Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Joys of Being an Adult

...include having a dinner of my own grilled chicken caesar salad, champagne, fresh fruit, and good chocolate.


Thursday, June 22, 2006


I enjoy gardening. I grow flowers, herbs, vegetables............... and also weeds. When I moved into my house there was lawn, areas of weeds, a couple of lilacs, a number of maples and spruce trees along the edges, a line of peonies, and one lovely heavily scented pink rose. I have steadily whittled away at the lawn, and replaced weedy areas with beds. In the front I have a number of perrenials in a border along the driveway and in shady beds in front of the house. They get augmented with some annuals every year, and every year their care gets easier.

The vegetable garden is another story. Every couple of years I expand it too. But the garden is an annual garden of course and I have enriched the soil greatly, adding much compost and tilling it with a monster of a tiller, named "The Beast".

Ohio has a great climate for growing vegetables, abundant summer rain and heat.

There is a problem though. Weeds grow very well and to giant size extremely quickly.

Winter is long and cold and you are not generally safe from frost until Memorial Day. May is unpredictable. We had hard frosts this May on the 6th and 7th, and on the 22nd, and 23rd. Aside from that this May was often warm and wet, often in the 70s and 80s.

I was busy. My spring term ends in early May. So the first two weekends in May were tied up in grading and finishing classes, and I left on the second weekend as soon as I turned my grades in to go out of town for the week between spring and summer terms. I was home on that Sunday while I hurried to prepare my syllabus and lectures for the first day of my intensive summer term course. The next weekend was Memorial Day weekend and I had a speaking engagement in New Mexico. I returned from that on Monday. The next weekend I had other commitments. So, there was a whole warm wet month without me preparing my vegetable garden beds. I did clear a corner and get some lettuce in.

The weekend before last I attacked the weeds, yanking them out of the rich loose soil in the beds, and cutting the tall grass in the heavy clay between the beds. Weeds there had to be dug out. Part way along I took pictures as proof. Some of the thistles were 6 feet tall!

I worked hard all weekend clearing the beds. Then I carted in 14 wheelbarrow loads of compost from my compost pile, and finally hauled out The Beast and and wrestled it into tilling it all. Finishing putting in plants and whacking down weeds around the compost area and along the edges had to wait until this past weekend. My back muscles are still sore, but it is done!

After a dry week thunderstorms have pounded us with rain. The weather has been ranging from warm to hot. I need to get mulch down and pull new weeds. I have put before and after pictures here. In a few weeks I will add in "growth" pictures. The pictures are looking up from the back of the garden towards my house. I already have lettuce ready to eat and soon there will be much more.... which reminds me, I need to get my bean trellis up.

And I have been working on my herb garden, but more about that later. I'm not done yet.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


We Americans typically do not get enough sleep. When you don't your IQ drops temporarily (that may explain a few things) and your stress levels go up. I like to sleep. But, I am a procrastinator and have a demanding job. So I stay up late grading, or test writing, or doing essential chores such as changing cat boxes. And then I get up early to teach. I end up running short of sleep for days. Then one day it catches up with me. I become uncooperative - No I WON'T stay to help you through this experiment, you can do it yourself - and I go home, and I crash. Today I slept almost 4 hours, unexpectedly. I got home at 6:00, skipped my pilates class, watered my newly planted vegies and flowers, came inside around 8 p.m., and BAM. I slept until almost midnight. My circadian clock, for whatever reason, is set to always be awake at midnight. I have to be sick or extremely, extremely tired to sleep through midnight. So, the result? It is 4:30 a.m. and I am still awake *sigh*. I hate seeing it get light before I sleep.

This is the kind of thing one is supposed to do as a teenager or in your early 20's. Can I outgrow it now? Please? I do not suffer from insomnia at all. I suffer from night-personess, and naps disordering my internal clocks... if I have any. My time sense is terrible. I have no ability to gauge how long anything is taking. All is relative and in flux. Chaos. It is the way the world is to me, wonderous and beautiful and uncertain.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A June Night's Musings

Tonight was my first grilling of the season, grilled steaks and then chicken. I ate as much steak as I wanted, and perhaps too much red wine, and sit outside on my tiny patio in this June... approaching the solstice. I watch for the stars to appear as the nearly full moon rises, and I think about life.

