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Friday, August 25th, 2017 09:37 pm
Elephants and my own blues have affected this week. I'm feeling mentally dull: the new-ish camera somehow just doesn't work with me in a way that makes sense. It's like the settings change with the phase of the moon or something. Anyhow, that makes me feel dull. And generally, i don't feel sharp.

I've a suspicion that if i was taking my antihistamine regularly it would help. So, there's that.

Work is OK. My boss and i had our review meeting that we'd forgotten -- oy, i forgot to do the acknowledgement, done -- and no surprises. I am eased that he's not harping on my communication anymore. If he wants to take credit for coaching me, fine, but the removal of significant amounts of stress has done most of the work. I can take comfort in being valued. I have an edge of bitterness about the title "architect" but i also have choices i could make to address it. Not right now.

I spent time pondering blogging last night. I certainly don't want or need something that replaces my community here. (I can barely ... i don't keep up as much as i wish here.) With respect to the architect comment above, i wouldn't mind having to learn a bit more python/css/html5. Prototyping skills wouldn't hurt me.

Today's distractions:

Sumac, what species would be best for both the edible fruit (as spice and extract) and for landscaping.

Sprouts, what seeds should i get for my long unused sprouter?

MUCH reflection on a future website. For $15 you can have a font made for you, and then turn it into a webfont!

And we finished Amazon's The Night Manager. Wonderfully intense and textured and delicious. Hugh Laurie's villain is insidiously smooth. And a pregnant heroine! Angela Burr for the win.
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Saturday, February 11th, 2017 10:35 am
Last night was quite fun. We went out with my sister & her spouse. The Mexican place we intended to eat at was full, so we ended up at the nearly empty Roots Bakery, Bistro & Bar (http://www.rootschapelhill.com/menu/). We all had the chile relleno prepared in a Guatemalan style with only a light breading and little sauce, stuffed with potatoes and other veggies as well as cheese. It was divine. It was sad to see the restaurant so deserted when the food was so good: it seemed like it would be a hit in Mountain View. Not so sure about a college town.

The concert had two parts, the first with Laurie Anderson. They performed with poetry, some read by Anderson, some by Glass (i think all of that was Anderson's words). There was a recording of Ginsburg reading - very powerful and still relevant -- and a recording of Lou Reed, which reduced my sister, Christine and i to tears. Imagining how it feels to perform with the recording of a loved one -- not enough and such a blessing? Glass had spoken for a bit about the Ginsburg recording, how he had forgotten he had the recording for some years after Ginsburg died. Much less introduction was given to the Lou Reed piece -- too close?

The second part was from  the opera "Monsters of Grace." The glass of prosecco made it's presence known and i may have dozed over bits. Subtitles would have helped as i have a hard time making out the words in operatic singing.
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Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017 06:31 am
I've rung in the new year by planning out the gardening through the summer and ordering seeds. The vendor i'm using, Southern Exchange, was out of some of the seeds i'd picked out. In one case, i didn't mind because it gave me an excuse to choose the Seminole pumpkin as my winter squash: so much of what i will grow in the big plot is from the Americas. Apparently peanuts originated in the area now known as Argentina, before being adopted in some areas of Africa, and then ending up in the southeast.

They were also out of Roselle, the hibiscus that leads to the bright red infusion. This gave me an excuse to place a tree seed order with Sheffields, which includes both Roselle and a local native mallow, the native Yaupon holly (i've mentioned it's the one North American caffeinated plant?), native crabapple and pawpaw fruit trees, and the bitter orange.

We'll see if gantt chart level planning for gardening is less of a waste of time than it is for software engineering. Since it's all the same steps, i think it wasn't a waste: being able to link the schedule to N days before or after various climate dates seemed pretty efficient. I just wish i could extract it all from my iPad app with a bit more clarity. I think the best i can do is a screen grab of the calendar view.

--== ∞ ==--

Late yesterday afternoon we saw Arrival, which i recommend whole heartedly. I wonder if linguists cringe watching it. It is stunningly beautiful, and i'm glad to have seen it in the theater where the visuals could overwhelm me. I think of one science fiction novel where a language didn't have subject and object, but the verbs were bidirectional. I can't untangle how that language would express "I watched the movie" and "I read the book" given just how invested i am in being the actor on some consumed material. Well, no, the media infuse my mind.... anyhow. No spoilers for the movie, except to say the meditation of the movie is on yet another topic.

--== ∞ ==--

I am anxious about being back to work today. I feel all sorts of "behind" and ineffective, but there isn't a strongly concrete example. It's guilt and, i suspect, the deep ruts of procrastinatory habits developed during grad school.

