At this point, all I can say is, good luck Pharoah!
It's Belmont time. Today we'll find out if American Pharoah will join the ranks of the immortals--Sir Barton, Gallant Fox, Omaha, War Admiral, Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Assault, Citation, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed--or if he will join the much larger list of horses who, for whatever reason, lost the Belmont and their bid for the Triple Crown.
At this point, all I can say is, good luck Pharoah!
Even the name speaks to me as a longtime armchair egyptologist. I watched his campaign from the time he was a 2 year old and he was one of my two main picks for the Kentucky Derby. He won the Derby and became the next horse with the potential to win the Triple Crown.
So, yesterday was the Preakness Stakes, the second jewel in the crown. The track was a muddy mess, with water standing on the dirt. Just the sort of track to dash hopes and dreams, and Pharaoh was breaking from Post Position 1, right against the rail, with his stablemate Dortmund, undefeated until the Derby, right beside him.
I literally held my breath at the break. Then I was socked and appalled as Espinoza (the jockey) took American Pharaoh right to the lead and proceeded to set very fast fractions, fractions I'd expect to see on a fast, dry track, not in the slop. I was in agony, I tell you--I wanted this horse to win, and running like that, how could he possibly have anything left when the rest of the horses challenged him on the far turn and at the top of the home stretch?
And then I saw something awesome. Going into the turn leading for home, Pharaoh was challenged and his answer was decisive. He kicked it up a notch. After setting strong fractions in the lead in the slop all the way around the track, he then showed us he had a whole 'nother gear.
He pulled away from the field of horses challenging him. He pulled away and he kept on pulling away through the stretch run. He won the Preakness by six lengths still pulling away. My jaw was figuratively on the floor as I watched him sprint to victory effortlessly over the sloppy track.
I've been on the bandwagon for every horse who could make a bid for the Triple Crown since Alysheba in 1987 and I ain't ever seen anything like that. Oh, there've been some great horses over the years. I still cry over Sunday Silence's loss to Easy Goer. I still think Silver Charm woulda won if he'd seen the other horse coming. I wept when Charismatic broke his leg in the stretch of the Belmont and was eased to come in third (he survived and stands at stud). I was a fan of Barbaro, ill-fated but wonderful. I was a fan of Big Brown, Afleet Alex, Real Quiet, War Emblem and all the others who won the Derby and then the Preakness... so many I can't even remember them all off the top of my head.
I've been a fan of California Chrome since the first time I saw him race--I still think Espinoza threw the Belmont by taking Chrome inside when the horse has always done his best running to the outside. But that's water under the bridge at this point, Chrome lost the Belmont and now all eyes are turning to American Pharaoh.
Can he do it? Yes, I think he can. I say that on the strength of that Preakness win--look at the picture above. He's all alone out there. He has the potential for greatness, for what he showed us yesterday was the heart of a champion.
Best of luck, Pharaoh, in the Test of Champions!
Merry: full of cheerfulness, joyous in disposition.
Why do we say Merry Christmas? Why, for that matter, is Christmas at the darkest time of year?
As the sun wanes weaker each day and the darkness closes in towards the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year (and hence, the longest night, as all dark servants know), with all the bleakest of January and February yet to come, it’s hard to see that winter will eventually end, that the days will eventually lengthen again and bring a rebirth of life and hope.
I have always thought that is why the ancient peoples celebrated the winter solstice with such merry-making, to remind themselves that winter will end, that there is hope even on the darkest of days.
When the early Christian church was forming, in order to spread they had to supplant the pagan rites that were already existent. Jesus, according to scholars was probably born in March, but we celebrate his birth at the end of December, replacing the ancient solstice festivals with our own. Many of the pagan elements remain in our celebrations—elves, mistletoe, even the Christmas tree, but does the origin truly matter to how we feel about the holiday?
Pagan or Christian, the message of Christmas remains the same; a message of hope, and a light in the darkness. So have a Merry Christmas and celebrate the hope of life, family, friendship, love and generosity.
