Iowa City Nature Challenge Begins!

The Iowa City Nature Challenge began on April 29, 2022. It’s sponsored by the University of Iowa Office of Sustainability and the Environment. According to their web site:

“From April 29th to May 2nd, find and photograph plants and animals in your backyard, in parks, along city streets, on school grounds—anywhere you find nature in Iowa City. Then, simply use the iNaturalist app to upload your photos and add them to the Iowa City project!”

It sounds fun. Read all the instructions carefully. This reminded me of my own amateur naturalist post back in 2019 about a toeless Mourning Dove.

Video Description from my YouTube post:

This is a rather sad little video about a Mourning Dove without toes who visited our back porch in early August 2018. The first slide is of a bird with normal feet, followed by several shots of the bird with abnormal feet.

There’s a slide with a bird seemingly sitting in its own poop, which is said by some to cause the problem–which is doubtful.

The last shot is that of a pair of doves trying to nest in our window box, which was full of sharp, plastic artificial plants, which was painful to watch and I wonder if their hazardous habits could lead to injuring their feet.

Speculation about the causes of these injuries range from something called string foot (string or human hair used to build nests getting wrapped around toes leading to amputation), sitting in poop leading to infections, and frostbite.

I think frostbite is plausible, and so did a birdwatcher named Nickell, who published an article about it over a half century ago; Nickell, W. P. (1964). “The Effects of Probable Frostbite on the Feet of Mourning Doves Wintering in Southern Michigan.” The Wilson Bulletin 76(1): 94-95, complete with hand-drawn illustrations that look exactly like the one in the video.

String foot is also plausible, but I’m reminded of an essay by E.B. White, Mr. Forbush’s Friends, White, E. B. (1966). “Annals of birdwatching: Mr. Forbush’s friends.” New Yorker. 42(1) or in White, E. B. (1999). Essays of E.B. White. New York, Harper Perennial, in which White recounts the book, Birds of Massachusetts and Other New England States by Edward Howe Forbush, in which you can read one of the many anecdotes from amateur ornithologists about bird behavior that Forbush collected for his book, which was published circa 1929:

“Mrs. Olive Thorne Miller. Reported case of female tufted titmouse stealing hair from gentleman in Ohio for use in nest building. Bird lit on gentleman’s head, seized a beakful, braced itself, jerked lock out, flew away, came back for more. Gentleman a bird lover, consented to give hair again. No date.”– Forbush, Edward Howe, 1858-1929. Birds of Massachusetts and Other New England States. [Norwood, Mass.: Printed by Berwick and Smith Company], 192529. I wonder why a bird would risk string foot by using hair in nests?

The Big Mo Blues Show KCCK Radio 88.3

Whenever John Heim gets a request from out there to hear something from the Tedeschi Trucks Band, he always plays “Tell The Truth,” which I like of course. On the other hand, I really like to hear a song from them I can relate to and which speaks to how important it is for people to learn how to live together, especially now-“Space Captain.”

Break The Retirement News Gently to Doctors

I’ve seen several articles on Medscape about how to convince doctors to retire or even force them to retire when they’re too old to practice. The articles are titled, “How Old Is Too Old to Work as a Doctor?”; “Are Aging Physicians a Burden?”; and “When Should Psychiatrists Retire?”

The Great Resignation almost makes the debates about this moot. Doctors, including psychiatrists, are retiring or quitting in droves because of burnout, largely related to the stress of the Covid-19 pandemic in the last two years. However, a lot of physicians were quitting medicine even prior to the pandemic.

The same arguments get trotted out. Doctors often lack insight into their failing cognition and physical health as they age. How do we respectfully assess and inform them of their deficits? Are there gentle ways to move them away from active medical, surgical, and psychiatric practice and into mentoring roles to capitalize on their strengths in judgment and experience?

The decision to persuade some doctors to retire, not so much because of advancing chronological age but because of dwindling cognitive capacity and other essential skills, needs to be handled with empathy and wisdom, especially if this is going to increase the workload for the rest of the doctors holding the fort.

Like the song says, “Break it to Me Gently.”

And speaking of songs, this doctor retirement discussion reminded me of a song I heard on TV when I was a kid. I could remember just one line, “Your Love is Like Butter Gone Rancid.”

I thought I heard it on an episode of an old TV sitcom, The Real McCoys. In fact, it was from a 1968 episode of the Doris Day Show called The Songwriter. Hey, we watched what my mom wanted to watch.

