Friday, February 27, 2009

Mourning and Thanksgiving

I want to begin my thanking all of you who sent condolences for our family's loss.
They are more comforting and helpful than you may realize, and I am grateful to all of you!

Zoey died peacefully on my lap under the cottonwood trees in the garden of the animal hospital in Tijeras. Her pain is ended, and we knew when her body relaxed that we had done the right thing.

On Monday, she had a difficult day and that evening, I had to hand feed her and force the pain meds on her. Tuesday morning, I called the vet and made the appointment for that afternoon. The Boychick stayed home from school and the Chem Geek Princess came up mid-morning to spend time with Zoey. When the Engineering Geek came home at noon, we took her for the longest walk she'd had in the month. She perked up out in the meadow, sniffing at the rodent holes, and lifting her nose to the breeze. Then she rested on the front porch, where the Engineering Geek fed her a whole Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar.

You see, Zoey loved chocolate. And after we were married in 2002, she once stole a very large Hershey Bar from the dresser. Bruce discovered it, called the vet, and spent several worried hours with her. She did not get sick. Her liver function was fine until the day she died. But we learned to keep chocolate away from our girl. So Tuesday, during the last hour of her life, she got a whole chocolate bar to herself. And I must say, it was the only thing she had shown interest in eating in a long time.

The trip to the vet was unreal, short as it was. When we walked in the door, I broke down, and the EG had to handle the paperwork and arrangements. He was the one who asked if we could take Zoey outside to the garden, where she would not be nervous about any medical procedures. She died with all of us around her, talking to her, telling her what a good life we'd had with her and what a good dog she was.
When it was all over, and she lay still on my lap, I felt a great sense of peace about it all. We had done what we could for her medically, but it was clearly time for her to go the Happy Hunting Grounds. Zoey, I hope there are rabbits there that can be caught, just for you!

In the past few days, our house has felt very empty. Zoey was a big, big presence. Bigger than we had realized while she was with us. Poor Lily wakes up each morning, and goes looking for her, and she waits by the door, puzzled at night. But she is gradually taking her place as the dog in the family.

On Wednesday, I cried as I washed out Zoey's food container, picked up her dishes, and her placemat. I put out food for the birds, so that they could carry the message of Zoey's death into the forest and the sky.

But we do a lot of smiling through our tears, as we remember Zoey and count the blessings of her life with us. She was a confident dog, a princess and a queen. She loved chocolate and standing out in the driveway, just out of reach, looking for all the world as if she were saying, "No, I don't want to come closer just now, but you are allowed to come pet me." She raised our two cats, and she taught Lily how to be a dog in a human world. She loved us, plain and simple, and greeted us with a happy dance every time we came in the door. She followed me around the house, and I am told that when I left, she'd stand at the window looking sad for a while. She was always at the window again, upon my return.

So we are sad, we feel the empty spaces in our hearts, and yet we are thankful for the true love and loyalty that Zoey gave us, every day that she lived with us. Zoey came to us by serendipity, under cottonwood trees in a park in January 2000, on a warm, sunny winter's day. And she left us in a garden under the cottonwood trees, on a warm, sunny winter's day. And every day of her life with us, she taught us to rise in the morning asking the Eternal to make us the people that she, our dog, thought we were.

Now, she is gone, but her legacy lives, and already friends are looking for another dog, one that needs a home, one that could benefit from what Zoey taught us about the bonds between a dog and her humans.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

When Winter Comes Without a Spring . . .


Winter 1997 - Winter 2009

"I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be,
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see. . ."
--J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Few Good Days: A Zoey Update

Since Wednesday, Zoey has had a few good days.
On Thursday morning, I took Lily to the local vet for her shots, and when I came home, Zoey actually got up and hobbled out to greet us.
She not only ate the treat the vet sent home for her, but then proceeded to wolf down a half-can of chicken chunks in broth, courtesy of Nutro.

On Friday, just before Shabbat, the Vetinary Surgeon from the emergency hospital called to discuss the reports from the CT scan by the radiologist and that of the pathologist on the biopsy. The radiologist report stated that they did not think the cancer was actually in the ribs, but certainly went between them, and that the tumor is very big, meaning that although surgery can be attempted, the surgeon is unlikely to resect the whole tumor and that clean 3 centimeter margins are not possible. In fact, it is possible that the in an attempt to get as much as possible, the chest cavity would be breached, requiring more days in hospital and a chest tube and increased risk of infection.

The pathologist report agreed with the best hypothesis of the on-site oncologist: this is most likely hemangiosarcoma, less likely a soft-tissue sarcoma (it is not acting like one) and least likely an atypical bone cancer. The prognosis with surgery and chemotherapy (since they would be unable to get clean margins), is an average survival time of six months to a year, and in Zoey's case the smaller number is the more likely because of it being a Stage 3 (very malignant and fast growing) cancer.

The surgeon laid out three options:
  • surgery with chemotherapy (we'd be facing this again in about six months)
  • make her comfortable with pain management (prognosis of two weeks to a month in her best clinical judgement)
  • euthanasia

We told her that we are leaning towards the second option, knowing full well that at the end of that road is the third option, but that we would contact her on Monday with any other questions and a decision.

As we sat in our pre-Shabbat bath, we discussed some more, and reluctantly concluded that we cannot put Zoey through risky surgery only to face this again in six months. We also concluded that we would not go through multiple regimes of pain medications. She came home from the hospital on three meds, which had given her two good days. When they cease to be effective, it will be time to put Zoey down, hard as that will be.

Shabbat dinner Friday night was a roast, with mashed potatoes and gravy. One of the Engineering Geek's express wishes was that Zoey should come put her muzzle in his lap, asking for a treat. And she obliged him. (I tell you that she can read your mind. Or at least smell the beef!) She hobbled out and ate quite a lot of the juicy bits, complete with Challah dipped in the clear gravy.

On Shabbat morning, the Chem Geek Princess brought the Granddog Ruby out, and the Engineering Geek and the Boychick took Ruby and Lily for a walk as part of our scheme to socialize Ruby to Lily (both are nervous about other dogs, unlike our beautiful Zoey).

