Saturday, July 03, 2004

lazy july saturday

There are a lot of things I want to write about: seeing Spider-Man 2 last night (it was great), launching a new website (, the hideous cost of the prescription creams I need to keep my psoriasis under control, politics, this, that. But I'll save those for another time, particularly the new site launch.

Instead, I want to post some photos. I haven't done that in a while. Sooner or later I'll actually get around to putting up galleries, but for now, this will have to do.

Twitch has been, well, twitchy lately, though it doesn't appear that way in either of these pictures. The first is of Twitch daydreaming when he's supposed to be supervising. Below, he contorts himself to try to catch that last ray of sunshine.

daydreaming cat

If there's a patch of sun coming through a window, Twitch will find it.

Twitch cat twisting in search of sunshine

I didn't do much of anything today. We slept in. I swept 25 pounds of dog and cat fur off the kitchen floor. I worked a bit on our company website because certain things were really bugging me. Then I went outside to work in the garden a bit, water the parched plants, throw the Frisbee for Ginger. It's one of those perfect, lazy summer Saturdays that seemed to last forever when I was a kid.

Ginger couldn't decide whether to stay in or go out.

sad eyes

She loves playing football -- I toss the football up the stairs and she guards it until I disappear from view, whereupon she sneaks it down the stairs and waits for me to chase her. She's pretty good at dodging.

ginger guarding her football

The only bad thing about today is that there are going to be fireworks tonight here in Norwalk, which will turn Ginger into a quivering mass of terror.

a view of the porchAfter a very slow start, things are starting to look summery. I will have a bumper crop of cosmos, it looks like. I planted some hellebore under the wisteria, and they seem to be doing quite well. The verbascum and rose campion that I planted last year were quite pretty when they bloomed, and the dianthus survived the winter even though I forgot I'd planted them and didn't mulch. The coral bells didn't bloom, though the plant is healthy. And there's a catalpa seedling that seems to sprout a foot overnight after I cut it back.

The cleomes are kind of iffy this year, but the nasturtium is starting to bloom and the blossoms are exquisite. The shrubs we received from Rare Bird Nursery seem to be taking quite well, except we really need to pick a place and just plant the black cherry.

impossible orange nasturtium

One of these days, I'm going to do a website using nothing but nasturtium colors and white.

purple flowerI think this flower is marsh mallow, but I'm not sure. Or it's some kind of a geranium. I'm poking through google trying to figure out what it is. I remember planting it a couple of years ago, but it didn't bloom until this year, and I just can't remember what it is. It's quite beautiful next to our cobalt blue glass birdbath, and oddly enough, doesn't look so bad next to the China red roses. (It's not a combination I would've planted deliberately.)
posted by lee on 07/03/04 at 04:25 PM
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Sunday, July 04, 2004

ah, i’d forgotten about this site

I remember going through You Grow Girl: Gardening for the People some time ago -- or at least I think I did (maybe a site with a similar name or purpose?) I was glancing through The Morning News's Editors' Awards for Online Excellence, which I got to through, oh hell, the trail would be almost stream-of-consciousness beginning with a Design by Fire entry I started reading ... oh yeah, a debate about liquid- vs. fixed-width page design. I'd gone through most of the comments when I realized it's a stupid debate (my take is you use what the site needs -- and sites rarely need to be liquid).


My big-leaf philodendron is not doing well at all. Not at all. So I've been googling around looking for a diagnosis. I thought maybe this sight might have some tips (if it does, I sure can't find any -- it's quite extensive and not very well organized). But I read a couple of "The Adequate Gardener" columns and laughed and decided to post this site so I don't forget about it again.

I'm glad it's supposed to rain tomorrow -- I am tired of the fireworks. The dog is exhausted; it takes a lot of energy to quiver for hours.

I wonder who got the bright idea to legalize fireworks in Connecticut again? Is there a sparkler lobby? Or maybe the legislature thinks the state is over-populated and legalizing fireworks is one way to thin the herd, or at least maim the herd so it can't reproduce as prolifically. I'm not talking about the fireworks displays various cities and organizations produce. I'm talking about fireworks you can buy down at the abandoned CVS so you can bring stuff home to blow up in your own back yard.

