Wednesday, May 24, 2006


What's "WalkyDog"? This.

I ordered one last week. It got here today. Tried it out this evening, and it works great.

Wish I'd had it yesterday, because I took Molly out on her jog with her on a leash and me on the bike. We were riding/running on the sidewalk (dumb idea) and we had a Three Stooges moment, in which I went on one side of a mailbox and she went on the other side. I fell over, of course, and it's lucky I wasn't going any faster, because all that got hurt was my shoulder, which aches like the devil today. So, lesson learned -- we only bike in the street from now on, so she can't repeat that trick.

The WalkyDog attachment is a Good Thing, though, because it keeps her a definite distance from the bike, which the leash didn't necessarily do (though she was pretty good about maintaining a good pace and not running under the wheels).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Random Thoughts on The Da Vinci Code

Those of you who know me well know that I read "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" years ago and that it's sort of my pet conspiracy theory. I do not believe it's true -- I simply think it's a fascinating alternative view of history, and it's interesting seeing how people react to it, in the same way that finding out people's views on the JFK assasination is interesting; only more obscure. (In fact, the whole bloodline thing in HBHG is probably an elaborate 20th c. hoax.) So of course I read TDVC when it came out, and enjoyed it on the "brain candy" level (like Anne Rice's early novels -- an absorbing read, not terribly nutritious, but enjoyable in the moment).

There are grains of both truth and falsehood in the whole story. It's true that the Catholic Church has a long record of spreading misogynist doctrines and repressing positive views of human sexuality; and has completely swept positive roles for women in positions of power under the rug. However, as many commentators have noted, the Gnostic traditions were actually not very sex-positive, by and large; in fact, their dualistic views probably made them even more inclined toward the "spirit=good/flesh=bad" view that gradually infected the early church and prompted the ouster of women from leadership positions, since women are usually identified with the "flesh" side of that equation.

I used to recommend HBHG to friends who I knew wouldn't take it too seriously as a sort of mental exercise in alternative reality. I'm not sure I still would do that, given the current atmosphere. But it is interesting to contemplate "what if the accepted version of history isn't the real one?", and I think that's what TDVC has done for the kind of people who wouldn't have read anything as heavy as HBHG. It's a radical question, and one that threatens whoever is in power advocating the current accepted view. It's not surprising that there are boycotts.

But people who don't understand the deep dissatisfaction that underlies the popularity of the book and the movie are really missing the point. People are reading the book because they want to believe there's something more -- that there's a more positive tradition within Christianity that affirms life, sexuality, and love. The fundamentalist traditions within both the Catholic and Protestant traditions have repressed this, and they're out of sync with what these people are looking for. On the other hand, the more liberal Christian traditions seem to dissolve into a mushy "kumbaya" land, where love etc. are preached, but it doesn't really mean anything.

It'll be interesting to see where this goes.

Monday, May 15, 2006

BitchPhD, on Nice Guys and Bitchy Women

Am bookmarking this here so I can find it again.

I think I've dated a few of each of these. I think I'm married to Guy type #4, even if he does sometimes drive me batty (and vice versa).

Re: #1 -- I definitely dated one or two of these. I ate a rose once, to annoy one of them. It worked, I'm pleased to say.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Harold Speed

I checked out Harold Speed's The Practice & Science of Drawing and Oil Painting Techniques and Materials from the library. Am only a small way into each of these, but so far greatly enjoying his biting and accurate critiques of what was to him "modern art" (both books date from the early 20th century). He decries the lack of craftsmanship in the artistic trends of the day, and it only got worse after he wrote -- I'm sure the likes of Pollack turned his stomach.

