Sunday, July 25, 2010

Things I like

Inspired by Nikki and Connie's posts on the same topic...


Spending 3 hours cooking something and having the first bite taste as divine as I'd been hoping.

Biking on smooth new black road at 30mph.

Good sharp knives, and prepping food with them.

Beautiful writing.
Funny writing.
Clever writing.

The first few hours of a vacation, when there's no thoughts of it being over and so much promise ahead.
Waterfalls over trails, and walking through them in my FiveFingers.
Clothing that works well.
Going new places.
The view from the top.
The view from the bottom.

Hawaii. Hapuna Beach. Molokini crater. The road to Hana.
Fresh lava glowing and cooling into brand new land.
San Francisco.
Mount Rainier.
High ceilings.
Catching things before they hit the ground.

Seeing otters and beavers and eagles sitting just above the surface of Lake Samm.
Going to movies and getting completely immersed.
Breaking the 4th wall.
Loud music.
Soft music.
Dancing as the sun rises.
Flights sitting next to somebody I know.
Being upside down.

Having long hair.
Having short hair.
Getting older.
Feeling younger :)
Piano music.
Fluffy white snow.
The weirdness of the intert00bz.
Purring cats.
Fuzzy critters.
Dumpster diving.
Neal Stephenson.

Waking up rested and realizing it's earlier than I thought.
The smell of tomato plants.
Tropical water.
People with more backstory than you'd ever have guessed.
Dali. Limo full of turnips. 'Nough said.
Coloring my hair bright colors. Blue. Aqua. Pink. Purple. Red. Orange.
Wispy clouds on the Issaquah Alps.
The view coming down the east side of the 520 bridge on a sunny day.
Art walks.
Weird specialty festivals.
Making people laugh.
Live music.
Summer strawberries.
Geeking out.
Coding groove.
Singing with a group.
Singing when no one else can hear.
Stars in the velvet blackness.
Seeing how somebody else sees the world.

Farmer's markets.
Lounge chairs on the deck in the warm summer breeze.
Having deer in my yard.
Seeing bunnies on my bike ride home.
Road trips.
Good headphones.

Tiny crescent moon at sunset.
Tucson sunsets.
Tucson sunsets in Seattle.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Gardening in the Pacific Northwest

Having just read Strata's post about garden planning, I was inspired to write a post of my own since I've been trying to do the same thing.

This year will be my first serious attempt at growing fruits and veggies in this climate. My previous gardening experience only included Hawaii and Tucson, about as opposite as you can find from the cold wet of the Issaquah Alps.

In Hawaii, everything grows as fast as possible, all the time; the main challenge is stopping anything from growing. Once I was growing tomatoes and made stakes from a local weed tree (there's a concept that doesn't even exist on the mainland - weed trees). I cut off 1" thick pieces a few feet long and hammered them into the ground upside down. They sprouted and continued for some time, until presumably the whole backward cambium thing got to them.

In Tucson, the main challenge was just keeping things moist enough (and discovering that the soil really needed iron). In summer I'd water things pretty much every day. I even grew mint - odd, since it's really a swamp-loving plant. It did all right, but only flourished during the monsoons. The huge temperature swings might have been an issue if I'd tried growing anything other than hardy herbs, but as it was, the only thing that suffered from it was one carnivorous plant I forgot to bring in one night when it dropped to 19F (down from probably 60F during the day - desert's like that).

Here, all I've really had is indoor plants, and they've done all right; I've even had a few orchids re-bloom. Last year John and I planted fruit trees and blueberries, which produced the small amounts expected for the young plants we got; a long-term process, but coming along fine. I'd tried starting a few seeds indoors, but hadn't understood the need for large amounts of direct, close artificial light to start seeds in the Great Gray North. Besides which, the soil here is heavy clay, meaning it'd turn into bricks if it had the chance - and there I was, expecting innocent vegetables to grow in it.