I've not communicated with others over the end of the year. My parents are back from being with my grandmother, and each parent offers up behavior to cause worry. My mother has developed a pressure to get things out of their house that she can't pace. And so she drove over on New Years Eve to drop off two baskets and a variety of stuff when we planned to visit the next day. Written out it seems reasonable, but it's missing the context of her terrible lingering cough and the weariness from the travel to see my grandmother. Mom's drive, her need to get things done due to some internal expectation, was a lesson i learned that lead to some of my own imbalances. It's not a sustainable or healthy drive, as her lingering coughs and frantic arguments with my dad underscore, and in my learning it got tangled up terribly with depression. I think i am learning how to relax and rest: i hope she can do the same.

Dad forgot to take his heart medicine on Sunday morning, and so he was in his hyper goofy mood at lunch. My Dad worries Christine more than I, as i know his erratic behavior is "mostly harmless" but for Christine it is one great minefield of potential triggers. For me it is mostly wearisome as there's no way to connect. I do wonder how much of his clowning is some dysfunctional effort to deal with Mom: an image of a rodeo clown in the bull ring comes to mind. He had confided his concerns about Mom's level of being frantic and confused on the phone the day before. But then there is the odd reality of how these beta blockers affect his behavior. He's much calmer and grounded when he's taken the med.

--== ∞ ==--

I managed not to ring in the new year with a terrible case of poison ivy. My last work in the yard in 2016 was to hack into a vine running up one of the older pines. I might just get my arms around these pines, but i'm sure there are some with a girth i could not reach around. B came out with his drone this fall and measured the height of the trees for us -- they're 90' tall, which is an average height for a mature yellow pine. The poison ivy grows up the pines as one massive main vine until past the understory, and then the poison ivy radiates it's branches out at about 60' above the ground. It seems to be no harm to the tree, and i'm sure the fruit and branches of the poison ivy make for lovely bird habitat. I have mixed feelings about eradicating it, since the only negative is the seedling poison ivy and the occasional fall of leaves during a thunderstorm. Even then, any poison ivy i had this past summer was quite mild.

And what am i going to do with the dead vines? There's a tangle around one pine where the vine detached from the tree and fell, dead i suppose. But the oil that is the irritant persists.

http://mikesbackyardnursery.com/2012/10/how-to-get-rid-of-poison-ivy/ shows the type vine i'm talking about.

Anyhow, i've been urged to plan to eradicate the poison ivy and, since i had my machete and had been killing honeysuckle, i thought i might give the poison ivy on this one pine a go. The vine was as thick as my wrist, at least, and with the first hack a cloud of dust shook free from all the rootlets. I was up wind, and i figured that most of the dust was just plain dust. I've not developed any good technique with the machete - not much is needed for honeysuckle - so i took a while to cut through. Wood chips went everywhere, and i had no face protection. I soon was thinking how stupid it was to be doing this on a whim, but i figured i should finish what i started and then just wash everything. I seem to have come through unscathed.
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Tuesday, November 1st, 2016 08:40 am
Observing the wheel of the year has not been very active on my part. Last night i didn't feel like bestirring myself from the house, and did not drive up to see the pumpkins on the Old Bynum Bridge. Instead we watched the new Ghostbusters. I found it amusing but a little weak: i have a suspicion that there was interesting narrative left on the cutting room floor in order to keep special effects. The multitude of hat-tips to the original were delightful.

I've ordered two books about the area, one about trying to drive a small economy from the person who started the biodiesel plant and another about someone who apparently was "back to the land" in the 70s. I feel a little guilty ordering books as i have not read the book i bought at the beginning of the month: The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature. Instead i do things like read the 1937 soil report for the county -- which was interesting in its snapshot of the county's way of being. (I ought to find the county soil reports for where my Dad grew up.)

I'm hoping i haven't killed the mother plant of candystripe moss phlox. I recently moved it from its container planting (since i hadn't decided where it should go) to a spot where we had filled in one of the many annoying holes with (clean) kitty litter clay. I then put the phlox on top. I think the issue is one of watering -- the weather has been very dry since the hurricane. My one consolation is actually 13: the number of rooted plants I have from the mother plant.

In depressing work news, the competent security guy has left the company (well, last day is tomorrow), which means we're left with the tedious fellow who has failed to impress me with any sort of context or systems awareness. Christine helped me characterize the remaining fellow: he's a bureaucrat.
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Friday, September 9th, 2016 07:54 am
Sunday had some elephants. I also killed the weed whacker -- and Lowes replaced it.

Monday's holiday and low humidity allowed for delightful working in the yard. I found a downy rattlesnake plantain (a native terrestrial orchid) much closer to the house as i worked in the mess that is right off the deck. Mess? Yes. It seems the sellers must have had someone come do something quick about honeysuckle and jungle right next to the deck. There are some tall trees cut down leading away from the deck, and stilt grass now grows in the area cleared by the fallen crown. An area about 20 x 20 foot is mostly cleared with a few stunted and twisted saplings -- evidence of honeysuckle infestation.

