This 'n' That

This N That by Nicky De Lange

What’s tiny, flaps its wings up to 80 times per second and travels thousands of miles during migration season?
Answer: the hummingbird, a common sight in our area. Just hang a hummingbird feeder in your yard, fill it with hummingbird nectar and stand back so you don’t get run over by these little speed demons. Not only can they flap their wings as much as 80 times a second, they can also fly backwards as well as hover nearly motionless, their rapidly flapping wings a blur.

Feeding hummingbird

I only know these things because I recently received  a mail-out from Audubon, the organization that is working very hard to protect  these and other endangered bird species. The flier they included was beautiful – it featured four different varieties of these amazing birds, giving their backgrounds as well as their status on the Audubon endangered list.
For example, the Calliope Hummingbird is the smallest breeding bird in North America as well as the smallest long-distance migrant in the world. But they are ranked as climate-threatened, due to pesticide use, loss of native flowers by invasive plants and a restricted migration range.
The Allen’s Hummingbird is also climate-threatened. These beautiful little creatures only breed along a narrow strip of coastal California and southern Oregon. They prefer brushy woods, gardens and meadows. But their restricted range makes them more susceptible to natural disasters, disease and habitat destruction.
The Rufous Hummingbird, one of the most beautiful varieties pictured in the mail-out, breeds as far north as southern Alaska and prefers to winter as far south as southern Mexico. But because the
Rufous needs to find the right conditions in so many different habitats in order to survive, this gorgeous little hummingbird is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, earning it a climate-endangered status on Audubon’s list.
The fourth featured hummingbird, the Costa’s variety, likes to make its home in a desert-type climate. They feed on tiny insects and the nectar they get from native plants (agave and desert honeysuckle).Unfortunately Costa’s populations are at risk due to their habitat being cleared for development in parts of California and Arizona. These little fellows status as listed by Audubon is “losing desert habitat.”
This is just a sampling of the many types of hummingbirds at risk in an increasingly unfriendly environment. It’s a crime not to protect such amazing, beautiful creatures. To learn more about them, including how to help them, Google Audubon birds. You’ll also find lots of wonderful pictures and info about all kind of birds.Check it out for yourself. Then get a t-shirt made that says, “ Hug a Hummingbird!”  or whatever you think will raise awareness of  our beautiful feathered friends.

This ‘n’ That by Nicky De Lange

School is officially out for the summer. For younger kids, this is cause to celebrate. No homework, no papers to write, no tests to study for.
But while the 12 and under set see this as two and one-half months of freedom and fun, parents often dread it. The sentence, “I’m bored. There’s nothing to do!”is heard every day (sometimes every hour), by long suffering parents.
Kids in this age group can’t drive, so summer means a lot of chauffeuring them from one place to another. From the mall to the movie theater to the beach. From the skateboarding park to the swimming pool – it can seem endless.  I still remember those days, even though my son is now the parent of two little ones five and under.
This is a time when a parent would give anything just for an hour or two break. And today’s column will tell you where to get that. The solution is as close as your local public library. For Texas City residents, that’s right by the skateboarding park and the Nessler Family Swimming Park.
The Moore Memorial Public Library, 1701 9th Avenue (between City Hall and the football stadium), is offering a terrific variety of activities this summer, “Passport To Adventure” for children  from one to twelve years of age. They break the programs up into a variety of age groups,
For the really little kids, there is Toddlerific Storytime every Tuesday morning at 10 am. Participants must be between the ages of one-three years of age. For children three-five, there is Preschool Storytime at 10 am on Wednesdays. Five through eight year olds can enjoy Lego Free Build on Fridays at 10 am.
When you get to the six-nine year olds, the library offers an even more ambitious selection of activities including Rock Painting, Aztec Sun Stone Prints, String Art Shaving Cream Art & more. But wait . . we’re not through yet!
The lucky 10-12 year olds also get to learn to build an Water Filter, Squishy Circuits, Balloon Towers, 3D art and a bunch of other fun things to make and work with.

