Leslie's Latest News

Saturday, May 31, 2003

I've been experimenting with a free Mac application called NetNewsWire Lite which gives you a convenient way to read weblogs. The catch is that it only works with weblogs that provide an RSS feed. (An RSS feed is an XML version of the weblog that identifies each item by its component parts: title, summary, etc. This makes it possible for an automated program to parse the weblog. About half of the weblogs that I read regularly have an RSS feed; many weblogging programs create such a file automatically.) Using NetNewsWire Lite, you can subscribe to a set of weblogs, and it will show you when they have new items you haven't read yet and display the titles and summaries. When you see something you want to read, you can click on the title and the app will open the actual weblog item.

It's interesting, but I'm still not sure how useful it's going to be. It would be nice to be notified when one of the personal weblogs I read that don't get updated very often have new material, but those are exactly the weblogs that aren't likely to have an RSS feed anyway. It seems most useful for the weblogs that you are only peripherally interested in, as it allows you to scan many topics quickly and zero in on the specific ones you want to read.
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A neighbor came over early this morning to offer me a chunk of a sea bass he'd caught on a fishing trip yesterday. I took it and made a "Basque-Style Fish Bake" from the Eat What You Love and Lose cookbook I mentioned earlier. It involved roasting onions, green and red peppers, and new potatoes with garlic and tomatoes, and then baking the fish on top. It came out very good. I had it for lunch and still have 4 servings left over. (It was a big hunk of fish.) With it, I had a salad made with mesclun and radishes from my garden, dressed with homemade raspberry vinegar. The radishes are really good this year because of all the rain we've had. And for dessert, some blueberries with vanilla frozen yogurt. Yum.

We've got a nor'easter forecast for us tomorrow, so I'm trying to get some garden work done before it's too late. I mowed the front lawn, spread a few more bags of mulch, thinned the carrots and beets, and did some weeding. I think I'm going to hold off on planting out the tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and basil until after the storm. Oh shoot - I just looked out and the rain has started. Got to get back out and put away the lawnmower, etc. More later....
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Salam Pax, Baghdad blooger, author of Where is Raad?, has been hired to write a column for The Guardian. The article gives some interesting background about Salam Pax and his blog.

It was the great irony of the war. While the world's leading newspapers and television networks poured millions of pounds into their coverage of the war in Iraq, it was the internet musings of a witty young Iraqi living in a two-storey house in a Baghdad suburb that scooped them all to deliver the most compelling description of life during the war.

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Oh no! They're going to make a musical based on The Lord of the Rings. This is just wrong, wrong, wrong! (And I normally like musicals.)
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Friday, May 30, 2003

I was feeling tired this evening, but the weather was lovely, and in the current climate, it's best to seize the day. So I drummed up enough energy to do a little garden work. Today's task was to prepare the last two raised garden beds, which involves adding lime, fertilizer, and compost, turning the soil, and then levelling it out, pulling out any stones or large clumps of undecomposed compost I run across. It's actually quite pleasant to run my hands through the garden soil - after years of adding compost, it's very rich with a texture that reminds me of of moist chocolate cake. The soil is so loose and airy that I can plant seeds just by pushing them in and can open a planting hole for an annual with one swipe of a trowel.

I have some Johnny-Jump-Ups that I let grow wild in the garden paths. I pull up all the other weeds, but I think these are very nice looking in the spring, so I leave them alone. Actually, I've sort of selected for color - I used to pull up all the pale ones and leave the deep purple ones, so now I pretty much only get the deep purple ones. They look like this:

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I haven't been commenting on current events much lately because I just find it all too depressing. Calpundit had a post recently that just about sums up how I'm feeling (See Depressed). The latest depressing news is how Congress conveniently "omitted" the child care tax credit for low-income families (explained here by the NY Times). Not to mention the ongoing story about how the administration lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to get support for the war (see the Paul Krugman opinion piece Waggy Dog Stories). The only hopeful note was a recent survey that showed support for Bush was dropping. According to this survey, "More than half, 55 percent, said they would prefer the government spend more money on providing health care coverage, compared to 36 percent who said they wanted taxes reduced for themselves and for corporations." If this keeps up, maybe we can accomplish a "regime change" in the next election.

Another chapter in my ongoing war with my old health insurance company.I think I mentioned that they refused a bunch of claims I sent in for January and February (after I was laid off, but while I was still supposedly covered.) I've asked the company that Vignette uses as claims "ombudsmen" to look into this. So far, I've just gotten one e-mail from them asking for information that I'd already faxed to them (so I provided it again). I'm trying to resign myself to not getting the money, but it's just so unfair.

Meanwhile, I've gotten my first payment from the new company (for a dentist visit) without any problem, so I have hopes they will be better. I've got an appointment next week with a new specialist I had to switch to because my old one wasn't on the new plan (most of my other doctors were.) The problem I'm having now is getting my medical records forwarded to the new doctor. Recently Massachusetts passed a "privacy" law that makes it much harder to get medical records sent out. You can't just call up and ask for them, but have to write a letter or fill out a form giving permission. I have three doctors whose records are relevant, and wrote to all of them weeks ago, but the receptionist for the new doctor says she hasn't received anything. I finally just wrote up my own medical history (I have pretty good records of tests and dates and so forth) to give to the new doctor when I see her, along with phone numbers for all the relevant other doctors. I hope they'll be able to work it out.

On a more cheery note, the first episode of The Amazing Race was on last night, and it was a lot of fun. They have really found some interesting pairs to compete this time. Reading the message boards, it seems that the strategy of putting it in Survivor's time slot and promoting it to Survivors viewers has attracted a lot of new fans. This is good, as I'd like to see the show to continue.

I am told that the Garden in the Woods will be featured on a People, Places, Plants segment on channel 56 at 8am tomorrow (Saturday) morning. I've got my TiVo set to capture it.

Addendum: I just got a call from the ombudsman mentioned above. She says that the insurance company has lost all evidence that I ever made these claims. This is interesting, because I have the form they sent me denying them. Anyway, I have to copy the whole package again and send it to the ombudsman, who will forward it to them yet again. Well, at least I know someone is working on it.

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Thursday, May 29, 2003

Wow, it's not raining today. I found a nice spot for my Ostrich Fern at the corner of my toolshed, between a lilac and a Lenten rose, in a bed of sweet woodruff. It really makes quite a nice focal point - I hope it survives. I still need to plant the plants I picked up at Home Depot last week. I did manage to plant one bed of impatiens and the window boxes on my front porch during a brief respite from rain earlier in the week, but I still have a few flats of petunias and several perennials to find spots for. As a testament to how wet it's been, I found an amazing crop of lush green moss growing in one of the windowboxes.

