Posted by: David | March 9, 2009

Spring Break

This week is spring break at the college. The students’ cars began disappearing last Thursday from the still snowy parking lots. Late Friday afternoon they were queued up in front of the dormitories loading trashbags of laundry and other stuff mostly looking happy and relieved to have a week-long break yawning before them. A void to hide the sinuous angst of mid-semester overload and so much work still to be done before May …

We get Monday of Spring Break week off. I’m taking Friday as a vacation day, so two 3-day weekends with a 3-day workweek in between. A work sandwich. Sort of. Anyway, let’s get started. I have a lot of photos to share … So faithful reader cantueso has asked for more pictures of Hunter, our cat. I got plenty of them.

Spring? Good, I’m sick of the litter box. Corners & me just don’t work.

Yesterday was a pretty nice Sunday, sun and clouds. Receding snow. I was able to catch an hour of sun in the greenhouse, followed by some raking up of pine branches by the garden that were broken off during December’s wicked ice storm. And on Saturday I destroyed this horrid brambly rosebush. I should have photographed the process, but I didn’t. It took about 5 hours to completely chop it up and burn it with the propane fueled Weed Dragon®.  This gigantic bush had ripped my arms with its thorns so many times as I mowed the grass around it. Now it’s a pile of ashes. The burning bush was consumed by the flames this time. I am all powerful and have vanquished the evil rosebush. Amen.

The onset of Spring has the rodents getting quite nervy.

This large gray squirrel cleans up under the bird feeders.

This is a rare sight. Both cat and dog surveying the yard. Actually I think the cat was after a housefly.

Stepping out of the greenhouse yesterday the cacophony of birds in the pines made me go get the camera. It’s a wonderful sound, and if you listen closely you’ll hear the crowing of a neighbor’s rooster in the distance.  Here’s some video of yesterday, when it was spring …

Today it returned to winter, with about 7 inches of snow.

Over the weekend I watched a Netflix movie. It was an old sci fi flick from 1971 that I recalled liking a lot. Silent Running starring Bruce Dern and a few other guys who get killed off fairly early on. Bruce plays a devout ecologist on a huge spaceship (one of several) loaded up with the last of the terminally polluted Earth’s flora and fauna. They’re on a long mission to return and replant the planet once it gets cleaned up. Similar idea to this real place up in the Arctic. Well the corporate dudes decide to shitcan the idea, since nobody’s gonna clean up the Earth anyway, and Bruce’s character, Freeman Lowell, goes all HAL9000 and kills the crew, who are busy nuking the garden domes one by one.

Freeman’s ship, the Valley Forge, had to get through the rings of Saturn.

The drones were so cute. They had little people inside. Lowell is getting ready to leave #1 in charge of the garden.

They had handy little nucular detornators. Whoops! One of several goofs this movie had.

So I loved this movie as a teenager. Probably because I was a total nerd and had seen 2001 A Space Odyssey like 30 times (this was long before the days of VCRs my friends) and Silent Running was produced and directed by Douglas Trumbull, who did the effects for 2001. Anyway the point of this digression is that the movie is kind of crappy after all. Way too much of Dern doing sloppy monologues about losing the forest forever. OK, I guess we get that better than we did in 1971. Oh well, I was like 17 when I thought this movie was great. At least it had a good message.

Here are some flower and onion seedlings on our plant table.

Another shot of the kitty. See the pussy willows in the vase?

In other news, our daughter has started her job as a nurse at a nice big teaching hospital up in Lebanon. She’s got the scrubs, the big ID badge, and will probably start helping real patients very soon. She came over for dinner last week, toting a large book on how to read cardiogram data charts.

Pretty exciting stuff. Those calipers might ‘pinch a little’, hmmm?

This post is getting kinda boring Dad.

Oh, so about the aloe plant flowering at work. It’s dripping the sap, but I wasn’t able to get a very good picture of it. Sorry about that. As a consolation prize, here’s a shot of one of our orchids at home. It’s been blooming for a month or two now. That should help with the boredom too, huh?


ZZZ ZZZ ZZZ. Boredom level critical.