Zoey was so upset that she could not hobble fast enought to go that I brought her outside to sit with me on the porch while I prayed the morning service. Here is Zoey smiling in the warm sunshine.
Our porch faces southeast, and so the morning sun is reflected off of the stucco wall of the house, warming the porch nicely, even on cold days. Yesterday was a warm day for February and the porch was quite toasty-warm. It felt good for both man and canine!

Later, when her people and other dogs came home, Zoey got positively motivated, spending a few minutes watching Ruby jump over the low door-garden wall, and then she decided to dig up a chew she had buried on some long ago summer's day.

Here she is digging, a favorite pasttime that has been absent during the last six weeks.
We watched with a bittersweet sense of impending loss; the digging was a sweet reminder of better days, but Zoey's poor shorn body, the grapefruit-size of the tumor, the trembling left leg, and the arched, painful way she holds her back, all reminded us that this normal Zoey behavior was a temporary respite from the weary toll of her illness.

And indeed, last night, worn out from the days adventures with Lily and the Granddog, Zoey had to be hand-fed, she paced in pain a full hour before she was due for her evening meds, she could not settle.

She did sleep, finally, at the foot of our bed, where she seems to find comfort in our nearness when she awakens in the night. She got up twice for two painful trips outside, and then to the kitchen for a drink (she refuses to take food and water from anywhere else).

This morning, she had great difficulty getting up. When we got up, she took over the center of the bed for a few minutes--another fleeting reminder of the Zoey normal--but today she has slept and slept, although she did eat some yogurt for breakfast, and some dogfood with cheese for an afternoon snack.

Today was at best a mediocre day. And the tumor is growing still.

Although I cannot imagine our house without my Zoey, I do confess that I looked at the pictures of adoptable dogs from the local shelters on-line. But I kept thinking that this one or that one had ears like Zoey's, and that this one or that one would do well with Zoey as a mentor.

And then I'd remember. Zoey won't be there when we add another dog to the family. And then I cry. And Lily, that needy love-hound, would come up and lick my tears as I sat, stroking Zoey's velvet soft fur.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

For Shame, President Obama!

In 2001, just a week before the September 11th attacks, then Secretary of State Colin Powell withdrew the US delegation from the U.N. World Conference on Racism & Etc. (the whole title is entirely too politically correct for this blog) held in Durban, South Africa.
The Bush adminstration withdrew the delegation because the conference became a demonstration of Holocaust denial and virulent antisemitism, largely controlled by avowed enemies of the West.

A personal note: it was the twin shocks of the progressive reactions to Durban and then the 9-11 attacks that convinced me once and for all of the moral bankruptcy of the left, and made me understand that the left may use naive Jews, but that ultimately they will stab us in the back. Alas, I am a slow learner.

On Saturday morning, February 14, the Obama Administration announced that it was sending a delegation to Geneva, Switzerland, to help plan Durban II, the Durban Review Conference, which is intended (in the UN's own words) "to reaffirm the Durban Declaration." You know, the one that denies the Holocaust and reaffirms the old UN canard that Israel is a racist state.

This conference is chaired by Libya, Cuba, Iran and Pakistan. These are countries that not only demonize the US, but also hideously oppress their own people. As you can see below, they would also like to see your freedom of speech and expression removed.

For shame, President Obama! First, to announce this on Valentine's Day, early in the morning like that, means that the adminstration knows this is a shameful action. Secondly, for the US to participate in the planning of the reaffirmation of the Durban Declaration is to associate ourselves with the enemies of our Western values. The purposes of the conference is described thus by The Wall Street Journal:

As for what this Review Conference is supposed to achieve, some clues are provided in the latest draft of the so-called Outcome Document. Israel's "racial policies" are a major theme, as is "the plight of Palestinian refugees and other inhabitants of the Arab occupied territories," meaning Israel itself. Under debate, however, is whether to include a line that the Holocaust "resulted in the murder of one third of the Jewish people." Presumably Iran objects.

The draft also calls "on states to develop, and where appropriate to incorporate, permissible limitations on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression into national legislation." Yes, you read that right. The transparent purpose is to criminalize all criticism of Islam, a.k.a. "Islamophobia." There is also a not-so-sly effort to extract reparations for the long-banned trans-Atlantic slave trade: States that "have not yet condemned, apologized and paid reparations" for the trade are urged "to do so at the earliest." (Does an anti-Semitic conference deserve US participation of any kind? The Wall Street Journal, February 20, 2009).

According to the WSJ, as well as the Jerusalem Post, the Obama Adminstration is well aware of the purpose of the conference, and is not committed to participating in April, but is sending a delegation to the planning meetings in order to "try to change the direction in which the review conference is heading." This is disigenuous at best. How does participating in the planning of a Conference whose express purpose is to reaffirm the goals of the previous conference going to mitigate anything. The amoral underpinnings of the Obama adminstration's pragmatism is showing clearly in this action. To paraphrase my grandmother, may she rest in peace, show me who an adminstration hangs out with, and I'll show you its character.

This action on the part of the Obama adminstration is not only a slap in the face to Israel, it is a profoundly anti-Western act of appeasement to the worst sort of characters. It also betrays a profound misunderstanding of what sort of people one may compromise with and with what sort one may not. What compromise can be reached between an enemy's desire to destroy you and your own desire to live?

For a scathing review of this policy decision from one of the members of the Oslo negotiating team, see Obama's Durban Gambit at

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sarcoma: A Zoey Update

After two weeks of frustratingly inconclusive biopsy results,

the doggie oncologist at the emergency vet service we have been using did a biopsy under anesthetic just before they did some imaging studies of Zoey's tumor and lungs.

The CT scan was recommended because the surgeon was not sure from the X-rays whether or not the tumor has twisted around nerves, or involved the ribs or infiltrated the chest wall.

So yesterday morning, we all sat on the floor of a small exam room at the animal hospital, the surgeon, the doggie oncologist, the original vet who had examined Zoey three weeks ago, the oncology/imaging tech, the Engineering Geek and me, with Zoey dozing half-on, half-off my lap.