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Thanks to Laurie Mann for sending me a pointer to this Geek test (warning, it's long, but it will make you chuckle). I scored 32.54438% - Total Geek. Sounds good, but that was way short of the "higher" categories of Major Geek, Super Geek, Extreme Geek, Geek God, and Dysfunctional Geek.
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In an earlier post, I mentioned a western wildflower named Lewisia, so I thought I'd hunt up a picture of it. In my web browsing, I discovered that the one species of Lewisia is known as bitterroot (as in the Bitterroot Mountains), and it is the state flower of Montana. In spite of its name, the root was actually harvested for food by the Indians. The bitterness comes from one specific part called the heart (which is apparently the beginnings of the following year's growth). If the heart is removed the rest is okay to eat.
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If you buy books, you might check out www.overstock.com. The last few books I've bought, they've come up with the lowest price, and they don't charge much for shipping. I've been wanting to buy Bill Cullina's wildflower book, but was hesitating because of the $40 pricetag. Overstock.com had it for $22.99 plus $1.40 shipping (compare to Amazon's $28.00 plus shipping, which is usually higher than $1.40). I've had this type of success with other titles, also.

Correction: The Amazon order would be eligible for their free super-saver shipping for orders over $25.00. Overstock still comes out about $3.50 cheaper, though.
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Wednesday, May 28, 2003

I did a garden tour today, and came home totally rejuvenated. The garden was green and lush with all the rain (although it obligingly refrained from raining for the hour and a half of the tour). This morning was a small group - two very knowledgeable visitors from Maine, and one woman who is a guide trainee who had come to shadow. We all had a great time. Sadly, some of the earlier flowers are fading now, but new things are coming into bloom every day, including a lot of the rhododendrons and azaleas. The woodland garden still has trilliums and yellow lady slippers, wild blue phlox, jacob's ladder, foamflower, and wild geranium, among other things. Most of the ferns have fully unfurled and are looking lush. I've even learned how to identify some of them. We found a few Jack-in-the-Pulpits, but no pink lady slippers yet. Down by the pond, there is a striking blue western wildflower called Camassia. Still nothing much in the meadow area - that will hit its peak later in the summer.

I ate lunch outdoors in the picnic area outside the education building and the sun obligingly came out for about 15 minutes, which was great. Then I hung around for the afternoon to work on the member surveys. We had a great meeting with a volunteer statistics consultant, resolved most of the issues we had, and developed a plan for how to proceed. Since I am busy next week (2 tours and an afternoon helping to prepare for the annual plant sale - a major event) Stuart (the other key volunteer on the project) is going to start by doing some experiments to verify some of the things we want to do and then setting up the templates. Then after the plant sale we'll train a few other volunteers to do data entry. I've also been tasked with documenting the process, which is something I'm pretty comfortable doing. So I'll be keeping busy.

Today I learned about one of the major perks for volunteers at the garden. If you happen to be around when the horticulture department has dug up some unneeded plants, they make an announcement that the plants are available for free, the receptionist hands out plastic bags, and everyone interested heads out to the garbage bins to retrieve whatever plants they want. So today I came home with a good-sized Ostrich fern. Cool. (I'm not entirely sure I have the right conditions - it gets fairly large and needs a moist environment - but I'll see if I can find a spot for it.)
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Tuesday, May 27, 2003

I walked down by the river today, in between showers. I saw a lot of wildlife, including one animal I'd never seen before and can't quite identify. It looked sort of like a badger, but badgers aren't native to this area and it didn't have a noticeable white stripe on its face. I saw it from the side as it crossed the path ahead of me, and all I remember for sure is a sort of darker patch on top of its head and neck, and a thick fuzzy tail. It definitely wasn't a beaver or opossum. I suppose it might possibly have been a racoon. In addition to the unknown guy, I saw a cottontail rabbit, a couple of squirrels, the usual ducks and geese, and a long-necked bird perched in a tree over the water that was probably a heron. Flowers in bloom included buttercups, honeysuckle, and viburnum. On my way home the sun actually came out for a couple of minutes, which was a thrill.

Addendum: I have been told by apparently reliable sources that the animal I saw was probably a woodchuck. Seems reasonable.
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From the Boston Globe today:

Obesity costs the US economy up to $93 billion a year in direct medical costs, an amount that would pay for the ambitious health-care plans put forward by several presidential candidates, according to an analysis published earlier this month in the journal Health Affairs. The authors said the cost of physical inactivity, a major ingredient in obesity, is greater than smoking...

The research, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that an obese person costs $732 a year more in overall medical bills than a non-obese person. By comparison, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry estimates that, for $72 billion a year, he could provide health insurance for 95 percent of Americans and reduce the cost of prescription drugs for everyone, among other things.

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And still it rains... I noticed yesterday that the start of the rains coincided with the date last year that I traveled to England for that fantastic vacation. The gods definitely are toying with me.

A Painted House. This is another example of a novel that I read before seeing the Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie. Both were pretty good. John Grisham, who is known mostly for writing legal thrillers, changes pace here and writes about a boyhood on a poor Arkansas cotton farm in the 1950's. Probably partly autobiographical, but also with a small dose of drama, in the form of murder, illegitimate children, illicit romances, and other secrets that the young boy gets exposed to. But beyond the story, it's a beautiful description of a lost time and place, and the boy's relationship to his family and the land.

Chocolat. I'm probably the last person in the world to see Chocolat. I was surprised to find that it was filmed in English; I thought it was in French. My mistake. You know the story - a mysterious woman moves into a straight-laced town and opens a chocolate shop where the product has an interesting effect on people. It reminded me a little of Like Water for Chocolate, which was another great fantasy about food changing people's lives. This one features a trio of strong women: Juliette Binoche as the chocolatier (who actually studied how to make chocolates in preparation for her role), Lena Olin as an oppressed wife who learns to stand up for herself, and the remarkable Judy Dench as an older woman who opens up and begins to enjoy life again. Your basic feel-good movie. (Make sure you have some chocolate in the house before you sit down to watch it.)

