Saturday, November 30, 2013

Marking Nov 13

This year, the only one numbered
Thirteen, I raked last leaves one cold
And windy day, and shoveled snow
The next with no delay excepting
But a single night between—a
Night already lit by Christmas
Lights put out by those who practice
Early rites.

This morning on the thin snow left
I saw a few late leaves I shall
Remember as marking this unique
November—and silently left
Prints of a cat’s paws. Thirteen now
Wanes. That number for us has a
Certain weight. But when it’s over
All—it’s fate.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


The word surfaced for us yesterday when reading fairly extensive parts of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation titled Envangelii Gaudiam available in English here.  The entire document is some 224 pages long. And there, in the very title of it, is that word: Gaudium, Joy, The Joy of the Gospel.

Those of us born in Europe, and at a time before the absolute spread of secularism took full hold, many will have absorbed an old, old college song which begins with the following verse and is known popularly as “Gaudeamus” and formally as “The Shortness of Life.” We still know the melody too.

Gaudeamus igitur.
Let us then all rejoice
Iuvenes dum sumus.
While yet we are still young
Post iucundam iuventutem.
For after a youth pleasing,
Post molestam senectutem.
And after troubled aging,
Nos habebit humus.
The humus will consume us.

Different forms of joy. Gaudeamus dates to the eighteenth century, per Wikipedia, and therefore celebrates joys associated with the life of the senses. Pope Francis’ Exhortation, reaching us early in the twenty-first, points upward to a dimension which has been practically forgotten with the march of progress—but offers hope for the future. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The X Percent Solution

The most famous of these is the 7 percent solution of cocaine Sherlock Holmes used on occasion to stimulate what I must assume had to be his Huge Gray Cells. I last encountered this one quite recently when reading Anthony Horowitz’s The Silk House, a Sherlock Holes story. Horowitz is probably best known for writing British TV series, among them most notably Foyle’s War. Well, there it was again.

The linkage between  that seven percent and the drug scene has produced, among others, such phenomena as a book by that title, also a Sherlock Holmes novel, and a rockband, active 1992 through 2003, founded in Austin, Texas. Chancing across that band reminded me again of my abysmal ignorance of pop music. Austin’s Seven Percent Solution belongs to subgenres of rock called shoegaze and spacerock. (My Online Etymology Dictionary is stymied.) Well, to some it’s magic, but descriptions suggest heavy uses of guitars for shoegaze with voices, sort of, absorbed by the din—as, presumably, the mind is by cocaine; and spacerock is similar, but a vast noise by other new electronic instruments is added to the ecstasy.

OED is more helpful in explaining “solution.” It has two meanings, the second derived from the first. The first is the result of dissolution—thus of grains of sugar in a liquid. In that sense something hard is taken apart. The second meaning uses the process of unraveling to indicate loosening, untying, say a knot—or a problem. In that case the solution to a problem also means its disappearance.

Other than pop culture, the chief fans of various numbered solutions are economists. In the recent meltdown problems in Europe (Greece, etc.) some have promoted the 2 percent solution. Stimulate the economies of Europe by expending up to a maximum of 2 percent of the Eurozone’s GDP. Earlier, in the Bush II era, the 4 percent solution aimed at so arranging the world’s economy that all countries grew at 4 percent per annum. The 50 percent solution, also labeled “Get Rich Slowly,” suggests that we all halve our consumption and save the rest. And a recent book, titled the 86% Solution (2005), suggests a fabulous future if only corporations stopped trying to grow by serving the top 14 percent of customers with real money and tried instead to serve the 86 percent that’s left behind.

Is there a 100 percent solution anywhere? It’s often suggested, in various context, in adventure shows. Things have been getting worse and worse for our hero. The hero’s sidekick eventually asks, his or her face a study in terror: “What do we do now?” And the hero then says: “Pray.” Depending on the context, we are supposed to feel even more tense—or to laugh. We last saw this on an episode of People of Interest—that show something of a tour de force. But I got to thinking. That is, after all, the 100 percent solution. It is guaranteed to work—if only you give it time.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Monarch Decline

A feature in the New York Times this morning brings news of the belated arrival of the migrating Monarch butterfly in Mexico. The Monarchs always arrive on November 1, a day celebrated in Mexico as the Day of the Dead. This year they were a week late. Both that Day of the Dead (link) and the dramatic decline in Monarch population (link) have been noted on this blog before. The Times story says that last year 60 million monarchs arrived in Mexico—a greatly diminished display of what the Mexicans think of as the souls of the dead. This year just a shade fewer than 3 million reached Mexico. The cause for this decline is summarized in my second link: it is the use of herbicides which devastates the milkweed.

