Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Tulips from Amster.....damn they're beautiful!

This weekend, Mr. DBM and I loaded our bikes into our car and headed south. We love our little excursions down to Seattle and surrounding areas, but there are a few things that tend to limit such forays. In order of bugging-me-ness:

1). The dreaded border
2). The cost of petrol
3). Seattle traffic and the length of the drive

Every time we go down, we swear we are not going again, but, overtime, the frustration wanes, the memories dim and the numb butt recovers feeling. So, the time had come to brave another trip across the border, into the land of the free.

On this trip, we decided on a new border crossing strategy - instead of getting up at "oh my God, its early" time to beat the border rush, we decided to take the laid back approach and wait for the initial early morning rush to run its course. We're in no rush, oh no, we have all the time in the world. By the time we managed to get our laid back bums in gear, it was 2pm as we approached the 49th parallel. All was going well until we made that fatal mistake, the one that seems to happen to everyone in every queue around the world - we picked the wrong one! Now, obviously, not everyone can end up in the slowest queue - someone has to be in the one next to me that is moving twice as fast as ours, but we always err on the slow side. When we finally get to the front of the queue we find out just what is holding up the line - a devious, sly, sneaky border guard who was asking really tough and tricky questions in the hope that he might uncover the next mastermind suicide bomber. And how does he do this? Well, the sly guy asks the same question, separated by two others, twice. I guess he must think that the mastermind terrorist can't keep track of their answers. "So, ma'am, what is your job?" "I am a lecturer." A couple of questions later........"What did you say you do for a living?" "I make bombs.........ooops, I mean that I am a lecturer in bomb mak.....I mean biology." I have to wonder if that strategy ever works for him?

Anyhoo, our answers seemed to satisfy and once we got across the border, it was all plain sailing, for all of about half an hour. Then it was an hour in a traffic jam through Bellingham. Our ETA for Seattle was pushed back by one hour. Not a problem, we weren't in a hurry. Of course, we hadn't factored in the fact that we were now late enough into the afternoon to hit the Saturday early evening rush into Seattle. Another hour in traffic, amidst all the fumes outside the car and the fuming inside the car. Just as we were about to despair of ever reaching our exit, or of ever escaping the god-forsaken stretch of road that is the I-5 just north of Seattle, I remembered the Green and Blacks that I had slipped into my bag earlier that day. Disaster was averted by two squares of chocolatey bliss and we finally arrived at our friend Js. Mr. DBM downed a beer, I downed a cider and all was well with the world again.

So, was the above worth it? Well, look at the photos and you tell me......

I have seen the tulip fields before, but the sight still amazes me. The colours are so vibrant and so intense. Blocks of colour that are so unexpected - reds, pinks, and purples, yellows and oranges all so bright that you think someone must have adjusted the colour saturation settings on the whole view. Where you expect to see green, you see magenta, where you expect to see cows or perhaps a couple of sheep, you see rows upon rows of regimented colour marching out into the near distance.

Of course, there were a lot of other people around, all out to bug me. I have posted before about how rude, inconsiderate and selfish people can be (see "OK, so I didn't have to call him a moron....... February 17, 2008) and how some people seem to think that rules are meant for other people but not them. That was all very evident here. There was the woman moving a bright orange cone that was there to keep the road clear - well, it was getting in the way of her husband trying to park his car so obviously it needed moving. Then there were all the people wandering down the rows of tulips, even though there were signs everywhere asking people to stay out of the tulips - well, how else can they get photos of their nearests and dearests surrounded by the tulips if they didn't venture in - the signs really didn't mean that you couldn't do that, did they? Oooh, and one of my all time favourites.....just as you have got your perfect shot lined up, some ignoramus walks in front of you. You very politely point out that you were in the middle of taking a photo and that his giant, oafish frame is now blocking your shot. Does he apologise and quickly vacate your photo? Oh no, the oaf just looks at you and then calls all of his family in to surround him to make sure that there is absolutely no way you can take the photo! Bloody hell! People really are very inconsiderate. That, or incredibly stupid - I am never quite sure which!?!