On the ground are long abandoned items of cloth, busted whirligigs and other plastic decor, dog toys, children's toys, plastic plant labels, and so on. They are hidden by a carpet of weed whacked weeds which include honeysuckle coming back.

My biggest issue is knowing how much shade this area, historically very shaded, will continue to have as we clear up the mess to the west. I am transplanting the native plants of which i approve (ferns, violets) into an area with a very sad redbud. There's not much of the tree that was sandwiched between autumn olive and honeysuckle.

Just getting a little work done back there, though, has made a world of difference.

Tuesday - blur.

Wednesday night i was cranky after work and the humidity had returned, so we went to see Star Trek Beyond: it was surprisingly delightful in entertaining me. Admittedly, the bar was low, so there's that.

Yesterday was disordered by the failure of an upgrade to my work laptop. So midday we ran into Carrboro to overnight the machine to the home office, and followed with errands and a very nice lunch out. We didn't go outside to work, and we watched the second episode of Julian Fellow's Dr Thorne.

Tonight we are going up to Wake Forest (which is not where the university is: hmph) to see a friend's crochet creations on display.

Late now for work! And feeding the cat, says Luigi.
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Friday, November 27th, 2015 09:40 am
Two weeks of out of the usual activities! Travel led to much media consumption.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, via Audible. It took me a while to get used to Celeste Ciulla's reading performance. She was careful in her intonations as Breq, the AI, and I first found it off-putting. I slowly realized how valuable it was for me: i would have read Breq's speech rhythms as my own (as best fit the writing) and would have not had the somewhat alien experience. In retrospect, I deeply appreciate hearing the book read to me as enriching my experience. The theme of guilt and setting things right was quite engaging, particularly in a text that is aware of privilege, both of the reader's world and the created world . While the narrative ends with plenty of room to explore more of the universe, i'm not sure how led i am to follow Leckie in her further explorations.

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, via Audible. Listening Length: 31 hours and 55 minutes.
I listened cross country, and i'm still in the pre-cataclysm period. I've found the Neil deGrasse Tyson character just a *touch* distracting. I hadn't put a name to the entrepreneur character. Other reviews say Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos. Richard Branson came to my mind, although I think he has better people skills than the character in the book admits to having. I think i will listen at higher speed if i ever want to be finished with it.

Portal by Eric Flint & Ryk E Spoor, via Baen. This is the third in a trilogy that i did feel led to complete. (Perhaps because it was clearly a trilogy as opposed to a series.) Both the first book (Boundary) and Seveneves address the NASA vs corporate space flight question in a way that makes me wonder why it didn't seem to come up in The Martian. This third book continues, resolving the international (underhanded) competition narrative, and brings to a closure the arc of discovery. There's certainly MUCH room for the discovery to continue, and it nags at my mind: why would you leave now? But the narrative has a strong reason for the closure it provides. Indeed, i suspect it would take inhuman endurance for the characters to stay focussed on the discovery and not on their own physical needs (such as for some time in gravity!)

Valentine & Hart Books by Missy Meyer, via Kindle. I found her husband's kinda Mary Sue-ish Magic 2.0 series to be peasant geeky diversions, so i thought i would give this series a try. It's a fun conceit, and the "bad misleading government" narrative might give way to something with a bit more grey, but i don't think i will read any more in the series.

Tanyth Fairport Adventures, by Nathan Lowell, via Kindle. Unlike the Valentine & Hart series, i will read more of Nathan Lowell's Tanyth Fairport. Clearly set in a familiar context where women have gendered restrictions, the narrative provides for those women to be recognized by me as having strength, wisdom, and creativity without the addition of the supernatural. The supernatural is introduced, but in a world where the magic is expected to have been in the past. I look forward to the unfolding of how Tanyth comes to understand her experience. I enjoyed Lowell's Solar Clipper Trader Tales a great deal, particularly due to his attention to the practical details. I joked about how many times in the Solar Clipper tales that characters put their coffee cups into the dishwasher. Here, too, characters do dishes and attend to mundane practicalities in a way that seems natural to the narrative and delightful to this reader.

