Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Morning Cyber Journey

I tore open the foil-paper packet and inhaled the spicy, familiar fragrance of McCormick's taco-seasoning mix. Is there anyone in America for whom tacos are not a happy, comfort food?

I don't eat tacos in the morning, typically. This was preparation for a church event tonight.

While the beef and seasoning were bubbling together on the stove, I took a cyber journey. Tracked down Hunt Valley Maryland in my atlas, from whence came my savory packet -- just a stone's throw from I-83. Meaning I passed by it the last time I drove down from Pennsylvania.

Then I found the McCormick website and browsed the history of this venerable company, started by Willoughby McCormick in a Baltimore basement in 1889. The quintessential American success story.

I liked the details on the company's C-Day charity ideas and its support for reading, and of course, its efforts to research the health benefits of spices.I signed up on its site for coupons and recipes.

Later, I found a column of Baltimore nostalgia, including the tale of the demolition of McCormick's landmark plant in the city. Surely that was a painful day for the city, economically and otherwise. The column is at:

The company's hq is now in Hunt Valley, as I mentioned, and is apparently a peculiar juxtaposition of bland corporate architecture and delightful fragrances scenting the air.

Next time I'm up that way, I am going to see if I can drop by.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Idiots don't write comedy

Sure, two guys kicking each other in the butt is funny for most people ... for about two or three seconds. Anybody could write a script for that.

But real comedy, the kind of stuff that people will still find to be funny decades, even centuries later -- think the best of Aristophanes or Shakespeare -- is the fruit of genius.

So don't be surprised that the author of this fascinating article below is the same fellow who brought you Monty Python:

"I was a history teacher for ten years and I enjoyed it very much indeed. But today's educational trends, which focus on specific metrics of accountability, represent a fundamental change in mind-set that demands some pretty astounding creativity on the teacher's part.

I've been interested in what makes people creative ever since I started writing forty years ago. My first discovery was that I would frequently go to bed with a problem unsolved, and then find in the morning not only that the solution had mysteriously arrived, but that I couldn't quite remember what the problem had been in the first place. Very strange.

Then I came across research done at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1970s by Donald W. MacKinnon. He had examined what made people creative, and he found that the professionals rated "most creative" by their colleagues displayed two characteristics: They had a greater facility for play, meaning they would contemplate and play with a problem out of real curiosity, not because they had to, and they were prepared to ponder the problem for much longer before resolving it. The more creative professionals had a "childish capacity" for play -- childish in the sense of the total, timeless absorption that children achieve when they're intrigued."

More at:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

More reasons why turtles are cool ..

More reasons why turtles are good neighbors...

...and why people who poach or run them over ought to be drop-kicked off the planet:

We already knew that sea turtles are a primary predator of poison jellyfish.

But did you know that having a freshwater turtle in your local pond is more effective against the mosquito population than frogs, birds or even bats?

From somewhere on line:

"In a community in Honduras, each cement water-storage tank received a single 6-12 month old turtle. Turtles did well in the tanks and provided complete control of mosquito larvae (Marten et al. 1992, Borjas et al. 1993). In the USA, turtles were introduced into an experimental enclosure of a roadside ditch in Louisiana, for control of Culex larvae (Marten 2007). The investigator reported that the turtles reduced the number of larvae by 99% by the 5th week of the study.

The need for supplemental feeding and the ability of turtles to move away from the area are two potential issues. The researcher suggests that turtles might be useful in isolated water bodies such as retention ponds where the turtles would have little motivation to leave and supplemental food could be provided if necessary."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In forest gardens ...


Botanists have discovered that the origin of Tahitian vanilla (Vanilla tahitensis), an orchid that when pollinated yields the most delectable vanilla bean on the planet, actually had its origins in the Mayan forests of Mexico and Guatemala. What’s interesting about this finding is that the Tahitian vanilla orchid is found only in cultivation and not in the wild.

Using DNA and ethno-historic analysis, Pesach Lubinsky, a postdoctoral researcher and Norman Ellstrand, a professor of genetics in UC Riverside's Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, appear to have traced Tahitian vanilla back to its evolutionary beginning as a pre-Columbian Maya cultivar. Modern day Tahitian vanilla appears to be a hybrid between V. planifolia, a species cultivated for commercial vanilla that is primarily grown in Madagascar and Indonesia, and the never cultivated V. odorata both of which grow in the tropical forests of Central America.

The research team theorized that the Mayan people created forest gardens and introduced different types of species including wild cacao and vanilla from the surrounding region. Species that had previously been geographically separated were then able to hybridize simply because they were in the same location. Eventually French sailors introduced vanilla to Tahiti from cuttings of plants growing in the Philippines that had arrived there via the Spanish trading ships that sailed between Manila and Acapulco, Mexico.

Once again, we are reminded that much of the pre-Columbus American continent was not the empty savage, howling wilderness that European settlers imagined it to be, but a rich, productive environment, indeed shaped by the hand of man but in which both man and wild things could co-exist -- a vast garden.

What have we done in our paltry 500 years of ownership?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

By the dark of night ...

Through the gloom of the evening I plodded along, pushing my wheelbarrow loaded high with black plastic bags.

I passed two neighbors out for a walk. I bid them a cheery good evening. They mumbled some response and kept going.

I can't blame them. Who pushes a wheelbarrow around the neighborhood in the middle of the night -- well, at least, late in the evening?

It was the only time I had available, to retrieve the sacks of lawn clippings and shredded leaves from my father-in-law's yard that will make fine mulch for my garden.

If I ever get a moment to pull up the weeds, that is. Might have to start doing that by moonlight as well.

Fifteen more years til I can retire.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Taking my name in vain?

If you miss a keystroke when attempting to visit Isis, if you type, you reach some kind of Christian merchandising site. Weird. Well, at least it's not porn.

I guess I should be flattered. Well, there are a few delightful people who visit here regularly but I highly doubt that enough folk are beating down my blog-door, eagerly whacking out the keystrokes and missing that little "s," to make that sneaky trick profitable.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cosmic consummation

I read in the paper the other day that scientists have actually found definite traces of one of the basic amino acids of life on a comet, bolstering the theory that those celestial bodies could be carriers of life through the cosmos.

Does anybody else find it fascinating to think of a comet, long tail trailing behind it, colliding in space with the great beautiful sphere of a planet and the combination of the two bringing forth new life?

Does anybody else see the connection with how life begins in our own understanding?


Still hooked on Facebook -- Blogger gets neglected.

Updates ... made fig jam this month, from the fruit on our tree .. and an apple pie last night, from our McIntosh apples ... still reading good books, planning a trip out West ... not much else to write.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

No place is safe

No place is safe anymore, not a school, not an office building, not even a fitness center in Pennsylvania, from the ravages of people with diseased souls.

There is nowhere to go,nowhere to hide, no way to predict whether your building will be the next one targeted.

Miserable people killing only themselves has gone out of vogue; now people must kill complete strangers along the way, to inflict upon others the pain that tortured them.

Seems that all we can do is to make sure that each day when we leave our homes, we kiss and hug our loved ones and tell them that we love them; that we savor each day and never take a moment for granted; that we live without regrets and hide nothing in our closets that we might not have time to come back and clean up.