Thursday, April 30, 2009

"Prayers For Peace"

One of these days I will remember to bring a camera to "Prayers For Peace".  One of these days soon... Robert is ever more willing to miss it.  For people with no history of meditation, or experience with Quaker meetinghouse worship, "Prayers For Peace" would no doubt seem a bit dull.  We sit for an hour to forty five minutes on the last day of every month in silence.  It is wonderful.  Who wants to get up?  Who wishes the feelings that come your way in such a circumstance?  All of you.  Trust me.

It is strange.  No doubt. I am the only person there under the age of fifty (I'm thirty-five.)  These people bring hope, peace, and thoughtfulness to a world that seems at times indifferent to such things.  It is wonderful.  You will not miss your radio, your sleep, or your coffee, if you don't get it.  Prayers for peace is wonderful.  I have been enjoying it for three years, and I will continue to, hopefully, for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

FiddleHeads On The North Side Of The House

Thought I was too late to take proper pictures of fiddleheads...  apparently not.  The wonderful thing about photography (from my, an amateur's perspective) is the rather gaping canyon between what you feel you have introduced to film (or charge coupled device, take your pick), and what you discover upon development.  This picture was one of ten or twelve that I took taking great care with focus and depth of field.  It has a lovely spring/gothic appeal to me.  You wouldn't believe the odor of a fiddlehead.  Aromatic MSG.  If umami had a smell this would be it.  Rich, cooked vegetable stew, but somehow in the air, as surprised to fly in your nose as you are to inhale it.  And of course,  alien.  Older than Everest, the Atlantic Ocean, Mammals, and the limestone beneath it.  Way, way before flowering plants. 

I had never thought much of fiddleheads until eight years ago I bicycled to the Deam wilderness and halfway illegally camped about three hundred yards off the main hilly road to the firetower, in some old white pines.  I pitched my tent there, alone, wilst drinking an unbelievably welcome six pack of beer (yeah, I stopped at the bait shop, somewhat guiltily, off 446 and bought the beer to haul back up that awful hill on the causeway with my forty or fifty pounds of gear....)  The sun was setting and All Things Considered was playing in my earbuds.  Finally I got into my tent and with the last rays of the sun looked over and saw coming up through the pine needles (the smell of those.... don't get me started) three lovely fiddleheads.  I thought back to an article I had read in fifth grade about such things.  I couldn't think of another time I had given them much thought.  That seemed crazy now, as they obviously were beautiful when you were half drunk laying sideways in a tent looking out of it in the middle of nowhere.  How could you miss it.  Huh?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Greatest (****) Of All

If you are new to this Blog please take this Link to the beginning of the subject, so you might enjoy the argument more thoroughly.  If it matters to you, I am sending you two entries back.  See index at bottom of this Blog Window, on left margin.
Now back to our story....


For 12.8 TW globally

renewables were .29 TW

nuclear was .82 TW

hydro was .29 TW

biomass was 1.21

coal was 2.96

gas was 2.7

oil was 4.52

immediately we can draw some conclusions about our future from the way we are doing things in the present.  If we want to stop burning coal and burn something else instead, we are still going to have to capture CO2.  This is energy intesive and will add to the CO2 burden of whatever alternative you find.  It will still be worth it, but helps to illustrate why we "live the way we do".  Many people regard nuclear as an almost obvious choice, where others see nuclear as the lazy choice of people who'd rather be fat and insecure (environmentally and geopolitically) then lean and mean green machines.  Well, it turns out that nuclear, even with powerplants running at many times todays highest tech, largest capacity, will be far from the lazy choice.  The reason is scale:  To replace the the additional capacity that would otherwise have to be covered by carbon based energy sources, nuclear will have to supply an additional 8 TW in the coming 45 years.  

If you do the math:

An additional 8 TW equals 8000 nuclear power plants
One a day for 45 years (a day!)  

Would you rather make the plants seven times more powerful?

That's one a week for 45 years.  This is why people pray, and hope for the best.  They are the one's who understand.

So some people have suggested that we dam every single river.  This extremely damaging choice will bring us .7 TW, not even a whole TW.  Every river.

Wind, forgive me T Boone Pickens, has theoretical limits based on the well known Newtonian Physics of the the convective power of the geofluid, wind,  at 10 meters above the ground (a bit easier calculating the potential than adding up turbines like a crazy person):  Wind appears to be limited by physics to 2.1 TW.  Excellent for putting a Band Aid on America's knee, but it will hardly dent the rapacious appetite of the world for Carbon Base(d) Fuels.

Lastly, biomass, which for all practical purposes means burning organics like wood, manure and peat has a limit of 7 to 10 TW.  It obviously is a terrible choice for the developed world, though Americans are burning as much wood today as they did in 1850.  Biomass is not a sustainable choice where human health is a concern, ect.   

This leaves us with the Obe Won Kanobe of energy sources.  The original one.  The sun:  

The sun gives us 120,000 TW

800 TW on land alone.

More energy hits the surface of the Earth in 1 hr, than mankind uses in 1 year.

The problem is that we have horribly inefficient solar collectors.  The highest we have ever achieved in effieciency, was 18%.  But that was with ultra expensive and rare materials.  Not a possibility for mass rollout.

That is the jist of this entry.  There really is today no option but the sun to make a significant impact on global warming.  We can try to do everything that might help.  But we are getting to the point where we are going to run  out of time.  

Another way of looking at that nuclear power plant a day thought experiment:

From the standpoint of themodynamics that one nuclear powerplant a day is identical to the worlds increasing hunger for energy.  So even if the challenge of building such a non carbon infrastructure seems daunting to you, remember, to the race of man, across the globe, mankind is not daunted by supplying carbon based energy to his race.  He will supply that nuclear power plants worth of addtional energy to the peoples of the world.  What could possibly stop him save War, Disease, or some other global event that would make Global warming seem like the joke that idiots are willing to write off.

One power plant a day.  Seven by next week.  Sixty to seventy by the fourth of  July.  That's a hell of a lot of coal.  We have to find a solution.  In our lifestyles, and in our national character.

In the next few entries I will be discussing a mixture of some things that amuse and amaze me (like our feces and gastointestinal system.  I've been doing a little extracurricular reading...) and some fun little projects I have been embarking on in the garden and the world of amusing chemistry (one of them having to do with everyones favorite Bob's Red Mill products.  You will never guess... it has to do with bacteria.  Ha!!)

So, just because I have met the enemy and he is so very much me and my understandable desire to be normal (one might even say, understandable desire to do something even more American than burn more coal, and that's embark on some Utopian fever dream.  Not for me.  Though does anyone know where I can get an Amish made space heater that looks like a fireplace?)  There is lots of room at the bottom for the childrens laughter to echo, "reminding us how we used to be."  And that's the greatest love of all.

