Sunday, September 30, 2007

RIP Flower

I'm so glad I'm no longer watching Meerkat Manor. I nearly cried yesterday when this story popped up on MediaNet on my cell phone: Meerkats Mourning Lady of the Manor. (I'll paste the story below in case the link moves.)

I love Meerkat Manor but had to stop watching during season 2. I was heartbroken when Shakespeare died and little Blossom's tragic death was the last straw for me.

Poor Flower. Apparently I'm not the only fan who feels sad. Animal Planet has added a In Memory of Flower page to its Meerkat Manor site where fans can watch video of Flower, talk about her, and read about the upcoming movie on her life.

I wonder what will happen to Flower's family but I can't stand to watch and see more meerkats die. Please, somebody keep me updated on what happens to Yosarian, Mozart, Mitch, etc., without Flower to lead them.

Meerkats Mourning Lady of the Manor by Natalie Finn
Fri, 28 Sep 2007 09:09:16 PM PDT

The Whiskers clan is without a matriarch.

Flower, the leader of the central gang of meerkats that is the focus of Animal Planet's documentary cum soap opera Meerkat Manor, died in February during filming of the show's third season after being bitten by a cobra. She was six.

Friday's episode of the hit series, "A Journey's End," featured the events leading up to Flower's untimely death, which occurred during yet another meerkat struggle for survival in South Africa's Kalahari Desert—an inevitable part of the frequently compelling, albeit furry and adorable, drama that has made Meerkat Manor Animal Planet's number-one show.

"Flower's courage and strength in life was mirrored in her passing," said senior executive producer Mick Kaczorowski. "Viewer and fans have become attached to Flower because she exemplified the qualities of a true hero and a veritable leader."

According to Kaczorowski, Flower was buried onsite in a market grave by the Cambridge University scientists who preside over the Kalahari Meerkat Project.

Although Animal Planet didn't televise news of Flower's passing, in order to stave off the viewer confusion that resulted when Flower's son Shakespeare was injured at the end of season one and then was gone by season two, a statement was posted in March on the network's Meerkat Manor message board informing fans that Flower hadn't survived a snakebite and would be missed.

"When Shakespeare disappeared over the season, we weren't filming—there was no evidence, no body," Kaczorowski told the Los Angeles Times. "When we came back in Season 2, everybody was completely frustrated. Conspiracy theories came up. The most important thing is to track down the remains or stay with the body so we could put an end to the story."

Animal Planet is planning a commemorative spot, an online tribute and a press event in New York to honor the Meerkat Manor heroine. There is also a feature film in the works, Queen of the Kalahari, which is intended to be a prequel about Flower's life prior to her small-screen stardom.

"Flower was larger than life," said Marjorie Kaplan, general manager of Animal Planet and Discovery Kids Media. "She stood tall against her foes, readily and regularly faced conflict and was a pillar of strength for her family.

"The circle of life is very much a reality in the animal kingdom. We at Animal Planet are devastated by the loss of Flower and recognize that her death will have a deep impact on our viewers. Life in the Kalahari will never be the same."

Up in the air now is the fate of Zaphod, Flower's partner and the dominant male of the Whiskers mob. If losing his mate proves too much to handle, his brother Youssarian—a former top meerkat who has been pegged as having "social problems"—could rise again.

Flower and Zaphod's son, Mitch, also has exhibited leadership qualities in the wake of his brother Shakespeare's death, and he could be a force to be reckoned with, as well.

It's also unsure who will become the new female leader of the extensive clan. Flower's daughter Mozart is a possibility, but despite being caring and compassionate, she has estranged herself from the family more than once.

No, the above was not a summary of a Dallas episode. Although just as it was for the Ewings when J.R. was shot, the Whiskers' societal order now hangs in the balance.

The daily goings-on at the so-called manor may read like a page from any prime-time soap, replete with jealous exes, sibling rivalry, (meer)kat fights, pregnant daughters getting kicked out of the house and a lot of mating, but the stars of this show don't follow any script.

