Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Addendum to Good Planets, "Fire"

Over at Dzonoqua's Whistle, I read that she had planned to send a photo for last Saturday's "Good Planets" edition, but ran into problems.

It's probably better this way; on her blog, she has the full story, plus 2 photos. And very worth reading.

She explains:
"I planned to post this for Good Planets Carnival, but Blogger wouldn't load pix. The theme was Fire, so I thought of this place that was so completely and utterly devastated. But in a very short(in forest years) 75 years, nature, with a boost of replanting, has remade itself. The mosses, lichens, fern, shrubs, herbs, bugs, slugs, amphibians, fungus, were NOT seeded--go take a look for yourself what they've been able to accomplish."
Click on over there and read the rest.

See you later!

Berry good!

Sunday afternoon, we drove down to Mud Bay, birding. We were getting our jackets on when the rain started, and by the time we were on the highway, it was pouring. So the idea of a walk down the dike was abandoned, and we "explored" by car, following roads towards the water that we had not used before.

We passed a few drenched sheep in a pasture; one of them looked like an oversized tardigrade (water bear) or maybe a grey and white caterpillar, nose to the greenery, face invisible except for a constantly-moving snout. Laurie attempted a few photos through the car window; no telling if they will turn out.

Closer to the water, there was a pair of eagles at the top of one of the pines, and in the fields and along the power lines, hundreds of starlings. A few mallards and some other puddle ducks with white markings hung out with them on the ground.

Still pouring. We drove on to Crescent Beach to find a coffee shop.

Along the road, the salmonberry bushes were leafing out; buds like tiny green lights all through the understory. Crescent Beach is slightly warmer than our area of the Delta, being right down in the curve of the Sound, whereas we are up the hill, so their spring growth comes a few weeks before ours. Our salmonberry is still a tangle of bare sticks.

Next time we're down there, I'll be looking for a wild spring bouquet to bring home.

Salmonberries are a We(s)t Coast plant; they rarely grow east of the Cascades. They grow here profusely at the open fringes of forest, in mixed alder/cottonwood bush, along fields and roads and most river and creek banks, anywhere there is moisture and sunlight.

And they are virtually unkillable. I spent two years nurturing a fern growing in an old maple stump where a salmonberry had chosen to sprout. I ripped it out, time and time again. I dug 'way down in that stump, cleaned out every single rootling as far as I could reach. The salmonberry came back every time.

Tonight, I read in a local government publication,
"Manual cutting of salmonberry stimulates rapid re-sprouting from stem bases and rhizomes and can result in an increase in salmonberry coverage on the treated site. Salmonberry plants cut in spring have been reported to re-sprout to a height of over 1m by late summer."
I had to laugh. I remember well from my childhood on Vancouver Island, how Mom fought the salmonberries that pushed against the windows of our house. Several times a year, she would go out and chop them all down to the ground. I swear they had sprouted 6 inches before she did the complete circuit. Poor Mom!

But they have their good points. They are the first greenery in the spring woods, and such a green! A bright, sparkly, cheerful lime green, in leaves that hang separately so as to catch and concentrate the sunlight; a flock of neon fireflies in the still-grey woods.

The flowers come along almost before the leaves are fully out, and are beautiful in their own right. Rubus spectabilis is a member of the rose family, and not too far off from the also-native Nootka rose, Rosa nutkana. Compare the two photos.

By early summer, though, the rose is still blooming, but the salmonberry has moved on. It produces thousands of red or orange berries, similar to raspberries (another relative), although not quite as sweet. The bears love them, as do the birds, many smaller mammals and some of the human residents, those whose palate (in my opinion) has not been deadened by the over-flavoured commercial foodstuffs in our stores.

The red berries are usually more tart, even when fully ripe; the orange ones are much milder. Still delicious, I think.

We picked them for jam, for pies, for freezing and sprinkling over ice cream, for adding just that spark of colour to boring fruit salads. The First Nations peoples ate them fresh, and I've heard of people making wine with them. I eat a few as I walk along the trails, watching my sugars, which makes every taste a luxury. Berry, berry good!


Photos from Wikipedia and USDA .

Monday, February 26, 2007

3000 books ...

... were published yesterday. Video. About 2/3 of the way through.