How Do We Use The Energy We've Got

(Andy's note:  If you haven't read this blog before, or are reading down the blog (thanks!) and therefore back in time, you may be confused by this entry.  In that case you may use this link to goto the beginning of the subject, one entry back.  Otherwise feel free to navigate by the index at the bottom of this Blog's window, on the left margin.)


So how do we use (extract and produce) the energy we've got then.  Let's look at some numbers Professor Danielo Nocera, the Chemist at MIT, provided in his lecture.  Many thanks to powerpoint and the MIT World website.  It is awesome. (I never would have gotten all this down if I hadn't been able to pause the good Professor and write down everything he had on his slides.  He kept skipping through his data, saying, "Oh, you don't need to know this."  Really?  I think you do need to know this.  That's why I wrote it down once, and now am writing it down again.)

Some Numbers and Nomenclature:

First:  A terawatt is 10 to the twelve watts:  since this should mean very little to you unless you are unusually facile with math I have looked up some examples on Wikipedia of what various numbers of terawatts represent in real energy.

2 TW-- approximate power generated between the surfaces of Jupiter and its moon IO due to Jupiters tremendous magnetic field.

3.4 TW-- average total (gas, electricity, ect. ) power consumption of the US.  (for 2005)

44 TW  average total heat flux from the earth's interior (I have no idea what heat flux is either, I don't have time to look it up.  Feel better.)

75 TW based on global net primary production via photosynthesis (that's biomass, produced, as in growing)

50 to 200 TW  Rate of heat energy released by a hurricane

I could go on, but it gets tiresomely Sci Fi after that.  And besides we have the two figures that I think are relevant to the remainder of my entries that pertain to this subject.  Basically just remember that a terawatt is a unit of energy usage large enough to stand in for national and international energy usage.  This gives us a standard by which to compare the various technologies that claim to send us to heaven in style.

So the little terawatt thing above say's that in 2005 we used in the US 3.4 TW for the annum.  My notes from good Professor Nocera show that we used 12.8 terawatts globally in 2007.  Maybe, like me, you would like to know what that means.  Well... don't think twice:

For 12.8 TW globally

renewables were .29 TW

nuclear was .82 TW

hydro was .29 TW

biomass was 1.21

coal was 2.96

gas was 2.7

oil was 4.52

So with these figures, and looking again at word supply of Carbon Base(d) energy we have:

for the optimist

200 years of oil

400 years of methane (not including the frozen methane under the sea and in the Tiaga and Arctic permasfrosts.  There is tons and tons of the frozen methane under the ocean.  The stuff in permafrost however is going to melt out whilst the planet warms.  Unless I don't have kids... and quit watching Hulu....)

1900 years of coal (sand and tars)  YES!!!!!  

for the pessimist 


The good professor pointed out, by the way that it isn't like our only choices are to burn coal for energy.  We can turn it into anything we like.  It is called "Fisher Proust Chemistry".  Basically it is turning chains of carbon molecules into different chains of carbon molecules.  You knew we could do that, right?  I mean we make plastic from oil, so with enough money, ect. yeah we can make gas and whatever else we want from coal, and biomass, ect.  We actually have been doing this for nearly a century, but I digress.

It is obvious from the numbers above that it is the CO2 content alone that is the issue for the world where energy is concerned.  The rest has in many ways already been solved and is political and humanitarian, ect.  

Next time  we will talk more about the conclusions we should draw from the ways we are using energy.

The Cool Predictabliity Of the Rate Of Energy Consumption

Lately it seems not a day passes and I find some totally fascinating thing, I hadn't previously guessed, understood, been aware of, or realized was well within my scope of pleasure if not sphere of competence.  More on my competence, later (of course).

I watched a lecture, for example, by Danielo Nocera, who is a Chemist at MIT.  He has a great wit, and a wonderful anger that one can't help but think is appropriate in this land we live in of goofy Christians and their seeming total disdain for science and progressive anything.  So needless to say, when he turns to energy, let's just say he isn't your average limp-wristed propellerhead (the absolutely wrong name for T Boone Pickens, but hey....)

What he is good at is laying out the simple facts for global energy consumption in the future.  When you see how people who actually have to measure this stuff measure it, and you remind yourself that real mathematicians, physicists, and other true scientists have to have their suppositions checked by peer review, ect, you start to allow yourself to see things that had previously been politicized and used against the better angels of your rational mind. 

For examplel, if you were to ask yourself how one determines world demand for energy, honestly, you might not know that a paper came out in 1999 that predicted backwards in time, and it has been agreed by a sizable proportion of journals and scientists who read them, forwards in time the energy consumption rate of the world.  This is no small thing, since knowing the energy consumption for the future is two very important things:  one, it clears your head of dreamy ideas about what is possible with solar, wind, hydro-electric, geothermal, public transport, infrasructure improvements, city planning, algae technologies, and new and improved genetic techniques for fermenting through the biological pathways that were previously the sole domain of bacteria, fungus, and glandular tissues (for example the new system coming into commercial development making oil out of sugar.  Bacteria have done that for a long time, but it wasn't cost effective till pathway could be replicated in a bioreactor without simply feeding bacteria.  It still may not be cost effective in a more important sense, which is what I will be getting to here).  The other thing knowing the raw numbers in standard kilo or megawatt units allows aside from relief from fantasy (if you can handle that) is, you guessed it, real numbers in standard units to compare to each energy production option to ask yourself:  will the options we have be enough?  Who would have guessed such a question would be possible?

With all due respect, most folks have been lied to for so long, and have such an abysmal grasp of how big these numbers are, that they (including me, until recently) would have had no hope of entering the commonsensical world of merely computing what we need and asking if we can do it.  Remember paying super high prices for gas and oil because of phantom demand.  Remember scientists not exactly lighting up the lines or swamping the op ed pages?  Yeah, this subject is a seriously confusing one.  But none the less, at a global level the numbers scale to a better accuracy than, say the petroleum, market of the western world.  

There are also the fairies of hope, which are good fairies in general, but have a tendency with technology to go off the rails so often that one could be forgiven for thinking this train was an airplane.  Alot of interest in wind and alternative energy is actually a kind of silent prayer that we can fix this energy thing with small changes, and without heating up the earth.   There is nothing wrong with praying.  But I don't think praying for these particular technologies to accomplish those particular goals, is going to ever be consilient with the American Dream.  So you might ask, "Why not Andy?"  I was hoping you would.

Two things are worth remembering here:

One:  we have enough hydrocarbons for our energy needs in the future.


Two:  it is only that frustrating issue of global warming that is keeping us from trusting the fossilized Jurrasic peat from warming our feet till our great great grandchildren are being wheeled to their assisted living center.

