Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Telling Secrets

Ah, to be reminded of those halcyon days of Watergate. A time when the press knew how to gather information like gumshoe detectives right out of a dime-store novel. The stark contrast with what we now have that calls itself the press: Shall I kiss your butt now, Mr. President, or should I wait for the photo op? Where is our W. Mark Felt when we need him today? Who will step forward and reveal the secrets of this administration, and what journalist(s) will have the tenacity, temerity, and audacity to ask the questions? Where is our free press?
Thanks for coming forward, Mr. Felt. We've been waiting along time to say thanks for telling the secrets.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Bill of Particulars

Is there a case for impeachment?

this is an audio post - click to play

the audio portion of our program is a group called "city folk" doing their version of jackson browne's "i am a patriot."

update: go here to listen to the whole song in good audio quality. click on the mp3 icon. we created the link above by holding the phone up to our speakers.

if bill clinton was impeached for lying about consensual sex with an adult, what do you think about george bush lying about the reasons and his intentions for taking our country into an undeclared, unprovoked war? a war that has cost us over 1600 armed services deaths, over 8,000 casualties, up to 100,000 iraqi civilian deaths, and cost more than 300 billion dollars. what do you think about major tax cuts, benefitting mainly the rich, during war? how about 8 billion dollars unaccounted for in war spending? how about that farm bill that paid big bucks to big business and began the bigtime deficit spending? how about cuts to veterans benefits and medical service? how about that secret energy task force meeting led by cheney? how about the commander-in-chief attending ZERO funerals for our fallen soldiers? how about bush's air national guard service? how about that torture?

check out After Downing Street and Big Brass Alliance.

Photographing Bald Eagles

We try to take a good 3 or 4 mile walk several times a week. There's one walk we take along the Larry Scott Memorial Trail, where we are often rewarded with sightings of bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). No matter how many times we see these birds, it never becomes a commonplace experience. Eagles are among those animals that remind us of the wildness that still lives on the earth. They are the poet's metaphor for soaring grace, and the unblinking eye of the hunter. Eagles figure in so many native myths and legends, and when you see them you instantly know why. I've tried many times to photograph them, but I don't have a telephoto lens on the Nikon Coolpix 775. It's a great digital camera for close ups, but for zooming in, it leaves a lot to be desired. Several weeks ago, we read a post on Bouphonia, where Philalethes wrote about photographing a bird through the lens of his binoculars (scroll down to his post of April 19th). What a great idea. We always carry our binoculars and camera on our walks, so if any bird photographing opportunity presented itself, we'd be ready. (Click on the following photos to enlarge.)

In Flight

Last Friday, we saw more eagles than we had ever seen at one time. Three circled over the papermill along the waterfront. We often see eagles flying in pairs, but in this case, this apparent trio was actually a single eagle soaring a bit distantly from the pair. I couldn't get a shot through the binoculars, but I think the zoom worked well enough, so that you can see their white tails as they flash against the blue sky. Shortly after this photo was taken, the lone eagle took off.

Zoomed In

There are many trees along this particular stretch of the trail. They stand on a cliff that is about 90 feet high. The eagles have chosen only one tree to roost in, which puts them nearly 125 feet above the trail. There are no obvious nests here, but it is a fine hunting spot above the Port Townsend Bay. We've seen them in this tree on several occasions, and each time I have attempted to photograph them. But even the shots at the camera's fullest zoom, they are barely discernible except for a hint of white head and tail. You may notice a blur flying just above the tree. That's a cliff swallow zipping by.

With binoculars

On this day, I finally had an opportunity to use the camera through the binoculars approach. I turned the zoom function off, leveled the camera's lens against the right-eye piece of the binoculars, checked the small monitor (which was substituting as the viewfinder) and clicked the shutter. I took five or six shots like this. It wasn't easy determining what I was actually seeing through the monitor. The sun was high and reflected off the screen, which meant I could only make out the indistinct colors of the branches as they contrasted with the sky. I counted how many branches down the eagle was from the top, and clicked the shutter again. I turned the zoom on just once. The image looked entirely blurry in the monitor I took a single shot and turned the zoom off. I figured that one was a waste.

Perfect Shot
I finally got the photograph I was looking for. Camera zoom on through the binoculars.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Memorial Day Remembrance

My father was a combat medic during World War II. He landed in Normandie on D-Day +3, and made his way behind enemy lines in the Battle of the Bulge. He was awarded the Purple Heart for a severe back injury sustained while rescuing fellow wounded soldiers from an overturned tank. That was a life-long, but bloodless (Fuck you, Bob Dole) injury. When my father was released from the hospital, he went AWOL. It's true. He and a fellow solider went to Paris for a week to really recover. When he returned to the front lines, he was told that he had a choice to make: Be recommended for a Silver Star for bravery AND face a court martial for going AWOL, or no court marital, but lose the Silver Star. He chose not to go to court.

The combat medic was one of the unsung heroes of World War II. He lived with the front line infantrymen and was the first to answer a call for help. He gave first aid to his wounded comrades and helped them out of the line of enemy fire. More often than not, he faced the enemy unarmed and was the foundation of the medical system with hundreds of thousands of surgeons, nurses, scientists, and enlisted medics.

