Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What Makes a Classic?


Above is my granddaughter sitting in the basement TV room of my daughter's house watching TV.  She has self-dressed this morning in a black velvet and red-silk Christmas dress with a "diamond" clipped waist bow.  Since it is winter, she has on leggings with orange stripes and her favorite pink-colored socks.  She reminds me of Pippi Longstalking in this funky outfit with a polka dot headband for some more bling.  She will not let anyone touch her hair and wears pigtails only to school.  The rest of the time it must flow with tangled abandon.  One of her favorite movies is Tangled...surprise, surprise.

Here she sits watching the 1930 movie version of A Christmas Carol with Reginald Owen.  I think she is enthralled because the ghost of Christmas past looks a little like the Good Witch in the Wizard of Oz and she is also very much into that tale right now.  She was Dorothy from Oz at Halloween.  She followed this entire movie without break.

I am fascinated that such a classic in black and white and without special effects can hold the interest of a three-year-old in 2010.  It seems a clean story told simply and with universal themes to an un-jaded mind can hold its own and becomes a classic!  What do you think?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Gifting

These are two silver ornaments that are part of the centerpiece on my dining table.
Last year at this time I opened a virtual trunk filled with presents for my bloggers to add to their winter holiday celebrations.  I tried to keep it diverse and filled with love.  I think that some may have enjoyed that because the sizes were correct and the colors were perfect and the style...well, I always have style, don't I?  One of my gifts was not 'just right' for a certain someone and I miss him every single blogging day.  But I cannot help but think he can read blogs without restraint now, and while mine may not be the first blog he reads each day, I know he will get around to it eventually.  I am hoping that whatever holiday you celebrate or honor with holy remembrance in December, it is filled with memories of loved ones now and forever and that you have some wonderful seasonal music to enjoy along with those memories and some delicious seasonal food.  (Like many of you I will be away for the weekend...missing blogging...but loving the time with loved ones.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Shortest Day


(Been here and done this...so please be patient with me.)

I grab my down coat and pull it over my pajamas and then slip into my plastic clogs still wearing my woolly slipper socks.  The sun is up but it is having a tough time burning through the heavy cold winter fog although the morning is well underway.  There is no wind, so my coat will be perfect in protecting me from winter's breath.

Grabbing my ever-present camera, I plod down to the dock being careful that I do not slip on the thin coating of frost that covers everything on this early morning turning all surfaces to slippery diamond dust.  Snow is predicted, but this is lovely enough for me right now.

Winter is here and while I still marvel at its stark beauty, I also know that I prefer the other three seasons more as I age.  Winter means I have to move more carefully, I have to dress in layers before I go outside, and the dark of night comes before the dinner hour and lasts well after I get up in the morning.  I am a Mediterranean baby.

Today is my birthday and I used to wonder with resentment why I was born on the shortest day of the year...but now I think it is because my birth is the harbinger of longer days to come and the beginning of the return of spring.  I now view my birthday as sign of good things to come!  I am the bearer of good news.

And look what Gaia brought me as a present early on my day of celebration...an eclipse of the moon!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Update

A follow up to the post below I took Hilary's advice (she is an angel as well as punny and an excellent photographer) and while the *.jpg search did not reveal them it did lead me to another of Windows processes called Recovery (I had used a free restore software without success) and lo and behold I think I got about 80% of them in the two corrupted folders.  I am missing some interesting photos on people and their dogs...a new series I am compiling for myself.  Still don't know where some of them went.  My neighbor lost his Windows PC in a lightning storm and now swears by Linux after he built his new PC...if I only was a little smarter.  OK...if only I was a LOT smarter.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The National Tree

I could not resist posting this photo of the National Tree in front of the White House with the Washington Monument in the background.  The star on top of the tree is being backlit by the winter morning sun.  It was somewhat breathtaking in the cold morning air.  The workers were around on all sides busily taking down fences, collapsing cold metal chairs and removing about an acre of snap-together flooring that had been installed for the tree lighting ceremony just a few days before.  The state trees standing in a circle around the big tree, which were fenced off at the time I was there, seemed smaller then when I saw them years ago.  They were only 3 feet high!  Such is recession I am guessing or maybe it is because we are trying to be green?  I know it is not because I have grown taller!  The National Tree greenery is almost hidden and weighted down by the strings of decorations and lighting.  It is sort of an instant decoration kind of thing.

There is a sad postscript to this photo above.  I had just lost all the photos I took in December.  None of my photos are publishable or worth turning into artwork, but they are mine and hold all my December memories and I am sick about this.  This photo and about 500 others are gone, gone, gone.  I did not delete them.  Something very similar to this happened last September when I was working with about 1,000 photos from my Canada trip and tagging them in my software and 100 from the first file disappeared.  A file recovery did not work.

I use PhotoShop Elements 8 which allows me to index photos by adding subject tags, people tags and even GEO/place tags.  I spent several hours going through bird photos tagging them by species and when I was all done, I checked my email and when I came back the entire December folder and most of the Bird folder were missing their files! Nothing was in my recycle bin and I couldn't find them using Windows Explorer.  Therefore, they were not just disconnected from the photo catalog in PSE8...they were gone!  I have tried to find the solution on the web but mostly Adobe just tells people they must have done something wrong because the software does not delete files by itself...!

I have been reasonably good about backing up photos either on CDs or another hard drive I have...but I only do that once a month, so missed that opportunity by a few days as I was still reviewing and weeding files.  I will get over this.  It is not someone's wedding or birthday photos...just my crap...my precious crap!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Legs



It is said that one goal in life is to grow old gracefully...

On short stubby legs the goal in life was to learn to walk and not fall, to cover as much of the huge world's surface before nap-time and then the next day to learn to run.
On longer, coordinated, energetic legs the goal was to make the goal, to beat the boys, to win the races, to get there first.
On shapely legs the goal was to walk on red stilted shoes without twisting an ankle and with studied grace, and to ignore the cold drafts as the skirts were kept short and the legs were kept bare throughout the long winter.
On efficient nylon-covered legs and librarian style heels the goal was to meet the deadlines and hurry home to feed the short stubby legs without a stumble in the same day.
On varicose and freckled and not-yet-shaved legs the goal was to keep them hidden from critical eyes and be thankful you didn't need a walker or cane like your Aunt.
On arthritic legs the goal was to push through the pain and stiffness and to dance every single dance on through the long wedding evening.
Now the goal is to rise out of bed each morning and learn to walk once again and cover as much of the huge world's surface before nap-time and to be thankful you don't want to run.


Those were the days...!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Reflecting On A 'Reasonable' Request



Years ago when I was in my twenties and thirties I was a big American football fan. I started my interest while in college watching various college football games and then male friends spurred (?...in oh so many ways?) my interest in professional football.  I knew the players and the team rankings.  I think it was after my children were all potty-trained that I realized I had outgrown this sport. The talking heads talked way too much, the replays from every angle possible went on too long and the drugs and money were too mind boggling for me to look at these guys as athletes anymore. I began to see that a 10 second play took more than three minutes to review/discuss/repeat.  (This was not the fall of the Berlin Wall, after all.)  Football is now the absolutely SLOWEST game on the planet in a culture that encourages video games with numerous explosions and demolition derbies.  In America there are homes where games can be on back to back for 9 hours on a weekend day!  When get-togethers were just the blood relatives I would busy myself with cleaning up dishes after Thanksgiving or watching something else somewhere else while the gang watched their games.

Today if there is a game (and puleeze when isn't there a game?) I retreat to read in the bedroom or hubby heads to our TV downstairs while I watch something I had previously recorded.  If the game becomes a bore, he re-joins me in a short time.  A few weekends ago I had planned a nice dinner for my daughter, who with two little ones and a pending child, rarely gets a break.  I selected several CD's for nice casual dining atmosphere and had them playing.  When they all arrived I was outside on the deck handling a small emergency for my husband involving a deer, a gun and the neighbors.  I was greeted on the deck by daughter and kids but after 10 minutes wondered where S.I.L. was.  I went back inside to find he had turned off the music and turned on the football game.  He was standing watching it even before he had greeted his host or hostess!  I let him know in no uncertain terms that I at least expected a hug and greeting BEFORE football took his total attention!  This real issue, which a mother-in-law will bravely admit, is that I do not get a chance to visit with my daughter as I would like because she is the one babysitting while her husband is watching the game.  There are some men that can do two things at one time...but I do not know many of them.

My son's 'new' girlfriend recently turned 33.  She had planned a birthday party at her house with the theme on threes.  She set up her Ipod for her favorite music.  She had cooked various meals with three ingredients or three in the name but was dismayed to find when she emerged with snacks from her kitchen the guys had turned off her Ipod speakers and turned on the TV for their Alma Mater game!  Their argument was that it was THEIR college and they really wanted to see this.  Her argument was that it was HER birthday and she wanted conversation and music!  She, being the hostess and knowing her mind, won.

Does anyone else find football addiction as rude and intrusive as I do?  Shouldn't the hostess be the one to determine if she wants a pseudo tail-gate party or an actual get-together where you play games or talk with friends and family or break-up into sports and mind groups?  If someone says lets get together and eat before the game...that is different.  But does every weekend get-together have to be a game day?  Am I being hopelessly narrow-minded or very naive or heading down a path of no return?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Thursday Thoughts 13... #30: Blogging Along

Doesn't this look so neat and clean   ;-)

  1. According to my Blogger statistics readers have searched and found my blog with the phrase "i think too far ahead" and "bad karma stories."  Is that flattering or scary and should I be concerned?
  2. I used to have 58 followers here.  I know that is not many for those of you in the solid 3 and even 4 figures, but I lost one follower the other day.  Was it something I wrote?  That hurts because while I love my followers I am not very good at cultivating them. A 'princess' has joined my entourage since I wrote this...so I am back to 58...no back to 57!  Did I lose another one?
  3. I am currently using '50.7%' of my Picasa photo storage for Blogger.  As a person who took almost 900 photos just last month and deleted only 400, the fear of the eventual need to upgrade storage in my blog photos stalks my every post.
  4. I am trying to wean myself from checking Blogger a half dozen times a day (or more!) when I am home alone.  I need to enrich my life, I guess.  I am so addicted to your comments and to the fact that you read what I say and I even do not mind criticism (polite suggestions on viewing things a little differently) although most bloggers are too polite.  Maybe I could be Fran Lebowitz and not care what people think.
  5. I also am dismayed by the bloggers that I link to that have quit posting...I just can't seem to find the courage to remove those links from my list.  I also feel the same way about FB.  People befriend me and then NEVER post anything!  I wish I had the courage to defriend them as they have become stalkers in my mind...but they KNOW me, so it is not as easy to do as it might be in my blogging network.
  6. I actually am trying to consciously keep my blogger reader demographics broad.  I know that I have much in common with those my age and with my interests, but for the same reason I will never live in a retirement community, I am trying to proactively add younger readers and readers with different views to my lists.
  7. If you think you have been blogging a long time, the first blog (daily online journal) was published electronically in 1994 by a young man named Justin Hall and the link to that blog is still ongoing and here.
  8. In 2004, "blog" was the word of the year...I didn't know they had a word-of-the-year.  I am so stupid sometimes.
  9. The precursor in naming a blogger or online journalist was escribitionist.  Maybe that should be a word of the year.  (Colleen, see if you can work that into your next Scrabble game.)
  10. I look at blogging as chapters of a diary of someone's life and Facebook as the footnotes (which are sometimes more like anecdotes or my   daily boring life activity notes).
  11. Is it true that a new blog is created every second around the world?  How many die every second?
  12. Perhaps the most important change blogging has made is allowing social activism from the smallest 'end of the tail' and not just from the large and 'popular' opinions.  Information is powerful, especially when we find others thinking like us.
  13. The most important change for me is learning that you do not have to meet someone face to face to get to know them and sometimes there is a little magic that happens in blogland and we become very good friends.  I can remember how shy and intimidated I was about blogging when I first started.  

Sunday, December 05, 2010

One-liners.

Working on Thursday Thoughts... and since, perhaps, some of you are stopping at the blogger bar on the way home hoping to find some lovin' comfort here is all I could dredge up between now and then.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Happy Shopping Day



In the 'Western' world during the months of November and December we go through an amazing transformational panic to try and buy things for gifts that can show our loved ones, our enemies and our bosses (with which have that love/hate thing going) that we are smart, efficient, rich and worthwhile as human beings.  Each gift purchase opens us to years of angst and cringing if we get it wrong.  We have a religious holiday called Black Friday which follows the Thursday of Thanksgiving and devout pilgrims of this procurement ceremony Friday wait in long lines outside malls and stores in the dark of earliest morning drinking hot drinks and chatting amiably only to be seriously maimed or even trampled to death by their greedy fellow shoppers when the store opens before the sun rises.  This is followed by a recent acquisition holiday called Cyber Monday where the rest of the rich sit on their fat butts in front of computer screens checking their emails and tweets and perusing the web sites of their favorite stores for that deal of deals...sometimes forgetting they are buying for others and find something that they will buy for their greedy selves.

Well, I have an idea.  Now that both of those important signpost days have passed, and if you still have empty places on your list of gifts for loved ones and un-loved ones, you might consider these socially conscious shopping sites for a change:

CharityGiftCertificates.org

GiftsThatGive.com

Globalexchangestore.org

Globalgirlfriend.com

Goodshop.com

Teesforchange.com

WorldofGood.com

I have gotten these links from reliable sources but I have not actually used them...yet...and, if you really want to get into the spirit, go to your local big box store and buy a few cases of non-perishable food items (some of your favorite stuff AND something healthy) and drop it off at your local food bank.

Happy Shopping.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Ship of Life


(My prior post was about shipwrecks...so I will continue the theme.)

Life is something that has its own energy and schedule and pace even though we think we can control this ship of state fate.  We are here only as passengers on this ride, and while we try to steer the ship as best as possible, we are not aware of hidden shoals or unpredictable zephyrs that will delay our progress or throw us way way off course.

The stylish lady in the photo above was my mother-in-law.  The gentle beauty on her face reveals what a good and generous person she was.  She grew up in a small town in Michigan.  Her parents ran a sometimes successful photography shop with her father giving his work away and her mother holding customers strictly to paying their bills.  This dance between the two of them provided a reasonable income for the family and respect in the community.  She also had a younger brother.  As a teenager she probably had the best start in life that anyone could ask for.  Her life was like a Mickey Rooney movie.

But her ship was destined to go through a number of perfect storms. After high school she used her lovely singing voice and sang for several large mid-west orchestras before she went on the vaudeville road.  While in vaudeville she met and married another singer whose love of alcohol destroyed the marriage.  This was a terrible embarrassment during that time as divorce was something discussed only in whispers.  Then another hidden shoal, a goiter, brought her singing career to an abrupt halt.  She returned home broken but unbowed to help her father in his shop.  Her second husband (my husband's father) fell in love with her photograph when dropping off some film and pursued her until she married him.

He had been married before and had three children.  His first marriage broke up violently and his drinking probably contributed to that.  My mother-in-law was not going to give up on another marriage and stuck by his violent outbursts and his frequent job changes and many moves, and in her late thirties gave birth to my husband.  My husband was the golden child doted on by both parents and probably very much the reason the marriage held together.  She also became a binge drinker when life got too stressful and after her son moved to college which contributed to bringing fog to the years as she aged.

During this time her only brother, who had married and had a daughter, was badly beaten in a robbery in California and his brain was so damaged that he never returned to full mental capacity leaving his family to struggle through poverty.  There were rumors that he had been visiting a prostitute at the time.  It broke my M.I.L.'s heart.

A decade later after her mother's death (the stronger soldier in the parental unit) my mother-in-law had to put her father in a rest home in Virginia because her husband could not bear to see him aging and would not let him live with them.  She was very close to her father and this must have been almost unbearable for her to drop him off among strangers so far from what both of them knew as home.

Years past and I met her as the single daughter-in-law.  I knew my own mind and my independence was probably a little strange to her.  Within weeks after the birth of my first child I watched her go through some serious heart surgery and then a few years later watched her manage the 24-hour care of her husband who had emphysema from his years of smoking.  She survived in spite of our fear that she would pass first.  After she was widowed she came to live near us, and then eventually moved in with us, as her dementia set in.  I am of the opinion that dementia can bring blissful routine when yesterday's tragedies are pretty much forgotten.

The last years of her life as she stayed with us, she was sure she was visiting with her brother and his wife and going home as soon as she felt better.  We went along with the painful charade because she was a very special person and it was easier that way.  Perhaps her life would have been much different if just one of those storms went off-track.  But, then again, perhaps not.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Little Bay

There were 20 tons of bolt metal per ship.
I live in the mid-Atlantic and am surrounded by interesting history.  There is a ghostly and mystical place nearby that I had always wanted to visit, but did not have the opportunity until recently when the access had been created.  This was another one of those special canoe trips.  There is something about a canoe that lets you slide right up and hear the ghost's sigh and smell the ancient air and sneak behind the bright day to snatch the history.  Besides you really cannot get deeply into this shallow and maze-ridden area by anything other than a canoe or kayak.



This place is a little embayment just off the Potomac River called Mallows Bay.  The day was almost cold and certainly eerily gray and misty with lots of exotic shadows.  Perfect for a ghostly paddle into and over some history.  The cries of a few water birds and the crash of leaves from the rare startled deer in the forest on the shore were about all we heard...except...well let me not get ahead of myself.  First, here is a little history, greatly shortened for there is a whole book on this area.



We have to go back to 1917 and WWI.  President Woodrow Wilson put out a call for building many more ships (ten times more) as we entered this war since we were going to move quickly and supply an American Army in Europe to defeat the Germans.  Because metal ship building was too slow and expensive, an engineer suggested the building of 1000 cheaper wooden cargo steamships to send across the Atlantic and past the many German submarines.  (I wondered if it even crossed the engineer's mind about the greater danger to those sailors making the crossing on these more fragile ships.)  Eighty-seven shipyards across the United States from the east to the west coasts got contracts to build this armada.  Bureaucratic delays and ineptitude and Germany's eventual surrender came as over 100 ships were completed with few to none crossing the Atlantic.  But an additional 200 ships continued to be built as the war wound down, and even as there were charges of poor assembly, leaky design and over contract budgets, the construction continued...sound familiar?


Eventually the fleet was mothballed along the James River at a large expense to the American taxpayer and finally offered for sale 'as is.'  A Virginia marine salvage company bought many for salvage of the metal, but accidental fires and sinking of vessels at their shipyard compromised nearby navigation and threatened the important shad fishery in the area.  The company was forced to move to the more remote area known as Mallows Bay and a massive facility was built to rapidly move this salvage operation along.  In one day a large number that had been towed to the area were torched in the shallow waters to reduce them immediately for metal salvage.  I cannot imagine the water pollution that resulted and the skies filling with acrid smoke.


The area soon became a graveyard for the remaining ships buried there because the stock market crash of the 1920's brought the price of scrap metal to a new low halting salvage operations.  Other entrepreneurial development near the salvage operation included bootleggers and floating brothels.  They were less accessible to the long arm (paddle) of the law due to the abandoned shipwrecks making navigation dangerous in the waters.  Of the 285 steamships built, approximately 152 ended up in this bay and today the remaining 80 or so lie at rest in all states of deterioration.  

The area became important once again when the advent of WWII renewed the value of scrap metal, but this value was only temporary.  The area was soon abandoned and now efforts are being made to keep it as an historic sight and as nature has grown to reclaim the area, an environmentally rich artificial reef has formed.  There has been some wheeling and dealing of a shady nature in recent decades due to the valuable real estate.  Only time will tell how protected the area will remain.


While quietly and carefully going between the sunken hulls and avoiding the dangerously protruding metal spikes that could poke a hole in our aluminum canoe, we did hear, without warning and with breath-taking suddenness, a single large explosion that boomed across the glassy waters' surface and broke the quiet air.  We held our breath waiting.  It must have been from the military testing base nearby, because, after a while, no helicopters or boats raced down the river toward the sound.  Just a ghostly and frightening reminder of wars, I guess.


These photos were taken at high tide and I hope to return in the summer at a low tide for even more interesting shots.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Post TG

Just a little update.  She appears to be a keeper and we are waiting with baited breath for a more serious announcement in the coming months.  Trying to be patient and realistic at the same time.

Well, I overcooked the turkey, but oddly it was delicious and I over-salted the mashed potatoes, and they were oddly enough quite edible as they went back for seconds.  No pumpkin pie this year, just her homemade chocolate chip cookies and my apple/cranberry cake which more than filled the bill for dessert.

Finished with board games and we gals beat the pants off the guys.  And really terrific...no football because no one was addicted that attended this year!  Just nice background music.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Big Food Day



Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  Why?  I don't have to buy and wrap gifts that may or may not be on needed and appreciated.  I don't have to decorate more than the table.  The day is all about food, one of my favorite vices.  It is all about cooking, a favorite hobby.  Even vegans will find enough to eat at my table.  It is all about being thankful for anything and everything that has happened during the year.  It is about the history of our country and the hard working people that held it together so that we now have this beautiful if somewhat dysfunctional democracy to shelter us.  It is (even if somewhat anecdotally) about the history of two disparate cultures coming together during a time of hardship.  It is not about a specific religion, so every friend and family member can agree on the reason for the day.  (All the whiners, complainers, and dieters please stay home.)

My TG day will be smaller this year which is a little strange for me.  TG is supposed to be lots of people and lots of food and with my family going different directions as my life moves on this is not always the case.  BUT it is supposed to be a time of thankfulness and I certainly have much to be thankful for.  My daughter has decided to go to the in-laws (even though mashed potatoes come out of the box, some people only eat chicken, and pies come from the bakery there).  My son is coming here and he is coming with his new girlfriend, so there will be some good reason to cook.  This will be the third time we have gotten together this fall, and that is super cool.  I am going to use the best china, my M.I.L.s silver (plated) utensils which I have NEVER bothered to use and buying some flowers for a centerpiece.  Weather is supposed to be cloudy with a 50% chance of showers...who cares!

May you have enough to eat and someone to share with on this holiday.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

She Shrugs Her Shoulders Sometimes


My grandson is now into volcanoes for some reason.  At five years of age the volcano is still romantic and exciting in his mind and he loves the hot lava.


This image above is a scan from a slide that I took back in the early 1980's.  The mountain in the far center is Mount Merapi.  The photo was taken from an open area at the top of the house where I lived in Jogjakarta, Indonesia.  'We' hung laundry there. (As an aside, laundry was not done by me...it was done by my babu cuci or laundress.  All laundry was done by hand and therefore had to be done almost daily.)  


There is/was a public park on the side of that volcanic mountain with a children's playground and picnic area that we walked to just off the roadside.  We drove up there every once in a while to get out of the noise and dust of the city and to enjoy the slightly cooler mountain air.


As you most certainly know, and can see, this mountain is volcanic, and currently very active.  It has erupted several times recently even causing the early departure of our President on his recent fall trip.  I imagine the area is filled with chaos and refugee activity these days as people living close to the eruptions flee their villages for safety.  My heart is with them and hopefully things will settle soon.  We were reminded of the volcano's angry energies when we lived there because we got earthquake reminders which I once wrote about here.  

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thursday 13---Things I Learned in Class


As you may know, I have been involved for almost two months in the pursuit of a Master Gardener Certificate.  Some cherish Emmys, Oscars, blue ribbons or even those rare blogger awards.  I am, instead, stalking the Master Gardener award.  This award requires substantial sacrifice in money ($175), time (12/ 2.5 hour classes and two field trips) and brain power (reading a 656 page textbook followed by an actual test).  BUT I am less than two weeks away from reaching my goal!  I still have to put in 40 hours of volunteer and leadership work and find some advanced workshop to take before 12 months pass.  This challenge is not for the light-hearted nor those who still have nightmares about going to school.  Now for the 13 since some of you asked how the class was going...the interesting stuff starts at 7.


1  Do not mow your lawn lower than 3 inches unless you want weeds instead of lawn.
2  A family of 3 can reduce green house gases by 275 pounds per year by composting yard and kitchen waste.
3  If your yard doesn't have at least 6 hours of direct sunlight you will grow only shade plants successfully.  (We have just 6 hours and we are not allowed to cut down our 100 foot trees...so we are being optimistic.)
4  Continually and excessively roto-tilling or digging your soil will bring up the 300 to 600 dormant weed seeds that have been waiting for you to release them for decades.  Thirty-year-old farmed lands have 'seed banks' of 100 to 600 million weed seeds per acre.  Bless the farmer!
5  Weed is a valid term among the experts...dirt is not.  If it has a broad tolerance for soil types, sunlight or shadow, and tolerates frequent cutting and grows anywhere...it is a weed.  "Dirt is what you sweep under the rug."
6  You can improve your soil, BUT you cannot change your soil type unless you use raised beds.  I will always be growing in clay soils no matter how many dollars I throw at it.
7  On the odd chance that you never knew...insects mouthparts can be designed for sponging, siphoning, piercing-sucking, rasping-sucking and/or chewing-lapping.  (I know....ewww!)
8  Plant diseases are always a challenge.  Potato blight (Phytophthora infestans) caused the death of more than a million people by starvation between 1845 and 1860.  Later this same blight, so famous in Irish history, also brought about the demoralization of the German army when they read about the starvation of loved ones in the letters from home, which added to the collapse of the German army in WWI.
9  Disease of rye called Claviceps purpurea causes ergotism.  The diseased tissue on the rye contains high amounts of an acid that we know as LSD.  This diseased rye defeated Peter the Great's army invasion of Turkey before it even began as both his soldiers and their horses became blind after eating bread made from diseased rye, or in the case of the horses, the rye itself.  There is some theory that the Salem witch trials may have been more about the effects of ergotism (seeing visions on those acid trips) on the part of both the accuser and the accused although the link was never proven.
10   Hydrangeas in our area almost propagate themselves when the branches are buried beneath the ground.
11  An asparagus bed can last up to 75 years!
12  Out of  more than 100,000 species of insects in the U.S. less than 10% are considered pests.  I think at least 9,000 of those that are considered pests have parties in my yard on a regular basis.
13  Reading and following carefully the labels on herbicides and pesticides whether organic or not is still the best advice you can give anyone if they find they must use them.


Just skimming the surface on things I learned.  Now go forth and plant that shrub or mow that lawn, and yes,  I guess I am a bit of a smarty pants.





Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Truth, the Whole Truth

I sometimes take hundreds of photographs on a day trip. I used to be conservative and clearly egotistical thinking that I should be selective and only try to take the 'best' shots.  I also felt going through 300 photos when I got home would be a headache. It isn't really...just deleting 99% is the tedious part.  I find that among those 300 there is usually one or two worthy of a post or adding to my collection. I realized that just posting these 2 or 3 was not a fair or realistic story of my photographic trips. So below is a more accurate photographic journey that I took in the canoe just a few weeks ago.  (The 3% will be posted on my other blog in the future.)


It was a beautiful if somewhat nippy fall morning.  We drove up to the landing at a small river that flows into a small bay that is a protected area for wildlife.  The foggy mist was just lifting from the water and made for a nice but not great early morning shot.  I had to carefully stand in some squishy wet grass that was just beginning to thaw from the early frost and to lean out across the water.  It was hard to see where the land ended and the deeper part of the river bank began.  I only got a few toes wet and cold which is the sacrifice one makes for a photo.


The air was crisp and the sky was a perfect November blue.  Some of the trees were still clinging to their colored leaves and the water was like glass.  I had my camera, my paddle, my paddle-mate, my warm gloves, my travel mug of hot coffee and a package of donuts.  Perfect for this little Queen, I thought.


I was able to manage a paddle stroke and a sip of coffee while resting my bismarck on the bow of the canoe.  I had the rhythm going.  Of course it helps that your mate does 90% of the paddling while you eat and drink.  As we got to the wider part of the river we could hear the geese that were sheltering in this preserve.  The sound of gunfire was intermittent in the distance which must have been making them leery.


We heard the geese chattering long before we rounded the grassy point and actually saw them tucked against the marsh. I immediately recognized the photo op and quickly set down my coffee cup which promptly spilled on my foot warming my previously chilled toes...but I got the first shot before the geese were bolting.  I watched them gently swimming away from us and grumbling to each other as I dabbed at my now warm foot with my wool neck scarf and uprighted my travel mug.  I lowered the camera and removed my gloves and took a bite of the frosting sticky donut and noticed the geese didn't fly.  I licked my chocolate frosted fingers as I pondered the hesitation of the geese.


Suddenly without warning and just to the back of my left shoulder a large flock of ducks broke the silence screaming in panic.  I rarely can get photos of our wild ducks, the above photo being a prime example.  They are very leery and so my heart jumped at seeing so many and so close as they raced across the bow of the canoe quacking and flapping.  I grabbed my camera covering the hand grip with frosting and snapped this blurry tilted photo above.  Then while trying to manually focus for a better shot I got more frosting on the lens!


I grabbed the damp wool scarf at my feet and brushed it across the lens quickly and leaning back in the canoe snapping this shot above my head as the ducks banked left toward another marsh.  Please notice the framing, the focus and the artistic use of lint which is not something I have seen on many photos.  (You should click on the photo for the complete experience.)

Oh, yeah, I also got this sharp photo of a hawk...feel free to identify!



Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wars


(As a pre-script today is our Veterans Day.)



It is not hyperbole to write that World War Two changed the world.  It was fought on 6 of the 7 continents and in all of the major oceans.  British historian John Keegan wrote "It killed 50 million human beings, left hundred of millions wounded in mind and body..."  In early November we had a cold spell but were entertaining family so ended up walking on the windy National Mall.  My son's new girlfriend volunteers one weekend a month at the World War II Memorial, and thus, we got a special private tour.  It is a vast and impressive memorial, the newest on the Mall.  In spite of this, my mind and heart collide when viewing any impressive symbol of the death of so many good people. 


I have just finished reading The Book Thief  about a young girl growing up in Germany during this time and the visit to this memorial was most searing that day as the images of what had happened in Germany were still in my mind.  I am also reading a true story about another war, The Reluctant Spy:  My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror by John Kiriakou where he confirms that evidence was beginnning to be manipulated by the administration in their commitment to go to war with Iraq back in 2002.  This administrative focus adversely impacted the CIA's resource commitment to finding bin Laden and ultimately led to CIA Director George Tenet's resignation.  Kiraiakou's job was to provide the intelligence reports that he found were so heavily redacted and even changed by Chaney and his staff.  This may well be the longest war.

The World War II Memorial Act was introduced by Democrat Marcy Kaptur back in 1987. It became a bipartisan effort in 1993 and finally was approved by both houses of Congress and signed into law on May 25 of 1993.


Four hundred designs for this memorial were submitted.  In 1997 an Austrian-American's (Friedrich St. Florian) design was chosen...which is karma...isn't it?   Actual completion of all of the details of the design by various entities did not happen until 2003.

Former President Bill Clinton appointed a 12-member advisory board and they raised 197 million dollars from citizens including 16 million from the federal government.


Design and construction was fraught with controversy including the location. People were concerned that the sweeping views between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Memorial would be blocked.  Thus they dug down below the horizon so that the sweeping view remains. The round pool in the photos was actually the Rainbow Pool which was already there.  The memorial was opened to the public on April 29, 2004.


The memorial is divided into the Pacific and Atlantic theaters of WWII on each side of the pool. The monument consists of hundreds of symbols in the bronze sculptures and in the bronze reliefs and in the inscriptions.  The placement of state names and U.S. territories was carefully chosen.  Materials for construction were also selected from various areas of the United States.  A concerted effort was made to recognize those women who assisted in the war at home.  I learned that the 24 bronze bas relief panels depicting the war years, at home and overseas, are made from actual historic photos.  The 4048 gold stars along the far wall (Freedom Wall) each represent 100 Americans who died in the war. 






An interesting fact that I learned and couldn't find on the web is that the two victory columns have wind monitors that change the height of the volume of water pumped into the fountain so that on windy days visitors standing nearby won't get wet!  For the next few years when visiting the memorial you will be able to see veterans of this war.  Most arrive in wheelchairs or with canes and walkers. There is a program of some kind that helps finance their visit including allowing the payment of an assistant.   Most just come with their families.  It is moving to see them come and look out over the monument in silence or while talking and reminiscing with others that fought this war with them.  Our guide did say that she occasionally gets a question from a visiting foreigner on why the Memorial is U.S. centric since it was a 'world' war.  She tries to be diplomatic in her answers.  Expectations on being the leader of a free world are surprising sometimes.





Monday, November 08, 2010

Nothing......

I looked outside into the sunny day that had followed a rain sparkly morning...but I saw nothing unusual or intriguing.

I looked around my room which was not too neat, not too messy, not even 'just right' and saw nothing of importance or intrigue.

I thumbed through the mail, clicked through the blogs, scrolled down the email and even stopped a half dozen times at FB for updates along the way...but nothing pushed my creativity button at this time.

I folded clothes and allowed my brain to wander with the soft jazz from my stereo... NOTHING was floating by!

So all you get today is a photo that may (or may not) stimulate a creative thought for your blog post tomorrow.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Sane (and Insane) Characters


Part II on the Rally to Restore Sanity:  

When we arrived at the metro station our first clue that we might have to eventually walk was when we saw the mass of people standing in front of the ticket machines. There were about 7 machines and all of them said NO BILLS which meant they only took change...anyone got $6 in change for the round trip?!  There were two machines that took credit cards. What a nightmare! We stood behind a nice looking young man in his 50's with perhaps his son in his 20's. They needed a little help with the ticket machines which we 'tried' to provide as we pulled out our credit cards. They had driven for about 5 hours coming from Kentucky. He explained that mostly angry people attended rallies there and it was hard to have a civil conversation on issues.  He needed this rally was to help him realize that the whole country hadn't gone crazy.  (An example of this type of anger that you can meet anywhere was also be found on Peruby's recent post...Being a gardener I was surprised to find they even blame the pumpkin shortage on this adminstration!)

We finally got to the very crowded metro platform, and after waiting 25 minutes, a train arrived that was so full of people it couldn't open its doors.  We then realized that more time even hours would pass before we could get on a train.

Standing nearby we got to talking to a couple our age that had flown in from Monterey California two days earlier.  He had a business meeting, but they had decided before they left California to stay for the rally. She was an American citizen born in France and he was an American citizen born in in India.  She was as round as he was thin, but both were full of energy.  All four of us decided we had to walk to the rally.  Good thing they were regular bikers and we were regular hikers because it was at least 6-7 miles before we could catch a cab to take us the last 2-3 miles closer to the mall.

Once at the mall we had to wiggle and squeeze between many bodies to sneak closer to the front just to see the screens and be able to hear the speakers.  I stood mostly in a group of young people perhaps 18-25 years in age, but in front of me was a young couple with a baby (!) and directly behind us stood a retired couple.  My feet did go numb after standing for 3 hours...but that passed once I started walking again after the rally was over.

We waited almost two hours after the rally (getting some chocolate and cabernet savignon at Co Co. Sala's) before deciding to try to catch a metro home.  The crowds were still large but manageable.  On the metro we met and assisted two young college kids from Boston with directions.  They had to ride the metro out our way as they had a gift certificate for free meals at a restaurant on our metro stop.

This was NOT a political rally (no political speeches--no politicians) but a few signs carried by rally attenders made fun of the conservative Fox News Channel which had been caught reporting news using inaccurate videos or by focusing repeatedly on inaccurate re-statements said by their pundits.

As a famous liberal columnist said :  "The rally was a simple reminder that certain things bring out the best in people, and certain things bring out the worst. It's not that the people who attended the rally or watched it enthusiastically on television were nicer or better than those who didn't. It's that the rally tapped into the humanity we all share, but that is rarely called forth, shown, or celebrated by our media or our political leaders. As promised, the rally was non-partisan -- making the mainstream media's unwillingness to allow their reporters to attend all the more ludicrous. Not surprisingly, many in the media seem to have totally missed the point of the day, even though Stewart clearly laid it out in his brilliant closing speech. Better to miss the point, and dismiss the event, than deal with the witty but powerful indictment the Daily Show host delivered."

Having never attended a rally, I am glad that I went to this one. I still think that the reasonable people of this world will emerge as leaders and statesmen and that those of the angry rhetoric will be seen for the immature and uncreative approaches they are using in these trying times.  

I must say that I am gloomed by the fact that among those re-elected to high office recently was a Senator that believes that carrying AK-47 weapons is 'normal' and a right at a political rally, believes that repealing the Civil Rights act is not dangerous but a good thing for American business, and that stomping on the head of a small women by a grown man as another grown man stands by yelling is "unfortunate" but not necessarily something he has control over among his supporters, they are just so passionate and ardent about their beliefs.   He will soon be a very powerful person in our government in that he will be able to stop legislation single-handed via filibuster
(Apologies for the screwy fonts...Blogger has me on the ground with its foot at my neck.)



Wednesday, November 03, 2010

I Was Sane for a Day

First let me preface this by stating that I am 63 years young and (to my knowledge) have never attended a rally. I guess I have always felt that no one cares about my cheer. Well, I happen to love the intelligent and funny humor of both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert...so I did attend the Rally for sanity and/or Fear on the Washington DC Mall on October 30th.

(For those few readers of mine who live in other countries these two men are very popular comedians on cable TV's Comedy Channel and have been making fun of the inaccuracies and exaggeration of news and politics on both sides of the aisle for several years. They end up hitting the truth on the head with their commentary. They lean liberal but are pretty careful not to affiliate with any candidate or party and consider everyone fair game.)

Officially from Jon Stewart the purpose of this rally: "This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith. Or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland, or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies."
There were celebrities and funny skits and singing, but the goal was to remind people that discussions of our disagreements begin with dialog
...not shouting at each other or calling each other names.  Even violence was recently brought to light again when a supporter of the newly elected Senator Paul Rand brought a women to the ground at a rally and several men began punching her and one even put his foot on her neck!  Senator Rand refused to acknowledge the violence.


"According to the best estimate, using aerial photos from Jon Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity," approximately 215,000 people attended the event.   The estimate was made by AirPhotosLive.com.  That company is considered the most reputable as they publish the methodology behind their estimate, and also release the aerial photos they used to come up with their numbers. Others simply tend to use the non-scientific method of "I think" in coming up with their estimates. This company was commissioned by CBS News to come up with the estimate, and also has been hired by the Pentagon to do crowd size estimates."  



The Metro said they had sold over 300,000 tickets by 2:00PM and we could not get on and had to WALK 7 miles from our start point because the metro was packed by  11:00 AM. MANY of us walked. Later the D.C. metro posted this table after the event.  Over 825,000 rode that day...and many walked or drove!


Of course, some people will say that Washington, DC is liberal and that is why the numbers are so high, but this doesn't negate the rallies that took place in other cities across the nation nor the fact that the people I met and talked to....about 20 of them were 50/50 in terms of living in-district or even nearby.


