July 2006 Archives

the facts of life

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July 30 movie: The Facts of Life. No Mrs. Garrett, no Tootie, no Blair. It's actually another Bob Hope movie. I recorded it because at the end of My Favorite Brunette, Robert Osborne introduced The Facts of Life as the best movie either Bob Hope or Lucille Ball ever made. I'm not familiar enough with either actor's body of work to know if that's true, but it is far and away the best movie I've ever seen by either of them. It's billed as a comedy and has humorous scenes, but it's got more serious drama than I expected. They play a couple who are married to other people but fall in love with each other. I've seen Ball in roles with some drama before, but Hope surprised me. I didn't know he had it in him. I guess I have to stop saying I don't like his acting. I guess I'd never seen him really act before. Supporting actors include Ruth Hussey as Hope's bored wide, and Louise Beavers as guess what, the maid.

my favorite brunette

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July 29 movie: My Favorite Brunette. Another silly movie. I recorded it because I thought it was Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, the sequel to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Actually it was a Bob Hope vehicle, the followup to My Favorite Blonde. Bob Hope isn't my favorite actor -- at least not the Road movies, way too much winking at the camera for my taste -- but I watched it anyway because it was a parody of the Raymond Chandler detective movies and Peter Lorre was in it. It wasn't high art, but it was ninety minutes of satisfying entertainment.

having wonderful time

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July 22 movie: Having Wonderful Time. This was a silly and fairly boring movie starring Ginger Rogers as a bookish secretary who goes on vacation at a campground. At first she resents the "mandatory fun" tone of the camp, and oh lordie, Ginger, do I know how you feel. Eventually she falls for Douglas Fairbanks Jr., a waiter/gigolo working at the camp to pay for college. Supporting actors include Eve Arden, miscast as a prudish debutante, a very young Lucille Ball as a party girl, and an even younger Red Skelton as the extremely annoying camp social director. Ostensibly the purveyor of mandatory fun, Skelton's real job is to do impersonations of campers which involve falling down a lot.

goldfinch detente

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Or: how I stopped worrying and learned to love the goldfinches who eat my flowers. They really are lovely birds, and with the flowers so close to the window we can get a good look at them while they feed. Most interesting is the way they eat sunflowers: they perch on the top edge of the flower, then lean way over to reach the face of the flower. Sometimes all the way upside down, especially if the flower was already hanging down, as they do when they get old.

The sunflower has a layer of little green things covering the seeds, which the goldfinch has to peck out, and then they have to pull out the seed, which can be packed in there pretty tight. I tried to pull one out with my fingernails just to see what it looked liked, and it took me quite a bit of effort to get to it. We find little piles of sunflowers seeds -- empty shells and whole seeds -- under the flowers. I guess sometimes the birds knock extra seeds out. I wonder if the sunflowers will reseed next year? That would be nice. Maybe not though, because the soil in that bed has settled and I'm going to have to add another truckload in the fall. That may bury any loose seeds too far down.

So I don't mind the goldfinches eating the sunflowers. They look better and last longer outside than they would in a vase in the house. (The sunflowers, not the goldfinches. Although I guess the same could be said for the goldfinches.) And if we're leaving them outside, the birds might as well enjoy them. Especially when the sunflowers are all old and droopy, we get more enjoyment from watching goldfinches feed than we would from the flowers alone.

But I'm much less enamoured of the goldfinches when they eat the zinnias, which I do cut and bring inside. Because they don't just peck out the seed; first they pull off and discard the petals, one by one. It's very sad to go outside and see a bare stem with a few tufts clinging to the end, where there used to be a flower. I'm going to try and be vigilant about cutting the zinnias as soon as they bloom, and also leave the flowers with short stems so the goldfinches will still have some food. Also next year I'm going to plant zinnias in another part of the yard. Maybe that way the goldfinches will have enough food and we'll still have enough flowers for the house. Or maybe we'll just end up with more goldfinches.

In other bird news, we've seen a hummingbird hanging around lately. Or maybe more htan one, but we've only ever seen one at a time. It likes the orange zinnias (which is weird, I thought they only liked tubular flowers) and it finally discovered the cardinal flower we planted for hummingbirds last year. We planted a few other alleged hummingbird plants, but alas they've all been duds. Especially the pinapple sage, which hasn't bloomed at all. Next year I'll skip pineapple sage and try some new things.

the adventures of sharpe

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Know what? I miss the movie list. Actually I've been keeping the list all along. What I miss is writing them up. I've been thinking about starting again for weeks, but the thought of trying to go back and write up all those movies -- many of which I don't even remember anymore -- has stopped me cold. So I'm going to try starting fresh and going forward. No more beating myself up about trying to catch up.

In the interest of writing in the now, let's start with the movie I'm watching right now. A series, actually: The Adventures of Sharpe. BBC America is showing one a week. It's a series of movies from the mid 90s starring Sean Bean as an officer in Wellington's army. I started watching due to its similarities to the Aubrey/Maturin series: first and most obviously, the Napoleonic War. Also, Sharpe's sidekick (whose name I forget) is Irish, like Stephen Maturin, so the issue of Irish/English hostility shows up in both series.