I marinated my steaks in red wine, garlic, fresh ground pepper, sugar and some liquid smoke. The chicken in a horrible undrinkable cranberry wine from Vermont, on it’s way to vinegar, with garlic and Chinese 5-spice and ginger. All came out fabulous. I will have cold grilled meat for salads for days and days. I may even need to freeze some.

I have had a productive day, and productive days are always a pleasure. Many things need to be done. I was gone much of May. First I was finishing my term, long spring term, long school year, a huge Genetics class, and also one of the worst I have taught. If I am in the mood for some flagellation I will look and see what they said about me on Fortunately my Advanced Eukaryotic Genetics class was good. But even teaching only two classes this spring and dealing with my research students I was always up to my ears in work.

*goes inside briefly for an overshirt, is a chill evening*

The weekend before finals I was busy grading, the next two weekends I was on the west coast visiting Rian and Narrisch and my parents, and the weekend after that I was in Albuquerque speaking about Genetics. Four weekends lost while the weeds took over my yard. So today I cleared my vegetable garden beds and much of the area around my mulch. Hard work and with visible results. The thistles were 6 feet high. All gone now. Hurray! I will post pictures later.

So my thoughts on this now chilly evening (it is 49 degrees F now), are about my life. I have what I aimed for, tenure as a Genetics Professor, a house, a garden, a car. It is all mine, and I earned it myself. It was hard work, and in the world as a whole, I am both fortunate and have accomplished much. All my goals completed. Yet I always assumed I would be married with children. It is what people do, yes? Fall in love, marry, start a family. I had it all planned out when I was a teenager. I would get married after college, have my kids in my mid 20’s, then go back to grad school. It didn't happen, I did plenty of falling in love, but it was never mutual, and for whatever reason I was not pursued.

I pause to look up at the stars....

I have great benefits. Most women my age, all my colleagues certainly, have not only their careers but also their families to worry about, and none of my female colleagues have as little as half of the responsibility for the kids and the household chores. Most women do the lion’s share. As one of my colleagues said, she loves her husband, and her two sons, she wanted a family and could not stand being alone. Her husband, though he requires as much care and maintenance as her sons, was willing to move for her career, and he adores her. Another man she dated, who she thought was “the one” left her because she did not “need” him. The world is not yet gender neutral. It is still not common for men to be attracted to, and want to support strong, intelligent woman, wanting to make her life easier as she pursues a demanding occupation. Sometimes, yes of course, but still women are more likely to be attracted to a man consumed by his carreer, and to take joy in taking care of the mundane details of their lives.

A recent study... did I mention it in another blog entry?... found that men who were married while they pursued their doctorates and carreers in science were substantially more likely to succeed and stay in science. Presumably due to the support from their spouse. Women, on the other hand, were significantly less likely to finish and succeed if they were married. Their single colleagues fared much better. One sees this in academia in the Biological Sciences. More women graduate with degrees in Biology, women are in the majority even in grad school classes in biology and have been for some time. But when I have looked at job applicants for tenure track position here, women have been in the minority. On top of that, women may be more likely to give up on their carreer even after being successful. The other woman who was hired ten years ago, when I was, left her tenured Associate Professor job last year, to follow her husband when his career took him elsewhere. She wanted to. She was excited about the move, and had said that even with an au pair to help with their kids, she felt overwhelmed with her job and kids and household chores. She went up for tenure the year after I did, so I was part of the deliberations. A male colleague wondered out loud whether her decision to have 3 kids and the resulting juggling with her classes, indicated someone who was not committed to the job enough to be granted tenure. I am sure he voted against her. I was apalled. She was an active and productive faculty member. Now she is gone.