2001: Space Odyssey : It leaked out to Christine i'd never seen this. Thus, last night we watched. There were a multitude of places where visual designs reminded me of other movies (Star Wars), movies made after this one came out. That, and some of the visions of the past-future, were fun to reflect upon. Ma Bell videophone booths were entertaining, after using FaceTime a short time before with my sister's family. Paper instead of tablets, the formal dress of scientists (insert hilarity here). The inside of the earth to space station shuttle plane looked like the insides of current airplanes -- except empty. The lack of crowds and noise and bustle in the concourse and the empty spaceliner seats to the space station seem implausible. (The cost of extras, i wondered?) I often think of movies as being short stories: this seemed more like a poem. The last 25 minutes or so has a great deal of visual special effects. I wish i knew how it felt to see those effects in a world where they were done prior to computer animation. (It's similar to my wish to know what it felt like to experience the opening notes of Led Zeppelin I's Good Times Bad Times) The color palette and different effects are now familiar from Tron , Doctor Who, and countless other movies and shows. What did it feel like to be in a dark movie theatre to see that for the first time?
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Saturday, October 3rd, 2015 08:14 am
Not that it matters, but i think Lost Girl's plots and writing went completely down hill after she met The Wanderer for the second time. The dialogue during the finale was awful. I was thinking, since that concludes the episodes available on Netflix, that perhaps they were canceled and their heart wasn't in it -- but no, there's a season five.


My brother's visit on Thursday afternoon went pleasantly, although i lost him in Target too many times. Got exercise doing laps around the store though while he collected Halloween candy, clothes for the kids, costumes, toys, and clothes for himself to take back to Singapore.

Did i mention that we bought new porcelain dishes? In my periodic "three things to make things better" i have been frustrated with the silverware marks on the stoneware. It's clear that scrubbing with something like Bon Ami is the answer, but it is a very annoying answer. I switched to our very nice flatware and that didn't make a difference. I've been pondering how we have plenty of fine porcelain plates (compared to how often we would use them), but they have a metallic rim. I saw a set of porcelain dishes marked down to roughly $10 a place setting (which is incredibly cheap) in a pattern that was agreeable and splurged. It is a whiter white than our fine porcelain pattern but the greys on both match. In general it doesn't look completely mismatched.

Meeting issues on my mind. Meeting a friend at the Sunnyvale Farmer's market before spending some hours in a clerking meeting discussing the state of the meeting.
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Wednesday, September 9th, 2015 06:15 am
Within the last week, mornings were cool enough that I felt the need to start warming up the teapot before making tea in it. Now we have a heat wave and i wish i'd made tea the night before.

I've started watching The Newsroom with Christine, an Aaron Sorkin show. I've decided that Aaron Sorkin's next series should be The School Board: plenty of chance for human relationships and drama, plus plenty of opportunities for sermons on democracy. I like that about Sorkin's work. The Newsroom has two narrative threads about relationships that are approaching tedious. I do like how they've characterized the man the young woman will probably leave for the other guy: he's not bad or obviously abusive. Instead he's just a bit patronizing, certain he's doing important work, and missing chances to affirm her work.

We watched Titanic over the weekend and the aristocratic fiancé of the female romantic lead was just awful, over the top. Although i suppose the whole movie was over the top. Back to Sorkin, it is nice to see the guy to be left behind in a romanic triangle have "normal" behaviors held up for scrutiny, as opposed to obvious abusiveness.


I spent much of the weekend researching my Grandmámá's amazing life, starting with the lumber mill in Brazil at which she spent her first five years.

A friend of mine met Grandmámá recently and heard her share some of those early Brazil stories. Afterwards my friend noted how amazing was Grandmámá's life -- and how caught up in the imperial extraction machinery of the early 20th century was her life. And it really was. I suppose i can stretch that thread across and connect it to how she supported herself working for Ma Bell as an adult: from that imperialist extraction era to the communication era?


Much of the blues faded away and i have concluded that they were rooted in my endocrine system more than anything else. On Sunday i felt a clear sense that it is time to move forward with some things where i have been in a bit of a holding pattern due to elephants.

I explained the elephant metaphor in July 2014, but elephant care has been very heavy this summer. I'm not quite sure when it got as heavy to carry as it did. In February of this year Christine was still able to cope to a certain extent, but at some point in the spring -- she might point to when her tooth broke as the tipping point -- elephant issues became the overriding concern of the house.

It seems with the fading of summer and the arrival of cooler weather, i have a sense that i could breathe deeply again, no longer hold my breath. This heat wave, i have to remind myself, is not directly related to the issues of elephants, and i can still breathe deeply again.
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Saturday, August 15th, 2015 07:37 pm
Happy weekend.

I'm going through photos from February, adding observations to iNaturalist and editing the "studio" photos.

Erodium cicutarium

The goal is to feel ready to both start planning next spring's collecting trips and taking china photos.


My attempt to stain the crazed lines is not resulting quite in the results i want. I've moved on from the fluid acrylic paints, but i have a feeling i really need to warm up the teapot to open the cracks enough to get strong pigment take up. I'm trying markers right now.


We went to see the David Foster Wallace movie, End of the Tour. Intense and saddening. OK, depressing. But good. It was nice to get to know the guy, even if it was third or fourth hand. Christine really has enjoyed his work.
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Saturday, July 4th, 2015 07:29 am
AWOL again (where i'm the one who grants leave).