The Sharpe series, while highly entertaining, lacks the depth and character development of the Aubrey/Maturin series, which may just be a factor of a TV movie versus a book. There just isn't time enough to tell a ripping yarn and explore the characters. Also, one of the things I really like about the Aubrey/Maturin series is the characters' complexity and imperfections. Stephen Maturin is a cranky bastard with a recurring drug problem. Jack Aubrey is a brilliant ship's captain, but not the sharpest tack in the box on land. Their flaws are what make them interesting.

On the other hand, Richard Sharpe is basically perfect. He never makes a mistake, everything he does is right, everyone (except his inept commanding officers) love him. Especially the ladies. Possibly the most entertaining thing about the series is Sharpe the ladies man. Every movie features women flinging themselves at Sharpe. Who gently rejects their advances, being much more chaste than I would imagine of the typical actual soldier of two hundred years ago.

July 10: Sharpe's Battle. Sharpe befriends a dandyish gentleman officer whose wife offers herself to Sharpe, which is somehow a sign of her love for her husband, for reasons I did not understand. Sharpe says no, and there are lots of battles, and also a sexy Spanish woman who wears trousers and is secretly working for the French.

July 15: Sharpe's Sword. This time the unfulfilled love interest is a traumatized nun who can't speak after seeing her priest and two other nuns get killed. She travels with Sharpe's troop, and she can't sleep unless she's in Sharpe's bed, but he won't touch her, and for a little while there I thought I was watching that "Ribaldry Theater" sketch they used to do on Saturday Night Live. What the heck, it's Sean Bean, and he looks awesome in that uniform with all the gold braid. Sharpe takes a bullet in the gut, and there's a nasty villain who seems to be a recurring character. Also the Irish sidekick is tricked into marrying his mistress, a Spanish camp follower.

July 24: Sharpe's Regiment. I think they're showing the series out of order; this one seems earlier. Sharpe and his Irish buddy lose their regiment, and they decide the best way to get it back is to volunteer under fake names, and they end up in a crazy sadistic camp where the soldiers are bought and sold like slaves, and I didn't understand much understand that part. But who cares; Sharpe has sex! With a high class courtesan and a saucy tavern wench. (Size positive note: the saucy wench has ample charms, which Sharpe amply enjoys.) The villain from Sharpe's Sword shows up, apparently for the first time, and Sharpe gets engaged to his niece. The Prince of Wales makes an appearance as well.

July 29: Sharpe's Siege. The movie starts with Sharpe marrying the girl from Sharpe's Regiment, who promptly gets malaria. I have a bad feeling about her future. It would explain why he's all broody and celibate in the other two movies. The inept commanding officer is even more inept and obnoxious than usual. And of course there's the unfulfilled love interest: a brave loyal Frenchwoman who bizarrely sides with Sharpe against her own brother, a Bonaparte agent. I guess she just can't resist Sharpe's uber-manliness. [eta: It just ended and I was wrong, the wife lives.]

mega-insomnia

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[I wrote this in the wee hours a couple of weeks ago, decided I didn't like the tone, and unposted it. Then decided it wasn't so bad after all, so I'm reposting it. Hey, I never claimed to be decisive.]

So I was surfing around and I came across an event going on right now: The History of the World Mega-Conference. The event is described as "five-day crash course on world history.... all from a distinctively Christian worldview." What that means, apparently, is world history for people who believe the Bible is literally true: young earth creationism, the flood and the tower of Babel, etc.

You might wonder why I was surfing around sites that would discuss a creationist history conference. Well, I've been thinking about fundamentalist evangelicalism and the impact it has on public discourse and public policy. I'll never share their beliefs, probably not about anything, but I would like to understand them a little better. There's a lot of information out there about evangelicals from the point of view of hating and fearing them, which is fairly unhelpful to the goal of understanding them. So I have been reading blogs and websites by fundamentalists, which is how I found out about the mega-conference.

I'm trying to understand how an intelligent, thoughtful person could believe in the literal truth of the Bible. Right now I don't understand that at all. To the point that I have a hard time believing an intelligent creationist even exists. And yet, they do. The topics at that conference are clearly the work of scholars. But what kind of scholar would espouse young earth creationism? It baffles me.

I understand how two intelligent people can approach politics or social issues thoughtfully and come to different conclusions, without either of them necessarily being wrong. People have different premises, different priorities, different expectations about human behavior. But I can't understand how someone (who isn't stupid or a hypocrite) can look at hard facts and be so very wrong. Ignoring a mountain of fossil and archeological evidence isn't just a difference of opinion on some fuzzy social issue.