The surprising results of that 1999 paper that gives the backwards and forwards accurate algorythm for global energy consumption mostly is surprising due to what it reveals about the likelihood of renewables replacing petroleum and coal, especially.  At this stage, there is zero liklihood.  And the earth will heat up.  That is where we are going.  That is how we are acting.  For all intensive purposes that is our destiny given the raw math of what the worlds population today demands, yesterday demanded, and tomorrow, if you will forgive the unfortunate electrifying pun, will still shine their lights on.  You think my children, my wife and I are going to use less energy than I use now.  Guess what, probably the main concern my parents, for example have about my life, in some senses, is that I am not a greater net user of electricity.  It is abnormal to share a house, family style, and split, therefore, the energy usage among three men, in America, and certainly in the Midwest.  And let me be clear, I am not really living such a low energy lifestyle, to a great extent, from my principles.  Far more a matter of taste.  I like the way this life feels.  When I have a family I am going to warm my feet by hundreds of pounds of burning coal.  And every child I bring into the world is going to represent thousands, tens of thousands, many, many short tons, of burning hydrocarbon.  My children aren't gonna go for this boarding BS.  And my wife.  HA!  So, like the rest of you, we are somehow going to believe in the right thing AND burn, baby, burn!

That is the basic quandry of the Westerner.  And that is the template that my friends from South Korea are talking about when they say that South Korean women will not live in a town without a Starbucks.  So they take everything that a woman (or all women) represents to the workings of a town, and find a Starbucks.  The result?  Rapid lifestyle change for both women, who walk to the locality of their dreams (Starbucks) and men, who predictably regard a town without women as not even fit for a dog.  Replace Starbucks with words like "coal fired electrification" and "non-poverty for the first time in your life" (know any Chinese? I do.  If they were poor as children, and you have met them in America, then you know they are not grateful to be here so much as mad at our insane lack of awareness about the nature of poverty vs. the dictates of nationalism.  Unfortunately, for you, their probably too scared to offend.) Replace Starbucks with those concepts and you've got India, China, and Brazil (though, yes, I know Brazil is differet, but MOVING.)  All of which goes to illustrate that our current energy needs are rapidly growing for cultural reasons.  They will never return to any previous state without World War.  Period.  That is why the algorhytm is so reliable.  It is based on GDP and population, and that's just about all you need to know the past, present and future of energy consumption or rate of consumption.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Could Be A Whiskey Bottle, But Really Isn't

Ok... so I can't really brag about my  friends office view.  But come on, I mean, how many people see this when they're working.  Boy oh boy.  Looks to me like they saved the Goddamn Bay.  Thanks for the view, Matt.

Matt and I love to remember some of the more idiotic and superbly suburban things we embodied and experienced as kids together.  When we were in fifth grade we decided one day to take Joni Mitchell's advice from "Clouds" and say it right out loud.  
"I like you," one of us pointed out to the other. "Well, I like you too." said the complementary kid in the diad.  But then, said the one, "Why do you like me?"  Brimming with confidence, we were.  
The answer, "Because you're nice."  Man, trust me, we were.   

He's been a great friend for well over twenty years.  As well as his lovely folks.  The only parents of other people I call on Father and Mothers day.  Sometimes...

Love you Matt!  And if you need anyone to watch over the office, or remodel it... I give free estimates.  But only for that side of the building.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

My Compost Pile's About One Half Cubic Yard Now!

I just about killed myself last night turning this pile.  It is huge!  Mostly coffee grounds and paper I took the surely unusual step of throwing sweet pea greens in the pile. Sweet peas are like grass in Bloomington. I think they were regarded as delicately beautiful, nearly virtuous in their bewitching femininity in Hoagy Carmichael's time.  The fact that they are a territorial, voracious, non native weed showed Hoagy's contemporaries were dreaming in vain, for the Sweet Pea's in their yards remained, whereas the people who planted the peas are now Stardust memories.... sorry guys.  So that's why I pick sweet peas like lettuce, where they grow like crazy beneath our titanium dioxide bloom covered aluminum siding (the albedo near that part off the garden makes me want to build a green house there.  There's only one problem:  Robert wants to grow a "grove" of trees there.  It's actually kind of hilarious, because I suspect that Robert only wants to grow a "grove" of trees there, because of the insanely fast growth of the eight year old walnuts and tulip poplars standing thirty and forty feet tall, right next the house.  The neighbors are freaking out that the trees are too close to them (which is completely true) and are going to eventually be ugly (something people in Bloomington in general can't get through there heads.  Trees can destroy your property and aren't good to have close to your house.  I know intelligent people who's houses are completely covered with weeds, which they regard as cheerful as their home rots at an accelerated pace.  Luckily they won't be all there when their home disintegrates.)  Anyway the best part is that Robert's late wife's friends were all half way scandalized after she died and Robert cut down this huge (and fairly ugly) blue spruce that was about twenty feet at it's base on the South side of the house.  My theory is that Robert couldn't help himself and has always had a very conservative attitude toward controllable risks.  It's his property after all.  So the tree had to go.  Cynthia's friends think they know Cynthia wanted it to remain.  I obviously don't remotely care, except that it makes me crack up that Robert thinks you can fit a "grove" into a thirty by twenty foot side yard with an electrical line running through.   I'll try not to mess with the Reverend's trees.)  

So the compost is filled with paper towels, coffee grounds, bananna peel, salad trimmings and  sweet peas and weeds.  They say as long as the pile "heats"  up, the weed seeds (and of course the plants themselves) die.  Its so important to have the compost heat up that certified organic farms are required (and it is absolutely not a joke, you will lose your certification if you fail to comply perfectly) to keep records of their compost temperature by thermometer.  I'll never forget grabbing a pitchfork at a farm and seeing attached to it a long meat thermometer.  I asked about it and after enduring some fairly kinky tall tales from the randy staff at the farm they made their explanation.  Well... I don't use a thermometer.  I am thinking my pile won't truly warm up enough until I have an adequate supply of green nitrogeneous materials.  Seeing the grass start to really get tall and smelling that gorgeous summer smell of cut grass makes me smile for my compost pile.  Remember the piles of grass (if you had them) in your childhood.  They, unlike leaves, rot extremely smelly and hot.  That's just what I need, if I don't want to go out and get urea and other chemicals which threaten to upset my fairly organic practices.  Though, compared to a million other alternatives, even bat guano which I regard as a bizarre thing to want to consider sustainable, urea is basically fine.  Far better than holding piss in a lagoon, or dumping it direct to the watershed.  Man what a nasty world we make for ourselves.  Little by little though, we can make it better.  Compost is like recycling for me.  A little prayer for the folks out there and the people who will call me an ancestor one day.  Garth Brooks thanks God for "Unanswered Prayers", I thank Him for rotten ones.

I Guess This Plants Nocturnal (Do You Like The Rain?)