Well it’s been a nice snow day for me. Very very nice. Gotta love the internet. I got my taxes done, wrote this terrific post twice (WordPress had network issues today), got some pork chops brining, some cole slaw going, and my wife made some yummy cookies. Now it’s time to go move some snow.


  1. I loved Silent Running! I’m a very noncritical movie viewer, so its overall message is about all that stays with me. Save the trees, Bruce!

    Love your orchids, your rodents, your kitty, your forest, your ADD dog, and your drippy aloe vera. And I predict the rose will rise again from some root fragment left behind …

    Thanks PT! I loved it too as a kid, and the message definitely stuck with me too. It’s good to be a noncritical viewer. I’ve become jaded by the trending toward ADHD in all our media of late. I bet you’re right about the rosebush. I’ll have to tear out the roots and plant something else there or else the brambles will return. 😦 I guess that would make Freeman Lowell happy!

  2. David — you are back!! That cacophony of birds video was awesome. It gave me hope that the winter of my discontent would someday be over. And Silent Running was MY favorite movie. I saw it as often as I could (pre-vcr days) but I tried to watch it recently and it was so slow and pondering I could not take it!!! Thanks for the memories.

    But I never left … Glad you liked the birdies. Their songs do fill one with hope. So you liked Silent Running too! Huh. I think I only saw it on TV once during the 70’s but it hit me hard enough to stick. Upon review it is slow, like so many older movies seem nowadays. We’re just too overstimulated and speedy now. Multitasking fury! God help us!

  3. This morning I’m getting ready to go to work while my girlfriend is talking to me. She turns and looks out the window and the turkey is there. End of talking to me!

    While she’s talking to him I wander off to put my work boots on. I happen to look out the window as the turkey is head down eating and see a fox sneaking up behind him. I sit down to put my boots on and mention this fact. Before I’m sitting down she’s out there chasing the fox away.

    No ones gonna get this turkey on her watch!

    That is so cool! I mean, not you being dissed in favor of the turkey but that you saw all that. It’s like Marlon Frakkin Perkins and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom in your backyard! Your girlfriend is the turkey’s muscle! Therefore your girlfriend is SUPER HOT! Please post some pix of this turkey. Please. 😉

  4. I’ve never seen Silent Running, but I know the feeling of watching movies that I once loved, only to realize that they really aren’t that good.

    Wonderful pictures, as always.

    I am soooo looking forward to spring.

    Hi Adam! Nice to see you up and around again. Your absence has been noticeable dude. No worries! Thanks for your nice comment. I guess I can’t really recommend Silent Running any more, unless you like Bruce Dern a LOT or like cute little robot drones.

    It seems a lot of us are longing for spring!

  5. I love the one of the cat and dog looking out the window together. When we still had a cat (RIP, Paco), we caught the cat and the dog looking out the same car window together on a ride back from the grandparents. I wish I could have been in a car passing the other way to see that sight.

    Thanks Allison. Larger dogs we’ve had in the past have been better friends with cats we’ve had. Oliver is total Type A I’m In Charge Here, You Stay Right There Or I Will Hump You. Very bossy little bastid. So it’s quite rare to see them voluntarily in such close proximity.

  6. I have just found out why the Big Bankers have to get their bonuses even if they ran their companies aground.

    Do you know? There is a real simple reason that would have occurred to a lawyer first thing in the morning.

    Such an obvious thing! And it would not have occurred to me. And it is not related at all to “contract obligations”. I had been thinking that one could simply threaten them with criminal litigation for “negligence” unless they gave up on their bonuses.

    But no. There is a great big obvious de facto catch. And it is not pretty.

    No, I don’t know. I can’t imagine. I’m blinded by the hubris. Please tell me.

  7. Which is the nicest cat picture above?

    The two old-timers looking out the window. That picture has a lot of “ambiente” as they say here.

    And the portrait at the top? I guess it is technically first rate, but it is just a cat picture, and I think that is because you don’t see him as clearly as you see the cat. Or could it be that simply because he is so hairy and one cannot see his body, he looks more impersonal?

    I’m pleased that you enjoyed looking at the cat photos. I agree with your choice. Can you see that Hunter, the cat, is actually looking at something in the corner of the window frame and not looking outside where Oliver is clearly focused?

