Wednesday, September 30, 2009


My only full size tomato is finally almost ripe. But it does not even look like a "brandywine" tomato! Supposedly that was the variety I bought, but the flesh of this one does not look burgundy, and it is very regularly shaped. Brandywines are darker (less orange) and kind of lumpy. Maybe the color will continue to darken.....

I had to bring it indoors because the nights are getting too cold.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Jeff Buckley covering Smiths, even better than chocolate and hazelnuts

Be the first in your state to listen to this.  Melt.  I <3>

So, was Jeff Buckley the best singer evah? Inquiring minds, and all.

Only one more, and even live:

Peeps! (Sugary snacks and other), you should really listen to these.

Maine anti-gay effort influenced by Mormons.

Why are my people doing this?  I just read "The Lucifer Effect" by Philip Zimbardo.   He ran the original Stanford Prison Experiment where students assigned to be guards quickly increased the abuse that they heaped on students assigned to be prisoners such that after a single week (and after the guards had discovered sexual humiliation) the experiment was stopped.   He chillingly details how almost all of us will be evil given the right circumstances.  We all are good, but in the right circumstances, we all are bad.

Dr.  Reed Quinn is both a cardiologist and a Stake President for the Mormon Church.  This means he is the ecclesiastical leader for, in this case, 12 Mormon congregations.  As a cardiologist he has undoubtedly saved the lives of many people.  His wife, Eileen Quinn (or at least someone of that name who lives at the same address) is the CEO of the PAC, which has a spiffy website here.  It's slogan?  "Marriage.  One Man.  One Woman."   It's pretty amusing--even funnier since the authors don't get the joke.  You can point and snicker all you want.  

The website highlights a general authority of the Mormon church, Elder Russell Nelson, speaking about the importance of families.  
"Dear friends, future happiness and even the future of nations is linked to children.  Families with children need to be re-enthroned as the fundamental unit of society. We simply must value children more than we do! Without a new generation to replace the old, there is no wealth; without families, there is no future.
How does Eileen Quinn plan on valuing families with children?  By refusing to allow a subset of them to have the protections of  marriage.   Of course.  I protect my right to (X) by refusing you to have any (X) at all.   Because of course, there's not enough X to go around.  Or something.  I guess the Quinns are afraid we'll run out of marriage if the Gays get some share.  
I'm sure that the Quinns are really decent kind loving people, but then they behave like this.  Why? I think they know.  Because their environment--the Mormon church--screams "Hate the Gay"  (But, Shh, say it nice, and don't use the word "hate."  It's so, uh, hateful.)    In the Stanford Prison Experiment, a significant portion of the guards, after confronting what they had done, spent a good portion of their lives keeping others from similar harm.  

Elder Nelson's speech highlighted on the site continues: "Those who seek to undermine traditional marriage would effectively limit the rights of those who do uphold the sanctions of these institutions." Let me rephrase. Your right to equal protection is outweighed by my right to discriminate against you. My right to keep you from doing something (that doesn't affect me at all) outweighs your right to do the same thing. How amazingly self-centered. And illogical, and dumb.    

Being kind, being decent, treating people as you wish to be treated isn't "undermin[ing] traditional institutions" any more than freeing the black slaves back in 1863 was undermining the freedom of white southerners.  Zimbardo, in "The Lucifer Effect" describes how we all follow, blindly, those we deem a "virtuous authority," even when we should know better. He also describes how we can rise above our situation. "I made a mistake," "I am responsible," "I want group acceptance, but value my independence," "I respect authority, but rebel against unjust authority." Rebel.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Another definition of Communism

Check out the posters from this anti-civil rights rally from about fifty years ago. I finally understand why the signs of so many teabaggers from current protests make so little sense. When they use the words 'communism' and 'socialism', they are not referring to economic policies. This is what they are getting at. This is what they were taught communism means by their parents. (There's even an Antichrist poster in there too!)

(I found this image at Andrew Sullivan's thedailydish.)

Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto--on Accordion.

Lyrical, gorgeous, that old chestnut 'virtuoso' must be carted out, plus it's so much fun to hear it on what I, sillily, think of as a silly instrument. The balloons and butterfly tacked onto the wall suggest to me that this piece was played at some very informal event, a high school talent show, perhaps?

