Friday, August 28, 2009

We now return you to the 20th century.

This computer has multiple problems -- yes, again, and ever since I bought it -- but anyway, it has a bunch of dysfunctions, including no sound. Multiple attempts to fix it -- my repair guy was here for 4 hours -- have failed.

I'd gotten awfully used to MP3 convenience. Now: no carefully compiled playlists. No easy clicking, no uninterrupted 90+ minutes of music at a time. Worst of all -- no YouTube! Larry is fine with my using his computer, but since everything at his desk is set up for a left-handed person who likes s-l-o-w mouse scrolling 8~) I won't do that every day.

But I can access music to work by, using old fashioned 20th century technology, CDs, a player, and my headphones. CDs not only have a full, rich sound -- MP3's are cruddy, really -- but many I bought in the 1980's still play. There's a lot to love about music that's not disposable.

This also got me to dust and organize my bookcase to make room for the boombox.

I really would like to get Sindows out of my life forever. We've already gone un-Window Shopping at the local Apple dealer, and I'm thinking on a Mac for next year, but right now I can still work and write on this machine, so that purchase can wait until the other bugs --- and there ARE others, including no saved log-ins anymore (Yes, I've done all the suggested fixes)-- drive me so insane that I take this thing to my cousins' house on the next Confed'rate Holiday and let 'em fire their cannon at it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I hated Junior High School with a passion. When people play games, like "If someone promised you a million dollars, would you ___?" I can say with confidence that, while I would take a million dollars to relive some unpleasant things in my life, there is one thing that even a million could not induce me to go through again and that was junior high. I was a target of bullying on grand scale. I'm not sure why. I was from the right side of the tracks and wasn't particularly odd looking, though I was somewhat fashion challenged.

12-14 is a cruel age. I wasn't alone by any means. A kid who exudes shyness and tendency to submit will kind of attract it, like blood attracts sharks, and the structured environment of elementary school had given way to the looser movement of shifting classrooms which allowed the meanest people free-er reign for bullying others.

Two days ago we were in Charlotte visiting Cousin Emily, and she asked me to go with her to my old junior high. She was donating to them some posters with vintage photos of the class of 1936, which her dad was part of. I've visited other sites from my youth but never had any desire to go back to that school. It appears in unpleasant dreams often enough. I (smiling) accused Emily of trying to "help" me "confront my demons" which she found hilarious, but we went, sat in the office, handed the old photos to the assistant principal who was a very nice, enthusiastic guy, and Emily said, "Could you give my cousin a nostalgia tour?" while I rolled my eyes.

But, though not particularly nostalgic about the place, I was a little curious to experience it again. Predictably, the school seemed smaller, less intimidating. There were some new buildings. The landscaping was lusher.

And I did remember something good, something I actually wanted to see. The library.

1968 had been a pinnacle of school misery, but at the end of the year, I became aware of an option for the next year. You could be a Library Assistant. It wasn't the hot activity. Hip people who craved authority and power wanted to be Office Assistants. I doubt if they had any power at all, merely got to stand at the desk and say hello to visitors, or staple and photocopy things, and might have had a little fun, but anyway, there was very little competition for library assistant positions and I applied and was accepted for the 1968-69 year.

Taken 8-13-2009

The school library was physically, as well as symbolically, apart from the rest of campus. The building and the walk to it are so much the same that it's almost weird. It's not the library anymore, but used for chorus and band. That shady walkway which ambles down to it, taking you away from the roar of the crowd, has not altered a bit.

Inside, two walls were almost all window and looked on woods as richly green as they are today. As a library in 68-69 it was, not dark, but sort of shady and nice. The librarian was a hip, cool young woman right out of school, who wore miniskirts. We hung around the checkout desk and stamped things and alphabetized cards and stapled stuff and generally had a serene hour a day in that wonderful, quiet little building where no one harassed anyone.

It was really good to see it again. I skipped the classroom buildings and the girls' bathroom where I would spend lunch hours eating crackers, to avoid the harassment of the lunchroom. Most of that is all renovated and doesn't resemble the old days anyway.