Also noted: 1.5 exabites (New word for me; 1 exabite = 1 x 10 to the 18th power.) of new, unique information will be generated in the next year.

No wonder I can't keep up!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Just my style! Structured Procrastination!

Since I have a couple of urgent files to tackle tonight, I have been reading the news. And sorting Laurie's poems, which I had been putting off.

And browsing through blogs. Where I found a brief essay that justifies it all. See "Structured Procrastination" by John Perry, a Stanford philosophy prof. A man after my own heart!

And more essays of a similar nature on a second page. I have bookmarked "A Plea for the Horizontally Organized" to read next time I get an urge to do my filing.

By the way, here's a photo I had been meaning to post back in October, but somehow put off until too late...

Back to those poems. I still have tomorrow night to get the files edited.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Good Planets are Hard to Find, February 24, 2007

Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;
--Shakespeare, Sonnet 33
Welcome to "Good Planets"!

Today's theme: the last of the ancient elements, Fire.

It all started here, in flames. The astronomers tell us that this good planet was spun out of the gas/dust disk that became our sun. Hot? It reaches 22 million degrees F in the centre, they say. Any heating system here on earth produces an infinitesmal spark in comparison. So it is appropriate that the majority of our photos focus on that fiery chariot.

But not all. Just see what we have found!

First up, from Robin, at DharmaBums, a West Coast sunrise. She writes, "This was exactly what the sunrise looked like, October 25, 2005. There was a light fog that caught all of the morning light. A rather fiery sunrise."

She also sent sunlight captured in a drop of rainwater. "... a fine bit of fire," she says.

And now, for truly fiery colours, Blanket Flowers! They "seem to encapsulate summer," for the "Fat Lady (who) Sings". Don't they just!

From Bev, at Burning Silo, "the reflection of the sun on the elytra of a Dogbane Leaf Beetle (Chrysochus auratus). Found on leaves of a foot-tall poplar seedling in the meadow beside Roger's Pond at Cedar Grove Nature Trail in Marlborough Forest."
Something different; a bit of the heat left-over from our early days.

Ruth, at Body, Soul and Spirit, writes, "my brother and I are climbing towards the crater of the Ceboruco Volcano in Nayarit, Mexico. We passed many steam vents on our climb ... June 2006"

And a second photo from Mexico: Ruth writes, "My parents and brother live in Nayarit, Mexico. They are surrounded by sugar cane fields which are burned the night before harvest.The fire removes excess vegetation and the cane is easier to cut."

From Skylar, another volcano, no longer steaming. Mt. St. Helens, greening up again, "... after the fiery volcanic ash destroyed over 200 square miles of vegetation during the May, 18, 1980 eruption following a 5.1 earthquake. Although the complete eruption was roughly 9 hours long, the area surrounding Mt St Helens was completely changed within minutes and continues to bear witness to these changes in landscape almost 27 years later. It is reassuring to see green again upon these hillsides and mountains."

Creature comforts for after a hard day's work or hiking: coals and flame, cooking supper. From Liza Lee Miller (Egret's Nest), the campfire from her last camping trip.

Supper! "That's Yakitori - Japanese style BBQ chicken. The secret lies in building layers of the Saki based sauce. Delicious!" Looks like it! From the "Fat Lady".

Bev goes camping, too. This is from a trip through California. She writes, "The weather was unseasonably cold and we just had sleeping bags and no tent, so we very much enjoyed sitting around the fire until late in the evening."

And, with the last clear rays of sunlight, a robin sits on the topmost branch of a tree. A couple of minutes later, the sun had dropped and he was in shadow. Strathcona, BC., last summer.

"Day is Dying in the West". Gloriously. A January sunset, from Pam, at Tortoise Trail.

"This photo I took from my home on Monday. It is of the sun setting behind Mt. Iliamna* with an accidental raven in the frame." Trixie

*In Alaska. Mt. Iliamna, by the way, is another live volcano. It last erupted in 1953.

Beautiful shades of grey and orange. From SB Gypsy.
A summer sunset. "The temperature exceeded 100 degrees that day - and the humidity was so high it distorted the sun, making it look pulled like taffy." The Fat Lady Sings, again.

