Saturday, February 7, 2009

Tidbits: The Internet

The Internet compresses time and space in a way that humanity has yet to adapt to, I think. The human scale is lost. The Internet has created a vastness of proximity that sometimes seems unbearable.

Birds I'm Watching: Two Unusual Flyovers

While in the yard today, avoiding work, a white Canada goose flew over the house, one of a group of five geese. Canada geese are common around here, even in the winter. They've taken up more or less permanent residence in the lakes of Howarth Park and Annadel State Park nearby. Many more fly over in the spring and autumn as part of the seasonal migrations, sometimes in huge Vs of twenty or thirty birds, looking just as you imagine they should look. They fly so low, you can hear the whistling of their wings. Grunts and honks usually give an early warning of a flyover. I've never seen a white one before. At dusk, a great blue heron flew over the house, only the second time in eight years I've seen one from home. Even my son was impressed by the size of the bird.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Books I'm Reading: Wine & War

Just finished Wine & War (Broadway Books, 2002) by Don and Petie Kladstrup. After an uneven introduction, I was worried this might be a struggle to get through, but it turned out to be well enough written and it tells a story worth reading, if you have any interest in French wine. You'd think enough had been said about WWII, the Nazis, and their looting, but the book cuts a narrow yet new path through the thicket of familiar events and succeeds in creating novel perspectives. Specifically, this is a look at how the Nazis viewed France's greatest wines and vineyards and the greed and excesses France's riches of wine inspired during the German occupation of France.

On a personal note, it was especially interesting to read about Château Palmer and Château Pichon Lalande, my wife and I having been shown these chateaux in detail on visits in 1995, the latter by May-Eliane Miailhe Lencquesaing, herself, who appears repeatedly in the book. I enjoyed tasting the 1994 wine from the barrel—seemingly hopelessly astringent at the time (I wonder how it's developed?). At Palmer, they had recently made the rather bold (for Bordeaux) move of installing stainless steel tanks to replace the traditional wooden ones. They had been fabricated in the shape of the originals, however. Peter Sichel, who showed us around very graciously, explained that they'd decided the shape of the tanks was more important to the wine than what they were made of. I'd have looked at the places differently if I had known then what I know now about them--about how Pichon Lalande was taken over and used to house German soldiers that treated the place rather badly, about how the owners and the people that worked there coped, about the Jews secreted away at Palmer for months to keep them safe. Makes me want to go again.   

Finishing a good book is always a let-down, but there is one good thing about it: I get to think about what to read next.     

Plants I'm Growing: First Blooms

Yesterday, February 4th, a single blossom on our "Flavor King" pluot tree opened, looking somewhat forlorn all alone. I don't know whether to count this as the start of blossoming for the purposes of my botanical calendar or not, but I note it here. A bloom or two opened on the "Dapple Dandy" pluot today, February 5th. First blossoms on the pale yellow miniature rhododendron on the side of the garage (bottom photo). Our first yellow daffodil bloomed today as well. The white Japanese flowering plum (Prunus mume) is in full bloom (top photo).

Monday, February 2, 2009

Miscellaneous: When Comedians Grow Old

I had a zen-like moment today--enlightenment while performing a menial task. I was mowing the tiny plot of grass on the east side of the house (a ten-minute job with a push mower) and all of a sudden, it hit me: Comedians, like everyone else, grow old and frail. I wonder if they lose the will to rib?

Plants I'm Growing: Ribes Aureum (Golden Flowering Currant) 2009

First blossoms today on the golden currant at the back of the house, near the beehive--earlier than usual, I think--but it's been warm and everything is ahead of the season. I'm afraid the fruit trees will bloom early this year and then get hit by frost. We'll see.
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