Jewel in the Crown. Now available on DVD, this was a mini-series that first appeared on Masterpiece Theatre many years ago. Based on a series of novels by Paul Scott (The Raj Quartet), it is about the end of the British occupation of India starting in 1942. The first two episodes portray a doomed romance between two unforgettable characters: Hari Kumar, raised in England and more British than Indian, struggling to adapt to a society alien to him, and Daphne Manners, an ernest, slightly awkward young Englishwoman who works in a hospital and lives with a high-caste Indian woman friend of the family, "Auntie" Chatterjee. (Not to forget Timothy Pigott-Smith as Ronald Merrick, the rigid and repressed police officer who also is attracted to Daphne.) Later episodes, which I have yet to rent, go on to other characters, as this is a pretty epic novel. But over the years, it was those first two that I remembered best. Of course, the personal story is just a metaphor for the larger tragedy, which was the British occupation of India. The women characters seem to be the ones who "get it" the best, (the men tend to be wrapped up in their love of power), but they are helpless to change things. "There's nothing to be done" is a phrase that turns up several times in the first few episodes. (By the way, the books are great, too.)

As you can see, since the rains came, I've been watching a lot of TV. Only two more to go and I'll be caught up with the reviews. And at the moment, there's not an unwatched tape or DVD in the house. Looks like today I'll be reduced to watching back episodes from Home and Garden Television. :-)
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Monday, May 26, 2003

I'm 50% snob. What is your snob index?
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You'll find some fantastic photos from the Mars Global Surveyor over here. The photo to the left is the Earth and the Moon, as seen from Mars. You can just make out the tip of South America extending below the large patch of clouds, and a bit of Central America and the Yucatan visible above it. (The picture has been optically enhanced, as the Moon would not be as bright relative to the Earth as shown here.)

(Thanks to Amygdala for the link.)

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Steal This Movie. This is a biography of Abbie Hoffman that I was moved to watch after seeing The Trial of the Chicago 7. This movie covers the trial, of course, but also covers the forming of the Yippies, including that wonderful demonstration at the Pentagon where they claimed to be exorcising it from evil by levitating the building. What a wonderful melding of playfulness and fun with serious political statement! It also covers Hoffman's marriage, his later years in the underground, and his battle with manic depression (which explains a lot). The title comes from the title of a book that he wrote, called Steal This Book, which nobody wanted to publish because - understandably - they were afraid that they wouldn't recoup their investment because people would actually steal it. It finally got published by Grove Press, which was most famous for publishing literary works that had been suppressed as "pornographic", such as Lady Chatterley's Lover and Tropic of Cancer. In the commentary, the director said that his young daughter was surprised by the scene in which Bobby Seale is bound and gagged in the courtroom. She thought he had made it up. For that reason alone, it's good that movies like this are made.

The Lady and the Duke. This is one of those movies that the critics loved, but most real people hated (at least if you judge by the reviews on the Internet Movie Database). It is based on the memoirs of an aristocratic English woman living in Paris during the French Revolution. Because it was a true story, I was inclined to find it fascinating. But somehow, the way it was presented was very stiff and bloodless. A lot of the scenes consist of formal conversations between two people sitting in a room. When the "action" does move outdoors, it's against painted backdrops that make it feel like a stage play. I didn't really get into the story until quite late in the film, when the lead character finds herself in danger of arrest. (And even then, only mildly.) It just didn't work for me.

Cold Comfort Farm. This, on the other hand, was a lot of fun. Probably because I've always loved the book. Written in the 1930's, the book was a witty parody of the seething melodramatic novels popular in the period. Flora Poste, the quintessential modern and sensible woman, descends on her oddball relatives at Cold Comfort Farm (the Starkadders) and tries to set things right. The book abounds with hysterical descriptions, and although the movie is quite true to them, I'd recommend reading the book first to get the full impact. It's the kind of book where, when you meet someone who's read it, you go right into trading catchphrases: Great Aunt Ada Doom, who "saw something nasty in the woodshed", the preacher's rousing conclusion, "There is no butter in hell!", everyone referring to Flora as "Robert Poste's child", the cows named Graceless, Pointless, Feckless, and Aimless... I want to quote a little bit, although it's hard to choose, so I just opened a page at random and came up with this. (Flora is talking to the hired girl, who had just borne an illegitimate child.)

''Taint so bad as some people make out. Mother says it's because I keeps me spirits up and eats hearty aforehand.'

Flora was pleasantly surprised to hear this, and for a second wondered if the women novelists had been misinformed about confinements. But no; she recollected that they usually left themselves a loophole by occasionally creating a primitive woman, a creature who was as close to the earth as a bloomy greengage and rather like one to look at and talk to, and this greengage creature never had any bother with her confinements, but just took them in her stride, as it were. Evidently, Meriam belonged to the greengage category.

'Indeed,' said Flora, 'I am glad to hear it.' When can you take the curtains down? The day after to-morrow?'

'I never said as I'd wash your curtains. Haven't I enough to bear, wi' three children to find food for, and me mother lookin' after a fourth? And who's to know what will hapen to me when the sukebind is out in the hedges again and I feels so strange on the long summer evenings -- ?'

'Nothing will happen to you, if only you use your intelligence and see that it doesn't,' retorted Flora firmly. 'And if I may sit down on this stool -- that you, no, I will use my handkerchief as a cushion -- I will tell you how to see that nothing happens. And never mind about the sukebind for a minute (what is this sukebind, anyway?). Listen to me.'

And carefully, in detail, in cool phrases, Flora explained exactly to Meriam how to forestall the disastrous effect of too much sukebind and too many long summer evenings upon the female system.

Meriam listened, with eyes windening the widening.

''Tes wickedness! 'Tes flying in the face of Nature!' she burst out fearfully at last.

'Nonsense!' said Flora. Nature is all very well in her place, but she must not be allowed to make things untidy. Now remember, Meriam - no more sukebind and summer evenings without some preparations beforehand.'

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Sunday, May 25, 2003

No sun today, but at least it wasn't actually raining this afternoon, and I was going stir-crazy in the house, so I went for a walk/jog along the Charles River. Saw a number of people fishing, and a very large flock of about 2 dozen baby geese being guarded by several adults. There's a tremendous amount of poison ivy along the paths there, although I read in the local paper that they are planning a river cleanup that might involve some poison ivy control. That would be good. As far as I'm concerned, I'd rather live near a toxic waste dump than a patch of poison ivy. (At the Garden in the Woods most of the poison ivy has been removed in the cultivated areas. Except for one plant near the nursery that is labeled and left to grow for educational purposes. People find this very amusing.)

I've sort of fixed my mail problem. The mail program was apparently getting hung up on one specific message in the message queue. (I couldn't tell exactly which one, but it was always dying at the same point in the download.) So I erased all of my mail from the server and it started working again. Only problem is, it's happened once more since then. At least now I know how to fix it, and I'm keeping track of what messages are in the queue when it happens, so I can see if there's any sort of pattern.
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Markos Zuniga, author of the weblog The Daily Kos has posted some recordings of his piano compositions, and they are quite lovely.
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Saturday, May 24, 2003

Make your own darkly gothic poem.
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Here's a breathtaking panorama from the top of Mount Everest.