The main objective of the medic was to get the wounded away from the front lines. Many times this involved the medic climbing out from the protection of his foxhole during shelling or into no-man’s-land to help a fallen comrade. Once with the wounded soldier, the medic would do a brief examination, evaluate the wound, apply a tourniquet if necessary, sometimes inject a vial of morphine, clean up the wound as best as possible and sprinkle sulfa powder on the wound followed by a bandage. Then he would drag or carry the patient out of harms way and to the rear. This was many times done under enemy fire or artillery shelling.

My father told us many stories of the things he had seen on the battlefield. The cries he heard. The limbs he had seen strewn about. I wouldn't say he was haunted by it, but he never forgot.

When I was young, my father was the go-to guy for all the neighborhood kids when they sustained a street injury. He could put together a butterfly bandage with his eyes closed. He was fearless around blood, and the kinds of things that made other parents very squeamish. When my cousin nearly tore off her finger in a door-closing accident in the 50s, my father was the one who bundled her up and took her to the hospital. He was the epitome of the calm and quiet combat medic always.

On Memorial Day, I remember my father who passed away in 1992. This is my Silver Star of recognition for a true hero.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Flower Power

as always, click on the pictures to get a BIG version.

oriental poppies, california poppies, day lillies, lupin, foxglove, redhot pokers, purple something.

above are some of the flowers beyond the pond. below, a flower in the pond


Friday, May 27, 2005

Tanks a Lot

it arrives

in place

ok. you've seen the collector. you've seen the leaking hot tub. now we are ready for rain in a big way. this green monster holds 2800 gallons! i was lucky enough to catch the installer guy at the office where i bought the tank so he loaded it onto the rented trailer with a fork lift. i backed it up to the prepared location, dropped the rear of the tilt bed, and our guests helped muscle it into its final resting place. the whole operation, including trailer rental and return, took less than two hours. i transferred the contents of the hot tub to it by running a hose from the tub to the collector and letting the pump do its thing. two or three hundred gallons barely fills the green monster to the level of the outlet. we have enjoyed clear skies and hot days for almost a week, but this is the wet northwest after all so more rain is guaranteed. it says so right here in the user's manual.

don't try this in colorado. rainwater collection is verboten because you would be interupting someone's "downstream" water rights. wow.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Kitty Fugue

Sad Bonsai
Readers of our blog know that we have a cat with neurological problems. He stumbles, trips, rolls, and falls when he is running and playing. He has grand mal seizures when he sleeps. But he is also a charming, shy beauty with a sweet and canterkous personality. He is the quintessential kitty cat. We had forgotten one aspect of Bonsai's nature--how he responds to houseguests. So over the past few days we've been reminded that our kitty cat probably needs anti-depressants. Poor Bonsai, the minute he hears a stranger's voice in the house, he hides. Usually he hides under the bed in the guest bedroom, but when guests are staying there in "his" room, he finds other dark and inaccessible spots. He can be found behind the couch in the office, or he hides in our closet. During this visit with our latest guests, Bonsai has adopted our closet. He won't budge. He won't even come out to eat. When he does get up to walk around he moves like he is catatonic; his motor skills are even worse than usual. I've brought his food and water into the closet. Am I co-dependent? Enabling his dysfunction? Maybe I should insist that he come out and "get over it." I just can't. Poor Bonsai.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Hummingbird haiku

Rufous Hummingbird (Selaphorous Rufus)

No hummingbird caught
He had been trying for years
He was five years old

Hummingbird at rest
stillness belies its heartbeat
thousand a minute

Seeds burst, roots shoot down
coy climbing vines blush flowers
courting hummingbirds

outside on the phone
hummingbird flies by my head
thrumming wings say all

Update: These haikus were written on Tuesday, May 24th. The tyrant RD gave the pirate and houseguests an "assignment" for the day: Write a haiku about hummingbirds. These are the results. This is what happens when you visit the bums. You never know what will be asked of you.

Monday, May 23, 2005

A visit

the pirate's daughter indigo and her husband are visiting for the week. we plan clam digging, walking our favorite walks, cooking good food, drinking good wine, and telling good stories. she is the one in the white shirt holding her horse while the vet "floats" the horse's teeth, which i am informed means filing down the high spots. no picture for you of the husband yet, but we assure you he is a very nice guy. they met while getting math degrees at humboldt state university. now she trains horses, and is very good at it. indigo and sky, children of hippies. posting may take a back seat to family this week. although sky is a computer guy, so we may rope him in.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

More Birds

crows chase a red-tailed hawk*

"it's the same story the crow told me, it's the only one he knows" uncle john's band--the grateful dead.

we were watching the crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) play in the strong wind last evening in the fading light. they were off a bit, over the neighbor's place. crows show up in our yard singly or in twos sometimes. other birds avoid them. they perch on the bird feeder but i have never seen them eat from it. they walk around the ground but the only thing i have ever seen them eat is stale bread i threw out. we did once see a crow flying off with what looked like a bird's egg in it's beak. there is a house down the street a bit that they favor. we often see twenty or fifty, well, a lot, of crows on the lawn and driveway there.

we do see a murder of crows (isn't that just the most interesting collective noun) flying over sometimes. crows are a raucous lot. they pick a place, thankfully away from our yard, to congregate, arrive in noisy waves, annoy the locals, and then depart in waves, still noisy.