The Knitting Curmudgeon posted this quote a while back, and I'm sure Speed would have agreed with it:
Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art.--Tom Stoppard

Losing weight, and bicycles

I've been trying to lose weight since the beginning of April. The incentive was S.'s wedding -- I didn't want the double chin to show up the way it did in my middle sis's wedding. Not that I'm anywhere near as heavy as I was then -- I was almost up to 200 lbs then. I lost about 75 lbs on Atkins/Protein Power about 7 (?) years ago, but regained a bit of weight and stabilized around 154 / 156 lbs for the last few years. This weight is low enough that I look presentable -- I was even called "skinny" by a coworker, but I think that's mostly a matter of reference -- but that chin thing still shows up in photos.

Our family has a problem with chins. If we put on even a little weight, we get sort of a half-chin (not a double chin, per se) that shows up unflatteringly in photos. I figured that if I lost at least 5 lbs between the beginning and end of April, the chin thing would be mitigated at least a little. I did manage to lose 6 lbs over the course of April, and now am down another 2 lbs, which brings me to 148 lbs. Don't get me wrong -- this has been difficult. And I hope I can maintain the willpower to lose more weight now that the wedding is over.

What I've been doing: I've been restricting my calorie intake to as low as I feel is reasonable and healthy, about 1200 cal. per day. I've also been trying to drink a lot more water, which does make one feel fuller (helps with the food cravings). But losing weight is tough; anyone who tells you differently or tries to make it seem easy is kidding.

According to this calculator, 148 lbs puts me within the healthy range (i.e., not "overweight") for my height. I'm happy about that. People generally don't believe me when I say I'm about 150 lbs., which means either that I carry it well, or that people have an unrealistic expectation of what 150 lbs looks like. I do need to get more exercize, though, since I don't get enough (aside from the occasional bout of gardening, which really is strenuous exercize but isn't something I do every day) and I've been feeling a bit lumpish lately. Which brings me to... bicycles.

I'll freely admit to being frugal, except when it comes to arts/crafts supplies and books. One reason I haven't bought a bike is that I wasn't sure I wanted to spend lots of money only to have it sit unused in the garage. (I'll also admit to being lazy.)

Well, our community yard sale was today, and I found -- a bike! Ok, two bikes. The mountain bike on the left was $10, and was so new that there were still nubs on the tires. The person selling it had bought it, then -- let it sit unused in their garage. For $10, I can afford to have it sitting unused in my garage and not feel guilty. I do intend to use it, however, and have already bought a bicycle helmet, for which I paid more than I paid for the bike (yes, that amuses me). I rode the new bike around the neighborhood today, and it works fine. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy biking.

The second bike was $5, and will be my "beater bike", if I keep it. I'm contemplating painting it and fitting it out with some old-fashioned bicycle baskets, and maybe using it as a WWII period bike. OTOH, I'm watching an actual period bike on Ebay that I would love to buy and restore.

The problem with riding bikes around here is that there really aren't a lot of suitable roads. I can ride around the neighborhood, and they've expanded the road from our subdivision out to the main road, including a bike path, but beyond that, my choices are a) a twisty, narrow two lane road on which people go too fast and don't look for bicycles; and b) a four-lane divided highway with good shoulders, but which is also dangerous because the traffic is fast (50 mph, but people routinely go much faster). They may eventually widen the former road, and it looks like they're adding a bike path where a new development is going in. Whether there will be a path between that development and ours is anyone's guess, though. I hope so, though -- I'd love to be able to bike to the grocery store or the library.

Update, 5/8: of course, it's raining today.

Darwinian gardening

People think there's such a thing as a green thumb. I don't think so; plants die for everyone. You just have to stick it out, not giving up in the face of dead plants and other problems.

Because I hate having a huge water bill, I rarely water my garden. This particularly applies to the bed on the side of the house -- it's a nuisance to drag the hose there, and the dogs run through the middle of the bed and trample the plants, so whatever goes there has to be tough.

Currently, the main plants in the bed are: a quince tree, some St. John's Wort, a bunch of lambs ears, evening primrose, some yarrow, irises (Dutch and Siberian, I think), geum, and several varieties of sedum. The sedum isn't doing as well as I would expect. Surprisingly, the bee balm (mondarda) I put into that bed hasn't survived; nor has the red/yellow columbine.

