Monday, April 27, 2009


Not that I'm ever lacking for an opinion, but you know, it's always nice to have a little external validation that some notion you have or project you're working on is not completely hare-brained. When there's no husband or boyfriend to offer their two cents worth (because I've heard that's what they're for - unsolicited advice and getting things down off high shelves, right?) you have to find other outlets. I do have many friends with very good heads on their shoulders, but when its the smaller-to-medium-sized things I'm questioning, I don't like to pester. No one needs their friendly neighborhood spinster calling them to find out what color fabric to have a chair reupholstered in, or if it really is wise to spend that much money on a pair of boots.

Or, in the case of this weekend's project: Should I really be putting a vegetable garden in the front yard?

If you're into the current environmental movement of local food and organic gardening you may have heard about the idea of planting vegetables in the front yard - as a way of making a statement, being a "rebel," or participating in a bit of civil disobedience. Probably a notion for more of the stricter suburb and subdivision sect where you're often not allowed to have a clothes line out back and where front yards are supposed to be turfy and shruby and immaculate.

Thing is, no one in my neighborhood would likely care if you started a whole crop of corn in your front yard. As long as you're doing something productive with your .08 acres and it doesn't smell bad or involve gunfire - they're pretty flexible. People would, however, start to call you Corn Lady. And then expect you to throw a big party with some corn-related theme and create some corn-related holiday and then maybe organize a parade (we like our produce).

It's true. My neighbors can suck the fun out of being a rebel faster than anyone I know.

So my idea for a front yard vegetable garden, while sparked by this movement, actually just made more sense logistically. I have very little sun in my yard to begin with. I also have too very well-intentioned diggers that reside in the back yard. There is one decent patch of sun in the dog-free front yard so it seemed to make sense.

But then. Then as I'm assembling two wooden frames to make my raised beds, I start to have second thoughts.

"These do look sort of tacky."

"How is this going to look if I actually get tomatoes and beans and zucchini growing here?"

"How dumb is it going to look if I go to all this trouble and then I can't grow crap?"

"Maybe I should rethink this."

"This is why I could use a husband right now..."

"And to get the rest of my summer clothes out of the top of my closet...."

By that time I was taking another Diet Coke break on the front porch and listening more intently to the lovely Lynne Rossetto-Kasper on public radio's The Splendid Table. (A show I often mock, but actually enjoy...) Her guest was a woman named Rosalind Creasy, and lo and behold, what was she talking about? Planting vegetables in the front yard! She wrote the book, Edible Landscaping, and talked about growing cherry tomatoes over an arbor instead of morning glories and other fun things.

So really, that was all the extra incentive I needed. I'm still only about halfway done - I have the ground cleared and one of the two, 3' x 6' beds made (I still need the rest of the soil and compost and, oh yeah, plants.) But if the rain will hold off for a couple of days, I should officially be a front yard urban farmer by the end of the week.

So thank you once again to the public radio gods for watching out for me. Now, if they could send someone over with a step-ladder...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day Bonus

Because my environmental news feed overfloweth-ed with goodies yesterday...

Three good quotes:

1. Thoreau

Oh, the number of times I had to read Walden in high school and college... My relationship with Henry David began as many relationships do - with wide-eyed, idealistic infatuation. By the end of my senior year of college I had come to the conclusion that he was a bit of a whiny, over-priviledged mama's boy. Sadly, many "environmentalists" continue in that tradition still today. He did say this though:

“What good is a house if you haven’t got
a tolerable planet to put it on?”

2. Wangari Maathai

She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work with Kenya's Green Belt Movement.

“It's the little things citizens do.
That's what will make the difference.
My little thing is planting trees.”

Well... 30 million trees, that is. The Green Belt Movement works for human rights and democracy through environmental protection. Mostly by planting trees. Planting trees = cleaner water, land and air and helps to create educational and job opportunities for women and the poor. Clean water, land and air + educated and empowered citizens = more stable economies and governments. Sounds pretty peaceful to me.

3. Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot.

I loved the way he said "billions."

"That's here. That's home. That's us.
On it, everyone you ever heard of, every
human being who ever lived, lived out their lives.
The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings,
thousands of confident religions, ideologies and
economic doctrines, every hunter and forager,
every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer
of civilizations, every king and peasant,
every young couple in love, every hopeful child,
every mother and father, every inventor and explorer,
every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician,
every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint
and sinner in the history of our species,
lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam."

Happy Earth Day

I saw a nice quote yesterday:

"Never does nature say one thing
and wisdom another." ―Juvenal

Very true.

I then looked up who the heck Juvenal was (ohhh... so that's what wikipedia is for...). No, not a rapper as I initially though. A 1st century Roman poet.

Shame that few civilizations since Juvenal's have actually paid much attention to his sage words.

