Birthday at the Zoo

My husband and daughter took me to the zoo yesterday for my birthday. It was the first time we had seen our daughter in 6 months. I felt especially celebrated because Mount Rainier came out splendidly.

The zoo is now offering timed entrance tickets and has done a good job of adapting to necessary COVID-19 restrictions.

We had a beautiful day for our visit: sunny and clear but not too hot. We got a good look at two of the zoo’s tigers, one lolling in the shade and the other enjoying a catnap in the sun.

One of the zoo’s biggest attractions right now is Trebek, the muskox calf born last spring. He’s named after Alex Trebek, host of the TV game show Jeopardy, whose favorite animal is the muskox.

You can read more about Trebek and his mother, Charlotte, here.

This was my first visit to the new Pacific Seas Aquarium, which showcases sea animals from the Pacific Ocean area. This building opened late last summer.

I was happy to see lots of families with children enjoying the zoo along with us. Everyone wore their masks and did a good job of maintaining appropriate distancing.

walrus statue wearing mast at zoo entrance

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Infectious Theory Of Alzheimer’s Disease Draws Fresh Interest

This article reports on the “germ theory” of Alzheimer’s disease. Germs in this case “means microbes like bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. In other words,” is Alzheimer’s an infectious disease. This theory “has been fermenting in the literature for decades,” but research in this area has received almost no funding.

If the germ theory gets traction, even in some Alzheimer’s patients, it could trigger a seismic shift in how doctors understand and treat the disease.

14 of the Very Best Books Published in the 1970s, From Le Guin to Haley

Having come of age in the glorious 1960s, I took particular interest in this list of books published in the following decade that, in a literary way, reflect the profound ways in which the ’60s influenced later society. The books from this list that I remember most vividly are Rabbit Redux by John Updike, Kindred by Olivia E. Butler, The Stories of John Cheever, All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi.

What about you? Do you remember any of these books?

Scientists Gave MDMA to Octopuses—and What Happened Was Profound

Ever since we began visiting the Pacific Northwest in the U.S. in the mid 1990s, I’ve been fascinated by the Giant Pacific octopus native to this area. Octopuses (yes, that’s the correct plural) are extremely intelligent, although their decentralized nervous system differs greatly from our own. Octopuses are also asocial, in contrast to humans’ need for social contact.

This article reports on a study by scientists interested in whether octopuses would react the same way humans do to “the drug MDMA, versions of which are known as molly or ecstasy.” The drug commonly makes people “feel very happy, extraverted, and particularly interested in physical touch.” The scientists were interested to discover that, despite our different nervous structures and social behavior tendencies, octopuses’ reactions to the drug resembled humans’ reactions.

It’s clear that psychoactive drugs like MDMA, LSD, and magic mushrooms are going through a scientific renaissance—they’re being studied as potential treatments for depression and PTSD—and as their stigma decreases, scientists are more open to studying them, and more research funding becomes available. This could be important for our understanding of animal and human brains.

Paper Trails: Living and Dying With Fragmented Medical Records

This is a long article, but it’s a must-read for anyone who moves from one place to another or from one medical facility to another. Dr. Ilana Yurkiewicz explains how lack of compatible electronic medical records can disrupt medical treatment and how such disruption can lead to life-and-death situations.

How to Optimize Caffeine (and Improve Your Productivity)

caffeine is powerful stuff, and because it has a direct effect on your energy level, you should drink it with intention rather than on autopilot.

This article is aimed at office workers (hence the emphasis on productivity), but it’s good advice for anyone who is bothered by occasional insomnia.


© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Three Things Thursday: Washington State Fair Edition

Thanks to Natalie for hosting Three Things Thursday, “three things big or small, that have made you happy this week.”

Three Things Thursday

We recently took our annual trip to the Washington State Fair. There’s always a lot to see there. Here are three things that especially struck my fancy.

Number One

A large Sasquatch guarded the wood carvers’ tent.


Number Two

And there was the required animal wisdom that we’ve come to enjoy:

cow wisdom

Number Three

And the state fair wouldn’t be complete without a beautiful, lounging pig:

sleeping pig

What made you happy this week?

