March 2009 Archives

I just got an email advertising a free jar of cloves from Penzey's, no purchase necessary. Contact me for the coupon code in the email if you live near a store.

the sneezies

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I seem to have a serious case of seasonal allergies. Either that or I have a bizarre cold where I don't feel sick but have itchy nose, sneezing, watery eyes, that will not quit. Do people suddenly get allergies like this? In previous years I've had only the mildest reaction: this time of year I'd sneeze once or twice when I got up in the morning, that was it. Now it's on and off all day. So annoying!

Georg picked up some Claritin for me and I hope that helps. I'm really annoyed. The worst part isn't the sneezing, it's the constant "nose itching feels like I have to sneeze" feeling. You'd think that, working for a health website, I'd have a better idea of what to do for whatever ails me.

musical day

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It was an all-music day today. First we had the all-station meeting for WXDU. These meetings are always pretty boring, but I can't complain because the last two times I got lucky and the meeting was scheduled during my show. This time it was two hours before my show, so at least I got to leave after an hour (on the grounds that I had to walk over to the station and do the op log before my show started).

I had a really fun show today. Lots of calls and notes to the request line, including one person who normally writes every week, but I hadn't heard from in a long time and I was honestly a bit worried about them. Well, they explained that they had been out of town for an extended stay with family. So glad to hear that they're okay. I also got calls from a couple of people I had never heard from before which is always nice. My only disappointment was that I couldn't fill one of the requests. It was a specific Duke Ellington tune called "A Rose of the Rio Grande" and neither the station nor I have it. I played several Ellington tracks that were recorded in the same year to make it up to him.

Then after dinner we went to a concert at Duke. It was classical Indian music, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma on santoor, a stringed instrument, & Zakir Hussain on tabla. I don't know much about classical Indian music, but according to the program they are considered the world's leading performers on their respective instruments. And it showed. It was truly a virtuoso performance. The part that blew my mind was that, in the introduction, Sharma explained that their performances are totally improvised. They don't rehearse or even discuss what they're going to play. Yet they were completely in harmony. They played two pieces: each time Sharma announced the basic structure they were going to play, then he played a short solo meditation on the theme, then they played together. It seemed to me that Hussain found out what he was going to be playing at the same time we did.

One of the most interesting parts (okay, if you're a geek) was watching an assistant tune one of the tablas before the concert started. It involves tapping the rim of the drumhead with a small hammer, either from the top or the underside. Then he pulled a string out of the drumhead, then used something that looked like a dull knife to push another string in, around the edge. Finally he hid the extra string under the carpet. I wish he had explained what he was doing as I had no idea what was up with the string. Later on, during the concert several times Hussain had to retune it while he was playing. Somehow they managed to incorporate the tapping with the hammer into the piece. It was incredible.

rainy saturday

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I think they need to be plantedWe're in the middle of several days of near-constant rain. Well, it's good for the garden. That's what I keep telling myself. And in truth, plants are springing up all over. We're even getting edible asparagus! The first few years you can't pick asparagus; the stalks come out skinny and you have to leave them to let the plant develop. This year for the first time we're seeing big fat stalks, a good size to eat. Unfortunately we're only getting one or two asparagus stalks at a time. Oops. Maybe that's because it's so early in the season and later on we'll be able to pick enough for a meal.

This morning we went to the farmer's market, where we saw lots of people we knew. I ran into someone I had known from the Obama campaign. It was really nice actually, because I had seen her a couple of months ago and approached her, and she clearly hadn't recognized me. Which had been disappointing because we had worked together every Wednesday morning at the campaign office for a couple of months. But she was at the office every day, so I figured she must have worked with so many people she couldn't be expected to remember all of them. Well this time she saw me first, called out my name and greeted me with a hug. That made me feel a lot better. Maybe last time she was just having a bad day or something.

