Archive for August, 2009

Moon-y

Friday, August 28th, 2009

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The Great Moon Hoax, an 1835 lithograph from the New York Sun

FIGURATIVELY SPEAKING FRIDAY

Hello out there in Fiction Dailyland! Figuratively Speaking Friday returns today, in this special, limited edition blog entry, marking this exceptional day in history.

On this day in 1835, the New York Sun created a stir by reporting that esteemed British astronomer Sir John Herschel, had discovered life on the moon.

Thank Jeffrey Kacirk for noting it in this year’s Forgotten English calendar, or I’d never have known it.

Yes, the Sun claimed it was reporting from the Edinburgh Journal of Science when it described winged, humanlike beings on the moon. He was even quoted to say,

We counted three parties of these creatures walking erect in a small wood … They averaged about four fee in height, were covered, except on the face, with short and glossy copper-colored hair, and had wings composed of a thin membrane without hair, lying snugly upon their backs, from the top of their shoulders to the calves of the legs.

The article also claimed these moon people had yellow faces similar to great apes. (You can read a full account, including the original Sun article, at the Museum of Hoaxes.)

Kacirk reports the article temporarily put the Sun above its rivals, and then humiliated other press which reported the story, without verifying it.

Now those of us in the news business know few things are worse than reporting wrong information. The only thing I know of that’s worse is when an editor inserts errors into a story that I researched scrupulously. It was always an awful feeling (and still is) when I see my beautiful, perfect stories ruined by bad information — and they carry my name, but not the offending editor’s.

In any event, we can all snicker a big when reading about these winged moon creatures, knowing what we do about the vast, airless, bleakness of the Lady of the Night.

Happy Weekend from Fiction Daily!!

Runner’s ‘High’

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

A few words this morning from Fiction Dailyland … I’ve missed writing for the past few weeks, but there’s no doubt it’s been a busy, fun time so far.

Regular readers know that I currently am running for City Council here in Greenville, to represent District 3. It’s been a steady stream of meetings, planning, letters and spreadsheets, but I’m on my way.

I came across an article today about running. A new study has shown that the Runner’s High we love so much is a real phenomenon, and its effects may equal those of opiates.

‘Runner’s high’ can turn into a real addiction

Study finds brain chemicals that mimic same sense of euphoria in opiate use

By Dan Peterson
updated 7:59 p.m. ET, Wed., Aug 26, 2009

Just as there is the endorphin rush of a “runner’s high,” there can also be the valley of despair when something prevents avid runners from getting their daily fix of miles.

Now, researchers at Tufts University may have confirmed this addiction by showing that an intense running regimen in rats can release brain chemicals that mimic the same sense of euphoria as opiate use. They propose that moderate exercise could be a “substitute drug” for human heroin and morphine addicts.

Given all of the benefits of exercise, many people commit to an active running routine. Somewhere during a longer, more intense run when stored glycogen is depleted, the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus release endorphins that can provide that “second wind” that keeps a runner going.

Little to add here except that I can leave the house feeling tired, old, hollowed out and ready for my rocking chair … have a big run (I favor seven miles, though slowly) … and return home ready to take on the entire world.

Yet running is not easy, at least when I head out the door. There’s heat in summer, rain, cold, high grass and ice; cars and bugs. Yet if I can stay with it for 30 minutes, that’s when the rewards usually start: the great feeling of elation, dare I say transcendence, that begins.

Of course, after an hour in the heat, when I find myself with goose bumps and skirting heat stroke, I wonder how I’m going to get home. That’s when I remember why I’m doing it: The rewards are always more than the effort. And the effort is simple: One foot in front of the other.

Happy Trails!!

Mayberry Monday

Monday, August 17th, 2009

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Just a happy photo of Mayberry Walker Hound for Monday. Photo by Greg Eans

Mayberry: The True Story

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

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I’ve had Mayberry for a few months now, and he is showing himself to be a wonderful dog, and a truly worthy successor to Annie. I couldn’t have imagined I’d luck up twice now, but it seems I have.

