Saturday, February 28, 2009

Composter Test Run

So I lost this last battle with the composter. It started out strong. It was outside, so there weren't any problems with odor or wetness. I had loads of scraps to toss in. It was churning, I was cooking and all seemed well at the start.

The entire project could have been cursed from the beginning. I didn't let it run for the full week, per the instructions. I added unwanted Chinese food which gave it a strong Asian odor, yet did seem to be happily composting way. But think what really messed me up was adding some slightly moldy green things from the bottom of the vegetable drawer. Your see, it wasn't long before there was some white fur trimming the edges of the compost mixture.

I tried to ignore it at first. Pretend that the white furry stuff wasn't there, by mixing it in, adding more veggies and doing some crossed fingers business. The fuzz didn't mind getting mixed in to the good stuff. It too about two weeks to fully ripen & bloom. Two weeks ago I lifted the lid of the composter to find a dusting of white fuzz that looked like frost on the edge of some rocks, but the frost had mutated and grown a beard. It was also complaining about being full and I noticed that it had "dropped a load" into the "done" collection tray.

It was raining and I was about to leave for a long weekend in Southern California, so I just let it go. The deposit trap stayed open and the mixture was exposed. The bottom bit was no longer kept warm & mix so that it began to ooze & melt. The top bit, was the stuff caked around the edges did stay warm, yet was stuck there and it fell pray to the mold.

When I lifted the lid today, the area around the top was black with a silver crust. The deposit tray was hosting a primordial swamp and I was tinged with a guilt that I might halt the evolution of life on this planet if I were to clean out the unit, as I intended.

But my guilt was blasted away by the odor of the sludge. I had to get rid of the sludge. I couldn't bear throwing it away, as that would be the antithesis to the entire composting project. I decided that it would be best to bury this batch, as to leave it out to would be to invite them to roll in the fragrant soup of future life. So, I dug a whole in the sandy soil, shoshed, dumped and shook as much as I could into it and then recovered it. Deep down I harbored a hope that, like a pig cooked in a pit of embers, so might my compost be reborn into useful soil.

The composter got a good scrubbing and it now drying in the garage. Tomorrow it will get a spray down with some 409 before I restart the project. I'll need to find me some good dirt with energetic spores and then save up 2 days of veggie remains to add. I'm excited. Third time might be a charm.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Separation of Church & State

So I'm not a big fan of organized religion. I do not believe the idea proposed by the religious right that the founding fathers intended us all to be Christians. They didn't base our Constitution on any ideas found in the Bible - sorry, no matter how much that idea is repeated, it will not become truth. And yet, I've found a deep and personal spirituality that has lead me to read, learn, pray and meditate. I believe I had a connection to the divine as real as the orange I had for breakfast.

And then I see this:
A public park in Utah has the 10 Commandments posted. A different religious group offered to place a monument to their religious pillars and was denied. According to the Supreme Court, the state has the right to deny their offer to place a monument, at their expense, in the park.

How is that not the state's endorsement of one religion over another?
Can't we all just leave our spirituality, prayer books, stars of David and veils at home? Doesn't it make one more pious to believe and act according to one's faith when there is adversity? Staying true to one's god in a prison cell is easy, it is when out in the world, exposed to different ideas and temptations where the difficulty arises. If you never have the choice of buying, eating or obtaining bacon, does it make your kosher diet more or less pure than he who has to deny himself the bacon when it is being fried up in the kitchen? Not that I'd want to be exposed to cooked bacon all day long - but I can choose NOT to buy it, cook it or go to establishments that serve it.

Do we need the 10 commandments in the parks, the courthouses and in our schools? Does it really make us more devout? Does the extremist government of Iran generate more pious citizens? I don't see where it adds to our civic life. If fact, I see it only as a detriment.

Winter Love

My basic reaction to winter is Ick. I don't like cold. I don't like wet. I don't like having days that are shorter than night. I dislike limits in diet - though there are not that many in this modern age, and living in California, most seasons are growing seasons. Yet, I'm trying to get closer to the land, consuming what is in season, traditionally grown and local, so I'm eager to have the peaches, nectarines and cherries that are coming in spring.