"It is better to fall among crows than flatterers; for those devour only the dead -- these the living."
- Antisthenes

"Method is more important than strength . . . By dropping golden beads near a snake, a crow once managed to have a passerby kill the snake for the beads."
- Siddha Nagarjuna

as the crow flies

stone the crows

eat crow

something to crow about

aesop's fables include

◦ The Crow and Mercury
◦ The Crow and the Pitcher
◦ The Crow and the Raven
◦ The Crow and the Serpent
◦ The Crow and the Sheep
◦ The Dove and the Crow
◦ The Fox and the Crow
◦ The Jackdaw and the Doves
◦ The Jackdaw and the Fox
◦ The Eagle and the Jackdaw
◦ The Raven and the Swan
◦ The Swallow and the Crow
◦ The Vain Jackdaw
the list is from here.

and from here we get:

Creating Jim Crow: In-Depth Essay
By Ronald L. F. Davis, Ph. D.

The "Jim Crow" figure was a fixture of the minstrel shows that toured the South.
The term Jim Crow is believed to have originated around 1830 when a white, minstrel show performer, Thomas "Daddy" Rice, blackened his face with charcoal paste or burnt cork and danced a ridiculous jig while singing the lyrics to the song, "Jump Jim Crow." Rice created this character after seeing (while traveling in the South) a crippled, elderly black man (or some say a young black boy) dancing and singing a song ending with these chorus words:
"Weel about and turn about and do jis so,
Eb'ry time I weel about I jump Jim Crow."

and about the crow's cousin "The Raven" by E.A. Poe

*RD went out in our yard this morning to get a crow picture for this post. she was rewarded with this picture of two crows chasing a red-tailed hawk. we see crows quite often harrassing eagles and hawks. of course, eagles and hawks are birds of prey. they may not prey on adult crows but do eat crow eggs and crow nestlings.

extra credit: leave a crow saying or a crow story in comments.

Why We Watch Birds

Our good friend Hedwig the Owl over at Living the Scientific Life has a wonderful, inspiring post on why we watch birds. Want a reason to go outside and take a look around? Go read Hedwig.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Commencement Speak

"Someday you will appreciate the grammar and verbal skills you learn here," Bush deadpanned to laughter from the audience. "And if any of you wonder how far a mastery of the English language can take you, just look what it did for me."

That's right because you can be the most inarticulate and idiotic human on the planet and still be President. You can kill people the world over, commit horrific crimes of torture, humiliation, and degradation and never need to know how to pronounce Abu Ghraib.

The Great Mother
Not all those who pass
In front of the Great Mother's chair
get passt with only a stare
Some she looks at their hands
To see what sort of savages they were.
Gary Snyder from Turtle Island

Standing with Calvin College Grads

We read this in Salon, and it made us happy, so we thought we'd share it with you.

The Bush administration's deep ties to the religious right get most of the press these days, but there are lots of Americans -- including some who consider themselves good Christians -- who are less supportive of the President's policies. This week's case in point: Calvin College, a Christian and predominantly Republican liberal arts institution in Grand Rapid, Michigan, whose students and faculty plan to protest President Bush's commencement address on Saturday. Protesters will don buttons and armbands reading "God is not a Republican or Democrat" along with their caps and gowns.

Eight hundred Calvin students collected almost $10,000 to place a full-page ad in Friday's Grand Rapids Press objecting to Bush getting the commencement gig. "We are alumni, students, faculty and friends of Calvin College who are deeply troubled that you will be the commencement speaker at Calvin," the letter reads. "In our view, the policies and actions of your administration, both domestically and internationally over the past four years, violate many deeply held principles of Calvin College."

In addition, more than 130 members of the college's faculty and staff put up $2,600 to run their own letter of protest in Saturday's paper, which objects to the president's visit on Christian grounds. "As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers and to initiate war only as a last resort," the professors' letter states. "We believe your administration has launched an unjust and unjustified war in Iraq."

The White House isn't used to receiving this kind of reception -- in fact, as Friday's Los Angeles Times reported, a recently leaked memo from the conservative group Women Impacting Public Policy demonstrates the administration's strict criteria for weeding out dissenters at the president's "public" appearances. Since the administration can't guarantee that Bush will get the usual softball questions at Calvin, DailyKos speculates that Karl Rove -- who apparently arranged for the event with the expectation that it would be a pro-Bush no-brainer -- will manufacture some kind of "national emergency" to excuse the president from Saturday's speech. Tom Ridge may still be on standby yet!

High on Poppies

Papaver Orientale
After the rains came, the flowers responded by sending up new shoots, buds, open flowers. We cut our first bouquet of the season. There is nothing like the fragrance of freshcut sweet peas on the table. And our first poppy of the season opened.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Evolutionary Fun

Found this bumpersticker over at Respectful Insolence.