The best outcome would be if the tumor was a (benign) lipoma, they said. But unfortunately, Zoey's tumor was not acting like one. It was growing fast, having doubled in size since the first exam, and it was growing in stair-step fashion, like a malignant tumor does: growing like mad until it outgrows the blood supply, then stabilizing while more capillaries are made, then growing like mad again. The problem of knowing what the tumor is, the surgeon opined, was secondary to knowing whether or not it was resectable (surgically removable). The oncology guy wanted to do a biopsy under anesthesia, should we consent to imaging.

We did.

The issue was this. We wanted the tumor removed, but we didn't want to put Zoey through it if ribs were involved, or if there were any complicating factors.

I can't imagine consenting to the removal of several ribs from an old dog.
And if the tumor was malignant--well, that would bring a new set of considerations.
I also did not want to wait on another biopsy. We needed to get some information.

Yesterday afternoon, the surgeon called. The oncologist had examined the cells himself. He was pretty certain that the previous inconclusive results were due to muscle that was over the tumor. And he identified the tumor as a hemangiosarcoma, an agressive cancer that is often not discovered or identified until it has metastasized. Although this cancer is found more often in canines than in any other species, it is still relatively rare, accounting for 7% of malignant tumors in dogs. It is known as the silent cancer, because the tumors are often not noticable until onset of very rapid growth. In Zoey's case, it has not metastasized, but the CT scan showed that two or three ribs are likely involved. If surgery is done, and if the tumor is resectable with wide, clean margins, then the chances of recurrence are 40% within 6 months to a year. However, I just read that there is some promising research involving tyrosine kinase inhibitors as part of chemotherapy. But that is rather academic in Zoey's case, unfortunately, because first we have to know if the tumor is resectable.

The surgeon e-mailed the CT images to a board certified vetinary radiologist for a second opinion, but as I said above, her own impression of the images is not promising. We are waiting for word from the radiologist, which is likely to come tomorrow.

Realistically, though, I believe we are looking at a maximum of two months survival with no treatment except palliative care.

Right now, Zoey is home, with three different medications to help with the pain. And it has been helping. She ate twice today, and has shown periods of curiousity and liveliness that have been missing altogether in the past two weeks. However, I am noticing bouts of panting, and she is sleeping a great deal as the tumor robs her of her energy. And her mobility is severely compromised by the location of the tumor under her front left leg. I know that as time goes on, there will be more bad days and fewer good ones, until Zoey's number of days is fulfilled.

We are preparing ourselves to say good-bye to our dear Zoey. Today, when I took Lily to our local vet for her shots, I spoke with her about what would happen when the time comes to put her down. They will do it at the local clinic, in an old house under a cottonwood near Tijeras Creek. We will bury Zoey's ashes here, at home, in her beloved mountains.

Zoey has been my dog from the moment the neighbor girl brought her over, saying that she had been abandoned at a pet adoption. She has followed me around the house and supervised my outdoor work. She has slept at my feet or next to my side of the bed for the past nine years. When the time comes, there is going to be an awful hole in my world, and in the family.

I have cleared my schedule of all but the most essential tasks, so that I can spend as much time as possible with Zoey hobbling at my side, or sleeping nearby while I write.

So once again, we wait. Bowing to the inevitable circle of life, we count every precious moment we have left with her as a blessing.

As the Boychick said, through racking sobs last night, "When you get a dog, you know this day will come. But knowing it doesn't make it any easier."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Visit from the Granddog


Lately, the Chem Geek Princess has been bringing our granddog, Ruby, over the get acquainted with Zoey and develop social skills with Lily.

The CGP and Princess Ruby pull up in style,
with Ruby looking out the window in anticipation of adventures in the mountains.

She is a good car rider, and enjoys letting her ears flow in the breeze.

This place is new and exciting,
and Ruby was so excited that
she got tangled in her leash on
the front porch. Before anyone
could help her, she got it figured out!

Getting to know Zoey.
Here, the CGP very seriously introduced
Ruby to her adopted grandma dog, Zoey.

She met some other new relatives, and neighbors, too!

Relaxing on the rug with Zoey, under Grandpa
Engineering Geek's watchful eye.
Zoey seemed a little put out, but later
settled down to sleep without further ado.

Lily, on the other hand, was briefly introduced,
but Ruby stared and growled.
Not a promising start.
We have some more work to do!

With grandma on the porch, just before it was time to get into the car and go back to Albuquerque and the Chem Geek Princess's little house.

Ruby had a fine day and ate not only her lunch, but Lily and Zoey's as well!

It's a joy to see the fun and enthusiasm of a puppy!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Inconclusive: A Zoey Update

Last Thursday, a week after the second biopsy, the Engineering Geek got the call from the vet. This biopsy, too, came back inconclusive. I didn't get to talk to the vet, so I have no idea what that actually means. The first biopsy was a needle aspiration, and if the cells have grown fast--as these clearly have--one can understand that they would be easily broken up, and yield no information.

But I have no idea how a tissue biopsy could come back inconclusive. And it took a whole week to get this information, too. The Engineering Geek then called me to rely the news and so that I could call to schedule a consult with the surgeon. The first available was tomorrow morning, nearly a week after getting the biopsy results.

A week in which the tumor continued to grow, and during which Zoey had to deal with the pain, the medications, the lack of appetite. We have had to hand feed her lately, and she can now barely make it up the driveway on her short and slow walks.

The good news is that when she is several hours into a dose of the pain meds, she does eat from our hands, she gets up, she smiles when we take her out. When we arrive home, she wags her tail and wants attention.

Poor Zoey has not given up on life just yet.
But tomorrow is a day for information.
And for decisions about where to go from here.

I am simultaneously anticipating the best and expecting the worst.
Sleep has been hard to come by these past few nights.

May the Eternal give us the courage and the wisdom to do the best for our dear Zoey.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Great Backyard Bird Count

Despite the problems of the larger world, here in our Sedillo home, we have been enjoying the little things that make our individual lives rich and happy.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that the birds are back singing in the mornings as we take our walks.

This weekend is the annual Great Backyard Birdcount 2009 which is sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society. The count started on Friday and continues through Monday (Presidents' Day). Thus far, 27,220 checklists have been submitted (we have submitted three), 532 species have been observed, and over three million individual birds have been counted. You can still participate today and tomorrow, and you have several weeks to submit your checklists. Just go to the website linked above and the rest is very easy!