    Animal portraits are not unlike human ones, for every 10 or 20 technically accurate exposures, only one captures the “essence” of the individual.

    And yes, Hunter is a very long haired cat. She is actually quite a bony and scrawny little cat under all the fur.

  8. Funny how you make a photo of your daughter studying the curves. I see the picture, but find that later remember only the ear rings and try to recall a certain famous portrait by Vermeer

  9. I wonder whether you could tell me two things.

    Obama went to see the press corps at the White House and as he talked to them informally he kept addressing them as “you guys”. I was shocked. Of course I have never heard this expression live, and so it sounds like unilateral fraternizing. Do you think there is nothing odd about it?

    Also, there is something odd about Mrs Obama’s idea to teach the people vegetable gardening. I thought that Americans have an obesity problem because they have stopped cooking. Are vegetables expensive? How much would you expect to pay for 1 lettuce + 1 cabbage + 1 kilo of potatoes?

    If by “tell” you mean give my ignorant opinion, then here goes …

    It’s reassuring to me to have a president better at ‘playing it cool’ than the last one. The words ‘you guys’ can have several shades of meaning, including the unilateral sense. I would look for visual cues to try to get the sense Obama intended but wouldn’t have a high degree of confidence in being able to identify it. I didn’t see that press conference. I would imagine the man must be well tired of the press at times, having been swarmed by them constantly during the campaign. So that would go along with the unilateral sense.

    I will be looking forward to photos of the first lady working in the garden. If Michelle can get more people to learn how to garden the benefits will go way beyond the food value. And the food value is considerable. So I don’t think it’s odd, I think it’s great! It’s part of the green initiative, and I believe that gardening is good for the soul.

    So how was that?

  10. The photo of the two old timers at the window is a complete story. I had thought that the cat was watching something outside very close to the fassade while Oliver was waiting for something more distant.

    How do you know that it is a skinny cat? Does she SHED that hair?!

    Yes they do look like a pair old timers watching the world go by. And yes, the cat was looking at a housefly inside the corner of the window.

    I’ve seen the cat come in from the rain, and I spend a fair amount of time petting the cat so I’ve felt all of her bones. She will start shedding soon and her summer coat is much less fluffy. Here’s a picture of her from June 2007.[link]

  11. “You guys”: It was not a press conference. It was a visit to the press room. In fact, some of those present wanted to ask him questions, and Obama said he was not going to answer those there.

    Since I have never heard that expression, there is no way I can imagine its use. I also dislike “whatcha” for “what are you”. I don’t have many of those manias, and I always know clearly that they are just manias. I also hate finding a dead bug in a salad. If it is still alive I don’t mind. — My little sister once found a great big green caterpillar in her lettuce at a well known little restaurant in Zurich. He was alive and eating. Was hungry. She felt so ashamed that she kept trying to keep him under a leaf while she was waiting to pay and leave. —

    I believe I already excused my president for any possible antagonism toward the press. Now that he’s elected, he’s the boss and if he doesn’t want to answer questions, then by golly he doesn’t have to.

    It’s a very common expression in American English, and can refer to male or female groups. I believe the British English equivalent would be “you lot”, but perhaps not.

    It’s good to recognize one’s own manias. That’s a nice little anecdote about your little sister rescuing the caterpillar from her salad. 🙂 Thanks for sharing it.

  12. The picture of the summer cat is very nice! Now I can see that it is a smallish cat. And he has one eye closed and one half open, which is typical of cats, as if they were always just ready to sleep.

    As to Michelle’s gardening, I had forgotten that there most or many people have large yards. I know gardening is healthy. As seen from here, however, it often looks as if the US were too rural in its leisure preferences to understand the world that they rule and actually rather rudely mean to rule.

    Do women have that kind of time? If they have children? To plant vegetables that would make a difference? I can’t believe it. It is too much work.
    But it would be highly instructive to see. Incredibly different. — And then watch them cook. And learn how to process food so that what they harvest in fall can be used in winter. — And you believe that will become common practice ??

