Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Flowers Flowers Flowers!

Particularly, tomato flowers. At the time of writing the tallest tomato plant grazes my chin, so I guesstimate that makes it 4'7". They're all bursting with buds, and many flowers have begun to emerge.

The fabulous blue flowers finished and have embarked upon their bulbous seed pod stage, which is just as fascinating as the flowers themselves. They are still putting out flowers lower down on the stems, but I didn't need to show those off again.

I'm not sure if I should show you this, as I may be jinxing myself, but my sole surviving courgette has decided to make...a courgette! Isn't it precious? It's about half the length of my little finger. I went out and checked a few minutes ago and the little fuzzy light green one lower down is bigger, slightly darker, and less fuzzy. I'm so proud. The plant is so far not exhibiting signs of cucumber mosaic, but I'm always on the lookout and the green flies are out in force.

Potato flowers! I just think they're the prettiest thing. For some reason I always assumed potato flowers were blue. No idea why, but these have been a pleasant surprise.

Even the hosta has decided to join the parade.

The first few times this pansy bloomed it was a deep, vibrant purple. The more it blooms, though, the more interesting its flowers get. I can't help but wonder if its DNA code is breaking down.

How about those rosebuds that surprised me last week? Well here they are, in all their splendour. The blossoms are about the size of a cabinet knob.

Any idea as to what this is? It is growing in my yard. It's pretty, whatever it is. Oh the joy of discovery in rental properties. Did I mention we recently found a blender in the kitchen? Win!

And this little beauty is a sweet rocket--inedible, but a lovely gift from Deirdre. (but all you're thinking is "why on earth did she crucify her plants?" regular stakes weren't holding them up effectively, so I innovated a way to hold the string in place up high. It didn't really occur to me that it looked so...symbolic until Issie asked if there was a dead animal at the bottom of the pot. But it works, so I'm not gonna fix it.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More Plants (Yay!)

Today's update:

Discovered lovely rose-like flowers on assumed-dead plant. Very pretty, very surprising. No idea what it is, seems too small to be a rose.

Flower buds now visible on all potato and tomato plants.

Sole survivor of 3 courgettes is growing and looks happy. Have been keeping greenfly off and removing diseased-looking leaves. Next year I'll just grow them inside.

7 survivors of 15 sowed aubergines looking pretty battered, but a few have new growth. All very small. My neighbour Malcolm suggested that the soil may be too acidic for them, which would inhibit growth and reduce snail resistance. I'll leave them inside next year too.

All tomato plants sown are growing and happy. Most are 1m or taller and filling out nicely. (patio chair included for height comparison)

The hosta is happy and has no bites taken out of it, I believe thanks to a copper strip around the base of its pot. Neat innovation.

I pruned my forsythias, holly, and border shrubs. They look more tame, and we now have more space in the garden. I didn't have the nerve to cut the forsythia back to the ground, but it looks nice, I think (and a bit sacred).

I staked up my spinach plants to keep them out of the potatoes. Naughty spinach.

Herbs are lush and bountiful, and I appear to have everlasting pansies. Is it normal for them to keep blooming this long? They've been up to it since January. I still like them, but I can't help but wonder if they're confused.

And some inedible flowers, in my kitchen window-box. I grew them from seed too!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Men and Urine. Discuss

A couple of weeks ago my local leisure centre (my YMCA, run by the city) embarked upon some much-needed paint work. For some reason, while they were painting the ladies' changing room, they swapped us into the men's room. (Ben suspects it was because women might actually mind if we get paint on our clothes.) This was a little confusing for everyone, but we shuffled into each other's facilities and continued as usual.

This gave me an interesting opportunity to get a good whiff of the men's changing room.

It Smells Of Wee.

I went from changing-stall to changing-stall to try and find one that didn't smell like a diaper, but there wasn't one. They all smelled of stale urine. Cloyingly so. Thickly, disgustingly so. I didn't want to take my shoes off for fear I'd step in a puddle. It made my eyes red and my lunch try to escape.

I feel I should mention that the only unpleasant odour I tend to find in the ladies' room is mild dirty feet, but it is kept clean and people track pool water in there so it mostly smells of chlorine. The men's changing room backs onto the pool too, but any smell of pool chemicals is completely masked by the gag-inducing stench of piss.

I've had to use men's restrooms before, due to crowding, cleaning, plumbing, and my own impatience. I'm no stranger to the stink-wall, but I had no idea it extended to Every place reserved for exclusive use by men. This is a changing room. A big one--certainly a bigger floorspace than my entire house, with 20' ceilings and plenty of ventilation. It does have showers, and a restroom off to one side--with a clear separate entrance. There's no excuse for men to wee in the changing stalls.