Georg suggested that young earth creationists aren't examining facts; they're filtering them through a biblical lens, discarding everything that doesn't confirm their a priori beliefs. But the thing is, I think everyone does that to some degree. We all have beliefs about how the world works. And we all tend to put more weight on information which supports our beliefs. It's a natural human inclination. I'd like to believe that a rational thinker would try to overcome that tendency rather than embracing it as the creationists do.

But sometimes I wonder. If I were confronted with irrefutable evidence that one of my core beliefs was false, what would I do? Something that would offend my very being, as much as physical evidence from before 4000 BC offends a creationist. For instance, what if there were scientific proof that women as a group are intellectually inferior to men. Would I face reality, regardless of the cost to myself? Or if the Rapture actually happened tomorrow. Would I come up with some whacked out theory rather than accept that I was wrong and God really does exist? Would I isolate myself from the truth at "Evolutionary History Mega-Conferences"?

These are the things I think about when I should be sleeping. I need to go to bed.

the coolness of momness

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So my mom and I were talking about Bush and what a hypocrite he is. Because of, you know, that massive initiative he started to get surrogate mothers and adoptive parents for all those hundreds of thousands of embryos that won't be used for research. Because no one who cares that much about the sanctity of human preborn life could stand back and watch all those embryos being thrown away. Except not.

So we were talking about Bush and we had this conversation:

mom: He had a bunch of those kids on stage with him. What do they call those kids? I can't remember...
me: Fucking snowflake babies.
mom: Right, that's it.

Now that is a cool mom, who'll let you say "fucking snowflake babies" and not get offended.

thanks, phil

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Two weeks ago we ran into Phil at Starlu. He introduced us to the chef, Sam, and we chatted for a few minutes. Tonight we went back to Starlu, and the chef not only greeted us, he remembered the conversation from before. He ask Georg how it had gone with the r&d job he had applied for. In fact, we were there to celebrate Georg getting the job. So thanks, Phil! I feel like we're in the club now!

Our food was fantastic: a tomato appetizer with tomatoes three ways: a skewer of tomato and smoked mozzarella, a small glass of cherry tomato cocktail, and a crostini with tomato and onion jam. Yum! For main courses I had eggplant parmigiana, and Georg had scallops. Both were divine. My dessert was the only less than stellar point of the meal. It was a pecan-toffee coffee cake, which was lovely, but really more of a cool weather dessert I thought. They served it with fresh berries, but I think it would be better in fall with apples or persimmon. Actually there was nothing wrong with the cake. I was just disappointed because they were out of the strawberry rhubarb tart I really wanted.

or maybe it was a nightmare

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So I had to take on a project a couple of weeks ago that I really wasn't ready for, didn't have the preparation I needed, and it's not within my usual range of skills, so I find it exhausting. And it pretty much consumed my life for the past two weeks, but I just kept telling myself that it would be over soon. And then today, late on the last day, I find out that due to an emergency it's going to continue at least until next week.

Sigh.

i had a dream

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Have y'all seen the hilarious ad for Fruit of the Loom women's underwear that parodies the Chanel No. 5 ads from the 80s? It's the only ad out there good enough to make me stop fast-forwarding the DVR so I can watch it. Every time. I guess it goes to show how iconic those Chanel ads were: twenty years later and a parody is still captivating.

It really makes me wish I could find the original Chanel No. 5 ad. As I recall there was a whole series of them, but the best one -- possibly also the first -- had a woman walking out of a pool and "I Don't Want to Set the World On Fire" by the Ink Spots as the music. Surely the first time I ever heard that song, which I love now.

The parody ad has vaguely surreal images of women and the Fruit of the Loom mascots (the guys in fruit costumes) making modely poses on a swing, in a garden, etc. I can't ID the music. The sound is quite similar to the Ink Spots (though it sounds possibly like a recent artist trying to imitate that tinny old jazz sound) and the lyrics go like this:

I had a dream that you were mine
A song of heaven was in your voice, dear
making my heart rejoice, dear
Sweet memories of a love divine...

That's when the voiceover cuts in with a breathy "Wear the dream" (I believe in the Chanel No. 5 ads it was "Share the fantasy") and the ad ends. Gosh I'd love to find out what that song is!

cobbler

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It's peach season! We've made peach cobbler twice. The first time we didn't use enough thickener and didn't bake the fruit long enough and it ended up blackberry-peach soup. With a lovely biscuit topping, but soup nonetheless. The second time we used tapioca instead of cornstarch, and baked the fruit twice as long, and it turned out great. If I do say so myself. Six big peaches, a couple of those flying saucer peaches, and a half-pint of blackberries. I'm not that crazy about raw blackberries, but when cooked they soften up and aren't so seedy. I love this recipe for the biscuit topping. I mixed it in the food processor and dropped it straight onto the cobbler, no kneading at all. That makes it really light and delicate. We made the cobbler for dinner with our friends David and Herve. They're great hosts, although we try to have a snack beforehand because they do that "continental" thing and eat fairly late. At least they have lots of nice nibbleys out before dinner. David has the most amazing garden. It's really inspiring. I wish I knew his secret to growing nasturtiums. Mine never seem to do much of anything. I've tried full sun, full shade, and everything in between, and they just don't seem to like my yard. His are huge!