However the California winter does bring some blessings. When the rain ceases and the sun comes back out, the grass turns the most unbelievable color of green. It glows. It screams health. The hills become a color that, oddly enough, seems unnatural in it hue. Then the trees start to bud and they do so with such delicacy. Since it is California, we get blossoms early. The fruit trees begin to flower in February.

Also generated are those little nubs on the tress. The few leaves that are bold enough to strike out in February or March and start the re-greening process. Walking the dogs, I have the luxury to check on all the trees in the 'hood. I see where they are in the rebirth cycle and send them thoughts of encouragement.

Finally, the rain cleanses the air. I have been able to see across the central valley to the foothills on the other side. I dream of the coming summer's hike in Yosemite. Sometimes the air clears and I see Mt. Diablo coated in snow and how close it seems.

Then I get home from the walk, scrape the mud from the bottom of my shoes, or just leave them outside and go in for something warm.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Long Weekend

After a 5 hour drive, we're home from a very successful Southern California Weekend. I had set my heart on doing an OC & San Diego weekend a while back. I wanted to visit my grandmother who I hadn't seen in way too long; visit Sal & Erica as well as Steve, Kim & Audrey. Marc was game, so I sorted out the dog sitter and off we went. Thursday we drove south and were happy to be able to make a delightful lunch with Andre in Pasadena.

Thursday night we got to Sal & Erica's for an amazing feast that Sal prepared - herb crusted roast beef topped with bell peppers, mushrooms and shallots accompanied by grilled asparagus and cous cous - just fantastic. We brought some super yummy wine from Highlands Winery.

Friday we kicked off the day with breakfast at Bernini's, a small cafe in La Jolla. We spent Friday with Grandmother Polly who was in fine spirits. She did have a bit of a time remembering Marc's last name, but had a sense of humor about it - or so it seemed, she did laugh when I suggested he wear a name tag the next time we visit. She enjoyed taking us all about White Sands, as the renovations & expansions have mostly been completed since I was last there. We found Aunt Elizabeth playing rummy tiles and greeted her. Then enjoyed lunch in the main hall. After lunch we were shuttled to their new game room where Polly smoked us at pool. I was shocked that I almost got hussled by my grandmother! She is a shark.

Friday night we enjoyed a Beethoven Concert by the Munich Symphony lead by Philippe Entremont. It was lovely, I was just rapt by the beautiful music. We came home and enjoyed more drinks & cheese and I passed out about the time Marc and Erica launched a 2 AM duet of chopsticks.

Saturday had to big highlights - lunch with Steve & Kim. I wish we had had more time with them. Only they seemed to have their hands full between Kim's belly (she's 8 months pregnant) and Audrey, their fantastic 2 year old who had a bad day and was able to scream for the full 20 minutes we had contact with her. While it didn't make me question Marc & my childbearing intentions, I was a bit concerned that he might have some bad baby ju-ju. But we found that not to be the case when we got to Terry & Larry's where their darling girl, Kira had no such issues with Marc. Whew, close one.

After enjoyed a Mexican Feast with Steve & Kim, we were overjoyed to find out that Terry & Larry had specially picked out a restaurant in West Hollywood that did authentic Mexican City food. I don't think Marc will be touching Mexican food for a few months. But the restaurant was really good. And they did these unbelievable margaritas that were pureed fruit with wine and tequila and slush and goodness.

We stopped back at Ralph's on the way home and picked up mucho alcohol, as when we got home, we found that friends had beaten us there. We had 4 friends of the guys (they know each other from a online gaming crew) waiting there. The drinks started to flow, the bonfire was started... that was a bit more difficult. I think it took a few hours and fun was had by all. Again, I was ready for bed before the others... crashing out while some of the people were finishing up.

Marc came to our inflatable mattress bed, waking me up - i realized it had lost some of it's firmness, but was happy to have him, and rolled back over with a buzz. Next thing I knew, I was 75% on the ground with only the extremities off the floor... the air mattress was losing the little bit of air it had. About 4 AM I woke up completely and realized that something had to be done. We searched the edge of the mattress, unable to find the air nozzle. I then searched the office, kitchen and easily accessible places for a pump. Neither were found. Marc rearranged the blanket and we just passed out on the hardwood floor.

