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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Derek flies a kite

Hannah is dissatisfied with the birthday cake she made for me, but it all turned out wonderfully well.

The problem is, my daughter is a bit of a perfectionist. She didn't like the way this cake looked, with the glaze oozling and dripping down into the plate and random cut-off bits. She proceeded to have a giggling tantrum which was most amusing.

In the end she asked herself, "what would they do on Top Chef?" and turned the best side toward the camera and it looked gorgeous. Thank you, dear.

Pictures from Berkeley California

Statue of tender friendly leg wrapping, on UC Berkeley campus.

The "dream comes true" mobile

In Manhattan I saw several Mexican Chinese restaurants, but this is my first sighting of a Mexican Pakistani Indian establishment.

I may be mistaken, but I don't think this electrical wiring is to California code. I've seen pictures like this from Mexico, Pakistan, and India, though.

Hannah knows what I like, so she took me to the local junkyard: it's called "Urban Ore Ecopark" and is mostly like Griffin's Wrecking Yard in Greensboro (lots of overpriced old doors, windows, tiles, toilets, etc - I think if you are a regular you get a 65 percent discount) except for the various ironic ornaments, statues, etc.

And right next door is the "Hygenic Dog Food Company" - I love names which with no further commentary instill unsavory doubts and worries about the competition. Another example I like: "The True Gospel Church."

Statue/windvanes next to Urban Ore.


Urban Ore land of the dolls.


Is anybody still looking? What is this? It says "US POSTAL SERVICE" on it.

Urban Ore sculpture.

Christmas decorations sold by the pound.

We went on a walking tour of Telegraph Hill and saw the famous wild parrots.

They were eating fruit off the landscaping, making an unholy racket, climbing around upside down, and then flying in the air in a massive flock. Wonderful. We watched the movie that night! (Documentary: The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. It has a great surprise ending which Hannah's boyfriend wrecked for us, because he was crackberrying through the whole movie and telling us too much.

It was such a gorgeous day, we went to Chavez Park for basking, strolling, and kite flying.

Here is "Heart Smart," abandoned by the side of the road. Is this an unkept New Year's Resolution from 2008, or are 2009's good intentions already being abandoned?

This one I call "Sneaker and Existential Crisis." The book is, What Should I Do With My Life? We wondered if the person who discarded it, along with one sneaker, had figured out the answer to the question. Or was it a resolution (see above)? If I'd found a third like this, I would have called it a trend.

Sylvia, one of the old-timer bloggers on Caray, Caray!, came to visit me on my birthday. So great to meet her! She and her boyfriend are going to sell off their lives some time and sail around the world. She says there is a "Sail Mail" network you can subscribe to and read your email anywhere in the middle of the ocean.

Of course we went to the local farmers' market. The lettuce tasted better than any lettuce I've ever had.

A pushcart! Sighted at the Farmers' Market.

I saw this spiky plant, bigger than the house it was in front of, on the way home with the groceries.

Their bathroom was cold, wet, and moldy because there was no ventilator fan and no heater and they had to keep the door closed to keep the cat out of the toilet paper. This is the fan I improvised. It looks awful but it does the job. Then I blocked up the hole in the bottom of the sink cabinet so they could hide the toilet paper and leave the door open. Problem solved.

Derek was so inspired he went out and bought a 2x6 to fix their falling apart bed. It's now very strong.

Better than the Chicago Airport.

Seen at Mike King.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

One of our favorite menorahs

My son Zed and I had a quiet night tonight. We'd already given each other presents - I gave him a GPS so he wouldn't get lost around town, he gave me a new/used cd player for the living room - and neither of us was in the mood for anything fancy. I had raisin bran for dinner, he had half of a spanakopita left over from last night's dinner out - and then we both had coffee heath-bar crunch ice cream. OK, I shouldn't lie, we had the ice cream first.

Then I spent an hour looking for one particular computer cord (the one which would transfer this very picture from the camera to the hard drive) and cleaned up some cobwebby corners while I was at it, and Zed fed Jethro and is reading a science-fiction book. All is quiet. Tomorrow I leave for Berkeley to visit Hannah in her new life as history grad student. Happy holidays, all.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Voices."

Almost every Sunday afternoon for the last two or three years, Mark and I have met at my kitchen table over two big boxes of acrylic paint (and lately, some wood blocks and knives as well).

First we take Jethro for a walk, and I bake cookies, and then we sit down to address the Illustration Friday prompt of the week.

We talk a little about the past week, or politics or brain chemistry (he's a neuropsychiatrist), but often we just sit in companionable silence, eating cookies and scratching away at our canvases.

We take a break to go to dinner and come back and usually I quit when he's still working away and sometimes I sleepily say: "Mark, I'm going to bed now but you can stay as long as you like," and then there's a picture there for me to post in the morning when I get up.

Yesterday he had a whole picture of wolves howling at the moon, and next thing I knew the wolves were gone, he had painted them out completely.

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Mark does Illustration Friday: "Voices."

Some Day I Hope Voices Reach Us from Across the Wolf Nebula

Sources: Turner, Frankenthaler, Diekendorn and old, worn road signs.


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Saturday, December 20, 2008

In which Menticia and I spend three weeks making "Ugly Dolls."

I've known my 13-year-old friend Menticia for four years now, we met when she was in fourth grade. Every December I've been trying HARD to convince her that she should MAKE her Christmas presents. She has, until this year, preferred to buy c%$#p at Walmart, though she's enjoyed the crafts projects I inveigled her into. We've made books, wrapping paper, paper-maché candelabra with golden leaves and green vines, paintings, Sculpey jewelry, wall plaques...

... but this year was the first year she came up with her own craft project. She wanted to make "ugly dolls" for everybody in the family. (These two pictures show the "official" commercial versions.)

I'd never heard of "ugly dolls" before, we looked them up online and discovered:
The limited edition plush collectables emerged from the minds of two star crossed artists Sun-Min Kim and David Horvath who met at Parsons School of Design in New York City and based on the doodles David drew at the end of their love letters.

That Christmas, after moving back home to Korea. Sun-Min suprised David with a plush, hand sewn version of the first character he drew, Wage. He showed it to his friend Eric Nakamura who owns Giant Robot in LA. Eric thought he was pitching a product and promptly ordered 20. The rest, as they say is history.
You can see the official website here, the splash screen is very cute.

They are very expensive, but luckily, they are easy to make.

We bought sheets of felt, two of each color. Menticia drew her own designs for dolls, cut them out (with 1/4" of clearance for sewing), and then we gave them faces with scraps of fabric, embroidery thread, buttons, and a glue-gun. We sewed the backs to the front (leaving a couple inches open), clipped the seams, turned them inside out, stuffed them, and sewed them closed.

How I wish I'd taken a picture of the cute little family she created before it left the house yesterday! Getting them all finished was such a whirlwind, I forgot to get out the camera.

Things her father taught her.

Hannah got me started reading Best of Craigslist and this one almost made me cry.

Things my father taught me
seattle-tacoma Date: 2008-04-13, 9:33AM PDT
  • The measurement of my finger from the tip to the first joint is 1 inch... depth for planting peas.
  • The measurement to the second joint is 2 inches... depth for corn.
  • Return borrowed things in better shape than when you borrowed them.
  • There are two types of is the trouble you knowingly walk into, the other is trouble that just's important to know the difference.
  • Walk softly but carry a big stick.
  • If you have to use said stick, make sure who you use it on, doesn't get up.
  • Grits is good.
  • Foul language is a sign of a limited vocabulary
  • Orion, the Big and Little Dippers.
  • Everyone is a friend until proven otherwise.
  • Licorice ferns, huckleberries, nettles, sword ferns.
  • Tabasco won't kill you even if you eat it by the spoonfull.
  • Don't watch the clock when you're at work.
  • Fish can see you if you look over the side of the boat.
  • Fish can hear you if you talk too loud.
  • Respect the elders.
  • Never go to bed angry.
  • That which does not kill you will hurt like the dickens, but it will make you stronger.
  • Family is the most important thing on earth.
  • How to play the guitar, spoons, mouth harp, and water filled bottles.
  • The true meaning of "Self Made Man"
  • If you don't know something, go to the library and learn it.
  • The phrases "I don't know", "I forgot", or "I tried (and failed)" are excuses.
  • There is a difference between an excuse and a reason, know the difference.
  • Take care of your apperance...even if it is just a t-shirt and jeans.
  • The world can change everything about you, except your point of view...unless you allow it to.
David L. McDonald
born 1936-passed 2008
precious father
beloved husband
A right good fellow.

Friday, December 19, 2008

[Hannah]: On the State of Medicine, 1860

"Throw out opium ... throw out a few specifics which our [physicians'] art did not discover, and is hardly needed to apply; throw out wine, which is a food, and the vapors which produced the miracle of anaesthesia, and I firmly believe that if the whole materia medica, as now used, could be sunk to the bottom of the sea, it would be all the better for mankind - and all the worse for the fishes."

-Oliver Wendell Holmes, quoted in James Harvey Young, Pure Food

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Monsanto wheedles Indian farmers into using seed which costs ten times as much and needs twice as much water. Crops fail.

Extracts from
Thousands of Indian farmers are committing suicide after using genetically modified crops
by Andrew Malone for the Daily Mail

... Indian farmers had been promised previously unheard of harvests and income if they switched from farming with traditional seeds to planting GM seeds instead.

Shankara became one of an estimated 125,000 farmers to take their own life as a result of the ruthless drive to use India as a testing ground for genetically modified crops.

Official figures from the Indian Ministry of Agriculture do indeed confirm that in a huge humanitarian crisis, more than 1,000 farmers kill themselves here each month.

Simple, rural people, they are dying slow, agonising deaths. Most swallow insecticide - a pricey substance they were promised they would not need when they were coerced into growing expensive GM crops.

Village after village, families told how they had fallen into debt after being persuaded to buy GM seeds instead of traditional cotton seeds.

The price difference is staggering: £10 for 100 grams of GM seed, compared with less than £10 for 1,000 times more traditional seeds.

But GM salesmen and government officials had promised farmers that these were 'magic seeds' - with better crops that would be free from parasites and insects.

Indeed, in a bid to promote the uptake of GM seeds, traditional varieties were banned from many government seed banks.

Far from being 'magic seeds', GM pest-proof 'breeds' of cotton have been devastated by bollworms, a voracious parasite.

Nor were the farmers told that these seeds require double the amount of water. This has proved a matter of life and death.

With rains failing for the past two years, many GM crops have simply withered and died, leaving the farmers with crippling debts and no means of paying them off.

When crops failed in the past, farmers could still save seeds and replant them the following year.

But with GM seeds they cannot do this. That's because GM seeds contain so- called 'terminator technology', meaning that they have been genetically modified so that the resulting crops do not produce viable seeds of their own.

As a result, farmers have to buy new seeds each year at the same punitive prices.

Here is a related article on Monsanto attempts to monopolize the seed market.

Open pollinated seed vs Monsanto genetic engineered seed: David and Goliath?

Extracts from
Monsanto's Destruction of Seed Cleaners and the Immense Threat to Human Access to Seeds
by Linn Cohen-Cole

Life itself depends on seeds. Multinational biotech corporations such as Monsanto have been genetically engineering them, promoting GE-seeds as producing better yields, helping the starving of the world, using less pesticides and as a boon to small farmers.

Independent studies already show crop failures and a link between GE-crops and organ damage and various diseases and it's clear they are designed to require petroleum-based pesticides and the use of pesticides has gone up with their use.