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Special Offer of the Day

I have been very busy recently making lots of arrangements for our next travel extravaganza. It is one of the things we do - we travel. We spend wad loads of cash on long holidays to exotic places to wallow in beauty and to seek out the most interesting and cutest animals that money can find. While people can always understand my obsession with cute - who can't resist an adorable baby elephant, an orang that is vaguely reminiscent of your youngest brother - must be the ginger thing, a kangaroo that will not take no for an answer and insists upon getting into your camper van, despite being threatened by Mr. DBM wielding a tyre iron, a flying fox dangling off your arm, it's beautiful brown eyes staring right into your eyes, oh, I could go on and on and on and on...........but I can see you might get bored. I can also hear you cry - "Hang on a minute, what this about a flying fox - a bat, cute!?!" See, here is where I start veering off from the general population in my animal obsession. I really do think that flying foxes are very cute. I also happen to think that weevils could possibly possess one of the most endearing faces in the animal kingdom. See, I like different, unusual, odd, rare, peculiar and out of the ordinary plants and animals.

I have been known to trek through the forests of Borneo to find the world's largest and, probably, ugliest and smelliest flower. Who wouldn't want to see a flower that looks and smells like a rotting hunk of meat? In Africa, when others were demanding elephants, me, I wanted to see vultures and I got really excited when we saw a secretary bird. It goes around stomping on lizards and snakes and, no, it doesn't do shorthand. I am overjoyed by sightings of antlions and pitcher plants, cockroaches and geckos, komodo dragons and any kind of frog, toad, salamander or newt. And I haven't even started on the other two thirds of our planet - underwater. Sea snakes and leafy sea dragons, pygmy sea horses and warty frogfish, not to mention night dives to see spanish dancers and spawning coral. I could spend all day trying to communicate with a cuttlefish. I plan entire holidays just to catch glimpses of sharks, be they great whites or whale sharks, wobbegongs or snaggletooths. In fact, the whole starting point for our gallivanting around the Galapagos is so that we can see the schools of hammerheads before their fins end up in someone's soup!

This has led me to wonder what fostered this fascination with all creatures great and small. I suspect the blame must lie in the direction of a certain Sir David Attenborough. Like most children, I spent many hours in front of the TV and, given the chance, I would be watching nature programs. My siblings may have had other ideas and I am now very capable of giving a mean deadleg due to hours of endless practice while fighting for control of the TV. Mr. DBM claims that he never fought with his family - just the odd bout of Greco - Roman wrestling. Now I have to wonder - whose family was the normal one? I have always assumed that siblings had all out fights about most things, but apparently not!?!

So, in my quest for unusual animals, and to fulfil every biologists dream, we are heading to South America and the Galapagos! Just think of all the odd animals I can find there. Marine iguanas (the only marine lizards) and all of the finches that allegedly inspired Darwin to come up with his Theory of Natural Selection, including the vampire finch - honestly, I kid you not, there is a vampire finch. They are particularly fond of the blood of my brother's favourite Galapagos attraction, the boobies. I keep trying to explain to him that they are birds, but whenever they are mentioned he zones out and I lose him for a while. There are the giant tortoises, flamingos and pelicans and my all time favourite and the cutest of birds, the Galapagos penguins, right on the equator! And, of course, let's not forget those hammerheads..........

