Islamic warriors throughout the medieval period.
    Our humanities book by Gloria Fiero does cover quilting as a popular folkart, mentioning the famous Underground Railway quilts, coded to let runaway slaves know which houses were safe houses on their journey north to freedom and Canada. So, quilts have a very long history, both practical and beautiful. Sorry, no pictures. Kateryn's document has them in PDF.
  • Monday, September 11, 2006

    I'd like to pull together a few writing resources to use for writing, and I liked this site for its inventiveness, along with a few others:

    Resources for Writing:
  • Crawford Kilian's Write A Novel site. I also like his site on writing in general
  • Check out this link for what looks like a daily writing prompt! E-WriteLife Today's prompt to write about the unexpected.

    Tomorrow is the first day of school, with the first half of the day an administrative overview at the college level and the second half of the day an administrative overview at the division level. Lunch happens in the middle, and we may have some time at the end of the day for students or preparing for classes.

    But what is unexpected about tomorrow? (Ah, the creeping writing prompt.) Jane said to approach each day with reverence, to recognize that each day will be the "last day" for me, in this last year of teaching, that I may not again teach certain classes or work with certain people. So, perhaps tomorrow will offer unexpected connections with colleagues I have so long respected and worked hard with. Seize the day! Celebrate the beginning of a new school year with anticipation! Goals! Energy! Hope!

    Summer brought unexpected changes. We were in the Canadian Rockies for a month long camping trip in August when Allen woke up one morning, his back painfully out, and we came home 2 weeks early. Perhaps we camped too close to the Columbia Icefields. I also saw millions of acres of pine trees in British Columbia destroyed by the pine beetle. Too many warm winters. Now stands of red and black dying trees cover mountains in every direction. That was unexpectedly sad for the scope of this natural disaster seems much larger than any one can prevent.
  • Sunday, September 10, 2006

    Women's Fiction with Attitude
    Up to my ears in setting up a good packet to send out to agents for Mothers Don't Die, doublechecking comments on line and was quite impressed with Wylie-Merrick's online presence, which led me to this blog on women and writing. Perseverance furthers! Writers write! Earlier I read about someone who writes every day between 4 and 7 am, and someone who writes for 2 hours and refuses to allow herself any reading time before completing the writing for the day. Yet I'm used to writing between, that is writing between classes, meetings, homework, all the intensity that comes with teaching full-time. And tomorrow school begins in earnest. But my characters are itching to go forward; I'm reading Norm Stamper's Breaking Rank, a memoir by a former police chief of the Seattle Police Dept. Sometimes his insights about the changes in police work break my heart because I was there in Seattle in the 1960s when prejudice against women and minorities was taken for granted. Ah, some change and not enough change. But I'll return this blog again -- for inspiration and a sense of community. Now, back to work!