The Suitcase Lady


September 15, 2020, 8:34 pm

An art teacher friend recently posted a delightful piece of amphibian news. It’s too good not to share and it’s also 100% fact checked. Kermit the Frog has been discovered living in the rainforests of Costa Rica.

Hyalinobatrachium dianae, also known as Diane’s bare-hearted glass frog, is one of 14 species of Costa Rican glass frogs, and it’s a dead ringer for Kermit, albeit a miniature version. This rain forest frog is only 2.7 to 2.9 centimeters long.

The tiny Kermit lookalike was discovered by Brian Kubicki who named it in honor of his mother, Janet Diane Kubicki. He wanted to thank her for supporting his interest in natural science, especially frogs and fish. As a hunter of frogs, he further liked the name Diana as she was the Roman goddess of the hunt and lived in mountains.

Costa Rican Kermit is a glass frog which means its internal organs (little red heart, veins, etc.) are visible through its transparent abdominal skin. The males can be distinguished from other species of glass frogs by their “single, tonal, long, metallic, whistle-like note”. This is known as an “advertisement” call and is used to attract females.

The Muppet version of Kermit now works for the Disney corporation. Muppet Kermit was interviewed about his thoughts on his real life counterpart, Hyalinobatrachium. Here are a few excerpts from that interview. (from the Oh My Disney site)

Does this discovery make it any easier being green?

Absolutely. Being green is easy compared to being transparent. I thought that I blended in with so many other ordinary things. And that people tended to pass me over ’cause I wasn’t standing out like flashy sparkles in the water or stars in the sky, But when you are transparent, folks really look straight through you. It’s almost like you are invisible…which might come in handy around Miss Piggy.

If you could tell Hyalinobatrachium anything, what would it be?

Shorten your name if you want to make it in show business. Maybe something catchy like Diane Glass or Kermina Kardashian.

How did Miss Piggy react to the news?

She’s jealous. Not about me being involved with another frog, she’s just jealous that this new frog is getting more publicity than her.

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September 8, 2020, 8:42 pm

I have never been a fan of Christmas shops that are open all your round. Shopping for Christmas decorations in August does not coincide with my desire to live in the moment. However, I am about to make an exception, a very big exception.

In the last century, Manitowoc, the city nearest our home, was the manufacturing center of aluminum Christmas trees. What I didn’t know was that Manitowoc also had the largest tinsel making factory in the world. Those sparkling days are long gone, or so everyone thought.

Last year, a developer bought the 100 year old American Tinsel Manufacturing Company building. It’s a massive, cream city brick, three-story, 90,000 square foot building situated in a pleasant residential neighborhood. The building was bought at auction, sight unseen, and is slated to be turned into apartments for low income or elderly residents.

When the developer actually stepped inside his building, he got a massive early Christmas present. 50,000 square feet was packed with boxes labeled “Santa’s Best”. The boxes contained more than 2,000 remote controlled Christmas trees, wreaths and other Christmas decorations. In all, over a million dollars of stored and abandoned inventory, enough to make Scrooge believe in Santa.

I suppose the apartments could be developed with a new twist: “Rent an apartment, all Christmas decorations included”. However, practicality dictates that this mother lode of holiday joy be removed before the conversion begins, and a giant liquidation sale has been scheduled. The developer must be a good guy because he has invited folks to bring their kids to visit his Christmas wonderland even if they can’t afford to buy anything. I must admit that Christmas radically out of season can be a good thing after all.

On a more serious note, as a past Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commissioner of 28 years, I am thrilled that this fine historic building is being saved and repurposed. The real Tinseltown will be remembered. And even though I am not in the market for a fake Christmas tree or life-size glowing reindeer, I plan on checking out the interior of this rescued building.

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September 1, 2020, 8:56 am

As Labor Day approaches, summer starts to wind down. And just as every day is different, every summer has its unique character. Wanting to keep the essence of this special season, I feel the need for a summer summary.

We did not let Covid spoil our summer, in fact, the opposite occurred. June, July and August brought many good surprises from friends, family and the natural world.

As much as my husband and I love road trips, long-distance journeys were not advisable. As a result, we began exploring places much closer to home and discovered many new trails, beaches, waterfalls and parks. This effort was aided by several neighbors who kindly told us about their own close-to-home favorite places…all were lovely and uncrowded.

In addition, since all my summer library programs were canceled (except four virtual ones), I found myself on a sabbatical. Time is a gift, and I used this time to work on one of our most interesting 24-year projects, the creation of a small prairie. We added more native plants, three of which have intriguing names, Boneset, Ironweed and Switch grass. And time was also spent weeding invasives, an ongoing but necessary battle.

I must also say thank you to the weather goddesses for being so cooperative these past three months…we only had to use the sprinklers once. Just as one of us would say, “It’s getting a little dry out there,”  a rainstorm conveniently would come along.

