Saturday, April 29, 2006

Spring Is Right On Time

Well Maura and I are about to head out to Yuma for a week and two weeks, respectively. I was pretty upset because I had a feeling that my lemon tree was going to bloom while I was gone, covered as it is with wierd white and purple boils.

The two tiny green tomatoes and the giant strawberry flower that revealed themselves in the past two days were a small comfort, but not enough. As I watered all of the plants this morning, I thought I could even see the lines on one of the buds where the lemon tree would bloom. Sigh.

Well then I go to pick up Maura from her class, and when we get back, what does she see? In the hour it took to go there and get back, ol' Stonewall (the tree's name) had bloomed! He must have known I was going away.

They are right about the smell, it's like honeysuckle, only better. There are some more pictures of plants mentioned here on this blog at my flickr feed. I know you are all dying to see them.

See you all in two weeks!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Liberalism Link

Here is a pretty interesting article about Liberalism. Not liberalism like Democrats or PETA or whatever, but Liberalism like what you learn about in philosophy classes.

I remember being very confused when I started paying attention to politics near the end of college and hearing people saying that liberals were bad, because, well, it has a lot of different definitions, depending on where you are, who you are, and when you are, and the one that I knew (from reading J.S.Mill and John Rawls) was a very different one from what was the commonly understood definition in the ol' US of A.

Anyways, this article looks back on the last century and asks the question: since classical liberalism won just about every one of its battles over the last century, why aren't we all atheistic communists? Also, why are there still conservatives? It's very interesting and fairly apolitical, though written from the perspective of a liberal (but, again, not an American-style liberal).

Here is an interesting quote:

Nonetheless, [anti-democrats] are some of the few people we've met in our survey who can mount a substantial and consistent, if unattractive, case against liberalism. The usual [conservative] has to argue against liberal solutions on liberal grounds: e.g. affirmative action is bad because it doesn't treat all races equally; gays are really demanding "special rights". The antidemocrat can argue more directly: he doesn't believe in equality.

It's less interesting out of context, but it's near the end of a very long article, so just in case you don't make it through to the end, there it is. :)


Sunday, April 09, 2006


Today Maura and I went out and bought a lemon tree! I can't even say how excited I am, because if I did then you would be so depressed to not be that excited lol omg ttyl hags.

We had to drive to 3 different home improvement warehouses to find one, but along the way we actually stumbled across a geocache by accident, which was kind of cool and (obviously) unexpected. There's this crazy old concrete bridge nestled between the new Chickfila and the old KFC, only the bridge stops halfway across the creek. It's been christened the bridge to nowhere by me Maura, and by countless others before us, and no one knows why it is there or where it is going. (When will it get there?). It seems very lonely there.

Back to the lemon - after being sprayed with a hose by a Lowe's employee while looking for the elusive lemon trees, the culprit was kind enough to point me in the right direction. At the checkout, I had a charming conversation with a fellow owner about the merits of indoor citrus (they make your house smell like it is clean - we reveled in the fact that both of our houses are filthy and no one is the wiser).

I received wishes of good luck and returned them in kind.

So now I am living the dream. It's everything I hoped for and more. The tree is easily the most visually appealing plant in the house, with shiny dark green leaves and a branch configuration that is quite interesting to view. The thought that it will (hopefully) one day bristle with succulent lemons is just the sour, sour icing on the cake.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Last Chance...

Last Chance To See is probably one of the best books I have ever read. It's by Douglas Adams, who is famous amoung nerds for having written The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and for dying well before the disappointing movie of the same name was released. I'll say right now that I'm not a huge fan of his. The Hitchhiker books are pretty alright, but they never really got me going. But this book is utterly fantastic.

It's a travelog (which of course I love a priori) about Adams and a zoologist friend named Mark, as they travel around the world, visiting species on the verge of extinction (hence, the name of the book). Now we're not talking about bald eagle endangered here, we're talking 3 aging females left alive, quarantined on a tiny island, guarded over 24/7 to protect them from hungry weasels and Dutch sailors with clubs and too much free time.

The great thing about this book, and the thing that distinguishes it from just about every other book, article, or telegraph about endangered species or conservation, is that there is absolutely no preaching involved. There's no emotional exaggerations or evangelisms, and there's no guilt-tripping - there's just a crazy old british guy leaving airplane aftershave under bus seats in China, on the way to see the blind Yangztee River Dolphins.

Split into a series of stories (it was originally a BBC radio series), each chapter focuses on the travel to find the animal (most of the animals are in difficult to reach locations, like mountain gorillas in Zaire), the current state of the animal (almost gone forever), its history (killed by people and/or rats brought by people), and what people are (or aren't) doing to save it (creating island sanctuaries, or eating it for dinner on special occasions). That sounds terribly boring, but in practice it is awesome, due to Adams being British, hilarious, and completely out of place no matter where he goes.

The stories are always interesting, usually lol-worthy, and very frequently touching. Yes, touching, despite what I said earlier about the emotions thing. Believe it or not, it's possible to get someone to care about animals (and plants!) and the environment without being anti-humanity or calling for the destruction of mankind by way of an airborne ebola virus, like this guy. The lengths that people are going to to save some of these animals is amazing and heart-warming - on the other hand, the negligence toward and humiliation of some of the others is sobering and more than a bit sad.

I've always felt bad when species are extinctized. I think it stems from reading Lord of the Rings as a kid. I could never get over it when the elves and dwarves and hobbits had to leave Middle-Earth for the lame-ass "Age of Men." It always seemed so much more boring than the Age of Crazy Fantasy Adventures. It's the same sort of feeling here, when giant friendly flightless parrots, whose mating call sounds like a thunderous heartbeat in the night, half heard and half felt in your chest - when they are replaced by rats and common house cats. It's just kind of like: don't we have enough of those already?

Some additional links - here is Another Chance To See, which is a blog that gives updates on the status of the animals visited in the book (written in the 80s, so a lot has changed since then). And here is an NPR piece on the wild coffee plant mentioned briefly in the book.

Briefly, it was thought extinct, until a teacher was doing a lesson and mentioned it, and a student claimed to have one in his backyard. Turns out, that was the last one in existence, the others having been eaten by goats. Well this one was in pretty bad shape too, so they built a fence around it to keep the goats away. Which of course made the neighbors think it was special, or else why build a fence? So they started breaking branches off to cure hangovers and gonorrhea (yes, that's right). Well, 3 more barbed wire fences, a roof (people were scaling the fences), and a security guard later, and, well, you can listen and find out (about 8 minutes long and fairly lively).

Read this book!