Thinking about gardening momentarily distracted me from my cobbler. Mmm, cobbler. Maybe I'll make another one tomorrow.

rain, rain

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What a relief it's been to have a lot of rain and a little coolness for the past 24 hours. We were determined to take advantage of the weather, as this may be the last pleasant day until mid September, and we did so by mowing and weed whacking before the rain, and then weeding afterwards. I hear that you're not supposed to dig in the soil when it's wet; it's bad for the soil structure or something. But wet soil is the best for weeding. It's so much easier to pull the weeds out by their roots.

Together we weeded almost the whole bank alond the driveway: I did the lower half of the bank, which can be reached from the driveway, and Georg got up on the slope and did the top by the fence. His part was harder because there's not a lot of room up there among the plants. Plus we stand on a board so as not to squash the soil too much, which makes it even more awkward. Since my part was easier, I had enough energy to keep going and weed the cutting garden, and most of the path around it, which had gotten totally overgrown. Also I finally pulled up the pansies, which had gotten really sad. They should have been taken out a month ago or more.

The flower garden is looking nice if I do say so myself. We seem to do best with the late summer flowers; I think this is because I first started gardening in late summer, two years ago. I planted things which were in bloom at the time, so our flowers are skewed towards blooming later rather than earlier. New this year are the sunflowers, which are doing really well. I want to plant more of them next year. Bees love them, and birds do too. This morning Georg and I saw a female goldfinch land on a sunflower, peck at it a bit, then get chased away by a male goldfinch who wanted the seed for himself. We have a big patch of sunflowers, plenty of room for everyone. But he had to have the one that someone else was eating from. I didn't know birds got territorial like that.

I also did some research for that picture frame project. I don't have any professional lighting, so we're going to shoot the frames outside, in a pretty garden courtyard with brick walls and ivy and terra cotta urns. I think the frames are going to look really nice, and plus it will be a lot less work than having to create a room setting for them. Because think about it, you can't have every frame on the same wall above the same piece of furniture. Each photo would have to look like a different room. Which would be a pain in the butt. This way will be much easier, and I think the frames will shine in a natural setting. We are going to need artificial lighting for a few of the photos on the shady side of the courtyard, but I can do that by putting my external flash on the tripod. Or, if I find that doesn't work, I'll have an excuse to buy some lighting.

score one for the pedants

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I'm no fan of Condoleeza Rice (to say the least) but she earned my admiration yesterday when she correctly used the expression status quo ante in the statement "I have no desire to help Israel and Lebanon return to the status quo ante."

"Return to the status quo" is a pet peeve of mine. Because status quo literally means "the state that is," to return to the status quo is a logical impossibility. I know I'm being pedantic. I know that in colloquial English status quo now means "business as usual; the typical state of affairs." And according to that meaning, it is possible to return to the status quo. It still annoys me. I try not to indulge my pedantic tendencies too much (for instance I don't care about misuse of "hopefully," I think that's a bogus rule and I do it myself), but when a word is used in a way opposite its meaning (see literally) it bugs the crap out of me.

Anyway, my hat's off to Ms. Rice for properly saying "return to the status quo ante," that is "the state that was before." The best part was when the radio news people were discussing her statement, they kept repeating "status quo ante" and defining it. It was like a lesson on proper usage on the evening news!

locopops kitty

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At Locopops this evening we saw the most adorable cat. Really friendly too. SHe was hanging around the parking lot, and as soon as I spoke to her she came right up to me. Not only did she let me pet her, she rolled over and let me scratch her stomach. I've never seen a cat before who would do that for a stranger.

A cat that friendly has to be used to people, plus she wasn't skinny the way a wild cat would be. I think she either belongs to somebody who lives near the store, or she was recently abandoned/lost. But she wasn't wearing a collar, so who knows.

I felt awful about leaving such a sweet cat hanging around a parking lot, especially as it was getting dark. I went inside and asked the girl behind the counter if she knew who the cat belonged to, but she didn't know anything about it. (I bought two dog pops while I was there. Chicken!) But the story has a happy ending: just as we were leaving two young women came up and noticed the cat. They called a friend who knows all the strays in the neighborhood, and started debating whether to take it home. I helped nudge them along by scratching the cat's stomach so they could see how friendly it is. As I left one of them picked up the kitty and held it in her arms. Once I saw that, I knew they were going to take her. Yay!

I guess I should feel badly about the cat's owner, if it has one. But you know, anyone who lives that close to a busy road and lets their cat go outside with no collar shouldn't be surprised if the cat goes home with someone else. And don't go telling me that maybe it's an indoor cat who escaped. If it never went outside it wouldn't have been so calm and friendly.