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Three Things Thursday

Thanks to Natalie for hosting Three Things Thursday, “three things big or small, that have made you happy this week.”

Three Things Thursday

Four years ago we retired to Tacoma, WA, after living our entire adult lives in St. Louis, MO. We love our life here at the tip of Puget Sound, with the beautiful Commencement Bay just a few blocks away. Here are three things we’ve seen recently in our travels out and about.

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

One: Parasailing


All summer long we see this red parachute out over the water as a boat pulls one or two people along for the ride. When I was much younger, I might have wanted to try this. But I am now well past the age when such an adventure appeals to me.

It does look like a lot of fun, however. I used to worry about how those people on the ‘chute got safely down, but one time we got to watch the landing process. The boat reeled the passengers in, and the landing looked easy as pie. Still, I’ll pass, although I’m sure the view from up there is spectacular.

Two: Canoe

The other day we went to one of the restaurants along the bay for an early dinner. As we were driving toward the restaurant, I noticed several small things on the water that looked like sculls. Once we were seated at the restaurant, the boats got close enough for us to see that they looked like canoes:


We’re guessing that these were Native American canoes, although I couldn’t find any references to a particular event in the local newspaper. How lucky we were to arrive for dinner at the same time the canoes were going by.

Three: Great Blue Heron

It’s not unusual to see a Great Blue Heron walking in shallow water in search of a meal. But it is unusual to see one of these magnificent birds in a tree:

heron standing in tree

When my husband was out riding his bike a couple of days ago, he heard a bird squawking and looked up to see a Great Blue Heron land in an evergreen tree. He told me about this sighting when he got home, and we looked for nesting information on the Great Blue Heron in our bird book. According to the book, herons often circle, “croaking raucously,” while coming in for a landing on their “messy nests of sticks arranged in large trees.”*

We drove back to the spot where he had seen the heron land, and it was still in the tree:

heron in tree

Although we tried looking through binoculars from several angles, we couldn’t see a nest, messy or otherwise. But since the heron stayed up there in the same place for quite a while, we assume we were looking at a female sitting on her nest.

You’d never be able to find a heron in a tree unless you heard it approaching and saw it land. Someday I hope to see a Great Blue Heron walking along the water followed by her chicks (or whatever heron hatchlings are called).

*Source: Birds of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Nancy Baron and John Acorn

Have a good week!

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Three Things Thursday

Thanks to Natalie for hosting Three Things Thursday, “three things big or small, that have made you happy this week.”

Three Things Thursday

The city of Tacoma, WA, originated as a port for the fishing and lumbering industries. Nowadays the Port of Tacoma continues to function as one of the largest ports on the West Coast. In addition to providing hundreds of jobs to the area, it also undertakes to clean up and reclaim land around the port that was contaminated by industry long before the formation of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).

Last Friday a group of us went on a field trip to the Port’s Gog-le-hi-te Wetland area, 12 acres of land along the Puyallup River that used to be the Tacoma town dump. The project involved removing all the trash, then digging deep enough to remove all contaminated soil. The land was then left alone for natural growth of vegetation. Now the river allows for the growth of young salmon, and the surrounding land provides a home for many birds and animals.

The Port biologist, Jenn, accompanied us for a bird-watching session. Here are three of the birds we saw. Thanks to my husband and his telephoto lens for these photos. Most of them were taken from a great distance, so judge accordingly.

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

You can read more about Jenn’s interesting job at Diary of the Port Biologist.

and a fun fact

On a tour of the Port of Tacoma last winter we learned about how scientists are Mapping ocean currents with rubber ducks (scroll down the page a bit). The flotilla of yellow rubber duckies is visible on satellite photos and has helped scientists learn about ocean currents as they tracked the rubber ducky migration.

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Three Things Thursday: I’m Back

I have been away for two months now, mostly because of a good thing: travel. While I was gone, Three Things Thursday, which I’ve always enjoyed a lot, changed homes.

I’m happy to get reacquainted with Three Things Thursday, “three things big or small, that have made you happy this week,” at its new home.

