That Very Scary First Haircut

We’ve all heard stories about the little boy who cries all the way through his first haircut. Our three-year-old was no exception . . . except he’s a llama.

Before we bought Quartz, he had never been introduced to electric shears. Now he was confronted with a big, strong stranger with a mysterious tool that made a very scary noise. The poor llama obviously believed he was about to be killed.

Shearing is important where we live. Our summer heat is not something you want to endure while wearing a thick wool coat. The heat came early this year, and the man who shears our animals had a long list of customers ahead of us. When he called to say he was available, we said, “Come on over.” The job needed to be done, in spite of our doubts about how our new boy would handle his first haircut.

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So what did our three-year-old do? He cried. He spit. He cried some more. Our shearer finally decided to put a blindfold over the llama’s eyes, hoping that would calm him. It did help, and when the job was done, Quartz was much cooler and far more comfortable. Except for the aftertaste of spit that kept him drooling for half an hour.

DSC_1062Smoke, our older, more experienced llama,had been standing by watching the drama of the first haircut unfold. Hard to know what he was thinking. Some people don’t believe animals think, but I disagree. In any case, when Smoke’s turn came, he knew the ropes, both literally and figuratively, and maintained his dignity throughout his own wool removal.

People always ask if we use the wool, or if we sell it. We don’t. Our llamas are used as pack animals. It is the smaller alpaca that is often raised for wool. A good explanation of the differences between llamas and alpacas can be found at http://www.mountairyalpacas.com/llama.html

 

Library Crimes and Misdemeanors

There was a time when the last word we would associate with libraries was crime. Then along came the movie Foul Play, where countless attacks were made on the life of Gloria, the librarian played by Goldie Hawn. The creepiest scene for me was when she was stalked through the stacks in a closed and darkened library. Although most librarians won’t encounter that situation, there are a variety of different crimes that take place in libraries, some creepier than others.

Overdue Items: What might be a simple, easily-corrected oversight sometimes escalates into something worse. More than one librarian has been verbally assaulted by a patron for upholding the policy of refusing to allow more checkouts until fines are paid and/or overdue items are returned. The level of threatening language can require intervention by campus security guards or even local police.

Theft:  This one is a real crime. Patrons take a locked DVD from the shelves, hide in a corner of the library, and pry at the DVD case downloaduntil it opens, then steal the disc, and then toss the broken jacket. To steal a magazine or book, some patrons become savvy enough to figure out where the security strips are adhered to the item. They rip off the strip, then walk through the magnetic gates with the item concealed in a backpack and never trigger the alarm.

Squatters: Some patrons love the library so much they never want to leave. They hide in dark corners until after closing and then spend the night. It might take several days for librarians discover they have an unwanted “house guest.”

Porn: It’s always an unpleasant task for the person on duty in the computer lab to ask patrons who are surfing porn sites to either cease and desist or leave the library.

X-rated Behavior:  One staffer was startled when she went to check that all patrons had left the library at closing time, only to discover a couple having sex under a table in one of the study rooms. Public indecency sounds about right in that case.

Physical Assault: One young woman ignored the no food or drink rule and brought a plate full of chili fries into the library to give to her boyfriend, who was studying there. The library director stopped her, explained that she couldn’t take the food into that area of the library. She responded by throwing the chili fries on the floor and throwing a punch at the director. The punch connected, the director called police, and the girlfriend ended up in court.

Shooters: This is the crime we hope we’ll never witness. I suspect every library has a procedure in place. Where I worked, we all had assigned tasks in the event we were alerted to a potential shooter or any other similar threat on campus. One staffer would make an announcement alerting patrons and giving instructions; others would lock all of the exterior doors. Patrons would be led into an inner room where they would remain behind locked doors until the threat had passed. The one time our library went on lockdown, our bad guy was a disgruntled fellow who wielded a knife and made ominous threats toward an employee in an adjacent building. He was eventually chased down by security personnel. Police arrived, he was dispatched, and the lockdown was lifted. Our library patrons quickly went back to their computers and books, seeming unfazed.

In spite of the above, I still believe libraries are safe havens, and perhaps the most important institutions in our lives and in the lives of people throughout the world. Where would humanity be without them?

Heard any accordion jokes lately? Who Hasn’t?