I disappeared into reading another stack of space opera books for a couple of days. I know i'm escaping, i know what i am escaping: i suppose this is a sign i should try and find a therapist to talk to. The goal would be the coaching that i seem to not be managing on my own right now.

On the other hand, i wonder if i can motivate myself with the 120-90 minute a week budget that therapy would take (Transit time, included). meta talking to myself )


We watched the movie Mr Turner last night. There's a review at IMDB that faults the movie for being "a series of largely disjointed vignettes." It's true it misses a driving narrative. When is life truly a driving narrative? We are taught to value the narrative, to see the pattern of the narrative among the random, but as we live our life the threads are so interwoven with other stories, there is no actual narrative. Narrative is the pattern we find as we sift all that is for what to attend to.

The movie's disjointed moments of low and high portray the common, eccentric, and sublime without guiding the viewer: i am reminded of the effect of some of Turner's paintings. They were so abstracted, yet intended a narrative (with titles such as "The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838 " and "Slavers Throwing overboard the Dead and Dying—Typhon coming on"). In this movie, too, we have abstracted moments from the last half of Turner's life intended to provide the narrative.

It's available streaming on Amazon.
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Friday, June 12th, 2015 07:28 am
I'm going to get to attend the American Librarian Association meeting in San Francisco at the end of the month. I'll go up with a friend and colleague on Friday and knock around, and then Saturday i have a schedule of meetings and events about privacy to attend.

I'm hoping it will be fun and not too overwhelming.

We finally have warm days. Monday was downright HOT, and it seemed unfair to be thrown into the furnace after so many mild days. Today is simply going to be pleasantly warm, but the power company is calling for a saving day where we should reduce our power. We did have a drizzly day on Wednesday: so delightful, so needed. Tonight i hope to sit on the deck and enjoy a balmy evening into the night.

We watched the documentary series The Century of the Self over the past few weeks. It shows how propaganda, public relations, and advertising developed over the century. Intentionally, Americans were encouraged to focus on their desires and fears over the century, and one can easily see so much of what is problematic - the waste, the over-consumption, the lack of concern for others and lack of civic-mindedness - as a result. We're also watching the Roosevelt documentary, and it does provide a sense of the difference, the before. Corporate greed was well entrenched, but the progressive spirit of both Teddy Roosevelt and FDR was well connected to the progressivism of the culture. I can't imagine what the Tea Party would brand Teddy Roosevelt. (I'll admit a certain ... squeamishness around his attitude toward the constitution.)

I'm left with questions of how well can i guard myself against the self satisfaction culture.

Elephants are coming and going. Some days feel like a stampede and then some days it seems they are gone. My record-keeping failed in the past weeks when it seemed my brain went on a long vacation to Liad as i read book after book, so it's hard for me to verify my perceptions.
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Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 06:59 am
Last night we watched the documentary on James Cameron's expedition to the bottom of Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench. There were critters and, while the camera gazed lovingly at them for moments, the narrative quickly skipped over any details. The focus was on the expedition itself, which was interesting from an engineering project management point of view and from a human interest point of view. Project management: really? You schedule the ship to arrive before the submersible is ready? Oh to have the edited footage that the scientists analyzed for critters and just gaze at the depths for an hour or so!


Does the website from National Geographic link to scientific papers about the trip? No. Are there papers? Yes. I read the paper about the community patterns last night. I found the microbial mats paper this morning. There were also big -- giant! -- amoeba called xenophyophores - i hope to find a paper on them.

I delight in Google Image search as an assist when reading that scientists prior to the trip "identified several distinctive features that characterize hadal communities including a) dominance of certain groups like the actinians, polychaetes, isopods, amphipods, echiurids, and holothurians, b) lower representation of non-holothurian echinoderms, c) insignificance or lack of fish and decapod crustaceans and d) mass-occurrence of holothurians at maximal trench depths."

I'm realizing that these days i read fewer books but delight in reading various science papers as topics catch my interest. Instead of book lists, i now use Zotero to collect the citations for both the professional documents and my diversionary reading. A browser plug in, Lazy Scholar, helps me find full text on occasion, although this morning i note that it can't find the full text of the paper presented in full on the Science Direct website. I will blame Elsevier (which always produces a satisfying sense of self righteousness).

Off i go to day two of the internet identity workshop, hoping to return this evening not feeling exhausted by the pressure of so many people talking and presenting myself as a competent being. I am tired of feeling so tired, which does seem a depression symptom.

Cameron, James. Deepsea Challenge. National Geographic Entertainment, 2014.

