Archive for July, 2010

Tea without Buzz

22 July 2010

One week ago, I took Buzz to the vet.  He was vomiting, and lethargic, and had stopped eating.  He’d had a vomiting episode in May, and recovered just fine.  But this was different.

The vet diagnosed Buzz as constipated and dehydrated, and took an x-ray to determine exactly how constipated.  He was disturbed by the shape of Buzz’s liver as seen on the x-ray…it was almost as if bites had been taken out of his liver.  Weird.  Buzz stayed at the vet’s office all afternoon for intravenous rehydration and the vet also gave him a steroid shot and an antibiotic, just in case.  Blood was taken for testing, but the results would not be back until the next day (Friday), and it was suggested that I might need to bring Buzz back for more hydration.

On Friday, the vets were so busy that they did not have time to call me with the test results by 11 AM, and I was nervous so I took Buzz back to the vet.  There were anomalies in the blood test results, but they were inconclusive.  Maybe it was an infection, maybe something else.  I had the option of arranging for an ultrasound, but since that would either tell us that there was nothing we could do or it would be inconclusive, that seemed pointless.  Buzz got another steroid shot, another antibiotic shot, some subcutaneous fluids, and confirmation that he was no longer constipated.  Since he still wasn’t eating, I also got some Prescription Diet a/d food and a couple of syringes to squirt diluted food down him in hopes of stimulating appetite.  If cats stop eating, their liver becomes all fatty and it is a major problem, and the vet and I wanted to prevent further complications from whatever the underlying problem turned out to be.

I spent the rest of Friday in a whirlwind of activity, as I prepared to leave town for a physics teacher conference in Portland, OR.  I did laundry, pickled a large number of cucumbers, took care of Buzz, went grocery shopping, packed, cooked, and generally exhausted myself before having to get up at 4 AM on Saturday to catch a 6:30 AM flight.  My husband drove me to the airport Saturday morning with the promise to take Buzz back to the vet later that morning.

When I arrived in Portland, I had a very upsetting voice mail.  The weird “bites” out of Buzz’s liver were lymphoma, which was filling Buzz’s chest and which had visibly spread since the x-ray on Thursday.  Our only option was to keep him comfortable as long as possible, and when he started to suffer we would end his suffering.  In Portland, and not at home, this was tough on both of us.  However, my sister-in-law, her father and his companion were all there in Portland also (SIL lives in nearby Vancouver, Washington, and FIL and friend happened to be visiting from Massachusetts).  They met me with big hugs and sympathy, and that was much better than being alone in an unfamiliar (though very nice) city.

Later, my sister in law took me out drinking, at my request.  I’ve never been particularly good at getting drunk, but I made an attempt.  We toasted Buzz, and I recounted happy/funny memories.  We went to the Green Dragon, which has an astonishing array of local beers that I had never heard of, all on tap.  The helpful bartender quizzed us on our preferences and set up two tasting flights for us before we settled on “Fearless Scottish Ale” (see reviews at

Saturday night Buzz ate a little, my husband reported on Sunday.  Encouraging!

Unfortunately, Buzz was much worse on Monday.  Wheezing and scared.  My husband left work early to bring him to the vet, and Buzz passed at 12:10 PM.  My husband called me at the conference, and I left the session I was in to talk on the phone and cry.  We both cried.  I consoled myself with doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnuts, which my conference roommate had procured Sunday and kindly offered to share.

Buzz was six years old, a sweetie, and a dummy.  He was extremely tolerant of squeezing and hugging, and adorably was nearly mute.  Where some cats I have met are very vocal, the most Buzz could usually muster was a barely-audible squeak.  The one exception was when I returned him to the vet to get his stitches out after he was fixed (one testicle wasn’t descended and they had to cut in to get it out).  He uttered one loud and long “MEOW” as soon as he realized where we were.

Buzz loved to be given fresh water.  He didn’t drink water to excess, he just liked it fresh.  Either of us walking to the kitchen would be followed and squeaked at as we approached the sink.  Filling Buzz’s water mug held his attention, and he would often perch on the kitchen step stool and lean out as close as he could to the sink.  He never figured out that he could leap up to the counter and get to the sink himself.

