Tuesday, March 23, 2010

You're In the Army Now

"By its nature, strategy is more demanding of the intellect and imagination than most other military and policy competencies. Strategists must possess highly developed analytical and problem solving skills to rapidly conceptualize and develop creative feasible solutions to complex strategic challenges. Further, they must succinctly convey complicated conceptual or analytical material in a manner that is clearly understood by decision makers."
FA59 Education Opportunities (US Army)

Here is my final report from the front lines of the demonstration Vegetable Garden at the WCG. It’s not illustrated with photos because my stupid camera batteries on my stupid new camera were dead. Stupid camera.

Today, we harvested the last of the cabbage: both green and blue, as well as all the broccoli, red and green lettuce varieties, and the exhausted cauliflower that never got around to blooming. We spent the morning amending the planting beds with fragrant fresh warm compost, planting two squash and two cucumber starts, adding some worms, and covering the beds with a confetti of colorful ornamental kale and cabbage leaves to encourage the worms to make themselves at home.

Next week, we hope to add final compost and to begin covering the beds with mulch. We hope to have starts of warm season plants in the ground by the Spring Garden Festival next month.

Today was one of those days when I realize I live in paradise. Temperature in the mid-70F range, soft breeze with enough moisture to waken the rich warm compost, the living greenness of cabbage, the pungency of the thyme.

Bright and early tomorrow I leave for a few days in Baltimore, Washington DC, Greenbelt MD to visit with 4/5 of my sisters and miscellaneous other relatives. There’s nothing like being able to complain about your spouse to people who already know you love but also are being driven insane by your beloved spouse. Isn’t that what love matures into?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Someday My Prince Will Come

“Americans love junk. It’s not the junk that bothers me, it’s the love” - George Santayana

I love junk too much to let this go. It’s a spinning garden stake with a frog on either side. I especially love frog-themed junk.

Shut up. It’s better than garden fairies, imho. I say you can never have too many little garden embellishments, particularly in my climate where actual living plant material is so endangered. Besides, note that the frog is wearing a crown. He's not just your ordinary garden frog. Possibly he's a prince who will take me away from all this to a magic castle in a land where there is enough precipitation for me to grow stuff I like, and where I’d consequently not favor such cheesy garden ornamentation.

Which reminds me of the joke about Cinderella who took some garden photos in the days before we all had digital cameras. She took the film to her local photo developing store and returned a week later to pick up her pictures. They weren’t ready that week. Or the next. Or the next. After about 4 weeks, she was so discouraged she was overheard to say, "Someday my prints will come."

And thus was the legend born.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Seeing Everything as Brown or White

"Brown shoes don’t make it.
Quite school, why fake it?"
Frank Zappa

Unlike brown shoes, brown sage, in my always modest opinion, does make it in a garden. Here is the brown sage (salvia Africana-lutea, native to South Africa) now blooming at The Water Conservation Garden. Brown flowers belong in any garden that has no pretensions about being sophisticated, but is more comfortable with an amiable mix of the quirky and spontaneous. I have always been suspicious of the late Victorian conceit of “garden rooms” where different themes prevail in different places in one’s yard. I’m pretty sure I didn’t come to this conclusion only upon finally admitting my yard is a hodge-podge of design, but that I had this fixed in my mind all the time I was (apparently) haphazardly cultivating different corners with different impulse buys from the nursery. But even if I just use it as a retroactive justification for the goofy survivors who populate my yard these days, I stand by it, and I am not crazy. Then again, I may have Alzheimer’s, but at least I don’t have Alzheimer’s.

These lovely white jonquils are in the “white garden” at The Garden. I get the idea – that white flowers seem to hold on to the last light at twilight, making them almost glow. But white flowers have always struck me as about as silly as women who drop hankies in the hope that this clumsy gesture will prompt adjacent gentlemen to introduce themselves. Nature is brown, green and sometimes when the light is right, a sort of golden yellow that green becomes when backlit by slanting rays of early morning or late afternoon. The whole point of hankies are to dab coyly at the corners of your eyes to avoid smearing your mascara.

The whole point of flowers are to add other colors to your garden. My favorite kind of calla lily is the green goddess that always looks hand-painted. You can see one in the very left of banner picture at the top of my blog. Some might say my yard puts the “eck” in eclectic. I say if I wanted white in my garden, I’d paint a fence.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ninja Rain

"Wherever I am,
Anyone in need has a friend.
Whenever I return home,
Everyone is happy I am there."
- Ninja Warrior Creed

Ninja Rain: (Attacking noisily outside the window) Hah! I scoff at your puny landscape, small and stunted, slowly being swallowed by the creeping Sonoran Desert. Drink this, puny carbon-based life forms!

Me: Hah! I care not toothless villain! I report to the courthouse these days; subjected to bad coffee, strange jur-fellows and metal detector lines almost daily. I have no fear of your pathetic attempts to overwhelm my back yard with fresh water.

Ninja Rain: Hah! BTW, You, what’s your case about?

Me: Hah! I engage daily with the forces of stupidity, vacuity and poor oral hygiene on slow and crowded elevators. I endure attempted conversation with “peers” who have attention spans as short as their opinions are shallow. While I dote on grand-child-aged relatives, oddly I’m not as captivated to hear about yours, dear. Besides: see this book I’m holding open on my lap? I was reading it. Where light conversation has proved difficult for four weeks, I now cower to think of attempting to collaborate and deliberate the final week with my fellow jurors. Ergo Ninja Rain, your noisome rain is like music to my ears.