OK, OK! Emily was right. Revisiting it was good. Thanks to this delightful place, ninth grade was not as bad as seventh and eighth had been. High school (grades 10-12 in our system) was, actually, comparatively, great. Jerks seemed embarrassed to behave in quite so immature a manner as they had back in junior days, and while school irritated and angered me often, I never feared it again.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Fighting nature

My garden makes kind of pleasant, innocuous blog material, but that's because I avoid telling the parts of the story that are slightly more interesting but definitely more embarrassing.

I'm afraid I'm one of those wackos who took survival measures when Y2K was coming. In 1999 we were still in NJ in our wonderful Victorian house with its nooks and crannies, and I piled canned goods and a huge sack of Sam's Club rice into an odd little closet I kept shoes in. Later, when a local food drive arranged with the postal service for carriers to pick up donations, I dragged the 20(?) pound rice sack out to the porch and our poor mailman hauled it away.

c. August 1997, just after we bought the house.

But, no, I have not entirely changed my nutcase ways, because I honestly think that the ability to provide ourselves with at least some of our own food could become a necessity rather than a hobby. If we never need a food-producing farmette, the kids just might. Or might want one. The current economy being the mess that it is, I wanted to begin my learning process now. This place we're in now is not very good for a sustainable life, but it's fine for a learning laboratory. We'll have some acreage eventually. Why be a novice in 5-10 years?

This is part of the reason why I'm trying things that are more difficult to grow. I like some of the easier crops like lettuce and cukes well enough, but, bottom line, salad holds limited interest for me. I want to be able to raise serious sustenance vegetables that keep better and have more recipe versatility. I'd rather fail more and learn more, than succeed at things I don't care much about. Ideally, I'll have a greenhouse too, and have a small but steady production of salad veggies.

I'm as complete a novice at this as one can be. I've never been into gardening for pleasure. I have to avoid sun, which means getting out there at 6:30 AM to work on it while the yard is still fairly shady. I'm also not a morning person, so this is a radical shift.

I'm also not a detail person. Gardening, especially organic gardening, requires some vigilance and attention to detail. You can't just decide to take a few days off. Nature doesn't.

So I'm not exactly a natural-born gardener. An online friend once told me that if I ever joined her role-playing group, they'd probably dub me The Goddess of Convenience Foods and Take-Out. I have to fight nature, and by that, more than the predators and the weather, i really mean my own nature.

While gardening is kind of calming and satisfying even for my temperament, for me it's more a means to an end, than an end in itself.

So! I planted my carrots and broccoli almost 2 months ago. We oughta be eating the stuff by now, but neither was the right crop for its location. They didn't die, they didn't grow. They all just sat there suffering in the too-long day of full broiling South Carolina sun.

Both are now in containers. I used to have ornamental trees in these two square planters, years ago. Each crop has a planter now, and both are perking up. Naturally, as soon as I put the carrots into a shadier spot, we've had nothing but cloudy days and downpours. I can move the planters to adjust for weather, so we may get some food out them!

The peppers are happy in the raised bed, though. They love this climate. We harvested 2 and had stuffed peppers, and Larry's (mumble...thriving...mumble) garden produced enough tomatoes for me to make a sauce that looked pink and wimpy, but that had the richest, most delectable flavor... o my! Home grown tomatoes demonstrate the blah-ness of grocery store produce to a mind-blowing degree.

And the rest of my big box garden is now an attempt at, believe it or not, a pumpkin patch. A weird but very sincere pumpkin patch. Larry had a couple plants that needed a spot and I thought I'd try it.

We're also dinking around with pest-discouraging companion plants, which is the reason for the marigolds, and the basil, which you see there to the left, between the pepper plants (and which contributed to my delicious tomato sauce). Nasturtium seeds are in those rectangular planters. Nasturtiums are supposedly good for discouraging certain bugs as well. We'll know a fair amount by the time we've got space for a mini-farm.

I'm learning in fits and starts.