Buzz was not effective at killing mice or scaring them out of the house, though he did catch a few.  He would bring them to the living room to play with them.  Still, my husband trapped significantly more mice than Buzz caught in the six years Buzz was with us.

Buzz was, like most cats, adorable.  We named him Buzz for the loud purr that, as a kitten, seemed extraordinarily loud to come from such a little cat.  He didn’t stay little for long.  At his peak, Buzz was a 15-pound lazybones.  He wasn’t obese, just big.  Here he is, being extra adorable, last summer:

Buzz was born to a feral mother and landed in the back yard of friends of ours in the spring of 2004.  They took him to the vet and arranged for his socialization, and we were pleased to be the lucky family that gave Buzz a permanent home.  Buzz was truly a lucky cat, and we were lucky to have been his family.

I miss Buzz!

Home life

15 July 2010

Summer…and busy.

I’m behind in canning (there is an excess of cucumbers and beets in the fridge), I’m only partly ready for my yard sale planned for July 24, and Buzz is sick.  We’ll hear back from the vet tomorrow about his blood work, and in the meantime we are trying to coax him to eat.

Saturday, I’m heading to Portland, OR for the summer meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers.  I’m behind in walking (hoping to do some catching up in Portland) and I haven’t managed to sort the rest of the vacation photos or put together the videos of monkeys and hummingbirds.  I won’t be able to work on that in Portland because the photos aren’t on my laptop which is going with me, they are on the desktop and the media server at home.

I am hoping to at least spend some airplane time working on stuff for school…if I can find the list of things I need to do for school.  I’m feeling like summer is almost over and I’m not ready!  Thank goodness summer is not really as almost over as I’m feeling, but I still need to work on some sewing projects (including new pajamas for myself and Greg) and make my halloween costume (it will be hard to find the time once school starts).

And I still haven’t dome anything with my Arduino!  Eventually I will write a blog post all about my Arduino and what I have dome with it, but first I have to actually do something with it!

At least I am mostly ready for the AAPT meeting in Portland.  I’m not packed or anything, but the powerpoint slides I need for my report to the Section Officers Exchange are done and I’ve loaded a Portland map into my GPS.  I’m readying my laptop and I’m doing laundry tomorrow.  Whew.

I might write a blog post from Portland.  Maybe.  In the meantime, here is a photo of a white-faced (capuchin) monkey from our last full day in Lapa Rios:


13 July 2010

One of our vacation days at Lapa Rios, we spent the morning on a boat watching dolphins!  This was definitely one of the best days we had in Costa Rica, and since they were all pretty darn good that says a lot!  We were charmed and captivated by the bottlenosed, spotted, and spinner dolphins we saw in the Golfo Dulce.

The day started early, and we had ordered fruit and ginger cookies from the kitchen to take along as a snack.  They gave us way too much fruit, but we ate some of it.  We were driven to Puerto Jimenez, where we had the opportunity to use the Lapa Rios Office bathroom before boarding our boat.  Soon we were in the midst of a pod of dolphins!

They came right up to the boat, even mothers with babies!  They blew spray into our faces, turned to check us out, and zig-zagged off into the distance.  Sometimes they raced the boat, other times they played in the wake.

It was MOST exciting when the dolphins leaped out of the water, sometimes right nearby!  This happened first only a few moments after our guide told us that the dolphins could leap six feet out of the water.  Suddenly one did, right next to us!  It is VERY tricky to capture the leaps in a still photo, but we had three cameras capable of video with us, and one that can shoot 30 frames of still shots per second.  So we got a few good shots, a lot of photos of splashes, and this collection of video clips I’ve assembled (and edited down from way too long to watch):

Lapa Rios

13 July 2010

When we went to Costa Rica, we spent the first 5 nights (after an initial night in San José) at Lapa Rios, an ecolodge in the Osa Peninsula.  To get there, you fly on a 20-passenger plane to Puerto Jimenez, then drive for 45 minutes to an hour over bumpy potholed dirt roads fording several streams.  The ecolodge is situated on a ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the Golfo Dulce, and has a 1,000 acre reserve that they maintain free of development.  There is no phone, no internet, no televisions.  There is electricity, and there is “hot” water provided by solar heaters, there is a pool and indoor plumbing (as much as anything is really indoors at Lapa Rios).

