Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hear ye, hear ye

I'm getting some stuff back up and running that I deleted some time ago, and of course I'd like to share them with the general readership of the Loquacious Loquat.

First, Chandler's Victory Garden is back, albeit in a very different format. It first appeared in blog form last year until I deleted it because I was ashamed at how badly my garden was failing. However, I've been so pleased with the format of Backcountry Peripatetic that I've re-established Chandler's Victory Garden as a Shutterfly website. Less talk, more pictures--perfect. Pictures from 2008 are up, and you'll be able to follow the castor beans' growth from start to finish with a nice little slideshow on the right-hand side. And it's pretty much ready to go, so you can enjoy it in all its glory already!

Gentle readers--only the gentle ones--may also recall One CD at a Time (or "Once Data Time", as I liked to call it), my blog wherein I gave every classical music CD a listen. I deleted that blog in a depressed funk after the adoption failed. Strangely, I feel no regret about the failed adoption, but I feel tremendous regret about deleting that blog. Even though I only did it for a few weeks, every time I get a new classical CD or download something from iTunes, I think, "Boy, I can't wait to sit down and give this a good listen all the way through!" To fulfill that need, I've started up Chandler Plays the Classics, which is a name I find infinitely more amusing. However, Lent begins on March 2 and the computer is going off for Clean Week (the first week of Orthodox Lent, not some official spring cleaning thing), so I won't kick this project into full gear until March 7. I may schedule something to post on that day, but I won't be devoting any time next week to the project.

Isn't all that fun?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Castor Beans, Day 15

Things get interestinger and interestinger all the time in the tiny terrarium of terror!




Here's the most interesting part by far:


All the ones that have sprouted have their roots poking out the peat pots. That's not too shocking--you should see the massive roots I pulled out of the ground when I yanked last year's castors up! Even when they were just teeny little stems sticking out of the dirt before straightening up, they had roots coming out. So we have three, and I think that will be all because I'm not seeing the roots sticking out on the other two. That's perfect--I only wanted 3 or 4.

The first seedling is getting greener all the time. You'll notice these pictures were taken inside--thank the cool snap for that. It was in the 80s yesterday, and now we'll be lucky if it breaks into the 60s. Seedlings love stuff like that.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Castor Beans, Day 13




The castor beans now get to spend their days germinating outside. I only took the lid off briefly to take pictures. I assume the rest will follow this first one's suit pretty soon.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Castor Beans, Day 8

It's been a week since I stuffed 5 castor bean seeds into five peat pots, put them in a seed starter, and told them to do their thing. Want to see what they look like now?



Zzzzzzz ....

I'm actually surprised by how long they're taking to sprout considering how fast they'll grow once they're in the earth, but it varies widely--I started marigolds three days ago that are already sprouting. But the castor beans sit nicely in the sun and get warm. I took the picture because I love how steamy it gets in there in the sun, and I draw the curtain around them which bounces the light back on them. If I don't drown them (always a possibility when I'm involved), they'll be popping up before you know it!

An explanation of the new blog description

I admit that the section under the blog title called the blog description hasn't been used as a description of the blog for, like, a year. Mostly, it's been the billboard for quotes that give me giggle fits or phrases I'd like to shout angrily from the rooftops (like the last description, "When are we going to spend some money and get some pitching in here?!"). The current description, however, is attributable to what I saw when I signed in this morning:


Thus, "Where the blog at?" Fortunately, changing the description (which is more descriptive than it's been in a long time) was enough to make Blogger work again, so everything is back to normal. So after some fits and starts, we have now reached our cruising altitude of 30,000 feet, so you may now turn on your electronic devices and read the Loquacious Loquat as it was meant to be read: with text.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hang on just one cotton picking minute ...

Isn't this a nice sweater?

Hang on--do you see what I see?

It's not just a blue hand, either.