As behooves people with our convictions, we have a very long view of the future and therefore expect that “this too shall pass.” There are balances in Nature that Long Time corrects even when the Near Term visits its mindless destruction on the environment. But I won’t be around when our version of the milkweed suddenly disappears and human numbers begin to collapse dramatically. At the end, I hope, the few millions left of us will still see a few million Monarchs once more migrating across the continents for landfall on the Day of the Dead. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Doctor Who Turns Fifty

Google Search, in its thematic today, informs me that Doctor Who, the BBC science fiction series, turns fifty on this day. To say that Brigitte and I are great fans of Doctor Who would not be altogether accurate. To say that we are great fans of the fourth Doctor Who, played by Tom Baker, is certainly true. We watched that series with unmixed pleasure in the 1970s with our children. And for a while we also followed, but with decreasing attention, the continuing exploits of the fifth, Peter Davison. That transition also marked our own move from Minneapolis to Detroit. Thereafter? Well, it seemed to us that the Doctor Whos who’d followed had in a way left us behind.

Such series are a popular art form not as yet deeply studied (or so it seems to me), but some early terminology has emerged which literary criticism will in the future use to shape its scholarly development. One such phrase is “it jumped the shark,” signifying that what at first was a very fine effort eventually decayed. Brigitte and I are active amateur scholars of this sort of criticism in that retirement gives us the time and the easy availability of series on DVD gives us the means for concentrated study. Our view of many other series is similar: we much approve of parts of them, but the time always comes when multiple disks are returned to the library unwatched because the series has suddenly lost its—should we call it charisma?

The image of Tom Baker is from Wikipedia (link).

In the Land of Individualism

There are some 19 posts on “collectives” on Ghulf Genes, accessible under that word in the Labels section in the left column. Our ability to think in general categories and the shortcuts that generics provide in communication have a very serious drawback, especially when applied to humans. We project collectives of people and then pretend that they are and behave as if they were individuals. Now a word signifying a collective, say United States, or say Dallas—when what we mean is the people that these words can legitimately reference—certainly has an actual reality behind it. The population of the U.S. or of Dallas is at least theoretically present for verification. In actual practice, to be sure, a scientific verification is not possible. To take a census of such collectives takes time; it cannot be done in an instant. Therefore some people will be dead by the time the count is finished; others were not yet present when it began. Cohabitation on a landmass does not meant that every individual on that landmass has exactly the same views. Therefore speaking of these people as if they had some fundamental commonality at the specifically human level is obviously wrong. Yet our ability to generalize—and our love for simplification—make us write headlines like the one that appeared in the New York Times this morning: On Day It Can Never Escape, Dallas Tries To Heal. What the headline actually meant is that 5,000 people met in Dallas (of a total of more than 1.2 million) to commemorate the assassination of President Kennedy.

Complaining of sloppy use of language, and therefore distorted projections of reality, makes me think of Bernard Shaw who naively (or perhaps tongue-in-cheek) hoped to reform the spelling of the English language. Not likely. The assignment of collective guilt on the one hand (Dallas still healing from one assassin’s deed) and collective glory on the other (Boston sharing the Red Sox’ baseball prowess) will continue as ever before. Yes, here, in the land of individualism.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Projecting Heroes

A day like today, the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, makes me ponder the curious way in which collective emotions are produced and maintained. Kennedy’s legislative efforts had quite stalled just before he died. The media were full of reports wondering if all that charisma would ever produce anything tangible. His charisma had not managed to reach me. My father thought the Kennedys were a true aristocracy—which I found ridiculous. My reaction to the assassination produced no emotion because, well, I was not identified. I also knew very little about Kennedy or his family; later, as more and more came to light, I was more and more persuaded that my distance from this leader had been altogether justified.

The fact is that this man, who, apart from getting elected with much help from his father, had no high level accomplishments, beyond his courageous military service in World War. He had become prominent but did not have a record suggesting future deification. Yet here is his memory, regularly painted on the skies, especially on big anniversaries, in some ways reflecting, as well as being caused by, a rather primitive urge of a segment of the population and of the media elite.

What enabled his projection as a hero, beyond his assassination, was, indeed charisma: a great talent of self-projection. There is his book, Profiles in Courage (co-written with Ted Sorensen but that debt not acknowledged). There was Camelot, etc. This quality, a charismatic personality, Kennedy shared with Ronald Reagan, another hero-projection by another segment of the population but with less media cooperation.