I also went to the Scrap Exchange's warehouse fabric sale, which was a crazy scene. As advertised, it was in their warehouse, and it was crammed with people rummaging through bins of scrap fabric. I wasn't interested in small pieces; I was there for the fabric bolts. The one I liked best they only had several short ends; it would have taken three bolts to be sure I had enough. At $5 a bolt that wasn't much of a bargain. I found another that was almost as nice and had plenty of fabric. yay!

In the afternoon the rain stopped enough to get some weeding done. Georg did the really hard work, digging out wild brambles. They are taking over one part of the long flower bed along the driveway. Well he made a lot of progress. They aren't gone (those bastard brambles will probably never be gone) but he certainly set them back a lot.

I weeded too, and also cut a bunch of plants back. The three verbenas we planted last year really took off; one of them is threatening to overwhelm some lime thyme that I love. The thyme took a long time to get established and I don't want the verbena to swallow it whole. So I pulled up all the verbena that was too close to the thyme, and planted some of it on the other side of the yard in a bare patch where it can grow like mad, to its heart's content.

I also transplanted the tomato seedlings. Tomatoes are unusual in that the stem can grow roots if it comes in contact with soil. When you plant seedings, you're supposed to keep staging them up into larger and larger pots, each time burying most of the plant. That encourages a stronger root system. Well I've been pretty slack and am just now getting around to transplanting them. The poor things had gotten so leggy in their cell packs. I was able to sort of loop the stems and get them all the way inside the 3" pots. Next I'll go up to quart size pots and won't wait so long next time.

In the evening we went to a gallery opening for our friend David, and then a party at his house. I was hoping to get some recordings for the vox pop (I'm going to have to expand it pretty substantially for the radio show on the 12th) but it wasn't workable at all. Really noisy inside, and we couldn't go outside because it was pouring. Oh well, I know who I really wanted to get on tape and I can contact them privately. And I met an older lady at the party who told me she had grown up in Durham and had all kinds of stories she wanted to tell me. She didn't want to be recorded right then, she wanted to have get together later so she'd have time to tell her stories. I'd like to hear what she has to say.

We left the party early, because we were tired from yard work and also because I'd had as much as I could handle of a house jammed with people. I think I did pretty well though. We were there for about an hour and a half and I didn't get stressed out about being in a crowd. Well, not too stressed out.

election fraud in kentucky

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This past Friday brought news of a handful of indictments of elections officials in Kentucky who are alleged to have rigged elections in 2002, 2004, and 2006 by changing votes in electronic voting machines. The group of five officials (plus one non-official) is charged with a list of crimes including manipulating the vote totals in electronic voting machines, certifying elections that they knew to be rigged, and arranging for votes to be sold. Remarkably, the vote manipulation technique here was essentially an exploit of a simple UI design flaw, and involved no computer skills at all on the part of the alleged perpetrators.

The accusation is that voting machines were set up with an extra a step: voters would select the candidates they wanted to vote for and press a big red "vote" button, which appeared to cast the vote, but then the voter was shown a confirmation screen where they had to press "confirm vote" on the screen to actually cast the vote. The indicted officials are alleged to have told voters the "vote" button was the final step so that voters would walk away leaving their vote uncompleted. The election worker would then go back and change the vote before pressing "confirm."

I'm sure if we try real hard, we can figure out a way that ACORN is behind this.

(actually Ars Technica says it appears to be a bipartisan conspiracy focused on personal enrichment rather than crooked party politics. But still, ACORN!)

presentation

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Our Durham Neighborhood College presentations were tonight! I think the vox pop went well. At least people seemed to like it. It was strange to watch a bunch of people listen to audio I had produced. A totally different experience from radio, where you have no idea if anyone is even listening, much less how they react. I was gratified that all the parts I thought were funny, they laughed too.

The cartoons were a hit. We ended up making them into Powerpoint slides rather than holding up cue cards, because the ones done by the class member's daughter were on 8.5 × 11" paper and no one would have been able to see them. I was assigned to push the button advancing the slide show, because I had listened to the audio so many times. The crazy thing is, before today I had never used Powerpoint. I was actually nervous about it! I ended up going to the office of a woman in my group, so she could show me how to do it. Turns out all I had to do was push the "down" arrow key every time I wanted to advance a slide. Whew, I can do that!