Ninja Rain: Hah! I shall depress your spirits, Seasonally Affect your mood Disorder and enforce a chronic light shortage. Not to mention increasing your aging roof’s leak potential to Sesame Street Terrorist Threat Level Bert. (He’s the orange one, right?)

Me: Hah! Leaky roofs are the farthest thing from my mind!

Ninja Rain: BTW, You, what’s your case about again?

Me: Hah! I shall not capitulate to your assassination attempts on my confidence in our legal system. I have already had at least two nightmares about being tried by jury of my peers. In fact leaky roofs go to the heart of the matter of this case. So, shut up.

Ninja Rain: Ha ha! Hah! No seriously. Sorry. Hah!

Me: Very Master Ninja-y of you, NJ. But you gotta listen here. My case is about a homeowner who suffered winter rainstorm damage and fought the insurance company. Talk about Threat Level Bert. Here we sit, six years later. Listening to battling expert witnesses, silently witnessing revelations of shady conduct, trying to keep track of over 600 surprise exhibits, tortured by logic and the lack thereof, and by fornicating plaintiffs living an alternative lifestyle several pay grades above the jury members. Funny undisputed fact: The roof still leaks.

Ninja Rain: Hah! Sounds like a noble assignment: Everyman vs. The Man, and Hapless Small Business General Contractor. Meet the ungainly and unlikely heroic sole proprietor subcontractor trying to make an honest living practicing his craft and ending up as collateral damage. Pretty sure it's an undisputed that this guy doesn’t have health insurance.

Me: Yeah, huh? Greed, lies, revenge, innuendo, shady unasked questions, and disputed answers. Objection. No foundation. Sustained. Stricken, Question. Day after rainy day taking notes on technical details about insurance lingo, advice from architects and structural engineers about all the nasty things rain can do when roofs leak.

Ninja Rain: Ok, but still, sounds pretty cool. Dark arts, deceptions, class warfare. Did the workers rebel against their overlords and save the day for Socialism? Viva Revolution, eh?

Me: NJ, I know more than I ever dreamed of about leaky roofs, covered damages, mold remediation, obscure construction attempts gone bad, code violations, lies, and damn lies. So technical at times I had to clench my fingernails in the palm of my hand to keep from nodding off. So gripping at other times that Juror #6 woke up.

Ninja Rain: Hah! Puny juror! Sounds to me like you’re really mad that you didn’t get to sleep in mornings, and fool around blogging. Just for that, I’m going to blow a branch into a bird feeder, knocking it on the patio where the birds too drenched to fly can waddle around the all you can eat buffet.

Me: Well, NJ, good for the birds, and for me. The trial is over. So I’m back home to my favorite job – playing around on the innernetz when I should be cleaning out the old e-mail in-box. So rain your little head off.

Ninja Rain: Wait, You. What was your verdict?

Me: We reached a verdict midday yesterday that will displease “The Man” and “the man” about equally, and will please only the innocent contractor. I’m completely satisfied that we did the right thing. My only regret is that we did so for reasons having more to do with the personalities of the characters that performed before us for 5 weeks than with the carefully outlined jury instructions on the law, or the objective and undisputed facts of the case, or even the basic principles of accounting.

Ninja Rain: You win some, you lose some. Others, you merely screw up.

Me: Thanks, Ninj. Your precipitous wind-whipped wetness, bringing the haunting residual smell of the prehistoric glacier melt is just what I need today to clean the salts out my flower pots and the cognitive dissonance of jury operation in my brain. Besides your winter El Nino rain is a far cry from a shower of silver shurikens whizzing toward my chest. By the way, if you ever wanna make an origami shuriken, check this out.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Expert Testimony

“I used to be offended, but now I'm just amused...”
Elvis Costello, (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes

I have spent several weeks listening to expert witnesses disagree under oath about technical details of building and construction codes so boring they would make my ears bleed if I had bothered to replace the batteries in my hearing aid. Kidding. Of course I listened, and took notes, and only doodled the barest minimum of time necessary to keep from smacking someone upside the head. Then, there are the liars. Well, some of them must be lying, because something can’t be metaphorically black and white at the same time unless it’s a zebra wearing an orange prison jumpsuit huddled beneath a blue tarp at midnight on the longest night of the year. In the rain. I should know, because an expert said so under oath.

Common sense and reason won’t save us here. As one expert witness said, reason is 6/7 of treason. Or maybe that was James Thurber. He also said nobody ever told him there’d be days like these. Strange days indeed. Most peculiar, Momma. Or was that a dead Beatle?

So, after going around in circles for the last several weeks, I’m thinking of going into the professional expert testimony business and wearing a business suit, and swearing to tell nothing but the truth for $500 per hour plus expenses. All that remains for me to put this brilliant plan into action is for me to settle on a specific field in which to purport to be an expert. My big brother recently mentioned that what happens in tautology club happens in tautology club. So I’ve decided that when I grow up, I want to be an expert in tautologies. Why, you (might) ask? Because that’s what I want to be when I grow up.