Gallo, Natalya D., James Cameron, Kevin Hardy, Patricia Fryer, Douglas H. Bartlett, and Lisa A. Levin. “Submersible- and Lander-Observed Community Patterns in the Mariana and New Britain Trenches: Influence of Productivity and Depth on Epibenthic and Scavenging Communities.” Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers 99 (May 2015): 119–33. doi:10.1016/j.dsr.2014.12.012.

Munroe, Munroe. Lakes and Oceans. Webcomic, April 9, 2012. http://xkcd.com/1040/large/.

Nunoura, Takuro, Yoshihiro Takaki, Miho Hirai, Shigeru Shimamura, Akiko Makabe, Osamu Koide, Tohru Kikuchi, et al. “Hadal Biosphere: Insight into the Microbial Ecosystem in the Deepest Ocean on Earth.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112, no. 11 (March 17, 2015): E1230–36. doi:10.1073/pnas.1421816112.
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Thursday, December 11th, 2014 06:09 am
Christine asked me to keep Edward in this windy and damp morning. He, however, is quite articulate and g78 [OK, his typing isn't so good] and he is making his desire quite clear. I am keeping him in for Christine though. I have a little wager with the devil on my shoulder on how long Christine will withstand Edwards plea.

Now he's sitting in my lap, my heavens what a big cat.

We went to see Hector and the Search for Happiness last night. It is incredibly charming, gently humorous. It's not particularly cerebral, but it's an intense journey. It seems to have been unnoticed, but the animations and other creative special effects create charm.

Skype better have paid them a bundle, is my only negative comment. And even then, that's not so much negative as just ... well, i suspect skype may become the generic for video calls.

Note to Microsoft: DO NOT RUIN SKYPE.
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Saturday, November 29th, 2014 05:32 am
I'm sitting outside, just under the eves enough to be out of the rain. It is, delightfully, coming down like a real rain. I woke in the wee hours, coughing. We flipped the mattress last night, a chore we haven't completed in ages, and i think we kicked up some dust. My lungs are complaining. I've used the inhaler, played solitaire, drank warm egg nog, and listened to the rain from the warmth of bed.

But i'm awake, so i've finally surrendered and made tea.

And with that, i decided i really ought to get some delight out of this rare event.


We watched a delightful documentary over the past few days, Mona Lisa is Missing, a charming and very human documentary which also has very solid research.

In the evening we watched Saving Private Ryan. It was an excellent bit of film making. As someone who aspires to be a pacifist, though, i found the last words of the Captain to Private Ryan enlightening. "Earn this," says the Captain, where "this" is the sacrifice of the men who went to collect him.

I cannot stand with those who believe in the sacrificial Christologies; i cannot believe in a ledger where sacrifice, violence, and brutality are totaled up and that they buy something. That injunction is traumatizing, and carries the trauma into the generations.


Also, Nathan Fillion as Minnesota Ryan (the first Ryan found) is just great in over the top mourning for his brothers.


Oh, a killdeer is calling out in the darkness and rain.
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Saturday, September 6th, 2014 06:54 am
We went to see Hundred-foot Journey last night, and we were delighted. Helen Mirren pulled us in, but the whole cast and story and landscape delighted.

I was disappointed that the south Indian vegetarian restaurant we initially chose was closed, but the Tandori Oven chain near the movie theater was perfectly satisfying. (Eating before the movie is recommended!)


While i am not at 100% yet, i am definitely improving. Yay. One small household "condition of enoughness" was achieved yesterday, overcoming a little bit of the lack of motivation i've been feeling at the end of the work day.
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Friday, August 29th, 2014 06:31 am
Whine )

I *am* getting better. I just resent this week.

One silver lining: being sick has allowed my ankles to continue to rest from the sprains earlier this summer.


Last night we watched Netflix documentary Mission Blue: both wonderful and heartbreaking. http://mission-blue.org/ Sylvia Earle's life is amazing to ponder: a marine botanist and one of the first to use scuba gear, one of the first aquanauts, pioneer for women scientists, and witness to what may be the beginning of one of the great extinctions.

50% of coral reefs gone?

My recent reading has led me to spend time thinking about how the oceans probably have incredible evolutionary information. While plants may be the extremely long lived creatures of the land, underneath the waves animals live for a very long time:

There’s a 2,742-year-old Gerardia coral, and nearby, the 4,265-year-old Leiopathes, a
black coral related to sea anemones, both discovered in exceedingly deep waters off
the Hawaiian archipelago using a submersible vehicle—approximately 1,200 feet
down. Older still, in Arctic waters off the Norwegian shelf lives the 6,000-year-old
Lophelia pertusa coral, around 330 feet down.

The oldest animal on the planet could be the 15,000-year-old Anoxycalyx joubini
volcano sponge off the McMurdo shelf in Antarctica. I’m not sure of their exact depth,
but no one has visited the oldest among them face-to-face, in fact, as they were
found using a SCINI ROV—that’s “Submersible Capable of under Ice Navigation
and Imaging Remotely Operated Vehicle.”