"This flaming sunset in San Luis Obispo, California on Christmas Eve demonstrates perfect gradation of color from yellow to red and was perhaps the most exquisite gift we received for Christmas!" Skylar

And finally, Yankee Transplant tells us, "Here is a fire in my hearth. It matches my passion for the planet. Stop by some chilly winter evening and sit with us as we admire the magic that is the flame."

Thanks for the invitation, Yankee! That fire does look good.

And thanks to all of you who contributed your vision this month. I have thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of hosting these February editions of "Good Planets", especially getting to know you better. And having a preview, as the e-mails came in. It felt almost like cheating.

Next month, March, Bev of Burning Silo will be our hostess. She will be continuing with a theme, and writes, "I think I'd like to make it be 'Home' (however people wish to interpret that)."

You can send your contributions to her: bev at magickcanoe dot com .

Thanks again, fellow travellers on this oh-so-amazing "Good Planet". See you over at Bev's next month!

P.S. Celeste, at Dzonoqua's Whistle, has a post that would have been included here if she had been able to send it. Go on over and check it out.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

And now, metablogging...

... or, blogging about blogging.

My question was, "How has blogging changed your life?" And I promised to answer today.

Well, I am, and that is one way that blogging has changed things for me. I came home this afternoon, tired out, to find a rush job waiting for me. Deadline, tomorrow noon. And I will get it done. But first, I have a promise to keep, so here I am.

Writing on my own, no matter what the final goal, I am far too prone to procrastination. (I still am, but I waste only hours, not days and weeks.) But I am aware that dilatoriness is death to a blog; it goes against its whole purpose. After all, it is a "log", which usually denotes a marker of time and space travelled or work done, updated regularly.

So I blog almost every day.

I have been for some time in a state of "writers' block", with a story that I really want to finish, really must finish, frozen half-way through. I seems now that the act of sitting down every day and writing, even if it be captions for a few photos, is reviving my confidence; I'm beginning to feel that I can soon thaw it out and go on.

All to the good. And better still, I am meeting online all these wonderful people, people who share our interests and our values. Laurie and I have been living in a kind of wasteland, a counter-culture composed of two quiet seniors who would rather go birding than rent a video, bring home a new mushroom (to us) than a new outfit, who rip up pieces of lawn to plant "weeds" and feed birds even if it does attract squirrels. And who are seriously concerned about climate change and the insanity of our "leaders". (Can they be really said to lead if, in reality, they are dragging us, protesting, to where we don't want to go?)

And here, online, reachable, almost touchable, are those who "know Joseph"*. We are not alone, after all! There is hope, there is strength! Maybe ... just maybe ... there is still a future for our kids and grandkids.

That is a major change for me. A good one.

One other, minor thing: I have noticed that my writing style has changed in the past year. I write more the way I speak now; more fluidly, less grammatically, less formally. I don't plan ahead. I just write. I think I like that.

So, thank you, all you out there, those whose blogs I read, and those who also read mine and sometimes comment. Thank you: you have given us hope.


*"know Joseph" From the "Anne" books. A kindred spirit.

And now, back to the grindstone. :)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Computer history (mine, anyhow)

Been doin' a bit of cogitating, today. And I have a question for you all.

But first, a bit of history. About computers and me.

(Note: if computer talk makes your eyes go out of focus, scroll down to the bottom for the question.)

It was back in the early 1980s that my Mom got me involved with the machines. I had vowed never to have anything to do with these "useless" glorified typewriters, but I went to visit my folks for a week, and here was Mom with this brand-new Kay-Pro II (photo from here). And a noisy, rackety OkiData 9-pin dot matrix printer on a specially-built cabinet beside it, with the continuous-form paper fed through a slot in back. Remember that paper? How tricky it was to feed in just right? How it went crooked as soon as you turned your back? And how you had to rip off the sides afterwards?

Anyhow, Mom had the beast up and running (using Perfect Writer) and had joined a computer club; the only woman, and the only member out of her 20s. She was 67. She was busily transferring all her articles and files to the big floppy disks.

And she wanted help. She gave me a list of commands and set me to work.

I guess pride had a part in what came next. I had to learn that program better than Mom had. Of course. And later, when my son was taking programming in school, I had to learn BASIC, too. Next thing I knew, I had my own second-hand computer, running DOS. I eventually got a modem (1200 baud) and went on-line. S-l-oooooooo-w-l-y!

