Thursday, June 30, 2011

My weekly airing out

I went grocery shopping this morning, my weekly airing out. I'm not fond of expeditions into town, and in this case "town" is one stop light and a few people. Never mind going to a real town, Athens, with so many stimuli coming at me from every direction that my brain flops just thinking about it.

So my mini-jaunt yielded the usual humble joys, viewing farmland that was green from recent rain. Singing along with the radio. Working air conditioning on a 98 degree day. As I pulled into the store for some reason I thought of a person I had not thought of for three years. I mused about her Fourth of July plans, wondered how she was feeling, and trundled my cart (buggy, sorry!) into the store. From around the corner she walked into me. I love coincidences like that!

A side trip to the trusty fruit stand was a particular joy. HUGE mounds of plump blackberries and enormous trays of juicy peaches were arrayed enticingly, and I sure was enticed. They were in my bag in moments.

I was sad to see that the downward spiral of groceries in general is accelerating. Since last week milk went up 50 cents along with many other items, though not all of them went up in price as drastically as milk. In addition to prices going up, sizes are going down. The bagels that I look at each week, longing for but sadly decline to buy at a prohibitive cost of $3.59, suddenly were 1/3 smaller this week. Size of items are getting smaller and package sizes are getting smaller. 13 oz powdered creamer is now 11 ounces. And so on.

It's been really hot. The summer heat started very early. The 90 plus degree days began in mid-May and those don't usually start until July. Of course, after having successive 90-plus degree days for over a month there was no place to go but up. Sunday's actual temp is supposed to be 10o. You know it's going to be hot when the graphic on the weather page goes from a bare sun on Saturday to this:

The red hot thermometer with wavy lines cracks me up!

I've been enjoying Larry McMurtry's "Dead Man's Walk" the prequel to Lonesome Dove. I laughed when Gus and Call ran into Charlie Goodnight, and Oliver loving and Bose, those are the real men in history that Gus and Call and Deets are modeled after. So the character met the men inside the novelization of the real mens' lived. Time warp!

Tomorrow marks the halfway point in my summer vacation from work. Time flies.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lonesome Dove weekend

It was Lonesome Dove weekend on American Movie Classics. I found this out at 9 pm on Sunday. Oh, well, better late than never.

I have seen the Lonesome Dove series about ten times. It IS a classic, a true modern classic, that never ages and grows in power and punch each time you watch it. If you are unfamiliar with the film, it is a mini-series adaptation from Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer prize winning novel first broadcast in 1989. I cannot believe it was that long ago, (22 years!!) but there you have it, the obligatory comment 'my how time flies' wonderment from a middle aged woman. It is widely regarded as the best Western ever put to screen, and I've seen many Westerns and I agree.

I don't know what it is about the story, but its sweep and scope, the enormous expanses of land from the scrub of Texas to the prairies of Nebraska to the undulating hills and mountains of Montana's Big Sky country, but each person in the movie has an intimate story to tell under that expanse. It is true to life of the times and gritty too. Death is a constant companion in the film. There are many casualties, death occurs from from Indian raids to animal bites to accidents and even simple infections. Life was short in the late 1870s, and never secure.

The story is based on real life men who blazed trails in new lands and thus are forever part of the memorializing of the history of pioneers who made this country great. The history of the men the series is based on can be read here, and the series seems to be accurate in many of the details, right down to the lengthy funeral procession of Gus's body to the epitaph on Deets' grave marker.

I think my very favorite part among many favorite scenes is the part when Call returns to Lonesome Dove. After he buries his friend Gus, having dragged his body from Montana to Texas as a fulfillment of his friend's wishes, he cleans up and walks into town. Looking dapper, almost civilized, he views the town which he had left only a couple of years before with new eyes. It boasts a telegraph station and a reporter for a San Antonio newspaper. The whorehouse burned down and no other had taken its place. The town is quiet, genteel. The reporter gets wind of who Call is and pesters him with questions for an interview. "They say you dragged Gus's body three thousand miles...they say you were a Texas Ranger, they say back in the old days you cleared the country out of Comanches..."