All right. The anniversary today will saturate the media coverage. Ritual marches and music will fill in for lack of great deeds. But how long will this go on? Not too much longer, I would say. Those who were young adults then are all more or less my age. When we pass, this will begin to fade. I infer as much from the fact that I cannot recall any huge April 15 “media day” in any recent year recalling Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. In looking for a President with some genuinely heroic traits, I think of Jimmy Carter. But then there are useful projections suitable to an age severed from basic transcendental values and people who in partial ways attempt to live up to them. The latter are not suitable for painting on the clouds.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

We Never See All of Venus

We were returning from an outing the other night (on the 19th) and Venus in the sky had a great brilliance. In the wonder of watching it—on the road and then later from home—my early telescopic days back in Kansas returned to me. A bit of knowledge returned as well, but knowledge, unless well-maintained, has a way of eroding. What I remembered was that Venus has phases. And so I said, “It must be a full Venus up there.” Alas.

It turns out that Venus is at its brightest when it is quite close to the earth and shows an intermediate crescent shape. At that point the planet is about 42 million miles from the earth, and now is such a time. The image shown, from the U.S. Naval Observatory’s web site (link), is an apparent image, not a photograph. It is for November 19th. Visible portion of Venus will continue to grow, and grow brighter, until December 10th of this year.

When Venus is closest to us (25 million miles away), it goes dark; it is directly between us and the sun. It is full only when it is on the other side of the sun from us—and therefore we cannot ever see her full face. At that point Venus is 162 million miles from us—and bright although Venus is, almost full as it approaches the sun from the back, its brightness has decreased by more than one fifth.

The next image, from Wikipedia (link), shows images of the planet in 2004 (the date stamps are month-day-year). After “new” Venus is reached (the last image), the same images appear but in reversed orientation.

Beautiful planet—but you have to be outside to experience it. Watching Venus and reading about the planet is a nice illustration of the difference between knowledge and experience.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Doris Lessing (1919-2013)

Noting here the passing of Doris Lessing at a delay; this is written some time after the date of her passing on November 17. She touched quite a few members of our family over the years. My own encounter with Lessing took place quite late—when Daughter Michelle gave me Shikasta as a present. Eventually I read the entire series, titled Canopus in Argo: Archives. I’ve not read any of her other seventeen novels. I view the Canopus series as really meaningful fiction, call it science fiction. A major idea, present in that whole series is, SOWF. As for what that means, let me reproduce here the last two paragraphs of a post on another of my blogs (link):

In her science fiction novel, Shikasta, Doris Lessing tells the story of a galactic empire, but of a different kind. Multiple planetary settlements have taken place over many eons from the star system Canopus, in the constellation of Argos. All kinds of species have been, as it were, planted, and they are evolving. Sustaining their evolution is an energetic emanation called Substance-Of-We-Feeling, abbreviated SOWF. It isn’t necessary for simple survival, but it is what sustains harmonious development. All is well for a long, long time—but then the emissaries from Canopus notice that something very troubling has taken place. An unexpected cosmic realignment causes the flow of SOWF to thin. Another empire, Canopus’ enemy, Puttoria, attempts to exploit this situation. A degenerative disease begins to affect settlements, among them Shikasta (read Earth); it’s not a physical disease; it is the higher levels—spiritual life, community life—that are affected.

The story of Shikasta, of course, merits interpretation as a new or as a renewed revelation—this one emanating from Sufi roots. Doris Lessing was associated with the Sufi teaching projected by Idries Shah from Britain. When I first read Shikasta, I had to smile when I encountered SOWF; to me it was an obvious reference to Sufism; later I discovered that others had had much the same thought. Lessing’s series of novels, collectively known as Canopus in Argos, is the framing of a cosmology in modern terms, thus accessible to a secular and technological age. SOWF functions as Grace—a gift, a source of higher nutrition, regenerative, as Webster’s has it. Lessing’s intent, to be sure, is far from suggesting that God is a distant galactic civilization. The effect of her, alas, very difficult fiction is to make such ideas of a conscious and meaningful cosmic plan—in which, as it were, energetic emanations like Grace play a vital role—visible to modern minds and, when thought about, illuminative of ancient and by now moribund structures of belief we’ve come to dismiss as backward superstitions.

Farewell Doris Lessing. Your journey continues.

Cerberus’ Bark

Having recently wondered in public about the sister of Pegasus, one of Brigitte’s comments yesterday, referencing the ancient three-headed hell-hound, Cerberus, made me wonder how a creature like that might have barked. Would the Guardian of the Underworld greet its visitors with a simultaneous “Woof,” “Woof,” “Woof” issuing from three hellish jaws? Or would any of the heads just give it a pass (as shown in the illustration I’m including)? Got to thinking, further, that the hell dog would probably have language, and, after acquiring recognition from the Romans, might have barked in Latin thus: “Servus,” “Servus,” “Servus.”