Beforehand I practiced several times to make sure I had the timing right. I don't have Powerpoint at home (like I said, I never used it before today) so I got a PDF of the slides in order and I scrolled through the pages while listening to the audio. I made a little cheat sheet with the dialogue and marked the exact point where I wanted to advance to the next slide. While I was practicing I even said "BOOP" out loud each time I hit the next slide, to help me remember the transitions. Well, I stopped doing that when Georg got home; it felt kind of silly.

The finished audio is basically what I posted the other day, except I rearranged it some and edited a couple of people. Just to tighten everything up, and to remove negative references to other towns. We decided it wasn't necessary to criticize Chapel Hill and Raleigh in order to praise Durham. (And, we didn't agree with the specific criticisms either.)

Also one person's recording was kind of all over the place -- she would talk about one thing, then another, then go back to the first -- and I edited her a lot. Moved things around so it flowed more logically. The weird thing is, you can't tell at all. It sounds totally natural. I'm kind of alarmed that it's so easy to do that. I mean, I'm an amateur using open source editing software, and I'm able to completely change what she said. I didn't in any way alter her meaning, but it made me realize how easy it would be to do so.

I'm going to make a Youtube video of the whole thing put together -- tomorrow, right now I'm tired -- and will post it as soon as it's done. It was so much fun to work with this group. I really enjoyed getting to know Allison, Ricardo, Barbara and Joyce. During the presentation (which by the way, thank you to the rest of the group for handling the presentation so I only had to do the bare minimum of public speaking, for which I have little fondness) Ricardo called me "Sarita"! That was really sweet.

feels like home

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I can't remember if I mentioned that the Durham Neighborhood College project isn't just audio: one of the team members also offered to have his daughter draw cartoons to represent each person's responses. The idea is that we'll play the audio, and as each person speaks hold up the cartoon that represents them.

We had a bit of trouble coordinating over the past week, and since the project is due only a few days from now, I asked a cool girl I know to also do drawings as a backup. She took it really seriously -- she took notes while I was talking to her! -- and she started working on them last night.

Fortunately it was just a miscommunication with the person on our team, and we're going to have drawings from his daughter too. Personally I don't have a problem with using both. There's going to be five us standing there, we can have two people holding up the cartoons. And the two girls are different ages: the daughter is 7 and my friend is 12. That's a big jump in how kids experience art, and their interpretations are going to look fairly different. I think it would be worth showing both sets of cartoons. But I'll wait and see how the rest of the group feels. We're having a meeting tomorrow night to finalize things so I guess we'll decide then.

Here's the first of my friend's cartoons. I love it. It represents the person who said "Durham feels like home."
DNC-Carina.jpg

vox pop

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Been working hard on the audio project for the Durham Neighborhood College presentation. I have all the audio and put together a rough cut which I'm pretty happy with. It still needs to be tightened up but the basic structure is set.

This is the short version, for the class presentation. It's missing some recordings that I really liked, because we were trying to keep it short and the team voted on the ones to include. We're also on the schedule to do the project as a program on Durham Noise Network, WXDU's audio documentary show, on April 12. Which I'm a little concerned about: people tend to spend 30-45 seconds answering the question, and so 9 interviews produced about 6 minutes of audio. That's perfect for a class presentation, but I'm also committed to a 30 minute radio show in a couple of weeks. If I can get the rest of the team to go to the station and we talk for 8-10 minutes to introduce it (which is more time than I'd like, 10 minutes is longer than you'd think when you're talking live on the air), then I'm still going to have to more than triple the amount of audio I have now.

