Self Sowing Seeds

Through the years we’ve done vegetable gardens, with maybe a few flowers thrown in as a row border or something. This year we’re really only (successfully) doing flowers.

Harvesting Seeds 1

I can catch the morning glories before the pods pop if I check up on them, but that’s just for fun, because there’s no way I’ll get them all, and I don’t want to really. The nasturtiums are just easy to find. The other flowers have already self sown by the dozens. This should be fun!

– D

Heidelberg from the Castle

Looking through photos reminded me of what a different world we’re in, compared to just twenty years ago. In 1999 we went to the Netherlands, Germany, and France. We took a train from Amsterdam to Kaiserslautern but got turned around and missed a connection. So we found a payphone and called our friend, who was at home waiting to hear from us, and on we went. It was normal, before cell phones, to be completely at the mercy of whomever decides where payphones go and upon your friend being home, waiting.

Heidelberg

It was also normal to take maybe a hundred pictures on a week’s vacation. We may have taken perhaps 250, but would have been cautious, because every one cost money to develop. And so we have pictures like this one, where I dearly wish I had a few hundred more from which to choose. As photos go, meh. As a memory….

– D

Crannog Centre

When we returned to Scotland in 2015, we tried to return to the Crannog Centre (we first visited in 2007). It was raining horribly, the road was literally flooded out, and we gave it up. Next time, though, and we will have more than a film camera, shooting with expired film! (it was an artistic choice)

Crannog 08

I will perhaps give the pole lathe another try. I don’t remember it very well, looking back 13 years. I don’t believe I will require a new wallet next time, though.

Crannog 10

-D

Charing Cross

I’ve begun going through our massive photo collection & pulling things out of circulation. One can really only so many pictures of the same building, you know? So, how do you manage 39,000 photos?

In our case, it’s pretty simple, in a way. If it’s not a meaningful picture – doesn’t say something important, make us remember someone or something important – then it gets made private. That means, of course, that I’ve got to look at every single photo along the way.

So I downloaded them and am working my way through alphabetically. I’ve just made it through Charing Cross. Yes, the lighting all looks like this. Doesn’t mercury vapor provide a nice ambience? /sarcasm

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Charing Cross is basically where we spent most of our time in Glasgow, simply because it’s in the middle of everything. It’s also a sort of weird place where people would ask for me to take their picture. They didn’t really even want to see the picture. Just to be photographed was enough.

Charing Cross 418 Charing Cross 233 Charing Cross 436

Of course, for me it was also a great place for selfies, as there’s a building which spans the motorway there which has mirrored windows. I’d quite often end up stopped there & would say hello, as it were. Have a wee look around at the street view map.

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Not quite the standard mirror-selfies. I’m sure I’ll find more along the way.

-D

Weird Job: Washing Dirt, Boiling Corpses

San Bernardino County Museum 1

I would like to reflect upon one of the weirder jobs I’ve had: San Bernardino County Museum … person. In around 1990. In this picture here, off to the distance, was where I mostly worked.

When the highway departments carve roads through mountains & do major excavations they’re required to have the area assessed for fossils & such (there’s a requirement, I don’t know). So, the San Bernardino County Museum sends somebody out there with a 50-gallon drum, or maybe a truck, to take samples. They bring them back to the museum & lay the soil out on tarps.

From there, a handful of guys (because of course) take shovelfuls of the soil & run it through two or three grades of screen. We’d wash them in half of a 50-gallon drum full of water, getting all of the silt* out. We’d then label the screens with a tag made from a piece of aluminum can, scribbled on with a ball-point to leave an indentation, and set them in the sun to dry.

* If it’s clay, it might be run through kerosene first. This was only done by a Mexican man who refused to wear gauntlets (there were dozens, for the purpose, we all used all the time). His arms were white to the elbow.


After this, depending on what the paleontologists find, the pebbles and fossils might be run through zinc bromide acid. Basically, the specific gravity of zinc bromide is higher than that of quartz and feldspar, so they float where the fossils sink. After a day standing over the zinc bromide bucket, ladling gravel in and out (and occasionally boiling the acid, to concentrate it a bit), there might be 1/2 a cup of fossil teeth and bones, from some small rodent or lizard.