There was only one color that didn't have a matching Michael Jackson glove:

That thrilling option for viewing clothing in any available color isn't without a few bugs, I guess.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

A garden digest--sorry

We had our first harvest yesterday! And it's all thanks to garden pests. Chris looked out the window when we were painting and said, "Oh, look, a butterfly!" Indeed it was--a lovely small, pale butterfly! But I thought to myself, "Hmm, that particular variety looks familiar. And it sure is spending a lot of time hanging around my spinach and mustard greens." Experienced gardeners are already saying, "Cabbage moth!!" Such were my suspicions as well, and they were confirmed this morning when I found little caterpillars about a millimeter long munching on my mustards as I harvested them. Regardless, that drove me to the garden so I could make a meal of my greens before anything else could.

Here's my beautiful monnopa spinach:


Now, no commentary on the cooking and eating of spinach is complete without a definition of spinach from Barry Foy's "Devil's Food Dictionary":

spinach A delicate leafy vegetable that ranks as an important source of dietary air and grit (the latter essential to maintaining a healthy gizzard). Spinach is often called "Nature's Annoying Wiseguy" because it has a tendency to collapse rapidly when cooked, deflating from a tangle of vibrant green leaves big enough to fill a broom closet into little more than a limp, green smudge, as if the whole thing had been nothing but a big joke. Observers point out that this makes spinach similar to beet greens. But with beet greens at least you have beets.

In other words, all that spinach was barely enough for two servings after a light steaming and tossing with Brazil nut oil. The mustard greens will be appearing tonight in a salad so it'll at least seem that we have something substantial to eat.

Meanwhile, I've decided to do something (ideally) fun and interesting for you, gentle readers: I'm going to track the growth of castor beans from seed right here on the Loquacious Loquat! Castor beans are extremely fast-growing, ornamental, and frickin' huge, so I thought they'd be more fun to watch grow than, say, beans ("Oh, look! These beans are suffering from chlorosis now!"). I thought about calling the series "Poison in a Pot" (castor beans are the source of ricin), but the idea of being contacted by Homeland Security steered me in another direction. (Then again, if I were growing castor beans for evil purposes, why would I flaunt that so blatantly on my blog? For those from the government reading this right now, I promise to snip off the flowers once they start to die so the nasty seeds don't form and I don't wind up killing a few neighborhood cats--although they're way more interested in my catnip patch.)

Anyhow, here are the Day 1 castor beans in their new location. It's nice and sunny there in the afternoons ... no, scratch that, it's miserably hot and sunny there in the afternoons, so they'll get plenty of heat to help sprout! :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A nice digest

First and foremost, Chris is now licensed to sell life insurance! :) That means he can start making money! On top of that, he's been asked to start teaching the licensing classes--not too shabby for a neophyte in the industry!

We also painted the kitchen green. It sounds alarming, but it's not lime green and I think it looks pretty darn good myself. During the day, it's almost imperceptibly green--it shows up more at night when the electric lights are on. Plus, there was an evenly wide strip above the cupboards on two walls, so we used a darker green. It's like a totally new kitchen!


There were more Go Red sightings at, of all places, the Texas Collegiate League website. Hmm.



I've planted some herbs--some cilantro to grow in a pot in my kitchen and some peppermint in a hanging basket that'll go outside when it gets warm. If you look at the picture of the kitchen, the mint's in the white container on the left, the cilantro is in the cute little cachepot on the right. Not very exciting yet, but I only sowed the mint today and the cilantro yesterday. Patience, Mr. Sir. Out in my planter with available real estate, I planted magenta orach, which I've never eaten before and look forward to seeing grow. And my new seed starter system arrived. Estoy thrilled.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thanks, A-Rod: Part 2 - In Defense of a Great Baseball Boycott 2009

Why stop now, huh? Now Miguel Tejada has pled guilty to perjuring himself in front of Congress. The American public may have scoffed at Congress's show on steroids, but that doesn't mean it doesn't count! (Remember that when you're called before Congress for your part in the baseball steroids scandal.)