Addendum: Then I went on to the panoramas home page and found lots of other fascinating panoramas from all over the world, from Times Square on New Year's Eve to a home in Romania (with QuickTime hotspots, so you can "walk" from room to room). Some of them are accompanied by sound recordings taken at the location. And there are links to other sites with panoramas. Just the thing to get you out of the house on a gray, rainy day.
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If you haven't read Where is Raed? recently, check out the long post (with pictures) from May 19, describing a trip through southern Iraq.
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I'm looking out the window onto a gray day. But just outside my window, there's a Carolina silverbell tree in full bloom. Each branch is festooned with little hanging white bell-shaped flowers, many of which have sparkling raindrops at their tips. It's really beautiful against the lush green grass. It would be even more beautiful if we saw some sunlight tomorrow.
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An interesting article about Howard Dean's use of web technology to attract grassroots support. Quoting campaign manager Joe Trippi: "In the way TV changed politics and took it away from the grassroots," he says with fervor, "the Internet is going to give it back."
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It's been cloudy and rainy since Thursday, and the weather forecast says more of the same for the next 5 days. I sometimes think nature is playing some sort of cruel joke on me. Here I am unemployed and having a chance to enjoy spring instead of spending it locked up in some cubicle, but it's turning out to be one of the worst springs, in regard to weather, that we've had for many years. Wouldn't you know it.
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Friday, May 23, 2003

Here's a funny one. It appears that 937 boxes of court-ordered Microsoft documents that are no longer needed are now being shredded and turned into... toilet paper!
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Warren Buffet, of all people, criticises the recent divident tax cut as "Voodoo Economics" that will just make the rich richer.
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I haven't gotten sick yet, although I've still got a lingering sore throat. Yesterday's Garden in the Woods tour was super! The group of Master Gardeners was huge - a full busload - but Bonnie had arranged for a number of guides to be there, so we each got assigned a smaller group of 10 people, which was just right. My group was knowledgeable and enthusiastic and we had a great time. I love it when people ask good questions that lead me right into what I wanted to talk about anyway. It was cloudy, but the rain held off until the afternoon.

Before the tour, I happened to run into Bill Cullina, the chief propagator and author of two authoritative books about native plants. I'd had this nagging question in my mind after reading about fern reproduction, and he was happy to spend about 10 minutes answering my question and giving me a quick overview of the subject. He even sent me off to his office, where he happened to have on his desk a plastic baggie with fern gametophytes, because I had expressed an interest in seeing what they looked like. One of the nice things about volunteering at GitW is that all the staff have been incredibly helpful with stuff like this.

In the afternoon, another volunteer and I met with the PR director to start planning how we are going to handle the member survey data. We opened and review a sample of the returned surveys (which is now over 50% of those sent out - quite an amazing return), and made a list of issues to discuss with our statistics consultant. Next step is to meet with him and develop a final plan.

Then I charged through Boston rush-hour traffic to get to the final meeting of the two-month weight-loss initiative that was part of the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study. I weighed in with a loss of 6 1/2 pounds (ta da!) and won a nylon windbreaker. We are now on our own for a few months until fall, although Sara has handed out cards that we can mail in to track our diet and exercise for one week out of each month.

Finally over to Alex's to eat yummy Chinese takeout and watch the finale of Eco-Challenge. It was pretty painful to watch. The teams had to walk, paddle, swim, and mountain bike for miles with little or no sleep. They had rappel up waterfalls, fight their way through trackless jungles, and trek in the hot sun. People got jungle fever with nausea and vomiting, painful feet from blisters fungus infections, hypothermia, and one got a life-threatening infection from a cut finger. Out of 81 teams, only 10 actually finished the race in times ranging from 6 to 10 days. The others were eliminated due to the medical embergencies or because they couldn't make checkpoints on time. On the plus side, the scenery of Fiji was gorgeous! But those people are just plain nuts. It's going to make The Amazing Race look like a cakewalk.

My Mail program, after working fine for a month, has suddenly started having problems downloading my mail from my mail server. I'm not getting any error messages, so I don't have a clue what's going on. Luckily, my server has a web-based interface, so I have been able to look at my mail and see if anything important comes through. But it's frustrating and annoying that my Mail program is not working.
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Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Here's an interesting Escher-inspired water feature from the Chelsea Flower Show.
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Blogger is going to be switching to a new version in the next few weeks. So if my blog disappears or doesn't get updated for a while, you'll know why.

No major news to report - I've just been working on my garden for the last few days. I'm almost done with all the perennial beds - weeding, pruning, fertilizing, and spreading mulch. I'm still pulling deadly nightshade out of the front bed - I'll probably be doing that for the next couple of weeks. Next, I'll be working on pruning back some of the junipers and yews, and if I have the energy, attacking the vines on the house. I'd like to try to do that before the hot weather sets in. Fence painting has been put on hold for a while, while I take care of the plants.

There's a lot of English ivy growing up the east and south sides of the house, and it came through this past winter looking just terrible. Although it's finally greening up, I've decided that I just don't like it and I really need to try to take it down. That will be a major job. I've also got two climbing hydrangeas on two other corners of the house. I don't want to remove them completely, but I do want to cut them way back and get them under control.

Yesterday I rescued a few plants from Home Depot and I need to get them planted. (I say "rescued", because the way Home Depot treats their plants is pretty pathetic.) I got purple and yellow petunias, red impatiens, and a couple of perennials, including a Lewisia (a western wildflower named after Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition), which is not something I'd expect to find at Home Depot.

And I think I may be coming down with a cold. Just in time for two busy days coming up. Tomorrow, I have a garden tour for some Master Gardeners from New York in the morning, a planning meeting for processing the member surveys in the afternoon, the final meeting of the recent DPP weight-loss initiative (at which I'm hoping to weigh in with a 5 pound loss) in the early evening, and then a get-together with Alex for our weekly dose of reality TV. (We're currently watching Eco-Challenge while waiting for the next season of The Amazing Race, which starts on May 29.) And on Friday I have my usual Lovelane therapeutic riding session. Hope I get to go to at least some of these activities.
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Monday, May 19, 2003

I was listening to Sunday's This Week broadcast, and found the following statement, by Joe Klein, so absolutely apalling that I had to go back and listen to it again, just to be sure I'd heard it right. If he's correct, then I fear for the future of this country.