Here is my best picture this year, taken through the bedroom clerestory. This is a Stellar's Jay perched in the bare branches of the Aspen on the northwest side of the house. Unfortunately, the light was such that you see the bird in silhouette. Stellar's Jays are actually a very bright blue. There were two beautiful birds in the tree, but never occupied the same frame at the same time.

We have counted the usual species seen here: Black-capped Chickadees, Common Ravens, Red-tailed Hawks, Pinyon Jays, Stellar's Jays, Crows, and Dark-eyed Juncos (the slate-gray variety common to the Southern Rockies). But most unusually this year, I saw three Lincoln Sparrows in the tree outside my window. It's pretty early for them, so I have no idea why they are here. It was so unusual that I had to check my book (twice) and the internet, too. And when I submitted my checklist, Cornell wanted the ID confirmed. Unfortunately, I was so busy checking my book that I did not get a picture. By the time I thought of it, they had flown away.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

On the Border

"The fishing boats go out across the evening water
Smuggling guns and arms across the Spanish border
The wind whips up the waves so loud
The ghost moon sails among the clouds
Turns the rifles into silver on the border . . ."

On the Border
by Al Stewart, from Year of the Cat

(Photo taken from Wiki Commons, in the Public Domain)

I have lived in a border state for over 25 years and in that time I have developed a different perspective about borderlands than I might have had when I lived safely in the middle of the United States. To me, the borderlands are places from whence come separations, lawlessness, and more and more frequently, violence.

In the 1980's, during the time of the sanctuary movementin Albuquerque, I briefly sheltered a young woman from El Salvador whose baby daughter was an American citizen by accident of birth. Her mother had been raped by an American while she was trying to cross the border at Juarez.

In the 1990's, I was more and more frequently stopped at Border Patrol check stations when I traveled between Las Cruces (where I did fieldwork at the Jornada del Muerte Long-Term Ecological Research Station) and Albuquerque. There were stops between Cruces and Alamagordo across from White Sands, or between Cruces and Truth or Consequences, depending on the route. In my own car, I was usually waved through, obviously an American citizen, driving while white. But on the occasions when I took the Greyhound bus, the Border Patrol would board and ask for the ID's of every person on the bus. Secure in my obvious citizenship, I would not produce an ID, because citizens are not required to carry ID to travel within the United States. I would instead courteously ask the Agent to show me his ID, which is my right as a citizen who has been detained, even briefly. Once, awakened by a flashlight shining in my face, I started fumbling for my purse until I realized my rights, and asserted them, somewhat testily. The response from the Border Patrol agent was a courteous apology.
And I wondered what it was like for native New Mexicans of Hispanic origin; citizens by birth since the treaty of Guadalupe-Hildalgo, but whose appearance is no different than Mexican citizens. Could they safely assert their rights as Citizens?

At the same time, as the '90's wore on, and the turn of century came, the news of violence across the border grew. The victims at first were young women, disappearing while walking to and from work in clothing factories just across the border. But farmers and ranchers began to talk about the loss of livestock, destruction of their land, and threats against their families from the thousands who crossed the border illegally each year.

As the '90's turned into the 00's, more and more, the news of violence on the border was about the drug-running cartels, kidnapping young women and selling them into prostitution rings, shooting rivals, and harrassing American citizens. As a field researcher, I was strictly warned not to touch any strange packages found in the desert, and to never, ever work alone. Many of us began to 'pack' as we worked in the Jornada and even in the Sevilleta, 5 hours north of the border.I changed careers in the late '90's for family reasons, but in 2004 I learned that most of the LTER research along the border was stopped because it was becoming too dangerous for the researchers.

In the past few years, we have heard of gun battles happening along our border, and the modern Minuteman movement began. The summer before last, the governors of the border states called out the National Guard to assist controlling the border. We have been hearing of beheadings and bodies hung from lightpoles and bridges just across the border in Mexico.

Last year, the Chief of Police from Juarez was murdered before his daughter's very eyes, shot many times with automatic weapons, and the Juarez city officials moved to the American side of the border, for safety. American citizens are being kidnapped across the border in greater and greater numbers, as the drug cartels fight for supremacy, and numerous Mexican states are effectively run by the cartels, and the state governments have been destroyed.

Early this year, we read in our local paper that for all intents and purposes, Chihuahua is a failed state, the drug lords rule there by violence, and the Mexican government has no control over Ciudad Juarez. Gun battles have taken place across the border at Columbus, New Mexico, and gangland style killings have spread across the border into El Paso, Cruces, along our border, and into Phoenix, Arizona. Then a few weeks ago, we read in our local paper that the State Department has issued a travel advisory for the New Mexican border, and that they consider the collapse of Mexico into anarchy to be a real possibility.

A few days ago, I heard a radio host from Phoenix discuss the fact that the most kidnappings in the world take place in Mexico City, but that Phoenix is second, with one kidnapping a day in the past few years. The people being kidnapped are not only drug runners and criminals anymore, either. Many are innocent Americans who are being held for ransoms by drug runners who have lost their loads and must pay for them or face death.
The radio guy said that the Phoenix police are encountered terrible odds, being fired upon by automatic weapons smuggled across the border, and yet they do not even have rifles, and must call for permission before returning fire.

And we wonder what in the world is happening, as the national media does not report any of this.

This morning, I read that the Mexican drug violence has definitely come to Albuquerque. A young man, a drug runner, was kidnapped right here in the East Mountains, tortured, shot and burned, then left in the middle of a road on the West Mesa as a warning.

In an unconnected story, the bodies of young women are starting to be found on the West Mesa, and although we do not know their stories, and it may have nothing to do with the border, it seems eerily similar to the young women who were killed in Juarez all those years ago.

The world seems to be unraveling faster and faster, and for those of us who live in states on the border, the violence seems very close. And yet the political talk during the election seemed to be strangely out of touch with what we know to be the reality.
The economic crisis we are facing in the US is not ours alone, and in fact, it is worse in many other countries, including Mexico. There, the fall of the price of oil along with the loss of renumeration from Mexicans working in the US, means severe economic problems, enough to bring down the government.

And more and more, as I hear the news from the south, passed in our local press, media and by word of mouth, I am reminded of the unsettling words of Al Stewart's On the Border.