I promised my editor, Janet, that I would kill Virien and sooner rather than later. She's been counting down the books to the death of this character. And now that death has been delayed because the next book is so big we had to split it in two. To make up for this delay, we are going to kill Virien not once, but several times, in Rak's dreams, leading up to the grand finale of the actual death.
I thought, therefore, it might be fun to open it up to my audience. How do you want Virien to die? Be creative. Have fun.
Please email me at email@example.com with your idea of the best way to kill this character. If I use your idea in one of Rak's dreams, I'll send you a free copy of the book your idea's in.
The tradition and history of Halloween has always interested me. The holiday, like so many others, has pagan roots. Halloween is mostly derived from the Celtic celebration of Samhein (pronounced sow-in, not sam-hine like a certain movie would have you believe). But like so many holidays, Halloween is not all one thing. There are several pagan roots feeding into the traditions of modern Halloween, replacing the ancient harvest festivals. The early Christians were clever, replacing the pagan festivals with celebrations of their own rather than trying to eliminate the celebration. But it amuses me that tonight we celebrate the thinning of the barrier between the living and the dead, much like ancient peoples have done for thousands of years, by carving vegetables to frighten away ghosts and dressing our children in costumes to placate or trick the evil spirits into leaving the kids alone.
The Christians didn't totally ignore the purpose of Halloween, the passing of the light half of the year into the dark half and the thinning of the veil between life and death. All Hallow's Evening became, over time and due in part to Scottish influence, AllHallowEen, then simply Halloween.
In our modern culture, Halloween has gone from a dark holiday full of tradition and mysticism to a commercialized celebration of candy and drunken costume parties. Myself, I find I prefer the older traditons.
I cried this afternoon. This isn't something I do very often. Especially not during my first cup of coffee. I work nights, so morning, to me, is really around two in the afternoon. And this "morning," while de-zombifying myself by the application of caffeine, I discovered that I'd lost one of my heroes. Cigar, America's Horse, winner of sixteen consecutive races, has passed away following complications in surgery to fix an arthritic neck. He was twenty four. This is what the news from DRF and Blood-Horse told me.
What I remember is far more than dry statistics. I remember watching Cigar snoozing in the saddling paddock and sleepwalking toward the starting gate as if he'd rather be somewhere else. Anywhere else. I remember thinking, more than once, that Cigar wouldn't run well, he didn't look lively enough in the pre-race. And then, in the gate, his ears would prick forward and he'd come out running.
I remember that Cigar ran as an older horse. He was proof to me that sometimes, change is a good thing. You see, originally, Cigar was a turf horse. He didn't race on dirt because his pedigree said he shouldn't. But he wasn't very good on the grass. At three, he won only two of nine starts. Then he was sent to Bill Mott's barn, and after two losses on the turf, Bill switched him to dirt. And lightning struck. Cigar won that race on the dirt by eight lengths. He didn't lose another race for almost two years.
He won the Breeder's Cup Classic. He won the inaugural Dubai World Cup. He captured the heart of racing's fandom and won Horse of the Year honors twice. All that, because a trainer saw that something was working and switched Cigar to the dirt. I followed Cigar's races with an obsessive interest. I cheered his wins and sighed over his losses toward the end of his career.
He was one of the greats of the sport, and now all we have are memories of a beautiful athlete who gave his all.
I leave you with a link to one of his most iconic races:
The 1995 Breeder's Cup Classic
There's a confirmed case of Ebola in Texas and everyone is now freaking out about the virus. Here's my take on it.
I'm surprised it took this long to get here.
Fact, this outbreak has been going on since March of this year. Multiple countries are involved. The virus spreads mainly by person to person contact, but there are also some indications that the virus might be able to spread briefly through the air, as by droplet (coughing) transmission.
