Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Alone of its kind, we found one fringed florist's anemone in bloom, amidst the tall grass. It stands out very well against the allium leaves and the dormant lawn. This is a returnee. We've seen no other buds on any of the ranunculus or anemone plants. Some of the leaves of both types have been tinged with pink because of changes in the sugars in them caused by temperatures in the low thirties. We are seeing the first fat bud stalks rising up from the Montopolis and Bastrop narcissus.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Neat conceit

It's a stroke of genius to display filmy, light-weight garments held aloft by the helium balloons on strings that are visible inside them. This is a two-page spread in the February Interview magazine. Interview has no decent Web site up right now. There appears to be no Photoshop work to speak of done on this illustration. The photo credit goes to Phillip Toledano and "Revel in revelation" bears the byline of Brendan Lemon, of The image is beautiful and intriguing. Check out page 69.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Belongs with stringers and risers

If I ever knew this word, I had forgotten it. It's used twice in a memoir about the Waugh family. My vocabulary of architectural, carpentry, joinery, and related terms is large, but I had to look up perron. Why I know so many terms of these kinds, I can't say. I think they must have been learned from tagging along with the grown-ups.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Glad right away, just for these two

KO-OP 91.7-FM radio is back. It was a treat to hear Space Cowboy (Steve Miller Band), which created time-travel back to the Fillmore. And then there was Beyond Viet Nam, a speech broadcast in its entirety as delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a year before his death. I can't believe that I had never read or heard this one before. People in power and people seeking national elective office shold read this one; it speaks to our time. It's clear that Dr. King shared with me the experience of being one of the last group of schoolkids exposed to a nineteenth-century education. It must be a function of exposure to nineteenth-century schoolbooks. In his peroration, he even quotes one of the famous verses of James Russell Lowell. Courtesy of the same American Rhetoric site, I've learned that a speech by Jesse Jackson is included in its selection of one hundred top speeches. I have never fogotten these words: "They catch the early bus. They work every day." And I'm pleased to know that these words are preserved. I see that I was not alone in believing that they spoke directly to me.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

All given away

There's a wonderful appreciation of David Macauley and his books in the Janary 30 issue of The New Republic (byline Peter N. Miller). It's not available on line, at least at this time. I love these books. I've given them as gifts time after time. The only one that I own myself at this time is The Way Things Work, evidently since reissued and altered substantially. I've always wondered how many copies of these are sold. I think they've all remained in print. Maybe it's time to acquire them all again for myself. The occasion of the article was the exhibition of Macauley drawings at the National Museum of Building. From the museum shop pages, I find that an old favorite of mine, the Lamy Safari fountain pen, is still made, although it costs much more than it used to. Mine was a burnt-orange color with a black bail or clip. Here's the publisher's list of books in print.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


The Flashman books, all bought at Congress Avenue, were passed along and never made their way back. Somewhere, someone's reading them, I have no doubt. And now George MacDonald Fraser has moved on to another plane of existence. The Flashman stories are uneven from book to book and from segment to segment within some individual books. Some find them unreadable. A liking for historical fiction, the nineteenth century, and postage stamps of the British Empire seems to correlate well with a taste for Flashman. When I was trying to remember the name of a prolific author of big fat books set in Colonial times, some in Maine, I ran across this funny annotated list created for a public library in Maine; included on it are mysteries and even so-called "bodice-ripper" romances, just so long as they're setting is regional. Before I scrolled down that far on the list (and it seems to end abruptly and prematurely), I remembered that Kenneth Roberts was the name I was looking for. Every novel was on the library shelves and I read them all. They were favorites because they were l-o-n-g. I think I read all the Thomas B. Costain fiction and some of the non-fiction. I wonder what I'd think of any of these now. Anyhow, the Flashman books and the Aubrey-Maturin series were the first and last excursions into this sort of escape in a long time. I think, from reading various obituaries for GMcDF, that there are non-Flashman books he wrote that I'd enjoy.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Handbasket department plus factoid

We're sending the ruins of our industrial past to help other nations erect the beginnings of their industrial futures. The entire text of "American Scrap" (by John Seabrook; The New Yorker; January 11) is not on line but it's certainly worth paying for a newsstand issue, new or used, just to read this. Many of the terms used in the scrap trade are one-word creations devised during the age of the telegram, in order to save space and therefore money.

Monday, January 21, 2008

What happened in that bathtub

"They" are at it again, bowdlerizing jump-rope and nursery rhymes. In some versions, a turtle has been substituted for Tiny Tim. In others, Tiny Tim still stars, but he does not die. Here's one cleaned-up version:
Tiny Tim
I had a little brother, his name was Tiny Tim.
I put him in the bathtub to see if he could swim.
He drank up all the water, he ate up all the soap.
And now he's home sick in bed with bubbles in his throat.
In came the doctor, in came the nurse.
In came the lady with the alligator purse.
"Measles," said the doctor,
"Mumps," said the nurse.
"Chicken pox," said the lady with the alligator purse.
I don't want the doctor, I don't want the nurse.
I don't want the lady with the alligator purse.
Everybody knows that he died last night with a bubble in his throat. And the doctor, nurse, and lady with the purse all said "dead," and then "out went the doctor, out went the nurse, out went the lady with the alligator purse." An alternate is "in came the lady with the big fat purse" and "out went the lady with the little skinny purse."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Not for the nightshades

The newish volunteer tomato plants and the aging tomato survivors have done fine in this cold weather. The last of the potato shoots, though, withered up and is no more. This is a little surprising; I'd have thought that the potatoes would be hardier than their cousins. Maybe there's a slight difference in microclimates, ground warmth, altitude, or exposure to the wind.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Not so easily found

This JamCam photograph shows why I had to resort to ReaderWare and create a database to keep track of everything. By rearranging and being organized, I could no longer find anything without thinking hard about where it had been placed. I had to give every section of shelf a number, every individual shelf another number, and every room a two-letter designation to serve as a prefix for the shelf section and invidual shelf numbers. Some locations are less difficult to remember than others, but there are those that require the computer to be booted up and ReaderWare opened, which takes time, but less time than trying to reconstruct the logic behind the relocation and what the newer location might be. So much for being "organized." I now understand why I subscribe to the "neat heap" theory of organizing paperwork on a desktop.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Easily found

Back when this JamCam picture was taken, it was simple and quick to locate items on this section of bookshelves. On these shelves, nothing much had changed for ages. I could go straight to a particular item. Then I decided to reorganize in a more systematic fashion. This didn't really turn out well.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Family genealogical tales confirmed

Yes; there really were those in the family who were, mostly all at the same time, farmers, country hotel- and tavern-keepers, fiddlers, and horse-dealers, for at least two generations. There were two different country hotels, but both in the same county. This has been confirmed by an on-line obituary happened across entirely by chance, for my mother's father's uncle, born in 1870. My grandfather was named after one of his mother's younger brothers. That brother named his son Delos and it must be supposed that it was after the birthplace of Apollo.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Refraining from the obvious puns

My favorite recent one is local: "ham jive." We've been doing the crazy ham jive, too. Apart from what Elmar Prambs produces for the Four Seasons in the way of bacon, ham, sausages, and the like, I haven't seen any ham that tempts since the days when a co-worker used to bring it in from a smokehouse somewhere around Beeville. But now, we can do the crazy hand jive out of ham-jive happiness, because we've found Alderfer's, and entirely by accident. Somebody on the holiday gift list demands Schafer's bologna, and the chubs are available only from Alderfer's, which bought out the old brand but continues to produce the baloney. On impulse, we decided to try a ham. Our trial item was the classic carver. It's beautiful and beautifully trimmed, although not quite so smoky as the Beeville product, with great flavor and texture. There's an extra shipping charge, but the packing is extremely protective and well worth it. We'll do this again. So, thank you, Johnny Otis, and thank you, Alderfer's.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


What once was referred to as a truncheon became a billy club and is now a harmless-sounding baton, although no kinder and gentler. Calling it something else doesn't make it something else.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Crafty (or should that be artsy?) development

When I first found them, they were ArtSkills. In addition to the foam brushes first written about, I've picked up additional examples of these irresistable items: (1) "Creative Crafts, Great for Craft Projects, Over 300 Pieces"; (2) "Eye Catchers, Add Excitement to Your Posters!, 80 Shapes!"; (3) "Stencil Kit, Letters, Numbers, & Shapes!, Bonus 1: Mini Stencils!; (4) "Quick Letters, Just Peel 'n' Stick!, 300+ pieces, and (5) "Double Ended!, Neon Markers, Jumbo tips!, 8 Bright Neon Colors." There are two versions of the Eye Catchers: one set has a heart shape and one doesn't; one set has holographic surfaces, one doesn't. The more recent a set, the more exclamation points are employed. There are two versions of the ArtSkills logotype: the first is a small white oval with the brand inside it; the second has a much larger "ArtSkills" without an oval and with a paint brush serving as an exclamation point. The third and most recent versions still mention ArtSkills on the back, but the expression is not seen on the front; what's there is "Make A Poster." I haven't had the heart to open and use any of these; they're just too decorative as they are. The ArtSkills site is apparently in the process of being redesigned. I find these items at the supermarket and at the drug store.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Green spears