Three Things Thursday
(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)


After three Fitbits and two Jawbones, I am now the proud owner of an Apple Watch:

Apple Watch

If I had realized how easily those other devices would fail or break, I would have saved money by simply springing for the watch in the first place. Now I just have to get back in the habit of doing something serious about my exercise (or lack thereof).


It’s baby season here, where we entertain many of the deer who inhabit the neighboring park. Here’s this year’s fawn, still young enough to sport her fawn spots, with mother:

doe and fawn 2017

Thanks to my husband for getting this great photo.


On a recent Lunch Bunch outing to a nearby Mexican restaurant, I had fried ice cream for the first time:

fried ice cream

It was delicious, but then, I’m a fool for ice cream.

Thanks for checking in. I hope everyone has a good week. Until next Thursday… .

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Three Things Thursday: Northwest Trek

Thanks to Nerd in the Brain for the weekly challenge Three Things Thursday:

three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy


Trip to Northwest Trek

Earlier this week we took a trip out to Northwest Trek near Eatonville, WA, USA. A facility of Metro Parks Tacoma, Northwest Trek focuses on both flora and fauna native to the Pacific Northwest. Its main feature is a 450-acre free-roaming area, containing meadows, forest, and wetlands, where many non-predatory animals live with only minimal human intervention. Visitors ride trams around the area to view the animals in their natural habitat.

I usually concentrate on the animals, but this time I decided to look at some of the plants as well. Here are three of my favorite things from this visit.

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

(1) Salmonberry

(2) Roosevelt Elk Bucks

Elk bucks

Look at these six big guys lounging around. Right now their antlers are growing to make them attractive to the females come mating season. Antlers are covered with a substance called velvet. If you were to touch the antlers now, they would feel like soft velvet rather than the harder substance they will later become. But please don’t touch these growing antlers! They can grow as much as one-half inch per day and are suffused with blood vessels. If you were to touch them, you could feel the animal’s pulse as blood feeds the growing velvet. Because of the large blood supply, even a small tear in the velvet could cause the bull elk to bleed to death. That’s probably why these bulls are content to sit around instead of risking a possibly fatal nick to their antlers.

However, this bromance will end at about the end of July, when hormones begin to surge at the beginning of the rutting season. Then there will be fierce competition among the guys to attract the females. After mating season ends, the antlers will fall off. Then next spring the whole process will start again.

My thanks to my husband, who happened to be on the correct side of the tram, for letting me use this great photo.

(3) Red Elderberry

red elderberry

Red elderberry bushes grow along stream banks, in swampy thickets, in moist clearings, and in open forests. These bushes are common along the coast of the Pacific Northwest. The small red berries are not palatable and can cause nausea when raw. However, the cooked berries were an important food source for native coastal peoples. The berries are still used to make elderberry jelly or elderberry wine.


© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Three Things Thursday

Thanks to Nerd in the Brain for the weekly challenge Three Things Thursday:

three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy


We have a couple of trips scheduled for the next two years, for which we recently bought a new camera with a gigantic zoom lens. My husband has been walking around practicing zoomed-in photography. Eventually I will claim the camera for my own practice shots, but in the meantime I’m grateful that he has allowed me to use these three bird pictures.

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

(1) Singing Bird

bird singing

I haven’t yet tried to look this guy up in my bird book. My husband says he was singing his heart out.

(2) Hornbill

Hubby photographed this exotic bird on a visit to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.


Here’s some more information:

Meet Pilai the Hornbill! She is 20 years old and weighs a little over 3 pounds. She lives at the Asian Forest Sanctuary exhibit. Her favorite snacks are grapes and bananas. She also loves blueberries but they have to be the perfect amount of ripeness for her to eat them. Pilai plays with small toys but her favorite is a rock that she uses to toss around and clean out her beak with. Hornbills in the wild also use rocks and bark to clean their beaks.

(3) Flickers (I think)

I was pretty sure these were a female (left) and male (right) flicker:


However, when I checked my bird book, the sketch didn’t look exactly like this. The book has the red on the front of the face, not on the back of the head as it appears to be on the bird on the right. But the book says flickers are common on the ground, where they move around eating ants, and that description fits what the birds in this photo appear to be doing.