This year, I've decided to humble myself and learn the basics all over, since clearly they're different here, and there's more to know to succeed. And so far, it's been enlightening. In Hawaii, you can mostly ignore differences in when things are supposed to be planted and what kind of soil they grow in; here, 4 weeks before last frost is vastly different from 10 weeks before last frost - never mind the tricky issue of figuring out when the mythical Last Frost Date is. One thing I've heard recurrently is that there is a narrow window for growing things here, particularly warm-season crops like tomatoes and zucchini. (Warm season? Cold season? Ooooh, they like different conditions! They do badly in the wrong season!)

I'm trying to make the most of spring, despite the large (for here) amounts of snow we've gotten lately. I've got about 40 strawberry plants growing in home-made tubes (looked so much better than the duckwalk-tending, berries-rotting-on-the-ground method), a couple of flats of seedlings just coming up (directly) under grow lights in the living room, a spreadsheet and notebook full of plans for outdoor boxes, and a pile of books to read and consult (particularly Growing Vegetables West Of The Cascades and All New Square Foot Gardening).

So, with 1.2 acres of big old trees on a rocky slope on a north hill face, and not an inch that'll get more than 8 hours of sun even with those dazzling summer 10:00pm sunsets, I'm still going to try to grow vegetables. Maybe they won't get that big or that sweet, but they'll be mine - as local as it gets, grown with only stuff I put on them, and whatever weird varieties I can find seeds and starts for.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Reader Quiz

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Book Snob
Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Literate Good Citizen
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

I came out as less obsessive than Wadam, which makes sense since he's working on a PhD in folklore, and I'm mostly fixated on finding new general knowledge about the world (and the occasional bit of good escapist fiction). It's true I have a massive hoard of books, and the boxes of them (still sitting packed by the entryway, in a 3'x4'x10' block) are probably making the floor sag....

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Man the Battlements!

