Captured on film

Once upon a time, long ago when young men wore beards, pumpkins were much larger than they are today. One day I went hunting these great pumpkins with my friend Dan. We found one in a back yard in Rome, far from its natural habitat of fields and farms, and we documented it so that no one could doubt our find.

Dan, behind a great pumpkin

Dan, behind a great pumpkin

The quality of this photograph is degraded because of the primitive printing process of the disreputable underground newspaper in which it was printed, to a certain extent because of the scanning process required to extract the image from a yellowed cutout from the paper, and also because the original image quality was not great. That last was because the skittish nature of great pumpkins in the wild did not allow for much time to calculate the optimal exposure.

No pumpkins or people were injured in the production of this image. The pumpkin was released as soon as we got the photograph. It was last seen hiding in a pie crust.

Dan went on to become a surgeon and my brother in law, probably not because of but in spite of the widespread dissemination of this image in the questionable media. I went on to leave the newspaper, come back again, and then leave again, finally and for good. I have never again seen a pumpkin of this size, although that does depend at least in part on one’s perspective.


Ladies in waiting

Leah and I bought some plants yesterday and planted them this afternoon. There were quite a few yellowjackets and wasps flying around as I worked outside, and I kept thinking they were lighting on the back of my neck. It turned out it wasn’t yellowjackets or wasps, it was ladybugs.

Swarming around the front door

Ladybugs swarming around the front door

All those black spots are ladybugs. Our house is painted a medium gray, but the area around the front door is white. There were some ladybugs on the siding, but far more on the white area around the door. I assumed from this that they are attracted to lighter colors, and at least one Web site confirmed that idea. They were all over the white garage doors and frames, but not inside the garage. All afternoon we had to use the garage to leave or reenter the house so we wouldn’t let all the ladybugs in the front door.

This is a closer shot of a ladybug at bottom right.

Ladybug and friend

Ladybug and friend

There are two things about this photo to notice. One is the orange spots all over the railing. I think those are blood spots. If you have picked up a ladybug, you might have ended up with some of this on your hand. They release blood when they are stressed. The other thing is the bug at top left. I think this is actually an Asian lady beetle. Instead of the bright red of a ladybug, it has a more yellowish color. I noticed a fair number of them in addition to genuine ladybugs.

Today was the first day we have seen ladybugs swarming. In fact, they weren’t around until about mid-afternoon, and then suddenly they were everywhere. Later in the evening, many of them had dispersed. I hope they found a nice, warm place to overwinter, and I hope that place is not our attic.

After I finished planting, I had some leftover dirt, so I took it into the back where I’m trying to make a level path across our septic leach field. I had placed some rocks as a little retaining wall, and I wanted to move them and widen the path. When I moved the last rock, this is what I found.

Another lady

Another lady

You can barely see the red marking on her abdomen. When I first uncovered her, the hour-glass shape was visible, but by the time I got back with my camera, she had moved. I have found enough black widows around the yard that I’m careful when I turn over rocks or old boards. Finding one no longer startles me, but I am always appreciative of its beauty. That round, shiny, black abdomen is hard to mistake, even when you can’t see the red hourglass.

I usually leave them alone. In this case, I used a shove shovel to move her along with the rock she was using as her lair to a different place. I hope she finds a nice place to spend the winter, too, but not in our house.

Puppy it’s cold outside

We had our first hint of winter Thursday and Friday. It was near freezing both nights, although up here on the mountain it was a good bit warmer than the official temperature for Rome. But we still had to make sure Lucy was prepared for her early morning walk. She’s a little dog with short fur, so she gets cold in temperatures that just make Zeke playful.

She has a fleece-lined coat.

Lucy, modeling the latest in doggy fashion

Lucy, modeling the latest in doggy fashion

The funny thing is that she seems to like her coat, in contrast to her raincoat, which she hates. When she’s in her raincoat, all she wants to do is stand still. If she’s forced to go for a walk, she refuses to relieve herself.┬áBut she’s all in for a walk in her cold-weather coat.

Here she is from behind, just as we turned around to head back up the mountain for home.

Going home

Going home

The light, square scuff marks on the pavement are from a compactor that was used to prepare Wildlife Trail for repaving. That road goes down the side of our property to a dead end. The pavement deteriorated over the years, and large gullies were washed out. Now someone plans to build at the bottom of the road, and his complaints finally moved the county to repair the road and put down tar and gravel. For some reason the county workers unloaded the compactor at the bottom of the hill and drove it the mile and a half up. Then, when they were finished, they drove it back down the hill.