This is just a sample of what’s going on at our local library during June and July. Now to answer some obvious questions.
Do the programs cost money? No, they’re all free – no tickets or registration required.
How long are these programs? All of them last about one hour, except Lego Problem Solving, which lasts about one and one-half hours. Just come to the library the day of the program and meet at the Walter Holland Meeting Room by the Circulation Desk. Be on time; no one will be admitted after the program starts.
In addition to all these activities, the Library will also offer Summer Reading Clubs for children up to age twelve. Stop by the library and pick up a reading log. They will be available starting June 5. All logs must be turned in by August 12.
There’s a lot more detailed information at Moore Memorial Public Library. Stop in and find out more about this summer’s programs, get a detailed schedule of events and be ready to have fun. For library hours or more info, call 409-643-5983 or 409-643-5966.

By Nicky De Lange

Have you ever had a really unusual idea pop into your head suddenly? It might be sparked by something you see or hear, or maybe because of something you are experiencing.
That happened to me a few weeks ago. My husband and I were wrestling one of our cats into his carrying cage for a visit to the veterinarian.
This cat is no dummy. He knows his cat carrier is used for one purpose – a trip that is apt to involve shots, blood tests or other unpleasant events. Suddenly this docile nine pound animal turns into a lean, mean, fighting machine.
He unsheathes all those lethal claws, and the fight is on. It takes two adults, a lot of determination and a few bad words to accomplish what should be a simple task.
So the last time we managed to do this and emerge unscathed, I had one of those moments – sort of an epiphany – and uttered three magical words: “straitjackets for cats!”
My husband looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. “Yes!” I exclaimed. “That’s what cat owners need to control their kitties while loading them up, giving them shots or anything else the cat objects to. And we could pitch it to Shark Tank!”
In case you haven’t seen this television series, you’re missing some great TV. People apply to get on the show so can they pitch their commercial brainstorms to the “sharks:” five very wealthy business people who made millions by coming up with new ideas and getting them on the market. Now they sit onstage while new entrepreneurs “pitch” their own ideas, trying to get an investment from one of the five.
And that’s when I realized that Straitjackets For Cats would be perfect for the show. I don’t think there are any out there on the market, and demonstrating how to get one on a cat would make a great visual.
I can just picture shark Lori Grenier, often seen promoting things like this on shopping channel QVC, briskly cramming a very irritated feline into its restrictive new jacket.
Now I just have to figure out how to design the thing, as well as making it look easy putting the cat into it . . .
I really don’t think I’ll pursue this, but you can see how quickly I went from wishing for a cat straitjacket to wanting to market it on Shark Tank. TV definitely can influence us. Now I have to come up with another brilliant idea. One that doesn’t involve cat wrestling.
There’s already too much mayhem and madness on screen these days.

This ‘n’ That by Nicky De Lange

It was just over two years ago that I made the big leap into the terrifying world of technology. I bought an iPhone. The 5s, to be exact.
I did it because College of the Mainland offered a non-credit course for seniors (50-something and older). I got a telephone call from COM a few days later saying the class was filled. When I asked about a waiting list, I was informed that there were 58 people on that list.
Luckily for me, the college found an another instructor and opened two more class sections. I made it! I quickly ran out and purchased an iPhone and took a really good course. It was several weeks long and only cost $15.  You just can’t beat a deal like that.
And that brings me to today’s topic: Siri. Who or what is Siri? It’s your voice-activated personal digital assistant. It came into cell phone history on the iPhone 4s and has continued through the 5, 6, and & 7 as well. If there’s an 8 series, I haven’t heard about it but I’m sure one is in the works.
Siri can do so much more than you’d expect. You just push the home button and ask her/him whatever you want to know.
I say her/him because the original voice of Siri was a woman, Susan Bennett. But in my iPhone class I learned that you could change the voice to that of a male. In my early struggles learning to operate my phone, I found myself asking Siri a lot of questions and getting a bunch of not-so-helpful answers. Many of the problems were because of my lack of familiarity with how to phrase my questions so Siri understood me.
After a few weeks of getting really cranky when trying to use Siri, I learned in class that you can change Siri’s voice to that of a male. I got that done faster than you could believe possible. I was so fed up with the female Siri that I was highly motivated.
Here’s how to do it. Launch “Settings” and tap on “General.” Tap on “Siri” & choose. You’ll find “Siri Voice”. Tap and the next screen will let you choose  both accent and gender. Tap your choices here and you can turn Siri from “that woman” who drove me crazy to James Bond or Crocodile Dundee. Knock yourself out!
What can you do to have fun on Siri? Well, there are all sorts of questions that will elicit funny or odd answers from him. Here are a few to try out:
Beam me up. (Siri’s reply: Stand still.)
Are you real? (Siri’s reply: Ask Siri.)
What is your favorite color? (My favorite color is .  . . well, I don’t know how to say it in your language. It’s sort of greenish, but with more dimensions.)
What do you look like? (Let’s just say . . . multidimensional.)
What’s new? (Just watching the leaves fall. I’m betting on that big red one.)
And finally, my favorite: How much wood  can a woodchuck chuck?  The answer, according to Siri, is “None. A ‘woodchuck’   is actually a groundhog, so it would probably just predict six more weeks of winter.”
Siri – you gotta love him!