    I don’t know about common practice, but maybe a few more people will give it a try under the Obama influence and that’s a good thing. Believe it or not I knew nothing about this until you mentioned it. And I thought I paid reasonable attention to the news! I’ve done a little Googling now and have seen the photos of them digging. That’s a nice idea about them having us come into their kitchen! And yes, it would be highly instructive.

    During World War II there were campaigns encouraging folks to plant “Victory Gardens”. According the 2000 census 80% of America lives in urban environments. Like the White House occupants. Fortunately gardening is a highly scalable activity.

    I wonder why you ask about women having that kind of time. Are the women supposed be doing the gardening? You are right, it would be too much work for most people who are not used to physical labor. But there are gardening methods that require little to no digging.

  13. I thought the women would be jobless in larger numbers than men. (Three minutes on this sentence, and it is still odd.) I thought that unemployment would affect women more than men. (This is worse, but more conventional.) And I did not think of health or strength, but of the poverty problem that has hit millions of families there.

    And I saw photos, certainly not meant to be critical of anything, of women pushing a shopping cart through a FOOD BANK with shelves full of crap : things concocted with sugar and chocolate and grease of every kind.

    If gardening were launched to correct that, pues que baje Manolo y lo vea. Let Manolo come down and see it, “Manolo” being a nickname for Jesus as part of the divinity.

    Your first sentence is fine. I don’t know how the unemployment rates are for males vs. females here, but the employment scene has never been equal, and I don’t draw any lines connecting that with Michelle’s Little Garden.

    Gardening is not being launched to correct anything, but rather to supplement. Since I know how fulfilling gardening can be, I’m fully on board with that. It can never solve any problems for city dwellers, who are forced to eat that crap on the supermarket shelves. You forgot two of the main ingredients besides sugar and grease: air and water. What passes for food these days is pathetic. 😦

  14. As to that “you guys”, I have finally understood what I hate about it. Obama would NOT use it to address his equals. Right?

    And when off duty, Obama has to address me as his equal. Absolutely. I would instantly protest. This is very basic.

    Now if he or his entourage or those journalists do not know this anymore, then que nos pille confesados: let it come down on us when we are ready (having been to confession = free of sin = ready to die).

    I think that you’d have to ask Obama whether he uses “you guys” condescendingly. It rarely has the negative shade of meaning that you seem to ascribe to it. I think it’s intended to promote an informal, friendly ambiance, but doubt that it works that well. I think you may be misunderstanding this colloquialism.

    And the president is never really off duty.

  15. While cooking I figured out 2 things.

    1) Cooking is more healthy than gardening.

    2) By spending millions of dollars in ads, the Americans succeeded in setting up a golden calf. That is fine. They might also pray to it, and no comment. But they look up to it for guidance!

    Cooking is healthy I agree. If you’re cooking, then you’re probably using some raw, natural ingredients rather than processed crap from a can or plastic tub. But I cannot agree that cooking is more healthy than gardening, and wonder how you concocted such a comparison. Did some nasty aunt or uncle in the country force you to pull nettles from their garden when you were a child?

    USA is the land of golden calves. Advertising is one of our worst crimes that happens every second of every day. If you can make consumers believe something with your ad, then it is OK, even if it’s a total lie. We don’t care about the contents, only about how nicely it’s packaged.

  16. You did not tell me how much you’d pay for a kilo of some veggie. I would like to know because in Switzerland where most or all veggies have to be imported a tomato, one, packed all by itself in an expensive little cardboard box, may cost a dollar. A little melon the size of a baby’s head costs 6 dollars.

    These prices do not reflect only the scarcity of land, but the salary levels which are nearly always the highest in the world.

    And since the US still rule the world or want to, it is always strange to see what you there take for granted. Yesterday, as I was reading some Steinbeck, my stomach just turned itself into a knot when I saw that those people who had been “tractored off” their land could not believe that they could be arrested for spending the night somewhere along the highway.

    Now you say that 80% of the US population lives in the cities! Incredible! Maybe it is wrong or else it has not yet dawned on your politicans, writers, bloggers, poets, philosophers, song makers, movie makers etc.