Yesterday I spoke on the troubles of a GBB 2009: feelings of powerlessness, feelings of defeatism, the dilemma of what one man can do, and the problem of loving baseball. But today, I'll focus on the case for another baseball boycott (ideally, a more successful one).

To spout a cliché, I worry about the children. That's hardly unique--any elected official within shouting distance of a microphone has expressed the same opinion. I know parents feel the same way. But then that "having it both ways" business enters the picture again, and it reminds me of an example written by an Orthodox priest about talking out of both sides of your mouth:

Remember, little Nikita, don't have sex before marriage; but if you do, remember to use protection.

What?

If one finds premarital sex morally repugnant, why offer options? But what does this have to do with baseball?

Remember, little Nikita, taking steroids can hurt your health and it's cheating. Now, let's go to the ball park, give a standing ovation to the player who just got back from a steroid suspension, and talk about his four year, $100,000,000 contract. Sound like fun?

Okay, probably no one who wasn't oozing sarcasm would word it like that, but the lesson is clear. And that's why I worry about the children: moral wishy-washiness on the part of the parents, the teams, the players, and the law which fails to work despite the illegality of steroids. Yuck.

That's one reason why a baseball boycott seems in order. I know this country is teeming with people who love to take their kids to the ballpark because they want them to have the same experiences they did as a child. But I have to ask two questions:

1. Is the current product really the same experience? When you were a kid, did you see sleek, accomplished athletes, or did you see Philistines (the biblical kind like Goliath, not uncultured brutes, although you could make the argument) at every position who yelled, "HULK SMASH!!!" whenever they hit the ball?
2. Need it be Major League Baseball?

Here it comes, I can feel it: "Chandler, who are you to tell me what to do? You don't even have kids!" Rub it in, why don't you. But here's the truth: Sometimes I think having kids makes parents a little stupid, so a healthy dose of perspective is always in order. Still, I don't want to be thought of as implying that parents should shield their youngins from baseball while I watch NESN to my little heart's content. Just because I have no direct impact on any young minds certainly doesn't mean I don't care--I'm the one who's been babbling on about this for two days.

Seriously, should one take a moral stance only because children exist in the world? No! Baseball lovers must do it for love of the game! We should stomp our little feet in anger because the purity of the turf is tainted and Barry Bonds isn't playing on the same field as Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron! It's just wrong! Screw the children! The Great Game has been ruined by batardos the size of Mount Everest who only want stupid, meaningless home run records! THESE EVIL FORCES MUST BE STOPPED!!

How wonderfully cathartic. Anyway, back to the two questions above: It's not the same game. Fox really ought to stop showing highlights of games past during the World Series because it shows much too clearly the changes, and the viewing several are no longer so naive as to think it's natural. Is it really possible to watch baseball nowadays without a look of alarm on your face?

The second question was about whether it needed to be Major League Baseball? I realize that I live in Texas with its proud tradition of ... Dallas Cowboys football. Since baseball only gets mentioned here when someone needs a good laugh, I understand that it's easier for me to toss aside the MLB than it would be for a Yankees or Red Sox fan. Still, though the MLB has an anti-trust exemption, that doesn't mean it's monopolized the baseball market. (And yes, I am patting myself on the back for that one.)

College Baseball: In particular, the 2009 Houston College Classic! We're heading to Houston at the end of this month to view this fantastic extravaganza. I realize that not every area has such an event, but if you're a fan of the ping of metal batts, this is right up your alley.

College Summer Baseball: Genius. Summer baseball leagues give college players the chance to play with wooden batts. The Texas league collapsed (crazy lawsuits--few teams remain) and it's remarkably popular in Alaska, but if you live in the New England area, hie yourself to a Cape Cod League game and be sure to keep a program. The Cape Cod League is practically a guarantee of success with 2/3 of its players going on to the Majors.