But even if the GE-seeds were wonderful and all that was promised, the real problem is the patents they come with.

In India, where Bt-cotton farmers have been committing suicide in huge numbers because of debt, Monsanto sells Bt-cotton seed at 1000% higher than normal seeds. [See extracts of article here.] The seeds come with a contract that must be signed, preventing farmers from collecting seeds off their own land at the end of the season - an historic rupture of humankind's free access to natural growth.

As astounding a move as that is, they are doing more. They are actively and aggressively and thoroughly removing access to normal "open pollinated" seeds, the ones we have known since the beginning of time, that farmers have collected and saved and shared among each other.

In the Midwest, where Monsanto sells GE-corn and GE-soy, it also bought up the "normal seed" companies so farmers no longer have places to go for normal corn or soy.

And though GE-corn cross pollinates with normal corn over miles and miles - so maintaining organic corn is nearly impossible now - if its GE-crop is found on a farmer's land, Monsanto sues.

Monsanto is now working to eliminate the last man standing between humans and corporate privatized seeds - the seed cleaner.

The farmers have had three choices - to buy normal seed (now almost gone), to buy GE-seeds at huge cost (and going up); or to collect their own seeds and use them the next season.

If a farmer has even 10 acres, collecting and cleaning those seeds is a huge task. If he has 1000, it would be an impossible task without the seed cleaner whose equipment can separate out seed in just a few hours and whose costs are 1/3 that of buying normal seed. The seed cleaner is the man who makes sustainable agriculture possible.

Monsanto is picking off seed cleaners now across the Midwest, in Missouri, in Indiana, and now in Illinois, where they are going after Steve Hixon.

Shortly after someone broke into Mr. Hixon's office and he found his account book on his truck seat where he would never have left it, every one of his remotely located and very scattered customers had three men arrive at each farm, going out onto it without permission, and serving close to 200 farmers.

Mr. Hixon, and state police who were called in, believe a GPS tracking device may have been put on Mr. Hixon's equipment. All of his customers are being sued and are being intensely pressured to settle, with the men coming back again and again and with daily calls and letters. It appears they are [asked to choose] between being sued or settling out of court or testifying against him that he encouraged them to clean GE-seeds.

The first words out of the judge's mouth when Moe Parr, a seed cleaner in Indiana was sued, were "It's a honor to have a fine company like Monsanto in my courtroom."

Monsanto is working closely with the FDA in redefining seeds as a potential health hazard, subject to bioterrorism, and under that rubric to create rules for importation (controlling access).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Success! Jethro stands under his tarp when it rains!

So the donkey who resolutely refuses to stand in his beautiful dry made-to-order shed will stand under a tarp. There's no accounting for tastes.



What not to get your loved ones for the holidays

Hannah sent me this best-of-craigslist post:

Wretched ill-natured panicky Guineas

I have more Guinea cock birds than hens, am kicking out the single dudes. One lavender and two "royal purple" birds available. Hatched mid-July. $10 each or $25 for all three. Or will trade for laying hens or possibly some other good-natured poultry, turkeys maybe, no peafowl.

Have been free-ranging, now penned in Guinea Alcatraz in my barn.

These birds have been hateful towards my laying pullets, and I do not recommend them if they will share a coop with chickens or other small poultry of other species. Maybe gamecocks. That would be karmic.

They aren't aggressive towards people, cats, or dogs -- but then, the people, cats, and dogs around here don't take crap from birds. They are not tame, and are still convinced after four months that I'm going to eat them in the morning. This is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

These birds do great tick and insect control, and don't tear up the garden the way chickens do. Not as filthy as most poultry.

They are very noisy. If your neighbor has a barking dog or annoying offspring, these would be fine revenge.

If you just find it amusing to see brainless alien freaks that look like old-style football helmets running around on tiny orange legs, they will fit the bill.

Buy my surplus ill-natured Guineas. They are too scrawny for Thanksgiving.