Invertebrate Blogging Friday

Greenhouse spider
This fine critter lives in one corner of the greenhouse where she seems to enjoy the red ants and slugs that find their way into her web.

Mosquito hawk
Just found this one on the door into the greenhouse. We used to call critters like this flying spiders or daddy long legs.

This dragonfly is probably a darner. I found it on the floor at work a few years ago and asked a student to photograph it for me. What a beauty.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Good News.....mostly

the collector is complete and works just fine. the two large black pipes carry rainwater from the roof into it. the white pipe is an overflow, for those times it rains more than the pump can keep up with. the big downpour. the smaller black pipe is the outlet from the pump, carrying water to the tank. the wires to the pump and float switch are visible too.

the tank is covered with shade mesh and kept in place with a giant green rubber band. the mesh was in the greenhouse and we decided to remove it as it seemed unneccessary. water goes right through it and sun doesn't so much. two layers may be required to keep algae from growing in the tank. the giant green rubber band is some sort of exercise device the pirate bought long ago in a fit of fitness and never used.

a day and a half of intermittent, medium rain filled the tank almost full. the white pipe is the overflow. the other pipe is the business end from the pump.

the not-so-good news is that the water doesn't stay in the tank. it is an old hot tub and had been empty for several years when i salvaged it. the pieces were carefully duct-taped into bundles and stored for maybe eight years. i remember vaguely reading somewhere that redwood tanks don't always seal up properly after being dried out, let alone disassembled. too true in this case. two hours before i took the picture the water level was near the top of the overflow pipe.

it worked well enough for a proof-of-concept test. we had already decided to buy a larger plastic tank if the plan turned out to be feasible so we located several sources for 2500-2800 gallon tanks yesterday and are awaiting exact prices that include shipping. there is one available 2 miles away but no delivery is included. we may rent a trailer and haul it on home. it is 8 feet in diameter and eight feet tall and weighs 350-400 pounds.

pictures at 11. that's a cliche, of course. we will post pictures when we have a tank.

a bit more good news.......we can use the same pump that put water in the tank to pump the water to soaker hoses on the garden growing beds. more on that later.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

All Aboard the Bullshit Train

Here's a headline from the New York Times:

Inflation Pressures Ease Despite Jump in Food and Energy Costs

Need we say more?

Dividing the Country Part II

this is an audio post - click to play

Let's Divide The Country

Would it be terribly wrong to just divide the country?

Here's the country the republicans want:

No taxes
Privatized retirement accounts
Theocratic laws
Faith-based healing
No abortions
No gay people (forget gay marriage all together)
No people of different faiths
No people of color
Intelligent design taught in the schools
Corporate ownership of everything
Privacy rules
Environmental destruction

I say let them have it. I don't want to live in their country.

Here's the country I want to live in:

Universal, comprehensive, single payer national health care (thanks Cervantes)
Social Security
Taxes (progressive and fair)
Gay Marriage
Stem cell research
Diversity in race and faith
Evolution taught in the schools
Representative government
Honest elections
Environmental protection

It seems hopeless that one undivided country will emerge from the ruins of the republican reign of terror. I suspect we will always be divided. So, the question is-- how can the country be divided geographically in two? Where would you draw the boundaries? And what would you add to your country's wish list?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Showin' Off

some kinda cherry/heirloom cross

a windowful tomato patch

we planted actual whole cherry tomatoes from last years crop in these pots in december. the top picture shows some developing fruit that doesn't look like cherry tomatoes. we're guessing that the cherry tomato flowers were pollinated with pollen from the heirloom tomato (a volunteer, from the previous house owner's crop) growing nearby.

the picture below is of ripe cherry tomatoes. we picked them and put them in a salad, took the salad to dinner with friends, and enjoyed them immensely.

the prize

Monday, May 16, 2005

Morning Visitors

pigeons in the morning--as usual, click on the picture to get the big picture

we have a tiny peek out one door of our bedroom, through the living room, of the bird feeder. this morning i saw the very wary bandtail pigeons out there. i went quietly out the other door, down the hall and peeked around a corner through the kitchen. there were maybe 25 pigeons jostling for space on the feeder and on the ground below it. so i crept through the kitchen below window level over to the sliding glass door, turned on the camera and slowly moved it out to get a shot, while laying on the floor. i didn't put my head into pigeon view so i had to look at the little screen kinda sideways to point the camera properly. i took several shots. the camera, set on auto, set off its flash for some. the birds didn't seem to notice. trying for a view through the viewfinder, i moved my head out into view just a tiny bit. bye bye birdies.

update: more info on these pigeons-----the Band-tailed Pigeon, columba fasciata, is a new world bird. its habitat is the western americas and canada; from B.C. to Argentina. a flock may have fifty or more birds, or just one. it's hard to count a flock because they won't hold still. all jostling and flying off and back.