Instead, it's a group of intrepid researchers, their specially built fiber-optic cameras and some crafty editors that have captured a slice of life that just happens to be taking place, at times, in a burrow.

And while regular watchers of the series might sometimes trick themselves into thinking that they're watching teeny-tiny humans who just happen to have tails, crescent-shaped ears, tapered faces and particularly beady eyes, these mammals are members of the mongoose family.

Sean Astin narrates the U.S. version of the Emmy-nominated series, while Brit Bill Nighy is the human voice of the U.K. and Canadian installments.

Topics/Category Labels Done!

I have finished adding category labels to all my previous posts. My loyal readers (all two of you :), can now search by topic for all the entries published on this blog. Just look for the Topics list on the lower right side of the screen. Let me know if you spot any inconsistencies.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Stitches 'n' Things

The Flushing Observer published a nice story about Stitches 'n' Things last week.

Stitches N Things, where you count in Fenton

By: Sally Rummel, Business Reporter 09/23/2007

If you think counted cross-stitch is an "old-fashioned" craft for people who have a lot of time, you haven't been inside Stitches N Things at Fenton Lake Square, directly behind Sagebrush Cantina in Fenton.

Reportedly carrying the largest inventory of counted cross-stitch projects and accessories in Michigan, Stitches N Things is well worth a visit, whether you've ever "counted a stitch" in your life or not.

Fenton native/owner Deb Koch has crafted for herself and her customers an interesting, colorful and well-organized retail store in just 800 square feet of space. Downsized from her former Davison location, this store is a tidy space from floor to ceiling, with enough room to house Stitches N Things' growing Internet global presence.

For the crafter, it's a destination for every project idea, supply, accessory or custom frame that one could imagine.

With drawer boxes containing favorite patterns by category, both novice and experienced crafters can easily find what they're looking for. New designs are located in a rack that's changeable monthly, so that visitors to the store will always have an opportunity to see "what's new."

Fabrics, kits, beads, buttons and embellishments are plentiful, too. Stored in cube units, fabrics are categorized by colors and varieties. Pre-made pillows, purses, totes, stockings, ornaments, boxtops and baby items are also available, making a perfect "backdrop" for one's stitching project.

Many new techniques are also on display, providing contemporary designs, textures and visuals. Knotwork (as easy as it sounds), needle felting, needle sculpture and Russian Punch Needle are just a few of these new techniques that have added a contemporary twist to the age-old art of counted cross-stitch.

For the crafting novice, it's a vision of possibilities, because some projects are simple and can be tackled in as little as a couple of hours.

"It's all done for you, you're just reproducing it on fabric," says Koch, who admits she flunked home economics in her school days. "I'm 'sewing challenged,' but this is easy, fun and relaxing."

Serious counted cross-stitchers can also add their own artistry to their projects, by adding texture and embellishments, changing fabrics, etc.

While Koch enjoys teaching the craft, the small size of her store makes on-site instruction impossible, but she and her staff pride themselves on helping customers "over the counter."

"I'm hoping to teach classes this winter at off-site locations," adds Koch. "But please stop in and let us help you with any aspect of your project, even if you're a beginner needing assistance in picking out your first kit."

Assisted by a staff of three, Koch has literally the world at her doorstep, thanks to her strong Internet presence. One-third of her store is dedicated to the Internet portion of her business, from order storage to order filling and packaging.

But it's the people she really enjoys, as they come to her store from as far a drive as 1½ hours. "We are really unique in the state of Michigan," says Koch. "While other cross-stitch stores are closing, we're thriving. And we have more than 5,000 designs in stock for you to see."

Koch is also proud of her extensive custom framing department, which provides a variety of wood frames in dozens of colors and styles. "It's the first thing you see when you walk in the door," says Koch. "You can visualize the completion of your project before you even start."

Stitches N Things is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (810) 629-3333 or visit the store's Web site at:

©Tri-County Times 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fantastic Tales of Ray Bradbury

I just purchased the audio book Fantastic Tales of Ray Bradbury. It's a wonderful collection of 14 of his most popular stories and, best of all, it's read by Ray Bradbury. He introduces each story by explaining how he got the idea and I like that a lot. My only complaint is that it does not include a table of contents.