This picture amuses me enormously.  I mean, I took it while it was still light out, but twilight.  I wasn't sure I was getting a very focused image due to the automatic aperture being opened to it's widest.  In fact, about thirty of the hundred pictures I have taken in the last two days had to be scrapped due to focus and light issues.  Some of the pictures I have posted here are super close to being not properly in focus.  That said, this plant is barely noticeable during the day.  But I noticed it in the dusk, and on a whim threw the flash on.  I suspected the flash would highlight the rain, but the real trick was when I got the photo on my computer:  I dimmed the photo down and turned up the contrast so the raindrops would be throwing light off from the "bright surroundings" not visible in the flash lit photo.  The effect is spooky and fairly close to natural.  Not close enough.  Next time I'm out at dusk I'll set up my tripod, hose the plant down, and use digital flash, bracketing a bunch of different settings over a period of two hours while gardening.  Making this photo look like it was taken in the sunset, but where the colors stay absolutely perfect, though muted and with super bright rain....  man that's gonna rock my world.

Gigantic Rhododendron On Right (Seven Feet Tall!) Across The Street

Looking West From The Terminus Of My Street

I'm standing, while taking this picture, on a peace of city property across Atwater from my street, Arbutus.  The strip of city property goes practically two blocks, and is only grass and mixed hardwoods.  It is sublime.  How it has survived with no intrusion of park benches, or worse, is a mystery to me that I've decided to chalk up to that old homily:  I guess that in the end most folks are just fine.
Whereas, grass and trees are always great. And don't forget it is Bloomington "grass".    

Peony With Its Doggone Ants

At the foot of this Peony, if you click upon and enlarge this picture, you can just make out the personal ant hill of the plant.  It is said that Peonies need ants to flower.  It is certainly the case that their flowers are generally covered with ants.  This Peony is in great shape, Ant wise.  Peonies are said to be from China, which explains perfectly to me why Indiana chose them as its State Flower.  The name Peony comes from Old English and was given to Old English by Latin.  Latin sucked the name up from Paion, which was the physician of the Gods.  No reason is given why the word was tossed around like a frisbee in this manner.  Or why something like a Peony would be named after the doctor of the Gods.  I have never heard of any useful substance coming from a Peony, and half the time the flower doesn't even make it through its first day without falling flat on its face. The explanation I gave above, of a Peony's name, was given by the American Heritage dictionary.  I'm thinking of sending them a letter explaining the following:

The word "dog" comes from the French word "doggone" which means chair, and shares with the dog, four legs.

I'll bet you a million dollars they buy it.

Pattern Language Property

Outside of of my neighbors to the East, this property on the far east end of our street, Arbutus, is infuriatingly gorgeous.  It obviously was owned by some lovely eclectic couple once upon a time.  It fairly reeks with a crooked sense of humor.  The mansard roof. The porch, and somewhat rambling look, but none the less feeling of compactness that both the property in totum and house share.  The previous picture of the Peony with her doggone ants was taken on the left side of this yard.  So was the picture with the bright red Samara from a red maple above this car.  The Rhododendra is the largest I've seen since the Appalachian Trail.  The daffodils popping out of the grass and sloping grass mixed with a curved crushed gravel drive that sweeps down to an old and now unused basement garage... I know, most people probably just wouldn't  care, but to me this little place is heaven on earth.  My friends think it's too noisy, since it's right on Atwater.  I like the sound of cars.  It's like the smell of manure.  It reminds you that your life is not a dream.  And I really like the beauty of the entire property at night.  Sometimes when I walk over to the school to play guitar, or just am ambling around with a friend I walk down to that end of my street and never once have I missed the golden glint off the property of the sodium lights and the Hopperesque resultant atmosphere of the porch.  And guess what?  I'm free to have a place just like it for myself.  In the grand scheme of things pleasures like this are a dime a dozen. 

Yeah Man

Artists Have The Prettiest Trash (And Don't Even Know It)

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure if I saw someone taking pictures of my trash, I'd threaten them with getting their ass kicked.  Then again... my neighbors are used to seeing me dance with the Rabbi, and talking to Robins and slugs on my finger, among other creatures.  They have seen me stalk Rats until I finally grabbed one (granted, it was already dead) and held it aloft (with a plastic bag) to show my friend Sally who won the "Battle of Bob's Red Mill".     Me that's who.  To the victor, Rattus, naturally goes the viscera!!  So, in the grand scheme of things, my lovely quiet neighbors on the other side of the Chevy Biscane, probably think nothing of seeing me photograph the prettiest trash I ever saw.  I mean, can't you tell their artists?

First Onion With Weeds For Dinner

Soft Beautiful Mesclun (Oh Boy)

Kid Drinking Beer As He Walks Down My Street

Twilight Is The Lonliest Time Of Day

The reason I walked across the street to take this rather bland picture of third street across from my street, looking West at twilight, was that I had been riding my bicycle back from the grocery and couldn't help but notice that the trees (maples mostly) looked rather Autumnal for the middle of April.  Most people have heard that when the green of Chlorophyll is given up by a plant, the true tissue color of the plant is revealed.  This probably seems painfully obvious to anyone not living in Antarctica.  It hasn't been terribly obvious to me however, why in the spring maples start out with all that red budding and flowering.  Is it to attract pollinators?  And if it is then why the red and bronze leaves as the trees first leaf out?  In any case, before long my entire environment will be a thick, close, green jungle again that reeks of Honeysuckle and is just the basic Tree City USA, Happy Unhunted Ground that my secular humanism simply demands.  

(Twilight Is The Lonliest Time Of Day is an awesome song I first heard Jerry Lee Lewis sing on his killer album "Last Man Standing."  It sets my hair on end it's so good.  And why not?  It's about my favorite maudlin subject:  kicking the bucket.  Mmmm..... so very good.)