We loved it.

Inside our bungalow

Falling asleep, we listened to the waves of the ocean and the beeping of the tiny red frogs that we never saw, and the chirps of insects.  It was pretty loud, but I had no trouble falling asleep.  We woke early to the sound of howler monkeys and bird squawks.  Breakfast does not start until 7 AM, but there is an option for early morning coffee brought to the bungalow, plus coffee and banana bread are provided at 5:30 at the main lodge, and a cold breakfast can be had at 6 AM if you order it the night before.

The view from the hammock on our bungalow's deck

Every day, a variety of hikes and tours are available to sign up for, with your bungalow number and the number of people in your group.  Most of the tours are limited in how many people may sign up.  In addition, the front desk staff can arrange outside tours through other providers.

We chose the early morning bird walk with Danilo, the medicine walk with Guillermo, the Osa trail hike with Ulises, the night walk with Danilo, and the sustainability tour with Andres.  In addition, we arranged for a dolphin watch on the Golfo Dulce.  The medicine walk and the sustainability tour were the most educational.  The night walk and the early morning bird walk netted the most photos of wildlife.  The Osa trail was where we saw puma tracks, of a small puma.

Guillermo demonstrates burning sap on the medicine walk.

The first evening, we attended a talk about the wild cats of Central America.  Ricardo (the guy who gave the talk) is a researcher (think poop analysis and camera traps) who obviously cares deeply about his work: documenting, studying, and preserving wild cats.  The puma is the second largest of the wild cats in Costa Rica, and its paws have oval pads, which is how Ulises identified the paw prints we found on the Osa trail.  We also saw camera traps along the trail, so it is likely that this small puma was caught on camera.  Maybe we were, too.  The tracks were pretty fresh, but heading in the opposite direction that we were going in.

Interestingly, one of the strategies for preserving the wild cats is to enlist the help of poachers.  The poachers help set up a camera trap, and then are paid $100 for every cat photographed by the camera trap.  Thus, the poachers have incentive to keep the cats alive.  Unfortunately, research grants don’t cover payments to poachers.  Find out more at the project website:

Puma paw print on the Osa trail

The weather in the Osa Peninsula in late June is humid, warm, and prone to afternoon rain.  The day before we arrived at Lapa Rios, they had torrential downpours, and people arriving at the lodge had to swim one of the streams because the car could not ford it safely.  They were met on the other side by another car.  We saw a lot of mud, and it caked our hiking boots and stained our clothes.  We also got very sweaty.  While Lapa Rios itself gets a lovely ocean breeze, the hiking trails in the rain forest do not.  Happily, there is a lovely swimming pool, and all the cool water showers you could possibly want.  We showered several times a day to wash the mud and sweat off.  However, it took forever for anything to dry, whether it was our towels, our clothes, or my hair.  There were some sunny mornings when we could lay our damp things on the deck and things DID get dry, but with all the showering and clothes changing we decided to splurge on laundry service on our last full day at Lapa Rios.

The sticky mud of the Osa Peninsula

As I said, they have a lovely swimming pool.  It has a salt water chlorination system and we found it very relaxing.  An added benefit–show up at the pool and start swimming, and shortly a staff member will come and ask you if you would like a drink.  Pool towels are provided in a cabinet, Brazilian recycled-plastic lounge chairs surround the pool, and bats reside in the poolside shelter.  I remember the times I stayed at hotels with my parents, when I was a kid.  I always wanted to swim in the pool.  As an adult, I generally don’t care about such things.  But I was very glad of the Lapa Rios pool.  It was the perfect place to cool off after a hike, when the cool shower in the bungalow just wasn’t enough.

All this writing and I haven’t even gotten to the food.  The food at Lapa Rios is wonderful, and happily they have half portions available so you can manage to eat all the way to dessert!