The species tulips with the leaves of a lighter green are now appearing. I think that usually they appear before the tulips with the darker-green leaves. Of course, I don't remember which kind is which; one is definitely Lilac Wonder and the other, mostly Tubergen's Gem. Hyacinth leaves are now appearing in more places. There are still only the two blooming stalks of paperwhite narcissus. Everything else in bloom is left over from an earlier time of year: geranium, fennel, nasturtium, asclepias, and chile. And there are still loquat flowers open because they've not yet been pollinated. Everywhere there are green lacewings. Have they propagated themselves? Or did someone release some at this not-great time of year?

Thursday, January 10, 2008


She was always a mystery. Other items on the walls where I spent a lot of time as a kid were recognizable. There were oil, pastel, acrylic, and watercolor works of no great distinction done by friends of the house, several of them depicting the local surroundings. There was a very large oil painting of a farewell in the nineteenth century; was the son going to war? to the big city? was it a copy of a well-known print or painting of the time? There was a panoramic souvenir of the cast of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show from some era or another, most posed on horseback and some in plains feather bonnets. There was a large fraktur-like poster of the ages of man. There was a print of the drawbridge painted by van Gogh. There was a print of The Angelus. And there was a print of the head of a woman in a red head-covering. I never saw it in any art-appreciation books. I always assumed that the original may have been a pre-Raphaelite something-or-other. Now I know that it's a copy of an original by French painter Jean-Jacques Henner. The subject is Saint Fabiola and the original work has somehow vanished. There's an exhibition at the Hispanic Society in Manhattan of a collection of copies of the Saint Fabiola painting. This is one of life's little mysteries solved.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Green, green grasshopper of home

We found him in a juice glass in the dish drainer this morning. He was very bright in color. I can only guess that he came indoors with the two sacks of seeds from the non-purple-podded hyacinth bean, mostly from one vine that's now pretty frost-damaged, although there seems to be some life in the vine itself, so I'm leaving it up, to allow it to put forth fresh leaves and blossoms if it so desires. We've suffered a bit of a grasshopper plague around here for two or three years, although diminished this summer: all sizes, all colors. We carried this guy outdoors; maybe he or she will somehow start a fresh colony in a different part of the pleasure grounds but we didn't want the return to be to the grasshopper epicenter.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


What they say about travel ("he travels the fastest who travels alone") is just as true of putting all those pieces together, even when the chart is clear, the pieces are all there, the slots and bolt-holes are aligned, and the tool furnished is useful. Unless the article being assembled is a heavy piece of furniture that requires a second person to be there to hold something in place, I want not a soul around while I'm at work of this sort. Even when a second person is required, that person should follow instructions exactly and say nothing at all. Just ahead of the frost, the nesting plant stands were ready. They are sturdy and handsome and useful, and I was pleased to be able to deal with them by myself. That's what makes a speedy assembler and a happy one.

Monday, January 07, 2008

In what universe?

