Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Capt. Bruno de Salenni

I got this article, A letter from Afghanistan, from a hero, through my feed reader and had to share it. I link to it in my shared article widget too, but feel it warrants special mention.

Monday, September 29, 2008


I was kicking around the house one morning about a week-and-a-half ago, before leaving for work, when I heard a clunk at the front door and looked in time to see a bird flutter away from the storm-door window. I looked out the door and saw a little bird, resting splay-winged in a holly bush that sits next to our front step. It recovered somewhat and pulled itself together so that it was not all akimbo, but it was definitely dazed. I watched it move through stages of recovery, thought that it might die when it started slow blinking and, then watched it as it began chirping.

I managed to snap a few decent shots of the concussed bird and pulled out a couple of my bird books and identified it as a Yellow-bellied Fly Catcher. It's not native to my neck of the woods but must have been passing through on its migration south. Before I left for work the Flycatcher had flown into the holly bush and I thought that might be a bad sign, until I heard him chirping more and more as I walked around the bush. As I moved around the front of the holly I noticed that he was sitting on a branch, up high towards the front hanging onto a swaying branch. He was long gone by the time I came home.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Volunteer

In late spring we were at Costco and bought some Cana bulbs -- Child One thought they'd be pretty so we went with her selection. Cana are large, tropical looking plants (the plants in the below photo, with orange flowers). We planted the bulbs in the bed at the front of our house, around our light post and an azalea. I used home brewed compost to fertilize them. Within a short time the bulbs had barely sprouted but something else had burst from the ground -- a volunteer seed in the compost.

At first blush the volunteer appeared to be a squash plant -- the leaf shape and size was right and it had a large yellow flower. It started as one sprout but quickly spread, growing larger and larger. We nearly picked it early on but I got curious to see what would come of it. Once the plant was probably 5 feet from tendril-tip to tendril-tip Mrs. Agricola agreed that we had to see what it was.

The plant in mid-summer glory
The plant shot out shoots from the sprout that grew in opposite directions from each other and soon it started to fill in with more shoots, leaves and flowers. I was fairly convinced that it was a squash, or perhaps a pumpkin and many of our neighbors would swing by and ask us about it -- it was big doings in our section of the neighborhood. By mid-July the thing had taken over nearly half of the bed in which it sprouted. It spread probably 6 feet in length and probably 4 feet from the original sprout area to the tips of its cascade -- it overran the sidewalk. One day, I took a good, close look at the thing and it had several smooth, green, ovoid-shaped fruit hiding within its foliage. I had no idea what they were and picked a large one -- I thought it was some sort of strange, hybridized squash.

Who knew cantaloupes start so smooth?

The one that was picked too early
had hints of cantaloupe flavor and some sweetness

As soon as I picked it and held it close I realized that I had a very large, very healthy cantaloupe plant -- the skin at the end of the fruit was just beginning to take on the appearance of a mature cantaloupe. At the time of the first pick there were 6 other fruits on the vine. The early picked fruit didn't ripen but it's brothers and sisters ripened beautifully and we enjoyed a bumper harvest of homegrown cantaloupes -- all in all we probably harvested 10 melons off of this plant.

I didn't expect much from the cantaloupes -- after all they are from commercial seeds that grew in a bed in a suburb of Boston, many of them ripening on asphalt. I have to say however that these are some of the best melons I've ever eaten. They were juicy beyond belief, sweet and as fresh as you can get. Letting them further ripen on the window sill only made them better (though eating a still sun-warmed cantaloupe is pretty amazing). If ever there was a poster-fruit for eat-local this is it -- picked at the peak of ripeness and carried 50 feet to the kitchen there is nothing better!

Can't beat fresh cantaloupe!

This past weekend we pulled up the plant -- it was starting to recede into itself and looking really funky as it died with oncoming fall. The leaves and stems and flowers that never fruited were recycled in the composter. I saved a bunch of seeds from one particularly good melon and am going to plant one intentionally next year, though those fruit will probably not be able to compare to the cool experience of this year's volunteer cantaloupe.

Friday, September 19, 2008

David Foster Wallace, RIP

David Foster Wallace, one of my favorite writers, died last Friday, an apparent suicide. I wish I could say I was surprised, but I'm not and am, at the same time. He was an immensely talented writer. Sometimes the immensely talented bear a burden we the mortals don't understand. I can't say that I've loved everything that he wrote or that everything he wrote was really great -- I didn't, and it wasn't. What it was, to me, anyway, was incredibly (post)modern and of this moment yet so seemingly old-fashioned and absolutist. I saw a quote, in one of the many obits that I read bout Wallace, that called him a fiercely moral writer, and I agree with this. From his writings you got the sense that he didn't approve of what he saw and expertly skewered. He couched his observations in irony (that vestment of modernism) but beneath the veneer laid a strict moralist, an old fashioned guy who knew right from wrong. A friend sent me a link to an excerpt of his Kenyon Commencement Speech 2005 in the WSJ. I quote the last paragraph and a half. The penultimate line about water refers to a story about two young fish who don't realize that they're swimming in water until told by an older fish.

Would that Wallace had been able not to choke out his life at age 46, and heeded his own advice to be aware of what is everywhere, and essential, and simple -- though he does admit that it's hard to do so.

But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the "rat race" -- the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.

I know that this stuff probably doesn't sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational. What it is, so far as I can see, is the truth with a whole lot of rhetorical bullshit pared away. Obviously, you can think of it whatever you wish. But please don't dismiss it as some finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this is about morality, or religion, or dogma, or big fancy questions of life after death. The capital-T Truth is about life before death. It is about making it to 30, or maybe 50, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head. It is about simple awareness -- awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: "This is water, this is water."