The whole point of this post is not to make you jealous about my next holiday or bore you to death with a list of 1000 animals to see before you die. In fact, I am getting to the bit where something bugs me. When I tell someone what Mr. DBM and I are doing for our holidays, the normal response is: "Oooooh, aren't you lucky?" Well, that really bugs me. I will admit that my childhood upbringing had little to do with me. I did have a great childhood, thanks to my parents and, I can now see, although I couldn't at the time because we were too busy fighting, to my brothers and sister. But, I would like to think that a lot of the rest was not luck. I worked damned hard. I didn't go to a great school, but I worked hard at the school I did go to. As a student, I didn't spend all my time drinking beer and protesting student loans. I actually worked to get my degree. I then moved out to Canada and I was lucky to meet Mr. DBM - who had also done everything possible to get a good job with a good wage. No luck there. In reality, the main reason that we have the time and money to spend has nothing to do luck - although, wait, perhaps it has, if you count bad luck. The bad luck is that we can't have children. There are lots of downsides to this, the most important one being who the hell is going to look after us when we are old and smelly? But, there are definitely upsides. Loads of cash that doesn't have to be spent on nappies, food, electronic gadgets and education. No need for an inheritance. We don't have to worry about ruining the planet for our children or our children's children. As far as I am concerned, I have done my bit to save the planet by not having kids! Still, I can't help but wonder what life would have been like if we had been able to produce some little DBMs.......

So, the next time that I tell you that I am spending an arm, leg and right ear (the left one is too damaged to sell or trade) on a holiday, maybe you should be saying "Oooooh, aren't you unlucky!" And this finally leads us to the Special Offer of the Day - One exotic holiday to the Galapagos, an expensive camera to capture all those magical moments and cute and not so cute animals and a brand new 42", high definition TV to view all those wonderful photos. But wait, that's not all - I will also throw in an almost new car - how's that for a deal? How can anyone resist? And how much is all this going to cost you? Not four, not even three children. Hell, I am not even asking for two - just your first born is all that it will cost you!

Please note, this offer is not open to anyone with children between the ages of 13 and 21. You can keep them!

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Willow vs. the FURminator - Round 2

Round One went to Willow, but here you can see the results of Round Two - I think that the FURminator wins it by a hair! I will admit that this is not the result of just one session with the FURminator, but rather many, very short sessions. Thankfully, all my body parts are still intact and no blood was shed during furmination, although I did come close to losing my ear again today - yep, same one as last time, and no, I have not yet invested in some ear protection.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Revolvingly Good Lamb

Finally - a gorgeous, warm, sunny and perfect Barbeque Day. Time to try out the new barbeque........

Mediterranean Lamb Marinade

5-7 lbs lamb joint - preferably no bone, rolled and tied
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp onion salt
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced

Mix all ingredients and marinade lamb for 4-6 hours or longer. Don't chuck the marinade away once you are done, since you will need it when cooking the lamb.

Preheat barbeque to a medium heat - you want to cook the lamb with an indirect heat, nice and slowly, so that it stays nice and tender. Before skewering your lamb, pan sear each side of the joint over high heat to seal in all those lovely juices. Then skewer the lamb on the rotisserie and place on barbeque. Turn on rotisserie and watch the joint go round and round and round and round...... Once you are bored with this, go find a nice cool drink and relax in the sun. All you have to do now is come back every 20 - 30 minutes to baste the lamb with your marinade. It will take around 2-3 hours, depending on how hot your barbeque is. We left our's until the internal temperature was 145 degrees F - gives medium rare lamb that is still nice and pink in the centre. Make sure you let the joint rest for 20 minutes or so before carving.

While waiting for the lamb, you have lots of time to drink, chat, beat your friends at poker - we won a truck, but then felt sorry for R. since he had no way to get home. You also have time to make some beautiful roast potatoes - my absolute favourite way to do potatoes, possibly because it is probably the unhealthiest way to do potatoes. Oh well.......

Yummylicious Roast Potatoes

However many potatoes you want
A small amount of flour
Salt and Pepper
Lots of oil

Peel and quarter potatoes. Boil some salted water in a large pot and cook potatoes for 5 minutes. Drain, then bung the potatoes in a bag with the flour and seasonings. Shake, shake, shake until the potatoes are covered in the flour. Now you need to heat some oil in a pan - I used the oil left over from searing the lamb, since it had lots of tasty bits in it. Fry the potatoes until they start to turn golden. After the boiling and the frying comes the baking. You need to do this at a fairly high temp - around 400 degrees F and it is very important to get the oil very hot before you add the potatoes - if you don't, your potatoes will stick to the bottom of the pan and you will swear a lot when you can't get them out. Pop the potatoes into the oven and cook for around 1 hour - I turn mine over after about 40 minutes.