Crab Tree At Forrest Quad

Friday, April 17, 2009

If You Reach The Golden Corral, Then You've Gone Too Far

I found myself sitting one day with an old priest at The Golden Corrall.  I was hung over and we were eating lunch.  It was my buddy Dennis's bright idea for me to go at the last minute.  Irritated that I was spending the afternoon with a priest while hungover, I deliberately let Dennis have it by apologizing to the priest for drinking heavily the night before.
"Why.  You think I like being sober? " said Father A.  He shrugged his shoulders, sizing up drinking perhaps as dwarfed by some of the more notorious human abominations.
Turns out his teacher was the priest I had known in the cigar shop, in Indianapolis.  Father Joe.  My buddy Tony's friend.
"So, Father A., Father Joe died two years ago and far as I could tell his community was not confident of their future without him.  Not that I knew the difference between the Byzantines and Beelzebub at the time, but you know, people talked, and said Joe was special.  I basically left him alone but for the occasional weather report or what have you.  He was your teacher.  Was he your friend?"
"We weren't friends.  No.  He was special, it's true.  Some guys have the touch, and people see them as the person they want before them.  I have never felt I was that guy.  Joe seemed to realize he was.  Didn't always like it.  But everyone knew, and he was one of them."
"Was his Church your first Church?" said Dennis.
"In a way I suppose it was," said Father A.  "I had been with a different Church, had been of a different denomination as a young student.  Why I switched and the path and manner by which I have come to serve all these years in the Eastern Orthodox tradition have challenged me to accept the advice I have all too often given others... but not taken myself."
"That it's in God's hands," said Dennis with that subtle smile that made me despise him sometimes, but probably was the reason he put up with me.
"Yes, Dennis," said Joe, but without a trace of pleasure.  "That it is. And it always was."
"But the fundamental difference between the Judeo-Christian religions is the boundary between man and God.  A Muslim or Jew could just as easily imagine their life in God's hands, but correct me if I'm mistaken, their path isn't quite the one you have seen for yourself, or taken in any case," I said with my usual total lack of insight as to why I even had need to ask.
"I don't know what the fundamental differences between the Abrahamic traditions are Andy.  Perhaps fundamentally... well, it's something for younger men to argue about.  That's why I appreciate you and Dennis letting me buy you lunch.  When I was your age I too was brimming with questions and feeling.  You know, in so many ways life is ones spirit.  That was something Father Joe and I could never really reconcile."
"That life  is a person's spirit," said Dennis, looking at me, "I think I'm on Joe's side with this one."  Funny thing was, when he was smiling at Jesus, I despised him, but when he was grimacing at me, I despised myself.
"Well pardon me if mere aknowledgement of the flesh as reflected in a cold mirror is somewhere, somehow, construed by some child praying on her knees as Satanic, my friend.  My cells merely seem to me to divide where for the saint they metastasize," I said, losing the thread of the conversation completely in my strange sense of being outnumbered by weirdo fundamentalists.  But something was wrong.  Father A. was laughing.
"That's a good one Andy, you make that up," he said.
"He's full of stuff like that, "said Dennis, "completely screwed up."
"I think I actually had a point," I tried to explain.
"Oh, you did," said Father A. "And let me tell you, it kind of reminds me of why I never felt like a friend to Father Joe.  Well, for one thing Dennis, I would never have told him he was screwed up, like Andy is lucky enough to have heard just now from you.  Not that I think you are Andy..."
"Yeah, I get it," I sheepishly let him off the hook, "all have sinned in the eyes of God."  
"Well, no... I mean, yes that is a true, rich statement that I think is worth investigating.  A type of wisdom if you will... but what I meant is that you and Dennis can both bear witness to the struggle that loving others amounts to.  So while neither of you reminds me of the other, a common language of respect and love seems to allow your friendship the space and freedom for you both to sense that your friend really wants to know you.  I had a wonderful teacher, but I never had that with Joe, or anyone in the administrative side of Church, for that matter."
"Well, did you say goodbye to Joe before he died," asked Dennis.
Father A. looked up, out into the empty directionless light of a February afternoon and shook his head.  The he looked at us, each, and then settled his gaze on his hands, saying, "No."

At some point near the end of Father A.'s schooling, he had knocked on Joe's door one afternoon.  Joe had been gone dealing with some family affair.  Father A. was scheduled in Syracuse to work after Seminary at a bustling, ailing Orthodox church.  He was scared to death.  He felt excitement at his future, and knew he would more or less do his job.  But as a man, he wondered, would he ever live up to the dreams of inquiry that all the years of schooling had never managed to settle into some kind of working knowledge.  Father A. sensed that Joe was in some ways the last of his true father figures. Was there anyone else I could ever ask such difficult questions? he genuinely wondered.  No.  He knew.  Father Joe was the only man he would ever ask this question.
"Father, I still wonder a little about why you think I am right for the Orthodox Church.  Sometimes I guess...." said Father A.
"You guess what, " said Father Joe, "that you don't know what to do?"
"Yes, exactly.  I don't know what to do, Father.  I only know what I am supposed to do," 
"Your lucky, if you can say that," said Father Joe.
"Have you ever second guessed everything," said Father A. "Have you ever just wondered what the truth really was?" The words came out like every disgusting thought he'd ever had in his life.  Every perversion. Every nightmare.  The love child of sleepless nights of miserable fun and the cold broken look of his sacrificing mother as he was leaving home.  
"A man must be called, " said Father Joe, "before he can answer."  And that was the last time Father A. ever called upon Father Joe for matters not pertaining to the Church.

I haven't seen Father A. in seven years.  He stayed in Bloomington until enough people were attracted by him and the rest of us in the little house on Smith road that service was conducted in for the big guys out east to get the money together to build a larger church.  Last I heard he was in another small town, laughing at the false modesty of the energetically spiritual.  Trying, probably, not to flinch at shadows that seem less playful the older you get.  Father Joe has of course been in heaven all along.  That's why I tell this story, and if you haven't been able to tell, this isn't the first time.  Everybody takes something different from it.  Are you a believer?  Are you an Atheist?  Perhaps you are a man or woman of God?  Or you are following your calling, but haven't heard it in awhile.  Who, here amongst us, in as it were, His midst, could really be certain of anything? 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Corner Chinese Restaurant

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The restaurant is to the right, so you have to hit the arrow twice.  Full disclosure:  the food is abominable.  It is rather common for people from Asia to order something (that's in the menu in Chinese) and then receive what looks and tastes to them like boiled salad (with no choice in dressing).  I read Jennifer 8 Lee's wonderful book, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles a few years ago, and let me tell you, the Chinese restaurant story in America (really the entire world today) is a pretty interesting one.  None of this, however, has disuaded me from eating their crappy food.  My friend David refuses to eat there.  David use to live in San Francisco.  I've never had that unfortunate edification.  I love the white sauce at Dragon Express.  I love that it's close by.  And since what I get there is only vegetables and vegetable oil with garlic and corn starch, I don't feel like it must feel after eating the dinner size portion of General Tso's Chicken.  Not that there is anything wrong with GTC.  Probably...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bring In Da Quiet

In my last post I got so off the subject that I changed it to Robert.  If you meet me in person you will see this happen.  Fifty six channels and every one's on.