Minor League Baseball: Dicey, I admit, but Chris tells me that they're independently owned (so no money goes to their Major League affiliate) and they actually have a worthwhile testing policy. The MLB could learn from their systems.

Vintage Baseball: You really want an experience for you kids? Try vintage rules baseball. Okay, I admit this one is lame, but if those players are juicing then it's just sad, sad, sad.

I've said my piece, I've thought this all through, and I still don't know if a GBB 2009 is a good idea. Yes, if one finds steroid use repugnant, then one ought not to support it. At the same time, we needn't fool ourselves into thinking that baseball is the only sport with the steroids problem (just the one with the flimsiest punishment system)--why adopt a hard stance on one sport and none of the others? And can any amount of outrage stop players from taking the undetectable human growth hormone?

I leave it up to the jury of gentle readers. I personally will be steering clear of Major League ballparks; taking in some summer league (maybe even a little Cape Cod League while I'm in the Northeast?), some minor league, and perhaps a little vintage baseball; and reveling in the wonder that is NESN. And we'll cross the playoffs road when we get to it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Thanks, A-Rod. Now I can't enjoy baseball AGAIN.

Those "A-Rod is an A-Hole" t-shirts that were so popular amongst Red Sox fans may catch on in New York.

My fave-o-rite sports station this morning got into an issue that was brought up around this time last year, leading to the Great Baseball Boycott of 2008: If you care about steroids in baseball, then do something about it!! Long-time readers will recall that the Great Baseball Boycott quickly turned into the Quickly Tossed Aside Baseball Boycott once the playoffs rolled around, so I wonder about my ability to sustain one through 2009. Nonetheless, here are the facts:

1. A-Rod, best player in baseball and jerk extraordinaire (I prefer to focus on the latter), took steroids during his tenure at the Rangers.
2. This revelation about A-Rod/A-Roid/A-Fraud has reignited the baseball steroid scandal, conveniently forgotten during the off-season.
3. Congress picks and chooses who it persecutes for steroids, and even though A-Rod has admitted to using "banned substances, " they're probably going to leave him alone.
4. Baseball takes out its ruler and slaps you on the knuckles for testing positive. (Only Chris will laugh at this, but ... "Tonight on 4: Freshly rapped knuckles! Look at those beauties! Sir gave me such a whacking, but I'm still going to smoke 'cause it's cool!")

If you care about steroids running rampant in baseball, don't you have to do something? Goodness knows that congress and Major League Baseball themselves aren't! Isn't it in order that one should stay away from games, not buy gear, and not watch it on TV? Is the resurrection of the Great Baseball Boycott in order?

Just one problem:

1. What difference did the Great Baseball Boycott of 2008 make? What difference would another one make?

Considering how we crapped out on GBB 2008, none whatsoever. And considering how packed full ball parks were, I'm sure the fact that I didn't watch the Saturday game on Fox made no difference at all. The only reason people didn't show up at Texas Rangers games last year was because they played so abysmally. This year, I have a hunch that the economic mess will have a greater impact on baseball than any boycott would.

The majority of folks either don't care or want it both ways. Concerning the former, I think there's an element of defeatism that says this is the way things are going, no attempts to stop it will be successful, and you might as well just enjoy it. I fall into the latter group: I want baseball to be clean, but I'm overwhelmed by just plain wanting baseball. There is, admittedly, an element of defeatism in my way of looking at things too--a guessing game wherein the participants give the player up to batt a good look and determine their doping status, "Roids or No?", is too fun for those of us with darker senses of humor to resist. One fan's ability to vote with their pocket books and change baseball seems too herculean a task.

I don't want baseball to be dirty. I want to do my itsy-bitsy part. I definitely want to pretend that anything I do makes a difference, and even if it doesn't then I'll still feel better. But I while my conscience might feel better, every other bit of me won't (especially my poor, broken heart) if I call for GBB 2009. Two reasons why:

1. Me need baseball.
2. NESN.

Let me focus on the greatness of NESN: NESN (pronounced nessin) is the New England Sports Network, and frankly you haven't lived until you've heard the announcers get giggle fits while broadcasting a Red Sox game. And with a week in Maine with my parental units coming up this summer, the prospect of that week being NESN-free causes me profound distress. Especially if the Red Sox are playing badly--they're just more fun then.