"Late last night the rain was knocking at my window
I moved across the darkened room and in the lampglow
I thought I saw down in the street
The spirit of the century
Telling us that we're all standing on the border . . ."

The song seems to be about the rising waves, the winds bringing news of trouble, the growing darkness on the border.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Outrageous! House Passed Bill No One Had Read!

The House passed the so-called stimulus bill this morning.
What is outrageous is that the compromise bill became available for members to read at 11PM last night and the vote was rushed because Nancy Pelosi had to catch a plane for a nine-day trip to Europe this evening so that she would not miss an awards dinner!
(I smell something rotten in Denmark!).

The bill was 1000 pages long, and eight inches thick, and We the People had been promised that it would be posted for a reasonable amount of time so that everyone would know what was in it.

This bill was largest spending bill in the history of the world.
The Obama administration took a leaf from the pages of the Bush administration's handling of the Patriot Act, and used fear tactics to get it passed quickly.
That is all outrageous enough, but today it is our representatives that acted irresponsibly.
How can they know that this is a good bill if they haven't read it?
It does not matter if your Congress Critters were for or against this spending plan.
They owed it to themselves and to their constituents to READ it before they vote.
They should have voted against the rules for this vote, and they should have turned down the bill until it was made available for a reasonable time.

A responsible Congress Critter would have abstained at the very least, and voted it down at best.
When will We the People call them to account?
We should have learned after the Patriot Act, and if we are particularly dense, we should have learned from the Monster Bailout with the Missing Money that was passed last fall.

Even if you believe that the government should take action-- and I don't--this does not mean that any action is as good as any other.
Hurrying down the rocky road to disaster is a foolish move, no matter how often taken out of panic. Our representatives owe it to themselves, and to us, to READ the bills they vote on in order to prevent panic moves that could cause more problems than they solve.

So much for accountability and transparency. Our children and their children will be paying for this bill, and the accountants for the Federal Government are saying this might do more harm than good.

Arrrgh! Tar and feathers is too good for these clowns we have elected!
But I am afraid that telephone calls will have to do.
Call your representatives to account to you. You are their boss.

We've got a government out of control.
It's time to take our country back!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Bicentennial Anniversary of Lincoln's Birth

I was born and raised in Illinois, the Land of Lincoln.

Growing up in the 1960's was a problematic time for those of us who needed heroes, as the deconstructing of the virtues of dead white men and their civilization got underway in that decade. Nevertheless, Abraham Lincoln was one of my heroes.
I read every book I could get my hands on about Lincoln's life and legacy.

I remember standing on tiptoe at the adult book checkout counter of the public library, handing over Carl Sandburg's Lincoln. The librarian peered over the counter at the little girl in braids, and then said, "Tell your mother that this is due in three weeks."

I learned to sing this song from my first music book, Music for Americans:
"Old Abe Lincoln, he came out of the wilderness . . . way down in Illinois!"
And this from the Illinois state song:
" . . . On the record of thy years,
Abraham Lincoln's name appears,
Grant and Logan, and our tears, Illinois, Illinois,
Grant and Logan, and our tears, Illinois."

In grade four, I won the county literary contest with my delivery of the Gettysburg Address, ending with the stirring phrase ". . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth" (November 19, 1863).

In the following year I won again with the recitation of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. I loved this part: " . . . With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in . . ." (March 4, 1865).

I learned in first grade that Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, near Hodginville, Kentucky; and as an Illinois schoolgirl, I had a school holiday every year on that date until I graduated from high school. I was taken to Lincoln's New Salem, Lincoln Log Cabin Stae Park, Lincoln's Home, the Old State Capitol, and to the sacred silence of Lincoln's Tomb, many times.

Today, I marvel that as an adult, I am here to honor the Bicentennial Anniversary of Lincoln's birth. In the '60s, I did not even think about how old I would be when Lincoln's 200th birthday came around!

Here is my favorite picture of Abraham Lincoln as 16th President of the United States, along with two very timely quotations by Lincoln:

"Property is the fruit of is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another; but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built." Reply to New York Workingmen's Democratic Republican Association (March 21, 1864).

This is a very different than the plan of our current politicians to take from those who have worked to build their houses to pay for those who haven't.

"It is an old maxim and a very sound one, that he that dances should always pay the fiddler. Now, sir, in the present case, if any gentlemen, whose money is a burden to them, choose to lead off a dance, I am decidedly opposed to the people's money being used to pay the fiddler...all this to settle a question in which the people have no interest, and about which they care nothing. These capitalists generally act harmoniously, and in concert, to fleece the people, and now, that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the people's money to settle the quarrel." - Abraham Lincoln, January 11, 1837

I only wish that the current President of the United States, also from Illinois, would harken to the homespun wisdom of a man born in a log cabin, rather than use the people's money to pay the fiddler to the tune of a so-called stimulus.

Abe, where are you when we need you?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Third Storm

After almost a month of sunshine and two weeks of really warm weather, three storms blew in over the past few days. The first dropped about an inch of very wet snow on Sunday afternoon, but it blew through in a few hours, and caused no incovenience. Then it snowed lightly Monday morning.
We were warned that the big storm was coming in Monday night, but it wasn't until 7 AM Tuesday morning, when I took Lily out for our (sadly) solo walk, it started snowing and the rapidly accumulating snow was blowing over the roads. Given that Zoey needs her meds every few hours, I did not want to get stranded in town, so I stayed home all day.

A break in the storm in forenoon gave me
the chance to take the dogs out for a break.
This is a rare picture of the northeast side
of the house. It is sheltered by the trees,and so
was a good spot for Zoey to walk gently.

Just as we were coming inside for lunch,
another wave blew over Cedro Peak,
blurring the far horizon, and making
our world seem smaller, darker and colder.

It snowed off and on, as waves of clouds came over the mountains from the south.
The sun would appear, only to be obscured
by clouds that were dark and blue,
and thunderstorm-like.

Towards sunset, the last of the clouds
tumbled over the Sandia Mountain Front,
and towered, thunderheads, high into the
evening sky, hiding the sunset.

As night deepened, it became blustery as broken clouds scudded across the full moon, and temperature dropped rapidly.

A cold morning is coming on.