All the rain made the prairie flowers bloom profusely which turned our yard into butterfly heaven. Monarchs and giant yellow swallowtails were the most numerous visitors, but other butterfly guests also fluttered in…red admirals, red spotted purples, American ladies, whites, fritillaries, black swallowtails and mourning cloaks dined and danced.

I loved the temperatures this summer as well. For me it was a Goldilocks summer, not too hot, not too cold but just right. My husband, who seeks heat like a lizard, would not agree with me on this point.

Even with ample sun and rain, the sunflower seeds I carefully planted behind our deck on Memorial Day did not germinate…except for one seed. However, I looked over the edge of our cliff the other day and spotted seven huge sunflowers blooming halfway down to our lakeshore. It was if Mother Nature was saying, “I can do better than you can.”

We never have had success growing vegetables, either. Fortunately, friends who are more talented gardeners have kept us supplied. These gifts, plus more time to cook, bake and experiment with new recipes have made summer dining something to look forward to each day.

Of course, some of our traditional summer joys could not happen this year. We missed eating out on Chicago restaurant LaCreperies’ little patio, a true summer delight. And this is the first summer in 39 consecutive years we have not gone to the Santa Fe Opera. Hopefully, the singers and the crepes will return once more in summer 2021. In the meantime, life has been good.

Special thanks to my husband, the technical wizard, for joining the music and pictures for our summer video. (Click below)

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August 25, 2020, 8:52 pm

My son and I agree that a huge number of things in life are made too convoluted. He has been known to get a rental car and start a diatribe about the design of the dashboard. A clutter of buttons, touch screens and useless decorative elements bring on the rant.

I fully concur and do not want my time wasted and my mind stressed by poorly designed objects. The car radio in our Honda Fit receives daily wrath from me. A series of touch screens with multiple touch points on each has to be maneuvered to do the simplest things…like going from AM to FM. I would bet a lot of money that this design disaster is responsible for many accidents as the driver has to take his or her eyes off the road to use it. (Please note that I like everything else about this car.)

I’ve solved my radio problem by getting a station up and running before I leave the garage and not touching it again until I stop driving. This is ridiculous, but the only safe thing to do.

Whether it’s a computer or a can opener, a car or a cat toy,  good product design is not taken seriously in America. Somehow, many of our citizens seem to think that the more junked-up a design is, the more bells and whistles it has, the better the product is. Not true, it is just frustration. We need to get back to the classic architectural maxims of “Form follows function” and “Less is more”.

Our son recently got a spectacular bargain on a 2002 Audi from Craig’s List…and he got the dashboard of his dreams. I may need one of these, but in the meantime, our Fiat 500’s dash is not bad, either.

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August 18, 2020, 9:21 pm

It appears that we have a little Houdini living in our midst. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since she previously went missing only to be discovered wedged deeply in the engine of our car. She remained there for two days, totally unreachable.

That great disappearance occurred after we rescued Beatrix (aka Houdini) and her three kittens after they survived a barn fire. They were all feral cats so we quarantined them in our garage pending their initial vet visit for exams and shots. Beatrix decided she was going nowhere but into extreme hiding. Hunger finally drove her out and into our waiting live trap.

Last week, Bea topped her engine trick. First, we noticed she wasn’t eating. This was very serious as for the last nine years she eats every dish of food as if it is her last, a behavior probably caused by going hungry when she was feral. Next, we noticed the edge of her mouth was all red and covered with drool. We suspected an infected tooth or teeth; we also rightly suspected that she wouldn’t let us open her mouth for a look inside. A trip to the vet was scheduled for the next morning.

We both realized that getting our girl into her cat carrier the next morning was going to be extremely challenging. When she is frightened, Bea likes to hide way back in a tiny attic high above our big cat room. It’s reachable to us only if we use a ladder. So, using our “superior” human brains, we decided to sequester her for the night in a tiny room with no hiding places which is under the stairs and adjacent to the main cat room.

Early the next morning, shortly before her appointment, my husband went downstairs to get her. I then heard a voice calling up to me, “She’s vanished.” I raced down the stairs and, indeed, there was no Beatrix.

Not being believers in the paranormal, we were stunned. We tried to calm down and employ reason. That led to us noticing some three-inch triangular openings at the side of each step. Could she possibly have gotten inside the wall? I rushed into the garage,  got a ladder and took it into the main cat room where I could peer back into the little attic. A terrified Bea stared back at me. She had climbed up the inside of a wall which had fortuitously led to her favorite hiding place.

Beatrix arrived at her dental appointment a bit late, but all went well. Closing up both ends of her dangerous, nail-studded escape route is going to be a big job. But it is important to have one’s cats be safe and accessible at all times. Queen Bea is just going to have to deal with that.

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