Found at

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Posole -- Calla Lily's Birthday Soup.

Every year for her birthday, Calla Lily requests Posole. Many moons ago, I checked out a long-since-forgotten book out of the library that had a recipe for New Mexico Green Chile Posole. It was a huge hit. The exact nature of the original recipe has long since been forgotten, but my Posole Jones remains. Depending on where we are, and what the stores are stocking, making Posole can be quite a challenge. Several times I've had difficulties getting tomatillos--substituting many fresh containers of green salsa This year I tried something different.  It seems to have been a hit.  So, this rather protracted post.


2 lbs Pork:  The pork will be eaten in a stew, and so needs to be cut up into bite-sized pieces.  I've purchased many different cuts--last year at "New Seasons,"  I described what I wanted and the (adorable and) helpful butcher went into the back and came out with a three pound chunk of completely fresh pork shoulder.  He told me they just barely got a fresh pig that they hadn't sliced and diced.  It was good, but wrestling the meat into a neat inchish dice took me way longer than one would expect.  The pig got his revenge.  This year, I had a brilliant moment (it only took me about 12 years) and so went directly to a Mexican market.  They had pork adobo. What a brilliant idea!  Pork meat already in stew-sized chunks, marinated (with bonus pineapple) all for about half of what the meat at New Seasons cost me.  I got a pound, along with a pound of sliced (beautiful) unseasoned pork.  Win.    

The pork should be browned prior to being placed in the soup.  In past years I have browned it with some olive oil in a frying pan (as high as the heat will go.)  This year, because the pork adobo came with a sauce, I couldn't brown it in a frying pan--it would poach instead.  So, I spread the pork into a 9X12 baking dish, put the top rack in the oven onto the second-highest position, turned the oven to broil, and placed the baking dish in the oven.  Watching carefully, I pulled it out about every 5 minutes and stirred.  The meat browned beautifully.  When doing this, do not step away from the oven for any reason.  Turn the oven off if you must leave the kitchen.  I set a timer and busied myself with important tasks like chopping onions between stirs.  

Cook until nice and brown. You'll know it when you see it, it won't be burned, but it will be nice and darkish--you'll want to eat it right there. You know those adobo tacos you get in the really cheap street-side taco stands that are so good? It should look like that meat.  Turn the oven off.  At this stage, you may want to pour some of the liquid you'll be using for the stew into the pan to stop the cooking; I suggest either some chicken broth or white wine.   About 1/2 cup should do it.

When the meat is almost done, get out your soup pot, and put it on the stove.  Put in
2 tablespoons Olive Oil; 

turn the  stove up to about medium high heat.  I should mention some people substitute chicken for pork in Posole.  Inventive ones have even been known to use beef.  Eeek!  

Chop up:
1 big yellow onion (not a sweet onion, not a red onion, the oniony yellow kind.)  You can use more if you want.  Chop into about a 1/4 inch dice, place into the soup pot that's been heating.  Stir occasionally.

While the onion is cooking, chop up
4ish cloves of garlic, the put in pan with the onion.  Chop, stir, chop, stir.  

Chop a mixture of peppers; how many and the type depends on what's available and how hot you want the stew.  A good rule of thumb is to have at least two cups of assorted peppers.  I like to add a couple poblano peppers if I can find them; they look like darker, pointier green peppers, but have a lovely medium hot taste.  A couple of very finely chopped jalopeno peppers should always be a part of the mix; even if you don't particularly like heat, jalapenos add a wonderful taste.  What's the very best is to have a source for fresh roasted green peppers. This has happened to me, like, twice.  But if you should stumble upon a roaster, consider rushing right out and making a batch of soup.  Oh, Serrano peppers (the skinny one in the picture) add a lovely hotness.  In a pinch, or the midwest, green peppers will do.  Add them to the onions in the soup pan as you chop.  Don't forget to stir the soup. 

Add ground spices.  Again, this is a matter of taste.  I recommend:
1 tablespoon cumin,
1 tablespoon New Mexico Chili Powder.  This is a mildish chili; it has a lovely taste and won't add too much heat.  If you want your chili hotter, I recommend Chili de arbol--a must for my beef and bean chili, but I generally leave it out of the Posole.  