Today, New Mexico-like, the temperature should swing from a low of 15 degrees to a high of 50.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

We Are Not Alone, WE Surround Them

In the summer of 2007 I wrote two posts, Creeping Fascism and Neither Left Nor Right, and in both, while addressing different issues, I expressed my concerns about where the United States was heading.

As I look back at that summer and those posts, I recognize that we are now in the crisis that I thought we might be headed for, and it appears that things are only going to get worse.

Throughout the primaries and the general election, as I listened to the candidates from both major parties, I felt entirely disenfranchised. I believed that they were all lying to us in one way or another, and that all of them were refusing to acknowledge the disastrous storm we were heading toward. I did go vote, but not for any of them.

Towards the end of the campaign, after the credit crisis and the stock-market crash, I listened to Obama's rhetoric, and considered his history, and I thought: "This man is lying to us." The day after the election, I posted the Obama National Anthem, as black humor (I had a different piece to post if McCain had won). But like all black humor, there was a biting truth behind the satire.

Today, only three weeks into the Obama adminstration, as I look at what is in the so-called economic stimulus package, and when I listened to Obama dismiss the concerns of those who have pointed out that much of what is in the spending bill will not put money into the hands of taxpayers anytime soon, and do so with a cavalier sixth-grade defense of the New Deal, I know we have been lied to.
How does the imposition of a health-care czar stimulate the economy? They're sneaking in Socialized Medicine without open discussion and debate!

Last night, when Obama used fear to promote this bill, warning of dire consequences if it is not passed, despite the fact that much in it is really a progressive social program, I knew that we have been had. Despite his promises of hope and change, he is no different than Bush, who used the same argument from fear to impose the Patriot Act. (It also had to be passed in a big hurry with no time for debate).

Throughout the last two years, I have felt powerless about this, and relatively alone.

I wondered if, aside from some good homeschool blogger friends, there was anybody out there that gave a damn about individual liberty.

And throughout the election, I felt that when I truly spoke my mind, I was dissed and dismissed by what I came to refer to as the hive mind:

"We are the Major Parties. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile."

And the syncophants of the press made it clear by their treatment of Joe the Plumber what would happen to you if you publically questioned their pick for president.

So I thought my little voice made no difference, and that I was powerless to stop the destruction of our rights. I have called and called my Congress Critters, but even when the calls were coming in 10:1 against the Bail-Out, they did what they wanted. I did not know how to let them know that they are supposed to represent me.

But last week, I opened an e-mail to find the following statement:

"Do you watch the direction that America is being taken in and feel powerless to stop it? Do you believe that your voice isn’t loud enough to be heard above the noise anymore? Do you read the headlines everyday and feel an empty pit in your stomach…as if you’re completely alone?

If so, then you’ve fallen for the Wizard of Oz lie. While the voices you hear in the distance may sound intimidating, as if they surround us from all sides—the reality is very different. Once you pull the curtain away you realize that there are only a few people pressing the buttons, and their voices are weak. The truth is that they don’t surround us at all.

Glenn Beck, a commentator on Fox News and a libertarian-leaning radio talk-show host, has begun a kind of movement of the disenfranchised.A movement of the ignored taxpayers in fly-over country. A movement of those bitter ones clinging to G-d and guns since 1775; those who have been told to shut up, surrender their rights, and pay for the privilege.

It is a kind of Alice's Restaurant movement. Remember Alice?
"Imagine if three people got up, just three people, got up and sang "you can get anything you want at Alice's restaurant" when it comes around on the guitar. Why then, we'd have ourselves a movement!" (With apologies to Arlo Guthrie).
Well, we have ourselves a movement.
This is the We Surround Them movement.
And all you have to do to join is ask yourself nine questions about principles, and agree with seven or more of them. Seven of the questions are about American values plain and simple, and two are more particular:

Answer yes or no:
1. America is good.
2. I believe in God. I may not go to the same church or synagogue or mosque as the majority of people in America, but I believe in God and he is the center of my life, and God does not tell people to behead others or to persecute others that see God in a different way.
3. It is my responsibility to be a better and more honest person than I was yesterday.
4. The family is sacred. I and my spouse are the ultimate authority under God when it comes to our family. If we fail, we answer to God not the government.
5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.
6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but that is not a guarantee of equal results.
7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.
8. It is not un-American for Americans to disagree with one another, but some opinions may be anti-American. Anti-American rhetoric would be anything that is destructive to the Constitution and our country as our founders understood it.
9. The government works for me. The government answers to me. I do not answer to the government.
(I took this from the transcript in my e-mail. I did clean up the grammar somewhat).

All of the points except numbers 2 and 4 are core American principles that come from the ideas in the founding documents of our country.

Point 2 was difficult for me in that Jews do not talk about G-d as being the center of our lives; rather we think of G-d, Torah, and the people Israel as being central our identity and purpose in life. However, if I think about it that way, I can agree, understanding that individual rights are endowed to us by our Creator, not by governments or the will of the majority.

Point 4 makes complete sense to me as a Jew. We say that the 5th commandment--"honor your father and your mother"--is placed between the duties owed to G-d and those owed to others because parents stand in the place of G-d for their children, and thus bear the responsibility for them, until those children become responsible for their own actions. (This is why the commandment says "honor" and not "obey". Children need to honor their parents for standing responsible until they are able to think for themselves, but they cannot be bound to obey parents indiscriminately, because it is not guarranteed that all parents are moral human beings).

But an atheist could not agree to either point 2 or 4. And yet an atheist can, and may atheists do, agree on the core founding values of the United States, and consider them to be moral values. I believe that this is why joining the We Surround Them movement requires agreement on seven of the nine. We do not have to be in perfect agreement to unite and require accountability to the Constitution from "that man behind the curtain" that is our government pretending to be the Great and Powerful Oz.

This is not about left or right, red or blue, liberal or conservative.
This is not about political parties, it is about principles.

Our founders did not say that we should be ruled by the executive branch; they established our laws upon inalienable rights, and said that "among these are the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Our founders did not say that our government was established by the winning political party;
they said "governments are established among men by the consent of the governed."

The WE Surround Them movement is the beginning of the Governed uniting to hold our Servant Government accountable.