Maybe the same people buy them that don't mind sitting in traffic for two hours for the chance to park in a spot that cost $30 per car, sitting on the beach for an hour listening to lousy band music, watching a 20-minute display where the only cool part is the final three-minute "let's get rid of this crap and go home" extravaganza, then sitting for another two hours in traffic ... you get my drift. I wonder how this rather bizarre tradition started -- fireworks for Independence Day, I mean.

We watched two movies this weekend: Secondhand Lions and Panic. (I mean, besides Spider-Man 2, which was great.) Secondhand Lions was hokey as hell but very good, very funny. The cinematography was wonderful. Panic, the one starring William H. Macy and about his character going through a mid-life crisis (I'm over-simplifying, but not by much), was kind of strange. Very slow in parts and, in the end, not very meaty. There wasn't enough about anyone to make me care about the outcome. Or maybe I was just not in the mood for watching yet another middle-aged white man with a good life sitting on his pity pot. I mean, just because he couldn't tell daddy he was really, really quitting the hit man business ... The more interesting story in this whole thing was Macy's mother, who set up his father in this family business. What is that all about?

One more day of weekend. And hopefully I'll have time to come up with comp two for a project we're working on -- it's running around in my head (and I'm fairly pleased with comp one, so maybe it's a good sign) and just waiting to be put down on photoshop.
posted by lee on 07/04/04 at 11:13 PM
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Monday, July 05, 2004

really bad acting

Stanley got three right, I got one right, and neither of us could figure out one of them playing Good Scenes Gone Bad 7: Death Scenes -- from I Am Bored -- a site that lists sites to go to when you're bored. Mostly very stupid stuff.
posted by lee on 07/05/04 at 11:03 AM
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Tuesday, July 06, 2004


Fireworks on the 4th of July is an old (by US standards) tradition: A Capitol Fourth . History of the Fourth | PBS

On July 8, 1776, the first public readings of the Declaration were held in Philadelphia's Independence Square to the ringing of bells and band music. One year later, on July 4, 1777, Philadelphia marked Independence Day by adjourning Congress and celebrating with bonfires, bells and fireworks.

There. Now back to work w' me ...
posted by lee on 07/06/04 at 12:27 PM
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A Thief of Time

Oh joy! PBS is premiering A Thief of Time on Sunday. So far Robert Redford et al. are doing an excellent job on Tony Hillerman's novels. We weren't even expecting it until November -- I greedily hope they hurry up and do the rest of the novels.

Hillerman's next Leaphorn/Chee novel is called Skeleton Man. I have no idea what it's supposed to be about. It's not due to be published until the end of November 2004. I've already pre-ordered it.
posted by lee on 07/06/04 at 10:39 PM
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Wednesday, July 07, 2004

hope for democracy?

Kerry made the best choice for running mate. With his choice of Edwards for VP, I was startled to notice that I was actually feeling some hope for November. For maybe even the next sixteen years.

The one thing I don't understand, though, is why all the windbags are clucking about Edwards being inexperienced, lack of foreign policy expertise, etc. and blah blah blah. Like Bush had any experience in foreign relations? Even the mighty Clinton was a governor -- not exactly well-versed in foreign relations. Nor did the recently sainted Reagan come to office with a track record in foreign relations.

What Edwards has is decency and brains. He's already more than amply demonstrated that he has the ability to learn fast and think on his feet.

So now that Kerry has chosen Edwards, I'm actually getting excited about this campaign. Which makes me think about the windbags claiming that the person running for VP doesn't influence who voters select. It matters to me, and I hardly think I'm unique. I think it will matter to a lot of voters who were having trouble warming up to Kerry.