Still mid-80s. I was writing material for work, and had started a book, using "Electric Desk" on a DOS platform. I bought a printer that used real paper, and ink instead of a ribbon. I joined a few BBSs (Bulletin Board Systems) and made a few friends, mostly young men. There were very few women on at that time; I only remember 3 others. In 1994, one of the sysops came over and set up Netscape for me on my new laptop (Windows 3.1, and a sticker reading "Intel Inside")

Anyone around from that time? Remember how you told the thing to dial, and it went do-di-di-do-di-do-di, then rang, then a long, agonized, noisy squawk/buzz while it went through the hand-shaking procedures? I had to put an upside-down egg carton silencer over the speaker, to avoid waking up the people upstairs.

A long time, and many upgrades ago. Years of dial-up, of Windows trouble-shooting, of blue screens. I built a website and had "fun" tweaking html. And then, Y2K: remember that scare? All that happened to me was that my daughter's Word for Windows went wonky and it took me an hour of January 1st to fix it for her.

And now, here I am, blogging, since last spring.

And that brings me to my question.

In what way, if any, has blogging changed your life? Or has it, at all?

I will answer that, for myself, tomorrow.

A Walk in the Park

Nicholson Park. A tiny square of greenery, more like a passageway between two streets. A few trees, a bit of lawn, a paved walk. Nothing more. Housing developments on both sides.

We walk there occasionally, when the weather is not conducive to long hikes. And there is always something to see.

Here are a few photos from last week, a cold, off-and-on rainy day.


Thorny branches, with red buds at the tips.

Old dead leaves from last fall, turned blue-black over the winter. With berries.
Oh, but it was cold! But just across a couple of parking lots is our favourite Tim Horton's. Coffee, tea, muffins (blueberry).

Warmth, conversation, and then home for supper.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Couldn't resist: I'm stealing some of these!

*I linked once before to this site, as part of a web experiment. I've been eyeing their badges page, and have finally decided that I am entitled to a few.

I know, I know, it is a general assumption that this is for working scientists. Which I am not. However, they do say that
and they allow even children to collect one. So, having rationalized my way into "accepting" an honour or two, I hereby proceed to post my badges and qualifications.

First, "The 'talking science' badge. Assumes the recipient conducts himself/herself in such a manner as to talk science whenever he/she gets the chance. Not easily fazed by looks of disinterest from friends or the act of "zoning out" by well intentioned loved ones." Yup.

"The 'I've touched human internal organs with my own hands' badge." Done. Not for a while, though. Back in the 60s, in university.

"The 'has frozen stuff just to see what happens' badge." Oh, yes.

"The 'inordinately fond of invertebrates' badge.In which the recipient professes an arguably unhealthy affinity for things of this category." Which leads to that "zoning out" observed in older loved ones.

"The 'I know what a tadpole is' badge." You mean there are people that don't?

"The 'experienced with electrical shock' badge (LEVEL III) In which the recipient has had experience with the electrical shocking of himself/herself." Uh-huh. Both accidentally and on purpose.
And finally, "The 'science has forced me to seek medical attention' badge. In which the recipient has had to pay a visit to the hospital as a result of scientific work." Again, 'way back in the 60s, when I picked up a particularly vicious variety of fungus in the Microbiology lab.

And that's the truth.


*OOTSSOERAAAP = "Order of the science scouts of exemplary repute and above average physique". And I know I don't have an "above average physique". But I assume that most of the other badge collectors are in the same boat.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Just Weeds

And they're starting to sprout. So are the hardy garden plants. Today, along a couple of blocks of city street, we saw chickweed, snowdrops, and the beginnings of spirea blooms. And scores of tiny brown mushrooms. And my bulbs are all up, the lemon balm is green and fragrant, the perennial pansies are a mass of new shoots. The primulas are going crazy. But then, they bloomed even under snow.

For the rest, a bit early, but as long as we have no quick freezes, everything will do quite nicely.

Beach pea, with bee and grasses. Summer in New Westminster, by the side of the road.

Marsh grasses. Winter, New West. By the riverside.

Grasses, dock, California poppy, bindweed and yarrow. Summer, roadside.

Bindweed. Spring? Summer? Fall? Anytime. This one is a noxious pest. But it's beautiful.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Good Planets are Hard To Find, Feb. 17, 2007

To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter ... to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring--- these are some of the rewards of the simple life.