Let the spices and onion mixture cook until the onions are soft.

Then add to the soup pot:

The pork from the oven (remember it?)
4 cups chicken broth
1 large (32 oz.)  and 1 small can (16 oz.) hominy, rinsed.  This is what makes the soup a Posole.  Pretty much everything else can be substituted, not this.  Rumor has it some Mexican stores have frozen hominy, which is supposed to taste even better, but I have never found it.  I suspect it's unicorn fodder. 
About 8 oz. canned green chilis.  
Two large (32 oz.) cans tomatillos, rinsed, and whirred around in the blender. 

You might also consider tossing in a couple/three chipotle peppers into the soup. I always do if I have them handy. At some point last year, I ran out, and made the serious mistake of looking for them in the fancy-pants grocery nearby. Quelle horreur! Dear reader, I bought those overpriced wonderful smokey peppers, because I had little time, and couldn't imagine my dish without them. Since then, I've stocked up at the Mexican market and saved my pocketbook.
If you don't have fresh oregano, add about 1 tablespoon dried oregano (Mexican, if you have it.)

Cook at medium-low heat for about two hours; check often, adding more chicken broth as needed.   The soup should just barely be simmering.  About a half-hour prior to serving, if you have it, add a couple tablespoons of fresh sage and/or oregano  (to taste.)  Don't add too soon, as the herbs can turn bitter if cooked too long.

Just prior to serving, chop 1/4 cup cilantro and put into a bowl.  Cut a couple of lemons or limes into wedges and put them in a separate bowl.If you're feeling frisky, you might also chop up some extra onion extra-fine.    Serve soup with the condiments.    Many people also enjoy tortilla chips with their soup.  

Last step:   Eat.  (Don't forget.) 

Anti-Spanking Article Rebuked Sharply

This is really just a comment that was too long so I decided that it would make a better post.

The article that djinn cites includes the graph on the left. Notice that the bottom axis of the graph is labeled "number of times spanked". They include once, twice, or 3+ as studied categories, but they do not specify over what time period they are referring. Is it once a week, once a year, or once ever?

The text of the article suggests that they are referring to weekly occurrences.
First, corporal punishment is extremely stressful and can become a chronic stressor for young children, who typically experience corporal punishment three or more times a week.

Frankly, I find the omission of the time period from the graph very suspect. It makes the author appear willing to mislead the readers because he, himself, disapproves of spanking. The article maintains:
IQs of children ages 2 to 4 who were not spanked were 5 points higher four years later than the IQs of those who were spanked.

Looking at the graph, this statement is not even true. Four years later, the young children (age 2-4) who were not spanked had IQs 5 points higher than only the very most spanked category. (3+ per week, or more than 150 time per year! Anyone spanking their child that often must be an idiot, so no wonder their kids don't fair well on IQ tests. ) The difference between the unspanked and the rarely spanked (once a week) was more like two points. And frankly, if "rarely" spanked is 52 times a year, that is not very rare.

They did not even include a category, it would seem, for parents who truly only use an occasional moderate swat-----about a handful of times over the course of the early years. Furthermore, the steeply sloping curve on the graph creates the false impression (at first glance for the inexperienced graph reader) that IQs plunge significantly if you spank your child once or twice or three times ever. How many people understand what the zero level in this graph means for the 'thrice spanked'? I think it is wrong to scare parents about rare swats with misleading graphs and studies.

I am completely against spanking by which I mean the highly ritualized punishment ("Just wait till your father gets home!") used with children lain, for example, across parent's laps for a specified number of blows or lashings (in the olden days with pants down! No wonder the sexual dysfunction.... ) in punishment for badness (messy room, sassing, poor grades, fibbing, meanness....). And I am against all slaps or blows dealt in anger.

But sometimes with toddlers who are too young to understand explanations of danger, and who will not desist from dashing into the parking lot (or street, swimming pool area.....) a parent needs a way to communicate that they are not kidding. Many toddlers love being chased, and when they notice that parents always chase them if they head towards parking lots, they think they know how to force a fun game. When stern words have failed to work, caregivers need a way to communicate right then that the parking lot is OFF LIMITS. A rebuking tone accompanied by a theatrical 'firm tap' and then pointing at the forbidden zone may be the most effective way of communicating this idea to a toddler with very limited language.