The next morning, we're up and Terry & Larry are up and I'm trying to figure out how to tactfully say something. They asked if we slept well and I had to suggest that they replace the mattress before they have more company, as it didn't hold up through the night. They were a bit embarrassed, but promised to have a real mattress for us when we visit.

Breakfast was at a diner in Toluca - very authentic. This was my first trip back to Los Angeles since I moved 2.5 years ago. It was strange - so familar and so different; both me & the city having changed. It still felt odd, so focused on outward appearances. I'm used to my Northern California substance over style attitudes. And I liked the familar neighborhoods. I had passed out in the car on our way from Irvine to Burbank (Steve & Kim's to Terry & Larry's). I openned my eyes upon our arrival in The Valley and instantly knew where we were. I liked how familar it felt. Many times it felt like the Ghosts of Jennifer Past were riding along with us and pointed out things that had happed years ago.

After the eating & drinking and eating & drinking and drive back to NoCal - I'm totally pooped. I'm so excited for my bed.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New Sins??

This headline caught my eye:
Two Sexes Sin In Different Ways: Women are prouder than men, but men are more lustful.
And I'm thinking, "The church has any idea what lurks in the hearts of women?" Come on now.

But then, reading on, I discovered that the Vatican, in all its wisdom, has updated the seven deadly sins to reflect modern times. Wow - how amazing is that. I guess, these weren't sins inscribed on tablets given from god to Moses or anything, so they are changeable.

Here they are:
Genetic Modification (I wonder if that includes dog breeding, as Tsuanmi sure isn't natural)
Experiments on the Person (What exactly is included in that?)
Environmental Pollution (sounds good to me)
Taking or Selling Illegal Drugs (so the people in the early 1900's who were hooked on laudlin are absolved, but W does Blow in the 80's, it's not OK?)
Social Injustice (Hear that Mugabe!)
Causing Poverty (Take that Castro!)
Financial Greed (Take that Chaney and all you Modern Day Robber Barons!)

At first this seems totally wrong - how can they rewrite the bible? But the seven deadly sins are no where in the bible. With a little web research* one learns that the original seven deadly sins were an idea of Greek monk came up with the idea. He had eight sins that blocked the way to love - they do, don't they, but do the new modern ones? The seven sins were revised by Pope Gregory I who revised and reduced them to seven. And here we are with a new seven.

Either way, I'm not sure I'm buying it. I think women are just as lustful as men, only society finds it unseemly for us to express it, thus we find different sins to confess. Next meditation will be, "What sins have I committed today?"

*Author makes no assertions that information found on the web is true in anyway.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Never-ending Road to Self Improvemnt

Recently I have begun to wonder if I'm slipping. I don't feel as mentally sharp as I want to feel. This feeling may, in fact be due to my lack of observation. Last week Marc had left a GIANT box sitting in the library that I just walked past - and it took me 30 seconds to see the cookies he left next to my computer. Sad, I do realize that perception isn't brain power and that to really feel better, I need to hang around dumber people. Who knew it would be a curse to have smart & interesting friends?

But still, I was wondering, if the brain muscle, like my other muscles, would respond to exercise. On Saturday's trip to the land of big-box-retailers, we visited Barnes & Ignoble to check up on some books. I found a full table devoted to ways to improve one's brain. And so I picked up "Dr. Kawashima Train Your Brain More"

I didn't know that I wasn't the only one in search of brain improvement. I knew that there was the mesa-validation section... books & puzzles to make those with high intelligence yet low levels of success feel better about themselves. But I didn't know there were better brain diets, books about neuropathology and theory books on how to increase brain function.

This book, however, appealed to me and my fitness sensibilities. Dr. Kawashima has done research to see what activities increase brain level functioning... and it is simple! Simple math - doing easy calculations (if you can call 7 x 8 easy, I NEVER remember what that is, but 6 + 9 is easy) - reading aloud and writing are all ways to better stimulate your brain, become more creative and, oh gosh, can't remember the last thing - oh yeah, remember more things. Also the name is clearly Asian, possibly Japanese and that is even better!