While searching online for the table of contents I found some great sites devoted to Ray, including one with quotes. I love this quote:
"If you can't read and write you can't think. Your thoughts are dispersed if you don't know how to read and write. You've got to be able to look at your thoughts on paper and discover what a fool you were." ~ Ray Bradbury (, August 29, 2001)
You said it, Ray!

Here are the web sites:
Ray Bradbury (official web site)
Fantastic Fiction (includes all his works in chronological order)
Ray Bradbury Online (a list of his audio books and some quotes)
Ray Bradbury Audio (contents of many of his audio books, including Fantastic Tales of Ray Bradbury)
I've loved Ray's books for a long time and have written about him several times. Here are the links if you are interested: Hooray for Ray!, 86 and Still Writing, and Farewell Summer.

For me most of his stories evoke "a world where miracles are just everyday occurrences and even the most ordinary things are pervaded by eerie glimmerings of the supernatural and the unknown" (to quote the blurb on Dandelion Wine).

I feel compelled to read Ray's books in the fall, not just the ones with obvious Halloween/autumn connections (like The October Country, The Halloween Tree,
From the Dust Returned, and Something Wicked This Way Comes). I also want to read those with summer settings that evoke that sense of October and the supernatural (like Dandelion Wine).

There's nothing like curling up with a good Ray Bradbury book on a dark, cozy evening while listening to the rustle of fallen leaves in the crisp
autumn air. My stack of books and I are ready for fall, even if the weather isn't cooperating.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Irish Fest 2007

Saturday I attended the Kalamazoo Irish Fest held in beautiful Arcadia Creek Festival Place in downtown Kalamazoo. Unlike last year, the weather was perfect: sunny, breezy, and pleasant with not a monsoon in sight. The festival itself featured good food (with beer, unlike Scottish fest), music, and shopping. What a great way to spend the day! I was too busy to take many pictures, except of my friends' booth. Here are a few pics of their merchandise:

Now you know where I get my amber and Celtic jewelry. :)

Since the Irish American Club of Kalamazoo doesn't keep archives of the Irish Fest info on their web site, here's the info on this year's Irish Fest:

Friday, September 21st from 4:30 p.m. - Midnight
Saturday, September 22nd from 10:30 a.m. - Midnight

Food Vendors
Gallagher's Eatery
Ibison Concessions
Kalamazoo Scottish Festival
Kalamazoo Kettle Corn Co.

Smirnoff Ice
Coke Products

Marketplace Vendors
Celtic Expressions
Celtic Imports
Celtic Seasons
Darkblade Studios (my friends)
Designs in Glass
Earthencraft Pottery
Lynch's Lair
O'Brien's Irish Cottage
Medieval Madder
Philosophers Stone
Rampant Lion
Scottish Tinker
The Irish Baker
Thy Sterling Silver
UK Market
We'll also have on hand Handiworks Palm Reading and a Celtic Shaman Healer. (I never saw either of these but our booth was very busy all day! O'Brien's Irish Cottage was left off the list on the Irish Fest web site, so I wonder if this list is accurate.)

Main Stage Events
Friday, September 21
5:00 pm Craic Wisely
6:15 Quinn School of Irish Dance
6:50 Harvest Home
8:10 Kalamazoo Pipe Band
8:45 Fonn Mor
10:45 Craic Wisely

Saturday, September 22
11:00 am Twin Thistle
11:30 5 Leaf Clover
Noon Leim Irish Dance
12:35 Squid Jiggers
1:35 Kalamazoo Pipe Band
2:10 Rare Combination
3:20 Quinn School of Irish Dance
3:55 Kennedy’s Kitchen
5:10 Quinn School of Irish Dance
5:45 Whiskey Before Breakfast
6:55 Leim Irish Dance
7:30 Blackthorn
9:15 Belfast Gin
11:00 Napper Tandy

If you've never been to Irish Fest, it's worth the trip to Kalamazoo. Keep an eye on the Irish Fest web site for news about next year's fest. It's usually the third weekend of Sept., no doubt to celebrate the fact that it's only six months until St. Patrick's Day. :)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Ode to Frost

In honor the unusually high mold and ragweed levels this year: Poems by Clifford Leap, Lord Endall (Scott Russell). Thanks, Scott! You are the only person who has ever written a poem for me and I am honored.