This kind of lesson may need to be given several times in one day, or over a period of a week while the child checks out the new limit. But parents will not find that this translates into a regular campaign of spanking that needs to be maintained for years. The behavior should disappear very quickly, especially if swatting has been reserved exclusively for dangerous conditions. And as the child grows older and develops more language and the concepts necessary for understanding danger, the explanations about why parking lots are dangerous should be repeated.

Even if such rare, mild swats lowered IQ scores by two points, I suspect that most parents would rather have a slightly dumber child than a dead one.

By and large, I agree with djinn's mother that spanking is not well suited to teaching children not to hit.
My mother stopped spanking when she came to the realization that "you can't teach a child not to hit by hitting them."

But I did once have a situation where I needed to teach a toddler not to bite other children. I was a home daycare provider, and one of the six toddlers I was watching over started to bite other children out of aggression. I had an obligation to the other children and their parents to protect everyone's well being, and so I discussed with the biter's parents a strategy to curtail this new behavior.

His parents decided that I should say "No!" and immediately 'tap' him right next to his mouth so he would know exactly what he was doing that was forbidden. (I watched him like a hawk so I could catch him right as he was about to bite. Such communication with the very young transgressor must be immediate!) After that I would set him down far from the child he had just tried to bite and offer him a different toy. This worked surprisingly well. After three or four attempted bites over the course of two or three days, he stopped biting.

Older children who understand language and who can make the connections between their misbehavior and delayed punishments (losing desert, having a toy confiscated, not being allowed to watch TV or play with friends) need never be spanked. Striking them really does send the wrong message.

A long time ago, before they invented the inserts that protect young children from electrical outlets, and when parents had many more children typically and could not watch their every single move, it was more obvious that children needed to know how to be obedient. Nowadays we put up child gates to keep kids out of kitchens, staircases, laundry rooms etc,and we dread visiting homes that are not "child friendly". The onus has shifted to grownups to anticipate and prevent all problems. The inserts, the gates, the latches.....these are all good, but they are ways to increase a young child's safety. They do not supplant the basic safety that comes from a child knowing to stop when their parent says so. After all, not every dangerous situation can be anticipated.

Friday, September 25, 2009

She was into S&M and Bible Studies*

"IQs of children ages 2 to 4 who were not spanked were 5 points higher four years later than the IQs of those who were spanked. The IQs of children ages 5 to 9 years old who were not spanked were 2.8 points higher four years later than the IQs of children the same age who were spanked.
'How often parents spanked made a difference. The more spanking the, the slower the development of the child's mental ability. But even small amounts of spanking made a difference,' Straus says."
Found here.

Why? The authors suggest that spanking may cause post-traumatic stress syndrome that makes learning more difficult.

Spanking leads to other problems, such as sexual dysfunction, general aggressiveness,

What's a parent to do?
Unlike spanking, however, verbal punishment alone didn't affect either children's aggression or their cognitive development. But interestingly, when verbal punishment was accompanied by emotional support from moms, the children did better on the tests of cognitive ability.

My mother stopped spanking when she came to the realization that "you can't teach a child not to hit by hitting them."

* Win a prize if you get the reference.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Peak Oil, it's here, peeps.

The largest oil field in Mexico, Cantarell Field--the eight largest oil field in the world--has gone from over 2000 kb/day in 2004 to 588 kb/day as of July of this year. The production has crashed. Looks like the well will be dry by the end of next year. Why this is important is that Cantarell went from peak production to almost depleted in only five years. Help! For even more doom and gloom, 6 of the largest 18 oil fields are in Iran and Iraq; I seem to recall we've not been ingratiating ourselves to either of these countries lately.

For fun, above is a chart of historical and projected oil production, found here.
More from the above link:
According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, out of the 54 oil producing nations and regions in the world, only 14 are still increasing production. Alarmingly, 30 oil producing nations and regions are definitely past their peak output and the remaining 10 appear to have modestly declining production rates. Put another way, when weighted by production, ‘Peak Oil’ is already a grim reality in 61% of the oil producing world!