Sussman, Rachel; Zimmer, Carl; Obrist, Hans Ulrich (2014-06-03). The Oldest Living Things in the World (Page 265). University of Chicago Press. Kindle Edition.

I tell myself that shallow coral reefs are unlikely to harbor ancient individuals, what with sea level changes and so on, but the species could have been ancient: ecological niches effectively and efficiently filled since the niche was discovered now empty?

And the fish stocks plummeting?

What heartbreak. What blindness. Sylvia Earle's eyes are wide open, and this documentary helps us all see.
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Wednesday, August 6th, 2014 08:12 am
* Finished Morse. So so very sad, so we are starting Inspector Lewis over (at least until i start remembering how they end).
* Netflix recommended Royal Pains. I skimmed the first episode. Um, no.
* Watched Romancing the Stone (1984), last watched ages and ages ago. I think i like "Action Adventure Romantic Comedies." There's Crocodile Dundee, African Queen, and ? I guess many Kathryn Hepburn films? Recommendations for Netflix available Kathryn Hepburn films always welcome, any other recommendations? Anything more recent than the 80s?

* Raising Steam (Discworld) by Terry Pratchett - started during the summit week as i thought i needed a diversion, not more thinking. Not particularly excited. I've seen some of the Discworld videos on Netflix and enjoyed those, but the full narrative, listening, misses the power of the skim to edit and the video editor's sharpening of the story.

* Still loving Biology: The Science of Life. At 36 hours plus, i am listening at 2x speed.

Courses: I am happy to discover Coursera has an iPad app that downloads the videos. I've sketched out a series of fall courses for myself. The first is four weeks (20140801-0831) "Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects." This seems rather light. The first week introduced me to a number of techniques i already knew, although it was useful to hear that the number of "chunks" has been reduced from the "four to seven" guideline that was espoused in information architecture menu design to just four.

Next, with a slight overlap, is (20140823-0914) Preparation for Introductory Biology: DNA to Organisms. I think this one will be tough, as it will involve memorization. The audiolecture will have undergirded the conceptual understandings i need, but this will force me to learn language and labels.

I'm not sure whether i will stick with the next, (20140915-1110) Sustainability in Practice. It is, however, buzzword rich. I may spring for a certificate and list it on Linked In, if i think i can keep up.

Finally, the exciting one: (20141026-1214) What a Plant Knows. I think this is Biology for Physicists and Poets: it looks pretty light in the time commitment. There's a Nature episode, What Plants Talk About, that is similar.
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Saturday, December 21st, 2013 05:41 pm
Happy solstice!

Today is [Saturday was] our 22nd anniversary, and we went out for lunch at the nice tapas place downtown, Cascal, and then to see The Desolation of Smaug.

Prior to lunch, we purged the gift wrap stash. It seems that much of the nice (ie: unused, from this decade) stashed wrap Christine didn't like, and then there was the ton of recycled or salvaged stuff (a half dozen calendars, for example).

That purging led the way for me to wrap the gifts for my aunts, uncles, Grandmámá and her husband, my grandfather's wife, and my parents. While in the midst of optimizing shipping -- it turns out the fixed rate envelope held the gift of local almonds just fine (although now as i think of it, the odds of smashed almonds come to mind) -- a gift from my grandfather's wife arrived: filet mignon in a giant styrofoam box.

I'm pondering using the steak at the Meetinghouse for our guests who are there this month. That's my planned Christmas morning activity, and i can then write a thank you note that admits to being vegetarian but assert that our guests enjoyed it. And how often, i wonder, do folks provide a touch of steak in the meals they prepare for those who need to sleep in the area churches?

I love the way the USPS has evolved! I could use the address book entries from last year, pay with paypal (and not have to go find a credit card). When all was packed and the USPS shipping labels taped on, off we went to the post office (where Christine chose to stand in line), and then we had our lunch.

While in the house i had felt chilled and cold, the day was bright. We ended up sitting outside in the sun. Just the moment in the restaurant with my heavy sweater seemed too close. We ordered a salad to start: Brazilian hearts of palm, roasted pineapple, jicama, watercress, lime-coconut dressing with grilled shrimp. The hearts of palm had a quality like the whites of boiled eggs. Not unpleasantly so, but i expected a touch more crunch - that the jicama happily provided. If i were making the salad i would have had to added something to give it a bit more color. It was absolutely delicious though, so i don't know what could have been added without affecting the flavor balance.