Fact, Ebola has a long incubation period, up to twenty days. It's debatable if the person who's infected but not yet symptomatic is contagious, indications are that they're not, but we don't know that for sure.
There are those calling for quarantine of everyone traveling from the outbreak countries. While it's a nice thought, it won't work. It's too easy to cross borders. To go from, say, Liberia to Egypt or South Africa, or anywhere else on our small globe, on one carrier and then to the United States on another. So the only way an airport quarantine will work is if we put ALL international air travelers into a three week quarantine before letting them out into this country. That just isn't practical. Not to mention the hard feelings it would cause.
So, what can you do to protect yourself? You can wash your hands. If hand-washing is an effective means of preventing the flu, which is airborne, it should help here, too. Also, don't touch people who are known to be infected with Ebola. (One of the interesting things about this virus is that the infected person remains contagious even after they've died, so it isn't even safe to handle their remains)
This outbreak has a lower mortality rate than most Ebola outbreaks, but it's spreading quickly, aided by unsanitary living conditions and a fear of healthcare workers. Here in the US, one would think things are different.
However, in regards to the case in Texas, what the hell? The man came into the ER, complaining of not feeling well and TOLD them he'd been in Liberia. They sent him home with antibiotics. Home. With antibiotics. Two days later, he came back and was admitted for Ebola. I have lots of problems with this. As a healthcare professional, I think that ER doctor was incredibly negligent. If I were in his shoes and a patient recently arrived from Liberia came in complaining of a hangnail, I'd admit them and stick them in isolation--just in case!
To send that person home, a person who was already symptomatic and therefore highly contagious, is negligence bordering on criminal, for how many other lives were put at risk? This outbreak might have a lower mortality than earlier ones, but it's still 50-60% kill rate. That is, HALF of all people who contract it, die.
Next issue. Antibiotics. Now, I've lived in east Texas. I know how they think. They hand out antibiotics like they're candy-corns and it's Halloween. You have a sniffle? Here, take some Amoxicillin. This ER doc sent the Ebola patient home with antibiotics. People, just FYI, antibiotics only work on bacteria. They don't do viruses. Nothing, really, does viruses. Giving antibiotics for viral infections only serves to teach your native bacterial populations resistance. That's how superbugs like MRSA and VRE are born.
But enough of my anti-antibiotics-for-everything spiel. What do you think of the Texas case? Do you think it will spread? Are we looking at the next pandemic?
Personally, I think we are. I think Ebola has the potential to be another Black Death. 50% mortality. All it needs to succeed is time.
To start off my new blog, I thought I'd talk about the picture I'd selected for my header on this page. It's a red-tailed hawk, one of my favorite birds. As a young lady growing up in the deserts of the Southwest, I often watched this hawk serenely circling on thermal drafts. The bird is a beautiful work of nature, supremely adapted to its environment and its role as a top predator. Indeed, when this bird flies in search of prey, all small animals be warned--the red-tailed hawk isn't a specialist that only eats one thing, but an opportunist that might dine on bat one day, rabbit another day, and a pampered pet the day after.
That last one causes trouble, of course. But from the point of view of a naturalist, which I pretty much am, we humans and our house pets are invasive species. We are the ones who don't belong. It's not right or fair that we attack the hawk or coyote for doing what is natural to them when we are the ones who have invaded their territories, not the other way around.
To me, seeing a red-tailed hawk in the air remains a special moment full of a certain kind of magic. It also reminds me that the place I live might be a major city, but the natural desert remains, just under the surface, ready to emerge once conditions permit.
What do you think? Is there an animal you especially equate with home?
I’ve long since embraced my inner nerd. I revel in my Greekness and in my Geekness. I have two lives—the mundane reality of life here on earth, and the far more interesting life in my head. I love ancient history, ancient forms of combat, target archery, sabre fencing, anything to do with horses, organic food, and sustainable farming. Most especially do I love science fiction and fantasy of all varieties, especially conventions, which are the only gatherings on earth where I can find many people just as strange