"To maintain homeostasis, pigeons cool off by expelling the layer of skin from the inside of their throats. This thin layer of skin looks similar to a bubble-gum bubble. Once expelled it increases the birds skin surface thus decreasing their body temperature."

i'm assuming that when the bird is cooled off it retrieves its layer of skin.

this info and a lot more, including the quote, is from the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Voices from the Past

harper's contents--click on this to see it in more detail!

i went to our bookshelves to look for a picture that might be in a book we might have, an illustration of a garden in france in maybe 1890 showing a field full of glass bell jars over vegetables of some sort. no luck with the book, but as i am a print junkie i had to pick up something. look, here's an old magazine we got somewhere, probably a yard sale. Harper's Magazine, September issue. missing the cover. no date. maybe on the spine. wow 1898!!!

Harper's Magazine September, 1898

the language used, the lexicon, grammar, and spelling, were a bit stilted, but surprisingly similar to current language. what did stand out was the casual way that "white" superiority over "darker" races was invoked in several places. there are no photos, of course, but quite a few illustrations. scanning the contents i see six fiction pieces, two sonnets, two poems, three political essays, one outdoor adventure, two "papers"--one on social life in the british army and one of reminiscences and anecdotes on the life of Mr. Gladstone, the former prime minister of england.

here are short "reviews" of three articles:

"Days in the Arctic," Frederick G. Jackson

the story of six men who spent 3 years in the arctic at 80 degrees n. on a scientific expedition. they lived in a hut 20' x 20' with seven foot ceiling in Franz-Joseph Land. The archipelago of Franz Josef Land, on the northern rim of the continental shelf that underlies the Barents Sea, is the northernmost land mass in the Eastern Hemisphere. this could be a modern tale by the language. very interesting.

"Some Thoughts On The Policy Of The United States," James Bryce

the policy in question is the disposition of foreign lands. cuba, antilles, the phillipines. whether or not the US should have colonies. he says mainly no, because it would be too difficult to defend such far-flung places, except of course cuba. the big reason given though is the inability of the inhabitants of these places to be at all self governing and so enter the union as states. they are unfit for autonomy.

after a lengthy section on the unique system of US government and free elections and press, and the strength of a mostly homogenous population, citing the gradual expansion of the US westward and inclusion of the inhabitants, he goes on to say, with reference to the possible annexation of the antilles and/or the phillipines:

"But the inhabitants of these islands, alien in blood and speech, inferior--and some of them vastly inferior--both intellectually and morally, cannot be so incorporated and made a part of the american people."

The Experiences of the United States in Foreign Military Adventures," Professor Albert Bushnell Hart

he lists six periods: "(1) military expeditions and occupations in the Revolutionary and Barbary wars, 1775-1815. (2) expeditions and occupations for territorial expansion, 1797-1821. (3) relations with european countries, 1822-1835. (4) aggressive expeditions, 183601860. (5) relations with american neighbors, 1861-1872. (6) commercial and philanthropic interventions and expeditions, 1873-1898."

"In the twenty-two years from 1797 to 1819 there had arisen twenty cases of well-defined expeditions into foreign or disputed territory....."

"In the years 1845 '46 eight different expeditions were sent into Mexican territory."

"Between 1849 and 1854 four naval expeditions were sent to Japan to exert a pressure on that country....."

"In 1854, and again in 1855, American forces were landed in China, first to protect and then to oppose the Taiping rebels."

The United States at various times up to 1898 had sent "expeditions" to British and Spanish territory, Mexico, Canada, "Hawaii four times, Japan and China five or six times, Paraguay twice, Chile three times, the eastern coasts of Asia seven or eight times."

a long list, even in 1898.

he ends by saying that all interventions were successful, except the invasions of Canada, that we got a lot of territory and prestige, and that we had a free hand in american (by that i think he means the american continents), pacific, and oriental territories.

he ends with a warning that things will change. "...we must expect to find that no nation can share in the mastery of other hemispheres, and at the same time be sole master in its own hemisphere."

harper's ads

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Our Pond Story

We once had a pond full of goldfish. We didn't buy koi, just some nice feeder goldfish from the local pet store. We put them in the pond where they hid from view for weeks and weeks. Then, when they were comfortable they showed themselves to us. They grew beautifully. Some were all gold, some were black and gold, some were gold and white. They were so happy they had baby goldfish, and the pond burgeoned with new life.

The pond is a mere 30-35 feet from the house. Close enough for us to see the fish when they came to the surface for food. There is a little waterfall at the top where robins, goldfinches, hummingbirds, thrushes, and sparrows splash all day long. The tranquility was like a page out of Thoreau.
There were mornings though when we found our pond plants overturned. The pond water stirred into murkiness. We initially suspected night visitors like the one we had in Santa Cruz, raccoons. But one day, a very large blue heron flew into our yard. A bird with a 4 - 5 foot wingspan is quite a sight, in a pond that is only 9 x 12. It stood like a statue next to the pond, waiting. We chased it. It flew away. It came back the next day, and the next. Pretty soon we had only half dozen large goldfish left, and maybe four babies. The black and gold was gone. Winter came and the pond froze. We didn't see the heron or any fish for a long time. Even after the thaw we were convinced that all the fish had been eaten. But back in March, we noticed the same half dozen had survived, along with the babies that were now turning into full colored goldfish. The fish had found some places to hide, and we hoped that all would be well. Into April we saw the goldfish everyday. Then we were sidetracked by the garden, greenhouse, and orchard. We spent less time communing with the pond life, and more with collecting rainfall, starting seed flats and pulling weeds. From our window, the California poppies cast orange reflections on the pond surface, looking much like the goldfish we thought were still there.