But it did remind me of one of my most favorite sayings and bumper stickers:

Equally true. And much more my speed.

By the way - if you're out and about and you have a camera handy, there's a cool Earth Day photo project called Earth Mosaic that is going to compile photos from all over the world taken on April 22. Go here to learn more and hopefully participate:

Hope your day is bright and sunny with all of the clean air and water you need and that you find something nice to take a picture of.

Happy Earth Day!

If you're in need of a new bumper sticker, this one - and many others - can be found at Cafepress.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ahh Irony

I think my blog should have a tag line: "Mostly Just Me Linking to Other People's Stuff"

Anyway... What Would Jane Austen Do posted this most excellent picture with the very appropriate title:

It reminds me of an article I once read about an anti-American protest (in China, maybe??) where the reporter casually noted that most of the student protesters wore Levis and many were drinking from bottles of various Coke products.

It also reminds me of my previous employment with city government where the people who called to whine about having to take their trash and/or recycling to the curb or because their brush was only picked up quarterly and not monthly were always from the same zip codes that are first to whine about their taxes. The parts of town who actually pay a disproportionate percentage of their income in taxes - especially things like sales taxes - were a fairly quiet bunch with apparently more productive things to do with their time.

And, while I do give a thumbs up to all protesters in that picture for having signs that are legible (Nothing more irritating than a handmade sign in ballpoint pen or fine point Sharpie...) my favorite sign is the "Cut Taxes not Defense." Ummm.... how is it we pay for Defense? Is there another funding source in our government that I don't know about? Are we selling Mary Kay to other countries? I wondered what Michelle Obama really did when she was hanging out with Carla Bruni....

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Of Turtles and Pigs: Two Cool Things

Or nerdy things, depending on your perspective...

1. The Great Turtle Race

Eleven leatherback sea turtles have been tagged with a satellite tracking device and you can follow them on their 3,700 mile migration from Canada to the Caribbean. Each turtle has a name and a sponsor and an Olympic swimming "coach" that will provide commentary on their turtles throughout the race.

You can pick a turtle and sign up to get email updates on it's progress and then follow all of the turtles on a map:

My turtle is a 5'3" long / 970 pound female named Nightswimmer. Why is she named Nightswimmer? Because she's sponsored by R.E.M. How cool is that!? (There's also a turtle named Backspacer that's sponsored by Pearl Jam). I'm a little bummed there's not a turtle named Crush, but maybe he wasn't a leatherback...

2. Happy Anniversary Strunk and White

The Elements of Style turns 50 this year. Written by author E. B. White and his professor, William Strunk, it's a good guide for anyone who ever has to write anything. Which is a lot of us.

I received my first copy in college during freshman orientation - along with the APA Style Guide and the university's rules on plagiarism. It was like one of those scenes from a movie where someone enlists in the army and then promptly gets a stack of fatigues and a helmet slapped onto his outstretched arms.

Those last two publications were daunting with lots of meticulous rules to follow and a lecture of what would happen if you didn't - bad marks for the former and expulsion for the latter - yikes. Both scared the beejeezus out of me to the point that I didn't even want to open either of them. But that little, unassuming and nonthreatening copy of S&W - that I could handle.

That eventually dog-eared and scribbled-on copy from college was "borrowed" by an ex-roommate (along with a vintage set of James Joyce's Dubliners and his Collected Poems, but that's a story for a much angrier day...). There's now a much less-worn edition of S&W sitting on the cabinet behind me as we speak. It's there next to the New York Times Manual of Style and Usage and a copy of Robert's Rules of Order (which is surprisingly handy to have around).

S&W is not the most orderly or user-friendly reference book in the world, but it has served me well. Besides - it's not a manual or a rule book - it's the elements of style. And after all, who has better style than the man who wrote Charlotte's Web - except for maybe the man who taught him. Go here and listen to E.B. White read a passage from Charlotte's Web. A very, very cool thing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Surfacing: 2nd Attempt

It's just me again, linking to other people's stuff...

Today's victim: My iGoogle page.

Not only is this photo spectacular, but I just love giraffes. Maybe it comes from a lifelong desire to be tall and skinny... Thankfully, clicking on it did not lead me to a story of environmental gloom and despair as this widget often does. Nope. Only an anecdote about being in the right place at the right time. Very nice.


My Sesame Street Terror Alert System would like for us to know that

Today's Threat Level is Brought to You By:

Don't know about you, but I long for a world that's at a nice Oscar and/or Cookie...


I inadvertently celebrated National Pecan Day Eve last night with a piece of chocolate chip pecan pie for dessert. It was damn good. Useless fact of the day - the pecan tree is the only nut tree native to North America. Interesting, no? And the Pecan Pie? Definitely wins for native pie of the South. Heaven in an aluminum tin.


Today in History: John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln.