I've had to remove some of the evening primrose to make room for other plants -- left to its own devices, it would take over the bed. Ditto the lambs ears. I think there are a few other plants hiding around the quince -- veronica, some shasta daisies (I caught one of my dogs eating the leaves, which explains why it looks so ratty), maybe some echinacea. I've got the bed half-weeded, and have had to Roundup some particularly stubborn rhizomaceous grass that's taken over around the quince. I'm thinking about putting some gravel on the dogs' path through the middle in the hope that that will make it easier to weed with the scuffle hoe.

This is my herb bed. I'm not quite sure what it needs, but it does need something. I just moved a birdbath and some slate from another area of the garden, which helps. But I think it needs a) some more color, and b) a better focal point.

Next to the bed are the two bikes I acquired today at the community yard sale. More on that later...

Below are the two beds at the back of the garden. You can see the difference between the one I've weeded and the one I haven't -- the honeysuckle and virginia creeper from the wild area in back of the yard are always trying to take over the beds.

I did find one columbine hiding in the bed on the left, so maybe there's hope. I bought some California poppies and some other xeriscaping plant (will have to go look at the tag) for these beds, in hopes of filling in the bare-ish areas where the tulips are. That's a difficult spot; it gets too much sun, so maybe tougher plants will do better there.

Unreal light

I'm watching a Bob Ross show (call me a glutton for punishment). He's painting a night scene in an oval shape, with purple misty trees in the background and a green meadow.

The lavender trees started out looking vaguely plausible -- until he put in entirely too many highlights for a misty, foggy night; and it looks even worse now that the meadow is in. The grass is much too visibly green for a night scene. And you can't tell where the light is coming from -- it's sort of emanating from the center of the painting, but then the highlights on the trees and grass etc. are all wrong. I think one of my art books called that "jumping the light", i.e., having light that comes from several different directions at once. And that seems to be a consistent problem with Ross's paintings. The mountains may have highlights, but the trees and bushes have inconsistent highlights, and may or may not have shadows at all.

This painting, in particular, reminds me of the post I stumbled across on Danny Gregory's blog where someone mentions that a friend painted a UFO into a Bob Ross-style painting. The UFO, beaming light down onto the grass, is the only thing that would make the light in this painting make sense.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Five Love Languages

The Five Love Languages

My primary love language is probably
Acts of Service
with a secondary love language being
Words of Affirmation.

Complete set of results

Acts of Service: 8
Words of Affirmation: 7
Quality Time: 6
Receiving Gifts: 5
Physical Touch: 4


Unhappiness in relationships, according to Dr. Gary Chapman, is often due to the fact that we speak different love languages. Sometimes we don't understand our partner's requirements, or even our own. We all have a "love tank" that needs to be filled in order for us to express love to others, but there are different means by which our tank can be filled, and there are different ways that we can express love to others.

Take the quiz

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Garden stuff

My garden has been horribly neglected this spring, due to... well, spending every available weekend day at my sis's house, sewing. I really shouldn't use that as an excuse, though, since I really could have been going out for a few minutes every evening and weeding. I did actually do that a few times, and got some of the easier to weed beds under control. But the two major beds in the back, and the one on the side of the house, are disasters. In the back, the honeysuckle and virginia creeper vines are choking out the roses and other plants, and in the side bed, I've got more grass than plants, I think, and need to throw out the mugo pine and alberta spruce that I planted last year then neglected.

This evening I started weeding one of the back beds, telling K. to call me in after half an hour so I didn't overdo it. Good plan -- I got most of one of the big back beds weeded, which is more than I thought I'd accomplish. Must remember that for future reference; it doesn't take as long to weed those beds as I think.

Things to note:
Yarrow, while a lovely plant when blooming, is horribly invasive. I have pink yarrow, and it's threatening to take over parts of the back beds. The only nice thing I have to say for the stuff is that it holds its own against the honeysuckle.