My original intention in my last entry was to write about a comment I made to a girlfriend years ago.  I took her out to a fancy restaurant after a period of days where we circled each others flirtation to an annoying extent.  I was doing a internship at the restaurant and was absolutely certain the place would knock her socks off. It is by far the best one in town.  The only one in its class.  Bar none.  I spent well over a hundred dollars on the meal.  I had maybe three thousand dollars if you combined both my bank accounts.  My expenses exceeded a grand a month.  One hundred fifty dollars was almost two weeks groceries.  
The object of my desire was nauseated the entire meal.  For dessert I opened the door for us to leave.  She started smiling at that point.  I think that was right around the time the velcro started to fail on my wallet.  My previous girlfriend, Emily, had made me the wallet.  Funky mojo was in the air, but my date didn't care now that the smell a sauteed garlic could be dispersed by the fresh spring breeze.  It occurred to me that her nausea at the meal might make a wonderful thing for her to contrast my leering face to.  So as a kind of prelude to the hanky panky I thought it would be inspired to discuss the specifics of her prior indigestion.
"Chef offered to allow us the vegetarian tasting menu.  I mean, he offered, but I declined it 'cus I thought the entire point of his restaurant was to twist Classic cooking into knots.  You started turning green right after the salad.  I don't think you're a vegetarian, so what gives?"  
"I don't know Andy.  The place seemed cool in theory, but I've never eaten food like that, and now I know it isn't because it's expensive.  I just hated that place.  I like you... but not that food."
"Well.... if you put it that way.  Now that you don't look like your going to present me with a catalogue of you stomach's contents, maybe we can drop the pretensions and get down to business."
I drove her to my place and something that I had never considered happened.  She said, "I'd rather go to mine."  
"You want me to take you home?" I said to her, not realizing that I sounded like I was equating our expensive meal with the purchase of her libido.
"No. I want you to sleep at my house," she said, with eyes that said, Jesus man, you ever talked  to a woman before.
"Sorry," I told her, "It's been awhile and I spent a little more time than necessary, I guess, cleaning my house. But I like it clean, so I'll enjoy it none the less.  And, uh, thanks for inviting me over."
"It's like I said, " she told me, before she kissed me, "I don't like the food.  I like you."

The rest of that evening is sometimes not even my business... however, an amusing thing happened a few weeks later when I was sitting in this tree, with her, that hangs out over the water of Griffy lake, here in town.   "You have a funny look on your face," she said. 
"What else is new," I said, attempting to brush her observation away.  "I mean, I am a silly looking dude.  Imagine if you lost all your hair.  I mean there's two kinds of people who look like me, and the other kind are being treated for Cancer."
"That's an incredibly inappropriate thing to say," she said, while chuckling.  "Your one of the healthiest people I know.  And my aunt died of Cancer last year."
"Give me a break, I know your aunt died of Cancer. You are the opposite of the sort of person who asks others to confine their speech to the sort of talk appropriate to a person... to what, a lady?  If I knew any ladies I guess I'd learn the protocol."
"You know Andy, they say 'there is truth in jest'.  Do you know what that means?"
Practicing my only recently acquired and newborn like clumsy new talent of admitting ignorance I told her, "No."  
"Well, sometimes when you joke about something, I guess it means that you are symbolically emphasizing it.  Whether consciously or unconsciously.... there is truth in those "kidding" around things you say.  I know you like to open things up, people up, to the probity of your mind, and curiosity, but you are exposing more than the abstractions of prejudice or uncritical faculties, when you joke around.  So much of you is beautiful I just kind of wonder if you realize what your exposing, on the outside chance that you have some private parts after all." 
I sat there feeling the unseasonable cool off the lake.  Griffy had been Bloomington's original water source prior to the construction of Lake Monroe, for flood control in southern Indiana.  Her incredible insight made me want to go to the Library, caused an oddly sudden need to urinate, and in general introduced me to the intensely private part that smart people can make your whole damn being feel like.  "You know, did you ever think about how people who are dumber than shit ever have a conversation that, you know, accomplishes anything."
"No, I never thought that in my life, Andy," she said.  "Why?"
"I just mean that you can't claim that intelligence selects for good marriage.  In my experience divorce rates and dissatisfaction seem, if anything, higher with smart people than dummies."
"And...." she said.
"Hey!" I said, "you have a funny look on your face. What's going on?"
Before knocking me off the tree, and practically in the water, I think she said a combination of "mother" and the F word.  Strange, really.
So standing in the mud and kissing her I finally acquiesced, "You know that funny look on my face."
"I can't tell if your joking, even when I can articulate in a pretty outstanding approximation of an armchair psychologist what your joking means.  So mercy! What the hell are you talking about, and make it quick, I'd rather make out than talk to your stupid face."
"I was only trying to return, briefly, to the dangerous ground you took us on when I had that funny look on my face."
"What about it?" she let go of my chin, and folded her arms and cocked her hip as best a person can whilst six inches deep in mud.  The sun had been hinting for some time that it had designs on the side of our town where the biggest movie theatre is, and glinting through her rediculously shiny brown hair made me feel guilty for being young and American.  "Don't look at me like that. Not while your babbling anyhow.  I promised myself I would never tell you not to patronize me."
"I can't help looking at you this way, while the sun strokes your body like that.  Why wouldn't you tell me not to patronize you?" I asked.
"Because you patronize everyone, so it's kind of a lost cause," she said while smiling. "You look like I'm hurting your feelings."
"No way," I lied, "just a little frustrated its so hard to tell you want you want to know."
"Oh yeah, right.  I'm clearly putting up roadblocks here and there to your self expression Andy.  These trees are never going to be the same again so thoroughly infused are they by the sound of your voice.  I love you, and...."
"You do?" I asked.
"Yes. I even love hearing you God damn voice.  Though if you ever tell anyone that I will kill you," she said.
"How in the world could anyone ever note this conversation?  We might as well be having tea on the deck of the Titanic.  I mean, I'm the only idiot in my family who loves Indiana, so here I am with you, enjoying this retired resevoir..."
"Would you please shut up and tell me what you think I want to know.  You tricked me.  Now I'm willing to see it that way.  Your such a girlyman there's no point in being a feminist around you anyhow," she said.
"Man that is really liberating.  Would you be willing to go on record having said that about me, provided we get out of this mud and all."
"Definitely not.  As far as my girlfriends are concerned, and they are, you are just a boy with benefits."
"So this is what constitutes your professed Love,"  I said, knowing she would realize I was manipulating (poorly) her words.
"You know I'm saying that is my friends opinion, dipshit."
"I just thought I'd try.  You're annoyingly smart."
"What did the pot call the kettle?"
"The look on my face when we were sitting that tree?  Remember your deeply insightful moment earlier that about made me piss my pants?"
"Well, the look on my face was due to the reason I wanted to come here."
"It was my idea to come to Griffy, Andy."
"Yes.  But it was my idea to come to this tree. Whenever I come here it reminds me of Walden Pond, because Thoreau mentioned in Walden the footpath around the pond and how it is made visible by snow."
"I basically hate Henry David Thoreau." she said, with menace.
"Well, it wasn't good for me when in Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer  called him a staid pussy virgin or whatever.  Maybe only pussies like Thoreau," I said.
"I wouldn't go that far, but I'd put it in my pipe for sure," she said.
"Thanks for the support.  And in any case, my Daddy don't make pencils and I am an awful student, and I'd rather take girls to my shack and shag them then lay about worried that someone might enjoying themselves in town.  I miss that volume of Walden my parents have though.  It was this small leatherbound Easton press thing.  I can see the scuff marks on it's cover from my book bag."
"So you just wanted me to know you wanted to bring me to this tree.  Thanks..." 
"No, I just wanted you to know I was an idiot.  But I'm learning. I sat here six years ago with Heather.  God, I really liked Heather.  Anyhow, Heather sat on this tree, and it was around the same time of year, but colder that day.  I think she called me to hang out like ten times that week.  I've lost track of the things we did together.  There were many.  And it's funny.... she had this boyfriend, Franklin, I think.  I met him, seemed like a nice attractive guy.  They were going to go to the Peace Corps or what have you.  It sounded like a nice romantic scene. So I wanted to be respectful.  So I sat on this tree with Heather.  I think I leaned on her.  She probably would have wanted more physical affection from a brother.  I was almost cruelly ignorant of her desires.  Everyone we knew told me later, too late really, that I should have kissed her.  They told me this with every anecdote I gave about my time with her.  I should have kissed her by the postal box.  I should have kissed her while we walked on second street just after we crossed that street by the cleaners when she asked me about old women and I told her the thing I knew about them was that they were women.  Which means they are great. And sexy.  She made a kind of delicious sound, a kind of dewy lip smacking sound like she'd just popped a perfect raspberry in her mouth, and I took her hand, and... thought of her boyfriend.  Talking later to a friend of hers her friend said to me, "Andy, if you had known where her boyfriend was, that night, on that street, you might have been surprised to learn he only existed in your head.  Heather, that night with you, wasn't even aware of Franklin's existence.  Don't you know how things like this work?"  I didn't.  No.  So the look on my face was about Heather. And Thoreau.  The snow won't in all likelihood be back till December, and the footpath is all but invisible.  I last heard Heather was in some part of China.  She never knew me, she just knew everything she needed to know.  I'm sorry, I didn't want to tell you this.  I am just gobsmacked over you.  I really dig you.  And with this, I guess I trust you as well."