Oh, the poor Democrats. They're plodding along, trying to be serious, talking about health care cost containment. John Kerry had two very thick paragraphs about it in his speech. And when you compare that to the very simple, and I would say simplistic messge of tax cuts, the Democrats are at a disadvantage. They're trying to take government seriously, which is what Democrats tend to do. They get lost in the detail work, which is why people don't listen to 'em.

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How long will it take you to complete this map of the Middle East and Northern Africa? I got about half the countries pretty quickly, which left me with three sections, the Sahara swathe of Africa, the little Arab emirates, and the ex-USSR "istans". For these remaining countries, I knew which section each went to, but had to do a bit of trial and error to get them into the right spot.
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Sunday, May 18, 2003

I need to catch up on a couple of brief book and movie reviews. Many of these date back to when I was sick a couple of weeks ago.

Years of Rice and Salt, by Kim Stanley Robinson. Kim Stanley Robinson writes long books packed with lots of information and detail - the perfect books for geeks. I really loved his Mars trilogy, which had wonderfully-thought-out and believable descriptions of how the settlement of Mars might proceed, from the technical details of the very first landing to the social and political issues that would develop, such as the debate over terraforming the planet.

Years of Rice and Salt is an alternate history starting with the premise that the plague killed off most of Europe, so that the eastern civilizations ended up dominating the world. The Americas get settled from the west by the Chinese and from the east by the Moslems, with a large piece of the center held by the native American tribes. The book covers 700 years - from the plague years to the present day - and is told in an episodic form, with each chapter dealing with different characters living in different times and places. (Except, as you come to realize, the characters really are reincarnations of the same set of characters, which is totally consistent with the book's focus on eastern religions and philosophies.)

The book was a bit uneven - some segments were really interesting, others less so. I particularly enjoyed the Leonardo Di Vinci clone, who lived somewhere in the vicinity of Samarkand in this universe. The book depicts science (observing and understanding the world around us) as flowing naturally from the Buddhist virtue of "mindfullness". It's a big book, packed with lots of ideas, and well worth reading.

Ice Bound, by Dr. Jerri Nielsen with Maryanne Vollers. This is the story of the doctor who developed breast cancer while wintering-over at the South Pole a few years ago. There was a so-so TV movie recently, but I found the book a lot more interesting. Not so much for the discussion of the breast cancer, which descended far too often into transcripts of e-mails, but for the first half that describes what it's like to winter-over at the South Pole. I hadn't quite realized how close to the edge those people are living. There are several generators for backup, but if the generators fail, they are toast. (Well, maybe icicles would be a better analogy.) Because it is so cold during the winter, mechanical devices (like airplane engines) simply don't work because the oil turns to sludge. So there is no way to get people in or out for something like 7 months of the year. For that period, there is very little fresh food - just a bit of lettuce that can be grown hydroponically - and limitations on basic things like water (people are limited to two 5-minute showers per week). You get to bring 3 suitcases and that has to hold all of your clothing and personal supplies (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc.) to last for the year. (The cold-weather gear is provided separately.) In the old setup, buildings were under a dome, but the dome was not heated and the buildings were not connected, so people had to go out in the cold to do just about anything. (People would carry small bottles to relieve themselves if they were working in a facility without a toilet.) Add to this 6 months of darkness and an atmosphere equivalent to being two miles above sea level, and by the end of the winter people are starting to suffer from short-term memory loss and other symptoms of hypoxia, while wearing clothes that are tattered and patched together. It's not unlike being on a long journey in a spacecraft.

Jerri Nielsen was the doctor at the South Pole, and was responsible for all aspects of health care for the 41 people who were wintering over. And shortly after the last plane left them for the winter, she found a lump in her breast. The second half of the book deals with her diagnosis and treatment. Although planes could not land and take off during the winter, they could fly over, so there was a mid-winter drop of chemotherapy drugs and other necessities, and then in the spring they sent in a flight a few weeks earlier than usual to airlift her out (and bring in a replacement doctor). Fascinating stuff.
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Today was the perfect day. Warm sun, cool breezes, no bugs, no humidity, the perfect day to be outside. I worked in my garden and also went to Garden in the Woods to follow along on the 2pm Sunday tour. I shadowed a second-year guide, and I was relieved to find that I actually knew more of the plants than she did. I'm definitely going to stop worrying about my guide qualifications now. The only challenge is keeping up with the different plants that come into bloom each week.

The deep purple fragrant lilac I planted along the back fence a few years ago is in magnificent bloom and I cut a few flowers to bring indoors so I can enjoy the scent. Lilac is one of my favorite flowers, probably because my grandmother grew them. I'm still madly pulling weeds, spreading mulch, and pruning. Pruning is very time-consuming because of the necessity of packaging the cuttings neatly so they can be disposed of. I spent about 30 seconds cutting down one big honeysuckle branch and then 15 minutes cutting it up into 3- to 4-foot pieces and tieing them in neat little bundles. Still, when it's so beautiful out, I can't complain. I think it's time now, though, for a book and the hammock, before the sun goes down.
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I spent all day yesterday at a Magic pre-release tournament. Unfortunately, I didn't do as well as I did at the last one. I finished the first "flight" with a 3-1-1 record and won 6 packs, then dropped out of the second flight after losing the first 2 matches. The loss in my first flight was very close - it came down to the last move of the third game, where I made a very subtle error that cost me a game I might have won otherwise. I talked to a very good player who said that he might have missed it, too, which made me feel a bit better. As always, though, it was fun to play with the new cards, although frustrating to be stuck indoors all day on a very sunny (although rather chilly) spring day. I'll be able to make up for that the next few days, though, since I don't have much planned until later in the week.

This morning I watched the Preakness on Tivo and was pretty impressed by the way Funny Cide won it. I'd heard that he'd won going away, but watching it I could see that he was really full of pep and raring to go, even after crossing the finish line a zillion lengths ahead of his nearest competitor. And I get a kick out of watching his owners, a consortium of 6 New York guys who only got into racing for a lark a few years ago. They are having so much fun! It would be a gas if he wins the Triple Crown.
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Wednesday, May 14, 2003

So I was browsing that poetry site I mentioned yesterday, and after reading a poem by Sara Teasdale (with commentary that referred to the Ray Bradbury story "There Will Come Soft Rains"), I pressed the random button and got a rap lyric from Eminem with a lot of interesting discussion. The discussion led to a page on the 15th-century poet John Skelton who may have been the first rapper. Who knew?
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The tour turned out great. I really think I should be past the feeling nervous stage. Today's group was very interested and asked lots of questions, and although I felt like I was saying "I don't know" an awful lot, apparently they had a great time. Both the tour coordinator and the gift shop clerk caught me afterward to say that someone from my group had commented on what a great tour they had. That sure made me feel good.