Yep, John Edwards is a great choice for Vice President. I already ordered my Kerry-Edwards bumper sticker.
posted by lee on 07/07/04 at 10:29 AM
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Saturday, July 10, 2004

ghost stories

I was longing for a good novel, preferably one of those good British ghost stories since the Brits seem to do those so well. I was at the library skimming one of those "Upcoming Books" newspapers that the libe always has, and came across a little article about The Ghost Writer, by John Harwood. It said he is Australian, and this is his first novel:
Gerard Freeman, at age ten, sneaks into his mother's room and unlocks a secret drawer, only to find a picture of a woman he has never seen before, but one that he will find again and again. His mother discovers him and gives him the beating of his life. Why this excessive reaction? She is a worried, paranoid, thin, and fretful type with an "anxious, haunted look." By tale's end, we know why.

Phyllis Freeman, Gerard's mother, was happiest when speaking fondly of Staplefield, her childhood home, where there were things they "didnt have in Mawson [Australia], chaffinches and mayflies and foxgloves and hawthorn, coopers and farriers and old Mr. Bartholomew who delivered fresh milk and eggs to their house with his horse and cart." It's the sort of childhood idyll that the timid and lonely Gerard believes in and longs for. He strikes up a correspondence with an English "penfriend," Alice Jessel, when he is 13 and a half, living in a desolate place with a frantic mother and a silent father. She is his age, her parents were killed in an accident and she has been crippled by it. She now lives in an institution, whose grounds she describes as much the way Staplefield looked. They go through young adulthood together, in letters only, thousands of miles apart, eventually declaring their love for one another.

Interwoven with the narrative of Alice and Gerard's letters are real ghost stories, the creation of Gerard's great-grandmother, Viola. At first, they seem to be scary Victorian tales of the supernatural. Then, we see that they have a spooky way of mirroring, or preceding, events in real life, off the page. Gerard comes upon them, one by one, in mysterious ways, but clearly something, or someone, is leading him. The stories seem to implicate his mother in some nefarious goings-on, but the truth is far worse than Gerard imagines.
I guess an Australian writing about British ghosts is close enough. A quick check of the card catalog and I find that it is in, somewhere among the recently returned books. The librarian dug it out of the pile for me and I stashed it for a couple of days. I started reading it last night, about 2:00 am, after I finished getting up a placeholder page ( that turned out to be a little more complex than I'd anticipated (part of it is in Spanish). I figured I'd read for an hour or so.

At 7:30 am, I put the book down. The spirit was willing to keep reading, but the eyes just wouldn't stay open. I'm finished with Part One and looking forward to the rest of the book. The writing is quite good, especially considering it's really two styles of writing: modern day and Victorian era, by a Victorian woman no less. The main character's grandmother, or I think it was his grandmother, wrote ghost stories, which Harwood actually provides instead of alluding to (which I think is great). And he's good at writing in the styles of both eras.

I rarely read the night through any more, mainly because my "Want to Do, Need to Do" lists are longer than my days. I succumbed last night, paying the penance today of a not-enough-sleep headache. The book just grabbed me and wouldn't let go. I'm at the point where I'm wild to finish it (though I can't read through the night again -- have to get up early tomorrow), but also dreading the end. Because it will be over. I hope the second half is as good as the first half promises.

This site looks very interesting, and I'm trying to remember to explore it more: Renegade Gardener. The RG is Don Engebretson.

One of the RG's 10 Tenets of Gardening is "Renegade Gardeners come to realize that lawns are essentially a dumb idea." Which I agree with. I love our backyard when the mowing gets pushed off (either due to lots of rain or extreme busy-ness) and turns into a meadow. This spring it was gorgeous, with all kinds of wildflowers that I don't remember seeing in the yard before. I would love to get rid of even more of the lawn area by planting tall grasses and more wildflowers. Maybe along the edges.

My father, on the other hand, works diligently to make his lawn ever larger. But that's another tale.

Anyway, the RG is really geared for gardeners in zones 2-4, and we're in zone 6, but there's a lot of good information there, and tips on landscaping that I wish more people would read.