A heron hunts at the beach
But just the other day DPR said to me he thought the fish were gone. I had been thinking the same thing. We keep looking, and not a single one is left. Don't know when that heron came back, but it certainly came and had a mighty fine meal

Friday, May 13, 2005

Happy Birthday to Me!

Bleeding Heart

Today is my 53rd birthday. So I am going to do a combination post. Ten things I want you to know about me. Ten songs that my iPod could play for me everyday. The ten things my cells are doing to me as I age.

1. I am a twin, so it is my brother's birthday today too.
2. I went to Woodstock with all of my siblings.
3. In the 1970s I built two cabins with my partners, using only hand tools (no electricity). One cabin is in southern Oregon, the other is just outside of Garberville in Humboldt County California.
4. I ride an electric bicycle, and used one to commute to work for many years.
5. I chauffeured Abbie Hoffman at the Kerouac Conference 1982.
6. I did a summer poetry apprenticeship with Allen Ginsberg 1982.
7. I am 5'2", weigh 110 pounds, but friends always tell me I take up a lot of space.
8. Most people think I look like I am from India.
9. I have not eaten beef in 35 years.
10. I am a survivor of a violent sexual assault by a stranger in 1970.

My music

1. In My Life - The Beatles
2. Slow Surprises - Chris Smithers
3. Life in the Country - City Folk
4. Rexroth's Daughter - Greg Brown
5. Find the Cost of Freedom - Crosby, Stills, and Nash
6. Keep Me In Your Heart -- Warren Zevon
7. Fare Thee Well -- Fred Neil
8. Water Song - Hot Tuna
9. The Dawntreader-- Joni Mitchell
10. Anything by Martin Simpson

My cells:

1. My hair is almost entirely grey.
2. My skin is smooth and almost entirely unwrinkled, surprising given the amount of time I have spent in the sun
3. I am shrinking. Pretty soon, I'll have to stand on tiptoe to reach my full 5'2".
4. I started wearing reading glasses eight years ago, and distance glasses four years ago. I now have progressive lens on my single pair of glasses.
5. I have a hearing loss in my right ear (from an old swimming injury), which seems to be getting progressively worse.
6. I have been diagnosed with osteopenia-- which means my bones are pretty thin, except that I am a small-boned person, and it is likely that they reached this full level of thinness when I was young, and is not a sign of osteoporosis (the jury is out on this one).
7. It takes much longer for body injuries to heal, a torn ligament in my back took nearly a year two years ago.
8. Memory loss-- in mid sentence, quite often I can not remember all the words I want to use (probably a result of lower estrogen levels).
9. Why I am doing this list? I can't remember.
10. Oh yeah, my cells are aging-- you can read all about it in newscientist.com

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Non-Native Non-Invasive Species




we lived in santa cruz for 8 years in a house with 3 large redwood (sequoia sempervirens) trees in the back yard. redwood seedlings sprang up in pots with other plants and in the garden in odd places. in the front yard often as not. i put several of them in pots with some vague idea of keeping them in bonsai fashion. they have been in pots for 6 years or more with no more attention than water and have moved with us twice, the latest time our big move to washington state. they have lived here for almost a year. we decided to plant the largest three permanently. i found a place on the north side of the property close to some cascara (cascara sagrada) because i knew from living in northern california that redwoods and cascara often grow together.

i know that the poor skinny things don't just jump out at ya in the pictures. each is just about centered in its frame. they are about 10 feet from a driveway. the fir trees just behind them are 15-20 feet tall and to the west. maybe they will thrive and take over the quimper peninsula in 500 years or so. or not.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A Recommendation

The Green Knight has one of the best analysis of the right wing orthodoxy. Highly recommended reading.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Water from the Sky


water from heaven, literally---rain. not a lot yet, but a beginning. that's about 5 inches of water in a tank 60 inches in diameter. so let's see----area equals pi times radius squared. okay that's about 2830 square inches. times 5 to get volume is 14150 cubic inches. divided by 12 cubed gives about 8.2 cubic feet. 1 cubic foot equals 7.48 gallons. so-----from one day of medium light rain we got a bit more than 60 gallons.

the rain gutters on our house all feed into two underground collection pipes that discharge on the downhill side of the house. so far only one, serving about one third of the roof area, is connected to the sump system that pumps water into the holding tank. we would have had, from yesterday's rainfall, about 180 gallons if the other pipe had been connected to the sump. all we need is about fifty feet of the corrugated drain pipe to finish the collection system.