We were lucky and the rain held off the entire time. The sun even made a brief appearance when we reached the pond and the rock garden (which was the perfect place for sun). Lots of stuff is in bloom now; after the tour I helped update the "What's in Bloom" board and we put up over 60 photos. Redbuds, dogwoods, silverbells, trilliums, bluebells, celandine poppies, spring beauty, wild blue phlox, moss phlox, azaleas, lewisia, hepatica, anemone, violets, columbine, blueberry, marsh marigold, wild bleeding heart, dutchman's breeches, squirrel corn, large-flowered bellwort, foamflower, jack-in-the-pulpit, yellow lady's slipper, pasqueflower, yellow skunk cabbage, pixie moss, bog rosemary, swamp pink, mountain pieris, pussytoes, shooting star, Oregon grape holly, baneberry, fothergilla, swamp laurel, bishop's cap, jacob's ladder, solomon's seal, and a whole bunch of other things I can't remember right now. It's a great time to visit the garden.

I ate lunch on the porch of the education building, and afterward found it hard to leave.
It's just so soothing to be amid all that beauty.

Addendum: One of my readers asked for links to photos of the plants mentioned. Well, no time to do them all, but here's a link to the Garden in the Woods "What's in Bloom" page for May, which has a number of them. (Click on April to see a few more - things are running late this year.)
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I'm scheduled to give a garden tour today for a group of seniors from Newton. Unfortunately, it's raining. We do the tours rain or shine (and I just got my new rain hat in the mail), but I wonder how many people will show up for it. We'll see...
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Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Ooooh, I've just been wallowing in poetry at a site called The Wondering Minstrels. They publish a poem a day, with commentary, which you can receive via e-mail if you subscribe. And they keep an archive of all of their previously published poems. I stumbled across them because I was looking for some song lyrics, and stayed reading for a while (there's a "random" button so you can really have fun exploring).
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HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson is asking restaurants to help combat obesity by putting more healthy food choices on their menus.

Addendum: I bought a sandwich and a soda at Au Bon Pain the other day. The cost for a sandwich and a soda was higher than for a combo that included sandwich, soda, and potato chips. I eventually convinced them to give me the combo price, but had to explain several times that even though I was paying for the potato chips, I didn't want to take them. I pointed out that they weren't exactly doing their bit for healthy eating, but I don't think they got it.
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The Gardener (LXXXV)

Who are you, reader, reading my poems an hundred years hence?
I cannot send you one single flower from this wealth of the spring,
one single streak of gold from yonder clouds.
Open your doors and look abroad.
From your blossoming garden gather fragrant memories of the vanished
flowers of an hundred years before.
In the joy of your heart may you feel the living joy that sang one
spring morning, sending its glad voice across a hundred years.

-- Rabindranath Tagore

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I'd mentioned that I lost a few pounds by catching a stomach virus last week. I figured as soon as I was healthy, I'd gain them back, but so far I haven't. I'm trying to do more of my own cooking these days, since that seems to be the only way to keep the calories down. Even eating at the Low Fat Cafe doesn't seem to work because their serving sizes are rather large. (Now if I had the discipline to only eat half and take the other half home...). My current cookbook of choice is Family Circle's Eat What You Love & Lose. It's a collection of recipes from their test kitchen that seem to be tasty, low fat, and fairly easy to make. Here's the first one I tried.

Stir-Fried Scallops and Snow Peas with Ginger-Citus Sauce. (This recipe makes 6 servings; I cut it in half and it worked fine, except that I had to add a bit more oil to keep the scallops from sticking to the pan.) Combine 1/2 cup chicken broth, 1/4 cup orange juice, 2 tbs lemon juice, 2 tbs soy sauce, 1 ts dark Asian sesame oil, 1 tbs sugar and 1 tbs cornstarch, and 1/2 ts salt. In a large skillet or wok, heat 1 tbs vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add 2 chopped cloves of garlic and 2 tbs finely chopped fresh ginger and stir-fry 1 minute. Increase heat to high. Add 1 1/2 pounds sea scallops (halved, muscle removed). Stir-fry until opaque, about 2 minutes. Remove scallops and add 1 pound snow peas, trimmed (I used snap peas). Stir-fry 2 minutes. Stir reserved broth mixture and add to skillet. Simmer 1 minute. Add scallops back to skillet. Simmer 1 minute. Sprinkle with orange rind. Serve over rice.
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Monday, May 12, 2003

Today was a rainy day, so I went to Garden in the Woods to work on the
surveys for a few hours. And of course made time for a quick walk in the
garden, which is beautiful even in the rain.
Virginia bluebells and bright yellow celandine poppies made a great color combination on the forest floor, and the bright purple-pink redbuds really stood out against the misty green spring foliage.

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Sunday, May 11, 2003

The first SARS reference book is available free on the web and will updated monthly.
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Two good things to do with rhubarb. One is easy and low-fat and quite tasty; the other is a bit more effort and not the least bit low-fat, but really, really good.

Rhubarb pudding. Mix together 2 eggs, 1/4 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 ts. vanilla, and 4 cups chopped rhubarb. Place in greased baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Rhubarb tea bread. Pour 1 TBS lemon juice into an 8-ounce measuring cup and fill with milk. Stir well and let stand for ten minutes. (Alternatively, you can use 1 cup of buttermilk.) Beat together 1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar, 2/3 cup vegetable oil, and 1 egg. In a separate bowl, combine sour milk with 1 ts baking soda, 1 ts salt, and 1 ts vanilla. Alternately add the milk mixture and 2 1/2 cups flour to the sugar mixture, beating well after each addition. Fold in 2 cups diced raw rhubarb and 1/2 cup chopped pecans. Pour batter into two lightly greased and floured 8 x 4 x 3 loaf pans. Brush loaves with melted butter and sprinkle sugar on top. (I like to decorate the tops with whole pecans.) Bake in 325 degree oven for 50-60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Turn out loaves to cool on a wire rack. (I calculated that this bread is about 190 calories and 10 grams of fat per slice, sigh.)
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Very nice weather for the past few days. Many of the flowering trees and shrubs are in bloom (forsythia, quince, hawthorne, crapapple, dogwood, cherry, and lilac) and the grass is lush and green and in need of mowing. I spent a few hours yesterday cleaning up the shrub border along the front lawn. The main job was grubbing up the deadly nightshade that has run rampant there over the last few years. It was hard work because the nightshade has been springing up in hidden places under shrubs and gets entangled with their roots. I pulled up everything I could see; now I need to wait a week or so and see where else it pops up. I also neatened up the grass edge, raked out the dead leaves, and moved a few of the perennials that had gotten buried at the back of the border. I'm a little sore today from all the bending and digging, but it feels good to catch up with a couple of years of neglect.
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Saturday, May 10, 2003