We have mixed feelings about repaving Wildlife Trail. The dead end on Lavender Trail, up the ridge from our house, attracts a lot of people. Some drive up for the view. Some couples drive up because they want to be alone. Others drive up to throw a party. At least one person drove up to use a power cable for target practice, which caused a fire. If Wildlife Trail is passable, it will attract the same kind of visitors, at least until someone builds a house at the turn-around.


Zoll Lifecor Corp. is the manufacturer of the wearable defibrillator that I got on Thursday. Here I am wearing it.

The defibrillator, hidden

The defibrillator, hidden

I’m wearing my doberman shirt. The picture looks a lot like Bella, my second dobie. All you can see of the defibrillator is the control unit at my waist and the wire that goes from it to the bra.

Here it is, revealed.



It’s like a bra, only backwards. You can see a wire on my right leading to one of the sensors. One of the shock units is over my left chest.

Here it is from the back.

Back view.

Back view

You can see the other two shock units on the upper part. One of the sensor units is on my left side. It’s a round puck.

And here’s the control unit.

Control unit at my waist

Control unit at my waist

The control unit has a thin, adjustable strap that I’m wearing around my waist. It’s almost the right size, but just a little long. It can also be lengthened and worn over the shoulder. I have been doing that occasionally, but it’s not comfortable. In fact, the unit is not at all comfortable. It’s bulky and it makes my back feel pretty warm, even on what has turned out to be two fairly cold days. Its bulk makes driving uncomfortable. And, of course, I have to do something with the control unit in order to get my seatbelt around my waist. I have been unhooking the strap and putting the control unit on the center console.

Thursday night was the first night I spent in the vest. There’s no forgetting that it’s there. If a woman’s bra is anywhere near as uncomfortable as this thing, I don’t see how women can wear them.

Zoll is supposed to send a second vest, because they recommend washing the one you wear every couple of days. I understand why. As I said, it’s pretty warm even when I’m not moving around. When I am active, it gets even warmer. That means sweat.

And now I’m itching underneath it.

I’m thinking this is not going to get much easier. If it were something I had to wear for a week, I would probably be fairly good natured about it. But it looks like this is going to be my full-time undergarment for about a month and a half. That’s when I get my next echocardiogram, which should tell us whether my heart function is improving. If not, I give up the wearable defibrillator and possibly get an implantable device. If so, I give up the vest and get medication for the rest of my life.

All the medical people I have dealt with seem to think this is a wonderful invention. Zoll seems quite proud of it. In principle it does seem like a wonderful thing. For people who are at risk of some kind of sudden, deadly cardiac arrhythmia, it provides a reasonable, immediate, always-there chance of the kind of life-saving electrical stimulation that a portable defibrillator gives. What’s not to like?

I remain skeptical about my need for it. From what I have read online, I have at least one major indicator of a risk for the kind of cardiac event this equipment is supposed to treat. But everything I read about this wearable unit also seems to refer to its use by people who have already suffered such an event, or who are in actual heart failure. I haven’t, and I’m not. I am also just a little bit cynical about it. If it works as advertised, I am pretty sure it could save a life, maybe even my own. But I also think it’s an expensive treatment option (which I assume my insurance will cover), and the cynic in me suspects money may be part of the motivation.

But maybe that’s just me being extra grumpy.

If I have to fly, which I don’t expect, this unit is going to be a problem. Zoll gave me a patient ID card for that kind of thing. This is what it says:

“The card bearer is wearing a LifeVest wearable defibrillator prescribed by his/her physician because he/she is at high risk of dying suddenly. The device is intended to automatically treat sudden cardiac death events, which occur with no warning. The LifeVest should be worn continuously, only being removed for a short shower.”

That’s reassuring. And I don’t even get a long, hot shower.




Friday Felines

It’s not good, but this is the only picture we have that shows all six cats.

The gang is all here

The gang is all here

From the right, Zoe is closest, with Chloe following. She’s hard to see, but she’s walking on the landscape timber about halfway back to the concrete pad. Then Dusty (we think) is crouched, probably eating from a bow. Then to the left is Smokey, then the dark cat is Sylvester. Just to his side is Rusty. We wouldn’t be able to tell anything about the cats if we didn’t already know who they are. I guess we should make a point of trying to get a good shot of all of them together, but it’s going to be really hard.