- John Burroughs
Welcome to "Good Planets are Hard to Find", February 17th edition!

Today's theme; the third of our 4 ancient "elements", air, what Shakespeare called, "this most excellent canopy, ... this brave o'er hanging firmament..." (Hamlet) That most essential of all the amenities of this nurturing earth.

It has been hard to find photos of "air", hasn't it? Of course, since the stuff is invisible and we can't photograph its touch, its smell, its power. The way it fills our lungs and ruffles our hair. The rustling of the grasses, the rattle of dry leaves, the howl of a storm. The games it plays.

Oh, but we have an albumfull, in spite of that! Just look:

To start us off right, Bev Wigney, at Burning Silo, sends us a dawn photo of Tule Lake (N. California).

Skylar gives us a mistier view, a foggy afternoon south of Big Sur, CA along the Pacific Coast Highway.

From Bev, again, an old white house in central Oregon under a blue and white sky.

But it's not all quiet, empty skies; they're full of singing, screeching, honking life. Here is a flock of shorebirds (sandpipers?) racing over the water on a windy day. Off the Ladner Dikes, Delta, BC

Starlings. Some people call them a pest. TheFatLadySings says they're "Pretty cool".

Mary Ferracci, at Mary's View, "saw a Cooper’s Hawk overlooking my North Carolina back yard feeder."

And a photo C. Corax calls "impressionistic". A crow in full flight, wings a blur.

Liza Lee Miller, at Egret's Nest sent a photo of "Honkers" flying over New Melones Reservoir, California.

Sometimes they land: "This guy or gal (Red-breasted Sapsucker) has been hanging out everyday in the same spot, right where I can see him easily from my computer. Life is good!" says Dawn Bailey

Skylar sends an unusual photo; a seagull in flight, from above, looking for breadcrumbs. On the central Oregon shore.

A juvenile Peregrine Falcon, wings spread in the air, sent by Robin, at DharmaBums

And here's what we do with the air, especially when it's in motion:

Flags in Bermuda, near one of the old forts, sent by Donna Wenger, at KGMom Mumblings.

Kites fly over Oregon's Pacific coast on July 4th. Skylar, again.

On Boundary Bay, last summer, swimmers and waders. And kite flyers, always. This one was unusual.

Hard at work: aermotor windmill in front of a windfarm in central Oregon. Sent by Bev, at Burning Silo.

More windmills, from C. Corax, who tells us, "this is in upstate New York off Route 12. I forget what town they're in. This shows the tiniest fraction of the wind farm, and definitely gives no idea of how mind-blowingly HUGE these things are. Honestly, the things give me the creeps, they're so huge."

"Another view of life on the Navesink River in NJ. Not the greatest of pics, but I was so taken with this one particular iceboat - it was the largest on the river and if you've got a good imagination you might hear the WIND billowing through the sails. I think every kid in town had a ride on it that day, but I was too hesitant myself to step out on the ice or I would have liked a go!" Laura, Somewhere in NJ.

"Here's a windmill from Volendam, Netherlands, just outside Amsterdam. It is a fully operating windmill, that is 350 years old. When it is in full operation, it pumps 12,000 gallons a MINUTE. It pumps water from the lowlands out to the sea. The arms of the windmill have an amazing sweep, and you can feel the whoosh as they go by. Also, they are lethal, and visitors are cautioned not to get near them." Also from Donna Wegner.

There is no air on the moon. Not enough to count, anyhow. But the air around us modifies how we see it. Here are a couple of samples.

A yellow moon...

... and a pink one. The Fat Lady Sings says, "That pink color is unusual - especially for winter. I've seen pink moons during hot, summer weather; but this was quite different."

And with the photos, two separate contributors sent along this well-known poem.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling
The wind is passing thro' 
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads
The wind is passing by.
That's it for tonight, folks! And a Big Thank You! to all who took the time to sort through and send along these marvellous photos.

Next week, the theme is the fourth element of the ancients, "Fire". And people are already sending in amazing photos. I look forward to seeing what else my e-mail brings me; you can send them to me at susannah at dccnet dot com, or through the carnival widget on the sidebar.

P.S. One more quote; a short one.

Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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