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Monday, April 16, 2018

No Pandas

A panda bear walks into a bar and orders a sandwich. The waiter brings him the sandwich. The panda bear eats it, pulls out a pistol, kills the waiter, and gets up and starts to walk out.

The bartender yells for him to stop. The panda bear asks, “What do you want?” The bartender replies, “First you come in here, order food, kill my waiter, then try to go without paying for your food.”

The panda bear turns around and says, “Hey! I’m a Panda. Look it up!” The bartender goes into the back room and looks up panda bear in the encyclopedia, which read: “Panda: a bear-like marsupial originating in Asian regions. Known largely for it’s stark black and white coloring. Eats shoots and leaves.”

Hosta shoots emerging after a persistent Winter.

Last week the weather broke just long enough for me to make some real headway with a couple of backyard projects that I was eager to complete. What made it more satisfying was that these were somewhat 'time sensitive' jobs that needed to be done soon. I was worried that the lingering cold weather would force me to postpone them until next year......and it looks like that may actually be true for one project: rearranging my daylilies. However, I did manage to not only do some moves around my I described in my last post, but also rearrange my entire shade garden.

I have a small strip along the back of our house that I have been adding to over the years, but what I noticed was that I seemed to be concentrating all of my efforts on the center third. The other two thirds were either boring or feeble.........made worse by the fact that the center third was OVERdone! This needed to be balanced and fixed.

What made this project interesting was the lack of any immediate confirmation of what the end result would be. I was moving various hostas, astilbes, ferns, and spiderworts..... all while they were in the very early stages of emergence: just leaves. ( I had made notes last year as to what varieties of hosta were where since you can't tell that easily from just nubs.) So when I was done and showed Rosa what I worked on all day, all she could see was a very similar-looking stretch of mulched dirt along the back of our house, not much different than what it looked like before! I also relocated a small fountain we got as a gift from Nickki and Jean a few years ago, and that was the only move that rewarded me with immediate feedback. Everything else was moved on memory and hope.

I am very pleased that I got it all done in a single day......with a bit of help from my stepson, but there was no 'instant gratification' like you get when you paint a room or build a structure.  So now it's just a matter of time whether the result makes me happy.......or prompts more notes for next year!

Thursday, April 12, 2018


I know that theoretically a good pet owner should love all of their 'children' equally.....but I'm guilty of a definite prejudice: while I love and protect all of my finned friends in my ponds out back, I can't help but have a special fondness for my shubunkins.

An array of common shubunkin goldfish.

Shubunkins are like the Calico cats of the pond.....and I've always had a thing for calicoes over tabbies or gingers. Visitors to my yard often ask if my pond fish are koi, but while they can be a bit shy, I have to admit that they are just common Comet goldfish. Most are special selections saved from the "feeder tank" at Petco and cost about twenty cents. 

But I did buy a few "special" fish over the the newly-bred yellow comet from Israel:

I bought two of these and lost one to some backyard predator. They really are eye-catching when mixed with regular goldfish variations.

But as striking as the yellow comets are, they can't compete for that special place in my heart reserved for my shubunkins. (click for more about the shubunkin)

I was working on my main pond yesterday and relocated the antique water pump I use as my filter return to a better spot along the perimeter. I also changed some plants and stones along the edge. And as I was working I kept looking at my shubunkins. I need to get a good shot of the ones I have. Most look like the ones pictured, but there are other variations and one orange and black one I found in a feeder tank has grown to look like the glowing coals in a fire pit after the main blaze has gone out. 

A shot of my main pond. You can see the antique water pump on the edge of the right frame.

Another humorous side note on these fish is Rosa's reaction to hearing me say "shubunkin". She happens to think it's one of the most annoying-sounding words she has ever heard and teases me about it whenever I say it. (Even I have to admit it sounds more like a city in Wisconsin than a Japanese hybrid carp.) She does like the way they look though.

Feeding time! 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Chomping... the bit.

That expression pretty much describes my mood lately as I eagerly wait for Spring to manifest itself in a way more tangible than just a chronological acknowledgement on a calendar.

There are so many things I want to do in the garden this year. I even drew diagrams last season to help me remember what should be moved to where. Changes need to be made to my shade garden, my main pond, the placement of the various daylilies strewn about, and new locations for the herb garden. In addition, I'm thinking of constructing another ......though much smaller.......arbor to shade the bench that overlooks the pond. But that might not happen for a while. At least not if this persistent chill lingers and prevents me from getting started with everything else.