We're going out to brunch with our friend Helene and, hopefully we'll get to the Town House Museum here in Norwalk, which currently has an exhibit about the Great Fire (I think it's when the British burned down the town during the Revolution). It's only open on Sundays between 1 and 4. I've been thinking about going to this little museum area for only about ten years or so. It's actually part of the Mill Hill Historic Park and Museum, run by the Norwalk Historical Society (the website is horrible, but it does have some information about the place) and has a name that's much grander than the square acreage of the site itself. It has three buildings: Town House (c. 1835), Little Red School House (c. 1826), and Governor Fitch Law Office (c.1740). I know nothing about these buildings, yet, or much about local Revolutionary War history. Norwalk is famous for being the birthplace of Yankee Doodle Dandy, which pre-dated the Revolution by 20 years.

I hope the visit is interesting. I wonder if they have more information about our house, which was originally an outbuilding on the Norwalk Poor Farm, built c. 1826. It's a true Yankee house now as owners over the years have added to it as necessary, in the most economical way possible -- not shoddy, just Yankee. It's got a bit of a bizarre layout to it, but I think that's what I love about it. I would love to find some old sketches or photos of the house, preWWII or even earlier would be wonderful.
posted by lee on 07/10/04 at 06:30 PM
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Sunday, July 11, 2004

what’s that weed?

Rutgets has a useful weed identification site. It lists many of the most common weeds found in New Jersey (and probably the entire Northeast), though is by no means exhaustive. Of course, one person's weed is another's wildflower, so ...
posted by lee on 07/11/04 at 07:29 AM
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when groundhogs attack

I would've laughed at this article if I'd seen it yesterday. But not after this morning. Rabies shots not required for groundhog attack victim.

"The tenacious animal tried to attack his two poodles, which were tied to a fence, and then charged at him after being shooed away. It charged two more times, after being kicked and hit by a shovel."

However, a groundhog tried to sink its fangs into Ginger's snout today, then turned its attention to rushing Stanley. I was stunned. Read about it, and see a picture of the creature, on Puppet Press Journal. Talk about feisty, geez.
posted by lee on 07/11/04 at 06:00 PM
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Monday, July 12, 2004

Ann Telnaes at the LC

Humor's Edge: Cartoons by Ann Telnaes is a current exhibit at the Library of Congress. The exhibit notes say
"Humor's Edge celebrates Ann Telnaes's generous gift to the Library of Congress of eighty-one original drawings that represent the range of themes that engage this gifted artist who has recently emerged as a leader in American editorial cartooning. An artist who bravely criticizes the actions and words of powerful public figures, Telnaes takes stands on complex, divisive issues and affirms the editorial cartoon as a potent means of expressing opinions and illuminating issues of the day."

Telnaes is one of only two women to win the Pulitzer for editorial cartoons. You can also see a weekly cartoon by her on Women's eNews.

One of my favorite of her cartoons is below; I think she captured perfectly the obscenity of the cabal of rich white men imposing their ignorance and self-righteousness on more than half the inhabitants of this country.

The online version of the exhibit is annotated, providing some context, but weirdly structured and in some cases badly written (for example, the notes for one cartoon about the crowded field of Democratic candidates seems to be suggesting that Telnaes's cartoon, "Lose the Dead Weight," was responsible for two of the candidates dropping out.)

The navigation is confusing -- it took me a while to figure out how to get around the site. It's a pity the archivists didn't take more care designing and architecting the online exhibit. It's almost as if the author(s) don't understand the medium -- I also looked at the Pat Oliphant exhibit (he won the Pulitzer in 1966 for his editorial cartoons) and he didn't fare any better. Actually, looking at Herblock's exhibit, and I see a pattern -- as if the designer came up with a template and stopped thinking. Ah, yes, I see, .dwt (Dreamweaver template). Though I guess I shouldn't expect too much from a government site, which has its own set of rules (Section 508 etc.) Although the National Gallery of Art is a gov site, but has a good collection of well-done exhibits, both "quick" tours and in-depth studies.

The full list of LC web exhibits is here. Good synopses and examples, but no depth.
posted by lee on 07/12/04 at 05:54 PM
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