San Bernardino County Museum 2

The museum has a comparative collection. That means they have a mass of varying species of lizards & rodents, from fossils through to present day specimens. Some of the modern ones are “collected.” This meant that the resident “Dr. Death” would take his slingshot on expeditions to collect some hapless lizard from a corner of Joshua Tree or what have you. And bring them back to be “rotted off.”

You see, the museum had at one time had dermestid beetles. They gave them food that was too wet, which gave them some sort of fungal disease, and now they no longer have dermestid beetles. So, to clean bones without damaging them and without beetles, they’re boiled and rotted. If you’re very unlucky, there might be a few cycles of boiling and rotting, as with the python.

After the animal is sufficiently rotty, you pour it through a screen, hose it off, and perhaps put it back in its bucket or jar for another go-round. (Don’t put it on the roof of the museum, in the sun to make it rot faster, with the lids on tight. Word to the wise. Was not me.)

It took me maybe 20 years to be able to consume a breakfast burrito, after the desert tortoise. I started pouring off that tortoise juice and instantaneously projectile-vomited the breakfast burrito I’d just had. I have never seen such a pure expression of vomit. No sound, no wasted motion, just efficient removal of anything that might at all be causing the horror.

I do wonder if they remember where they buried the camel, donated from the camel racing people down there somewhere. They determined that it just was a bit too much to deal with locally, so they buried it to let it rot more gently.

-D

Virtual Vacation

I wish we’d done more of these photospheres. Please click through to this one & get a feel for what they’re like viewed where you can scroll around and really look at things.

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When we’re traveling, I like to use the big cameras, because the results are just so much better than the phones. Making these things, though, is something I intend to do more frequently.

A church in Taxco, Mexico. Just one of the several, as I recall.

-D

Nostalgia in a time of covid

We miss travel. No, that’s not right. We miss our friends. David is one of our David’s best friends & is in Glasgow. We last got to see David when we visited The Netherlands in 2018. We got to see both David and Laura & spend a few days with each.

Netherlands 2018 354

We left Glasgow in June of 2012. We’ve been back a few times, but not since 2016. We desparately want to go back, to feel at home again in the filthy city, and see friends.

Kelvingrove Park 317 HDR

This is hardest simply because we cannot visit. It is not the travel. It’s the people.

Video conferencing just isn’t the same.

-D

The Confinement Chronicles, con’t

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398th July, Year Of Our Lord, 2097, in the Year of the Plague

How are you?

Are you well?

It’s still feeling strangely like a cross between the longest weekend ever… and childhood summer “vacations” (where we still had daily calisthenics, times-tables, chores, and encyclopedia “research” papers to write for our parents), but here we are. Still social. Still distant. Still friends. We hope you’re finding space for silence, time for talking, and the ways and means to do that which you must. We wish you peace.


Another Monday morning… Lather, rinse, repeat. We work, we cook, we read, we sort our far-too-numerous possessions (ETA: some people rearrange furniture. Constantly), and then we work some more. We sleep, we wake, watch some sort of entertainment and wander around our small corner of paradise. We are grateful that we have a roof over our heads, but …well, most of us are very sick indeed of the shape of said roof, and the color of the shingles…


Ah, confinement. It would be easy to say that it’s making people crazy, but it’s not… it’s privileged people encountering the word “no,” some of them for the very first time, apparently. This is less “going crazy” than poorly handled rage. If it were actual “stir-craziness,” wouldn’t all of us confined be infected with it? So far, you’ve limited your toileting to actual toilets, haven’t you? Yep, we figured. In this society, we constantly blame on mental illness people wholly unable to deal with the reality of no: “No, I don’t want to date you. No, I don’t need to hear from you. No, I don’t owe you time, money, or attention. No, you can’t come in here without a mask.” Hearing “no” is hard – but most of us learned to deal with that around the two-year mark without shooting anyone, road-raging with our shopping carts, or widdling on the floor in public. It’s an annoying part of life when kids tantrum, but it’s …unnerving to discover that so many of our fellow humans are only masquerading as adults, and are really ginormous, ill-tempered children. With apologies to actual children.