After the epic sweep of seeing just these few years of a man's life that was really too big for one life, you narrow in on one moment. Just one. Call returns to settle down, and you realize as the reporter asks him about the 'old days', ...he has outlived himself and his time. He is a living anachronism.

It brings to mind Jimmy Buffett's line from the song "Nothing but a Breeze",

"One day I'll soon be a grandpa
All the pretty girls will call me "sir,"
Now, where they're asking me how things are
Soon they'll ask me how things were"

Everyone ages, but in the late 1800s the furious rate of progress butted up against history and sometimes outpaced it. Woodrow Call was one of those men who outlived himself. The final scene literally shows him walking into the sunset, where his future has already occurred but his past is gone too.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bert and Luke, the incomparable companions

My two cats could not be more different. One is a tiger and the other is a black and white. The tiger is Bert, and the b&w is Luke. Bert is so named because he sounds like a bird, making little noises all the time.  Not wanting to all him "Bird". I settled for Bert. If I say his name just right it sounds like he sounds. Luke is vocal but not as much as Bert.

Bert is sleepy and Luke is alert. Bert looks like a football meatloaf, an Luke is skinny ad wiry. Luke and smart and Bert is...well...let me give an example

Sometimes a flying bug of one kind or another gets into the house. This excites both cats. What indoor house cat doesn't love to hunt! It is not the same as hunting a bird or a mouse, but hey, a moth will do! Luke and Bert will scramble their little legs and leap tall lamps in a single bound, charge over the mountainous couch, and land on the coffee table plains of Africa in moments. Well, Luke will. As Luke invariably catches the moth, eats it, wipes his paws, and goes back to sleep on his towel, Bert is still back at the couch, looking at the last place he saw the bug. He will riffle the pillows. He will look under the throw. He will sit and stare, in his lumpy way, for 10 minutes, 20 minutes convinced the moth will emerge any second, never allowing the thought to cram into his tiny brain that the moth is digesting in the now-slumbering Luke. The other night I put him out of his misery - and mine - by literally moving all the pillows and the throw to show him that no moth lurked.

Aw, Bert, I luv ya! Even if athletics and brains escape you, you're mine all mine!

Saturday, June 18, 2011


The beauty of bark. I love texture and I love photography. Seeing as I have put myself on a gas diet, meaning, not driving anywhere so as to save money, I decided to photograph bark around my yard. I miss birches, there aren't a lot of them down here in Georgia, but there's pine and apple and magnolia and fig. There's sun drenched and lichen covered, woodpecker driven and ant pitted. See for yourself-

Thursday, June 16, 2011

You're pond scum!

I think this close-up of pond scum is pretty!

I think I will make fig cobbler tomorrow. I unearthed some figs from the freezer and I want to use them up before this season's crop is ready. By the looks of things on the fig tree in the yard, they will be soon. They've been frozen for almost a year so baking them will be best. I found a recipe for fig cobbler that amazingly calls for all the ingredients I already have. (*note: in frugal-world, rule #1 is 'use what you have!'). I'll probably do that early while it is still cool out.

This morning was lovely, speaking of cool. I noticed when I walked on the linoleum that the tiles were cool to my foot. I haven't felt anything cool for a long time so that was a nice surprise. The thunderstorms that came in last night freshened up the air, but unfortunately took out power and trees to many of the towns in the county. Not here, though. It was someone else's turn this time.

The library visit today yielded a great many new books for my summer reading program. I usually venture out on Fridays, but I had to do an errand this morning so I went to Danielsville today for my weekly shopping and library visit. (*note: frugal rule #2: "combine errands, and don't make any unnecessary ones!")

I got the pre-quel to Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, called "Dead Man's Walk" and featuring those two characters Call and McCrae. Another Christian historical romance by Deeanne Gist, The Girl With the Green Tattoo which came in on inter-library loan, I still have Lush Life, and two coffee table art books. Should keep me busy.

I spent time on the Southern Baptist Convention's twitter stream for the live sermon of David Platt yesterday and in so doing 'made friends' with some like-minded brothers and sisters of the faith. That was nice. I went to Colbert Baptist Church this morning to see off the mission team to Peru and hugged and got hugged in return, and that was nice too. There's good people all around, aren't there.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mondrian's computer-like brain

Piet Mondrian's work:

Mondrian original is simply picture perfect
By Steve Connor

"There is more to a Mondrian than meets the eye. A scientific study of one of the world's greatest abstract painters shows that he had an unnerving ability to make people feel that his paintings were perfect. Chris McManus, a psychologist from University College London, told the British Association Festival of Science at Leicester that most people could tell whether a Mondrian was genuine or a fake when given the choice between the real thing and something very similar. Furthermore, if anyone was tempted to believe that they could paint "that old rubbish" then think again. A Mondrian seemed to tap into a subconscious pleasure centre in the brain that made most people believe that the artwork just cannot be improved. Dr McManus ran a series of studies in which people were asked to choose between a computer-generated image of a real Mondrian and a similar image based on the same painting but with the patterns digitally distorted. "We took a Mondrian painting, put it into a computer and then just moved all the black and white lines slightly up and down so that they were all in slightly different proportions. The simple question is, should people care for them; can they tell the difference?" Dr McManus said. The results revealed that most people with no knowledge of art easily spotted the fake. "People can distinguish a real Mondrian from an adjusted, pseudo-Mondrian given the chance," he said."

Below, a computer chip-

Integrated circuit of Atmel Diopsis 740 System on Chip showing memory blocks, logic and input/output pads around the periphery, source
 You might be interested to know that Piet Mondrian lived from 1872 to 1944. He arrived at the above style in 1921. The earliest development of the computer chip was 1949, four years after Mondrian's death, and its earliest discussions were not presented publicly until 1952. The first successful demonstration the first working integrated example of a chip occurred on on September 12, 1958. Mondrian was before his time. Pretty cool, eh?!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Looking at the world through different lenses

Ha ha, guess!

OK, OK, bigger:

OK, biggest:
This next one is not a sunflower:

It is a sunspot, that LOOKS like a sunflower!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer routine

It is the beginning of week 3 in the summer vacation from school. I've settled nicely into a relaxing routine that suits me and my needs and wants nicely. Usually I arise at 6am during the school year, and always being an early riser by nature, I still get up pretty early, in this case, 6:30. Sometimes I get up 15 minutes or so later, but that is because I lay there, listening to the dawn chorus of birds.

Growing up, my mother used to listen to public radio out of Boston, and that is synonymous with Robert J. Lurtsema. He hosted the morning classical music radio show for thirty years. Eccentric as far as radio hosts go, he had an unusual cadence to this speech that paused in strange places. He also stopped speaking for long periods. Dead air on the radio is a no-no, but Robert J., as he was known, didn't care. "I'm not afraid of dead air," he was quoted as saying. "I don't think there's anything wrong with a quiet spot once in a while."

He also began his show each morning with a chorus of birds. This birdsong lasted a while, and I loved it. I have always loved birds and where I lived it was suburban, but not rural. There were some birds, but not many. Robert J.'s outbreak of birdsong burst into my mind, penetrating it like no other sound in the cacophony of sounds that is modern life in a busy home. What a balm for the harried mind. Here is the Dawn Chorus .wav file from Morning Pro Musica.

So when I wake up and hear the birds outside, I spend time distinguishing between and among the sounds and calls, then I think of the classical music show, and of growing up, and let my mind wander, and it is a peaceful way to begin the day.

I scan the news, make coffee, settle down with breakfast and get dressed by 9am. I spend the day studying, writing, listening to sermons, and responding to theological queries via email or the blog. After 8 to 10 hours of this, I take a break, have supper, and then return to personal internet surfing. At night, I read in my chair. No music is on and no television. It is quiet. Last night I heard a baby donkey braying and a wayward rooster.

The last few days I've read the latest in the #1 Ladies Detective Agency book series and a Christian historical romance called The Measure of a Lady. Light reading after the heavy topics of the day. By 10:30 or 11 I go to bed. It is a day. And each day is like that. Fridays I grocery shop and do errands, and Sunday I go to church. Those are the only breaks in the routine. I expect those will be the ONLY breaks in the routine all summer. As I said at the beginning, this suits me. Long live summer!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A quiet Sunday

We had a great Church service today on Jonah, as well as great Sunday School lesson on Jeremiah. Home, I made salmon patties mixed with green & red peppers and steamed asparagus on the side for my Sunday Dinner. A nap. Writing on the other blog. Now my book, Measure of a Lady. Best of all is that all this relaxing will not come to an end tomorrow but will continue. It's summer!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"The death of the bookmark"

I'm old enough now that I've seen my share of headlines declaring the death of plenty of things. Sometimes these declarations are premature, sometimes not. "The death of the dollar." Soon, I think. "The death of email." When was the last time you really used email? I use Twitter, Direct Message, Facebook, blog commenting.... Email seems old and clunky now, doesn't it? "The Death of Global Warming." Die, global warming, die. "The death of the PC". Interesting article from Forbes.

Today I pronounce the death of the bookmark.

The humble bookmark, a workaholic so humble and insignificant. Yet so important. It stands at the bulwark of pages, holding the place for the reader. Whenever he next happens to think about his book, whether it be a moment or a year, there the bookmark will be, ready for him. There is the bookmark, having held its position for all that time.

They come in different shapes, some clip on, some are metal, some are paper, some have ribbons and some are long and some are short. Bookmarks are personal. You want just the right kind for yourself, and it also has to match the book. I have one that is metal, and evokes a stained glass pane in a cathedral. It doesn't work in a paperback, though, needing a heftier spine to keep the metal in place. I use that one in hardbacks.

Others have saying on them, and acquiring one that has a saying in which you don't believe, or agree, ruins the bookmark's prospects for being put in the line of duty. Those I re-gift, or I throw away. Some hapless bookmarks simply are never used, for no reason. I have one that is a clipping of a larger watercolor I did, it looks like a rainbow. I like it but I rarely use it. I don't know why.

The bookmark on the left is of Charleston, and I like Charleston so I use the bookmark. The middle one is the oft-overlooked watercolor strip. The one on the right has "The Salvation Poem" on it so that's an big yes to using it.

Here is a history of bookmarks and this little tiny but mighty lieutenant has been helping us since the days of papyrus.

Dear Reader, I don't know if you have mused on this trusty and stalwart reading aid much, or if bookmarks even have a place in your heart. But beware, this little trooper is in danger. He is in the early stages of decline, and being marginalized as we speak. Obsolescence looms. Why?


An electronic book! Now far be it for me to deny reading materials to those in places where acquiring them is difficult. But an electronic book?? I cannot fathom it. Am I too old, resisting technological change after it is warranted? Did the ancients adhere to their wax tablets long after it was obvious that papyrus was an improvement? Did the papyrus crowd hang onto their 42 foot long scrolls long after it was obvious that the unwieldy form was being supplanted by a more economical one? But how, how can a Kindle be better than a book? I just don't see it. Worse, a Kindle doesn't require a traditional bookmark. Oh, woe to the little helper! And if it means the bookmark will go the way of the dodo, then I am against Kindles.

Interested in the different forms of a book? Here is a great resource, "The Evolution of the Book."

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Ticketed for NOT riding in the bike lane

This made me laugh, especially the end.

I got a package

Online shopping suits me. So the other day I ordered a large covered cat litter box. I've been noticing that the cats are outgrowing the box I've had for them since they were little. I was hoping to bump things along and stretch it out, but that plan didn't work. The other day I awoke to see the lid of the box upended and inside the lower part where the litter is. Oops. I knew  it was time to by a bigger box.