The song’s awful lyrics, which Doris Day “wrote” (only as part of the show; it was actually written by Joseph Bonaduce) were tied to the melody of “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean”:

Your love is like butter gone rancid,

It’s no good now, it’s started to turn,

I pray that it’s just like the man said,

You can’t put it back in the churn

Can’t put

Can’t put

Can’t put it back in the churn

Oh, durn!

You can’t put it back…in the churn

The context here is that another character (Leroy) in the show had previously submitted the lyrics of a similarly bad song (“Weeds in the Garden of My Heart”) to a crooked music publishing company that lavishly praised the song and promised to publish it—at Leroy’s expense.

Leroy was clueless about getting cheated. He was too dumb to know how bad the song was, but his feelings would have been badly hurt if the family just flatly told him that. They had to figure out a way to break it to him gently. So, Doris wrote the equally terrible “Your Love is Like Butter Gone Rancid,” and performed it for Leroy and the rest of the family. Leroy thought Doris Day’s song was garbage but didn’t know how to tell her without hurting her feelings.

Doris then told Leroy she was also going to submit her rancid song to the crooked publishing company.

After Doris got the exact same letter the crooked company sent to Leroy—he learned his lesson and felt supported, gosh darn.

Anyway, I was moved to write a short song about the doctor retirement issue, “When Doctors Are Too Old to Practice,” sung to the tune of “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” of course:

When doctors are too old to practice

And can’t tell your elbows from knees

When they sing old songs to distract us

It’s high time we tell them to leave

High time

High time

It’s high time we tell them to leave

Oh, beans!

It’s high time we tell them…to leave

I’ve received hundreds of billions of requests for a sing-a-long version of “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” because you can’t sing the parodies unless you know the original tune.

Here you go!

You’re welcome.

Featured image picture credit: Pixydotorg.

Practicing CrossCribb and Kings Cribbage

We’ve been practicing CrossCribb and Kings Cribbage. They don’t play anything like regular cribbage, but they’re both really fun.

CrossCribb plays faster than Kings Cribbage so we played it first. Although we weren’t sure what the rule meant by saying one way to win is by “15 points or less” in a game that goes only to 31 points, we still thought it made us think about our strategy—for blocking each other.

What confused us at first is which side of the board each of is supposed to play on. In the two-player version, you sort of sit kitty corner, catty corner, or kattywumpus to each other, depending on what part of the United States you’re from. This is because one person faces the columns marked with circles and the other faces the columns marked with diamonds. That’s what the instructions tell you.

Like in regular cribbage, you choose the dealer by cutting the deck and low card gets the deal. Deal 14 cards each face down and no peeking. Non-dealer cuts and dealer turns over the cut card as usual, but places it in the center of the board.

Non-dealer leads by playing a card to anywhere on the board, which is divided into 5×5 grid, which will give 5 hands to each player to score after cards are played to each rectangular spot. You alternate play but you have to remember to toss two of your cards to the dealer’s crib, which are placed under the very handsome Dealer’s Crib chip, which reminds you of Las Vegas.

The idea is to strategically place your cards to build high scoring cribbage hands while blocking your opponent from doing the same.

The center row and column will score the Nob Jack point for you if you play a card on one of those spots. Remember, the cut card is in the center and if it’s a Jack, the dealer scores two points. However, these are not scored until after all the hands are formed on the board.

You win if you get to 31 first, which is marked in a little schematic of a cribbage scoring board on the scoresheet. However, you also win if:

You win by 15 points or less (we confess we’re not sure yet how that works)

You win by 16 points or more, which is a skunk

You win by 31 points, which is a double skunk

We each won a game, if we played it right. We’ll get this sorted out before we make a video—we hope.

Kings Cribbage is a slower game. We played for what felt like almost an hour and a half. It seemed a little more difficult to get the hang of it, even though we play Scrabble, and Kings Cribbage is a marriage of Scrabble and Cribbage. You form cribbage hands instead of words.

The tiles are made of wood, with two different colors to represent two different suits so you can’t peek when you pick your five tiles. The tiles represent cards. First you each pick tiles to see who plays first. Low tile gets first play and can play two to five tiles anywhere on the board as long as they make valid cribbage hands. After that you can play from one to five tiles, replenishing after each play.

The board rotates so you can see what you’re doing. The first player gets a 10-point bonus right off the bat—which helped me. Normally, I lose about every Scrabble game we play, but I won this time, even without the bonus. You can only play cribbage hands that are at most five tiles long.