Flickers are large birds in the woodpecker family and are common around here, so I’m sticking with my original identification unless someone can identify these as something else. Please let me know in the comments if these aren’t flickers and you know what they are.

Have a good week, everybody!

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Three Things Thursday

Thanks to Nerd in the Brain for the weekly challenge Three Things Thursday:

three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy


Oh deer!

We live adjacent to a park that is the home of lots of deer. The deer frequently come to visit us because they like to dine on our succulent bushes and flowers. Here are the three that came to graze on my lawn recently:

deer on lawn

I’m not a gardener, so I don’t get too worked up when I see them. After all, the deer are not invading our land: We have invaded theirs.

However, I do understand why people who are serious gardeners get so worked up over the deer. This bush, right across the street from where the deer were grazing on my lawn, shows why: The bush should be covered with white flowers all over, but the deer have eaten all around the bush, leaving flowers only in the middle, where they can’t reach:

bush eaten by deer

Crab season

Dungeness crab season has arrived at a local fish market:

advertisement for Dungeness crab

I love life in the Pacific Northwest!

Happy week to all.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Three Things Thursday

Here’s this week’s entry for Three Things Thursday, the purpose of which is to “share three things from the previous week that made you smile or laugh or appreciate the awesome of your life.”


(1) My Husband’s Newest Toy

This is Roomba learning its way around our house:

I very much thought that this gadget would be just a toy, but I was amazed to discover how good a vacuum cleaner it is. It works on both wood floors and carpets; it senses what kind of surface it’s on and adjusts modes accordingly. The biggest drawback is that it has a small dust bin and therefore must be emptied frequently.

And there’s an app for this, which you download to your smartphone and use to program the unit. Our Roomba begins its appointed rounds of our main living area—foyer, hallway, guest bathroom, kitchen, and living room—at 1:00 AM. If the battery runs out before the vacuuming is done, Roomba returns to its home base, docks to recharge, then resumes cleaning where it left off.

I’ve seen the videos on Facebook of cats riding around the house on a Roomba, but we’re content to let it do its thing unencumbered while we’re sleeping.

Oh, and this thing is not cheap. Consequently, it is my husband’s and my Christmas gift to each other.

(2) Steller’s Jay

Back in St. Louis, where we lived for 42 years, we had a lot of Eastern Blue Jays, which feature a blue body with areas of white on shoulder and head areas. On one of our first trips out to the Pacific Northwest to visit our daughter while she was in college, we drove out to Mount Rainier National Park. Just outside the entrance to the park we stopped for lunch, where we saw several birds that looked like Blue Jays but with charcoal gray instead of white patches.

Steller's Jay

The waitress told us that the bird is a Steller’s Jay. Since moving to Tacoma, we haven’t seen many Steller’s Jays because they hang out in forests, not in cities. But on our Thanksgiving trip to the coast of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, my husband caught this photo of one while out on a walk.

Don’t tell the Eastern Blue Jays, but I think the Steller’s Jay, with its contrasting blue and dark gray feathers, is just a bit prettier.

(3) Red-Breasted Sapsucker

A couple of times over the last week I’ve noticed another bird I’m unfamiliar with in our front yard. I was only able to get photos the second time, and that was a rainy and dreary day, so I apologize for the low quality of this photo:

Red-Breasted Sapsucker

According to Birds of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Nancy Baron and John Acorn, sapsuckers drill small holes in the bark of a tree. These holes fill with sap, which attracts insects. The birds then have a two-course meal: They both eat the insects and drink the sap. Hummingbirds often associate with sapsuckers so that they can share the sap.

After I had photographed the bird and looked it up in the book, I went back and looked at the trunk of the tree where I’d seen him. Sure enough, the trunk is covered with tiny holes. When I was photographing the bird, I was surprised that he hung around as long as he did while I gradually moved in closer. Now I see that he was concentrating so hard on drilling all those holes that he probably didn’t even notice me.

%d bloggers like this: