Irvington Gardening

During this time of everyone staying at home, we decided to do some gardening. Well, no – we’d already decided, but now seemed an ideal time, so we ordered 7 cubic yards of compost, and some plants to arrive a few days later.

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We knew 7 cubic yards was a lot of compost, but it actually went fairly easily. It was cool enough to need to wear warm clothes while shoveling, which made a huge difference. There are 5 cubic feet in a wheelbarrow and 27 cubic feet in a cubic yard. So, figure about 40 wheelbarrows had to make their way somewhere.

We basically wanted to bring the earth back up to being level, either with the sidewalk or with the top of the planters. The previous tenants didn’t really do much with things, so we’ve been adding fertilizer and compost and really trying to improve the soil as much as possible.

It has been 13 years since we’ve done any serious gardening, and even then, it was probably way back in 2002 or so that we were really able to garden at home (we’d been gardening at B & L’s). Here, it’s convenient to get out there first thing for 20 minutes, or to get out there over lunch to thin some fruit, rather than having to make a huge production of Visiting The Garden.

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The challenging part was managing to get about 15 wheelbarrows tipped into the raised beds. There’s a metal nose on them, which needs to be wiggled into place on the lip of the bed, and then the whole barrow has to be lifted through 90 degrees and dumped.

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We’re deciding what to put where, and how much space to leave between things. We’re trying to read the labels and give things the space they need. It is hard to resist Annie’s, though, particularly when there are such gaps in our garden. On the other hand, we seem to have planted quite a few seeds, and they are growing apace. Soon we shall be inundated, we hope.

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We have planted morning glories all around the fence and at the base of the tree at the sidewalk. We’ve more to plant (these were sprouted inside), and then a whole bunch of other vining things (birdhouse gourds, cantaloupe, cucumbers), etc. For a first year’s garden, we don’t expect it to be perfect, but we really are looking forward to what comes up!

-D & T

Revisiting Photography

We generally leave the TV on when we’re reading or cooking or what have you, with the TV playing … pictures from our Flickr. As a consequence, I end up examining photos and really really wishing I knew more, back then. For example, this photo. It’s a manually-done HDR, which means I mixed 3 images together to get it.

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I looked at that going by and I thought, “I wonder what that would look like if I reworked it?” So I pulled the raw images, reset all of the settings in Canon, rendered out 3 tiffs, ran Photomatix, and here we go.

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Now, is it better? In some ways, and in some ways not. I suspect that I don’t really know what I’m doing with Photomatix any more, and this is the version with all of the advanced features, so … we’ll see. On the other hand, the phone does a better job maybe. And on yet another hand, I now know how easy it is to go back and adjust, and I have all the raw materials, so … if they’re particularly egregious, maybe I’ll fix them.

Happy New Year!

-D

Concerts, Persimmons and Pomegranates

Our Christmas choral season is over for Mission Peak Chamber Singers. For us, that meant 2 hours of singing on Friday night, 3 hours on Saturday night, 1 on Sunday morning, and 2 on Sunday night. 8 hours of singing this weekend. It was a blast, despite the rain and wind, awkward microphone malfunctions, travel time, and exhaustion.

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MPCS at Old Mission San Jose

We’ve continued to enjoy the harvest, with the pomegranates and persimmons having ripened and been harvested. One citrus has turned out to be a grafted tree with at least 4 different fruit, including a white grapefruit, maybe a lime, and a satsuma.

Unfortunately, the squirrels and crows did manage to get to a few before we could harvest them, so I had no choice in sharing with them. Everybody else can go to the grocery store, though – this is the first time in my life I have a persimmon tree and I’m pretty much going to eat them all myself. I’m sure my blood sugar will hate me, but if it helps add a few pounds I will not complain at all.

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I brought them in, polished them up (they have their own wax), and left them for nearly a month. Next time I’ll trim the sepals when I first harvest them, because they’re quite stiff and make it harder to remove the stem end without rupturing the soft fruit. I may prune back the Granny Smith, as it shades the persimmon (and because who in their right mind plants a Granny Smith?).

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Pomegranates also came ripe, so I took the opportunity to prune back the bush that should be a tree (it helped me get to the fruit on the inside of the shrub, as well). Quite a few split, and there were a few dozen tiny ones. We harvested them all, removed the arils from the split ones, and found that the tiny ones are just as mature and flavorful as the big ones! I might strap the individual stems together to try to make it function more as a tree and to stop obstructing the pathway. What ought to happen is for it to be pruned back to a single tree, I would guess, but that’s going a bit far for me.

Earlier in the year, when I’d encounter a hollowed out one, or one that was gnawed by the rodents (squirrels), I’d pick and discard it. So, when harvest came, I wasn’t expecting anything like this hollow one – I’d gotten rid of the ones I could identify weeks and weeks ago. This was one of the reasons I got out the pole saw: the fruit was fabulously dark red, and I expected it to be perfectly ripe.

Next will come the white grapefruit (maybe this weekend), and then the orange and tangerine. And then it’s time to do research on how these trees should be pruned and when, and to finish planning and planting the flowers for next year.

-D

Chaos and Upheaval

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Hello – it’s June! We had other things to say at other points last month, but the Chaos Unleashed has robbed some of those things of their immediacy… on Memorial Day, our landlord popped by to announce that he was selling the house, so we’re moving to the town next door. We had lease papers signed within a week of him telling us, and we move in on the 10th. We really do NOT want to live through somebody showing the house with us in it. We did that once and…nope. So, T. went looking and found a pretty little place that’s within a 15 minute walk of where we rehearse for choir. Unlike many of the houses around here, it’s a real house, which means it’s old, but it has a very thorough remodel and an owner who adores it — and says he will never, ever, ever sell it. Which is good enough for us just now.

We are (nearly) all packed and ready to go, with most things staged in the garage, so the movers can do the heavy lifting. We really had settled in here, which makes it all the more difficult to move, because there were really only a couple of things which didn’t get unboxed (Christmas ornaments, a stash of sewing fabric). But, this is our 17th move in 25 years of marriage, so it’s not like we haven’t gotten the drill down by now.

The new place is all one level (yay, no more stairs!), has air conditioning (most houses around here don’t, relying on the afternoon breeze), has a bunch of mature fruit trees in the back (plum, cherry, persimmons, white peach, pomegranate, and citrus galore), and has garden space (with like 16 square feet of Chinese chives planted as well as Thai bird chilies, and, surprisingly, dragonfruit). It’s a quick across-the-block hop from the nearest branch of the public library, the weekly farmer’s market, and the aforementioned rehearsal space. Since it is older, it doesn’t have a lot of closet space, which is just the excuse we need to do a once-and-for-all winnowing of the many, many, many coats, blankets, gloves, and woolens we brought back from Scotland.

Otherwise, we’re sailing on calmer waters these days. Hope you are, too.

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-D & T

Thoughts On At-will Employment Ethics

What ethical responsibilities does an employee have in a state which is an at-will employment state? Does the employee owe their employer some notice? If so, does that same obligation rest with the employer? Of course not, although there is some pretense of this given. However, it seems to me that the most common scenario is one in which the employee is expected to give adequate notice, if not excessive notice, and the employer is allowed the free latitude to “do what is good for the business” rather than what is good for the employee.

Some of this is due to the imbalance of power inherent within the relationship, but some of it is socially reinforced, is explicitly stated on the part of employers, and is reinforced through an indirect pathway, in that prospective employers will evaluate a prospective employee based upon whether or not they have left their current position with hard feelings. Started differently, it appears that individuals are willing to punish their peers for not giving adequate notice, while simultaneously allowing latitude on the part of the corporation. This social reinforcement of notice serves to allow the individuals within the corporation to maintain some semblance of stability, while allowing the corporation flexibility. There is tension here, however, simply because individuals are applying a standard to others which they would not apply to themselves. If you ask anyone in a corporation whether or not they have a moral obligation to give a notice, they will probably be reluctant to honestly own that they do. I think, people intuitively understand that there is an imbalance here, and understand that it is not ethically right of them to enforce such a standard of notice upon their peers, while simultaneously preserving the option for themselves to not give notice.

This is one area in which individuals are willing to accept a double standard with regards to ethics. Employees grant privileges and latitude to corporations to perform acts which the individuals themselves would find ethically repugnant. This double standard is part of what allows corporate structures to perform unethical actions while their employees feel that they as people are being ethical.

People inherently resist holding corporations to the same ethical standards as they do individual humans. That is not to say that individuals are not in favor of holding corporations ethically accountable. That is merely to say that individuals instinctively understand the corporations are fundamentally different than human beings, and should not be afforded the same rights or privileges, and nor should they be necessarily required to uphold the same moral standards. However, absent any critical thinking on the moral standards of corporations, and any means of connecting the opinions of the individuals within the regulation in a meaningful way to the corporations actions, we will be left with this double standard in place, and largely unrecognized.

D

Random Patterns

Going through the knitting stash, I discovered this pattern. No idea what it is for. Kind of feels like when you read those stories of the random adventurers discovering some magic spell and mistakenly reading it, performing the spell, and ending up with who knows what. That would be this, but performing the spell looks like it would take something like 30 or 40 hours and more than eye of newt.

– D

Welcome Thought Police

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I’ve just read this article, about Facebook reporting suicidal people to the police. Think about that article & then think about whether you actually believe that “the ends justify the means.” This is the same logic that says it’s OK to violate your civil rights to keep you safe. In this case, it’s Facebook, and you all know what you signed up for … but this feels a lot like Facebook trying to justify their action (snooping through your activities for something they find problematic), and that tells me that they know they’re in an ethically bad position: they’re misusing their privileged access to your personal information and trying to normalize that misuse of privileged access by providing a post hoc, fallacious argument that appeals to our emotions. This line of argument has the added benefit that it makes you look like a creep if you argue against this, because who wouldn’t want to save suicide attempters from themselves?

In the article, they provide a quote:

“While our efforts are not perfect, we have decided to err on the side of providing people who need help with resources as soon as possible,” Emily Cain, a Facebook spokeswoman, said in a statement.

I would prefer to cut that statement a bit shorter:

“While our efforts are not perfect, we have decided to err,” Emily Cain, a Facebook spokeswoman, said in a statement.

I say this because I do think their actions are quite an error, and I find it particularly worrisome because it is being conducted on such a massive scale, without oversight, and – because of the machine learning aspects of this – it is being conducted in an area in which oversight is quite literally impossible simply because the technology is designed not to include human oversight. Facebook states that they don’t track outcomes of their interventions, so they are not even monitoring this program for effectiveness on a case by case basis (to refine the algorithm even?), nor are they monitoring it for harm. This is, quite literally, an explicit invasion of privacy, inviting law enforcement intervention into people’s lives, with zero oversight.

-D

Remembering

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If you visit Europe, I strongly encourage you to visit churches, and stately homes, and to keep your eyes out for the plaques. For the battle flags, torn to tatters. For the endless procession of names, each kept in its own place of honor, in the corner of a room, or on a memorial outside the village church.

I don’t think that we who have not served can have any sense of how truly devastating war is, and I really don’t think we as Americans can understand how terrible World War I was for Europe. By looking around, though, we can kind of get a sense for things, if we really take the time to contextualize the memorials.

Memorials are local, in the UK, in a way that they are not in the US. Here, war cemeteries tend to be where we encounter war memorials, if we encounter them at all. I remember there’s one in Concord CA, but that I only remarked it after we’d returned – it was simply part of the background, before. I believe there’s one on the waterfront in Vallejo, as well. But these are different to Scottish memorials, in that they’re general memorials. “We remember the men of…” sort of thing, and that’s about it.

The memorials in Scotland were mostly very personal. “In memory of our glorious dead who fell in the great war 1914 – 1919,” followed by a list of 38 names. “Faithful unto death.”

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George’s Square, Glasgow
Cambusbarron Village Church

Some memorials are grand, meant to be the centerpiece, such as the one at the center of George’s Square, in Glasgow. Some stand forth to say, “our village gave dearly,” such as the one in front of the Cambusbarron village church; Cambusbarron was our home village for the last year we were in Scotland, so we got to walk past their monument any time we needed something from the village. Cambusbarron, at the height of its industrial vigor, housed a few thousand people and had a school capacity of 270. Cambusbarron volunteered 200 men to serve in World War 1, 38 of whom have names on the village memorial, as they (and a few others, unintentionally forgotten) never returned.

I don’t think I can really understand living with not only the sheer loss (1/5 of a whole generation of Cambusbarron died). I also don’t think I can possibly understand the trauma of having 1/5 of my generation absent forever, and the remainder of my generation would have seen them die. You see, quite a lot of villages joined up together, and were kept together, particularly in Scotland, where military service is a very … clan-centered activity. You join up with your mates, you join a particular regiment because that’s the regiment your village joins, and you go off to war. And then you spend the rest of your life walking past the ghosts of the dead every day on your way to the market.

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I remember my father becoming emotional about Veteran’s day, and not understanding why, not being able to conceive of why he – a true 1950’s man, for whom crying just didn’t happen – would be overwhelmed with sadness when the mood would hit him and he’d remember those lost in his own experience of war. From what I know, my father was not sent to Korea because he was in the Air National Guard (which wasn’t deployed). He was a pathologist in the Navy during the Vietnam war or shortly thereafter. But I don’t know why he cried, and it’s now too late to ask. Was it for classmates? There must have been lost classmates, considering my father attended Massanutten Military Academy. I simply do not know. And, of course, it’s not something he spoke of, at least not to me.

Veteran’s Day is not a day to celebrate America. It is not a day to celebrate America’s military might. It is not a day to beat the drums of war.

Veteran’s Day is a day to remember that war brings death, trauma, and generations of grief.

-D