03 Sep

If you can’t stand the heat, you’re not a nightshade

This was a hell of a hot summer, with weeks in the 90’s and hundreds. That helped some crops and definitely inhibited others.

The good: After 8 lousy years of tomato production (lost mostly to blight), we have more healthy fruit than we can keep track of: Early Girl, Oregon Spring, and Black Krim slicers; Romas (a heirloom variety) for paste and soup, and Sungold cherry tomatoes to take over their corner of the garden (and be delicious). I love tomatoes, Debby is allergic and eats them sparingly, and Sophie and Noah only like them in salsa or soup. Fortunately, they keep if cooked down or dried and packed, and our older kids and parents like them.  The tomatoes are all growing in the 2 keyhole gardens. And our peppers–a poblano and a long sweet red variety–are still producing, with only a few burnt fruit. They’re also in the keyhole gardens.

Eggplant are the Japanese variety, slender and softskinned, not as hardy but also not as bitter as the rotund variety. We’re like a lot of people: we like eggplant but can only eat so much. The two plants are very productive–especially the plant in the keyhole garden.

It’s also the season of the winter banana squash–two plants of apparent Amazonian stock rebred for the PNW took over the front garden, including sending two runners up over the bean frame (7 feet high) while we were on vacation for a week. I took hedge clippers to some of the vines just to keep them in check. The squash took that as a personal challenge to grow faster. So, needless to say, we have banana squash and need a song for it. Pounds and pounds of it–very tasty, but we’re pressed to preserve it in the recent heat.

We grew a new summer squash this year that we’ll grow again: a light skinned “Sweet Gourmet” zuke that’s rotund from the get go and even when it puts on a bit a weight (e.g., the zucchini club) is much less woody than the dark skinned type. We stir fry and steam it, make “noodles” with it (a really nice replacement for starched noodles), and of course shred it for backing.

Not the season for onions, beans, or carrots. At least, for us. Foliage was very healthy, but not much fruit. I don’t think we fertilized the onions enough or adequately protected the carrots from ground pests. Beans are the long purple variety. We’ve grown them in the past and couldn’t keep up. This year, we’ve picked enough for perhaps two meals. With the weather cooling, maybe we’ll still get a reasonable crop.

We always grow a big set of kale and chard from our favorite local nursery. It’s a combo of black and curly kale (the green, not the Russian), and, well, chard. The curly is succeptible to aphid conventions, even with spray. We also like it the least. Next year we’ll stick with the black kale (long, dark green rumply leaves) and chard.

Basil was fawltless and is still producing. We grew sweet, Genovese, a purple big leafy variety that our nursery person forced on us, and a variegated variety. The latter two don’t produce seedheads and will probably last longest. Both are fine in salads and soups, but neither really suits us for pesto. Cilantro also did well and is still producing.

First in the ground, our sugar peas did well, giving us tasty snappers into July.

Biggest disappointment: pumpkins. Usually we can’t keep up with them. Our 4 Cinderella pumpkin plants were anemic and never produced fruit. We had one volunteer with healthy vines that produced exactly one, average sized fruit.

Fruit from trees and bushes: purple plum trees were loaded, but in the heat ripened too fast, turning the half the fruit into juice bombs while we were camping. We shared the crop with the neighbors, who decided to see if they could make a bottle or two of wine from the riper fruit. Figs ate up the heat, as you’d expect. We always get a respectable first crop, although usually the second crop starts and then fails to ripen as the weather turns. This year has been warm enough for both crops. Blueberries did fine. They don’t like heat spikes (which are more typical)–so consistent heat during fruit season may have helped them stabilize.

Next year, it looks like another hot summer. If I remember, I’m going to try ginger and tumeric, for the heck of it.


03 Sep


I just read that Oliver Sacks died on Sunday. I’m behind on events, behind the instant world, still processing while others have moved on. I tried to write about what he meant to me as a young man and the decades since, as a young writer, and how I finally attended a lecture (on his book tour for Uncle Tungsten), where it struck me how kind and gentle he was, though not always patient, and belonged in conversations and consultations, not auditoriums. I don’t know why I saw him and Terry Pratchett as different edges of the same coin. It as little to do with there appearance. More to do with the need for their existence. But I don’t know how to write about him in a larger context and he doesn’t need my posthumous wishes.

03 Sep

What’s next?

I thought about writing a piece on how I sometimes look at young women with a physical resemblance to my daughter and wonder if that’s her in the future at a given age. Then imagine this as the future with me seeing her and reporting back. Then worry that I’m that creepy guy scoping out the young ladies. I hate how neuroses always turn the topic in a tedious inward direction. So for now that idea is no bigger than a sentence.

Or I could write about my tabletop game development partnership and how it’s like an Italian marriage without the sex (because, dude, the guy is a dwarf). But then it would turn into self recrimination about how I’m half of the genius and ego equation and thus half the problem. Plus, which of is is going to pitch this game next year? The dwarf is brilliant but doesn’t know when to shut up. I’m not going to do it–good lord, I’d be mortified! So the descent continues.

Then there’s the moral quandary of my employment running projects for aerial collection systems development with the DOD as the biggest customer. A tool that could be used for so much good sold to the cigar chomper with deep pockets. And now I’m loathing myself for masking a request to help me find a new, low 6 figure paying job doing something ethical.