There you have it - the tenderest lamb I have ever tasted and the best ever roast potatoes.

Many thanks to R. for providing the marinated lamb and to D. for the wonderful barbeque. It took a while to get it together, but it was worth it.

I am now going to find some thermal underwear and I am very happy I bought that down jacket last week - it was sleeting yesterday and they are forecasting snow for this weekend. Come on global warming, I am waiting.......

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Mr. Lee's Catcam

I often wonder what my cats are up to when I am gone during the day. I imagine them sitting there, waiting for Mr. DBM and me to leave. They pretend that they are asleep, but really they have one eye half open and are watching and waiting, waiting, waiting. As soon as the door closes, woohoo!!! and all hell breaks loose. Cats on the countertop, licking unmentionable parts, claws are embedded into my new sofa, fur is flying. Cats are sliding down the banisters, swinging on the light fixtures, and making faces at the neighbour dogs as they walk by. I imagine them raiding the cupboards, rolling in cat food (it's OK, they only get dry food), opening cans of tuna and snorting vast quantities of catnip. Tess will be eating bubble wrap, while Willow will be knocking over houseplants. Perhaps they will be torturing each other with the FURminator, having hairball hucking contests or indulging in a bit of toad licking. Maybe they might try surfing the web, looking for the best prices for cat toys on eBay or, God forbid, looking at naked cat photos!?! The possibilities are endless. Let's just be grateful that they don't have opposable thumbs. If they did, they would be able to open cupboard doors, operate the can opener and open their catnip container. It just doesn't bear thinking about. Also, all that endless fun they have chasing small rolly things around on very slippery floors would be gone - they would just pick up the rolly thing and be done with it - oooh, we are back to Eddie Izzard.......

So, I have been flirting with the idea of installing cameras in my house so that I can keep an eye on them. But then I thought about it and decided that I don't really need to watch my cats sleeping - let's be realistic, that is what they actually do all day. Some days when I leave in the morning, Tess will be asleep on my bed. When I get home, Tess will be asleep on my bed. I do wonder if she actually does anything else all day or if she really has spent the entire day asleep on my bed, but I don't think finding the answer to this burning question really justifies the expense of cameras.

Cameras in the house are out, but what about cameras out of the house? I would love to know what Willow gets up to and where Willow goes when she is outside the house. Obviously, she spends a lot of her time running from the back door round to the front door, but there are times when she ventures further afield. Where does she go? What does she see? Does she ever really get accosted by coyotes or packs of roving racoons? You see, this is one of my biggest fears and the main reason that I don't want my cats out at night. I am terrified that they will be eaten by some big hairy coyote or ripped to pieces by ravenous raccoons. If Willow isn't in by 9pm, I start to worry. I go out and peer into the darkness, wondering helplessly where she is. I start calling her name, hoping that I will hear the little tinkle that is her bell. When that doesn't work, I resort to the shaking of the treat bag, trying to lure her back home with the promise of food. If that doesn't work, I may play the T card - that will surely work. The other night, it didn't, and that got me really worried. Nothing stops my cats responding to the T word, unless they entombed within the belly of some carnivorous beast. So I go back inside, just wishing I had some way of knowing where she is. Five minutes later, there she is, meowing at the window and all is well in the DBM household.

