Saturday, June 28, 2008

New puppy = lazy Saturday

But not too lazy. Our new Newfoundland pupy, Yuki - or whatever we wind up calling her instead - passed the night more restfully than I expected... which means I got up with her at 2:30 to go out, come back in, go back out (after whizzing on the floor a couple of times), hang around outside (for some appropriately placed whiz), come back in, play, play, play and conk out at 3:30. But she did sleep the rest of the night, so that's pretty good, really.

She did need to have someone sleep down on the floor next to her crate so she could get over the scariness factor. She raised a hue and cry until I came down, opened the door and cuddled her for a while. Naturally, she got too darn hot and schlumped into her box to rearrange the towel and curl up for both of her long stretches of sleep. Yeah, big scary crate.

But we received her non-housebroken and non-crate trained, so you have to start somewhere.

Today, we went downtown (in the auto, not on foot), and she got some visiting time in at the bank, where they plied her with treats, as well as at work, where we dropped in for a spell. Pretty big day for puppy, who's now completely conked out on the kitchen floor. Still, she didn't walk far at all, but with large-breed puppies, you have to go easy for a *long* time (the rule of thumb is as many minutes walking each day as the puppy is weeks old - not even around the block here, unless you carry her). She's ridiculously cute.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Hit-and-run activism

When I was in college, my friends, enemies and associates and I were often called on to take part in daylong "hunger strikes," overnight stints as homeless people, the list goes predictably on.

I see that a fellow journalist, Jill Silva, took the so-called food stamp challenge, to live for a week on the amount of food the stamps will buy you. In her case, her family of four had $129.50 to spend. Her coverage is worth a read, but begs a few questions from this editor.

What do you really learn by spending just one week in deprivation? More importantly, do food stamp recipients use only food stamps to buy food? If not, how much of their dough do they fold into their weekly allotment? What'll that buy you?

To really get the picture, it would be more appropriate to take the challenge for a month. That'd give despair a better chance to set in. The most interesting part of the talented Ms. Silva's piece is three of her four observations about the emotional and physical effect of doing the challenge:

The challenge felt like a diet. I spent nearly every moment I was not at work thinking about or preparing food.
It was exhausting to shop three times in one week to get the best deals.
I feared I would run out of food.

But it was still a worthy story, even if it was a little too close for my taste to the Global Awareness House holding a Go Hungry for Ghana night.

The most insightful aspect of the coverage, though, was this, the only comment left by someone who read her stories: " You are lucky to have a vehicle to get to the store."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Let's work together, as long as you do the hard part

Green, sustainable, renewable - whatever you want to call it, the energy game spawns a lot of talk about being not so rough on the environment. So being a responsible homeowner, you decide to do your part by installing solar panels on the roof. You soon realize that your penny-pinching ways mean you have electricity to spare, so you get the idea to sell the power to the power company. Brilliant! You have company, too.

But if you do business with Pacific Power, as most city folks around here do, you can only sell them enough to pay your own way. You upload more to them than you use yourself, that's just a nice little present to the power company. To wit:
On April 30th of each calendar year, any remaining unused kilowatt-hour credit accumulated during the previous year shall be granted to the Company, without any compensation to the Customer.
A magazine article I read recently pointed out that for people using solar panels to generate electricity, this is especially a ripoff because the power is being generated during the hours of peak demand, etc.

What this boils down to for the likes of me is a big disincentive to install a solar system (one low-power kit I found runs about $11,000, not including installation) because our household uses less than $450 in electricity each year. I'm not waiting 20 or 25 years for something to pay for itself.

Which is too bad, because I'd love to be a net-zero power user. Harumph grumble grumble.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tale of the tape

As I've mentioned, I get a lot of hits from people who want more information on strep and staph infections in their snoots. To wit, according to Statcounter, here's the rundown since Monday at dinnertime:
  1. Lebanon, Ill.
  2. Warsaw, Poland
  3. Tupelo, Miss.
  4. Oak Park, Ill.
  5. Sydney, Australia
  6. Granada Hills, Calif.
  7. West Bloomfield, Mich.
  8. New York state
  9. Brooklyn, N.Y.
  10. Franklin, Mass.
  11. Richmond, Va.
  12. Clearwater, Fla.
  13. Clifton, N.J.
  14. Washington, D.C.
  15. Houston
  16. Sacramento, Calif.
  17. Eureka, Ill.
  18. Phoenix
  19. San Francisco
  20. Phoenix
  21. Allende, Mexico
  22. Vista, Calif.
  23. U.K. of G.B. & N.I. (city unknown)
  24. Jackson, N.J.
  25. London
  26. U.K. of G.B. & N.I. (city unknown)
  27. New York state
  28. Richmond, Va.
  29. Colville, Wash. (may be a record for closest hit)
  30. Rochester, N.Y.
  31. Seattle
  32. Encino, Calif.
  33. Hudson, Mass.
  34. London
  35. Maryville, Mo.
  36. San Diego
  37. Columbia, S.C.
  38. Roselle Park, N.J.
  39. Circle Pines, Minn.
  40. Fort Mill, S.C.
  41. Kenmore, Wash.
  42. Grass Valley, Calif.
  43. Huntsville, Texas
So, that's maybe a dozen a day? This is just a teensy slice of the geographic pie, too. I'm sure this is the reason I've got the No. 1 and No. 2 rankings at google on these topics. :)