Our friend David invited us to a party this weekend where there will be tons of Durham people. I'll take the recorder and try to get as many of them as I can. I might be able to fill the whole half hour right there.

finally, a use for all those stones

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To fill a new shade bedIt was a gardening day today. We started with a trip to the Raleigh Farmer's Market this morning. Hardly any of the plant vendors were set up yet, which surprised me. I guess because it's been cold this weekend. Two of our favorites were there with limited stock: Archer Farms and The Guy Formerly Known as Messenbrink. (By the way, he really needs to give his stand a new name.)

We wanted plants for a new bed we're putting in by the back door. It's on the northern side of the house, gets almost no sun, so we need shade plants. From The Guy Formerly Known as Messenbrink we bought a heuchera, a Chinese foxglove and a shrub called Fatsia japonica. It's pretty, kind of tropical looking, and he said it blooms with white flowers in December. Then we went to Archer Farms and got three low ferns to go underneath the fatsia. He said the ferns will spread slowly, and eventually fill in the whole bed.

We stopped for lunch at Nosh, then it was time to build the bed! It's in a spot which has been unsightly: we kept the trash can there, and the ground was overrun with ivy and volunteer privets. Unfortunately it's right next to the back door, which is the door we always use, and it just didn't look nice. A couple of weeks ago Georg dug up the privets and the ivy. Today we dug nice compost into the soil and planted the new plants. Then I made a stone border for the bed. Finally, a use for some of the stones we've found over the years! There are little piles of stones all over the place, wherever we tossed them while digging a new garden bed. I used two piles of stones, which was almost enough for the border.

At one end of the new bed is a pile of compost. Which was a pile of mulch when we put it there a year ago; now it's compost. Tomorrow we're going to spread it over the rest of the bed, then cover the bed with mulch from the big box store. It looks like 4 bags will do it, which means we'll probably need 6 or 7.

While I was making the stone border, Georg dug up volunteer saplings and cleared the ground behind the back deck. Tomorrow we'll put down landscape fabric and mulch and then keep the trash can there. It will still be easy to get to, but it won't be the first thing you see when you walk up to the door.

Now, we are both wiped out. It's kind of sad how fast yard work tires me out. I used to be less of a wuss. One day a couple of years ago when Georg was out of town, I went to the landfill, bought a truckload of soil, unloaded and spread the entire thing by myself in one day. Or there was the time we removed an old septic tank with no power tools, just a sledgehammer to break up the concrete. I guess I need to build back up to that level of work.

iphone

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So, I bought an iPhone. I had been resisting for a long time: too expensive, I don't really need it, I don't want to switch to AT&T, etc etc. But then I realized that I needed to replace both my phone and my iPod, and the iPhone isn't expensive compared to replacing both. (The phone probably could have limped along for a while longer, but the iPod was completely shot. The battery only lasted for a minute or two, so it had to be plugged in at all times. And it had developed this annoying habit of shutting itself off if the case got bumped or jarred. Like, say, if I hit a pothole on the road.)

Then I found out that the iPhone works as a GPS. I had been thinking about buying a GPS for art car trips, because I have a terrible sense of direction and always get lost in strange cities. Suddenly the iPhone seemed like a positive bargain!

I've had it for a few days and okay, yes, I love it. The GPS was really easy to use: while we were in MD last weekend, we went to the grocery store so we could make a dessert for our hosts' dinner party on Saturday night. (Guinness Stout Gingerbread, really good recipe.) While we were out I decided I wanted to find a Wendy's to get an iced tea. I googled wendy's on the iPhone and a message popped up, "Would you like to find a Wendy's near you?" Why yes, I would! It showed me a map of nearby locations, I picked the nearest one, and it gave me step by step directions. It also showed us a map with a glowy dot that moved, so we could follow our progress along the route. I think it would be hard to use if I were alone in the car, but with two of us it worked great.

My one frustration so far is finding a good recipe app. I want an app that will get recipes from epicurious.com. My pre-iPhone method was to search for a recipe at work when my boss wasn't looking, print it out, carry the paper to the grocery store and then to the kitchen, where it gets all stained and wrinkled, and then save it in a big stack of paper recipes which are impossible to search, so I end up printing the same recipes over and over.