BUT having written all of this above, the theme of this rally seemed to agree with this statement by social scientist Robert Putnam in USA today article:  



Our research for American Grace makes very clear that whereas religion and politics in the public arena are highly polarized, in our private lives Americans are much more tolerant and comfortable across religious lines.
Now more even than in the past, many of our most intimate relations, including our marriages and our "go-to" friends whom we count on in a crisis, cross religious lines, including the line between "religion" and "no religion."
But the angry public debate gives everyone on all sides of the issues the impression that we are in a no-holds-barred struggle of good versus evil. We are a lot less divided than we think we are, and that mis-perception is itself a big part of the problem.

Here are a few photos of the event and in my next post I will write about the people I met.

We had to walk from Ballston on the far left (no pun intended) 
to the far right of the map on the mall.  Shared a cab when we reached Georgetown.
 I am so in shape! (Click on photos if you want.)


There is the Washington Monument...only a few more miles to go, swim?

This was as close we could get.  Crowd was about 60% under thirty and 30% over up to
us oldies but goodies.  Mostly white but enough diversity to make me happy.  Mostly liberal
but also some conservatives...all moderates.


Tony Bennett (on the jumbotron in the lower right) sang God Bless America at the end.  
I never thought I would have the opportunity to  hear him live
and all our sacrifices were well worth it.
Here is the end of the rally about two blocks from the mall.  
Plenty of taxis around but not a taxi available for miles!  It was a real
love fest as absolutely no one ended up shouting or in anger or drunk
or on pot that I could see.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Variety Is the Spice of Life




I am a fanatic when it comes to variety. I can only eat leftovers once that week and either they get frozen, or the next time around have to be incorporated into something very different on the taste spectrum, or they get thrown out.  This theme is true with restaurants.   It is unusual that I will go back to the same restaurant without going to other restaurants in between.

I do not like to watch the same movie more than once.  (With the exception of Cars, Toy Story, or Tinkerbell because I love holding hands and watching movies!)  There are a few that I will re-see with lots of time in between but that is rare.  (Oddly enough I will watch re-runs of Star Trek or Public Television British mysteries until the cows come home, and we have no cows.)

I will go on a wine tour but that can only happen once or twice a year...then I am done with the whole wine thing for many months.  I am not excited about going back to any annual festival even if I have enjoyed myself the first year I attended.


I will only go to the art museum when they change the exhibit, even if the attendance is free.

I regularly juggle my music on my CD system.  Light Latin, movie themes, retro music, cool jazz and then on to independent international stuff or favorite singers for a while.

When I worked I had a rather large wardrobe because I would not wear the same outfit unless three weeks had passed.

I do get bored if I see people I know too often.  Fortunately my current hermit existence resolves that problem for both them and me.

I do feel that variety is the spice of life.  Thus my husband frequently says to me,  "How did you stay with me so long?"


That is a good question.  He is very predictable after 40 years of marriage.  Our lives are becoming even more routine as we mesh our rhythms together in this retirement.  I think I have fit in this relationship because he is high energy and I am more laid back.  When I need an energy boost I go with him.  When I want to read and drink a glass of wine or take photos in the yard, I send him on his way to his project with my good wishes.  He will compromise, and naturally, I will get what I want.

There are those that hate change in routine, love the coziness of the predictable and want every day just like yesterday if yesterday was good.  There are those who could fill every day with the repetition of their hobby or passion.

What about you?  Where do you fall on the spectrum?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Festival of Summer's End

In the U.S. and in some European countries we celebrate a holiday called Halloween. Some say it comes from a Celtic festival meaning summers end.  It is this time of year when the lighter half of the day gets shorter and the darker half grows longer, which therefore, allows both evil and benign spirits to pass through into our world for a short scary time.  It is a festival in which we turn our innocent and beloved young lads and lassies into monsters and send them out to ask strangers for candy in the early evening...yep, we really do this....



There is an even scarier side on my other blog.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thursday Thoughts (13)--Falling into Fall---a day early!

(I repeat that I do not do this 13 thing correctly or succinctly or even often, but I keep trying.)


  1. It took me two hours of hard labor but I loaded all the split wood that my husband had created the other day, and then, when my back was turned, the wood pile shrugged its shoulders and all my work was undone in seconds.
  2. My husband decided to encourage our grandson to help with the seeding (re-seeding) of the lawn this fall and gave him a small shoe box of seed to distribute by hand.   Almost a half hour later grandson returned with the box empty and the announcement that he was done...this week we discovered a rather intense square foot section of grass germinating just down the hill from the driveway.
  3. This has been the most productive year for acorns from all varieties of oak trees.  The air is filled with sounds like popguns going off in the sky as the nuts hit the leaves on their way to the ground.  It is a miracle that not one has hit me on the head.
  4. Yesterday I saw a squirrel sneak up on a deer by climbing quietly up the back side of the holly tree and then scrabbling noisily down the other side to the ground scaring the deer and causing him to flee into the deep woods.
  5. While burning deadfall I watched the gray fragile ash float into the blue sky as the nearby woodpecker threw down epithets at me, almost as if he knew what I was doing.
  6. Shortly later I saw three noisy crows falling and calling after a lovely hawk high in the sky.
  7. The delicate white feathery seeds of the salt bush have begun to release on the wind and fall in the air and collect on the spider webs on the shore making lovely decorations.
  8. My lovely decorated blue bird house which was for the bluebirds separated from the base and fell to the ground this fall and inside the peaked roof was a healthy nest of brightly colored wasps.
  9. My daughter gasped as I picked up my heavy 3-year-old granddaugther the other day to carry her upstairs.  I guess she was afraid at my old age, I might fall with this heavy treasure.
  10. Speaking of falling...I almost fell asleep while reading my textbook on the three forms in which phosphorus is taken up by plant roots...too many H's and subscript.
  11. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives eleven definitions of the word fall.
  12. Lots of rain falling as I write this text ... yes, I am cheating, but I am almost there.
  13. The only thing that has not fallen this fall is my weight!