This post has become massive. I'll talk a little bit more about it in a day or two.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Breaking News: Catnip Patch Proves Too Much for Large Gato

Chris took Trent out and plonked him smack in the middle of the catnip patch for a treat.


Trent enjoyed it, but it overloaded his system. I guess it was all too overwhelming--a little sprig from the patch is more than sufficient.


He threw up later. Like a kid at the amusement park.

Lesson learned: 12-year-old cats can't handle too much excitement, even in plant form.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The "It Must Be Winter" arrangement

Last year I took a functional gardening approach and planted only food-bearing plants ... and the castor beans. I lamented that decision all summer, as I'm swimming in vases and buying flowers is expensive. But as I was cleaning up my kitchen, I stumbled across my ikebana that my mom gave me and just had to do something with it. So I made a trip to the herb garden, and this was the result:


Now sitting on the edge of the kitchen sink is a tiny bouquet of rosemary, sage, and rue. I think the rue really completes it, especially considering how awful the sage looks. Poor stuff can't wait till summer, I guess.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A trip to the garden

I paid the remnants of my garden a visit for the first time in a while. I can see it out my window, so I know nothing's going wrong, but it caught my eye recently because the warm spell caused my little peas to grow. And some things are just about ready to eat, too ...

Those are peas inching up the trellis, spinach on the left, and mustard greens on the right. Peas are pretty full throttle, by the way--beans just wrapped slowly up the trellis, but peas send out a bunch of teeny-tiny tendrils. (They also have cuter leaves, but they don't bend theirs towards the sun like the beans do.)

A close-up of the lovely mustard greens. I didn't think they'd make it because every time it was above 70 when I planted them in November, a squirrel would dig around in their planter. But they'll be good eating pretty soon, methinks!

The spinach is a special, petite kind called Monnopa. You may have heard that spinach blocks calcium absorption--that's due to oxalic acid, and Monnopa is low in that. They're supposed to be quite sweet. Looks like we'll be eating them soon, too! :)

A pot of herbs: sage up top, lemon thyme at 5 o'clock, and rosemary at 9 o'clock. The thyme looks brown in this picture, but it's actually turned purple. My winter savory does the same thing--it also, not shockingly, gets very bushy in winter. The peppermint turned the most striking purple in cold weather, but it kicked the bucket this past year.

I'm still hopeful we'll get some nice peas soon, but the freshest of fresh greens may be making it to our table as early as this week! Pretty cool, huh?

Friday, February 6, 2009

A little perspective for Wear Red Day

I was reading a study on the NHLBI that said more women are aware of the risk of heart disease, but breast cancer is still the disease they fear most. I don't wish to knock those who raise awareness of breast cancer, but I do wish to offer some perspective:

The breast self-exam, the doctor's exam, and the mammogram are only a part of the health picture. Who knows their cholesterol and blood pressure? Who knows that, more often than not, crushing chest pain is not a symptom of a heart attack in women?

And just to end on a less preachy note, another Wear Red sighting from Campbell's Soup.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Wear Red sightings

In a continuation of yesterday's post, I was pleased to find Wear Red Day hype in unlikely locations. First off, I happened upon Winter Trails when I was looking up information on snowshoeing some time ago. Yesterday, it looked like this:


Meanwhile, its partner site, Winter Feels Good, looked thusly:


Winter Feels Good has been a source of humor for me because of course winter feels good in Texas--it's 66 degrees here right now! But then again, I was laughing about this last week on our trip to the Hill Country, neglected to knock on wood, and ended up having to hike in drizzly, near-frozen weather. And then that night there was an ice storm. Hmm. I think that's called poetic justice, if I'm not much mistaken.

