Dozing polar bear, Indianapolis Zoo

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Throwing away the pearl

Our friend (and colleague of Mr. T), "O.Z." arrived in town from his home in Shanghai last weekend. He and Mr. T have spent most of his time in the U.S. on a domestic business trip elsewhere, but they got finished two days early and flew home last night. Since they'd worked so hard, we all played hooky from work (and TK from preschool) and went to the beach.

O.Z. hosted us in China last April, and we were treated, quite frankly, like rock stars. So whenever O.Z. comes here, we try to show him a good time too. One thing that has surprised me is how few cultural disconnects there are in our friendship. We get each other's jokes; we discuss history, world affairs, and business. (Try having a lengthy discussion with a 33-year-old Chinese guy about the McCarthy era sometime. Very interesting.)

The running joke this week has been the difference in the ways our respective cultures approach food, as evidenced by this discussion at a Portland seafood restaurant:

O.Z. (holding up a gigantic Alaskan crab leg): This is enormous crab. This is typical?

Mr. T: Yeah, I suppose. That's Alaskan king crab.

O.Z.: Where is crab body? You eat the legs only?

Mr. T, grimacing: Eww. The body? That goes in the trash.

O.Z.: But that is best part! In China, that is delicacy, and the legs are considered so-so. You know this. (Addressing me now.) When we take Mr. T to Spicy Crab Restaurant in Shanghai, they have very small crabs. All Chinese people eating the bodies, but Mr. T pick away at those tiny crab legs!

You do same thing with chicken. You throw away chicken feet, but Chinese dry them and sell them as snack at gas station!

[Insert much grimacing and noises of revulsion from me and Mr. T as O.Z. laughs hysterically.]

Me: Come over Friday night. I'll make crab cakes if we can find crab at the coast.

Mr. T: We'll even let you have the body, O.Z.

O.Z.: Thank you! With crab, it's like you Americans find a box with pearl in it, and you throw away pearl and eat box instead.

Friday, March 23, 2007

More, please

May I take just a moment, here -- one of those ho-hum blogular moments about what you did at 2:33 p.m. or how many times you had to pee or whether you bought a new vacuum cleaner -- to note that, holy cow, homemade hummus is one of the pure delights of the human condition? By that I mean the one that came into being this afternoon when I threw into the food processor a couple of cans of organic chick peas, a couple of tablespoons of organic tahini, the juice of a lemon, two garlic cloves, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and enough extra virgin olive oil to get it to the desired consistency.

Into this sublime concoction I dipped some whole wheat pita bread pieces, whereupon my eyes rolled back into my head and a great burble of satisfaction emanated from my throat.

Ahem. I should get back to work.

That time of year again

The trilliums are back.

At least, they're back in the Willamette Valley. I'll be seeing them at higher elevations until mid-May, but they arrive first down here. I love them. I spent about an hour photographing them in the late afternoon the other day, and hope to scrape up enough time again before they go. But as you can see above, I have a few from last year.

Don't ever pick a trillium. Once picked, it takes years to recover. I've heard rumblings that it's illegal to pick them in many places, including Oregon, but I've not confirmed that yet. At Tryon Creek State Park, where I do most of my trillium-wallowing, there are signs everywhere this time of year letting people know not to pick them, and why. But yet, every year, I'll be wandering some trail with a photo pack on my back and I'll come across someone with a big bouquet of trilliums.

Great. That's a big bouquet we won't be seeing on the ground next year, or likely several years after that. I think they might need bigger signs.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Friendship star

This is my first quilt block. Well, not really. I did four nine-patch blocks as practice today, and I've made two crazy-quilt blocks. This one needs to be pressed, but I was having such fun that I snatched it up and photographed it before I could do much else with it.

With each passing year I'm more captivated by color, design and texture. I can't draw or sculpt or anything of that nature, so I work with fabric, yarn, cross-stitch floss and a camera to feed the impulses in my brain telling me to arrange elements and put this color with that.

When it comes to fabric, I particularly like to work with flannel, which I used on this block.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The link herd stampedes over the plains and back to the mountains

My mother is still on a dial-up internet connection, for crying out loud. This is mostly because she's the kind of person who cannot be told anything by anyone else, and so the many voices singing in praise of high speed internet are enough, all by themselves, to cause her to cling to her dial-up like the stench of corruption to the Bush administration.

Because this sorry state of affairs is coupled with an aging computer, it seems to take whole days for pages to load on her machine. (Mom actually plays computer euchre while she waits.) The upshot of this is that when I go back to Indy, I drop out of the online world almost entirely for the duration. I have wireless internet at my office, but I'm usually working when I'm there, or pretending to.

So it feels odd to be back, but here I am. Linkies:

I absolutely love this. Artists have crocheted a woolen reef. It's riveting.