(The dog pops were not as much of a success. Jane and Thirteen both seemed to like it at first, but then they were mostly confused. We put them in the freezer to try again tomorrow.)

i'm with the dolphin

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Thanks to Pinky I have become addicted to the Customers Suck Livejournal group. I think my favorite entry was from the person who works at Sea World, who said that they most looked forward to the times when the dolphins bit people. I think every customer service business should have highly intelligent mammals which can attack rude customers with impunity.

So we went to Magnolia Grill tonight to celebrate our 1 month anniversary. Yes, we're ridiculously shmoopy. I had never been to Magnolia Grill before, and I must say it lived up to its reputation. Everything we ordered was outstanding. We started with heirloom tomatoes with goat cheese and balsamic syrup. The goat cheese was creamy and mild, and the tomatoes were so sweet! I don't think we've even gotten such sweet tomatoes from our own garden. I had halibut with swiss chard, shrimp, corn and bacon lardons. Georg had rabbit confit with sour cherry sauce and pepper grits. For dessert I had a lemon tart, and Georg had chocolate cake. I had a bite of Georg's cake, and that one bite was amazing, but I think a whole portion would have been too rich & would have left me overfull. The lemon tart was perfect. Very light and not too sweet.

My only complaint was the noise level. It would have been uncomfortably loud, but tolerably so. Except that our table was trapped in a corner behind an insanely LOUD table of six. It was mainly this one guy. Every time he laughed my ears rang. It only got worse as they continued to imbibe and their volume level increased. Thank god the waitress offered to move us after our entrees. She discreetly took us to another part of the dining room. It was like being in a whole different restaurant. Still noisy, but so much more bearable. She even told me that she had been trying to figure out how to get us moved for a while. We joked with her that she was going to have to cut that guy off, and she said that he came in like that! That waitress is my hero. Not only did she move us without our even having to ask, she told us where to find the recipes for both of our desserts. (The lemon tart is in Karen Barker's first cookbook, and the chocolate cake was published in More magazine.)

in case you needed proof

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191301802_ed1684493d_m.jpgLisa B. Rockmeier provides photographic evidence that I am a humongous dork.

afternoon delight

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We had a fun outing this afternoon to the Plants Delight nursery with Christa and Lisa B. I had never heard of Plants Delight before. It's a big nursery south of Garner that's open to the public only four times a year. I guess the rest of the year they sell online and mail order. They seemed to specialize in shade perennials, especially hostas -- two whole greenhouses full of hostas! -- but they also had lots of sun perennials.

The prices at Plants Delight are quite high; I've seen many of the plants (and bought a few) at the farmer's market for about 30% less. However, they have many things that I've never seen anywhere else. Also the staff were very helpful, and they have a lovely, large garden that was inspiring to walk though. I loved the way they use all parts of the plant to create visual impact: not just flowers but leaves, bark, stems, berries and seed pods all contributed to the effect. For instance I took a photo of a daylily I particularly liked. Later I noticed that in the photo, next to the daylily, was a tall plant with striking seed pods. I think I like the seed pod plant even better!

The funniest thing that happened was when we walked past (or over, I should say) a huge fountain in a tall rock. There was a man sitting on top of the rock and we struck up a conversation with him. He told us he was from New Bern, about 2 hours away, and he came to every open house with his wife. I got the impression that she was the one who liked the nursery. Not that he didn't like it; he seemed happy to bring her, and even happier to sit quietly in the shade while she walked around.

During the conversation I asked him if I could take his picture. He said yes, so I lifted up my camera and leaned forward (important to the story: the camera was already in my hands, not hidden in my bag). When he saw it, he kind of freaked out! He was laughing, not upset, but he was clearly overwhelmed by the size of the lens. He said he was expecting one of those tiny digital cameras. I snapped the photo when he threw up his hands and exclaimed "I'm afraid to breathe! I might get sucked in!" Hee, my lens is a portal to another dimension! Beware the lens!

Maybe what bothered him was how close I leaned in. I guess I did kind of get into his face. But you have to get in close with that wide-angle lens. If you stay a respectful distance away, the subject vanishes into the middle ground and ends up looking three feet tall.

None of us bought anything at the open house today, as it's the worst time of year to plant. I don't want to risk planting perennials now, especially not such expensive ones. We treated it as a research trip, strolling through the gardens and taking lots of pictures. I took photos of the plants and the name tags, so I'd have an easier time remembering what I liked. My plan is to spend some time this fall figuring out where these plants can go, and also seeing which of them are available at the farmer's market for cheaper. (For instance, I know already that Messenbrinks sells all the Stokes asters we were admiring, for much less.) When Plants Delight's fall open house rolls around, I'll have a list of unique perennials to buy from them.

I would feel guilty about using Plants Delight as a research tool, and then buying elsewhere, if I didn't know already that I'm going to spend far too much there in September. I'm definitely interested in the lilies of the nile (agapanthus), blue star (amsonia), orange crocosmia, princess lily (alstroemeria), an odd creeping sedum, a couple of salvias, ... This could get expensive.