Happy walking, y'all.

Way To Go, Bachmann!

Earlier this year, Michele Bachmann (Republican rep. from Minnesota) announced her intention to refuse to answer census questions, fueling paranoia about the census amongst the wingnut conservative faction. Bachmann's mischief has now apparently resulted in the death of a census worker. A 51 year old census worker's body was found hanging from a tree in Kentucky, and investigators have ruled it a homicide.

Although the investigation is ongoing, because the victim of the hanging had the the letters FED scrawled on his chest, the FBI is concerned that the killing was politically motivated, and census workers in the county where this took place have temporarily suspended door to door interviews.

There have been too many threats of violence from this faction of the Republican party, and if the Republican leadership wants to demonstrate any patriotism whatsoever, they need to repudiate this senseless killing and anti-government bile.

Fear of the census is only one of Bachmann's paranoid delusions.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

An Uncomfortable Skepticism

Today I break my silence.

In principle I am in favor of universal healthcare, possibly single payer. But sadly, I wonder if it could really work here. Unfortunately, the climate for rational discussion has been poisoned by the absurd rhetoric on the right. Anyone who feels skeptical about the workability of the proposals is afraid to be lumped in with the hateful wingnuts, and so true discourse has languished.

Many people supporting the current efforts to extend coverage talk about how you could consider it like extending Medicare style coverage to a larger segment of the population. OK, now they have really lost me, because Medicare is a DISASTER.

Sure, people who have Medicare say they like it, except that they do sometimes complain about how expensive it is (Big eye roll here). Mostly they just say, "Keep your hands off of our Medicare benefits!" But it stands to reason that Medicare, as is has been experienced thus far, should seem like a good deal------a really good deal! Most current recipients have paid in approximately a total of $68,000, but can expect to have used around $190,000 of medical care (paid for by Medicare) when all is said and done. What a bargain!!!!!! No wonder current seniors are wildly enthusiastic about it. It's a free lunch. A free $122,000 lunch!

Because the spending has so wildly outstripped revenues, the Medicare trust fund paid into by all of us for all of our working lives has been all but used up. That's right, the big lump of cash meant to pay for the health benefits of future generations has been sucked almost completely dry by former and current seniors. The pace of technology, medical advancement and demographic shifts doomed the plan as it was originally formulated.

The really interesting thing is that the original plan for Medicare included a clause that made certain funding and payment adjustments automatic to keep the plan solvent for the long haul.

But the problem has been with our political system. Every time that the automatic adjustments were about to kick in, Congress would vote to override the change because of pressure from the AMA and seniors. This is what makes me wonder if we can get anything to work in our democracy. Our citizens want the very popular benefits, but are always reluctant to pay the necessary taxes. And our congressional representatives know that they cannot effect the necessary changes (increase taxes or limit benefits) and stay in office.

Many things should have already happened to make Medicare viable down the road. Benefits could start a little later since we live so much longer now. Taxes would have to be higher, and possibly some "treatments" (the sort that merely prolong the final days without offering any hope of a cure-----you know, comatose people on ventilators indefinitely......) should be taken off the table. This is a plan that no one likes, not seniors, not tax payers, and not people who are afraid of death. Any yet this is what is necessary to save the system. But no one running for office is going to say any of this out loud.

So I guess I want the government to fix Medicare before they try to make it bigger. Or perhaps make it all one big system and then make Choices. Choose to prioritize medical spending on younger people, patients who have a lot of life ahead of them. Seniors won't like this, but when they complain that they have paid into the system for so long, we need to be ready to say that they are getting WAY more than they ever paid for!

So I suppose it is funny, I make fun of Republicans for speculating wildly about death panels, but then argue that that is, of course, just what we really need. That and higher taxes.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Those Acorn workers reported the couple to the police.

Police say a worker with the activist group ACORN who was caught on video giving advice about human smuggling to a couple posing as a pimp and a prostitute had reported the incident to authorities.
Read about it here.

Funny, I don't remember this detail being, uh, reported, by any of those House and Senate members wanting an investigation of Acorn.