I didn't stay gobsmacked forever. One day she went off with this guy who loved silence retreats.  Viva La Difference.

The "Reverend"

I just got home from work, and almost before I knew what was happening I was down on my knees with my feet falling asleep, looking into the face of my housemate/landlord Robert, wondering what it is that allows for that feeling I get when we speak to one another.  It's funny, because I had food on the stove and I just turned the stove off when Robert started asking a question about a poem I gave him.  He said, "Every time I read your poem I see something new and beautiful." 
"That's a nasty thing to say to a friend, Reverend," I said to him.  Robert's a minister, who for all practical purposes in the current state of our popular culture, doesn't believe in God.  Which sounds as much to me as it does to you like a comic book character sketch.  People say to me all the time, that know Robert as a teacher, "My God what is it like living with someone like him?"  I either tell them, "A constant blessing," if they seem a bit dim, or "He's my friend so it's not like you imagine.  It's more about the way you are forced into the perspective of a person you love, than it is about sponging up wisdom from the wizened old Yoda like dude you live with.  Yeah he looks cool when he's holding his cane in front of him with both hands.  Yes he makes me smile involuntarily, like one of your own children, or a grandchild might.  But the harder you work at wisdom, rather like the physics of matter or something, the harder wisdom becomes.  So Robert and I settled on friendship a long time ago, and rarely ever imagine the other person as a useful source of data, or wisdom."  It reminds me of a priest I knew in Indianapolis who passed away six years ago.  He used to hide from his flock in a cigar store.  I was hiding from my life in there too.  The priest was very good friends with the manager of the store.  The main reason being that the manager of the store took his crappy life like a man.  He would never have bugged a priest about his total lack of happiness.  This made the priest appreciative.  This made the manager appreciative.  Positive feedback loop.  I am not unhappy, so it's not a perfect metaphor, but it's kind of a similar situation with me and Robert. He's not an Atheist, and is I suppose, embarrassed by what calling himself a Christian suggests.  He has been fired as a minister from Churches (probably for being a jerk about Jesus, eh?) too numerous to count, and was fired from Penn State for reasons I can't frankly imagine but probably have to do with being a bit more blunt about spiritual matters than religion usually prefers.  Of course, for all I know Robert may have done something really terrible to someone.  But I am willing to put my neck out in the supposition that my experience with him suggests to me a guy who err's way, way to the benefit of righteousness despite his DNA as a homo sapien.  In fact it is sport to imagine what poor old evolution does with a guy like Robert.  Were a burglar to hold a knife to Robert's throat, Robert would just laugh, and say, "I've been waiting for a girl like you.  I can't see terribly well, sorry."  

I'm going on and on about him because he is dying right before my eyes, and when it doesn't seem sad (sorry common sense: most of the time it doesn't seem sad when your around a dying person.  The human spirit is way to smart for that.)  it's a really serene process.  I figure very few people have the constellation of qualities and luck to die like my buddy Robert.  I don't know "how" to say it so I'll just say it this way, "It is cool to watch Robert die."  Yeah, cool like a Hallmark after school special.  Yeah, cool like a best sellar, Tuesday's with Morrie or whatever.  Yeah, cool like his whole life flashes before his eyes.  Old people are different.  I'll be different too, when the strength of my passion, desire, curiosity and agency all burn down to dimly glowing coal.  That's Robert.  He doesn't dodge the truth.  He hurts, and wishes he had more energy, and is depressed that he's watching TV while I might be writing a song or what have you.  I try to tell him that I admire his understanding of and analysis of TV sports.  I'm afraid my life has not been good training to make a better case for Robert's pastime.  But it doesn't matter.  He knows I admire his accomplishments.  And the nature of accomplishments is inherently past tense.  He could eat cotton candy all day and he'd still be the Reverend.  About once a week he says, "Andy, will you live with me until I die."  I used to waffle.  But what, after these last paragraphs, do you guess I say now?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Atlas Sticky Wiki

"Atlas would never have carried the world had he placed his mind on the thought of it."

I forget where I first read that phrase.  It has been in my life a long time.  At different times it has meant different things to me.  Primarily it seems to have acted as a bit of wisdom rather different then what, upon reflection, I would have expected.  Though it is, in all probability, mere pablum, it reminds me of deeper things.  I suppose it always has.

I was reading some notes I had written two years ago, taken while reading Dava Sobel's wonderful book, Longitude.   Within the book Sobel recounted how she had ridden as a little girl on her fathers shoulders whilst walking past the statue of Atlas in New York City.  I wrote in my notebook, 

"I wonder if it will ever stop crushing me to see young girls and boys so well loved, now that I know so many who have never been. "  

It's funny.  Today I don't wonder about that anymore.  I just know I can barely take reality for a lot of kids as it comes.  Much less delve into a great deal more than that.  It will never stop crushing me.  My plastic consciousness has been reconfigured.