Not much to say there. But it did remind me of Sarah Vowel - one of my favorite writers, humorists, irreverent historian, AND the voice of Violet in The Incredibles. She wrote a book, Assassination Vacation that chronicles her various road trips to visit sites associated with presidential assassinations. It's brilliant. And what's even better? The audio book features Conan O'Brien as Robert Todd Lincoln and Jon Stewart as President Garfield.


The English Word of the Day: Chafe.

The Italian Word of the Day: Eta. (Age)

The Font of the Day: Alpha Echo

The Saint of the Day: St. Lydwine
Patron Saint of sickness. And stigmata. Excellent. Any day you can work "stigmata" into the conversation is a good day.

And let's not forget the Quote of the Day: "They called it golf because all the other four letter words were taken." - Walter Hagen.

I think this guy was a professional golfer and this is supposed to be one of those "ha ha - we're over-privileged white men joking about golf - aren't we hilarious!?!" kinds of sayings that you have on an apron that you bought from one of those catalogs in the pocket of your seat on an airplane and that you wear while you're grilling something on a fancy grill. I don't know beans about Walter Hagen, so I shouldn't assume or associate him with that image... but I do know that this quote is fitting for an entirely different set of reasons - mainly because I despise golf and because I thought I was going to unleash a series of four letter words on Easter if I had to listen to any more people talk about The Masters. Seriously. I'd rather watch NASCAR.


From a Tom Toles' political cartoon

I used to have several political cartoonists on a feed with other cartoons from, but he's the only one who continuously astounds me with his ability to convey such a profound thought with a simple drawing. So, I pared down and now it's just him and Doonesbury and re-runs of Opus and Calvin & Hobbes.


And finally, from the news feed for the New York Times, BBC,, Grist, Enviro-link and Nature:

Well... you know... the economy sucks, icebergs are melting, everyone hates each other, the president's getting a dog, etc. BUT apparently someone is trying to make a substitute for Styrofoam out of mushrooms. Good news!

Well, I think that covers it. Happy Pecan Day!

Monday, April 6, 2009


Hola. I have been a negligent blog-owner. There is somewhat of an excuse... I suppose. I spent one very busy, but fun, work week and one even funner week actually enjoying my Birthday Girl status. A nice switch from the Snarky, Glass-Half-Empty, Grouchy, Hermit Girl that I normally tend toward...

I returned to the interwebs this morning to catch up on what were some really excellent posts by other people. So, what's a better way to dip my little sausage toes back into the bloggy water than to just post links to other people's stuff? There is none! Enjoy!

Where I am an official reader:

Katie at Proof Positive shared an excellent and coffee-up-the-nose hilarious post about the joys of parenting a strong-willed child.

Green Girl in Wisconsin had a great write-up on litter (yes, litter) and has inspired me to hunt down a Woodsy the Owl replacement t-shirt.

Big Happy Family has fallen victim to Twilight and I think I am partly responsible. Again, Carrie, my apologies...

AuntieM Writes posted about one of my most favorite places in the world - the New York City Public Library and their lions. Beautiful pictures. When I next up my Tragic Spinster certification I will name my first two cats Patience and Fortitude.

Where I am but a partial lurker:

And speaking of my Tragic Spinster status... Green Girl's friend at Noodleroux had a post on the eve of my birthday about dating in your 30s that gave me great joy.

Rocky Top Talk had an excellent analysis of one of the spring scrimmages leading up to next weekend's Orange and White Game. Woo hoo! What?!? I hear you rolling your eyes - yes, it's college football. The NCAA basketball championship is tonight, people - what else am I supposed to do for the next four and a half months? Read? Knit? Work for a living?

The Lost recaps on MamaPop are always really good in a weird stream-of-consciousness kind of way. And, they just posted a very funny video about White People Problems.

Where I still maintain full lurker status:

Crazy Aunt Purl detailed her past experience, that I am all too familiar with, about the public humiliation of failing a car emissions test. While I did not cry, few things are more shameful for a chronic over-achiever than having to pull away from the tiny testing station with a computer-generated form containing (and HIGHLIGHTED IN YELLOW by the 16 year old testing station attendant): sad face, sad face, FAIL. Truly awful. Yeah... I know... White People Problems...

What Would Jane Austen Do had a funny list. And lists are always good. She also had a more serious, but equally good post about April Food Day and fighting hunger.

Zen Habits had a completely apropos post - also on the eve of my birthday - about saying "yes" when you mean "no" and vice-versa.

And last, and certainly never least, Dooce has been in rare form with the posts from her book tour and one hysterical one about Angelina's plans for her next adoption that, if nothing else, has given me a new phrase to shout the next time I find myself completely exasperated about something. Perhaps in June when I have to take my car back for it's next emissions test...

This should keep you busy for a while.