Archive for February, 2016

Not the wheel my friend, the honor must be reserved for glass. In 1922 archeologists exploring the tomb of Tutankhamen discovered a piece of jewelry with a glass centerpiece carved into the form of a scarab beetle. The glass may have originated about ten thousand years ago when some natural event, possibly a lightening strike, heated high silicon dioxide containing sand to more than 500 degrees Fahrenheit thus forming a layer of glass in the North African desert.

During the Roman Empire glassmakers discovered ways to make glass stronger and less cloudy. They used their processes to create glass vessels, wine cups and even windows. It wasn’t until the fall of Constantinople, in the early thirteenth century, that the next major glass advance took place. A small group of Turkish glassmakers made their way to Venice where they built furnaces capable of generating heat close to 1,000 degrees and further developed the art and craft of glass blowing. They were isolated to the island of Murano where the risk of accidental fires from their furnaces could be controlled. In that small community the artisans competed and collaborated with each other experimenting with many different combinations of silicon dioxide and other materials. Eventually one Angelo Barovier burned seaweed to produce ash with a high content of potassium oxide and manganese. He added this ash to molten glass and developed glass significantly more transparent than anything produced previously.

During the mid-thirteenth century scribes were copying religious manuscripts in rooms with dim light. An inventive soul discovered that curved chunks of glass positioned over the writing being copied would magnify that writing. It wasn’t long until glassmakers in Northern Italy were producing small disks with a center bulge and placing two of them side by side in a frame to fit the face, thus inventing “disks for the eyes”, the first spectacles.

For many years only monastic scholars used these spectacles even though a significant percentage of people were farsighted. It wasn’t until the printing press made printed material available for the masses that the farsighted population discovered they needed help to read. Not long after Gutenberg’s breakthrough thousands of spectacle makers were in business throughout Europe and new uses for the slightly convex lenses were soon discovered.

In 1590 Hans and Zacharias Janssen, father and son, living in the Netherlands, looked through two stacked lenses and invented the microscope. The microscope required almost three generations to move from a curiosity to producing important scientific discoveries but Zacharias also developed the telescope. At the same time several others had the idea for using the lenses to construct a telescope but Hans Lippershey was the first to obtain the patent. Within a year Galileo modified Lippershey’s design to achieve magnification ten times normal vision and in 1610 he observed and reported that moons were orbiting Jupiter.

Lenses were essential to the development of photography. Glass coated with phosphor and bombarded with electrons created television. But before those developments, in 1887, the physicist Charles Vernon Boys decided he needed a thin fiber of glass as a balance arm to measure the effects of very small physical forces. He built a crossbow and lightweight bolts for it. He then attached the end of a glass rod to a bolt with sealing wax, heated the glass rod and fired off the bolt. This produced a thread of glass almost ninety feet long. He was overjoyed to discover that his glass fibers were stronger than an equivalent-sized strand of steel. This discovery brought us fiberglass and all its myriad uses, including circuit boards. The ability to manufacture transparent glass fibers resulted in the development of fiber optics. Today it is possible to take a “selfie” through the glass lens of our cell phone, store and manipulate the image using fiberglass circuit boards, transmit the image via fiber optic cables and view the image on a glass screen. By the way, the “selfie” was first used by artists including Rembrandt, van Gogh, da Vinci and many others, but not until the invention of the mirror. It’s all about superheated then cooled silicon dioxide my friends!

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My hiking boots settled an inch deep into the too green grass. Grey-brown water oozed up around the cleated soles and settled into my fourteen-inch-long footprints. Charlize was off-leash, heeling. I looked back to see paw prints left by her seventy-five pounds also filling. We were making our way across the lawn of the Pacific Sands resort to the beach entrance.

We were just north of the Long Beach region of the Pacific Rim National Park, a rain forest that receives well over a hundred inches of rain a year. Alexis, Charlize and I were there to check out the highly touted, by both of my sons and their spouses, Tofino, Vancouver Island, B.C. We arrived just after dark the previous evening after traversing fifty plus miles of winding narrow road through a steady rain. We understand that during this time of year steady rain is a given. We checked in and settled in our room finding yellow rain slickers hanging in the closet, supplied as part of the accommodations. As denizens of the northwest we came prepared but the thoughtfulness was appreciated.