Readers of this blog know how I first met Mayberry, coming across his listing on Petfinder.com one weekend. I arranged a rendezvous with his foster mom, who had also rescued Annie nearly 10 years ago. Though he appeared a wreck of a dog — lumbering, scarred, with an uneven gait — he placed his big whiskery head in my lap, and I fell for him.

I brought him home about a week later. Since then, I have marveled at his stature and his stubbornness. This dog will stop in the middle of the road on our walks and refuse to budge, forcing me to either pull him by the neck or push him from behind. Treats thrown down the street will work, but not always.

Last weekend, however, I learned more of the big guy’s story when I ran into his foster mom and other animal volunteers at PetsMart.

One person told me Mayberry was at PetsMart every weekend for a year, hoping for adoption. People passed him by, week after week, as he looked out at them from the big pen.

She also told me how kind and patient he was, never growling or fussing with the other dogs. How he tried to sit in her lap every time she rested beside him in the pen.

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A year waiting for adoption! Rejected time and again!! The thought just broke my heart.

The heroic lady who rescued him also told me how when she took him from his previous owner, in addition to having nearly starved to death, he was in a filthy pen and covered with “everything,” she said.

He has tested positive for Lyme antibodies, and I think he must have been exposed during his previous life. She agreed that since he has not shown symptoms of the disease in the 1 1/2 years she had him, I can feel pretty good that he was exposed to the disease, but with any luck will not contract it.

When I got home I couldn’t wait to give him a big hug. It’s pretty certain this guy has won the lottery.

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And he’s earned it too. Not just with his previous years of suffering, but also with his behavior these days. As I write, he is sharing his big bed with our cat Garbo, who is hogging the lion’s share of it, so to speak.

Over the weekend, I was visited by one of my favorite neighbors, a 10-year-old girl who comes over to visit the animals from time to time. She sat on the floor with Mayberry, petting him, ruffling his fur, patting his head and doing everything short of pulling on his tail. I kept a close watch to see if he was getting annoyed, but to the contrary, he curled up beside her as close as he could get.

So while no one can ever replace dear Annie, the great Bodhisattva and Zen dog, I feel overwhelmingly blessed to have found Mayberry.

And, he might say, the feeling’s mutual.

ON THAT NOTE, if you haven’t seen it yet, this article describes new research showing dogs are at least as smart as human 2-year olds. As I’ve always said, any animal that I have to spell words around has got to be pretty smart.

Justice, a la Francais

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

FIGURATIVELY SPEAKING

Hello out there in Fiction Dailyland! The campaign for Greenville, N.C. City Council is ticking along with an eye on the Nov. 3 election day. There’s so much to do, everyday, from taking photos, to updating the Web, to writing letters and planning events. Taking care of these details everyday, while still writing the articles I am so fortunate to have been commissioned for, has become a more-than full-time job. It’s a wonderful thing to be busy, though sometimes I’d like to sit on the couch and watch reruns of Dr. House.

Today, though, a blog post I couldn’t resist.

As regular FD readers know, the page-a-day calendar “Forgotten English” published by Jeffrey Kacirk has given this blog many hilarious points of departure.

Today, “bed of justice.”

This expression comes from the French, “lit de justice,” and refers to the throne used by the King of France, when he attended meetings of parliament. As you remember, since the king had final authority over the parliament, this chair, in the end, signified the seat of power.

The last “bed of justice,” however, occurred on this day in 1788. That’s when our doomed Louis XVI, husband of our chere Marie Antoinette, assembled his parliament with the goal of solidifying his own power — and adding more tax burden on the poor. The idea was seconded by the Assembly of Notables (who may have later become known as the Assembly of Headless.)

In any event, it’s believed this idea of taxing the poor, yet again, gave rise to revolutionary sentiment.

You might say that the king made his bed, and had to lie in it.

Fiction Daily returns in November, and occasionally before then.