I found an app which works well once it has the recipe (it shows you the instructions and a shopping list, both in handy checklist format). Unfortunately getting the recipe into the app is a pain. It doesn't search the epicurious database: you have to go to epicurious.com, a site which is not easy to use on the tiny screen, find the recipe, and click a button to send the recipe to the app. So, my search for a really good recipe app continues.

spoke too soon

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I thought Jane didn't have any nausea yesterday, but this morning she woke me up at 5, pacing around and whining. I put her out and she ran outside and threw up repeatedly. At least I think so -- it was dark out and I was watching from the window. She sure looked like she was throwing up.

Now she seems fine. She ate about a half hour ago and she's sitting on the porch watching squirrels, just like she does every morning. I don't have to leave until about 11:15 so I can keep an eye on her until then.

I have to say, a dog who wakes its people up so it can throw up outside? Superdog. She needs a little cape or something.

my, what clean teeth you have

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Jane had a dental cleaning today. She did just fine, though I couldn't help but worry. I know a dog her age (8 years) isn't at much risk, but still, it's always a little scary to have a dog put under a general.

They had to pull one fractured tooth, which they said was so bad <grossout alert> they could put a probe into it and go right down to the soft tissue. When I asked if the tooth had been causing her pain they said no, it had happened a long time ago (long before she came to live with us) and the soft tissue was dead. So it must have caused her pain when it happened but not anymore. They also said she had another minor fracture which they could ignore. It sounded like they meant a chipped tooth which is no big deal, I have one of those and I don't even know how it happened. Also Jane was missing two of her side teeth, which is a common genetic condition in shepherd mixes. But for Jane the missing teeth don't match. So they said it's more likely that she had some trauma or injury in the past which caused the damaged and lost teeth. I think she must have had a rough-and-tumble life before she came to us. She also has a weird toe (kind of crosses over the other toe) which the vet said must have been broken a long time ago and untreated, so it didn't heal properly.

They said that next time Jane has a cleaning we should consider having X-rays to see if there are still root tips in there from the missing teeth. Poor baby! I work with a guy who had that happen, a bad dentist pulled his wisdom teeth and left a bit behind, and it got infected and caused terrible headaches for years until he went to another dentist and found out what had happened. I hope Jane doesn't have that.

She ate canned food just fine when we got home, though she has been acting fussy all night. Whining and wanting to go out all the time. We thought maybe she was sick, but we watched her outside and she just stood there for awhile and then scratched to come back in. I think she wants to go out because her mouth hurts and she feels out of sorts, and she likes being outside so maybe she thinks she'll feel better out there.

I finally got Jane to settle down by getting into bed. She always lies down when I do, and now she's sleeping at the foot of the bed.

durham neighborhood college

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Have I mentioned that Georg and I are enrolled in the Durham Neighborhood College? Well we are. It's a ten week course about Durham city and county government; every week we learn about a different government office. What they do, their responsibilities and goals, where their funding comes from, how they make decisions, etc. It's really interesting. We learned about it from our friend D. who was in a previous session, and also a fellow poll worker during early voting last October suggested it.

We're about midway though the course, and so far the highlight has been the tour of the county jail. We've also had presentations from the police department, animal control, the board of elections, inspections, development, the register of deeds, emergency services, and others. Tonight was finance, budget, and taxes. Unfortunately we were in a new meeting room, which was so warm that I felt like I was going to nod off. It wasn't just me; during the break a couple of others said the same thing.

We've been split into small groups for a class project. The topic is "Perceptions of Durham" and my group is on the "pro" side. We're doing a vox pop, surveying Durham to find out what they like about living in Durham. We're going to pick about a dozen, record them and play the recordings while (this is the part I really love) holding up cartoons that represent each response, drawn by the daughter of one participant.