Having done extensive research in the field of cat gadgets, I have found some options for keeping track of my furry felines. The first one that I came across was Mr. Lee's catcam - Mr. Lee is pictured above. It consists of a small camera in a waterproof case that you fix to your cat's collar. It then takes a picture at five minute intervals as your cat does its rounds of the neighbourhood. I did think that I could try this with my Nikon D80, since I do have a waterproof housing for it. I figured I would always know where my cat was if I did this - exactly where I left her! (The thing weighs about 20lbs)! I like the idea of the catcam, but it doesn't really solve my problem. It would not help me find my cat, it would just tell me where she had been. I imagine scanning through the photos after her return and seeing photos of claws and teeth, gaping maws with hellish teeth, saliva dripping onto the camera (good job it has a waterproof case). The cat would then be condemned to a life indoors, never to see the light of day again. I could try the camera on Tess, but I really don't need to see endless photos of various duvets - I know what my bedding looks like!

So, I moved on to explore the possibilities of remote tracking and GPS. Mr. Lee is also the proud owner of a GPS tracking system. This allows you to download GPS data onto your computer and then overlay the results onto Google Earth. Pretty cool, uh? It still suffers from the problem that your cat has to return in order to retrieve the information. I then found the LoCATor - notice the clever use of capitals to highlight the word cat. The webpage is great. It tells you how you can use this device to track your cat, horse, child, demented parent, with this device. I can just imagine stalking the wilds of my neighbourhood with my aerial and headphones, getting worried glances from neighbours wondering who has lost grandma. No, not going to work, it is just too obtrusive and quite frankly embarrassing. Then I found the Pet Tracker - the answer to all my problems. It is GPS based and you can access the location of your pet from any warm, comfy, lazy location you chose, since you can access the unit via a cell phone from anywhere in the world. Now we are talking! Unfortunately, it is not yet for sale or I would be on the web, ordering one as we speak.

So, there are some of the options available to you to keep track of whatever it is you want to keep track of. My biggest fear, if I got one of the GPS tracking systems, is that I would track down my cat, only to find one fat, well fed and content coyote!

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

The day I nearly lost an ear

I decided after my last post that I was moving on - no more hair / fur / doormat posts. But then I discovered the FURminator. A friend recommended it and after going to the website I was seduced into parting with a ridiculous amount of money for a grooming tool. The claims made by the website were amazing - reduces shedding by up to 90%, guaranteed to reduce shedding better than any brush, comb or rake, reduce shedding for about four to six weeks, nominated by Tufts University School of Veterinarian Medicine’s newsletter as the number one product to reduce hairballs in cats - Mr. DBM will be particularly pleased with this one, since he doesn't appreciate getting up at 5am and stepping in a cold pile of cat vomit, especially since he doesn't wear slippers - urgh. I am not overly fond of that either and being woken up at 3am by a cat hucking up a hairball is not exactly pleasant. Anyhoo, if you don't believe me, go to the website and have a look - they have pictures of dogs and cats surrounded by all the hair that the FURminator has removed in one session. They even have video clips - the hair is coming out in handfuls. I swear that there is enough hair there to make another dog or cat and I am surprised that the animal being FURminated doesn't end up bald.

Being a somewhat sceptical person, I thought, hang on a minute, this is the FURminator website, of course they are going to say their product is wonderful. So, before rushing out and parting with my hard earned cash, I did a spot of web browsing, looking for negative comments, for reasons not to buy this too-good-to-be-true product, but to no avail. Everyone loves it, best thing ever, worth every penny, why didn't I buy one sooner, my dog, cat, rabbit, horse, ferret, two-toed sloth loves it. How can I fight that? Off to the pet store I go...........

