Monday, July 30, 2007

I am a bad reader

I will be the first to admit that I am a terrible, uncritical reader. Unless I run across a major typographical or grammatical error, my first reading of a text is basically thoughtless. I just read a friend's critique of HPatDH, and I noticed none of the problems she noticed. Plot holes? What? My total experience was this: adrenaline, tears, adrenaline , tears. Giggle. Tears, tears, tears. And that was it.

These things continue even in the world of nonfiction (philosophy and music excepted). Right now I'm reading an amazing and terribly amusing book called The God Delusion, by Dawkins. It's a hard-core denouncement of religion and an appeal to atheism, and I'm eating it up. Six months ago, I was reading The Soul's Religion, by Thomas Moore (the contemporary Christian writer, not the 19th century one) and eating it up.

That's not to say that I never read critically. I practically lived and breathed critical analysis in college, and when I pick up anything on philosophy of mind, the derisive comments are scathing. When I read my own writing or those of people I'm editing, I can be downright brutal (in a warm and considerate way, of course). Some might even use the word 'nit-picky.'

But I guess when it comes to escapist literature, I box up my brain and let it snooze. It's pretty pathetic, and it's a bad habit. A habit I think I should break now, before it causes me permanent damage.

Kt, you've inspired me! From now on, I shall try to be a better reader!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

There's no place like home

Sometimes I become overwhelmed by a vast sense of loneliness. It invades me at times I least expect it or at times when I'm feeling a little weak to begin with. It's not a loneliness for any person I know--it's a loneliness for small living things and for tall trees and the sound of rain hitting the ferns. I suppose it's homesickness.

I love living in Portland. It's a charming city, full of all the things that are good about a larger community. There's a great library system, fantastic restaurants, art, music and, most important of all, a good coffee shop on every corner. But it's not home.

Home gets a little mixed up in my head. Mostly, it's Ash Valley, with its narrow canyons and second-growth trees. I spent most of my childhood exploring a space the size of three city blocks: a wonderful expanse of swamp, stream and forest. I can remember a few hikes with Jan Tetrault, who took us kids out of our backyards and up into the hills (they'd be mountains in Pennsylvania). She told us the names of plants. What a gift.

Sometimes, home is the even smaller stretch of Gardiner that I walked with Fiona in her baby pouch. Throughout the cemetery were old garden classics like grape hyacinth and hydrangea and plum trees that were the children of the pioneers' orchards. Then there were the tenacious weed-fields that were slowly taking back the old mills.

Further afield but equally loved was the beach and the spruce forests abutting the shore. I can think of no place more enchanted than the woods behind Haceta Head. The forest spans no fewer than 4 microclimates with varying guilds of plants and lichens, and the duff is so thick that your feet spring up on every step.

And of course home has never been home without the animals. My first real memories include the lambs, butting up against smell and all milky-smelling. After that, there were the cats, so many I can hardly count. Squirrels and deer and rescued baby bats and ducks and snakes and horses. And chickens. And donkeys. The city can feel a little lonely with all the pets just hidden away.

That loneliness is always there. Most of the time, it slumbers, held under the surface by the distractions of city life. But sometimes, when things get quiet, it wakes up. And I am homesick again.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Guerrilla gardens update!

Sorry for all the delays on guerrilla gardening at its finest! But I've gotten things up and running and should have more regular fantastic posts on everybody's favorite topic: the shady side of plants!

So check out what's new on!


It's hard to believe, but I think deep down I want to be a survivalist. You know Bert from Tremors? I want to be him.

A lot of that has to do with my childhood out in the Oregon woods (when you put it like that, it sounds sooo rustic). My parents weren't really the back-to-the-land types--mostly because they'd never left it. I mean, right now they live in a house my dad built himself, and he only added a bathroom last summer. His designs for an outdoor shower with a homemade flash water heater were pretty cool, too. And my mom? Well, she grew up without electricity.