I searched online and read the reviews to the X-Large Deluxe Hooded Litter Box by PetMate. It seemed like a good buy and would solve the problem, and I ordered it. Being summer and the fact that I never leave the house (Except Fridays to grocery shop and Sundays to church) and given the fact that due to its being summer and I am refreshed and can concentrate deeply on my writing, and given the fact that it is 9000 degrees outside and I have the doors closed with the AC on all day, the box arrived and I never knew it all day. In the evenings when it cools off I turn off the AC an open the doors and windows. At 9:30 my neighbor who shares the house knocked on my door and said "You have a package." I opened the door to see just two feet from the front, a huge package, taller than her four year old daughter and one that certainly is hard to miss. I appreciated her letting me know, and excitedly I opened it up.

The litter box was big, the packaging made it seem bigger than it was, but it was still hefty. That's good, so is my tiger cat, Bert. Not fat, per se, though Bert does tend to portly. But tiger cats are big anyway, and this new litter box seemed like it would be a good size for him. The fly in the ointment is that Bert gets upset about even the minutest changes to anything in the apartment. I hoped he would take to it.

I'm happy with the box though not thrilled. The latches on either side are flimsy and I would not dare to pick up the box from the handle when it's filled with litter. The front plastic flap is also flimsy and I'm not sure I need it. It may be spooking Bert, we'll see. But disappointingly, they seem to scatter more litter with this large, covered box than they did with the small box with no lid I'd used for a few days until the new one arrived. I live in a two room apartment and there really is no other place to put it except in the tub, which I hate. Anyone who has inside cats knows the struggles of the little box.

Well, this blog entry just goes to show how life shrinks and slows in the summer. If the kitty litter scatter is the worst problem I have then life is good. Though my neighbor might be wondering why I never leave from the house...that is a mystery she will just have to live with.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Plants, birds, life

I am still amazed that the seeds are sprouting this quickly in the three pots I planted on Saturday. In just three days they have poked through and are growing quickly! I can't wait for the flowers to come. Here is my attempt, beginning attempts, to prett-ify the front door, which is now all concrete. It used to have nice bushes next to it but they had to be removed to put in a culvert and it was paved over afterwards--

I plan to get a few small plants, perhaps cacti, for the wrought iron shelves above the daisies. It gets soooo hot on that spot. But maybe some small pots of flowers for color would be good too.

Here is the birdhouse I got in the mail today. It is made of coconut fiber and is a small wren resting house.

The directions said keep out of direct sun, away from the worst of where the rain comes, and offers unrestricted access. The other birdhouses in the yard are being used gangbusters and I sure hope the wrens arrive and find this spot for their home, too.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Super seeds

I blogged about my Memorial Day weekend plans which included sprucing up my front door area by potting some plants from seeds. I didn't get to it on Memorial Day but I did it this Saturday. I planted morning glories, nasturtium or zinnias in terra cotta pots and now two days later two of them are sprouting! I can't believe they sprouted so fast. I cannot remember which of them I put in which pot, but I am pretty sure one of them is the morning glory. Amazing! They must be super-seeds or something. Or maybe I am just totally ignorant of how seeds grow. Likely the latter.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Hot day and errands don't mix

When I first moved to the south I was observing that whenever a friend and I went grocery shopping in summer, she would place a cooler in the back of her car. At the grocery store, she would buy ice, and then put the ice in the cooler and then place her milk and other perishable items in it. I quickly realized that a car sitting in 100 degree heat would be over 120 degrees inside, and that in order to preserve the milk etc for the trip home extra measures were needed. Duly noted.

Errands on a hot day are not my favorite. I knew that several of them would be complicated and time consuming. But there you go, you have to do them. On the upside, I got my package at the Post Office.

Three years ago I bought a chair, and it had served well all this time. I like to sit in it and read. The bookcase next to it is just the right height to place my tea, and the lamp offers just enough light. It is not large and therefore takes no undue amount of space and it fits me well. And when I'm not in it, the cats like it, lol. Few things in this world are perfect, and I was sad when the chair situation became less than perfect. It was old three years ago, and used. Its springs, never spring chickens to begin with, faded fast and now when I sit in it, the chair sinks to an uncomfortable level. I purchased online an egg crate cushion that is used for wheelchair bound folks, and it came today. Perfect! Rather than buy a new chair $100, I spent $7 on a good and easy fix. It means a lot to me because it's summer I want to read many books, I want a comfy chair to do it in. I mean, who doesn't like a comfy chair? ("You never expect the Spanish Inquisition! Nooo, not the comfy chair!!" Sorry, reminiscing...)

