Thursday, October 25, 2012

Skunked and Lobstered

I went into the woods today looking for Chanterelle mushrooms. On that mission I was skunked.

However, I did find two specimens of very large, bright orange mushrooms, which I did not keep, but identified just now as:

A parasitic fungus whose host is.....fungus! What will they think of next?

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Powder Keg

A few weeks ago a friend described north Clark County as a "powder keg". It has only continued to dry out since then. The historic Yacolt Burn must have occurred in similar circumstances. Although I'm not sure there has ever been a fall with such a consecutive period of dry days before.

Rain is on its way this Friday, so before we get all soggy again, I thought I'd take the time to note this most unusual dry-spell that will have lasted almost midway into October before it is over.

The grass is California-brown.
The tomatoes were exceedingly prolific.
We always get dry summers, but the depth and degree of dryness is exceptional today.
The clear nights have lead to frost on the lower parts of our property, perhaps 4 times by now. Still, the Tomatoes, atop the hill, haven't blackened.

Since the rain brings lows in the mid 40's, they may yet last while longer, although I doubt much more ripening can occur.

Heidi planted corn so late in the year, I couldn't see how it would ripen. Nevertheless, some small ears have come to full fruition.

Last note: with our passive-solar home design, and the recent spate of completely clear and dry days, we have consistently reached indoor temperatures of 80-82, while the daytime high outside has been 70-74.

This in contrast to summertime, in which the sun doesn't shine in our windows much, and the temperatures peak at 84, even when outside temps are around 100.

Experience has shown that nighttime temperatures do not fall more than 4 degrees F per night, even on freezing nights. Thus I expect our home will still be above 70 by mid-October without supplementary heating.

Then it is anyone's guess if we can break our prior record of making it to Nov. 1 before employing any form of indoor heat.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Garlic Harvest

As a mnemonic I use two holidays to help me remember to plant and harvest my garlic each year. Halloween is for planting (this is easy due to the legends of vampires being repelled by garlic). July 4th is for harvest (think fireworks of flavor!)

This year is different. We have had rain, rain and more rain throughout June. The soil is thick with moisture. You are supposed to let the soil dry out to make the harvest easier, but with the leaves on some plants withering fast, a "wet harvest" may be in the cards.

Remember, you need a few green leaves in order to peel the dirt from the head. So don't wait too long if you want to bring your garlic in for dinner.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rough Night For Veteran Ballplayers

Sunday night I seized the opportunity to watch baseball history unfold as R.A. Dickey, recently off two consecutive one-hit starts for the New York Mets, started against the New York Yankees and CC Sabathia. It had the potential to be a great pitching duel. Alas, the "ace" starters "dueled" themselves to a 5-5 tie before they were both relieved in the 6th inning. Dickey's scoreless inning streak was ended at 44 and 2/3rds innings and his chance for a third consecutive one-hitter was dashed when Nick Swisher smashed a three-run homer. Dickey ended his game with a slide into home where the catcher tagged him in the face despite the fact the catcher wasn't holding the ball. So the 37 year-old Dickey scored, but was roughed up a bit at the plate in multiple ways.

After a leisurely meal of pizza, burgers and root beer, followed by a couple innings with the boys trending towards boredom, I gave them each $10 to play video-games in the arcade. I watched a couple more innings until the aforementioned duel was concluded, then deciding I had no vested interest in which NY team won the game, I left to see how the boys were doing.

They had a stack of prize-tickets half a mile long. They were playing an electronic jump-rope game that rewarded them with loads of tickets if they were able to avoid stepping on the pressure-pad while the "light rope" was near their feet. With all the tickets they won, they were able to each get a yo-yo and they also got a mini basketball hoop and ball (for indoor use) a mini football with foam arrow-feathers attached and some candy.

Then, despite the fact I promised them we'd bowl, the boys amiably agreed to play hacky-sack instead to  save a few bucks.

That turned out to be the most fun of the night. Our goal is to get as many successful passes as possible with the recipient touching the bag before it hits the ground. We achieved a new record of 5, since acquiring the hacky-sack on Saturday.

