Wednesday, June 30, 2010

design & construction by leo

Leo decided Papa Jim needed a place to put his BBQ grill, so he designed and built it. Not only that, he created a place for horseshoe tournament viewers to sit and watch. I love, love, love the patterns and the colors and can’t wait to check them out “in person” in August.

Leo started the work one weekend and then went up to Oscoda to finish the job when school got out for the year
Leo started the work one weekend and then went up to Oscoda to finish the job when school got out for the year. (click to enlarge) photo by Jim Fleming

The completed patio, June 29, 2010
The completed patio, June 29, 2010.  (click to enlarge) photo by Jim Fleming

Leo Robertson, designer and builder.
Leo Robertson, designer and builder.  (click to enlarge) photo by Jim Fleming

Leo also added an observation area to watch the horseshoe tournaments
Leo also added an observation area to watch the horseshoe tournaments.  (click to enlarge) photo by Jim Fleming

posted by lee on 06/30/10 at 03:00 AM

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Friday, June 25, 2010

modern superstition

Michael Specter was on Colbert tonight, and he managed to get some thoughts out that interested me. Specter is a journalist who recently released his book Denialism, which is about how irrational thinking harms us.

He asks questions like, “Why are we afraid of genetically modified food? Why do we take vitamins, most of which do nothing more than produce expensive, dark-colored piss? Why would a government leader let his people starve rather than allow in genetically modified wheat?  ... ” He talks about our mistrust in institutions such as government and the medical establishment, and how even intelligent people succumb to belief in anecdotes over facts and can’t grasp that correlation is not the same as causation. How most of our irrational thinking is driven by fear.

At any rate, he gave a TED presentation, so I watched it:

He is right—it is hideously difficult to ignore anecdotal “evidence.” There is, for me, always an undercurrent of “Well, what if ‘They’ are wrong? What if future studies prove acupuncture works, or visualization is the key to wealth, that taking this or that vitamin every day really will stave off this or that particular disease ... or my knees started feeling worse when I stopped taking that supplement, so that supplement must work—for me?” I guess it’s only natural to hedge, but at what point does hedging become no better than appeasing the angry gods so the crops will grow again? I am a skeptic by nature, but it’s so hard to ignore the anecdotes, especially when they’re either my own or those of someone I know well and believe is intelligent. I bet even the most rock-solid, scientific method or nothing scientists have a superstition or two that he or she clings to in the face of evidence to the contrary.

I do plan on reading the book—even sent the sample to my Kindle (I absolutely love my Kindle—but that’s another post some day ... ) and if the sample intrigues me as much as his appearances and articles from the New Yorker, I might even fork out the $14.99 to buy it (that’s an outrageous price for an e-book ... but I digress yet again.) He’s certainly gotten me thinking about stuff, though.

posted by lee on 06/25/10 at 04:56 AM

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Sunday, June 06, 2010

bingo would love this so much

She never tires of chasing the tennis ball. So yes, she would love this:

She’s pretty adept at putting the ball into my hand when she wants me to throw it, so I’m sure it would take her about 20 seconds to master this contraption. Once she got over her fear of the noise it makes, that is!

posted by lee on 06/06/10 at 03:57 AM

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

ok go from nasa via spaceweather

Happy June. I think.

This utoob video of OK Go singing “This Too Shall Pass” comes via a NASA blog, which I arrived at by clicking a link on Spaceweather after I clicked a link in my email about noctilucent clouds over Europe. Sometimes I feel like I’m on a Rube Goldberg trip as I click my way through the interwebs, which is fine with me since I just love Rube Goldberg contraptions—and I love this video. Would’ve been fun to be on the team.


Sometimes it’s just necessary to take a break from all the horror stories.

posted by lee on 06/03/10 at 02:58 PM

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

of kittens and hot may nights

Right now it’s 81° at just past 1 a.m. on a May night. May! It was 96° around 6 p.m. today. It normally gets up to 71-75° this time of year. Today it’s only supposed to get up to 79-80°. Strange weather.

We had a bit of excitement on Sunday—our neighbor Reneev and Stanley fished two tiny kittens from behind some shrubs next to Reneev’s garage. We noticed a black cat hanging around for a few weeks, so we figured they were her kittens. Another neighbor said there are four, but Blackie apparently moved a couple of them and two of them ended up in the street—not a good place given the insane and illegal traffic on our street. Don’t know where the other two ended up, but Stanley and I ended up with the two that were rescued. They looked for the other two, but they’re well hidden.


The kitties were about four or five weeks old. There is no way we could keep them—it just wouldn’t be fair to our gang of four, though Bingo was ridiculously in love with one of the kitties and probably would’ve adopted it. Bingo is a cat lover anyway.

