Life

Birdbrains

Each winter I try to help our feathered friends by keeping the bird feeders full. Unlike a neighbor down the street, I stop filling the feeders once spring arrives so the birds can forage on their own. While it’s fun to see the birds flocking around her feeders year-round, I don’t think it’s a good thing to interrupt the natural cycles of forage and spread that the birds do each year.

It’s been great fun watching the birds this winter, made all the more frequent by the mildness we’ve experienced here in Northwest Ohio. Yet, despite snow and cold, the birds still hit the feeders regularly. I’m no birdwatcher in the sense of being able to tell you what I’m looking at, but it doesn’t take one to marvel at the competitiveness and at times, meanness, I’ve seen from these feathered creatures. Sometimes one bird will viciously chase another away despite plenty of room on the feeder. And there’s a group of smaller birds that frantically hop between a feeder hole and nearby branch, leaving me wondering how they’re getting anything to eat.

And then there’s the basement dwellers, those birds content to avoid the competitive action on the feeders and peck their way to contentedness on the ground. They get plenty to eat because I’ve learned birds are inherently messy and picky at the feeders. Watching them closely, they knock out more seed than they’re eating, much to the delight of the basement birds and the odd squirrel that wanders over to forage as well.

They are difficult to photograph, since the least bit of movement or shadow shifting in the window scatters them instantly, except for the doves who just continue to peck and sort on the ground ignoring the big monster staring at them through the window. Considering how fast all of them move and how frequently, it shouldn’t surprise me that I’m refilling the feeders every three days or so.

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Life

Kapha This

The roots of ayurvedic practice go back thousand of years. No question they have deep evidence of effectiveness else they wouldn’t be around this long. But to western ears and minds, the names and practices and approaches can be daunting, which is a polite way of saying “weird” (at first).

Traditional ayurvedic medicine is, per the ayurvedicinstitute.com:

“…ancient Indian therapies to help heal and maintain the quality and longevity of life. As a science of self-healing, Ayurveda encompasses diet and nutrition, lifestyle, meditation, postures, breathing exercises and medical herbs along with cleansing and rejuvenation programs for healing body, mind, and spirit.”

I attended a friend’s session over the weekend to learn about an ayurvedic spring cleanse. Spring is the time to cleanse the accumulation and stagnation, and reset the digestive system. We eat heavier foods over the winter and tend to be les active, so the coming of spring is a good time to transition to a more active life. A cleanse also helps rid toxins from the system as part of resetting things.

The session was fascinating on many levels, from the intense specificity of this practice to the handful of light bulbs flashing in my mind as she explained the need for cleansing and the negative effects it helps resolve. The “ahas!” weren’t so much from the cleanse aspect, but from the long list of maladies that relate to something I’ve been trying to offset for 10 years or so.

Bottom line: much thinking and a $78 contribution to Amazon and I’m taking a baby step into the ayurvedic world, primarily in baby-step enhancements to help digestion. Where it will lead is unknown, but there is much wisdom in this ancient wisdom that makes a lot of sense as a more noble path for our body, mind, and spirit that what our western diets, lifestyles, and insatiable “entertain me” societal offerings would provide. In a sense, you could call this approach the analogue version of diet fads, except it’s not a diet in any sense of the word (other than if you use “diet” to purely mean what you ingest into your body).

As anyone stepping into a world with its own vocabulary and buzz words would be warned about, the ayurvedic world is thick with these. Meet anyone passionate in this approach and you may, at first, find it difficult to follow their conversation. It all begins with figuring out one’s dosha, which could be vata, pitta, or kapha. Maintain balance in these doshas and enjoy good health; allow imbalance and invite disease and unhealthiness.

I’m not going to go into what each means since I’m just learning and concentrating on spelling them correctly! But I can share that you can determine which you are (your dosha influences just about everything you do ayurvedically) through an interview with an ayurvedic practitioner, or the modern, impatient version consisting of an online quiz. I embarked on the latter, choosing to take not one, but SIX different online tests. Doing overkill was as much about curiosity as it was about wanting confirmation on the results.

I’m a kapha, confirmed by 5 of the 6, with the last one pegging me as a kapha-pitta. Exactly what that means I’ll learn over time and maybe share more here, but for the moment, I’m hopeful as I enter into a kapha-this, kapha-that world and we’ll see where it takes me.

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Writing

For Want of a Comma

In a recent celebrated court case, the judge wrote “For want of a comma, we have this case.” The suit was between some Maine dairy drivers and their company, and the court sided with the drivers based on the absence of the beloved Oxford comma. While it’s not headline news, it’s an interesting win for the side that uses commas correctly. Read about it here.

Ever since I’ve cared about writing, I’ve seen the logic and wisdom of the Oxford (or serial) comma used in a sentence’s list of items to CLEARLY signal the writer’s intent. Yet, among grammar nerds, this little curly cousin to the period continues to instill polarized opinions.

At work, I am required to go by AP Style for externally shared content, which states (in must cases) don’t use an Oxford comma, although their rule explanation does allow it in complex lists. I think by then you’ve reached independent clause territory in many cases where Mr. Semicolon needs to make an appearance. Internal documents I put the comma back in, corporate rebel that I am! No, not really an anarchist, just want my meaning and intent to be clear.

I have tried to explore the reason and logic (assuming there is some) behind the Oxford comma’s absence, but the answers do not fully make sense to me. Here’s the current explanation from AP Stylebook:

“Commas in a series are for clarity and prevention of ambiguities. In a simple series, a comma before the last item isn’t essential for clarity, so AP Style doesn’t use a comma in that instance. In series with more complexity, a comma may be needed for clarity, so AP Style allows a comma before the last item in such cases.”

I love their simple series excuse. I now offer these simple list examples which show a lot of ambiguity not to mention confusion when the Oxford comma is MIA:

“This book is dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand and God”

“She took a photograph of her parents, the president and the vice president.”

To be fair, it all comes down to clear meaning and a little rewriting can often clear up confusion and avoid the comma issue. An Oxford comma isn’t always needed, but I prefer it in most cases. Why confuse the reader when it’s easily avoidable?

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