Well I gave up and came inside, just too cold out. The Sixth Sense is going to be on the TV, and I have lit scented candles all across my hearth. Wonderful.

So, on occasion as I eat a fabulous steak, grilled to perfection, and sip good wine and watch the stars come out, it seems a pity I have no one to share it with. And I could use another strong back to help get the garden going, and to do the variety of household projects. And perhaps after a hard day it would be nice to have dinner ready and a strong shoulder to lean my head on, a little human comfort and support.

On the other hand I relish my freedom and cannot imagine having to take care of any more than I do. I pretty much do what I want when I want, within the parameters of my classes and office hours and research students. Trade-offs, trade-offs. In a perfect world perhaps there would be someone who would want to share my life and would be a partner and an equal, someone I would support and who would equally support me. Such is not the case. And looking around, I see few who have such an equal relationship. I do not want to be someone’s inferior or superior. In truth it is hard for me to imagine someone in my life as there never has been. I'm sure I would adpat fine, but this is the life I have had, the life I know. I love my freedom. I do adore my cats and my friends and my parents, all those I love.

And tonight I sat out as the few clouds flared pink and coral and the sky turned to teal then indigo, and the moon rose and the stars came out. A lovely evening, my lovely evening.

The Sixth Sense is on, always a good movie. Last night I watched Ghost In the Shell Two, gorgeous. Why can’t American film makers make inventive intelligent fantasy like that....

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

For Emano

A few more pictures for Emano since she enjoyed the others.

This is the headland near Devil's Churn. There is a common piece of advice for the Oregon coast. Do not turn your back on the ocean. There is a very good reason for this. To get some idea... see the sticklike object on the rocks above the surf? and above the spouting horn on the previous pictures? Those are logs. Full sized tree logs. Logs are often floated down rivers for easy transport after being cut. At specific places they then can be loaded onto trains or trucks. Some escape. The power of the Pacific is such that it can snap those logs into the air and fling them fairly high onto the land. All you need is the right condition and the right wave. Even though the Oregon coast is not crowded with people, the occasional person gets taken out by a flying log. The lower picture is a wave crashing in a narrow chute, not technically a spouting horn, but close.

Who would win? President Bush or gay marriage?

Poll results May/June 2006

58% - the percent of Americans that think gay marriage should be illegal
48% - the percent of Americans that think cilvil unions should not be allowed
45% - the percent of Americans that think civil unions should be allowed
42% - the percent of Americans that support a Constitutional amendment against gay marriage
36% - The percent of Americans that think gay marriage should be legal
29% - George Bush’s overall approval rating

ABC story and gay marriage poll info

Wall Street Journal artical on Bush approval rating and Harris poll

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Oregon Coast

After Rian and Narrisch and I had fun in Seattle, Washington and had lunch with Robin Hobb, Narrisch and I took a train down to Eugene, Oregon. There we spent a few days with my parents, went to the coast, and visited Narrish's Alma Mater. Here are a few pictures from the coast trip.

This is at the Darlingtonia wayside, named for the carniverous pitcher plants that grow in the acid bogs there. Their common name is Cobra Lilly. The are large, often rising 2 to 3 feet from the water, curled and flared with a network of veins and transparent windows to confuse the unfortunate insects that wander in. They were in bloom with thin straight chartreuse stalks dangling dark blood-colored flowers here and there. Tall native rhododendrons displayed pink flowers in the surrounding forest.

This is a spouting horn, produces by holes are worn in the black volcanic rock. The tide was high and there was a strong wind flinging hard waves against the rock. At times like that water shoots through the fissures and holes, spouting briney plumes high into the air. The air was filled with mist from the crashing ocean. This was near Devil's Churn, north of Florence.

The wind is almost constant on the Oregon coast. It bends trees into sculptures, peeling off bark and bleaching the underlying wood silvery. Yet the trees hang on, putting out new leaves and branches on the sides away from the wind.

It was a beautiful day with a cloudless blue sky. Rare on the Oregon coast.