One of the Beijing weblogs I've been following has some interesting thoughts on what the SARS epidemic might mean to the rest of the word. Meanwhile, The Agonist says there's a NY Times story that comparing SARS virus genes from different patients shows no major mutations. That's good news.
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One of the nice things about Mac OS X is the mail program, which has a trainable spam filter. It highlights items it thinks are spam in brown. When it makes a mistake (in either direction) you can correct it. Eventually it gets pretty good at identifying spam and you can set it to automatically divert spam mail into a special folder. It's a good idea to check the folder now and then to make sure it hasn't mistakenly classified something as spam that you want to read, but so far it seems to be doing a good job at keeping the bulk of the spam out of my inbox.
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Friday, May 09, 2003

Here's a strange eBay saga. Back in January, I put up for sale a lot of old Show Music magazines. They sold for $41 to a guy who asked me to ship them to him at a record store in New York City. Although he hadn't opted for insurance, I decided to pay for the insurance anyway (since they had sold for more than I expected and I was a little nervous about shipping to a business). Well, it was a good thing I did because the package never showed up. I had a long correspondence with the buyer, who was very reasonable, and eventually I went through the process of filing the insurance claim (which involved sending out a form for the buyer to sign to attest that they'd never gotten the package, etc.) Generally a bit of a nuisance, but I did get the claim filled and refunded the purchase price to the buyer.

The other day the other shoe dropped. I got an e-mail message from someone in the shipping department at an Amazon.com warehouse in New Jersey, telling me that the box was on their platform, addressed to their facility, but with no one's name on it, and what would I like them to do with it? I let Marc, the original buyer know, and contacted Amazon, and they agreed to send it on (not even charging us for shipping). Apparently the guy had contacted me by opening the package and finding my e-mail address on the little note I generally include with my eBay shipments.

After some thought, I have come up with the following scenario for what happened. I bet I packed the magazines in an old Amazon box. The address label must have fallen off somehow (which is odd because I usually use a lot of clear tape over the label), and some post office must have seen the Amazon printed on the box and sent the box on to the nearest Amazon facility they knew about. As to why that took 5 months, I couldn't guess.

The buyer and I both agreed that this was the longest and bizarrest eBay transaction we'd ever been involved with.
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I worked Lovelane this afternoon. I guess I'm still feeling the effects of being sick, as I was pretty tired after just two lessons. Deb had hung the rest of the letters while I was out, and they looked great! She says that there are definitely students who could not see the old letters and can now see the new ones. So I'm really glad I could make a contribution there.
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Here's a cat you can play with. Rub her chest to make her purr.
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Just thought I'd mention that my OS X upgrade gave me a 2-month free membership to .mac, which includes an AOL-compatible chat service. So far I only have one person on my buddy list, so if any of my friends reading this would like to chat sometime, let me know via e-mail and I'll send you my id.
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Researchers are now reporting that the death rate from SARS is higher than previously thought. The scary news is that it approaches 55% for those patients over 60 years old. Hmmm, maybe this is nature's way of curing our health care crisis. Just kill off all those pesky old people with expensive health care needs. Yeah, that'll do it.
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A good discussion of the various Democratic candidates health care proposals.
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I almost made Level 1 (Virtuous Unbelievers) or Level 2 (Lustful), but instead I've been banished to Level 6 (Heretics). Not too surprising.

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Sixth Level of Hell - The City of Dis!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)High
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Moderate

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test
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Thursday, May 08, 2003

I experimented with making Quicktime slide shows today. If you click on this link, you might get a slide show of my 2001 trip to Slovakia. I did the whole thing within iPhoto, with a music clip taken from iTunes. Very easy and very cool. I really like Mac OS X.
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It is raining today, so I did some more computer stuff. I got Retrospect installed and working last night, and ran an overnight backup of System X, which is a relief. And I got the printer working this morning by downloading a new printer driver from HP. The remaining annoyance is not being able to access the highest display resolution my monitor supports. I've put a message on the Apple discussion boards - we'll see if that gets any results. Alex thinks buying a new display card will help, but that's an expensive item, so I'd rather not do it if I don't have to (and I'd be really annoyed if I bought one and then it didn't help anyway). But other than the display, things are in pretty good shape. And of course the display is working - I just can't fit as much on the screen as I'd like.
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Forgot to mention one of the highlights of yesterday's garden tour - the baby duckling. When we got to the bog garden, we saw a cluster of people watching a little ball of yellow fluff - a baby duckling that had gotten separated from its mother. It was very friendly and kept approaching people. Finally one of the staff people picked it up and took it over the esker to the big lily pond, where other ducks had been sighted. I learned later that the story had a happy ending - the baby was apparently reunited with a family group that accepted it.
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Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Where is Raed? is posting again from Baghdad. Lots of long meaty posts covering the missing period (over a month of the war and aftermath).

Let me tell you one thing first. War sucks big time. Don't let yourself ever be talked into having one waged in the name of your freedom. Somehow when the bombs start dropping or you hear the sound of machine guns at the end of your street you don't think about your 'imminent liberation' anymore.


The truth is, if it weren't for intervention this would never have happened. When we were watching the Saddam statue being pulled down, one of my aunts was saying that she never thought she would see this day during her lifetime.


War. No matter what the outcome is. These things leave a trail of destruction behind them. There were days when the Red Crescent was begging for volunteers to help in taking the bodies of dead people off the city street and bury them properly. The hospital grounds have been turned to burial grounds when the electricity went out and there was no way the bodies can be kept until someone comes and identifies.

Things are looking kind of OK, these days. Life has a way of moving on. Your senses are numbed, things stop shocking you. If there is one thing you should believe in, it is that life will find a way to push on, humans are adaptable, that is the only way to explain how such a foolish species has kept itself on this planet without wiping itself out. Humans are very adaptable, physically and emotionally.

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I had a very pleasant day today working at Garden in the Woods. In the morning, I led a tour that went very well - much better than the Earth Day tour in the rain. The weather was nice, I had 7 interested visitors, and the words flowed much more easily this time. There were some questions I couldn't answer, but a lot that I could, so I was feeling pretty good by the end of it. In addition, there were lots more new things in bloom, so there was plenty of beautiful stuff to look at. Sorry, no pictures this time - I was just too busy. Maybe next week. Some of the things in bloom were redbud, pinkshell azalea, Virginia bluebells, bright yellow Celandine poppies (what a great combo with the bluebells!), violets, pasqueflower, lewisia, marsh marigolds, swamp pinks, trilliums and anemones of various sorts, shadbush, and many, many others.