So I started, I did the preliminary tests - how long does it take for you to count, aloud, to 120? A Stroop test, where you say the color of the word printed, not the word, ie when reading "Green" the response is "blue" not "green"and finally, memory test. I got 13 words, which was good, but I credit that to mnemonic tricks I was taught as a teenager.

We shall see if this has impact. My blogs could be come better written, more mathematically sound and, possibly, more creative. We can hope! 60 days to a better brain and then I have to find ways to keep it up or I will get a flabby intellect again. Boo.

Son of Composter

Now that I'm officially living with Marc, we got the composter from mom. It had enjoyed its 4 month rest and was ready for action.

The first night I got some dirt from the edge of the grass, put in some baking soda, sawdust pellets and then let it go. It was plugged in and we went to bed, but the dogs weren't used to it. When it did its churning in the middle of the night, the dogs went wild. Marc went down and unplugged it.

The next day it got both relocated to the back yard (which is better, as it is just outside the kitchen, and a full dosing of veggie clippings and some left over Chinese food. Marc made me swear that I wouldn't open it for a week, per its instructions. Well, I was good, I let it go for a week and over the weekend I opened it up for a look.

Unlike previous adventures of excessive moisture - which, due to the rain, was not surprising - we had mold! It almost looked like frost at the edges... little white fuzzy crystal things. I was disappointed, guessing I had not enough starter soil. I let it sit for a day and then, Sunday, took it on. I took the spatula, opened the top and was confronted with a light brown mush that smelled like vomit. Not what I was suspecting. But I dug up some additional dirt and added it in, mixed in the moldy bits (probably not the best idea) and added the tailings from the bok choy-mushroom stir fry we made for dinner last night. I haven't checked it yet, but soon.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Faith Based Initiatives

For most of my super early drive into the office this morning (I have a 6 AM training that I have to be at) I enjoyed the silence of the trip. The Drive Time Italian was silenced and I was not listening to Obama's book or a history of English. I was just enjoying the quiet.

But then, I figured I'd hear a little news, so I turn on NPR while wondering how much of their news was News and how much was just a mishmash of Press Releases edited slightly to be reporting. The reporter started in on the President's recent nominations who had withdrawn their names and noted to self that I needed to donate to NPR to keep their reporting worth listening to.

And then they switched to the Faith Based Initiatives mess left by Bush. Bush allowed religious groups to receive federal funds while discriminating against those they felt unfit for employment. The case they described was a woman who took a job with a Southern Baptist Church and fully disclosed her homosexuality and yet was let go, for unspecified reasons 6 months later, when parishioners saw a picture of her with her partner.

This case strikes me as wrong on so many levels. From what I've read of the New Testament, I don't recall Jesus not asking people if they were gay before healing them. He didn't stop to see if his apostles had any leanings. I seem to recall him talking about Love and Helping Others and all of us being sinners. By letting that woman go, they both discriminate against her and tell the gay people in the community that their assistance and initiatives are dependent on the sexuality of those in need. To me, that isn't Christian and I do not feel that my federal funds should be used for a group that is only willing to help those they deem worthy.

Can't we do better?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Throwing the glove

So Chavez says we can't kick our oil habit:

I have total and unconditional belief in America's ability to rise to a challenge. We came up with assembly lines and tanks and know-how and, despite what Marc says, the ability to beat the Nazi's. We invented the Internet - or Al Gore did. We came up with Unix and computers and the ability to beat our own human chess whizzes with a computer.

We can come up with ecologically friendly energy solutions. I'm sure of it. I just don't know what we need to do to motivate us to action. What is the call? How many plants & animals need to go extinct first? Or maybe we could just get our ego dented... Chavez says we can't.

We don't like Chavez. He says we're dumb... we should prove him wrong. Maybe we can get Putin to say the same thing? And Jintao could say that their Communism will bring our oil dependent Capitalism to its knees. Insult our ego! Say we're not good enough and maybe that will get the Heartland motivated to prove our worth. Bring it on!