Notes from time off

Usually, a week off means a week away, but we're spending this one here, in sunny Walla Walla (highs in the 80s, lows in the 50s, arid :).

Usually, a week off also means a week of contemplating work a bit, but between lazing about, watching movies, some incompetent fishing and lots of exploring with my best friend from high school (damn! that's a long time!), I haven't done much thinking on it, except when talking it over with him and the butterfly lady.

That's OK, though. Maybe it is just because I don't usually take the vacations you just hang out on, as opposed to, say, going on some adventure in the mountains or overseas.

Well, whatever. This isn't a really deep post, is it?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tag along

Tagged by SqGl am I:

The "rules" of the game: Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

Ten years ago:
I lived right here, in sunny Walla Walla, and worked at the same place (albeit in a totally different job). Our hottest plan at the time was to go to Belize and Guatemala for Christmas, the first time traveling abroad together for the butterfly lady and I.

Five things in today’s to do list:
1) Respond to the tag SqGl left me.
2) Call the kennel (Damn! Have to do that now! ... Ha. Done.).
3) Watch a movie.
4) Do not weave. Do not do yard work. Let hands heal from too much of both.
5) Make something interesting for dinner. I have lots of great ingredients (squash, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes) and no brilliant ideas.

Snacks I enjoy: Peanuts. Well-aged cheddar cheese. Licorice. Pretzels (the stick kind). Olives. Baklava. Shoot what don't I like?

Things I would do if I were a millionaire:
  • Stop working (OK, I would probably keep weaving).
  • Travel more - My to-go list has a lot of entries.
  • Swim more, read more, watch more movies.
  • Donate more to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.
  • Shoot, the list could probably go on for a while. I think what I'm saying here is that when I can retire, I will, and I most certainly won't be one of those people who finds the free time boring.
Places I have lived:
How liberal are we being here? If you include part of a summer, or a few months a year for a few years:

Rickreall, Oregon (actually, in the country outside Rickreall) (population 57)
Salem, Oregon
Hopewell, Oregon (actually, in the country outside Hopewell) (population too low to count)
Reeds Spring, Missouri (population 465)
Salem again
Walla Walla, Washington
Del Mar, California (there's the stretch, but I did take up residence there, even if only briefly)
Newmarket, New Hampshire (home of the Mules)
Walla Walla again

Ahh, who to tag? How about Mama, Mama II, Johnny Yen (I know he's got a list), the butterfly lady and Lulu.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

During/after photos of the yard

I neglected to take before photos, but believe you me, it was just a jumble of weeds, three bushy trees, some nice plants and a jumble of weeds.

Here's looking out off the porch onto the major arterial (or what passes for such in Walla Walla). You can't see the constant, albeit light, traffic. But if you could you would know why these bushy trees are a huge asset.
And looking in. Try putting this in a real estate ad. Not that I'm hoping to sell this place, ever. Neighbor on the left lent me his electric jackhammer to demo the ridiculous concrete pad, which formerly was on the right-hand side of the yard, abutting the sidewalk, 'twixt the brightly lit Russian sage and the walkway to the porch.
Here's the left side of the yard, as you look at the house. Russian sage, English lavender, plus trees and the remaining crabgrass. I've transplanted lunaria behind the pussy willows, in the hopes they'll go crazy like everywhere else in town and help drown out the crabgrass, if such a thing is possible.
And the right side. This poor, dear tree I transplanted from the other side of the yard, where it was being overshadowed by the pussy willows. Alas, its roots were so badly entangled with crabgrass I couldn't move it with the dirt still attached to its roots, three of which also were damaged. I put it in the ground carefully and gave it a healthy dose of water, but I'd be impressed if it survives, especially if the weather gets around to heating up.
From another angle, too. To the right, and behind, the Russian sage is the artfully buried piece of red vesicular basalt I spotted at the igneous rock dealership (aka U.S. Highway 12). I know this is way too many features to be acceptable as a Japanese garden, but I had these concrete tiles, so ...
We got this rhododendron and the nasturtium-like guy when we got the house. That and the pussy willows were all we kept. The cute little pansy types (in front of the rhododendron) showed up on their own.
I used some of the river rock I found in the yard to make a downspout splashy area. I'm sure landscapers have a different way to say that.
I used some of the other stones to put stone rings around the eight new lavender plants, plus the tree I transplanted, but I had a few left over:
Yes, I know, this looks a lot more like "during" photos than "after" photos, but there's not a lot more I plan to do. I intend to plant poppies and black-eyed Susans amongst the lavender and sage. Probably mostly poppies on account of the height issue, but I really like black-eyed Susans. I'm sure that will win out in the end.

