Friday, July 31, 2009


UpDoc? Anyway. Everyon's favorite redhead is doing well, still inspiring the envy of his neighbors with a stream of treat-bearing visitors and admirers. If he were in normal condition, he'd be gaining weight from all the extras he's getting; instead he's ribbly and a bit bare of hair around the ears and forehead. The few nips he'd gotten during his first spate of turnout have faded, so either the staff have figured out the herd dynamics or the horses have.

In other four-legged news, Manny appears to have dropped weight. He is cribbing worse than ever—I tried to shut the gate to class and couldn't pull it out of his teeth—and has gotten even more sensitive about his girth area. Suspicion falls on an undiagnosed ulcer. He still hasn't quite managed to bite me, though that's partly because I've been careful to have help around for grooming and tacking up. He behaves somewhat better when someone with a dressage whip stands near by to poke him lightly in the chest at the first sign of toothy tendencies.

This weekend will involve forced sociability, as friends and I are hosting a baby shower for the lovely Ginsays. We've told her where and when, but not what sort of festivities there will be, and she's agreed to be surprised by whatever we do. Since this shindig will involve me cooking, traditionally my weakest point, the biggest surprise may be whether anything I bring is edible. Updates if we all survive!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

An apple a day

...does apparently keep ill health more or less at bay. I've stopped by to see Doc several times in the last few weeks—with the summer camp schedule futzing with dressage, it's been irregular—and indulged his desire to mug me for his favorite addiction. He's still sweet about it; a whicker and the occasional half-step forward, with a look of undisguised eagerness, are as far as his dignity will allow him to venture. I try not to disappoint him, but the finite number of apples that I (a) carry and (b) consider within the bounds of "don't cause him colic" guidelines let him down. Although his appetite seems sound, he's thin and not regaining weight, no doubt due to whatever's gone wrong in his innards. But a merry heart he still hath, except maybe when the deer come too close to his turnout space. He has yet to reconcile himself to their presence; he has never cared more than the idle flick of an ear about dogs or coyotes, and we had great fun doing cutting maneuvers to drive a bold fox out of the ring one autumn night, but deer give him the wiggins.

There's a horse-trading bit of doggerel about white legs:
One white leg, buy him
Two white legs, try him
Three white legs, look well about him
Four white legs, do without him.

Doc, as can be seen, sneaks in under the wire, though at this point most people would probably see his other problems first. Luckily for him, everyone at the barn adores him—he's fast becoming the Mister Chips of the stable, although spotty elder Jackson has seniority and little flash bastard Chia, a pinto pony of malicious intelligence, is a strong favorite among the tweens. My biases in this case are well known, but I'm impressed by how many other adult riders of all skill levels have had fond stories to tell about him. These days, Doc's hope that all bags will contain apples are rarely disappointed.

Monday, July 20, 2009

And scarr'd the moon with splinters

IE complains that I earwormed her with the inevitable "Walking on the Moon" reference. Surely this is the fault of the Police and I am blameless.

Geek time! In honor of the anniversary, the BBC recently presented a haunting photo from the latest pass over Tranquility Base, showing the ant-trail of footprints between the landing module and a set of scientific instruments. So much effort for such a tiny set of dusty waffle-stomper marks.

I got tingles when the rebroadcast reached, "Houston, Tranquility Base here," and damn if it doesn't sound like Armstrong was a little choked up too. It's a long way from home. Glorious, beautiful, frightening, and sad.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Now where's me flyin' Chevy?

NASA is observing the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar mission by streaming the mission's recorded radio transmissions in realtime. Listening to it today, I realized that being up there and hearing that the module was now, say, 25,000 nautical miles from Earth would've made me scream, "Turn this ship around RIGHT. THE HELL. NOW!" in a voice that, vacuum be damned, would've been heard. The engineers and astronauts sound practically bored, which is a testament to their training.

The fortieth anniversary is traditionally celebrated with rubies, which would make a strange match for the cold gray-white of the lunar landing pictures.

The picture he was cleaning showed an armored figure standing in a desolate landscape. It had no weapon but held a staff bearing a strange, stiff banner. The visor of this figure's helmet was entirely of gold, without eyeslits or ventilation; in its polished surface the deathly desert could be seen in reflection, and nothing more. This warrior of a dead world affected me deeply, though I could not say why or even what emotion it was I felt. In some obscure way, I wanted to take down the picture and carry it--not into our necropolis but into one of those mountain forests of which our necropolis was (as I understood even then) an idealized but vitiated image. It should have stood among trees, the edge of its frame resting on young grass.
—Gene Wolfe, Shadow of the Torturer

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ticky Doc

I stopped by the barn this weekend to check on my favorite redhead, and he's doing surprisingly well, which goes to show what I know about horse health. His bloodwork shows that he hasn't had a miraculous remission, but he's cheerful and active, thoroughly investigating bags even after it has been established that they no longer contain apples, that said apples have joined the orchard invisible, that they are in fact ex-apples. (He also, scuttlebutt says, yoinked a Mott's juicebox from an unsuspecting moppet last week and chewed on the cardboard until all the fruity goodness was gone. Bad Doc! Hee hee hee.) The barn staff are in no hurry to see him go, so they're taking a wait-and-see approach: As long as he's comfortable, they're content to keep him as a companion rather than a working mount.