I am so angry.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Deferred Pleasure 101

Even though as a capitalist society, our overall welfare depends on saving and investing, the people of communist China seem to be much better at this than we are. In spite of being read fables about grasshoppers and ants, consumption (of mass quantities!) is about the only thing that we do not put off for later. And we are much worse about this than we were a century ago.

Perhaps since we have lived through such prosperous times, the need to save has not really sunk in. So perhaps we should supplement our storytelling with some actual experiences that help youngsters develop the patience to defer pleasure for gain.

Even if it didn't work, it might be fun to watch.......see:


I came across this video at Andrew Sullivan's the daily dish.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The face of health care opposition.

And the signs.

Things you can learn from the health care protestors

Obama wants to have a 2 million army of volunteers ... armed as well as the army is.
Facism is a form of socialism
What are Czars, they're a Russian king. Here, Jesus is our king.
Are they (Czars) going to be given land?
Look see what's happening. Wake up.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Question of the Day (Another Wedge Issue)

I came upon this urgent query in a comment thread.

# 10
September 6th, 2009 at 7:18 pm

Is there an emoticon for giving someone a wedgie?

Any suggestions for this burning issue? How about >3 ? It might not improve the tone of civil discourse but it would accurately reflect the innermost thought processes of so many commenters.

Minnesota's Got Talent!

Senator Al Franken bucks the national trend, and clearly demonstrates a solid grasp of geography. Not only can the Senator read maps; he can draw the US map (pretty darn well) from memory. In the video below, they have added music, so we cannot hear any of Franken's commentary-----too bad.

Friday, September 4, 2009

O'Reilly Should Be Fired

O'Reilly does not understand the most basic concepts regarding percentages and statistics. How can he be trusted to offer any kind of news analysis if he does not understand the relevant math any normal 12 year old would?

Watch this: O'Reilly "explains" that the U.S. naturally has a shorter life expectancy than Canada because we have ten times more people. That means ten times as many accidents, crimes, and so on.....

That was July 27th. Apparently no one at FOX has been able to explain the most rudimentary ideas in statistics to him since then. Watch him make the same mistake here, August 3rd. After it is pointed out that (approx.) 40% of Americans have tried pot, and only 22% of people in the Netherlands have, he seems to think this explains it:

"The way they do statistics in the Netherlands is different. Plus, it's a much smaller country, a much smaller base to do the stats on."

It seems like he is saying the population over there is smaller, so naturally a smaller percentage of people have tried pot-----so he is missing the whole point of what percentages mean. What an incredible idiot!

FOX News should have their licensing pulled for their irresponsible standards regarding news reporting in the US. There needs to be some sort of standard.

What Stinks?

So, here it is in all it's gory glory! (Click the link to see the earlier post if you don't already know about this plant.)

The flash brought out it's true colors.

Perhaps this gives a sense how big it is. And how furry!

I'm just glad I noticed it had opened before I went to bed for the night. I put it outside right after taking these shots. It did not seem to smell foul yet, but I did not want to take any chances.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

If You Ever Wanted To Laugh At Spiders !

This faux documentary is for you! Enjoy.

Humor aside, for anyone who is interested, this video has some information backwards. LSD (and peyote) both seem to lead spiders to produce unusually flawless webs.

Surprisingly, caffeine incapacitates them completely------they just make jagged, random stands. I read about this years ago in a book from the Time-Life Science series. I no longer have the book, but I found these images online.

The Most Expensive Tomatoes-------EVER!

This Summer I wanted to have lots of Brandywine tomatoes, an heirloom variety with few seeds and lots of flavor. They tend to be irregularly shaped and are prone to splitting, and hence rotting. The ones at the grocery store always seemed overripe as did the ones at the farmer's market. I decided I would grow my own.

I bought eight large plastic pots(8 @ $8.49), eight supports (8 @ $2.29 ?), $20.00 worth of good quality potting soil, and then about $10.00 for some young healthy plants, some Brandywine, and one yellow-pear cherry tomato plant and one grape cherry tomato plant.

For a while everything grew really well, and then the deer discovered them. I had not sprayed the plants with anything because I did not want that putrid stuff on our tomatoes. I thought perhaps that I had them close enough to the house and that, furthermore, tomato leaves are supposed to be poisonous, so maybe the deer would not be fans.