We called Save Our Strays on Monday. They don’t save OUR strays—they only rescue animals about to be killed from New York. So they wouldn’t take them. They suggested we call PAWS here in Norwalk. We did, but the cat person wouldn’t be available for at least two days and could we please foster them until the cat person called. Well, no, we couldn’t unless we really had to—we attach way too quickly to the creatures in our life (except mice) and two days may as well have been 10 years ... So we called the Connecticut Humane Society in Westport, who took them and assured us they’d be adopted pretty fast. It cost us $20, which we would’ve donated to whichever rescue group took them anyway, and we gave them a small carrier that we didn’t need anymore (Slink is too big for it and Twitch knows how to open it and escape). We love the Human Society anyway since we got both Twitch and Ginger there.

grey kittie
This little kittie tried to play with Bingo, who was crazy about it.

The girls at the Humane Society named them Ross and Rachel, which cracked me up. We’re paying attention to see if we can find the other kittens—they must be around somewhere since Blackie keeps appearing. I don’t think Mom cat is feral—doesn’t act like a feral cat—but Stanley can’t get close to it. But we sure don’t need three wild cats hanging around so I would love to be able to find the other two and even catch Blackie, though nobody will take her if she really is feral. Too bad there’s nothing we can put out in some cat food to sterilize her so she doesn’t gift the world with more litters.

The roses climbing over the trellis this summer are so beautiful. The peonies are blooming, too, at least the ones on the sunny end.

With one light setting. (click to enlarge)

No flash on this one. (click to enlarge)

The peonies are more than two weeks early—they usually bloom in June. What’s really weird is none of our irises came up this year—I have no idea why as usually once those are established it’s very difficult to kill them. Maybe rabbits like them?

posted by lee on 05/27/10 at 05:16 AM

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

sunday break

We should’ve spent today getting the garden ready for the tomato plants—though last weekend is when we planned to but thank goodness we didn’t. We had a frost last week. Today a project supersedes gardening as we have to pay the mortgage. But we took a break.

Bingo is ready to play ball
Bingo is ready to play ball—always. (click to enlarge)

Ruby smelling the flowers
Ruby, on the other hand, would rather look for things to eat. Like mushrooms. Too bad truffles don’t grow here. (click to enlarge)

Bingo, throw it
Oh please oh please throw it oh please (click to enlarge)

Ruby surveying her domain
Keeping an eye on Stanley (click to enlarge)

Bingo resting
Here is a rare shot of Bingo at rest. (click to enlarge)

Ruby loves the world
Ruby is many times utterly content to just sit and love her world. (click to enlarge)

Roses are blooming—earlier this year than usual by about two weeks. And the false indigo is also early. The roses smell wonderful—there is one on my desk right now and I can enjoy the scent as I write this.

False Indigo
My false indigo is blooming nearly two weeks earlier than it should be. And there are lots of buds on the peonies this year—last year they were disappointing. (click to enlarge)

climbing roses
The climbing roses are loaded with buds already. I love the color—especially in the twilight because they just seems to glow. (click to enlarge)

wall o green
We planted these trees about five or six years ago and they were, at the time, maybe a foot tall. It seems like they really grew a lot this year. I’m just hoping they don’t get so high they block the sun from the vegetable garden. We’re getting quite a wall of green—cost us more patience than money since we bought them so small. (click to enlarge)

Tonight I’ll watch season finales of Desperate Housewives and Brothers & Sisters, alas. But now for 60 Minutes, which is mostly about the BP disaster. At least I don’t think it can make me any angrier than I already am. I don’t think ...

posted by lee on 05/16/10 at 10:31 PM

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Friday, May 14, 2010

peaceful evening

Everything is gonna be ok. Really—we weren’t fighting ten minutes ago. We were just playing.

Slink and Twitch sleeping while I work
Slink and Twitch snooze while I earn their kitty kibble. (click to enlarge)

posted by lee on 05/14/10 at 10:14 PM

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Friday, April 23, 2010

early lilacs & dogwood

It’s been amazing this spring to see how early everything is blooming. The Japanese dogwood, which would usually be in early bloom around now, is nearly finished—it’s been in bloom for nearly two weeks. I need to get a good shot of them before they’re gone.

The lilac bush. Oh my! It’s normally supposed to bloom around Mothers Day around here, but our lilac bush is in full bloom right now—it bloomed around April 18. The bush is pretty far from the porch, which is where the office is, but with the window open I can smell them, it’s like smelling hope and joy and warm memories and sadness. More than anything else, the smell of lilacs make me think of my mother and my early childhood spending time in Wyandotte at my grandfather’s house and in Detroit with my dad’s parents, with the huge, old lilac shrubs everywhere. A time like no other.