[edited to add a couple of other amusing things, and one near-disaster:]

1. Not only were the employees friendly and helpful, one of them told me I had "great style," "like something from a John Waters movie." (I was dressed up a bit for a gallery opening, which we didn't end up getting to in time.) That's what I call service with a smile!

2. As we were heading back to the cars, Lisa, Christa and I were walking together and Georg was lagging behind. A man walked past us and asked "Where are your husbands, how come they didn't have to come too?" He sounded a little envious, in a goodnatured way, that our spouses were allowed to stay home instead of walking around in the heat looking at plants. I burst his bubble when I pointed behind us and said "Mine's right there!" We all laughed and someone (Lisa B I think) told him that we were sharing one husband today, the others had the day off.

3. It was a hot day and we were all feeling dehydrated. We had come in two cars (because I was trying to get to that gallery opening, which I didn't make it to anyway) but we all ended up stopping at the same mini-mart on the way out for bottled water. As we got out of our cars Lisa told us that she had lost her camera! The little carrying case was empty. She and Christa jumped back in the car and went back to the nursery to look for it. Georg and I bought water and headed back to help her look. But by the time we got back there, maybe 3-5 minutes after they did, they weren't there. The employee in the parking lot told us that she had found the camera and they had left already. Whew, what a relief!

the eye of the beholder

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t_040807_j.jpgI've started a category on my photoblog called Photos that Don't Suck. If you are the intuitive sort, you will correctly guess that these are photos from my archive which do not suck. In my unbiased opinion, of course.

From time to time when I don't feel like posting about my boring daily life, I will post a link to a photo that doesn't suck. Starting today, with a rare success at action photography.

or are you just happy to see me

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The Ozomatli show was great, as mentioned by Georg and Lisa B. And will you be surprised to find out that I spent much of my time talking about cameras? First, before the show I got to admire the really nice lens Chris C. was using, which prompted an interesting conversation on Canon vs. Nikon digital SRLs. Chris said that he thinks Canon is better than Nikon, and professionals all go with Canon, unless they have such an investment in Nikon lenses that they can't switch. (His camera was a Nikon, and the lens was very very nice.)

This was great to hear. I'm glad to know that people who know like Canon, since I use a Canon Digital Rebel. I got it because it was the only digital SLR I could afford, and have been slowly buying lenses to go with it. 4 so far: the "kit lens" that came with it, which I haven't used since I got a Tamron 28-200 zoom. Which has been my everyday lens, although recently I've been having fun with my one expensive lens, a Sigma 17-35 wide angle. (Well, actually fairly inexpensive as wide angle lenses go, but it was expensive to me. Lenses seem to range in price from "a heck of a lot of money" to "holy shit, the lens cost how much?" and mine was more on the "heck of a lot" end of the range.) Also I have a Canon 50/1.8 that I never use and had considered a mistake. But just this week I got an assignment to photograph high-end picture frames for a catalog. And it turns out that the 50/1.8 is the only lens I have with absolutely no wide-angle distortion, which is important for something like a picture frame, so I wouldn't have gotten the job without that lens. Thank you, lens I never use! I promise I will use you more often in future.

So anyway, our seats at Ozomatli were great, right up near the stage, but at some point the heat and closeness from all the people down there started to get to me. So I took my camera bag and walked up to the lawn, right by that scaffolding where the engineer sits. I set up the tripod (not all the way up, just on the ground to give the camera a little stability in the dark) and took a few photos of the band. While I was breaking down the tripod a guy near me came over and asked me about my camera! He said that he had a Canon film SLR, and also a Powershot, and he wanted to upgrade to a Digital SLR. I was happy to tell him how much I like the Digital Rebel. It was kind of funny to be at a rock show and to end up talking about cameras all night.

finally photos

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It's looking like I'm never going to do a write up of the Vegas trip, but now that it's so late as to be totally irrelevant I finally posted my photos. I had a lot of fun with the camera taking pictures of the crazy neon on Fremont street, the new Wynn hotel, the Bellagio's Fourth of July decorations, Venetian, and various scenery around the strip.

Plus a few wedding photos, taken by our friend Pru at the ceremony. We had intended to put our wedding clothes back on and spend a whole day taking photos of ourselves around Vegas. But with temps hitting 110° F there was no way. At least my dress was short, but Georg was in a wool suit! We managed about a half dozen photos before we gave up.

replete

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So like I mentioned, today is the first day I've felt normal despite still being stuffed up. So today I finally got back into the yard. I didn't want to overdo it, so I just spent about 45 min weeding up on the bank by the road. It wiped me out. Not so much because it's such hard work, although it was hard work, with me tiring out so easy, but because it's awkward to work up there. There's not a lot of room among the plants, with a steep drop on one side and a fence on the other. And when I start turning up ants' nests (of which there are many) I don't want to kneel on the ground for obvious reasons. So then I have to stand and crouch, which makes me tire out even faster.