CIMG1304The accordion has been much maligned throughout its history. Each time I hear someone belittle accordion music, my hackles rise. I must come to the defense of my late mother, an extraordinary musician who made beautiful music on her accordion. Have the detractors of the accordion never heard the romantic and evocative strains of Lady of Spain or a haunting accordion rendition of The Third Man Theme?

Maybe not, those musical delights are from a bygone era. But there are other more modern musicians who have incorporated the accordion into their repertoires. The instrument brings its subtle but enchanting sound to the music of a variety of artists, from the fifties up to the present day. Those delightful notes and chords often go unrecognized, leaving the accordionist an unsung hero of many musical hits. Superstar musicians who have used the accordion to enhance their musical numbers include The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Billy Joe, Bruce Springsteen, Grace Jones, R.E.M., The Rolling Stones, Talking Heads, Tom Waits and many, many more.

One of my favorite Pandora Radio Stations is the one I created when I discovered Dan Newton’s Café Accordion Orchestra. It is reminiscent of the music heard in Paris bistros of the twenties. It set the perfect mood when I was writing the second novel in my Aimee Machado Mystery series.

Aimee and her co-workers sometimes have lunch at a restaurant near the hospital where they work. The character of Margie, the restaurant’s proprietor who sometimes plays accordion solos for her patrons, was inspired by my late mother. So here’s to Mom and her lifelong love of the accordion. May she live on musically in the pages of the Aimee Machado Mysteries. And whenever I hear an accordion, I’ll continue to say, “Thanks for the memories.”

Call a doctor, or call a librarian?

ID-10099085If you’re in need of immediate medical attention, you’d best hightail it to your nearest hospital emergency room. Once you arrive there, your problem will be identified and treatment will begin. Maybe. Or maybe your condition is one that is so rarely encountered that your doctor will need the help of someone with more specialized knowledge about your  treatment. You may be surprised to know that the specialist your doctor calls is your hospital’s Health Sciences Librarian.

What? Wait a minute. Seriously? Call a librarian? Yes, indeed. Health Sciences Librarians are the unsung heroes/heroines of the medical profession. They directly impact patient care by helping physicians stay abreast of new developments in their fields.

A physician’s mind is crammed with all the information learned in medical school, but suppose your doctor graduated med school ten years ago? Twenty years ago? What’s new since then? Doctors are required to attend continuing education programs often enough to keep their licenses in good standing, but they can’t possibly keep up with all of the latest treatment methods used in the rarest of medical situations and conditions. Here’s one example:

Hypertrichosis, “Werewolf Syndrome”Image result for images of wolfman syndrome

In this syndrome, patients develop abnormal hair growth on their bodies. Their faces can be completely covered in long hair. The condition is on most lists of the rarest known medical conditions.

Your medical problem may not be as visually obvious as this one, but when your doctor needs help in order to diagnose and treat you, a Health Sciences Librarian may be the best source for rush information. A well-trained librarian knows where to find that information immediately—from the most credible sources—thus enabling your doctor to readily access literature that explains the condition and offers the most up-to-date treatment.

So take comfort in knowing that after you seek help from your health care provider, he or she  may turn to a little-recognized but highly qualified and capable medical information specialist—a Health Sciences Librarian.

Some characteristics of effective Health Sciences Librarians include: technological aptitude, creativity and curiosity, service orientation, ability to thrive in a constantly-changing environment, excellent communication skills and teaching ability. For more information about Health Sciences Librarians, including where they work, education requirements and earning potential, visit https://www.mlanet.org/career/career_explore.htmlsc

Image of doctor courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

How to Train Your Dragon, er, Llama

A few years ago, I accompanied my young granddaughters to the movie titled How to Train Your Dragon. I wish I had paid more attention.

My husband and I enjoy hiking in the Northern California wilderness. Our pack llamas have made those trips far more pleasant than they would have been if we had each carried forty pounds of camping gear on our own backs.

Sadly, we recently lost our favorite llama. We shed our tears and let him go, but felt compelled to replace him as soon as possible so that Smoke, our remaining llama, would have company. Llamas are herd animals, and conventional wisdom says they are happier with at least one pasture pal. We soon found a three-year-old that seemed like a good prospect.

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Quartz led easily, loaded in a trailer without a problem, and seemed sound. Plus, he was a pretty  boy. But looks aren’t everything. When we unhaltered him in our pen, he promptly jumped the fence, catching his hoof on the way over and landing on his back. To our great relief, he jumped up unhurt and trotted across the pasture.