If you are getting frustrated because your public servants are following their own agenda, violating the constitution, and ignoring your voice;
and if you want to be part of a grass-roots movement to make the federal government accountable to the Constitution and to the Consent of the Governed;
and if you can uphold seven of the nine principles above, then please click through to We Surround Them.

The symbol of this movement is a nine-part snake modeled on the old Ben Franklin "Unite or Die" Flag of the American Revolution. Just as the several colonies and regions were unique, and yet could join together to cast off the tyranny of King George, so can ordinary citizens, remaining unique, join together in common cause to hold our government accountable and protect our rights from the tyranny of the political parties.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Focus on Visual Processing Development in Three Ways

The UNM began a few weeks ago, and even with everything else that is going on, I am doing some interesting work. In particular, I am interested in how differences in development between what is called the dorsal visual stream (a.k.a. the where stream) and the ventral visual stream (the what stream) may be affected by autism, what symptoms may arise from that, and how such developmental differences may be similar to and different than those in people who are neurotypical visual learners. What I want to do with this information is called translational research--that part of research that focuses on using the basic science to development treatments and educational interventions to help people with ASD use their visual gifts and yet interact with the rest of the world.

My coursework this semester is quite specialized in order to help me delve more deeply into my interests.

The only organized course I have is Psychology 650: Introduction to Neuroimaging Analysis. In this course, we will learn how to interpret data provided by the various neuroimaging techniques: EEG, ERP (event-related potentials),MEG, Positron Emission Tomography (both PET and SPECT), fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging, and MRS (magnet resonance spectroscopy). Each technique has strengths and weaknesses, and each has specific ways to properly interpret the data collected from it. My purpose here is to be able to tell when conclusions made in the original research are warrented or not, and also learn how to analyze and interpret data that I get from my research.

In this class, the professor lectures about a technology--right now we are doing EEG and ERP--and then assigns us papers to critique. The doc students (like me) have the additional assignment of finding papers in their area of interest to critique. EEG and ERP are particular interests for me, because much of the data in my area of interest is gathered from these electrical imaging techniques. However, there is a very specialized vocabulary for interpretation, so that even though I know my neuroanatomy and neurophysiology, and even though I understand the physics of the EEG and ERP methods, I find myself getting lost on the interpretation. The prof did not assign a textbook, and it is hard to tell what sources on the web are reliable and relevant. So I e-mailed the prof and asked about a book. He recommended one, but naturally, our university library does not have it. However, Amazon does, and at a very reasonable price. So I am eagerly awaiting Steve Luck's An Introduction to the Event-related Potential Technique in Cognitive Neuroscience.

I am also taking hours for Psychology Problems 550 with my second major advisor, Dr. C. These problems involve the neurodevelopment in visual processing and also differences in cognitive switching, and will result in my name going on two published papers. I am currently finding and reading papers on the trajectory of cortical development as measured by the thickening and thinning of the cortex of the brain in normal children, intellectually gifted children, children with ADHD, children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and other developmental differences. Here is where the class on analysis is paying off already, even though my understanding is still at the novice level. Now when I read papers, I can at least begin to understand why two different papers using the same technique can come up with very different results. Much of that has to do with how differently they collected their data, and how they interpret it.

Finally, I am also taking Special Education 595: Indepedent Readings in Special Education with my first major advisor, Dr. N. I am meeting with her tomorrow in order to determine a direction for my readings. I am proposing to look into the connection between visual processing and deficits in working memory for people with ASD. This also involves the development and functioning of the two visual streams. I am hoping to agree upon writing a Literature Review on this, using information from cognitive testing to bridge the gap in understanding between the basic science and methods for helping with working memory.

Working memory is the cognitive ability to temporarily store and mentally manipulate limited amounts of information in order to guide behavior. (Behavior here can mean anything from mental math activities to choosing what to pay attention to and what to ignore). Auditory working memory is known to be deficient in ADHD, and certain forms of ASD. New evidence is now coming out that suggests a link between visual processing and attention, that seems to also affect visual working memory. And I have a great interest in this area, as I explained above.

What is really good about my coursework this semester is that each one contributes to and reenforces the others, and all of them allow me to focus on my particular area of interest. This is how a Ph.D. progresses. Coursework starts off broadly, working off the master's degree, but as the doc student progresses, it increasingly narrows towards the dissertation interests. All the papers read, all the knowledge gained during the coursework phase prepares the student for Comprehensive Exams. These are exams that test the student in the areas of interest important to the dissertation topic, and assure the candidate's committee that she is conversant in the narrow field. Once the comprehensive exams are completed, the student then begins the often lonely process of finishing the research and writing the dissertation. Good advisors try to help their students maintain a narrow focus in a particular area, so that the dissertation actually gets written before old age sets in! Once the dissertation is finished and successfully defended, the new Ph.D. has joined the community of scholars by virtue of expertise in a narrow area and by expertise in the research process. Then the new scholar can once again attend to broad areas of interest to the field.

I have very good advisors. Whenever I want to go off on a tangent, both of them sit me down and force my attention strongly encourage me to get back on track.

I am going to be much closer to the dreaded Comps after this very focused semester!

Friday, February 6, 2009

An Unsettling Discovery

As many of you know, we have two dogs. Zoey, on the left in the picture, is now eleven or twelve, and Lily, on the right, is a little over three.

Last Wednesday evening, I noticed that Zoey was limping a little on her left leg when we went for our walk.
I checked her foot for pebbles or other impediments, but found nothing. I thought it might be sore from her arthritis, so we took it easy on speed, but walked our full walk.

Thursday morning, the limp was still there, and by Friday evening it was worse. On Saturday morning, she seemed happy on her walk, but when we crossed a ditchbank lined with rocks, she tripped. She got right back into the walk, though, and I made a mental note to go more slowly on uneven terrain.

The Boychick and I went into town in the later morning, and after a full morning there, we delivered two bales of straw to the Chem Geek Princess for Ruby's new doghouse and dog run, and then headed home. When we got home, I asked the Engineering Geek if the dogs had been out, and he said that we should take them out.

So I got the leashes, and Tomboy Lily came running, but Zoey lifted her head and then tried to get off the couch. I thought she was stiff, so I went to help her, and when I put my hand under her left left shoulder, in the axiallary area, I felt a big, firm mass. Zoey whimpered when I touched it.