Doc's also getting some T-Touch biofeedback work, which doesn't seem to hurt and may even help. I used to be adamantly anti-alternative medicine, but the years are softening me to the idea that treatments aimed at improving quality of life are not incompatible with those extending life. If Doc doesn't object to massage or having his Reiki fields realigned, and the person doing the work is happy in it, mazel tov.

The barn went through a brief span a few years ago where there was a leetle too much personal drama—some intramural adolescent-type dating, with Divers Alarums and Scenes to go with it—but it is now on a really solid footing, at least from my perspective, with a focus on managing the animals and the business rather than anyone's hurt feelings. At least, that's how it seems to me as a student; there isn't much turnover among the boarders either, though since it's the only barn within the city limits, their options may be more limited.

Here's to Doc's continued good health! Bumpers, gentlefolk, and no heel taps.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Covering the topic

I've been rereading Francis Spufford's excellent, illuminating The Child That Books Built: A Life in Reading. It's one of those rare books that keeps making me want to yell, "Testify! Sing it! Yes, brother, yes, you are so right!"

On learning to read: "By the time I reached The Hobbit's last page, though, writing had softened, and lost the outlines of the printed alphabet, and become a transparent liquid, first viscous and sluggish, like a jelly of meaning, then ever thinner and more mobile, flowing faster and faster, until it reached me at the speed of thinking and I could not entirely distinguish the suggestions it was making from my own thoughts."

On reading horror and having it get under your skin (or not): "You lay down the Stephen King, give a comfortable shrug, and never think about it again unless you want to, you lucky bastard."

On the nature of addiction: "I don't quite read a novel a day, but I certainly read some of a novel every day, and usually some of several. There is always a heap of opened paperbacks facedown near the bed, always something current on the kitchen table to reach for over coffee when I wake up. Colonies of prose have formed in the bathroom and in the dimness of the upstairs landing, so that I don't go without text even in the leftover spaces of the house where I spend least time. When I'm tired and therefor indecisive, last thing at night, it can take half an hour to choose the book I am doing to have with me while I brush my teeth." By this point I'm hooting with laughter, the pleasure of recognition joined to the knowledge that this is a ridiculous way to live.

I need to hunt up Spufford's book on exploring the Antarctic, but niggling suspicion says that it won't elicit the same desire to shriek amen.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sadness grows

Seesterperson and I decamped for parts Jersey Shore early this morning, and what with the constant nomming and occasional breaks to go stare at the waves, I hadn't logged in until late tonight. Things you don't want to read: "You need to check in on Doc - he's not long for this world. Very sorry."


ETA: I went to visit him on this (Tuesday) evening and got a slightly clearer story. Doc has been displaying signs of pain and listlessness, and the vet has finally determined that he's probably got a liver tumor. Shortly after that discussion, Doc's heart rate spiked so much that the barn didn't think he would survive the ride to the reserve barn where the horses go for their regular vacations. He's stabilized now and is eating like a...well, he's eating, and he doesn't appear to be in pain.

I got the okay from barn staff to treat him like fragile royalty, so we walked just across the street to a small field on Glover for some grazing in ordinarily verboten territory. It was a beautiful evening, warm but not hot, and the light everywhere was rich and buttery. I noticed that Doc's right foreleg spasmed a bit unless he had much of his weight on it, but it didn't seem to bother him; he munched away with abandon. What distressed me came about 30 minutes into his grazing: Midchew, he lifted his head about a foot off the ground and opened his mouth as though he was trying to yawn, but his tongue seemed frozen and his entire head shook. It didn't look voluntary. Alarmed, I walked him back to the barn; he wheezed a little and needed a rest break to cover the few hundred feet. Once he was home, he went back to his hay and grain and apples (love you, buddy) as though nothing was wrong, but it's clear that his time is limited.

The barn's concern is keeping him comfortable. As his blood chemistry deteriorates, he is at risk of progressively more serious neurological symptoms, and now they're trying to balance his quality of life against the grief that putting him down will cause. I am glad to have made the time tonight; I don't know much about end-stage diseases in horses, but my guess is that he won't see the end of the week, and he deserves a clean death.

Doc will always be, in my memory, the stoic, calm, unflappable—apart from his suspicions about deer—hard-working creature who taught me to manage a canter bareback, to see an honest heart inside an unbeautiful exterior, and to accept progress when it came and to otherwise savor whatever I got. I hope that he knows, somehow, how many people he's taught and how well he has been loved.