The next time we haltered Quartz and tried to take him for a walk around the field, he screamed and spit and screamed and spit. If he had been a dragon, we’d have been toast. We had never witnessed screaming in any of our previous llamas, so we studied our books on llama training and asked advice of other llama owners. We learned that screaming was a sign of fear.

To reassure our new boy, I decided to become one of the herd. I began a daily routine of sitting in the pasture in a folding chair reading a paperback. When Quartz came close, I offered him a few bite-sized training treats purchased from our local feed store. I didn’t want to overdo the commercial treats called apple nuggets; it felt like feeding too much candy to a toddler. Instead, I went online and found a recipe for healthy homemade llama cookies. The cookie ingredients listed grated apple or carrot, oatmeal, molasses, water, vegetable oil, a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of sugar.

The cookies earned the llama seal of approval from both of our woolly boys. Quartz no longer screams or spits. When he sees me enter the pasture, he comes to me hoping I’ll reach into my pocket and pull out a cookie or an apple nugget. He’s learning that the treats are not bribes, they’re rewards for good behavior. With lots of patience and lots of cookies, Quartz is going to become a fine packer and we’re going to be happy campers.

Did the Cutting Horse Kill the Cowboy?

In Checked Out, the second book in the Machado Mystery series, a cutting horse with championship potential is blamed for the death of its owner, rodeo cowboy Cody O’Brien. Aimee is convinced Game Boy is not the killer and suspects a prominent woman surgeon at the hospital where they both work had a reason to want Cody dead. No one knows why he fled the hospital the night before his surgery. Was it was the surgeon’s appalling bedside manner? Was it because she would be operating on a very tender and private part of his anatomy? Or was it something even more frightening?

Aimee joins forces with her brother, Harry, and Nick, her off-again, on-again boyfriend, to clear Game Boy’s name and find the real killer. Game Boy’s future hangs in the balance. Will he be put down, or will he have a future on the cutting horse circuit?

And just what is a cutting horse? It’s an animal whose job is an important part of the process of bringing beef to dinner tables all over the world. Cattle ranchers use cutting horses to isolate specific animals from the herd for many purposes, including vaccinations and branding.

Cutting-Horse

Today’s cutting horses are super athletes in competitive events that are growing more and more popular. Prices paid for a horse with championship potential or a proven record can reach into six figures, with some buyers willing to pay as much as $200,000 for the right animal. And that price tag can be recouped with one very good year on the circuit.

So how did Game Boy help Aimee, Nick and Harry identify the real killer? Well, that’s the mystery.

For more about cutting horses visit these sites:

www.NCHAcutting.com

www.SouthPointcutting.com

 

 

Lyme Disease is Fact, Not Fiction

In Checked Out, the second book in the Machado Mystery series, a pivotal character is suffering from a lethal combination of tick-borne illnesses. Many lives will be affected by whether he lives or dies. Can an arachnid as small as the head of a pin really be that deadly?

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Look closely. Can you see it? Even in this nearly invisible nymph stage, the tick can infect a human and cause an avalanche of symptoms and complications.

 

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At first, the infected person may notice what appears to be a mosquito bite. But it doesn’t go away. It grows, expands, and eventually turns into the classic bull’s-eye rash. Not a pretty picture, but it gets worse. Joints begin to ache, the body reacts with headaches and fever, and nerves begin to twitch. The heart works overtime, and fatigue sets in.

In the worst case, the tick is carrying not just Lyme, but other diseases that are even more dangerous. The Centers for Disease Control recently estimated that there may be 300,000 cases a year in the U.S. There is no vaccine, so the best protection is to take precautions against tick bites. Although most common in the Northeast and Midwest, Lyme and related tick-borne diseases can occur wherever deer are present.

If found and treated early, Lyme disease can be cured with antibiotics. Unfortunately, there is no reliable diagnostic test to identify Lyme disease within the first month after the tick bite. The best protection is constant vigilance in any situation where a human, or even a pet, may spend time in an area populated with deer. The tiny troublemakers can hop from a deer, hitch a ride on a cat or dog and invade your home to find a human host. You.

Will the infected patient in Checked Out recover? How will his outcome affect the other characters in the story? It’s fiction, so anything can happen. But in real life, it’s a good idea to have the facts.

For more information about Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, visit these links.

www.cdc.gov

http://www.lymediseaseassociation.org/