By the way, since winter feels so darn good here, we went hiking at Cedar Hill State Park today (and got in free with our lovely new park pass!). Probably by the time you see this, I'll have the photos up on Backcountry Peripatetic. If you're quicker on the draw than I expect, wait a few minutes, will ya?!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Look to the left

No, no, no, don't turn your head! Look to the left of this window! See what's coming?

This coming Friday, Feb. 6, is National Wear Red Day! This was begun in 2002 to raise awareness of heart disease in women. Although more women will die of heart disease than all leading causes of cancer combined, women are still denied care or told that it's stress or acid reflux causing their chest pain because women can't possibly get heart disease. Hmm.

Yours truly has observed Wear Red Day for 4 years now after a nasty scare. I was getting terrible heart palpitations and chest pain, which was later identified as the annoying combination of hyperthyroidism and costochondritis (the inflammation of the joint attaching the ribs to the breastbone). This was no brief incident--it took about 6 months to pinpoint exactly what was going on, and a heart problem was suspected. Probably wasn't suspected enough, however: I may have been in my early 20's, but I don't think my doctors should've spent all that time trying to find something minor instead of sending me straight to a cardiologist to get an echocardiogram just to be sure! Again, I was fortunate it wasn't a heart problem, but many women go to the emergency room with similar symptoms, get a prescription for Zantac, and have massive a heart attack a few hours later.

So I'm doing my tiny bit for the day. Would you contemplate wearing red on Friday? (Men, Chris is doing it too, so don't be shy!) And check the links below to see if there are any events in your area--Dallas is the home of the American Heart Association, so I may be in luck this month!

NHLBI - The Heart Truth
Go Red for Women (the web address, I admit, looks shockingly like Gored for Women)
WomenHeart

Monday, February 2, 2009

Announcements

I'm getting some stuff back up and running that I deleted some time ago, and of course I'd like to share them with the general readership of the Loquacious Loquat.

First, Chandler's Victory Garden is back, albeit in a very different format. It first appeared in blog form last year until I deleted it because I was ashamed at how badly my garden was failing. However, I've been so pleased with the format of Backcountry Peripatetic that I've re-established Chandler's Victory Garden as a Shutterfly website. Less talk, more pictures--perfect. Pictures from 2008 are up, and you'll be able to follow the castor beans' growth from start to finish with a nice little slideshow on the right-hand side. And it's pretty much ready to go, so you can enjoy it in all its glory already!

Gentle readers--only the gentle ones--may also recall One CD at a Time (or "Once Data Time", as I liked to call it), my blog wherein I gave every classical music CD a listen. I deleted that blog in a depressed funk after the adoption failed. Strangely, I feel no regret about the failed adoption, but I feel tremendous regret about deleting that blog. Even though I only did it for a few weeks, every time I get a new classical CD or download something from iTunes, I think, "Boy, I can't wait to sit down and give this a good listen all the way through!" To fulfill that need, I've started up Chandler Plays the Classics, which is a name I find infinitely more amusing. However, Lent begins on March 2 and the computer is going off for Clean Week (the first week of Orthodox Lent, not some official spring cleaning thing), so I won't kick this project into full gear until March 7. I may schedule something to post on that day, but I won't be devoting any time next week to the project.

Isn't all that fun?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

That annoying digital switch

I'm thinking I'd like a new TV. I could get a converter box, which might be cheaper, or just use the one we have now to watch DVDs--after all, we only watch football and baseball playoffs. But there is a little problem that makes such an idea a little less worth it ...

... more often than not, when you hit the off-button on the front of the TV, it just changes channels. It can take 3 or 4 times of hitting the button to turn the stupid thing off.

Anyone who'd like to tell me to just use the remote is welcome to show up at my house to try and find it.

I'm thinkin' new TV, and perhaps a tape player so I can watch that tremendous stock of videos the library keeps.