Lambs ears -- same problem. I've found bits of the stuff where none should be -- in the middle of the lawn, for example. I think I'm going to severely cull much of the stuff in the existing beds; it'll recover just fine, I'm sure.

Columbines and coral bells are too delicate for my back beds. They get choked out by yarrow, honeysuckle, shasta daisies, and other more vigorous plants, and just can't compete. Being a lazy gardener (hate weeding in the heat of summer) and a frugal one (hate watering if I can possibly avoid it), I've been looking for plants that work for xeriscaping; so the picky and delicate plants will just have to go in more sheltered, shady areas - not the back yard, which gets full sun all day. Maybe they'd work in the front yard, when I eventually expand the bed around the birch trees.

I really need to get some plant markers. There are some plants that look awfully close to weeds -- particularly the asters and some of the hardy geraniums. I don't think I pulled up anything I shouldn't have, but I ought to get some of those metal markers anyway, to be safe (the plastic ones are all broken).

I also need to get my courage up and prune the apple and pear trees in the back, which are really getting a bit too tall for convenient harvesting. I'm not quite sure what I'm doing regarding pruning, but will have to just give it a go and hope for the best.

Veggies: I've decided that green beans are a waste of space for me. I'd better concentrate on tomatoes and cucumbers, which I really do enjoy. One can buy frozen green beans that are perfectly adequate; but there's nothing like fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. I'm still not quite sure what to do with the third veggie bed (the fourth has asparagus). Maybe more asparagus. I have some horseradish in it now, but it seems to be growing rather slowly.

Pics from S.'s wedding

So my youngest sis's wedding was this past Saturday. It was great -- they really know how to throw a party! And her dress got lots of compliments. I've posted a Flikr badge at the bottom of the sidebar; go there for pics.

Anyway, the wedding was lovely. S. was the epitome of the radiant bride, and T. was just glowing, watching her walk down the aisle. I swear he was tearing up, as was I. I managed to stifle the tears -- didn't have a handkerchief anyhow. They really know how to throw a party, too. The food, site, etc. were perfect, as was the weather (we thanked the site manager for ordering it up), and there were only a few minor annoyances, such as the cheeziest DJ imaginable.

The DJ got a small tip, since he didn't obey instructions and hardly used any of the music on S. and T.'s ipods as requested. You know, I'm sure the kind of people who become DJs have egos the size of Everest. But if your check depends on making the customer happy, do what they tell you to do. On the other hand, the kind of people who are wedding DJs at his age... probably suck at everything else.

We had Mom, the bride and groom, my middle sis and her family, and some other good friends over for brunch the next day. The back yard was full of small boys for a couple of hours. Unfortunately, it didn't occur to me to pull out my camera until it was almost too late to take any pics -- I really wish I'd gotten some of B.'s kids (head smack). It was nice to see the garden enjoyed by the kids, though. B's wife M. was horribly embarassed when her youngest kid (who is three) decided to enjoy the lovely day by pulling off all his clothes in the middle of the garden, but I was laughing my head off. I had a kid I was babysitting do that on me once, but it was in a much more public place, and I was horribly mortified at the time, but it's typical 2- and 3-year old behavior. I think there used to be pictures of me at age three up in a fig tree in the same state. The boys were very impressed by the basement, where we keep all the reenacting toys. They're a bit young to let loose down there, though.

Monday, May 01, 2006

sketching on kraft paper, & pen / ink

So here are some sketches I did last week. The first pic shows exercizes from a book I got from the library, "Pen & Ink Techniques" by Frank Lohan. Great book -- particularly because the author gives you exercizes to do, rather than just showing you examples of pen & ink drawings and leaving you to figure out how to do them (as some other drawing books do).

This is a sketch I did of my friend G., reading. K. is camera shy and doesn't like being drawn, but I'll try to sneak a sketch of him in one of these days. I'm enjoying using the brown paper -- the paper itself becomes the midtone of the drawing, and you add the highlights with white chalk.