Needless to say, childhood memories of helping in the garden and licking jam out of pots aren't all idyllic, but as I get older, I find myself drawn more and more strongly to that life. It's not just nostalgia. Exposure to "The Morning After" and "Max Max & The Thunderdome" at an early age seems to have triggered a profound paranoia about the end of civilization as we know it. Deep down, I'm just waiting for the petroleum to run out and my knowledge of hand-sewing to come into play.

Anyway, if you get a chance, I recommend the book that I'm reading: The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook, by Albert Bates. It's like a summary of all the stuff I'm obssessed with, give or take a few pointers on loom construction and operation of your own printing press.

Oh yeah. I'm getting more Bert every day.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

White trash vegan

Tonight I had to dip down into the bottom of my recipe cheats and make something tasty and easy to go with macaroni salad. I was feeling mighty lazy, so here's what I came up with:

Po' White Beets
1 bunch baby beets and greens
1/2 Tb olive oil
1/2 C lemonade
1 tsp white wine vinegar
salt & pepper to taste.

Scrub beets and remove all but 2-3 inches of stems. Heat oil in pan on med. high heat; when warm, toss beets around for about 2 minutes. Add lemonade. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until beets are fork-tender (about 4 minutes if very small). Add beet greens, vinegar, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer an additional minute until everything is soft.

Lazy Kidneys
1 can kidney beans
1 Tb ketchup
1 tsp onion powder
2 dashes hot sauce

Stir to combine and heat in the microwave.

The creepy thing about these foods is that they turned out the same color. Still, they tasted mighty tasty and took less than 10 minutes to prepare; they were low-fat and healthy. It almost made up for the Safeway macaroni salad. Yummmmmmm.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Best of Opera Buffo

Man, I was doing some maintenance on the site and started reading old posts from my first year as a blogger. What great memories! Some of the stuff Fiona used to do just cracked me up. I might have to repost some of the better entries, because they are worth reading again.

Oh, and if anybody misses the scintillating conversation about water conservation, I'm sorry, but said site maintenance may have eaten it. Oops. Just remember to take shorter showers, and if it's yellow, let it mellow!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Wasting away

John and Fiona spent yesterday in the basement, staying cool. John also tackled an experiment. He decided to see how much water a load of laundry uses.

He recently picked up some fifteen-gallon drums from work, so he brought some down to the basement and placed the outlet hose inside one. When it got full, he moved it to a second drum, which fortunately, was just big enough. A full load of laundry takes about thirty gallons of water to wash and rinse.

Thirty gallons.

A camel will go four months without water and then drink thirty gallons without stopping. It may go another four months without needing to drink again.

According to Missippi State, a productive, full-grown apple tree needs about 30 gallons a day to live and make apples.

According to the Afghanistan Human Develpment Report, 20 liters of water a day is a basic human right. One load of laundry = water for about 5 people for one day.

Thirty gallons, so I can smell good.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Recycling for chimps!

Today's big excitement: I made arrangements to collect the museum's toner & ink cartridges and donate them to Chimps Inc! Chimps Inc is a chimp sanctuary in Bend. I just read about them in the Oregonian today (they are embroiled in a lawsuit to keep two of their ape charges, who may or may not 'belong' to another chimp sanctuary in Texas), and I was so excited to learn that there was a sanctuary HERE, in Oregon! For about twenty minutes, I was all set to move to Bend so I could become a volunteer.

It's funny. Growing up, I was always afraid of chimpanzees. (This might be because of a horror movie with a murderous chimp.) My mother always disliked them, too. But lately, I have become very drawn to chimpanzees. For some reason, of all the creatures who have suffered at the hands of humans, chimpanzees now touch me the most deeply. In some ways, I feel so strongly about them that I really would pack up and move to Bend if I thought that was the best way I could help them. And I don't know. Maybe it would.

Why can't they live in Corvallis? Or someplace that's not the desert?