Breakfast can be simple fruit, or yogurt and granola, or local fare like pupusas or corn cakes or the breakfast version of casado.  There is always coffee (we take ours con leche, with milk) and juice (I preferred blackberry while Greg usually chose mango).  At lunch, a juice of the day and a chip of the day are featured for tasting.  Lunch offerings include a soup of the day (with chips), plus an entree and dessert if wanted.  Entrees include salads and sandwiches (with chips) in addition to casado, fried rice, tortillas, or pasta.  I love chips.  I like potato chips, plantain chips, taro chips, yuca chips, whatever kind of chips that are offered, I love them.

At breakfast, it is also time to order the dinner entree.  This is because if they know what you are having for dinner, they know what to order from Puerto Jimenez, from the local farms, etc, and they don’t have so much waste.  It is a good system.  Generally there are two soup or appetizer options and three entree options, plus two dessert options.  One entree is always vegetarian, so Greg’s choice was easy.  You arrive at dinner and find a candle-lit table with the right number of place settings, and your server arrives to ask if you would like a drink from the bar.  A small appetizer is provided, and the bread of the day.  Then, the server knowing already what you ordered, your soup arrives.  Similarly, your entree.  It was hard to have room for dessert, but we made an effort for coconut-chocolate pudding!  One layer of chocolate pudding, one layer of coconut pudding, garnished with dark chocolate shavings.  YUM.

Lapa Rios was definitely an awesome place to spend a chunk of our vacation!

La comida tipica de los Ticos

7 July 2010

We recently returned from a ten-day vacation in Costa Rica, having had a fabulous time.  While future blog posts will detail our adventures, this one is about the typical foods of the “Ticos,” which is what Costa Ricans call themselves.

Refreshing blackberry and cas juice punch

Cas fruits

First of all, they have lots of fruit available in Costa Rica.  It is sold in markets and by the side of the road, and is eaten plain or made into juice in a blender (often thinned out with water).  We had coconut water, blackberry juice, mango juice, tamarind (don’t drink too much, it is a laxative), cas, and guanabana.  Also, a typical juice is mixed carrot juice and orange juice – a delicious combination!

Guanabana drink

On our drive from San José to Monteverde, our guide asked our driver to stop at a crate of mangoes at the end of a driveway.  Our guide, Marco AKA “Tex,” bought some green mangoes from the woman who came out of her house once we’d stopped.  He peeled them with his knife and sliced them up, distributing them to us.  Green mangoes don’t taste like ripe ones, but they don’t taste bad.  A little sour and peppery.  Then the woman sent her son back to the house for some salt, and we tried the green mango slices dipped in salt.  This is a common way of enjoying them, and it was very good!  I can see the appeal of green mango pickles, which were described to us a few weeks ago by a woman we met at the science party.

Guanabana fruit - maybe 30 cm tall?

For breakfast and lunch, Ticos often include rice and beans in their meal.  The rice and beans are often accompanied by avocado, soft cheese, and fried plantain.  If it is breakfast, there will be eggs.  If it is lunch, there will be a piece of meat, chicken, or fish, plus a side salad often made with cabbage.  The lunch meal is called “casado” which means “married.”  We enjoyed this meal as breakfast several times each and lunch several times each, with my vegetarian husband substituting eggs or fried cheese for the meat at lunchtime.

Casado con pescado (with fish). The dark thing in the center is the fried plantain, with skin on.

The casado is always accompanied by Salsa Lizano, a condiment made in Costa Rica of  vegetables, salt, spices, and sugar.  It is tangy and very good on rice and beans, eggs, chicken, and other common foods.  We made sure to bring a bottle back with us.  It is possible to buy Salsa Lizano on, but it is pretty expensive for a bottle of sauce.

Casado con pollo (with chicken), after adding Salsa Lizano and taking a couple bites. The plantains are under the chicken.

On the second day of our trip, my lunch was accompanied by a lemony slaw of cabbage and tomatoes.  Unfortunately, I could not buy a recipe book at the hotel, but I found a similar recipe online and adapted it.  The lemon juice “cooks” the tomatoes (like it does the fish in a ceviche, which they also serve in Costa Rica) and they taste good to me, unlike raw tomatoes usually do.

This is my homemade casado con vegetales (with vegetables) that I made for our first dinner at home.  I fried fresh potatoes instead of plantains, and the cabbage-tomato slaw I made did not fit on the plate.