One of the participants went ahead and recorded all his responses, and they are wonderful. He's a great interviewer. One woman gave a bland boring response and he kept at her, asking pointed questions until she came out with something really heartfelt and touching.

I'm so excited about this project! I've asked the rest of the group if they'd be willing to adapt our project for Durham Noise Network, the half-hour documentary program on WXDU.

sita sings the blues

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sita-sings-the-blues.jpgYou may have heard of the movie Sita Sings the Blues. It's an animated film which tells the classic story of Rama and Sita, with music by 20s jazz singer Annette Hanshaw. And if that description doesn't thrill you, well, you're not me.

I saw the movie a few weeks ago thanks to my friend Kevin, who found a download for me (ahem) before the official release. I loved it. Funny, touching, wonderfully animated. And the Annette Hanshaw songs, all classics of Tin Pan Alley, aren't just background music; they're integrated into the story.

The film achieved some notoriety when when it ran into copyright problems over the music. It's complicated; the Annette Hanshaw performances were all public domain, but copyright still applied to the songwriting credits. (I might have that wrong actually. Except the part about it being complicated.) Filmmaker Nina Paley was finally able to work out a deal with the copyright holders, and on Sunday released Sita Sings the Blues for free under a Creative Commons license.

Since it's a great movie, and it's free, I decided to do a free giveaway of DVDs for my show. Making the DVDs wasn't hard, just time-consuming. The Sita Sings the Blues download site was sooo slow. I tried to download the largest file & gave up after about 8 hours. Then I tried the SD version, which took about 3 hours to download.

I make dvdsI found a program called MPEG2 Works that does all kinds of DVD related things. It works great, just, you know, takes a lot of time. The "one click DVD" option took about 2 hours to build an .img file, though I did it wrong the first time and accidently made it in PAL instead of NTSC. Then burning the .img file onto a DVD takes another hour plus. It's a good thing I have two computers or I wouldn't have gotten any work done this week.

Once I had the master DVD, it was off to Joe's house. It's good to have a friend with a CD/DVD duplication business! He burned copies 6 at a time while we made the labels with an image from the Sita website. Joe liked the colors so much he made an extra for himself, to show clients. It was a trade: I'm going to make a slide show of photos of wolves for him. It's for a client who works for an environmental group. They have a CD of wolf sounds and they want a slide show to go with it.

The DVD isn't perfect: there's some blurring when the animation gets complicated, like when there are a lot of objects on the screen moving at the same time. Also, this is kind of weird but the aspect is correct when I watch it on a computer, but on a TV the right and left edges are cropped off. Like pan and scan, except no panning. I did it over, making sure to select the 16:9 aspect, and it was the same. Finally I thought, screw it. I've spent as much time on this as I can spare. Only a little of the image is lost. And besides, this is a free DVD. If people are unhappy with it, they can download their own.

veg hooray

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We finally got the vegetable garden started yesterday! In the morning before my show, we weeded and mulched the beds. The bad news: I found a bramble sprouting in the middle of one bed. These wild brambles are my nemesis. They're all over the yard and they have these deep, woody roots that are impossible to pull out. And if you don't get the deep, woody root out, it just comes right back.

When we made the raised beds for the vegetable garden, we dug really deep to get all the weeds out. And we pulled up all the weeds for several feet around, and put down landscape fabric to keep them out. But a bramble finally got into the bed. The root must have run underground until it found the nice soil of the bed and then been like, "hey hey! New home for me!" I dug down to uncover as much of the bramble root as I could, and poured boiling water on it. Unfortunately I don't think that will do anything more than delay its progress. I don't know what we can do long-term.

Anyway enough of that. The bramble is gone for the time being, and after my show it was time to plant seeds! We planted beets, chard, spinach, onions, sugar snaps and long beans. Also Georg dug up the stump of doom behind the house! It was a privet gone wild, right up against the house. Now that it's out we can plant the dawrf buddleia we got at Plant Delights. (description: "This rare genetic dwarf makes a tight ball, 3' tall x 3' wide, of greyish foliage topped all summer with miniature spikes of white flowers. Just wait until you see the miniature butterflies it attracts! Remember, it should only be pruned with miniature clippers and watered with tiny watering cans.") The buddleia is going into an odd spot by the northern corner of the house -- it will get afternoon sun but just behind it gets no sun at all. Maybe we'll plant ferns back there.