In the afternoon I worked on the Earth Day surveys with another volunteer. We worked out all the details of how we would code the answers and set up the template for the data. Now we're all set to sit down and enter the roughly 90 surveys we have. This is all a practice activity for the real work, which is to enter a more comprehensive member survey. That survey is much longer, and so far has about 300 returns (which is a fantastic response rate for the 1000 that were sent out just last week). We want to practice with the smaller survey before committing to a setup for the longer survey, just in case there are any pitfalls.
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Tuesday, May 06, 2003

I'm a little groggy from two days of beating my computer into submission. Actually, the upgrade to Mac OS X has gone amazingly well. Most of the new applications I'm switching to are very well designed and easy to use, and they all have had really easy ways to import data from my previous applications. And all my old applications have either run directly under Mac OS X or under Classic OS 9. I hadn't realized when I heard about Classic how absolutely transparent it is to start an OS 9 application. They can sit right on the dock with the other OS X apps and behave in exactly the same way. I'd definitely recommend the upgrade to anyone who has been sitting on the fence about it.

As to why it's taken two days (and is still not done yet), well, there's just a lot of stuff to do. Yesterday we spent a lot of time just getting my hard disk formatted and ready to take the OS X installation. And today I spent a lot of time re-installing Virtual PC and the Magic Online application. But I lot of it was just playing around with the new apps and learning how they work. I spent a lot of time with iTunes and iPhoto and Safari and played around with Alex using iChat. And I've barely scratched the surface.

Tomorrow I get to take a break and go out to Garden in the Woods. When I get back, there's one more important thing I want to do, and that is to get Retrospect Express running so I can do a backup. Then maybe I'll take a bit of a rest from computers for a while and get back to working in the garden.

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Found on the streets of Watertown. What were they thinking? If I had a bright mauve plum tree in front of my house, I sure wouldn't paint it mustard yellow. How pretty this would look if the house were colonial blue instead.

On the other hand, here's the front of my house today - that black blob under the forsythia is Machinka. Much more to my taste. (All of this, of course, being an excuse to play with iPhoto.)

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Apple is announcing that their new Music Store is a big success, selling more than a million songs in its first week. That's super!
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One problem I've noticed is that my weblog is not rendered correctly in Safari (Apple's new beta browser). The links are displayed in white, so don't show up. In looking at the top of my page source (which was originally based on a standard blogger template), there is some mention of "#white" in the style section, but I don't know enough to tell whether the problem is with my template or with Safari. If anyone reading this knows enough to let me know if the problem is mine, I'd appreciate it.
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Monday, May 05, 2003

Alex came over this afternoon and helped me install System X at long last. (I'd originally bought the software some time ago, but had been putting off making the switch for many, many months.) So far so good. I at least have mail and network access working. Now I need to go through all of the applications I use a lot and make sure I can run each of them. And figure out how to use System X, which is quite a bit different from System 9. (I really should have done this during the winter. Oh well, I hear it's going to rain tomorrow anyway.)

I'm still taking it easy with eating until I'm sure I'm over this stomach virus thingie. I weighed myself this morning and found that I've lost 5 pounds in the past week! Not the best way to lose weight, though.
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The Daily Kos has a good discussion going in their comments section about the other night's Democratic candidates debate. I only saw the first 30 minutes of it (and that was an accident, as my TiVo thought it was picking up Ebert and Roeper). I thought Howard Dean did not come off very well at the start, partly because moderator George Stephanopoulos was obviously trying to instigate a tiff between Dean and Kerry and they let him get away with it. But I've been reading that Dean's closing statement was very good. I know Kucinich doesn't have a chance, but I had to cheer him when he said "let's take the profit out of health care". Bottom line is I'd vote for any of these guys/gals over Bush.
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A couple of articles in the New Scientist about encouraging new discoveries regarding cancer (Lucky discovery uncovers cancer-proof mouse) and aging (Old age's mental slowdown may be reversible).
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Sunday, May 04, 2003

I am still sick. I went out to have dinner with Alex on Friday, and to go to the Apple Store for the new iPod launch (they were selling like hotcakes) and to watch Survivor. I was feeling pretty good then, but had a relapse on Saturday and spent most of the day on the couch watching TV. I did get outside for a few minutes to see how much had changed in the past few days. The leaves are bursting out on the trees, the shadblow is blooming, the trout lilies are opening, there are buds on the dogwood and lilacs, and the daffodils are amazing. The lawn is lush and green and ready for its first mowing. Spring is in full swing. I ate some applesauce yesterday and am making some rice for breakfast this morning. I actually feel faintly hungry, which is a good sign. So maybe I'll get outside a bit more today.
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New Hampshire's Old Man of the Mountains has collapsed due to natural causes. I can't believe they're already talking about reconstructing it...
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Saturday, May 03, 2003

China is reporting relapses among previous SARS patients. This is something I'd been wondering about for a while - people had been talking about it like getting it once protected you from getting it again, but that doesn't seem to be the case. If getting it once doesn't confer immunity, doesn't that imply that it will be harder/impossible to develop a vaccine? This is not good.
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Friday, May 02, 2003

I've been sick the last two days with some sort of flulike thing. Body aches, major headache, and a general feeling of lassitude. The main thing that convinced me that I was sick was that I've had absolutely no appetite and have eaten nearly nothing except breakfast for the past two days. This is very unusual for me.

Yesterday I managed to get out to Garden in the Woods anyway, as I had an appointment to work with their new statistical software to figure out how to enter their questionnaire data for analysis. It went pretty smoothly and I was able to enter a sample of 30 questionnaires and get some reports out. I now have a date set up next week to show Deborah (the PR director) how to use it and maybe enter the rest of the surveys. I also managed a short walk through the garden to see what new things are in bloom. The Virginia bluebells are now absolutely fabulous, and the trilliums are starting to open. I also learned to identify twinleaf and spring beauty.

But by the time I got home I was feeling pretty dead and just crashed into bed for the rest of the day, missing my weekly date to watch Survivor with Alex (and it's been really interesting lately, so I was sorry to miss it). And this morning I was still feeling lousy, so I called up and told Lovelane I wouldn't be able to make it for this afternoon's riding therapy session. I hope this doesn't last for too long - it's beautiful out today and I don't want to miss any more spring days than I absolutely have to.
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