the tank we have, a recycled hot tub, holds about 41 inches of water. using the calculations above that means it will hold about 500 gallons. okay. it rains and we don't need to water the garden. now the rain stops, the sun comes out, and we need to irrigate. the bottom of the tank is about 5 feet above the garden. one foot of head, in this case 5 feet at the bottom and 8 feet from the top of the tank, yields 0.433 psi (pounds per square inch). so the maximum gravity pressure from a full tank, which will of course drop as the water level drops, is almost 3.5 psi. that would suffice for the extravagantly wasteful flood irrigation, but not for efficient drip irrigation. we will therefore need another pump to bring the pressure up to 15-20 psi.

the picture below shows the sump collector with a submersible pump and float switch. when the water level gets almost to the overflow (white pipe) the float switch turns on the pump which pushes water into the holding tank (see top picture). when the water level drops to near the bottom the float switch turns off the pump. the big black pipe brings water from about a third of the roof. the big hole in the side of the collector is where the other big black pipe will go, bringing water from the rest of the roof. the small black pipe goes from the pump to the tank. yes, the collector sump is a plastic garbage can. the top is notched for the outlet pipe and keeps out dirt and critters.


Monday, May 09, 2005

Simply Roses

My twin brother sent us these photos of his roses in Santa Cruz. We thought they captured the exquisite and sensual beauty of the rose.
How can the world contain this much beauty and 1603 deaths of American soldiers and untold numbers of civilians in Iraq? Why has the media stopped counting? No body count. No bodies. No problem.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Roundup ready

broadleaf weeds

bonsai the cat wonders why i dug up all these plants. they are all pulled and waiting the rake. there are that many more hiding in the grass. i am stubborn enough to try to remove all the broadleaf plants from this patch of grass. i sit with my weeding tool and move slowly in random directions weeding as i go. random directions work because there are weeds everywhere. i see why some folks like roundup. next year i may just mow and live with a broadleaf lawn.

update: i am done with this weeding project! there are still thistles to control elsewhere and squash and zuchinni starts to get in the ground. mowing will have to suffice for the lawn.

Friday, May 06, 2005

We're sick of John Kerry

Okay, we admit it. We're sick to death of John Kerry. We want him to shut up and go away. Just be the junior senator from Massachusetts and stop sending us emails and letters. We never hear from Ted Kennedy. We never hear from any other senators, just John Kerry.
Today we received an Action Alert letter in the mail from Friends of John Kerry. In it it says that we must come together because the Republicans are crossing lines that should never be crossed.
Yes, John, it's true. They are, and if you would stop running for President for just five minutes and do the people's work, you might actually accomplish something.
And thanks for turning your back on the lesbians and gays in our country. Whatever glimmer of support you had from us has been utterly extinguished.
DPR says, "Go away, loser."

Microsoft Turnaround

This is such great news. We just had to share it.

From the Seattle Post Intelligencer- Friday, May 6th 12:47 pm PT

SEATTLE -- In a turnaround Friday, Microsoft Corp. chief executive Steve Ballmer said the company will support gay rights legislation.

Ballmer made the announcement in an e-mail to employees two weeks after gay rights activists accused the company of withdrawing its support for an anti-discrimination bill in its home state after an evangelical pastor threatened to launch a national boycott.

The bill died by a single vote in the state Senate in late April.

"After looking at the question from all sides, I've concluded that diversity in the workplace is such an important issue for our business that it should be included in our legislative agenda," Ballmer wrote.

The bill that failed in the state Legislature would have banned discrimination against gays in housing, employment and insurance. Microsoft had supported the measure in the past, but more recently took a neutral stance.

Critics of Microsoft called it a corporate coward, and a major gay rights group, the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center in Los Angeles, asked the company to return a civil rights award it had bestowed on Microsoft four years ago. The group withdrew its demand after Ballmer's turnaround.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights group, said Microsoft "did the right thing and has come down squarely on the side of fairness for all employees."

Late last month, Ballmer said the company had decided to take a neutral stance on the bill and focus instead on a shorter list of legislative priorities that had a more direct impact on the company's software business.

He said that decision was made well before executives met with the Rev. Ken Hutcherson, pastor of a Redmond church who has organized anti-gay-marriage rallies.

The voice mail Friday at Hutcherson's church did not allow for messages, and a call to an emergency assistance number went unanswered. There is no listing for his home.

Fallen Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Owl Wing

We came upon a fallen great horned owl the other day. It was on the side of one of our walking trails. At first we couldn't make sense of what we were seeing. I asked DPR, "What is that over there?" At first glance, there was a large bird, left-wing sprawled outward, and large almost-mammalian looking legs beneath it. We walked over. It was a great horned owl and the large legs were the tremendously muscular legs of the owl itself, ending in its sharp, grey talons. We looked it over. There were no obvious injuries at all. Right eye was missing, but the left was not only intact, but open and staring rather probingly at us. DPR turned the bird over and found one small place on the back where the bones were visible. No blood. No trauma. This was a beautiful owl that was inexplicably dead. We photographed it and left. On the walk home we talked about a friend who would have taken the owl and put it in her freezer until she could figure out what to do with it. She would take the wings and spread them on her wall. She would take the talons and put them in some art work. She would regale her friends with stories of such a find. We wondered if we should take the bird home. It was a short walk. No. We wanted other animals to have it.
Later that evening at dinner, we talked about leaving the bird so close to the trail, where it had fallen. It didn't seem right to us. It had no dignity and privacy where it could fold itself back into the earth. So, we decided to go back to move it further into the woods where it could become food without humans trying to piece it out into their own story.
When I lifted that owl, I was absolutely stunned by its lightness. Something that powerful, that could lift other little animals with its legs was as light as a hand full of feather. Its hollow bones were like nothing at all. When I held it, it was like holding the air. We carried it to the woods, laid it down, and said, we hope you feed a lot of other critters. I tell you, it had the most unbearable lightness.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Tent Caterpillars