Okay, enough complaining. The fence along the length of the bank includes 6 sections of chain link fence, and today I weeded 1 section. I had done 3 sections before I got sick, so I'm 2/3 done now. It makes a big difference. The sunflowers and marigolds up there really pop out without all those weeds hiding them from view. I love seeing them as I come in & out of the driveway. The sunflowers are so cheerful. Next year I think I'm going to plant taller ones (these are about a foot tall) and plant more of them. The planting instructions are always too far apart if you want a nice full look.

I was also hoping to spray the evil Japanese beetles (we hates them forever!) but by the time I was done weeding I was too tired. Definitely tomorrow. They are doing a number on my zinnias and I need to get rid of them.

A friend of mine told me that milky spore disease (Bacillus popillae) is incredibly effective against japanese beetles. It's a bacterial disease in powder form, that you sprinkle on the ground. He did it over ten years ago and hasn't seen a single one of the bastards since. But it attacks the larvae, not the adult beetles. So we got the milky spore and will use it, but we still needed a poison to stop the beetles right now. I think the one we got is called Sevin. I hate using broad insecticides if we can avoid it, and I'm going to try and time it so we don't also kill bees, who are enjoying the zinnias just as much as the evil japanese beetles.

After my hard work I was so hungry. Hungrier than I've been all week. I had a glass of orange juice for immediate energy, and then we went to my favorite post-yardwork place, the Q Shack. There is nothing better than working in the yard nearly to exhaustion, then going to the Q Shack and getting a big plate of brisket. Mmm, brisket. Now I'm the perfect level of fullness. Completely satisfied, but just shy of overfull. I am replete.

imagine me on the maginot line

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I've finally turned the corner on that blasted cold. Today I feel normal but still coughing/stuffed up, as opposed to the past week when it was coughing, sneezing, bleary, achy, exhausted. I'm kind of proud of myself for getting through a radio show with only one coughing fit. It was a doozy though: coughing so hard I literally threw up. At least that didn't happen on air! (Although I did have to cut the mic in the middle of a talkset.) I felt really guilty about bringing a contagious disease into the station, so I brought a can of Lysol and sprayed everything down before I left. I must have seemed like an obsessive/compulsive freak, but to me that's just basic courtesy. I sure wouldn't want to talk into a mic that someone had just been coughing and sneezing all over.

I ended up playing patriotic music for the whole show even though it was two days after the 4th. As you can tell if you heard the show or read the playlist, patriotic music in the Divaville genre means (with a few exceptions) war music. It's all those great WWII songs. I wonder why no wars since then have inspired such music? There are a lot of songs about Vietnam, but of course they're all against the war. I think there are a couple of country songs about the current war. Popular musicians still do USO tours, but they don't write songs about it. Maybe it's because no war since WWII has impacted the entire country to nearly that degree.

I tried to avoid war songs that were specifically not about the US, like for example "The White Cliffs of Dover." Although I couldn't resist "Imagine Me on the Maginot Line," a music hall ditty by George Formby (I love how he manages to use "Maginot Line" as a euphemism for STDs). And I guess I should have also skipped "When The Lights Go On Again" because the US never had blackouts. But I like that song.

Besides "Maginot Line," my favorite song of the show was probably "Shhh, It's a Military Secret" by Glenn Miller and Marian Hutton. My least favorite was the sappy, talky "I Came Here to Talk for Joe" by Sammy Kaye. Although I normally like Sammy Kaye.

Anyway, despite the coughing fits I enjoyed the show. I should download the archive and save it to listen to next year on the 4th.

on air

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I will be on the air tonight from 6 to 8, playing Divaville jazz standards. 88.7 if you're local, wxdu.org if you're not. Tune in and find out if a severe headcold makes my voice sound all husky and attractive, or like death warmed over.

vamanos mexico

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One of the fun things Georg and I did in Las Vegas was to watch the Mexico-Argentina World Cup match in the Caesar's Palace sports book. As you probably know, a casino sports book is an area with lots of big TV screens where people watch and gamble on sports. (Fortunately, gambling isn't required.) Caesar's has a nice one: there's an space with desks for the serious gamblers, a big area with comfy armchairs and cocktail waitresses for the social viewers, and in the back a long counter with barstools for overflow. There's also a big screen displaying odds on a variety of sports. It wasn't that interesting to me because I didn't know how to interpret a lot of the numbers. But I guess if you were there to gamble, that would be the most important part.

We got to the sports book about a half hour before the game started, and it was packed. Honestly I think that if Georg had been the one to find us seats, we might have ended up on the bar stools in the back. But I smiled sweetly at the sports guys (some of them already drunk, at noon!) and got two of them to give up armchairs they were saving.

By the time the game started, there were hundreds of people watching, mostly ardent Mexico fans. I've never been much of a sports fan but between this and the football parties at Pete's last January, I can see why people get into it. The energy level was so high. Every time Mexico got possession of the ball people would start cheering, and whenever they got near the goal the room would erupt. People were wearing green shirts, some had painted their faces, and two guys in the back had a big flag which they unfurled and waved when Mexico scored.