I also wrote,

"An Atlas is a thing I have my entire life regarded with the same awe that most people do.  It's the world in your hands:  a metaphorical, mystical, and scientific/practical lodestone.  A matrix of promise and desire.  Maybe even responsibility.  Yet, "Atlas" was something else.  An entity not framed by the purposes and perspective of human yearning.  He was burdened by the physical totem of the universe we call our homes.  And he was burdened by so much more than we would ever aknowledge, and risk burdening ourselves with the timeless purposes of Gods.  We will take their fire, but will it ever be our own?"

I am trying to put on this blog the world as I see it.  This means, I think in spirit, that I should make my suppositions and once having published, if I desire, then fact check.  So I have been trying this, and once again, I find a wrinkle about Atlas.  So here is what Wikipedia says about the etymology of "Atlas":

The origin of the term atlas is a common source of misconception, perhaps because two different mythical figures named 'Atlas' are associated with mapmaking.
  • King Atlas, a mythical King of Mauretania, was, according to legend, a wise philosopher, mathematician and astronomer who supposedly made the first celestial globe. It was this Atlas that Mercator was referring to when he first used the name 'Atlas', and he included a depiction of the King on the title-page.
  • However, the more widely known Atlas is a figure from Greek mythology. He is the son of the Titan Iapetus and Clymene (or Asia), and brother of Prometheus. Atlas was punished by Zeus and made to bear the weight of the heavens (the idea of Atlas carrying the Earth isn't correct according to the original myth) on his back. One of Heracles's labours was to collect the apples of the Hesperides. Heracles went to Atlas and reasoned with him. Eventually, Atlas agreed to collect the apples, and Heracles was left to carry the weight. Atlas tried to leave Heracles there, but Heracles tricked him and Atlas was left to carry the heavens forever. In his epic OdysseyHomer refers to this Atlas as "one who knows the depths of the whole sea, and keeps the tall pillars who hold heaven and earth asunder".

In works of art, this Atlas is represented as carrying the heavens or the Celestial Sphere, on his shoulders. The earliest such depiction is the Farnese Atlas, now housed at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale Napoli in Naples, Italy. This figure is frequently found on the cover or title-pages of atlases. This is particularly true of atlases published by Dutch publishers during the second half of the seventeenth century. The image became associated with Dutch merchants, and a statue of this figure adorns the front of the World Trade Center in Amsterdam.

The first publisher to associate the Titan Atlas with a group of maps was Lafreri, on the title-page to "Tavole Moderne Di Geografia De La Maggior Parte Del Mondo Di Diversi Autori ...". However, he did not use the word "atlas" in the title of his work.

It is pretty amusing, if you ask me, that some people continue to regard the use of Wikipedia as some sort of scourge.  I probably would have looked up Atlas in an encyclopedia under these circumstances  because I am pretty interested, but I never would have had the time to transfer the information I had received (and all the links to supporting information.....) for you to see what I had seen.  Though Wikipedia is an enormously flawed enterprise, it's flaws only underscore the timeless challenge of answering the utterly reasonable question, "Why should I care to look into that?"  Once something is this easy, in general we all care that much more. Most of us see things not better with the truth, but a ladder.  Call it the fallacy of evidence.  And despite being six degrees in separation from the primary texts, and even worse, in the eyes of some, completely separated from accredited scholars, sometimes, even in our heads, we go easy on our knees. 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What You Like A Room With That, Narcissus?

How could I forget.  While working in the yard the other day I looked down and was completely spellbound by a reflection (perhaps not my own, but halo's are ever so bright...)  I must admit it occasionally occurs to me what a simpering fool I am, taking pictures of things like this.  At the time it seemed nifty.  Spring time is very difficult for the mentally ill.

For Cynthia Two

This is Knightridge Road, where I used to have my warehouse.  These are the lovely For Cynthia bushes I have admired so long on my favorite bike ride.  It is a little late in the season, but nobody would have known that this morning.  

PS: If you don't know why I am calling it "For Cynthia", look through the titles of my entries in the margin, and find the one with the name Cynthia in it.  Or click here.

Ground Cherry, Barren Sumac, Why They Call It Spring Wheat

Before you get to the bottom of this entry I thought I should offer yet another warning that the next couple of entries are of a dead dogs bones.  If that seems cool, read the rest of this and then read the next entry as well.  If that doesn't seem cool, skip the rest of this dates entries and save yourself my fascination with bones.  Thanks, and hope I don't have to be sorry....
Click this link, to skip away from the dog below.... after you've read the rest of this, of course.

This first photo is hard to see, so click it.  It's a ground cherry.  I was once so stupid I bought these things from a local historical museum as "heirloom seeds."  As you can see here, not twelve feet from the Budweiser cans and Hershey bar wrapper half sunk in the terra rosa soil, the emphasis is definitely on "ground" and not so much "cherry".  I knew they were no more edible than the ancient "heirloom" corn (that nobody would eat for the perfectly great reason that it taste's like crap) when I bought them.  The problem was that I didn't realize they were sort of a local weed.  It's like buying a butterfly bush, where you'd probably have one if you didn't mow you lawn.  But anyway, that's what the picture is of.  The second picture alternates between spring wheat, soybeans and corn depending on the whims of the farmer and market.  I don't know the farmer personally, but I know who he is, and he seems pretty careful about his practices, from what I've seen.  That said, he's a conventional till field farmer, and wheat is at historic prices.  Remember last year when the plot of future wheat heist movies was being set up (by large scale theft's of wheat from elevators and temporary storage silo's.)  It will be fun to watch the field grow.  

Not far from where I took these pictures... in fact I rode my bike by it on my way home, is the place where I saw oats being grown for the first time in my life.  I couldn't believe the beautiful field (this was five years ago) with its straight parallel lines and pendulous fruited tops.  I walked into the sensuous and enveloping grain and felt as I did as a child (and I suppose even now) walking into a mysterious corn field.  Anyhow, I couldn't believe something as pedestrian (and hugely unpopular compared to corn.  For all hype for the last twenty years about oat bran and oat meal, and oatstraw tea, and oatmeal scrubs, and the "as american as apple pie" appeal of Quaker brand oats---- the vast majority of oats goto animals, silage and not human beings.  Though the majority of corn still probably goes to cattle, pigs and poultry, so there might be some hypocrisy in the comparison.  I shall look into it.

The last picture is of the de-fruited Sumac, one of my favorite small tree/ large shrub in our area.  In open places like a highway or interstate they really thrive.  I think they have a reputation (that among the species, depending on the one you are talking about) for causing contact dermatitis.  But I miss their incredible beauty in the town.  I mean, my God, who doesn't prefer the look of a Great Sumac flower in January to some ground hugging funerary Juniper.  The last time somebody's heart rate increased from a Juniper, bathtub Gin was probably the craze.  IU campus has way too many Juniper.  There ok.  Kind of like grass.  But look at those Sumac in the picture... even when disrobed of their finest clothes by the birds, they look to be contemplating the Cirrus clouds.  The Sumac, no doubt imagines the Cirrus have feathered their hair in deference to the beauty of a roadside bush.