Malacosoma californica

When we finally moved up to Port Townsend last June, we arrived in time to see the damage tent caterpillars (Malacosoma californica) had done to our fruit trees. Even though the previous owners had come by and sprayed pesticides, there was leaf damage. The pesticides had prevented further damage on the fruit trees, but the tents were evident on all the other deciduous trees in the yard. They are incredibly unsightly things. We pruned the branches that had the most infestation. We did not spray any additional pesticides relying on physical removal as the best and least offensive intervention.

On our walk today, we noticed there was an infestation on the Larry Scott Memorial trail that runs along Port Townsend Bay. We photographed the branch tip on one tree.

We did a bit of research on these caterpillars and found the following information from the Washington Toxics Coalition:

"The tent caterpillar is one of the most conspicuous and familiar insect pests in the Northwest. Their silky, white tents can easily be seen covering the tips of tree branches. Tent caterpillars eat the foliage of many deciduous trees and shrubs, especially alder, willow, fruit trees, and roses. During a heavy infestation they will migrate and feed on many other plants.

Tent caterpillars damage plants by eating the foliage as it emerges. A healthy plant will usually grow out new leaves by summer, but its growth may be reduced, making it more susceptible to the stresses of drought, cold, disease, and other insects. For this reason, it is a good idea to monitor tent caterpillars closely and control them if necessary. Fortunately, there are effective non-chemical control methods available.

The two kinds of tent caterpillars that occur in the Northwest are the Forest Tent Caterpillar (Melacoscoma disstria) and the Western Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma californica). Both are about two inches long when mature, but their body coloration and style of tent construction are different.

In Western Washington, the Western Tent Caterpillar is more frequently seen. It has orange and black markings that run the length of its body. The eggs hatch out in early spring (April or May) when new buds are emerging. The tiny caterpillars immediately begin feeding, and the familiar tents begin to develop on the tips of branches. The caterpillars leave their tent to feed, but return to it at night. When the weather is cool or wet, they tend to be less active and stay closer to the tent. The tent functions to exclude natural enemies, provide shelter from extremes in temperature or humidity, facilitate molting, and aid in colony communication.

Tent caterpillar populations vary greatly from year to year. Severe outbreaks are periodic but do not follow a fixed cyclic pattern. The outbreaks persist for 1 to 4 years before being brought under control by various factors, including disease, parasites, scarcity of food, weather, or a combination of these factors. The population gradually rebuilds when conditions are favorable."

The Washington Toxics Coalition said that physical removal is really a fine way to handle the problem without having to rely on pesticides or chemicals. We were glad to have done an approved method of control.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Double Vertebrate Blogging

picture taken through closed glass door

bonsai the hunter tries to bring his new toy into the house. we learned by chasing mice around the house to keep the door closed so we could see if mr. cat had been a successful hunter before he got in. i don't think that we would have had to chase this particular mouse.

our cat has several physical limitations that we thought might preclude any success at hunting. shows what we know. his front claws don't properly retract, so that he gets caught in the carpet quite often. his back claws won't extend, so he can't climb; unfortunate for him, okay by us. he can jump up onto a bed or chair, but nothing higher, and when he jumps down he often does a front roll. his rear legs seem to push harder than needed. he can run in a straight line ok, but doesn't corner so well. when he runs after something and tries to stop quickly he often flips heel over head.

he, of course, to himself is just who he is. he behaves "accordingly" in that he's a very wary cat, but how could he know that he isn't a "fully-abled" cat? oh yeah. he also has incredibly violent whole body spasms when he sleeps. he thrashes about so much that he sometimes throws himself off the bed where he sleeps right on the edge. it also means that we keep blanket covers on our couch and upholstered chair because his unretracted front claws catch on fabric and tear out threads. the opinion from vets is that he may have survived a bout of distemper or even some physical trauma.

we have considered and rejected the idea of drugging him to stop the seizures and i clip and file his front claws at irregular intervals. he dislikes having his feet touched so i have to do one or two claws when he is sleeping. he wakes very slowly and walks unsteadily for several minutes.

RD and i in our separate and combined lives have had many cats. we agree that bonsai is the most distinctive character of them all. he comes when called, at least outside, and will follow us around the yard. he also responds when we beckon him to follow and say "c'mon bonsai," even inside. he won't eat unless petted first, but clearly communicates "don't touch me" at most other times.