The next morning we took our first walk on the crescent-shaped beach, pausing to gaze at the large grey-green breakers and half-dozen surfers in wet suits taking advantage. The high water mark of the beach teemed with washed ashore logs, a few too large for us to understand how they arrived on this beach and from whence they originated.

This photo gives some idea of the size of this log, a cedar I presume but identifying it for certain is outside my area of expertise.












This log was buried in the sand, too large to be floated any further.












The Northwest rain forest is what it is, eerily quiet, overgrown, squishy and green, very green. This one didn’t appear, to our uneducated eyes, much different than the most northwest rain forest of Washington’s Pacific coast, but no doubt it is. The visitor center wasn’t open to learn the differences. It was a pleasant two-night, three-day respite but take the ferry from Tsawwassen to Nanaimo’s Duke Point rather than to the Swartz Bay destination. It’s a half-hour longer on the boat but well over an hour less driving and far fewer traffic lights to try the patience.

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According to the records of the Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) of the ASPCA human prescription medications top the list of potential toxins most commonly ingested by pets for the seventh year in a row. The APCC handled more than 167,000 cases in 2014, the most recent year for which statistics are currently available, and 26,407 of those cases (about 16%) were from owners whose pets snatched and gobbled medications prescribed for family members.

Dogs and cats explore the world with their mouths, similar to small children. Unlike small children our pets are strong enough and agile enough to locate and secure pill containers then chew through them to consume the contents. Dogs are especially attracted to containers they observe their owners handling on a daily basis. Notice Fido watching you the next time you take your pills. What happens if you drop one, do you retrieve it faster than your pet?

Over-the-counter medications, including herbal and other natural supplements are also potential toxicants. Toxicity is all about dose per size and many natural products are innocuous in doses appropriate for adults but can be toxic for smaller pets. These products resulted in more calls in 2014 than in previous years (about 25,000 calls) and there are over 6,900 different products that comprise this category.

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The sun fought its way through the cloud cover as I waited for the traffic to clear. I crossed Greenwood Avenue and made my way to the event entitled “Join the Dog Squad” at Phinney Books in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood of Seattle. I held the door to the book store open for a customer accompanied by her long-haired Dachshund then entered the small shop already crowded with book lovers and their dogs. I was there to talk about and read from my book “Travels With Charlize”.

Tracy Weber who lives in Phinney Ridge with her husband Marc and their German shepherd Tasha organized the event publicized as an opportunity to bring your dog to an event to meet and hear writers who write about dogs. She is the owner of Whole Life Yoga and the author of the award-winning Downward Dog Mysteries series.

Tracy reading










Tracy Weber reading from “Karma’s a Killer”.

Laura T. Coffey is a writer, editor and producer for TODAY.com and an award-winning journalist. She has written and edited hundreds of high-profile human-interest stories and now her first book, “My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts” is a book filled with eye-catching photos of animals of a certain age rescued by caregivers who care and stories that tug.

Laura reading










Laura Coffey talking about how “My Old Dog” came to happen.

Waverly Fitzgerald and Curt Colbert are writers of considerable experience and a long history supporting and encouraging each other and their work. Their collaboration as Waverly Curtis was born when Curt came to one of their regular weekly meetings with an idea for a novel featuring a talking Chihuahua. The result was a collaboration on five novels and one novella in the “Barking Detective” series in which a talking Chihuahua helps his owner solve mysteries.

Waverly & Curt reading










Waverly Curtis are doing their act, reading from the pages of “Silence of the Chihuahuas”.

The audience, including the dogs was attentive and we had a great question and answer session following out four presentations and yes, we even sold some books.

Five authors










Five authors answering questions and below are the well-behaved dogs and their people waiting for the event to get started.

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