I ordered the roasted sea scallops. With my first bite, i thought whatever hot seasoning had given the salad its heat was still on my palate, overwhelming the gentle sweetness of the scallop. Then i noticed the slices of jalapeño in the dish. How could i have missed that in the menu description? I didn't: "Fresh sea scallops roasted with shiitake mushrooms, black pepper-soy butter sauce." Fortunately this small dish was very small (three large scallops) and Christine's choice, "Crisp tortillas topped with fresh crab, shrimp, chipotle aioli, guacamole and crema," was huge. Christine enjoyed the jalapeños, and i feasted on the piles of lettuce on the tostaditos.

Our waiter was short with us, and i always assume that attitude is that "Lunching ladies are terrible tippers.." At the movie theater Christine asked if i thought it was because of her. It breaks my heart to think that she still worries about being visibly different. I mentioned the lunching-ladies attitude, thinking about the loud group several tables away from us. Since one of the ways Christine has taught me generosity over the years is through tipping, i knew the waiter would not find that we were short with him.

The Desolation of Smaug didn't resonate well with us. I felt that the echoes with the previous trilogy felt more like reuse than thematic returns. Skimming over the book, i feel like a great possibility was lost: the movie essentially begins with the visit to Beorn. In the book, Gandalf cleverly tells a story to Beorn, slowly introducing all the dwarves. What a great recap opportunity! Stay true to the book, begin with a shire-esque view of an edenic rural life, reintroduce all the dwarves, and then later bring back the evil. Even have Gandalf and Beorn have a political pow-wow out of sight of the rest of the crew. But no.

And the end? Ouch.

Will we go see the third? Yes, i will. Hrmph.


My observances of the wheel of the year have not been as active as i would like. Sometimes i wonder how much is the shift of ecological meaning with the local Mediterranean climate. The length of day is not nearly as important as the arrival of the rains. (And this year, drought, drought, drought!) I found myself celebrating the first rains with delight, knowing that it signals a greening and rebirth at odds with the traditional understanding of the solar wheel that won't see the look forward to rebirth and greening until Imbolc.

I will take the thought of the solstice into Meeting worship today. Thinking of the growing light ties closely with the sense of leading, that the photography and flowers is a Right Work for me and will lead me to where i have the joy of work that aligns with the sense of Calling.
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Sunday, December 15th, 2013 07:22 am
I swear that i checked the laptop later in the day yesterday, but tons of email and blog posts seem to have come in after i was no longer checking. I suppose i needed to get to sleep when i did.


Not much holiday in this long weekend, but i am delighted to announce that i can make tamales! I made up my folding method and watched how-to videos while they were steaming. This may not be the most efficient order, but it is an effective learning practice. "Oh, that's how you cope with that!" i note in some points, where other places in various practices seem more like ritual than necessity. Mine didn't take nearly as long to cook as some of these folks cook theirs.

I indulged in lots of time standing in the kitchen roasting peppers on a dry cast iron pan. I wasn't quite patient enough to then peel them completely, but it was a reasonable simulacrum of fire roasted peppers. I've also come up with the idea of Chile Relleno tamale which may feature prominently next time around.

I want to come up with an appetizer sized tamale that i can serve at meeting instead of half sandwiches when i get my turn to do lunch for Meeting for business, something small that one can eat out of the husk. I've also since found a recipe that uses semi-frozen olive oil as the fat: i used a solid vegetable oil. I'm fascinated as two of the videos i watched used melted lard. Why bother freezing the olive oil?

The biggest horror i saw in the videos was a woman who wrapped her corn husk wrapped tamales in wax paper. No! One of my motivations and delights in learning to make tamales is that gluten protein is also steamed in a similar way, and the instructions had me wrapping in foil. Wrapping in cornhusks is such a sustainable cooking practice that i want to extend it wherever i can.


One of my other victories this weekend was rescuing the 32 MB SD card in my phone. Not a technical trick, just the maintenance of copying the data off, reformatting, and copying back. I was happy to see that the disk maintenance software on my mac pronounced it irrevocably broken and recommended reformatting as it gives me some confidence that i have, indeed, solved the issue that caused my phone to "loose" the card periodically.


Over the past few days Christine and i watched Bletchley Circle, which i heartily recommend. I did find the intensity of watching intelligent women struggling in the male dominated mundanity of the post war years to be terribly painful. The horror of the serial killer was nothing compared to the gut-punch of the police commissioner threatening one of the women that he would tell her husband what she was up to (solving a mystery). I ached with the depictions of the limits, and wonder if the show's depiction makes the limits painfully clear for all watchers or if it is just a horror of my own that i bring. (I have similar issues with Contact. I can't remember it now, i just remember it was too close to my graduate school experience to bear watching again.)

We watched Europa Report last night, at JWZ's recommendation. There's a certain quality of Blair Witch in Space Project to the production, but i only found implausible one bit of filming (wouldn't the camera have been down while the power to the command module was down?) and not exactly a spoiler but... ). It was satisfying and well done, despite my snark.