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Owing to the fact that we know we won’t be hosting guests here for the foreseeable future, we’ve dismantled our cozy little guestroom. We even gave away the bed to a family who needed one, and have repurposed the larger room as our new office. Extra benefits include it being both larger and cooler than our previous office, both absolutely necessary as we continue to share office space during what is obviously the longest summer in recorded history. Work has taken off. T has been privileged to be a part of the reading jury for the NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature – an international children’s literary award which was going to necessitate a trip to Nebraska – and is finishing the novel which is going to come out next fall (the one out THIS November is also done, yay!). D has been juggling clients – one of them having delayed their project by over a year – and trying to wrap up myriad small contracts so that he has time for a larger one, where he’s the primary technical architect for the installation of a manufacturing execution system. That project may take several years, if it gets approval, so fingers remain crossed.


Plum Jam 4

We had so many plums on our plum tree that it broke two branches, necessitating a lot of running around and propping things up – and rapidly trying to deal with a good eighty pounds of plums. Next year we’re going to thin it a bit better – the poor tree just can’t handle that kind of weight. The garden as a whole has been both a joy and an annoyance… well, rather, the gopher has been an annoyance. It has eaten, by today’s count, two whole tomato plants, two cucumber plants, and three flowering bushes. We’ll draw a veil over the holes in the lawn… people rhapsodize about how lovely it is to see more turkey, coyote, and mountain lions about, and how with the decline of human traffic we see the return of nature, but this is one return we could have done without. Nonetheless, we are butterfly, bee, and bird central with our various flowers, and we’re growing tons of herbs and root veg.

A lot of the hotter weather crops are REALLY slow this year, as nighttime temperatures were really variable through May and June. While elsewhere it’s been sweltering, in our little pocket of micro-climate, we are having foggy mornings and sometimes days that don’t heat up until about 4pm. – which means we still have verrrry hard peaches, though they look beautifully ripe. It’s quite a bit more humid than we remember from previous years as well! Unfortunately, none of that makes our melons and squash grow faster. Oh, well.

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We’re still singing – D has continued his Zoom voice lessons (probably serenading everyone in the neighborhood, because summertime = open windows), and T occasionally threatens to join in. Our community choir here continues to figure out how to maintain a choral presence in the communities and navigate social distancing at the same time. The last week in May, we concluded recording for a virtual choir concert – and while it’s been a steep learning curve becoming accustomed to the technology involved, we’re hopeful it will release soon. It’s hard to imagine the winter season without music, so we… don’t. That’s seemed to be working for us so far. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, and all of that.

This week someone commented that life is a series of things falling apart, and coming together. That seems… accurate. Regardless of the many things we have believed that we can count on, there has always been an element of risk, and the opportunity for abrupt failures. Many people just now are discovering this – and some feel that they’ll never survive this falling apart. But here’s a secret: we already have. It’s done. The past is gone. The sinkhole has opened and we are at the bottom, and now… now we are going to sit in the ashes of the disaster for a bit (until people properly begin to understand the whole mask thing, perhaps?) and know that we cannot fix it. At all.

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And then…? Then, things will come together.

This isn’t meant to be magical thinking, or some kind of faith-in-magic trick. Obviously, there’s no timetable on this, no way to pinpoint the date when we stop thrashing against this frustrating reality, and re-emerge into “regular” life. This is the reality: ambiguity. There’s no cure, no fix, no answer, so the disaster sits here, and we sit, being reminded that wholeness and safety has less to do with us than we previously believed. So, the exercise becomes thinking about how we’ll remember these moments five or ten years from now. “Remember when we set up the tent in the backyard? Remember when you painted the rocks with positive words and left them by people’s mailboxes on your walks?” Remember how we learned to sew a lot better, sewing masks for strangers?

Remember how we all kept going?

-t