Those of you who know how to play each of these games can check our work. We’d appreciate it if you commented on any mistakes you find.

Cribbage Board Games Arrive!

Kings Cribbage and CrossCribb are here! I had a quick look at the rules for both and they don’t look complicated. We’re ahead because we already know how to score cribbage hands.

The packages contained everything you need and nothing was broken. CrossCribb even has a handsome medallion to identify who’s the dealer and gets the crib.

We may put together a video pretty soon, after we’ve played a few games.

New Hawkeye Wave Anthem Strong Contender

I formally nominated “I Lived” by OneRepublic to be the new Hawkeye Wave Anthem. On the other hand, I just noticed there is a strong contender for the new Hawkeye Wave song. Dalles Jacobus is a former Hawkeye football player who recently submitted his song, “We Wave.”

He has a lot going for him. He’s a former Iowa football player, He recently graduated from the University of Iowa. He wrote his own song, “We Wave.” He taught himself how to play the guitar by watching YouTube. And there is growing support for the song.

He’s Iowa grown and that’s a real plus for this song. The melody itself feels like a wave. And what Dalles himself says about the song puts the emphasis right where it needs to be, “But, you know, at the end of the day it’s not about the song that’s playing, it’s about the act and the actual wave.”

Featured image picture credit: Pixydotorg.

Cribbage Revival!

I ran across this article in the Portland Press Herald the other day about the renaissance of cribbage since the pandemic began a couple of years ago. It was about that time that Sena and I began again to play cribbage (in November of 2019 to be exact) after about 20 years hiatus.

We picked up the basic rules fairly quickly. It takes a while to master the game though. We are by no means masters.

In the story there is speculation that they can tell that there has been about a 20% increase in interest in cribbage because that’s about the rate at which new cribbage boards are being purchased. It’s assumed that once you have a cribbage board you don’t really want or need another one.

That’s not the case with me and Sena. We’ve purchased about a half a dozen over the last two years. To be sure, they’re not all boards. The Chicago Cribbage game variant doesn’t have a board with it but has several modifications of the rules as well as handsome cards. And we’re going to get a couple of cribbage board games, Kings Cribbage and CrossCribb.

The comments are very interesting below the story. One person claimed that his grandfather abruptly stopped teaching him cribbage when he got 29 scores in both the hand and the crib. Another commenter pointed out that this was mathematically impossible since you’d have to have more than 7 fives in the deck. Another commenter indicated that it was possible. I’m not sure what to say about the knowledge base of some cribbage players.

The story quotes David Aiken, a board member of the American Cribbage Congress (ACC) and editor of Cribbage World. He said that cribbage has been an older person’s game, for the most part. A lot of the cribbage clubs that had sponsored tournaments stopped hosting them. But that’s starting to turn around.

The story also says that cribbage takes a long time to learn and that it’s about equal parts luck and skill.

That got me to searching around on the web for other stories about cribbage and it finally led me to a story about a guy named Rollie Heath.

Rollie says the game is about 90% luck and about 15 percent skill. That’s pretty darn close to what another cribbage master said about the breakdown of luck and skill, Frank Lake. Rally mentioned the Theory of 26. This was invented by another cribbage master named DeLynn Colvert. I have Colvert’s book but have not read the chapter on the Theory of 26. Nor do I plan to, anytime soon. The gist of it is that luck controls most of the game and skill revolves around each player fighting over the 10 or so points that can actually be controlled by how you play the cards you’re dealt—I think.

Okay, okay, so I’ll read a little bit about Colvert’s 26 Theory to you. Colvert says, per hand that the non-dealer will peg on average 10.2 points. The dealer will peg 16.2 points per hand on average. Every two deals the average points add up to 26.4. Colvert goes on to say:

“The cribbage law of averages dictates that the dealer will win the game by scoring his crib hand on the 9th deal. The non-dealer will be about five (5.2) points short after counting first on the ninth hand. And this crucial five points will, on the average, caused the non-dealer to lose 56 games of 100 (skill levels being equal, of course). These averages are the foundation of the “Twenty Six Theory.”

I could probably sound real smart here by saying that nobody plays a purely statistical average game. But I’m not going to cop out. I’m just not smart enough to use the 26 Theory. More than anything, Sena and I play cribbage just for fun. I think that’s what most of us do.