I called the Engineering Geek over, and he lifted Zoey off the couch and then felt up her leg. He whistled when he felt the mass, and said, "Call the Vet. I'll take them out and then we'd better take her in."

Although our local Vet does have Saturday hours, they were booked and so the very concerned receptionist recommended that we take Zoey into town. We knew of two emergency clinics, and the closest one to us was the Urgent Care vet next to Blake's Lotaburger on Montgomery. We had taken Zoey there years ago when she was bitten by a rattlesnake. We really liked that Vet, so I tried to call them. Their mailbox was full. So I called the other possibility, and we decided to stop at the Urgent Care on the way. It turned out the Urgent Care had merged with an Animal Hospital very close to the Boychick's Dojang, so we went there. The Engineering Geek went inside to see if they would see Zoey, while I waited with her in the car. We did not want to get her down unecessarily, because she seemed to be in some pain.

The Engineering Geek came out and signaled thumbs up, so we took Zoey in. She had a decided limp by this point, but she still walked in with the dignity of a dowager, and won the hearts of the front-desk staff. A tech (I guess this is a vetinary version of a nurse) came our right away, and looked at Zoey's leg and side.

"Has she always had this mass?" she asked.
"That's why we brought her in, " I answered.
"She seems to want to lie down," the tech responded. "I'll take her back where she can have a soft spot."

We sat down to wait. Later, the tech informed us that Dr. E. was with Zoey, and shortly after than we were ushered into an exam room. Dr. E. explained that Zoey had a mass, that it was large and firm, and that Zoey was in pain, but very stoic during the examination. She recommended that we have X-rays, bloodwork and an aspiration biopsy.
We agreed.

The X-rays showed that the mass is in the axillary area and up against the chest. It did not look like ribs were involved. We were sent home with pain medication and orders to keep Zoey quiet. The pain medication does help with this, because, although it is not an opiod, it does bind to one of the opiod receptors, and also binds the Serotonin re-uptake mechanism.

But it is amazing how quickly our Zoey has become worn down. Despite the pain medication, she is not able to get ahead of the pain, and the tumor is growing.

On Monday, I took her in for more blood work.
On Wednesday, we heard that the blood work and urine came back normal, so she's in good metabolic shape.

Yesterday (Thursday) morning, Zoey woke me at three, moaning. I took her out, and then she seemed to settle. But at four a.m., she woke me again, and the Engineering Geek, too. We noticed that her whole 'underarm' area was bruised. So we called the Animal Hospital. We spoke to the tech on duty, tried to feed Zoey--she has to be coaxed to eat--and then got her settled.

Thursday afternoon, I spoke at length to Dr. J. The aspiration biopsy had come back inconclusive, but she recommended that we make an appointment for a surgery consult for next week, and that I should bring Zoey in for a pain patch.
So Zoey accompanied us as I picked up the Boychick and A. from school, dropped A. off at the library, and then went to the Animal Hospital. The Boychick helped me get Zoey out of the car, and then headed across the street for Taekwondo.

When we saw the vet, she said that Dr. J. was busy with an emergency, but that they had shown Zoey's X-rays to the veterinary surgeon. The surgeon thought we ought to get a tissue biopsy, and possibly other imaging prior to any surgery, because she thought she saw infiltration of the mass into the chest cavity and did not want to go in until we know what kind of tumor this is and the extent. So they recommended a biopsy procedure with a local anesthetic and I agreed. But I called the Engineering Geek to meet me, as this was more than I had expected when I took Zoey back in.

The procedure was done quickly, and Zoey was more animated than I had seen her in days, because the local meant that the area was pain free. She came home and ate.
But by 3 a.m., she was once again restless, although she ate again after being taken outside.
Today, she has pain from the biopsy, as well as her limp, although she had a short, slow walk in the woods near the swingset.

Since the samples are sent to Phoenix (I just don't understand this!), we won't get results until the middle of next week. Much of what we do next will depend on those results.
We will probably have a double consult meeting with the surgeon and the doggy oncologist (!), if the tumor is malignant. I am not sure how far I am willing to go in treating this thing, if it is. Zoey is an old lady, and furthermore, how would a dog understand treatments that are more painful than the disease?

In the meantime, we wait.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

In the Real World They're Shutting Detroit Down

Is Washington out of touch with reality?

John Rich thinks so.

I think he understands the anger of the Flyover Country.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Cross Quarter: Evidence of the Coming Spring

Groundhog's Day. Candlemas. Imbolc. Tu b'Shevat/New Year for Trees.

By whatever name we call it, today, tomorrow, and this week, we notice a subtle shift in the light. It is a lighter earlier in the morning, and a bit later in the afternoon.

It is still definitely winter here in the Sandia High Country, and snow lies under the trees, though we've had warmer days of late.

But evidence that Old Man Winter is on the way out is everywhere.

Here, the Groundhog's sunrise has shifted north, and for the next week or so, it will shift north by one solar diameter per day.

On the Winter Solstice the sunrise from this spot could be seen at the top of the road to the right of where it rose over the trees this morning.

And here, at the top of Via Sedillo, the sunrise over the Estancia basin is also north and closer to the lone Pinyon Pine than it was on the Solstice.

In the old calendar, today would have been the beginnning of spring, as the seasons were counted from the Cross-Quarters.

The European Candlemas, the American Groundhog's Day are on February 2, a fixed date on the solar calendar. But this year the Cross-Quarter Day is actually tomorrow, February 3, at 9:45 AM MST, which corresponds to 16:45 Greenwich Mean Time (UT).

Here, more evidence of the shift in the light is seen as the sunrise moves down Pinos Altos.
During the day, the slight change in the solar angle is becoming more apparent.

All of these changes tell us deep down inside our brains that, just as sap rises in the trees, the new wine of the new year for trees, so the energy that ebbed so in December begins to rise within us again.

I hear that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and retreated back to his burrow.
Winter will be prolonged according to legend.

And this indeed has been a long one already.
But the changes in the light, the return of birds here in our mountains, all are messengers that spring is coming, the tipping point has been reached, the season must change, even if the weather remains wintry for a while longer.
Even in hard times.

And in hard times, how much more needful it is that we stop and rejoice at these small signs of the coming thaw.