Right now, the snow might be finally gone, but the overall atmosphere feels more like Seattle than Central Jersey! 

Thursday, March 29, 2018


I have always said that I am lucky to be among the majority of people who are not prone to addiction. I have done my share of things that could be disastrous for those unlucky few who are. But then there are times when I wonder if I may have some inclination.

Recently I have rediscovered a VERY old computer game via "Steam" (an online source for games ). My stepson recommended Steam when I bemoaned my inability to play my old favorite game discs on these super-updated laptops. Most just won't work even with the "patches" available online.  Steam offers these games in a playable format. And it was through Steam I was able to get "Lords of the Realm 2" ........for $2.99 no less!

A typical view of one's, to manage my resources and raise an army!

LOTR2 is a lot of fun for an old game, even with its limitations, and it is one of those old rare "turn-based" games. I like "turn-based" formats, but find them strangely......addictive. When I play a real time game, I find it much easier to say, "OK, enough. Time to stop." This game I can play for hours. And I can play it with the sound off......anywhere......even while 'watching' TV with Rosa.

Now I am also hosting Easter, and I have been doing things to prepare for that as well.....but in between errands and tasks?  I am playing LOTR2.

It has also distracted me from blogging.........which at this point I think is a good thing. For a while there I was posting every day with various topics. Gathering images and source information took time......and it was a good outlet......even if these posts only generated responses from Dan, and a couple of others. It seems that lifestyle posts are hit-or-miss with readers, and socio-political ones....with little exception...... inspire more knee-jerk partisan reactions than genuine truth-seeking debate. So....fuck it.  

I don't plan to close "Collected Submissions" (though if I did, there are probably only a metal fabricator's handful of people who would care) but I don't plan on very many "adult lifestyle" posts either.....because I'm just fairly bored with talking about it.

So, I am just going to conquer as many countries as I can, do some projects, and post when something motivates me. Those few who enjoy a robust debate can always email me. The rest? Well........LOL......I wouldn't have heard from you either way.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

More on rage

Yesterday Dan raised a persistent question about why there would seem to be more rage in a society that is objectively better off than it was during times of less rage? At first I kept responding in terms of whether rage was triggered by these changes or was more personal......but either way, Dan's question remained valid: "Why more now?"

After a bit of thinking, I tried to think of the people I knew in the past and now who were the victims of injustice and who, while understandably angry, managed to cope without full-on rage. In every case, the answer was similar if not exactly the same: these people ALL believed that some external force.....either their god or karma......would eventually ensure justice for those who inflicted intentional cruelties and then managed to escape any consequences.

My own mother was one of these people and was a staunch believer in a combination of the two. For her, there was NO DOUBT that a person's actions were going to catch up with them............ here or in the afterlife. I remember her telling this to me, my brother, Rosa, and anyone who seemed angry over an injustice they were powerless to correct. She believed it with every fiber of her being. And she was no shy, wallflower. If she could exact her own retribution, she would.....but when it was fruitless? Well, karma would get them. And if karma didn't? Well, that was what God would take care of in the end:

God's vacation spot for those who escaped justice on earth.

Historically, this notion of Divine Retribution, preached from the pulpit to the poor, powerless, and oppressed, guaranteed justice. It is one of the many criticisms of Christianity that such teaching helps keep the throngs of oppressed people from revolting against the privileged classes. 

"If you won't fight for yourselves.....follow my breasts!"

So I ran the 'retribution tape' through my own head and pretended I believed it to be true..........and I realized if I was able to convince myself of such a thing, I felt better. Why waste my time and ruin my day with frustrated rage when the justice I sought would happen in time? All I had to do was continue with my own life and trust that everything would be made right eventually. Wow. What a strategy!

"Relax, children........I got this!"

The problem is......I DON'T believe this will happen. And it seems that an ever-increasing number of Americans have the same problem. (click for article on decline of religion in US)  So, I can't help but wonder if THAT'S the answer to Dan's question. The statistic I read in another article pointed out an interesting fact that in the context of this 'rage theory' is either more evidence, or a bizarre coincidence: it seems like the increase of rage in society is not gradual. It feels like it went up a tiny bit in decades past and now is increasingly more frequent. Oddly the decline in religious follows that same pattern: a very gradual decline from the 60's through the 70's and 80's, picking up speed a bit in the 90's, and rampant among "Millennials" now. (link)

I find that very interesting. It certainly is consistent with the correlation between rage and the feeling of being powerless. With a solid belief system in place, you may be powerless, but you have this all-powerful force that you can rely on. But.....stop believing in that force? And all you have is your rage.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Age of Rage

The poster child for rage.