An Ode to Frost

The human head can hold a lot of stuff,
Magnificent cassava whose ripe seeds
Have launched a fleet of rockets at the moon
And named the alkaloids in certain weeds.
But my poor head has finally got enough.
What thoughts may enter it when air cannot?
What music when I can’t hear the tune?
All useful space is taken up with snot!

It is that time when leaves begin their turn
From life to afterlife, from green to fire;
As though a devil claimed them on the limb,
Igniting them before they could expire.
Most people like me, in September, learn
How leaves must burn and suffer for their crimes
Before their gold can tarnish and go dim:
Hay fever is like Hell in autumn times.

One morning dawns, though, when my tears are gone;
As if the dying of the year became
That resolution born of suffering
By nurse and patient both, and both can claim
Relief now that the mortal ill has won.
-- ‘tis John Lennon’s Lucy tumbled down
And dust of diamonds covers everything:
The first frost shines like crystal on the lawn.

I breathe the silence in, the silver air!
As when the mobs of Paris woke one day
Without a king, last August’s stench and heat
Replaced by death and chill. Like them, I lay
In liberty’s embrace, maternal care
That soothes the sickly child back to its health.
The old regime, a miser in defeat,
Now suffocates beneath excessive wealth.

And though I was a royalist last spring,
And welcomed summer days with open arms,
Despite oppression in the heady shade
Or rainless weeks that taxed the poorest farms,
I now renounce the autumn of that king!
The flag I wave in publican belief
Recalls the time when I wept and obeyed.
It is a clean, white, linen handkerchief!

Paroxyismos (An Ode to Sighing)

The tempest in my bosom rose to fall
As once that city on the seven hills
Ploughed round about by those two wolf-weaned brothers
Didst arise; though ‘twas for-told by some
That it would crumble after Christendom.
Thus was my breast to sink in brief repose
As breath once drawn absconded through my nose.
What sound! Unlike a multitude of others.
Sweet air is needed; moaning each lung fills
Until the biggest, saddest breath of all.

Then blow, great billows, blow against the end
That like the ruins on the Turkish shore
Make Heaven’s breath to howl defiant song.
As seaward, coughing oar-strokes brought their horde
Of gruff Achaean warriors heaped aboard,
I heave against the ribs along my flanks.
Did they, knelt on stout timbers, murmur thanks,
Though all their aspirations came out wrong,
And most would not sail homeward evermore,
Once they exhaled upon that dismal strand!

Monday, September 17, 2007

A New Look

I decided to try a new look for Citadel of Stars. What do you think? Besides the colors, the only difference is that readers can now access a list of all the Labels (below the Archive on the bottom right side of the screen). Labels are a quick way to search for entries by topic.

I've been wanting to add the list of Labels since Blogger made it available last year. To do so I had two choices: add them individually to the html of my old blog or upgrade to a new template that automatically updates the list of Lables. I had customized the colors of my old blog and was quite fond of them, but upgrading was much easier and faster than html-ing (if that's a word! :) all those Labels.

I've been including Labels on my posts since Blogger added that feature and am now going back and slowing adding them to all my old posts. Someday you'll be able to sort through all my posts by category. I'll probably be the only person who looks at my blog that way, but I think it's a pretty neat feature.

I'm think I like the new look but I saved my old template, just in case.

UPDATE: I just noticed that the template has changed the layout just enough that pictures and captions in old entries no longer line up. SIGH. I just fixed the entries for July-Sept 07 and it only took a few minutes. It's annoying but still easier and quicker than creating/maintaining the list of Labels manually!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Michigan Redeemed!

Yesterday Michigan beat Notre Dame 38-0. Whew! Both teams had no wins when they faced off and that has never happened before.