Back home, I arrived to see that the landlord had finished mowing the lawn and was weedwhacking. We both remarked on the heat, but I know that I am blessed. I don't have children to tote around in the heat or to keep cool. I don't have to make repeated visits to a hospital and park in a hot lot every day. I don't have to go work outside in the heat for my pay. I saw an old friend at the Dollar Store. She asked "What are you going to do this summer?" And I happily said, "Nothing." I can sit in my chair and read and study and write. I'm very blessed.

Speaking of the Dollar Store, I am convinced that the Laws of Physics do not apply in there. It exists inside a bubble of netherworld Laws of the Universe in which time slows or even stops, and where people are teleported to the cashier line. You didn't know that about the Dollar Store, did you? Yes. When you arrive there you are happy because there are few if any customers in the store with you. But just as you complete your shopping, suddenly a million people appear and they all get in line in front of you. See? Teleportation. Then time stops because your line never moves. See? Suspended animation. It doesn't matter how many people are ahead of you or how many items they have. Time stops. As you lean against your cart (sorry, 'buggy') you realize that it truly is remarkable. The clerks are going as fast as they can. No one is slacking. Time just stops. I budget 30-45 minutes for tasks that in any other Zone of Normal Physics should take 10 minutes. It's just the way it is.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

We need rain!

Dead! Brown! Crunchy! That is the best description of the lawn. We have not had rain for a long time, and now we are experiencing an early and oppressive heat. Heat indexes today are predicted to go up to 107. That is VERY early for this kind of weather. Usually mid-August will see those kinds of indoors-staying, lemonade-sipping, book-reading dog days. In late May and early June it's the time to go with friends to the Park, sit by the river and read and have picnics. Take a walk on the trail. Go yard sale shopping. All of which I had plans to do, actually. But not in this heat.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

"Please do not disturb the duck"

This duck knows a good thing when she sees it. From Bangor Daily News today:

"Nesting duck at Home Depot attracts attention"
BANGOR, Maine — Debbie Currier looked a little bored as she shopped the lawn and garden section Tuesday at The Home Depot in Bangor, until she turned a corner and saw something afowl. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” said Currier. “Am I really seeing what I’m seeing?” “We get that a lot,” said Brenda Hatch, who works in Home Depot’s lawn and garden section. Surrounded by hostas, impatiens and Miracle-Gro potting mix sat a female mallard atop a nest containing seven eggs. The scene — cordoned off by strips of yellow tape and overshadowed by a sign that says “Please do not disturb the duck” — represents an unprecedented chance to see a nesting duck from only a few feet away, but if you want to touch her you’ll have to get through Hatch first. Hatch feeds the duck every morning and brings her water twice a day. In the morning, the duck sometimes follows Hatch around as she waters plants and restocks shelves. Sometimes when Hatch goes too close, the duck puffs up and starts breathing hard. And once in a while, the feathered fowl lashes out, nipping Hatch with her bill."

More at link. LOL, journalists love puns. And the clerk's name, "Hatch" is just too cute of a coincidence. The duck thing is so cute! The Bangor story reminds me of the famous children's book "Make Way for Ducklings," also a New England story. "Make Way for Ducklings is a children's picture book written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey. First published in 1941, the book tells the story of a pair of mallard ducks who decide to raise their family on an island in the lagoon in Boston Public Garden, a park in the center of Boston, Massachusetts." That book won the 1942 Caldecott for the illustrations. Now if THAT doesn't make you feel old, I don't know what will.

I hope when the ducklings at Home Depot hatch that they find their way all right. Then the customers will really have to say 'make way for ducklings!'