The deer ripped one plant completely out of the soil, and bit several of the others back severely. I moved the least damaged ones to different spots on the deck where I hoped they would be safe although they would get a lot less light. The deer even pursued them onto our deck! Fortunately we have an upper level on our deck ( with even less sunlight) and although it is a little crowded with our table and chairs, I made room for the least ravaged of the plants.

The plants took a long time to recover from the setbacks and are just now beginning to offer a few fruits. It appears that I will harvest a grand total of two Brandywine tomatoes, and a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes. What you see in the picture at the top is my largest haul so far. I picked about seven cherry tomatoes five days ago. At least it looks like there are a few more on the way. And of course I am waiting for those two Brandywines to ripen.

It reminds me of the old joke about the two fishing buddies. After a disappointing haul of only one fish on their vacation, they tally up their expenses, cabin rental, boat rental, fishing tackle and bait only to discover that the one fish they caught cost 14 hundred dollars. "It's a good thing we didn't catch anymore!"

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mount Wilson Observatory Safe!

According to the LA Times, and they should know. No cool pics, though.

Hopes, Great, White Or Otherwise

I confess to feeling a bit of sympathy for Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.). She is currently being excoriated for her use of the phrase, "great, white hope." She claims to have been unaware of its origins and racial connotations.

For anyone who does not know, the expression comes from a situation in 1908 when a black boxer, Jack Johnson, had won the world championship match, and whites were eager to find a suitable white contender to take back the title.

I feel sympathy because I too once ignorantly used that phrase. I guess I had heard those words strung together before, possibly by someone else who had no idea-----after all, how many young people are aware of boxing trivia from the early 1900's? I assumed that the word 'white' in the phrase was meant to connote a shining purity, the bright gleamingness of the goal or hope ( like a beacon of hope). It simply never occurred to me that it was racist in origin. Just as when we refer to the "Black Death", or "our darkest hour" we don't stop to think whether or not black or dark have anything to do with racial politics. (They don't.)

I was lucky that I did not offend anybody, but I will certainly never use that expression again. I will also call spades shovels rather than spades even though that expression comes to us from ancient Greek literature, almost 2,500 years before anyone used the term 'spade' to refer to an African-American.

Jenkins has apologized and claimed ignorance. We should all give her the benefit of the doubt on this issue. Anyone who really wants to attack her character can surely find much better fodder than this.

A Very Early Valentine's Day Treat

I saw this image and simply could not wait!

Just too funny! How many of you will be able to wait till February to spring this on friends?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mount Wilson Update

The Station fire appears to be getting the better of the Mount Wilson observatory.

Update, 12:10 p.m. EDT Monday: Dave Jurasevich writes here:
"I was able to get back up to the Observatory [Sunday] by hitching a ride on a Fire Department helicopter and we were able to ready all of our infrastructure systems for the upcoming burn. At 7:30 a.m. [Monday] morning all of the firefighters were ordered off Mount Wilson because of the imminent danger, so we were also asked to leave rather than shelter-in-place in the 100-inch dome. . . . The Mount Wilson Observatory is now in the hands of the big air tankers and God. I’m really heartbroken."

The last picture from the Mount Wilson towercam, taken just after 1 pm. I'm praying to random constellations.

Update to the update: It appears that firefighters have reoccupied Mt. Wilson and are burning off the bush-fuel. Here's a picture taken about 5:00 PST from some LA TV station, the smoke is from controlled burns. Good luck, observatory.

A Plant I Did Not Kill-------Yet

For years I have taken poor enough care of my Stapelia nobilis plant that it declined to bloom. For whatever reason, this year it has produced two gigantic buds.

I am rather excited by this even though I have good reason to to dread such an occurrence. You see, the common name for this plant is the "carrion plant". The flowers smell like rotting flesh to attract insects for pollination. The floral petals are furry and flecked with small burgundy striations-----like veins-------to further the deception.

But before they open they are pleasantly impressive. The buds are several inches long, and quite architectural looking-------a bit like some kind of seashell the way they are twisted at the very bottom tips.

I suspect these will open soon because of the pale blush suffusing the base of the buds. I'd better take this plant onto the porch soon. I don't think the deer will eat them.