So, if the FURminator is so wonderful, how come I nearly lost an ear? Well, once I get home, I eagerly unpack my FURminator. Two hours later, after much swearing, grumbling , hunting for some scissors, since mine are not where they are supposed to be, and general annoyance, I have the FURminator out of its plastic cocoon - I HATE plastic packaging - this goes way beyond bugging me - and it, along with plastic shopping bags, should be banned. Better get back to the point, because I could get really sidetracked by this. So here I am, the proud new owner of a FURminator, champing at the bit, ready to defur any cat that comes my way. But wait - shouldn't I read the instructions first? I suppose and since there were no cats within arm's reach, I quickly scanned the dos and don'ts - do make sure the fur is dry - check. Do make sure the coat is clean - check. Don't use on skin with sores, cuts or abrasions - check. Don't use on coats with mats or tangles - check, oh wait, no, I had better check Willow. And this is where things started going downhill and my relationship with my beautiful, soft, furry, nasty, wicked and mean cat took a turn for the worse. Since I really want to use the FURminator, I get out the dreaded comb, sit Willow on my lap and grit my teeth - I will get rid of all tangles. Next thing I know, her teeth are embedded in my left ear lobe and then she is gone. Well, am I going to let her get away with that? Oh no, so I scoop her up, wrap her top half in a blanket and get to work on her bottom half. That lasted all of 3 seconds. Off she goes again. I retrieve her again. Three more seconds of grooming. This goes on for a while until I give up and let her outside. She flounces off to her bed under the stairs and sits glaring at me with her best grumpy face on. So, do I give up on all my high hopes for the FURminator. Oh no - I have another cat.......

Here are the results - one session with the FURminator. Pretty amazing, uh? I am pretty sure that I could have got another cat's worth of fur, but even Tess has her limits and her claws. So, while I cannot, in all honesty, say that my cats loved it, I can say that it did what it claimed. Now all I have to do is persuade Willow that it is not a tool of the devil and will not inflict any serious or long-lasting damage, but, before I do that, I think that I might invest in some ear protection!

Friday, 4 April 2008

Some furscinating facts.

After my last couple of posts about a furry cat and a doormat, I got to thinking about hairy facts and decided it was time to hit Google, Wikipedia and delve into my vast internal library of biological knowledge to come up with some fun facts about fur, or should I say hair?

So, hair is the furst question - am I going to start annoying people if I keep making hair and fur jokes? Well, I suppose you can always stop reading......no! Don't do that, I'm sorry, I shall try and restrain myself.

Actually, the first question is - is there any difference between hair and fur? After some extensive research here is what I have found:

There is no difference! Well, that was easy. There is no difference, at least in terms of chemical composition, between hair and fur. Despite this, there are many different opinions on the difference.

Here is one: Fur stops growing after a certain length and hair keeps growing until it falls out or is cut. Interestingly, this will depend on the hair follicle. Some follicles have a long growth phase, resulting in long hair, while some follicles have a short growth phase, resulting in short fur. Different follicles also have different cycle times. If the follicle has a short cycle time, the hair or fur will be shed frequently, while those with a long cycle time will be shed less frequently. In Spring, fur/hair is shed more frequently - hence my many dust bunnies, and then in summer hair/fur can enter an inactive phase, resulting in a shorter, summer coat.

Another definition: Fur is shorter and denser and forms a thick coat made up of several layers while hair is longer, coarser and sparser. Well, that definitely makes my cats furry and not hairy, which is as I suspected.

Here is one from diffen.com - All mammals are covered in hair, but all non-mammal hair is fur. This means that humans can't be furry, but I would beg to differ on that, since I have seen examples of men with very furry backs - shudder. It also states that fur is shorter and coarser than hair, but trust me, you don't get any softer than my Willow (and I am talking about her fur, not her mental status!)

Now that we have got that one cleared up, let's move on to some furscinating facts.

The longest human hair - Xie Qiuping, a Chinese woman with hair that is 5.627 m (18 ft 5.54 in). While marvelling at the fact that she and twenty other people could sit on her hair, I noticed another hairy world record - the longest ear hair. This belongs to Radhakant Bajpai of India. It is 13.2 cm (5.19 in) long. He has more hair in his ears than many men have on their heads! I wonder if he would try combing it over if he ever went bald? I tried to find the longest nose hair, but to no avail. The longest eyebrow hair is 3.5 inches, but I suspect one of my brother's could probably beat that! I suddenly feel the need to go and pluck my eyebrows and shave various parts of my body......