This ’n’ That by Nicky De Lange

Some weeks I know exactly what this column will be about. At other times, I depend on last-minute inspiration. This week’s topic is a mix of both.
It just happens that I recently watched several movies on TCM. These included Mutiny On The Bounty and It Happened One Night. Both starred my favorite actor and all-around hunk, Clark Gable. (Yes, I realize he’s been dead a long time, but he’ll always be alive to fans like me.)
As a result of my wallowing in old movies, I got to wondering which stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age became famous under the names with which they were born and which ones changed their names. I just grabbed my iPhone and asked Siri for the information. Siri, by the way, is my techno best friend.
I found it surprising that many of the early movie and TV stars stuck with their birth names, although Clark was actually Mr Gable’s middle name – it followed William.
Those actors who elected to reinvent themselves often had good reasons for doing so.
Do you, for example, know of an actor named Leonard Slye? Probably not. But, if I tell you he became an actor named Roy Rogers, I bet you remember him. Leonard Slye, king of the cowboys, just doesn’t have the right ring to it, does it?
How about Bernie Schwartz? He had to overcome his name as well as his New York accent to become the famous Tony Curtis. (Actually, I’m not sure he ever completely overcame that accent.)
And, no matter how suave and debonaire he was on screen and off, do you really think Cary Grant would have had the same effect if he’d acted under his birth name of Archibald Leach?
Actress Joan Crawford’s real name was in reality so refined and elegant that she would have probably been limited in the roles she played. Her given name was Lucille Fay LeSueur. (Even more surprising to me was that Siri told me she was born in San Antonio.)
Everyone remembers the incredibly talented dancer Fred Astaire. His top hat and tails went perfectly with his dance moves. But, as Frederick Austerlitz, he sounded more like a Nazi spy and surely would never have won a date with Virginia Katherine McMath, aka Ginger Rogers.
John Wayne is one of the most famous, admired and beloved stars of westerns and war movies. He was an all-around rugged guy’s guy. But, acting under the name he was born with – Marion Mitchell Morrison – might have been too much of a challenge, even for “Duke Wayne”.
Considered one of the most beautiful actresses in the Golden Age, Rita Hayworth’s original name was Margarita Carmen Cansino. An exotic name for a famous beauty, it might just have been too big a mouthful on the movie screen.
The famous comedy team of Martin and Lewis was a complete name changer. Dean Martin was born Dino Crocetti, while Jerry Lewis started life as Joseph Levitch. Somehow, Crocetti and Levitch just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Then there’s Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter. Both actors wound up with really fake-sounding names but they were a step up from Rock’s Roy Scherer and Tab’s Arthur Kelm. That was back in the era of “cool” names – and these poor actors got stuck with two of the “coolest”.
I’ll finish this list with one of my all-time favorite actors, Boris  Karloff. What a terrific name for one of the most talented horror actors ever. So evil sounding.
It was a much better choice as a pseudonym for this cultured British gentleman, who began his life as William Henry Pratt. That just would not have sounded anywhere near as scary.
As Shakespeare said: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. But Shakespeare wasn’t dealing with Hollywood, was he?