I discovered that I could follow the game with the Internet feature of my new phone! I can track any team and when I added Michigan to the list, it gave me instant updates during the game including the score, statistics, etc. I never thought I needed to access the Internet on my cell phone but that is a pretty cool feature.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Never Forget

Take a moment to look at the memorials, photo essay, and videos on Fox News today and remember 9/11/01.

My university is having a memorial today including a Walk of Remembrance from the University Center, where there will be 3,0000 miniature flags (one for each victim), to the Patriot’s Grove, a collection of trees that represent historical locations and events from our nation’s history. The interim chancellor and students will join in planting a Sweet Gum tree (the same trees have been planted at the 9/11 Memorial site in New York City). Follow the link for pictures and the text of the Chancellor's address.

Monday, September 10, 2007

More Bees!

Do you remember the character Rob McKenna in Douglas Adams' So Long and Thanks for All the Fish? Rob could never figure out why it always rained, no matter where he went. Unbeknownst to Rob, he was a rain god; rain loved him and wanted to be with him wherever he went. I'm beginning to feel like that, but with bees. Remember the secret elephant graveyard in Tarzan? My living room is like, but with bees.

Yes, every day I find still find dead bees on the floor of the living room. Almost every day I find live ones crawling on the sliding door. My phobia is getting better: I can now pick up the dead ones with my bare hands and shoo the live ones outside with a paper towel (and most of the time I no longer panic and kill them). I am awfully tired of bees and still concerned that they will sting the cats, since I inevitably find the right next to the cats' favorite spots. At least fall is in sight and I won't have to deal with this once the cool weather gets here. I can hardly wait!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

UM Game: Worst Loss in 39 Years

In case you missed yesterday's Michigan Game: Michigan fares no better this week. They lost to Oregon 39-7.

Hear that whirring sound? It's Bo Schembechler, Michigan's beloved "winningest" coach ever, spinning in his grave. The Wolverines have not won a game since Bo died last fall. That's only three losses (four, if you count Bowl games), but these last two were so embarrassing that Coach Lloyd Carr must be ashamed.

Come on, Blue, your fans know you are better than this. Get your act together and start winning for Bo!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

RIP Madeleine L'Engle

In yesterday's news: 'A Wrinkle in Time' author L'Engle dies.

Now I feel really sad. I loved her books when I was a kid. I didn't realize how much A Wrinkle in Time impressed my husband until he blogged about it yesterday. Now I want to read all the books in that series again, including the "new" 4th book which I've never read. (Yes, when I was young this series only had three books.)

UPDATE: Oct. 3. I just visited her official web site and found that there are five books in the Wrinkle in Time series!

The News section of her website includes this memorial info:

The memorial service for Madeleine will be held on November 28th at 4pm at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. That is the day before her 89th Birthday--come help us celebrate Madeleine!

NPR Features a tribute to Madeleine and the tesseract here!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Madeleine McCann's Parents Prime Suspects

Today on FoxNews: Portugese Police to Name Parents as Suspects in Madeleine McCann Disappearance.

I'm not surprised. I've wondered all along why the parents weren't accused of neglect at the very least. What kind of parents leave a four-year-old and two-year-old twins alone in a hotel room while they go out to dinner?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Good-Bye, Luciano

Today on FoxNews: World-Famous Tenor Luciano Pavarotti Dies at Age 71.

I'm not into opera but feel so sad after hearing this news, like a great light has gone out.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Mastodon in Traverse City?

Today in the news: Possible mastodon carving found on rock in Grand Traverse Bay. The Traverse City Record-Eagle included this caption with the picture above: "Mark Holley explains what he thinks is an ancient carving of a mastodon carved into a rock recently found in 40 feet of water in Grand Traverse Bay. The red lines follow etchings made in the rock, he said."

This is interesting because Mastodons didn't live that far north (or so we've always thought) and because it's underwater. I wonder how they're going to get petroglyph experts, who usually aren't divers, to examine it?

Compare the Mastodon to the Sanilac petroglyps near Bad Axe:

I have no idea what the petroglyphs depict, but to me the Mastodon does look similar.