What the transcript doesn't show is that the "laughter" was derisive. Others are talking about this, as well, although I've found no commentary on Gibson's little question about two college professors bringing home $200,000 a year. He then, at a later point, refers to teachers in the public schools. With whom does he associate? I suppose he thinks of "middle class" as being those who bring home a million or so a year. Following are excerpts:
MR. GIBSON: We have an energy problem in the cost of energy. And we now have a jobs problem. We have, when we are -- and you raised the "R" word, "recession" -- when we are approaching recession, it is consumers who have spent us out of recession in most cases. You're all talking about letting some of the Bush tax cuts lapse.
SEN. CLINTON: Yeah, but Charlie, the tax cuts on the wealthiest of Americans, not the middle-class tax cuts. One of the problems with George Bush's tax policy has been the way he has tilted it toward the wealthy and the well-connected.
MR. GIBSON: If you take a family of -- if you take a family of two professors here at Saint Anselm, they're going to be in the $200,000 category that you're talking about lifting the taxes on. And -- (laughter).
MR. EDWARDS: I don't think they agree with you.
SEN. OBAMA: I'm not sure that that's -- (laughter) --
SEN. CLINTON: That may be NYU, Charlie.
I don't think it's -- (laughter) -- Saint Anselm.
MR. GIBSON: Two public school teachers in New York? (Laughter.)
Here's more:
MR. EDWARDS: Thank you.
What you see happening in America today, if you're president of the United States and you're looking at this from altitude is you see a very few Americans getting wealthier and wealthier, you see the biggest corporations in America's profits through the roof -- ExxonMobil just made $40 billion, record profits -- all of that happening at the same time that we have 47 million people with no health care, 37 million who will wake up in this country tomorrow worried about feeding and clothing their children. Tonight, 200,000 men and women who wore the uniform of the United States of America and served this country honorably will go to sleep under bridges and on grates.
It's time for us to say and it's time for the president to say enough is enough. This is a battle for the future of our children. This is a battle for the middle class.
Let's take jobs, which we haven't talked about. We've touched on a lot of other things, but we haven't talked about jobs. We've had a trade and tax policy that is bleeding American jobs, and all it has done is pad the profits of the biggest multinational corporations in America. You talk about professors here at this college. Let me say a word about --
MR. GIBSON: Well, I shouldn't have done that, apparently.
MR. EDWARDS: Yeah -- (laughter).
This is a person asking questions who has no idea of what life is like for most people and no idea of the pittances paid to those not among the select few.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Guardar rencor

This phrase is used all the time in the telenovelas. The only dictionary definition I find of it is "to bear malice." I think of it more as to nurse a grudge. When an on-line search is conducted, most of the results seem to be from homilies and sermons on the subject of forgiveness. It appears that an English-language cognate for rencor would be rancor.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

"On behalf of himself and others similarly situated"

I think that this is language used in bringing class-action suits. At any rate, I don't wage consumer or citizen battle just for myself. I always think that, if something happened to me that wasn't consonant with good business practice or fairness to buyers or to citizens of a governmental jurisdiction or the like, it has probably happened to other people, also. Even if I don't care all that much in a particular instance or even if no great monetary or other damage was suffered by me personally, I feel outragei and want to keep whatever it is from happening to me again or to someone less articulate and willing or able to do battle. Looking back on the year now concluded, I can remember several instances where apologies were issued or wrongs were made right or even compensation was conveyed. Worth the effort? I'm not so sure. It's my intention not to devote so much effort to such issues in 2008. It's a matter of time and prorities. Nevertheless, I'm not ruling anything out!

Friday, January 04, 2008

The collywobbles

Nobody's proud to be a fraidy-cat dental patient. I show none of the usual outward signs: no tensing or groaning or anything like that. Sometimes, I must go pale, though, because there are occasions when there's a pause and I'm asked whether I'm all right. When I arise from the chair, I always feel weak, as though I've been through some terrible ordeal, even when there's no pain and very little noise. Upon encountering a new dental assistant, there's the little spiel about flossing, until the assistant tries it and usually remarks on the closeness of the teeth and goes right for the waxed stuff and still has trouble. Anyhow, it's done for this time around. Whew!

Thursday, January 03, 2008


This is the cognate to Hyacinth, once a masculine name in our culture. The story of Hyacinth was in the past well known to schoolkids. In The Princess Casamassima, there's a Hyacinth. Anyhow, just as the leaves from the ornamental pear tree around which they're planted are halfway fallen, we see the first appearance of several hyacinth leaves. I think there are some on the oak motte, too, but somebody else thinks those are something else altogether, lycoris squamigera or amaryllis hallii, which does bloom for us every once in a while.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Playing chicken with the weather

So far, old mattress covers, bedsheets, and towels have been saving the outdoor plants in pots, even tomatos. Those in the ground are left to survive as best they can. The outdoor potted plants have intertwined their roots and their growth so much that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to move most of them indoors, even if there were room to do so. The truly tender have been indoors for about a week now, and we're not counting nasturtiums, chiles, milkweed, or many others as "tender." The clockvine on the fence has joined the hyacinth bean monstrostity in being nearly withered away from the cold so far. We have flirted with frosts and even with frosts that, had they lasted for an extended period, would have been killing frosts, but so far not even the St. Augustine has gone dormant, remaining green, although I wouldn't say it's been growing.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Homogenous crowd

Among activities considered was walking over to see the parade, but the only First Night manifestations experienced first-hand were the pyrotechnic displays, handsome as always, although this year not extravagant. The midnight exhibition was partly concurrent with and partly followed by quite a colorful and noisy private display a considerable distance to the south and east, and seeming to attain higher elevation. Everyone has been remarking how Caucasian the First Night attendee populace was.