On the other hand, Rollie Heath has been inducted into the ACC Hall of Fame. Maybe we should ask Rollie whether you can have 29 scores in both your hand and your crib.

New Cribbage Board Games Shipped!

We have a couple of new cribbage board games shipping early. They might arrive as early as tomorrow. These aren’t just cribbage boards.

One of them is Kings Cribbage. It’s kind of a cross between Scrabble and cribbage. Great, another game Sena can win nearly every time. Tiles correspond to cards. There are only two suits, light and dark brown. You have to try to make the highest scoring cribbage hand. You can score in multiple rows and columns at the same time. They have to be standard cribbage scores. I couldn’t find a YouTube instructional video per se, but the rules are on the web.

I did find a couple of reviews that were interesting and informative, though. It sounds like gameplay can make for complicated strategy building. And like the Tile Lock Scrabble game, the board has rails to keep the tiles in place. You can also spin the board around. The 6 and the 9 tiles are interchangeable. The

The other game is CrossCribb. The rules are also the web. The idea is to peg 31 points on your scorecard before your opponent cab do so. Two players to four players build hands perpendicular to each other.

They sound like fun variations on cribbage. We can’t wait to play!

Featured image picture credit: Pixydotorg.

Not Ambivalent I’m A Hawkeye

I searched the web for a picture of ambivalence and had a tough time finding one. The featured image comes close. The reason I’m ambivalent is because of a conflict I have about the Iowa Hawkeye football program, which is currently the subject of a lawsuit by former African American players compared to the University of Iowa asking fans to find a new song to accompany the traditional Hawkeye Wave, in which players and fans wave at the kids watching the game from the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

I think it’s a moving gesture. I’d like to formally nominate a new song. But I’m not sure I could call myself a fan, given the conflict between two principles: honoring the families with sick children, and also wanting a just outcome for the former football players suing the Hawkeye football program, alleging that it created a hostile environment.

I dislike bringing this up, mainly because I want to be fair to both sides. On the one hand, the former Hawkeye players and the Hawkeye football program somehow need to find justice. On the other, I really believe families love the Hawkeye Wave, and so do I. I’m very ambivalent.

I even have a song I’d like to formally vote for. It’s “I Lived” by OneRepublic. It was originally dedicated to children with cystic fibrosis and, when the music video was released in 2014, it featured Bryan Warnecke, a 15-year-old showing how he not only lived with, but triumphed over the disease.

I want the best for both sides of this conflict between ideals. I don’t know if I can count myself as a fan of the Hawkeye football program right now.

But speaking as a retired University of Iowa general hospital psychiatric consultant who once served as a colleague to the pulmonology specialists who called me to help care for the emotional and physical health of their patients with cystic fibrosis, a few of whom were living into young adulthood—they are Hawkeyes and so am I.

So, I’m voting informally for “I Lived” because I think it captures the spirit of what the Hawkeye Wave is really all about—kindness, generosity, and hope.

Featured image picture credit Pixabaydotcom.

Update April 24, 2022: I voted formally today for “I Lived” by OneRepublic. You can submit yours here.

Unboxing The Lucid Mattress Topper

Remember the Zinus platform bed and mattress (bed in a box) story? The mattress was a little on the firm side for Sena, so she ordered a Lucid 3-inch gel foam topper for it.

We got it. It’s a memory foam mattress topper, with cooling gel and aloe infused with a plush cover. It was coiled up in box, and exploded like a nuclear bomb after we opened it. We’ll have to replace the bedroom wall, but otherwise it’s a pretty nice little topper.

Just kidding.

Lucid gives you a handy little knife to cut the plastic, which worked pretty slick. The memory foam has ventilation holes to release the heat that can build up, create a 4 alarm fire, burn down your house, make you homeless for a couple years, living in a refrigerator carton over a sidewalk sewer grate which on average allows one person to fall through every 20 months in case you’re wondering, leading to meeting new people occasionally who report you to the police, who arrest you for vagrancy, though most judges are lenient, resulting in a 3 day stay hotel voucher where you can pick up a few square meals and a dozen or so bedbugs, sending you the hospital ER for treatment, after which a social worker arranges for you to move into a low budget condo with a Home Owners Association with rules against platform beds with memory foam toppers, protecting you for life as long as you don’t plant creeping charley in your side yard.

The topper flattened out in about half an hour. Sena was having to sort of jump up to get on the bed before, so now she’ll need a stepladder or a jet pack.

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