    I would pay 3 or 4 dollars for a kilo of good quality (preferably organic) fruit or vegetables. I don’t hold with framing the trouble of gardening against what produce costs commercially, mainly because most produce in our supermarkets is raised using “factory farm” techniques. Agribiz is another term for it. Such produce is lacking nutritionally poor, being genetically modified with marketing in mind. The object is engineer produce that will maximize profits. Nature is the only trustworthy engineer in my opinion, and even she makes “mistakes”.

    Combine this factory approach with the disinterest that most city dwellers (80% of the population) have in food that is not “convenient”, i.e. requires preparation and attention, and you have an industry that produces shiny red apples with diminished nutritive value. This is what I mean when I say that we worship the packaging and care nothing about the contents.

    The figure of 80% came from US Census statistics. This should not be surprising since population density is so much greater in cities. As someone who has lived in rural settings for most of my life, I can tell you (but suspect that you already know) the urban versus rural lifestyle differences are fundamental. Urban life tends toward a narcissistic hubris. I know this is heresy, but I really don’t believe city life is conducive to mental health. This is not to say that rural places don’t have plenty of sick people too. However, the politicans, writers, bloggers, poets, philosophers, song makers, movie makers etc. are mostly urban too. They don’t receive reality on the same wavelengths as the rural folk. They are bored by plants and don’t care for the odor of manure.

  17. The salary levels are that high because most people get schooled until they are bluer in the face. Once they are polished and ready, they all think the same, know the same, and end up going to an African guru for advice in matters of life, love, and happiness.

    And it takes all that to find out that money doesn’t make one happy. Hence my proposed Maximum Wage.

  18. Cooking is more healthy if you include the results of your exercise.

    Maybe your kitchen is extremely ergometric (? what? a scientific word meaning study of movement at work), but mine involves a lot of daily running this way and that, bending and stretching and some swearing.

    It is a very even effort that can be kept up for an hour or two. Gardening is more irregular in its requirements.

    Ergonomic is the word you’re looking for. I’m glad you get some exercise in your kitchen. Gardening has some strenuous and repetitious motions, like turning the soil with a spade or fork. I would not look to gardening for my aerobic exercise, but there are meditative qualities to tasks like thinning carrots, or pulling the weeds.

  19. Sorry. I wrote “maybe your kitchen”, but the “maybe” got lost in some revision. I did not mean to start up a debate. I mean, I do not mean to categorically state that your kitchen is more ergowhatever.

    I put your maybe back. Editor Dave at work. It didn’t sound argumentative to me anyway. 🙂 Our kitchen is not particularly well designed, but it’s not very big either. Just enough room for bending, stretching, and swearing.

  20. Vegetables cost about half as much here, and the quality of things that are in season is still good. Salary levels are similar here as there, though in your country there are extremes that are not possible or maybe hard to spot.

    I was surprised to read that 80% are city dwellers, and maybe the problem is in the definition of “city”. I keep thinking that Americans in general do not accept city life. You say it is not conductive to mental health. Maybe the problem is the size of a city and in the definition.

    If a city or a company (or a particle accelerator) exceed the size and complexity that a single individual can grasp, their organization turns highly irrational, as has recently become visible in GM and AIG etc.

    However, don’t you think that in the future, if there is a future, most people will live in cities and in an apartment rather than in a house?

    I think the census statistics call it “urban” not necessarily city dwelling, which could include many who live near cities but not in them. I agree with your observation on scale effects of human organizations. It happens with small organizations too. It’s almost as if “organization” is a misnomer.

    I don’t like apartment living in spite of whatever efficiencies it offers. I think people need more physical space for mental health than is available in large cities with blocks and blocks of joined housing and apartment buildings. I hope that in the future we don’t have an overpopulated world full of gigantic megalopolises.

  21. I forgot to tell you why the top bank employees must continue getting their bonuses even if they ran their companies aground:

    They know too much.
    However, it is not necessarily a blackmailing arrangement. Partly their knowledge could be so highly technical or so advanced mathematical that nobody can take their place.

    NO bonuses for the money grubbing scum! They take at 0% and give at 20%. Thieves! It’s not knowledge or advanced mathematics, but obsessive greed. Financial instrumentation’s complexity has grown well beyond its appropriate usefulness to us. Money has its own physics and it has overtaken us. Sorry for the mini rant. I’m terribly simple-minded about such things.

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