It's remarkable that by January there hasn't really been anything "going around" yet - it was bound to start eventually, and sure enough, Rainier and Avalon found some germs and brought them home. I've been trying desperately to not get sick, and it was a reminder that I've been meaning to put up a list of all my collected attempts at avoiding colds or making them at least not so bad. Having gone from being a kid who would get sick every couple months and be sick for two weeks each time, and now getting 1-2 short, not too bad colds a year, I attribute at least some of the change not just to aging but to deliberate immune support. Thus, here's my list of collected anti-cold knowledge; I'll update the post when I find more so that it's all in one place.
  • Airborne (okay, everybody's heard of this one)
    • Last I heard, echinacea was shown not to actually do anything in closely controlled studies. But, there's a bunch of other stuff in there, it's soothing, and (to me at least) the zesty orange flavor tastes pretty good (and that's the one you can get at Costco).
  • Cold-Eeze
    • The package claims studies showing that their form of zinc reduces cold intensity and duration by almost half, and my personal experience seems to support this. After years of getting sick all the time, and having it come on just the same way, there were times I felt like I was surely going to get sick, started taking these (dissolved, don't chew), and either didn't get sick or only got barely sick.
  • Weird burning Chinese drink (I don't make it sound very appealing, do I? Okay, it's not that bad, and you get to like it, or at least not mind it so much... and it's still better than being sick.)
    • This is a combination of a couple of remedies I got from my aunt who knows a lot about Chinese medicine. It's not a prevention so much as clearing you up and cleaning you out if you're already sick and stuffy. Ingredients :
      • Ginger, piece about the size of the last two digits of your thumb
      • Brown sugar, about 2 Tbsp.
      • Green onions, white portion near roots, about 6
    • Instructions: Mince the ginger, and then mash/cut the brown sugar into it so that it's mixing with the juices of the ginger. Cut the green onion ends into small rounds. Put both of these into a mug. Pour boiling water over it, and drink it as soon as it's cool enough to get down. It burns because of the ginger, so if you're like me, you might want to just dump it down your throat without tasting it too much. Then, wrap yourself up in a blanket and sweat it out. It should clear up your sinuses quickly, and you should feel better after. You can repeat this more than once a day, but it gets less effective after the first time, so make the first one full strength and make yourself sweat.
  • Nasal Lavage
    • Colds come in through the nose ("rhinovirus"), and nasal lavage has been shown to help nasal cilia function more effectively, as well as directly remove potential infectious agents. Plus it helps you feel less stuffy, in both your nose and your ears (it's all connected). It's recommended for scuba divers as well, to make ear equilization easier and problems equilizing less likely. I'd strongly suspect it helps with respiratory allergies as well, although I don't have experience with that personally, nor have I looked into it.
    • Most people hear about this and think of it as yet another innocuous hygiene practice. Some substantial fraction back in horror when this is described, either due to not wanting the sensation of water up the nose, or because it just sounds weird and gross. For those of you in the latter crowd, I will assure you that it doesn't burn (use an isotonic formula, not fresh water), and it makes your head and nose feel really nice and clean. You can do the low-tech way with just a bowl and making salt water that tastes about as salty as tears, or you can get a Neti Pot and pre-mixed solute packets. There are instructions online, so I won't go into any more description here.
  • Probiotics!
    • I finally found a form of probiotics I actually enjoy consuming. I'll eat yogurt on occasion, but it has to be with other things (I like neither sour nor creamy), and usually that's too much time/energy for a breakfast item. But, several healthfood stores and even Safeway carry a probiotic juice drink called Goodbelly. I think there are actually others of the same form, but this is the first one I saw and tried and liked. The package claims that 70% of your immune system is in your digestive tract. Who knows how they're measuring that (plenty of individual cells, certainly, because they're tiny...), but again, I've heard consistently that probiotics are great for the immune system and overall wellbeing (digest food better, more nutrients, lose weight, etc), and my personal experience seems to support this.
  • Peroxide in ears
    • I have less substantiation for this one, and the mechanism seems odd, but anecdotally (me and several friends I've talked into it), it works extremely well. Ears, nose, and throat are all connected, and all of them have defenses, but the ears are the least defended (just wax), and supposedly infections can enter through the ears, and then they're right back in where you start getting sick. (I'm not sure how they're supposed to get past the eardrum, but assuming some workaround for that, it's highly plausible.) The idea of this one is simple - every few hours, put a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in your ear, let it sit for 15-30 seconds, let it drip out, and repeat on the other ear.
  • Warm feet
    • Despite all the controversy over whether cold gives you colds, and many vehemently claiming it's just an old wives' tale and it just seems like it because people are in close quarters more in the cold (staying indoors at least), there is scientific support for at least one specific thing: feet being cold make your more likely to get sick. The study I heard had people put their feet in cold water for 20 minutes, and found that they were much more likely to get sick the following week than controls (I forget the exact figure - something around 1/3 more). Hearing that only supported my desire to wear socks all the time.
  • Rest the first day
    • Of all the time a cold lasts, the first day, when you've just gotten sick (or better, if you feel that you're about to get sick, or have been exposed), take it easy. Sleep extra, don't stress, take care of yourself. Sweating it out may well work toward the end, but at the beginning, taking it easy will make the rest shorter and easier.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ooo, Shiny

Like so many people just discovering (or getting back to after a long absence from) Facebook, I'm marveling at the number of people I've gotten back in touch with whom I hadn't talked to in years, and how easy it was. After a long while of bashing all the social networking apps (waste of time, not worthwhile interaction), I must say... wow. You can't always hang out with people in person, and when you can't, it's nice to have one place that sort of reminds you to remind your friends that you still exist and you still think about them.



Friday, December 12, 2008

Gems from John

We need torte reform: less cherries; more chocolate.

Pesto: the bacon of the veggie world.

Me (having just eaten a Cinnabon): Ugh, sugar coma.
John: Is that a cinnacoma? Or a comabon?

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wow. Just... wow.