The leisure centre's rules are pretty relaxed on boys changing in the ladies' room with their mothers. Boys under age 10 are generally let in, and most of the time I don't mind. They're noisy, but they're not nosy, and while they do hog the showers for hours on end they do not stink the place up. While I of course can't vouch for the behaviour of children who change with their fathers, boys in the girls' room aren't really a problem.


Except now that the changing rooms have swapped back, the ladies' room smells like pee. All of the stalls have a slight musk to them, as though a tramp slept in each one in turn a few months ago. While it's not nearly as bad as the gents', I'm disgusted and feel a bit violated.


Come On Males, it's the 21st century. There's no excuse to mark your territory like this any more--you do that with lease agreements and fiscal exchange. You stand erect and have a fairly smooth brow. I know you all can't help the body hair issue, but that is not an indication that you should behave like lemurs. Your woman will be attracted to you even if you don't scent your tail and wave it at her--indeed, she'll probably be More attracted to you if you don't. Is this like the "money shot" thing? Why do you need to demonstrate your dominance over people or ownership of things by coating them with your DNA? Why does this dominance always have something to do with penises?

It is time for men to evolutionarily catch up to women. Because frankly...eew.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Thank You, Daily Show

The BP Cock-Up, the Korean Cock-Up, the Gaza Cock-Up... we're getting all the news here, but I've been having a hard time gathering what real people's opinions are about these events. It's hard to discern what sane people think when the only views you hear are the rantings of lunatics in "have your say" bits and the carefully chosen really extreme views of a few noisy morons on the tv and radio. I know what the defence ministers are saying, I know the President is angry, and I know that Julie Smith from Biloxi is annoyed at all the tree-huggers for rescuing birds when they should be putting that money into saving precious unborn babies, but do any people without a political agenda, a conspiracy theory or an IQ below that of a cabbage have any views?

The next time I come across someone saying "Stop it! Leave my gulf alone!" or "Bad Israel! Just free Palestine!" I think my heart will give out from the sheer futility of modern education. Have history and philosophy told us nothing? Do people genuinely think that Israel is peopled with evil automatons with no concept of the hardships that surround them, or that BP isn't currently trying to rectify the problems their negligence has caused? "Just stop leaking oil! What's wrong with these people that they can't put a stupid lid on the pump?" Believe it or not, scientists don't actually have that many opportunities to do research on the structural integrity of hastily-welded, purpose-built emergency blowout protector caps under a mile's worth of water pressure. Yes they've failed, but it's certainly not for want of trying.

BP is not actively seeking to ruin the ecosystem of the gulf coast, and neither is the President. What would you have Mr. Obama do? Throw money at it? Send out the National Guard? The rig companies have the know-how to repair it--yes they're out of their depth, but they're better prepared to tackle the problem than an armed SCUBA team. This isn't the kind of thing that people outside of the field have any competency in, and it's ludicrous to think that "if we all come together and put our collective minds to it" we'd have any more luck than people who have maintained and repaired ocean floor pumping equipment in the past. Do You know how to fix it? Do I? No. We will get in the way.

There Will be an inquiry into the decisions that led to the explosion and the deaths of the rig workers, and into what could have been done to ensure the pipeline failsafe actually activated. There Is an inquiry into why the aid ships were boarded by soldiers armed with paintball guns and real guns. People are trying to figure out what the hell is going wrong.

But it is important to remember that Israel is surrounded on most sides by countries who wish more than anything for them to be wiped off the map. While their military leaders have made numerous dangerous blunders, we can't refuse them the right to defend their borders from real threats to their people. Just as any aid to Israel is a threat to Palestine, any aid to Hamas is a threat to Israel. It's not a question of good and evil. And 1 in 6 pension plans in the UK is directly linked to BP's stock market value. "Kick them out, Shut them down, they're bad" is not the helpful suggestion in this case as millions of elderly people would then be put in harm's way. "Hold the responsible parties accountable" is more useful, and "have a contingency plan in place for the failure of any company or governing body that cannot be allowed to fail" is even better.

Companies, governments, religions, borders...none of these things are absolute. None of them are right or wrong--but they are inherent to our species. Most of them exist for or through greed and power-lust, but any attempt to detach or distance anyone's nature from greed is an act of naivety or a lie. The same area of the brain that seeks the key lime pie with extra meringue is accountable for encouraging inspectors to overlook half-assed safety equipment. You can call it evil, I'll call it typical. The only way to change the behaviour of governments and corporations is to change what it means to be human.

So thank you, Daily Show. Thank you Jon Stewart, for keeping in mind that truth is never unbiased and what is appropriate is not always what we want. Thank you for reminding me that we're not all simple, shouting apes with no long-term memory. Thanks for giving me hope for America.