My only hope is my daughter, so far untouched by adult hopes and failures. I still have time to mold her. But I won’t be a jello mold like my parents. I’ll be a bundt cake mold, a steel mold, a titanium 3d printer. If I don’t fail. No, I’ll just shut up and go spend more heroin money I don’t have at Powell’s Books (which is only 5 feet away).

Text brought to you by the ickier streets of Portland, which remind me how good I have it and how easy I could fall into them. Don’t get me started.

30 Jul

The lesser I get, the older I know

You get older and realize you don’t know anything. People won’t hear of it and try to persuade you otherwise, with examples. So you pretend to know things, becoming a tedious character in a series of linked short stories where climaxes, if they occur, seldom happen as planned. So you substitute emphasis or a quick follow up so that the last thing someone recalls about you is positive. It works for TV news, for which everyone is a trained audience.

30 Jul

Drone cars for hire?

This made me consider a niche for drone car pilots–with robotic cars so far off and so many people out of work, it’s the new Uber or a chauffeur for everyone. Maybe even an easy way to get my kids to drive me around when I’m too dangerous to do it myself. (You know, like in a year or two.)

It could be a cottage industry or a variant on big customer service centers. You come to work each day, slide into a bucket seat with your coffee at hand and a screen in front of you. No texting, though.

09 Feb


Sometimes an unfinished or languishing story is like an old love affair that never got going and that you can’t let go. But like the song says, let it go.

02 Feb

Well I never

From the Wiktionary entry for Wist:

Usage notes
  • Use of wist was never a part of the regular English language; rather, it resulted from the erroneous attempted use of archaisms or as a joking or erroneous use of the past indicative of wit.

Apparently they have never heard: “From wist hast thou come and to wist shall thou go?”

To wit, wist is the alpha and the omega.


02 Feb

Wherever is your heart

Warning: Headcold post ahead, which means the road is slippery with syrupy introspection and woozy epiphanies. I recommend that you steer round it to the toe-tapping video. But if you’re still–OH MY GOD IT’S TOO LATE WE’RE GOING TO–

There are singers, songwriters, or composers who can lift you from the place where you’re feeling sick and set you onto a better path. Brandi Carlile is one for me. So it’s only a headcold. Life is verging on overload at the moment and the headcold feels fatter than Putin’s ego. It’s a happy moment to discover that one of my favorite singer/songwriters has something new and it reached me just when it was needed, like a hole in the clouds.  I also used it to help repair a bridge. Sometimes songs are medicines are bricks.

(Resisting all attempts to broach the symphonic topic of why what we call music can turn the best of us into toe tapping, swaying, arm waving puppets–where and when were those evolutionary channels dug?)

It may only last for 3:50, but there’s always replay.

13 Jan

Motherfuckers of Kickstarter and Other Space Vampires

I’m a fan of Chuck Wendig’s blog. His zany profanity in the self service of humanity (inside and outside the writer’s space) resonates with me. He recently posted a short run about Kickstarter bullies beating on YA author Stacey Jay and her Kickstarter asking for an extremely modest amount of money to cover production costs and some income to write and self-publish the next novel in her series (after her publisher folded).

It’s become popular for authors or would be authors to ask for crowdfunding. Men, if the pitch is good, tend to get what they ask for. Women, often they get something different. A bit like rape crowdsourced. And if you think that’s heavy-handed, then read the series. And, if you look further online, you’ll find similar stories in the crowdfunding or authoring space or women in tech space.

I’m interested in crowdfunding–via Kickstarter or another program–for a (non-authoring) personal and a charitable project. I assumed it was fairly safe and simple–you threw your best pitch and people voted with their dollars or ignored you. At 53, I’m no less naive, it seems, than I was at 23.

There are a lot of people out there looking for a reason to spew, bully, or worse. They’re self-styled philosopher kings or privileged or bitter little ass-hats. They hide online because if they made themselves public, someone would make the worst of them disappear. They’re criminals without a law or means to detain or restrain them. Most are men, I suspect, or identify themselves as such. They “have no lives.” (Otherwise, why the fuck would anyone spend their time in such a way, as self-styled creators, enforcers, or reformers for “laws” of crowdfunding, game-related press, and other things irrelevant to surviving and thriving on this planet. Actually, I do know–it’s the universal law discovered by infants that we control what we can, and the more petty the thing the more we want to control it.) No one stopped them when they were merely dysfunctional. And they’re going to cause a backlash that will hurt non-participants as well.

They’re like fucking alien, planet-hopping locusts or the kind of vampires Buffy slew weekly. Mean, dedicated, generally not very bright. But tenacious.

I work in Old Town Portland and walk past similar people every day. Those people have an excuse. They’re mentally ill, high, drunk, or in constant dull shock from their daily lives. But they don’t hide it–quite the opposite. I have hard empathy for them and none for the subjects of this post.

When I started writing this post, my feelings were oh so clear and could be encapsulated in a line or two that involved images of lumberjack boots connecting with heads or hammers on typing fingers. But there are more civilized ways to not put up with that shit.  They do not involve being nice–just the opposite. I don’t think these people can be fixed, but they can be settled down. Unless one of them were attacking my wife or children. Then I’d have to decide at the time.
21 Nov

Your Work

“Look you have a gift. Life is precious, and eventually you die. All you are going to have to show for it is your work, and whether you did a good job or not.”

Charles Bowden, 2005 (died Aug 30,2014)

It’s good but sounds better when he says it.