Unfortunately they only got to wave the flag once, when Mexico scored early on. It was an exciting game though, won by Argentina in overtime. After Argentina scored the winning goal, the room lost a lot of its energy. Although one woman near the front kept yelling "Vamanos, Mexico! You can still do it!" But alas, they didn't. Argentina won and Mexico was eliminated. It was still fun, though I can only imagine what it would have been like it Mexico had won.

With all that energy & people cheering, it was kind of like being at a game, except more comfortable seating and nicer refreshments. Georg had a bloody mary from the cocktail waitress, and at halftime I went down to the Vosges store in the forum shops and got us chocolate drinks. Mine was called "Bianca:" white chocolate, lemon and lavendar, and it was amazing. I was a little concerned that a lavendar drink would taste like hand lotion (this was how I felt about the lavendar cream Locopop) but it didn't at all. It was light and the flavors were perfectly balanced. Okay, so I watch an exciting game and my strongest impressions are about gourmet chocolate. I guess I'm still not a big sports fan.

it's all about the food

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Georg had to work, and I'm still sick, so this wasn't much of a holiday for us. I stayed inside all day, marveling at the fact that I have nothing bad to say about refrigerated air. And I cooked. Ribs with bourbon barbecue sauce for dinner. I followed this recipe for the sauce but went my own way for cooking the ribs: I braised them for 3 hours at 275° with a bit of the marinade, then put a rack over the roasting pan, took off the lid and roasted them for another hour, basted every 15 min. with sauce. Then at the end, while Georg was grilling vegetables, I poured the sauce into the roasting pan with the braising liquid and cooked it down, scraping up all the brown bits. It turned out great if I do say so myself. You might wonder why we didn't grill the ribs, since Georg was using the grill anyway. Well after 3 hours of braising, the ribs were falling apart and I was afraid they'd fall into the charcoal.

The other thing I made today was our wedding cake. Well actually, I made it over the past several days: made the filling over the weekend, baked the cake yesterday, and put it all together today. It's a white chocolate and lemon cake and it's a winner. The recipe makes a 3 tiered cake that serves 50, and it was a bit tricky to reduce it for just 1 small cake. Luckily the recipe had enough details about volume to help me figure it out.

I don't make cakes very often, and I must say I was pleased with how this one came together. Everything happened like it was supposed to. (it's pretty rare than I can say that about an elaborate baking project like this one!) The lemon curd thickened without curdling, the egg whites beat up nice and fluffy, and the cake rose to the very top of the pan without cracking or pulling away from the sides. The icing could be prettier if it had been done by someone more experienced, but it is delicious (I like cream cheese icing so much better than buttercream). And of course we had the Corpse Bride cake topper. It's actually a pair of Corpse Bride action figures, because do you have any idea how expensive wedding cake toppers are? I swear, you add "wedding" to the name of anything and its price goes up by a factor of ten. The action figures were nicer anyway, and they came with the dog too. I actually bought the figures months ago, and had planned to surprise Georg with them at our wedding dinner at Olive's, but I forgot to pack them! D'oh.

Hiding the cake-in-progress from Georg was honestly easier than I had expected. I explained away the cake ingredients like cake flour and buttermilk, and the lemon mousse, by pretending that I had a hankering for blueberry shortcake with buttermilk biscuits and lemon mousse instead of whipped cream, and the massive amount of extra mousse was an accident. Then I baked the cake while he was at work yesterday, and it's a good thing our fridge is so crowded that he didn't even notice a cake in the back of it. I couldn't hide it once it was iced though, and he saw it when he got home today.

oh, the lethargy

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Hot weather always brings out the indolence in me. Plus I came down with a head cold. Is there anything worse than a head cold in high summer? Well yes, there are plenty of things far worse. But I'm having a pity party for myself, so it feels like the worst thing ever.

It's not a super bad cold; I'm just tired all the time and leaking from the eyes and nose. I did manage to get a little yard work done this weekend. Mowing the lawn and a few hours of weeding. There is so much to be done! The weeds went crazy with all that rain while we were gone. The good news is, the plants we want did well too. The flowers are all in bloom and the vegetable garden is overflowing its space. We did lose one zucchini plant, but the other two look good.

The hydrangeas are all in bloom, and they're all pink! That means our soil is alkaline, which was a bit of a surprise. I like blue hydrangeas better. Guess we'll treat the soil this fall to make it more acidic, so we get blue ones next year. I ought to test the soil around the blueberries and see if it's acid enough. It's right under a pine tree so I think it should be plenty acidic. But I thought that about the hydrangeas too.

The sunflowers are coming into bloom, so are the zinnias, and I saw a hummingbird! It was zipping around the butterfly garden, then it saw me and zipped away. We have a few hummingbird plants scattered around the garden, but maybe we should put in more.

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