This is only the second time our lilac bush has bloomed—they take about five years to get established and it bloomed at about two years old in 2008, then not last year. This year, it’s magnificent, especially for such a young plant. I was so excited when Stanley told me they were in bloom—I can’t see them from the house. We planted another tiny lilac in the middle of the yard two years ago and hopefully that one will survive and will be one we can see from inside the house.

lilac in bloom, April 20, 2010
We planted this lilac bush about four or five years ago. (click to enlarge)

closeup of lilac in bloom April 20, 2010
Here is a closeup, though the color is much richer than this—the petals are in the direct sun so everything is sunwashed. (click to enlarge)

Everything is so lush. The pollen count is through the roof and we’re feeling it for sure—I’m in a fog for a while and it takes a while to get my eyes open in the morning. But it’s such a pretty spring.

monsarda tulip and bleeding hearts
This is the only one of these tulips left—I need to plant more, but they’ve been hard to find. The bleeding hearts is early this year too. (click to enlarge)

Riley had her first birthday on April 21, and David’s is on May 1. Trying to decide just the right gifts for each of them. I don’t know just when we’ll get to Michigan for our spring visit yet, but I’m looking forward to it so I can see for myself how all the grands are doing.

James Fleming holding great granddaughter Riley Downey , April 20, 2010, at the Toledo Zoo
Here is Great Grand Papa Jim holding Riley on their trip, with Jamie and Kristine, to the Toledo Zoo. They went to that zoo instead of the Detroit Zoo because Papa Jim had never been there. (click to enlarge)

posted by lee on 04/23/10 at 03:59 AM

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Monday, March 15, 2010

that was one wicked bad storm

The last measurement I saw before the cable went out was a wind gust of 79 mph with sustained winds of 35 mph at the Maritime Center, which is just under two miles from our house. It was a wild day, but the wind was getting worse and worse and even though the warning was supposed to be over at 1 am, it wasn’t. It was scarier in the dark because even if we heard something crash, we couldn’t see what was going on. The cable was off about 24 hours to the minute. March 13 was wild, the early morning of March 14 was wilder, the daytime wet but not so windy.

This morning, Stanley woke me up to tell me that trees were hanging in our next-door neighbors’ power lines, and we had to figure out what we could do about it. My first thought was to winch them back toward true, but when I saw them, they were wrapped in the wires and there was no way anyone could do anything about them while the power was on. Here are some photos:

austrees in power lines 3/14/10
Here the austrees are tangled in the power and telecom lines into our neighbor’s house. He said it happened about 3 am when he and his wife heard the branch banging on his roof. (click to enlarge)

austrees in powerlines
The bigger picture of the big problems.

austrees half uprooted 3/14/10
The trees are half uprooted—it won’t take much of a gust to finish the job and take down the wires and shingles off the roof. Fortunately, the trees are relatively light since they are a willow variant and not a dense oak or maple, so hopefully if they come down they don’t damage the structure of the house. (click to enlarge)

We did call the fire department to ask them what we should do (the neighbors called CL&P). NFD said they’d add it to their list of problems for CL&P to handle, and not to, under any circumstances, even try to do anything about it because the wires are live. We waited all day, but the power company didn’t show up. With 18,000 homes without power in Norwalk alone as of Sunday morning, we weren’t surprised. I’m just getting nervous for Reneev and Ashi because it’s supposed to be pretty windy again tonight.

protected side still shows debris
This part of the patio area was relatively protected, so the debris is a sight to behold. I’m glad nothing came through the picture window. (click to enlarge)

patio mess
The wind flipped the blue glass birdbath bowl out of the ring and about five feet over onto the patio. I’m surprised that we didn’t lose any more huge branches off the pine tree—or that the pine tree itself didn’t topple, though we were told about ten years ago the tree is in great health and very sturdy. (click to enlarge)

tree fallen into the holly
One of the trees along the border of our property—fortunately one belonging to the school and not to us—toppled into our beautiful holly tree. So we now have a view of the school, which doesn’t make me very happy, but what are we gonna do? (click to enlarge)

tree stump storm aftermath
The stump, where it looks like it was just twisted off. Dad said it will probably stay this way for years since it’s the city’s responsibility to clean it up. (click to enlarge)

shingled driveway
Most of the shingles off the outbuildings are gone. The garage has been shedding its roof for years. Now we have a shingled driveway! (click to enlarge)

This wasn’t even a hurricane and the damage is appalling. I’ve never been in a hurricane (except for the Blizzard of ‘78, which was a winter hurricane, when I live in Boston), and after yesterday, I hope that’s an experience I never have. We didn’t even get the worst of the damage—far from it. It was much worse in Westport, as you can see on

posted by lee on 03/15/10 at 01:10 AM

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Friday, March 05, 2010

just testing a slideshow thingie

Just testing out various slide show thingies.

This is the slideshow embed directly from Flickr:

Same set, with SlideFlickr:

A slideshow from Picasa—these are Dad’s photos from Bermuda (and one of Kate’s Carbonator) from June 2009:

From flickrSLiDR:

Made with FlickrPro


posted by lee on 03/05/10 at 12:57 AM

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