Rage is anger on steroids.  You don't just frown and grumble. You don't just shout a profanity. No, you fume as the heat builds in your face and pressure mounts in your chest until you think your head will explode and your heart burst. You don't just want to slam your fist or stomp your want to take up a club and smash EVERYTHING!

While verbally explosive at times, I am a very non-violent person physically. However, lately I have been almost perpetually angry with frequent flashes of suppressed rage. It has gotten so bad that I started talking to others about it. First Rosa, and then this weekend, before we sat down to dinner, I talked with my daughter and Son-in-Law (a professional psycho-therapist) about it. I really was beginning to worry that I was losing it. What was my surprise to learn that this feeling was widespread!? At first I was relieved to learn that I wasn't alone....but then worried that ......I wasn't alone. How good is it that such feelings are rampant?

The Red Hulk, Thaddeus Ross, who becomes not only stronger....but literally hotter with increased anger.

I was not surprised to learn that rage often stems from feeling powerless to correct an injustice. (That's my issue for certain.) And it occurred to me that perhaps THIS is where things like school shootings come from? Put in that context the tearfully rhetorical question of "who would DO such a thing?" becomes much easier to answer: someone full of rage.

If the Hulk is the King of Rage, Carrie must be the Queen.

Today's political climate has only exacerbated the root causes of rage. There used to be plenty of injustices and runs of bad luck in normal daily life to induce rage.....hell, just think of "road rage" alone! But now? Now, it seems like a lot of people would happily tear out the throat of just about anyone else from the 'other tribe'. And every day brings some new "I've never seen anything like this in my entire life"-level outrage.

Sorry ladies, but if your idea of Wolverine is the handsome Hugh Jackman, you should know that the character he portrays looks and acts more like this.

I have always been a kind of multi-point kind of person.....meaning, I'm not the type to let any ONE thing get to me. But if you start stacking things up? Then I don't handle it so well. And the worse thing is that once I feel the stacking begin, the size of the "blocks" doesn't matter nearly as much as how many are being piled up. So, if we start with one substantial bad thing, I can usually keep it in perspective, but start compounding that with a bunch of lesser things and by the time we get to the Nth 'block', I can lose it over something as minor as a package not arriving on time. Now normally such a trivial thing would never prompt that.....but under this 'pile up' it can.

I also find certain environmental factors can contribute to the problem. The fact that it's mid-March and still cold means that every 'outdoor person' I know has had enough of Winter. 'Cabin Fever' is a definite contributor. I think even my 'playful' O-lessness played a part. (Rosa gave me an O yesterday and I found I already felt better afterwards.....and yet I was as complicit and willing in that denial period as she was). So there are a LOT of things that can factor into all this.

For me it can be a lack of sunlight......but for this guy, it's too much moonlight!

So, I did learn that my strategy of 'distraction' is in fact a viable solution. I find that keeping busy with my multiple projects keeps my mind off of things that would otherwise fuel a rage. "Projects" are like my 'addiction'. I thought that perhaps such avoidance was bad, but I learned it's not at all. So I guess I will just continue to keep myself busy, get out in the sunshine as often as the weather permits, avoid watching too much news, and if all else fails, maybe just have a drink......or ask Rosa for an O!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Our table

from yesterday's St.Patrick's get-together:

You can see we re-used our new charger plates from Thanksgiving, and you can also see the domed Depression glass butter dish next to the pitcher

That's the bottle of Redbreast over on the left. The whole theme was green and white and pewter. 

The food came out great. We had an opening appetizer of an Irish pub treat of beets and egg on sourdough toasts with a freshly-made, sweet & spicy mustard sauce. Then we had the Potato & Leek soup with fresh baked brown bread my daughter made and brought. The main course was corned beef and cabbage with colcannon on the side. Later on my stepson made everyone Irish Coffee with whipped cream and shaved chocolate.

Eventually the 'party' continued from the table to our living room with many rounds of 8-Ball being played until we moved a TV into the room (we do not usually have a TV in our living room) to watch "Miller's Crossing" and then the mandatory annual viewing of "Boondock Saints". The party went on past 1:00AM! (very late for Rosa  and me)

Overall a very good day!