Just what my household needs: carbon offsets for dog farts. Silly me - and here I just bought one for my air travel. Knowing my hound, I should probably buy two.

Two words I bet you've never seen together: feral camels.

Let me know if I've missed anything good.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Cryptic snippet of the day: TerraPass edition

up on the airplane nearer my god to thee i start making a deal inspired by gravity if i did wrong i won't do it again i can be sweet and good and nice and if i had enemies they're friends i hold onto my life with the grip of a vice...

--Indigo Girls, Airplane

I'm leaving Tuesday morning for a trip back to the flatlands to attend to work, see family and friends, and eat at favorite restaurants. I may do a bit of hiking, which will be nice because very few people do much of that in March back there.

In case you're wondering, I purchased carbon offsets this morning for 9,500 pounds of carbon dioxide from TerraPass. (The offset I purchased covered 7,500 lbs., but I got an extra 2,000 lbs. for foregoing the cute little luggage tag.) The flight back east releases a little less than 3,000 lbs. for both me and my son. So I have a little leeway there.

(I might do a post on carbon offsets soon, but I can't imagine it would be any better than the one at Real Climate that I discussed in this post.)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The be-whiskered menace

Hugo Schwyzer has a post up that reminded me of something. He writes:

Here’s the problem: we have little nocturnal creatures living in our attic, scurrying around and chewing things. We worry that they may be doing damage up there, and they drive us nuts with their noises at night. (We wear ear-plugs to bed). On the other hand, we’d rather be kept awake than pay an exterminator to kill them; we would endure great expense and discomfort rather than harm a single whisker on a single rodent.

Hugo is a believer in animal rights, as well as a fan of rodents. (He has six chinchillas.) His story called to mind a dilemma I had a few years ago. Back in the midwest, we lived in a house that had built in the 1950s on what had been a tree nursery. It was a lovely place, and of all the houses I've lived in, that one is still my clear favorite.

But there was a problem. Like Hugo, we began to hear little scurryings in the attic. Then we began to find pieces of dog food in odd places -- drawers in the bathroom, in pairs of shoes left by the door to the garage, in boxes of documents in the office. When I found kibble in my silverware drawer, I'd had enough. I ordered one of those sonar thingies that's supposed to repel rodents, and I started storing the dog food in plastic bins.

I'm fairly certain the mice merely chortled at the sonar device. As for the plastic bins that thwarted their access to their regular supply of dog food, they simply attempted to chew through them. The dogs themselves were useless. I once watched as a mouse ran directly in front of my golden retriever. By the time he'd so much as turned his head, the mouse was long gone. So we sterilized the silverware and ordered live traps, which we baited with peanut butter. We caught a mouse every day, which we then relocated in the woods away from the house.

It didn't make a dent. We concluded that the relocated mouse carried stories to his comrades of the promised land, this great house over the hill owned by a bunch of milquetoast vegetarians. "Sweet," they'd say. "Let's go!"

We consulted my then-brother-in-law. He was a wildlife biologist with a decidedly unsentimental view of rodents, and he thought we were crazy. "Oh, look," he said in clinical tones as he examined the day's catch, "a common European house mouse." I didn't care what they were called, I just wanted them to stop leaving dog food in my silverware drawer. I was ready to go lethal. Thing is, I strongly suspected that even if we hired an exterminator, a new group would just move in.

But fortunately for the mice, the arrival of spring was upon us, and they always seemed to make off for the great outdoors once the warmth returned. They didn't come back much after that. Perhaps it was a hard winter that year.

Of course, they're just as wily in the great outdoors. Once, when we were backpacking in the Olympic range, I went to hang my food bag on the provided bear wire. It was a magnificent contraption, designed to repel even the cleverest bear. The wire was stretched between two trees about twenty feet off the ground. Through a pulley system, the bag was arranged so that it would hang in the middle of that wire. The bear would literally have had to walk a tightrope for fifteen feet to get to the bag. I placed my double-bagged food into the stuff sack, cinched the drawstring as tightly as I could, and hoisted it up.

The next morning, I pulled my bag down. It was still cinched as tightly as I had left it the night before. But in the corner of the ziploc holding my trail mix was a tiny hole with jagged edges. There were crumbs all over the bottom of the stuff sack. The Houdini of mice had eaten my trail mix.

I think the bald truth is that humans are no match for mice. Mice, I think, are just far too competent. In a way, it's difficult not to admire them. I'll be reading the comments on Hugo's post to see if anyone offers him a non-lethal fix. I'll be pulling for him.

Festival of the Trees #9

A brand-new edition of the Festival of the Trees is up at Larry Ayers' place, Riverside Rambles. Fortunately, the craziness of work has subsided a wee bit just in time for me to enjoy it. I think I'll finish my coffee amid the trees.