Talking of going bald - male pattern baldness. Hair today, gone tomorrow...... It is genetic and is passed down on the X chromosome. To all you guys out there suffering from this affliction - this means that you should blame your mother, not your father, since she gives you your X chromosome. I have to say that comb overs really bug me. Please don't do it! Bald men can be very attractive - Jean Luc Picard can drive my spaceship anytime!

The longest animal hair - or should I say fur? - belongs to the muskox, a very furry animal closely related to goats and sheep, that live in the cold, white North. Their fur is highly prized for its softness, length, and insulative value and the yarn can fetch between $50 and $100 per ounce. Wow, maybe Mr. DBM and I should get into farming muskoxen...... we've always wanted a house, with land and chickens and a few dozen muskoxen......oh dear, I just found out that they tend to die of pneumonia when shaved. So much for that plan!

The polar bear has transparent hair and black skin. I always thought that the transparent hair was supposed to act as a fibre optic tube to transmit the sun down to the base of the hair, where it is absorbed by the black skin. Scientists have since shown that polar bear hairs do not transmit light to the skin - it is all one big fat myth! I am very dissappointed. How can I show my vast intellect by informing people about this fact when it is not true! Damn it, now I have to find another interesting fact about the polar bear to keep the myth of my intellect alive. Ooooh, I just found one. Did you know that some polar bears may actually turn green when kept in warm, humid conditions? This is due to algae that start to grow inside their hair!

The mammal with the densest fur - the sea otter. They have 150 thousand strands of hair per square centimetre (nearly one million per square inch) and are the only sea mammals that use fur rather than blubber for insulation. I haven't actually tried counting Willow's hair, but I am sure she must be pretty close.

This blog would not be complete without a mention of some of our less hairy mammalian relatives. Let's get naked! The first naked mammal that comes to mind has to be the naked mole rat. Incredibly ugly but endlessly fascinating. First of all, it is unique among mammals due to the fact that it is cold blooded. This means that it cannot regulate its own body temperature but relies on the temperature of its surroundings. Since they live in tunnels underground where the temperature does not fluctuate greatly, this seems to work. They have very low metabolic rates, requiring much less oxygen compared to more active and warm-blooded mammals and their skin is insensitive to pain. The most interesting thing about these follicley-challenged creatures is their eusocial behaviour. This type of behaviour is usually associated with the insect world - think bees, ants and termites, and it involves living in a colony with closely related siblings. There is a division of labour with different castes and cooperative caring for the young. In bees, there is a queen bee who lays all the eggs. Most of the offspring are female workers - all sisters - who run the colony. When there is a need for more sperm, a few drones are produced, the sperm is acquired and then it is back to girl power! In naked mole rats, there is also one queen, but she does keep a couple of males around to service her needs. The offspring form the workers who may end up as tunnellers or soldiers or nannies for the young. One last thing before I am done - naked mole rats can live up to 20 years, which is a long time for a relatively small rodent. Apparently, it is because they sleep a lot. Based on that, I should live until I am at least 125, what with all my afternoon naps. I think I may have to adjust my pension plan!

There are, of course, many other naked or nearly naked mammals, the most obvious being all those wonderfully smooth and streamlined aquatic mammals such as dolphins and whales. Then there are the not so smooth or streamlined nearly naked land mammals, such as the hippos and elephants. There are also several breeds of naked dogs and cats, such as the mexican hairless dog and the sphynx cat. I never quite know whether to laugh or cry when I see these poor creatures. I am not sure what the point is in breeding a naked animal which you then have to knit sweaters and coats for or slather up with sunscreen before taking letting them outside!?! I know there is the allergy argument, but since most people are actually allergic to the protein in cat saliva, this may not be valid. Perhaps someone could enlighten me on that one? Thinking about it, I can see one advantage - you will never end up with a cat that looks like a doormat and a $400 vet bill!

I would like to finish this hair raising and furbulous post by saying that an animal's fur belongs on said animal and not on the back of some skinny, rich b#%*h. Having said that, I have always thought that Tess and Willow would make a nice pair of gloves.......