Today I took a break from work to move a hydrangea and plant a couple of farfugiums (farfugii?) which we bought last fall and never got around to planting. They had been in their pots all winter, dragging along, and I was worried a couple of times that they had died. But they both have new growth today. woo! I love farfugium.

Now it's back to work. The work kind, not the fun garden kind.

cracking the antm mystery

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This evening we were finally watching last week's ANTM season premiere, and when the one girl mentioned that she had epilepsy, I turned to Georg and said, "They're either going to kick her out because they don't want the potential liability of having her on the show, or they're going to let her in and every week do challenges involving strobe lights."

Forty-five minutes later, what is the first challenge of the season? A runway walk with a strobe light.

Sometimes this show is just too easy to predict.

springtime's here again

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Five days ago it snowed and dropped to 14° overnight. Today it was almost 80°. Must be springtime in North Carolina!

Goodbye and good riddanceToday was a fun day. We started at the city dump, disposing of the old loveseat and corner cabinet. The last of the crap furniture! What a relief.

Then we had lunch at Nosh, and then drove out to Plant Delights for their open house. They're the ones I wrote about recently, with the funny plant descriptions. Here's the best one I saw today:

Verbena tenuisecta 'Decked Out'
This amazing verbena appeared as a seedling near our back deck; hence, the name. V. 'Decked Out' has sailed through our miserable winters in great shape and rewards us with a constant show of rich, fluorescent purple flowers all summer. The non-aggressive habit makes it perfect for fun "plant marriages." Oh sorry, I forgot the courts ruled that those weren't legal, but they can still cohabitate in all states except South Carolina. Pot size: 24 fl. oz

They have open house four times a year, and just mail order the rest of the time. We try to go to a couple each year, and I think this is the first time we'd been to the winter open house. (Not that it feels like winter! At 9 pm we have the front door standing open.) Their garden looked really different because most of the plants were dormant. Normally it's a series of paths winding through the lush tall growth. Today, with all the grasses cut down to the ground and all the trees bare, you could see from one end to the other.

We bought 6 plants this afternoon:

  • a dwarf buddleia with white flowers, which will go in a new bed near the back door.
  • another phlomis to replace the one which seems to have died one that one really cold night, or go next to it if it comes back.
  • a pineapple lily. No idea how it will do, but it looked so pretty.
  • a "spanish snapdragon."
  • a gorgeous dark red euphorbia.
  • a fuzzy foliage plant for part shade, which we can't remember the name of.

We did not buyThings I wanted to buy, but restrained myself:

  • a hardy orchid.
  • an alstromeria.
  • more euphorbias.
  • a two-colored fern that I had never seen before.
  • a tall shrub with orange flowers called Orange Peel Cestrum.
  • a salmon colored crinum lily. Incredibly beautiful, but $30 for one plant? Not today.
    (the most expensive plant we saw was a peony for a jaw-dropping $150!)

After we got back we relaxed for awhile, then spent a little time out in the yard. No heavy work, just removing the straw from the tender plants. It looks like the gerber daisies didn't make it. Can't say as I'm surprised. They're only hardy to 22° and it got down to 9° that one night. In brighter news, the artichokes all survived! Yay! The hardy amaryllis don't have new growth yet, but the bulbs feel nice and firm.

Tomorrow we're going to plant seeds: beets, spinach, and sugar snaps. And the onion sets. We're so far behind! The seeds should have been planted weeks ago. But then they probably would have died last Monday night. So maybe it's a good thing that we're behind.

Now we're finally watching last week's ANTM. Thank god the 9/11 truther didn't make it in! I don't think I would have watched this season if she had been on it.

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