It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive, day in and day out.

I Am My Solution

If we're going to ask questions about who has been promulgating negative ads that are completely unrelated to the issues at hand, I think I win that contest pretty handily. -- Barack H. Obama
No other quote from Barack Obama quite encapsulates his vapidity as does the above. No other quote shows the pass the guy has received from the media. I first saw the quote earlier this week and have been thinking about its stupidity and the fact that if Bush had said it he'd be lambasted as a moron. Barry just sails on by, takes his free media-pass, collects his millions and whines his way to November 4. Parse the words, pay attention to the sentence, Barry just admitted that he's churning out more negative ads than McCain. Now, in campaign time, it's a minor thing, a malapropism, an awkward turn of phrase, an incorrect use of pronouns. But, wow, you've got to love the use of promulgated, what a verb!

Fast forward however to late 2009 or early 2010 if/when Barry is chatting with Mahmoud Ahmadenijad or Hugo Chavez and he says:
If one considers the war of words between our countries over the past 24 months and who has promulgated more negative and damaging stereotypes of the other country I think the US wins that contest pretty handily.
Great, he just blamed us and it's our fault -- though maybe, coming from the left as he does, this would not be a malapropism nor necessarily viewed as untruthful -- and now we've got make concessions about Iran's nuclear program, or Venezuela's hostility to its non-Bolivarist neighbors. Maybe my example is not good, we kind of know what he was trying to say ("I'm a victim!") maybe he really did just misspeak (solipsism gets confusing after a while) but such mistakes have different consequences in different situations.

Barry enjoys much acclaim for being intelligent, yet remove the man from the teleprompter and he can't formulate a coherent sentence. He misspoke about "lipstick on a pig," no doubt he misspoke about who is running the more negative campaign. One can sort of interpret what he meant, but it's not crystal clear (perhaps it's a ploy, to play both against the middle, he is brilliant, after all). This man is the Democrat hope for the presidency of this country. A bit more seasoning may be in order, don't you think?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Constitution Day, 2008

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

-- Preamble to the U.S. Constitution

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Today marks the seventh anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington DC and the downing of United Flight 93. The below list contains the names of the people on American Airlines Flight 11. Regular people, doing regular things, on a beautiful morning 7 years ago who never came home. The list of the murdered is long, the locales varied, this is but a sampling.

May they never be forgotten, and may their families find comfort as the years go by.

Anna Allison
David Lawrence Angell
Lynn Edwards Angell
Seima Aoyama
Barbara Jean Arestegui
Myra Joy Aronson
Christine Barbuto
Carolyn Beug
Kelly Ann Booms
Carol Marie Bouchard
Robin Lynne Kaplan
Neilie Anne Heffernan Casey
Jeffrey Dwayne Collman
Jeffrey W. Coombs
Tara Kathleen Creamer
Thelma Cuccinello
Patrick Currivan
Brian Paul Dale
David Dimeglio
Donald Americo Ditullio
Alberto Dominguez
Paige Marie Farley-Hackel
Alexander Milan Filipov
Carol Ann Flyzik
Paul J. Friedman
Karleton D.B. Fyfe
Peter Alan Gay
Linda M. George
Edmund Glazer
Lisa Reinhart Gordenstein
Andrew Peter Charles Curry Green
Peter Paul Hashem
Robert Jay Hayes
Edward R. Hennessy, Jr.
John A. Hofer
Cora Hidalgo Holland
John Nicholas Humber, Jr.
Waleed Joseph Iskandar
John Charles Jenkins
Charles Edward Jones
Barbara A. Keating
David P. Kovalcin
Judith Camilla Larocque
Natalie Janis Lasden
Daniel John Lee
Daniel M. Lewin
Sara Elizabeth Low
Susan A. Mackay
Karen Ann Martin
Thomas F. McGuinness, Jr.
Christopher D. Mello
Jeffrey Peter Mladenik
Carlos Alberto Montoya
Antonio Jesus Montoya Valdes
Laura Lee Morabito
Mildred Naiman
Laurie Ann Neira
Renee Lucille Newell
Kathleen Ann Nicosia
Jacqueline June Norton
Robert Grant Norton
John Ogonowski
Betty Ann Ong
Jane M. Orth
Thomas Nicholas Pecorelli
Berinthia B. Perkins
Sonia M. Puopolo
David E. Retik
Jean Destrehan Roger
Philip Martin Rosenzweig
Richard Barry Ross
Jessica Leigh Sachs
Rahma Salie
Heather Lee Smith
Dianne Bullis Snyder
Douglas Joel Stone
Xavier Suarez
Madeline Amy Sweeney
Michael Theodoridis
James Anthony Trentini
Mary Barbara Trentini
Pendyala Vamsikrishna
Mary Alice Wahlstrom
Kenneth Waldie
John Joseph Wenckus
Candace Lee Williams
Christopher Rudolph Zarba, Jr.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Palin Power

It's been months since I posted on this blog. It's not that I don't have ideas anymore -- I've jut not had the time this summer. I must say though that Sarah Palin's speech at last night's Republican Convention has brought me back.

I will admit that I watched the speech on YouTube, not live, but it was a terrific speech and she is a terrific pick. She puts the liberals in a quandary -- female, over-achiever, mother, successful living the feminist dream of doing it all but a conservative. How wonderful. She is one of us -- an honest to goodness, hard working American who speaks plainly, humorously wonderfully about the life that we all know and love. Her best lines have been repeated and reprinted all over, I'll not go into them here, but she has energized the conservative base and the entire Republican party.

Fun has been returned to this election which was pretty dreary up until now. Way to go John McCain, way to go Sarah Palin.