As the veteran hacky-sack player in the group, the boys relied on me to act as a stabilizing force and catch passes from one, control it and pass to the other. Unfortunately, like Dickey and Sabathia, my skills were not at their best that night.
Nevertheless, the boys were entertained when I ran after a long-shot, lunging with such force that my anchor foot was made to skid over the ground and lose traction.
Imagine a letter 'K' that is six and a half feet long and 220 lbs, with it's flat side toward the ground and a little elbow poking towards the asphalt. That is the position I was in the moment after losing my grip on the ground and just before flopping on it again like a fish.
Jamey and Arthur worried over me a bit; asked if I was okay and offered to quit for the day. Not wanting to set the example of quitting after a "superficial" injury, I rallied forth (after a bit more writhing on the ground, holding my elbow) and we played more, with the boys admonishing me to resist the temptation to chase down the really wild ones (while I dreamed of the chance to chase down another, thus demonstrating I could do it without falling this time.)

Later, I asked them what it looked like to see me flop. Jamey said it was really funny looking and that he had to hold-back from laughing when it happened (Arthur agreed). This surprised me a bit, because I imagined it to be a spectacular crash, not a humorous one.

So, I got roughed up a bit too, but despite the bruises and scrapes it was great fun and a great "boys night out".

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Day Snowbear Earned his Free-Pass For Life

Yesterday I came home to hear from my youngest son that he had seen a very large cat in our yard.
From the sound of it, the cat had seen him first. 

Arthur's report:
"I saw two eyes looking at me from the trees and I thought it was a deer. Then Snowbear started chasing it and I thought 'no Snowbear, don't chase the deer!'. But when it jumped it looked like a cat with elongated legs"....that was as big as Snowbear and tan like a deer. 

For those that may not have enough context to read between the lines above: Snowbear is a fluffy 120 pound dog. A tan cat of that size in this area is known as a cougar (Puma concolor), also known as pumamountain lionmountain catcatamount or panther.

Typically, with our dog, I have kept a running total of costs in vet-bills, food cost, damaged property and inconvenience to my self in my head. Up until now his balance has been technically deep in the red. With parts of my velomobile, all of our hose and most of our extension cords chewed to bits, I had many reasons to complain about his cost.

Now, however, he has done in an instant something of incalculable value. Thus it won't make sense to keep a running-total of debits and credits anymore. He has earned himself a free-pass for life.

And I offer my thanks to the generations of breeders who had the good sense to breed such a fine dog.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Courtside At The Blazers Game

I had the privilege to watch Portland vs. the Milwaukie Bucks tonight from a very choice perspective...front row, directly beneath the hoop.
The Blazers took a drubbing, but that even couldn't dampen the pleasure of sitting so close to the action. Three times, players crashed into the seats next to me. Once I had to deflect a loose ball that was coming at my face. That's NBA spectating the way it ought to be.
24 seconds into the following video, you might be able to make me out, sitting two seats left of the post, front row.

On the left side of the screen, I've circled me and my friend John.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Re-Thinking Education

I followed my brother's Google+ link to Seth Godin's Manifesto on Education and had to share with a bit of editorial, since there was so much great thought in it. 200+ pages.
For example:

43. How not to teach someone to be a baseball fan
Teach the history of baseball, beginning with Abner Doubleday and the impact
of cricket and imperialism. Have a test.
Starting with the Negro leagues and the early barnstorming teams, assign
students to memorize facts and figures about each player. Have a test.
Rank the class on who did well on the first two tests, and allow these students to
memorize even more statistics about baseball players. Make sure to give equal
time to players in Japan and the Dominican Republic. Send the students who
didn’t do as well to spend time with a lesser teacher, but assign them similar
work, just over a longer time frame. Have a test.
Sometime in the future, do a field trip and go to a baseball game. Make sure no
one has a good time.
If there’s time, let kids throw a baseball around during recess.
Obviously, there are plenty of kids (and adults) who know far more about
baseball than anyone could imagine knowing. And none of them learned it this
The industrialized, scalable, testable solution is almost never the best way to
generate exceptional learning.

This encapsulates quite a bit of what he says in the baseball to learn baseball.
Being a doer and creator will spark passion and generate the kind of people and products our world needs. Learning by rote kills passion and kills ambition.

One comment on this subject that strikes close to home is this:
We can teach kids to engage in poetry, to write poetry, and to demand poetry—
or we can take a shortcut and settle for push-pin, YouTube, and LOLcats.
I'm as big a fan of YouTube and LOLcats as the next guy...but I do fear the consequences in wallowing in self-indulgent consumerism, of media as much as material. The upshot for YouTube (and the internet in general) is that it has empowered more creators of content than was imaginable a few decades ago, so perhaps the net effect is positive, even if many hours are wasted in consuming the content.

Finally, Godin shares this great quote from Horace Mann, which summarizes an ideal I share:
…be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.