Brunch non-shuffle

Heard while checking work e-mail on a Sunday and punching butterflies out the butterfly lady's handmade paper, and while procrastinating, briefly, on finishing hang tags for my pieces at Willow of Walla Walla.

Loch Lomond (who knows? a found item)
Locomotive Breath (Jethro Tull)
London Calling (The Clash)
London's Burning (see above)
Lonely Girl (Pink, Linda Perry)
Lonesome Billy (Ennio Morricone)
Lonesome Road (Joan Baez)
Lonesome, On'ry and Mean (Waylon Jennings)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

How I spent my weekend

The front yard has been a disaster area since we moved in three and change years ago, and although I've made a few moves to improve it, it has been mostly weeds most of the time.

Assets include four Russian sage plants (planted by me), two trees that survived out of the lot of 10 from the Arbor Day people a few years ago (though one is pretty bent and needs staking), a rhododendron (one of the three great objects, don't you know), a pretty carnation-like plant that has tons of little pink flowers, three pussy willows and an assortment of hyacinth, grape hyacinth, tulips and now about a half-dozen lunaria (those really cool silver dollar plants that have the funky seed pods and look like this when blooming (thank you UNH Cooperative Extension for the photo!):

However, as is so true of most of life, assets have been outnumbered by liabilities, including:
  • Crabgrass (I'm thinking it's so named for its weird shoots that usually run underground)
  • Armyworms (curses!)

  • Weird wild carrot/parsley type weeds that are nearly ineradicable and unusually numerous.
  • Other weird wild carrot/parsley type weeds that are nearly ineradicable and unusually numerous.
  • Assorted weedy grasses, which combined with the crabgrass apparently give the armyworms a great neighborhood to live in.
  • A square concrete pad, about 4 feet on a side, which I was reminded today is (was :) about eight fucking inches thick (code for sidewalks is 3 or 4 inches), poured by the city in the distant past to accommodate a previous resident.
  • Three oddly placed square concrete tiles, about 15 inches on a side, maybe for a walkway? (these are now an asset, of course)
  • 400,000 river rocks varying in size from thumbnail to Palestinian grenade (heavy enough to dent a tank, in other words).
  • Relentless sunshine and a busy street with the mountains on one end and damn near Oregon on the other, which is another way of saying about 400,000,000 weed seeds blowing into the yard a week.
Saturday, I trimmed the pussy willows (yes, I thought of that, too) and dug out the more stony side of the yard, retrieving so many stones I could make a snazzy dish for the outdoor faucet and the downspout from the gutters, as well as surrounding the water meter with a significant pond of stones.

I rearranged the concrete tile things so they are now three diamonds in a row, kind of Japanese walkway style. I dug up maybe 250 pounds of weeds, too. I got two blisters and a good night's sleep.

Today (Sunday), I dug out the other side of the yard, but not completely, because I did the same thing when we moved in so it wasn't critical. But I did zap most of the crabgrass and dug out several armyworms. I observed a wolf spider, several centipedes, some unidentifiable spiders, a ton of people at the neighbor's yard sale and some pretty clouds.

I also demolished the concrete slab using an electric jackhammer (I did sing Jackhammer John while I was at it (for two hours)) borrowed from my neighbor, whose kindly daughter and several other relatives helped me chuck into the back of a truck. I got the hang of the jackhammer when I had about 1 square foot left to demo. Today, I re-got the two blisters, plus another. But it was well worth it.

Anyway, the plan is to plant eight lavender plants (picked up in Oregon - no sales tax and friendlier businesses with lower prices than up here), stake the tree that needs it - and maybe move it - and infill with poppy and black-eyed Susan seeds.

In case you were wondering, and had the patience to get this far, black-eyed Susans are my favorite flower.