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Shires of England

With the exception of a single landing once in London Airport, I’ve never been to England—if you can count a two-hour layover as “being” anywhere. Brigitte did a wee bit better. She spent a brief time in Halstead, northeast of London, visiting a distant relative in anno long ago. Halstead is in Essex. With such exposure, we are therefore quite challenged when reading novels set in England or watching television series set in such places. The county in English life is of major importance—unlike county here in the United States, particularly near big cities. With that in mind, I thought I would produce here a map of the shires of England, courtesy of Wikipedia (link). As a minimum the map will serve us in reading and watching TV.

On the map that I am showing, space does not permit the spelling out of all the counties/shires, therefore this additional gloss. Read North to South and West to East. Clicking the map will enlarge it.

Greater Manc:  Greater Manchester
South Yorks:    South Yorkshire
Derbs:              Derbyshire
Notts:              Nottinghamshire
Staffs:              Staffordshire
Leics:               Leicestershire
Worcs:             Worcestershire
Warks:             Warwickshire
Northants:     Northamptonshire
Cambs:            Cambridgeshire
Heref:              Herefordshire
Beds:                Bedfordshire
Glos:                Gloucestershire
Oxon:              Oxfordshire
Bucks:             Buckinghamshire
Herts:              Hertfordshire

One of our recent series, Foyle’s War, took place mostly in and around Hastings. That place is in East Sussex on the south-eastern coast. An earlier series I’ve noted recently, Cadfael, took place in Shropshire and in adjoining Wales.

Reading the novels of Anthony Trollop—and Angela Thirkell, who put her stories into the same county—we have Barsetshire, England. Alas, it is fictional. And a series we are now revisiting, with somewhat mixed feelings (are people really so deeply corrupt, we wonder), takes place in Midsomer county and its many hamlets—also fictitious. That’s Midsomer Murders—based on the novels of Caroline Graham. By now a year or two in the past, watching Lark Rise to Candleford provided us with much more quiet pleasure. That place, Lark Rise, is placed in Oxfordshire, and the series was based on a trilogy by Flora Thompson.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Cockles of My Heart

Seashells in their habitats tend to come in pairs. The creatures that make use of this kind of outer body, invertebrates all, like clams and mollusks, belong to the biological class called Bivalvia. Our word “valve” comes from there and originally meant, in Latin, a section of a revolving door. Bivalvia dates to the seventeenth century and means “halves of a hinged shell” (Online Etymology Dictionary (OED)). What happens when clams shuffle off this mortal coil is that the hinge eventually breaks; what we then collect on the seashore are the halves, not the whole.

The most likely origin of the phrase, “that warms the cockles of my heart,” originated in 1660 per OED. “Cockle,” as a synonym for “shell,” has lost currency if you ask Google’s Ngram facility, which tracks words used in writing in the 1800-2000 period: it was used nearly seven times more frequently in 1809 than in 2000, and even in old times, “shell” was much more popular. Nonetheless, we still have that song, Molly Malone:

In Dublin's fair city, where the girls are so pretty
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone
As she wheeled her wheel-barrow
Through streets broad and narrow
Crying cockles and mussels, alive, alive-O!

The legend of Molly Malone, who died young of a fever, produced the belief that such a lass actually lived once in the seventeenth century. Scholars demur, but the Dublin Millennium Commission opted for reality, at least that of the heart. It proclaimed that a real Mary Malone, who died on June 13, 1699, had been the original—and declared June 13 as Molly Malone Day—and we’d say Cockles and Mussels Day. Mussels are yet another kind of shellfish. And as for Molly, I owe that to Brigitte—who started to sing the song as I was reading the first version of this post to her.

Cockle comes to us from Old French, coquille , Shell from Old English sciell—and the predominance of “shell” is probably due to the fact that eggs are much more commonly consumed than mollusks.

The image I am showing, depicting the Giant Atlantic Cockle, photographed by Andrea Westmoreland (link), makes it plain how the bivalve creatures resemble the heart shape. The next question then becomes, what does warmth have to do with these cockles? Turns out that closed shells, when heated, begin to open. Therefore whatever “warms the cockles of my heart” causes my heart to open in sympathy and in approval.

The inspiration for this post? Last night late I spread a minute amount of Smucker peanut butter on a single Trisket and took it to Brigitte. She’d said that she was getting cold. “Something to warm the cockles of your heart,” I said, handing her this tiny snack. And then got to wondering about those cockles.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Where is that Peak in Darien?

To introduce the phrase, herewith a famous poem by John Keats (1795-1821) entitled “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”:

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific — and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise —
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Some preliminary notes. In the paranormal field, a vision of the realms beyond this one, call them the heavenly regions sometimes glimpsed by people on their deathbed or in near-death experiences (NDEs), is called a peak in Darien experience, that phrase itself drawn from John Keats’ poem. It is in such a context that I first encountered the phrase.

Cortez (formally Hernán Cortés (1485-1546)) was a conquistador; Darien, therefore, is presumably somewhere in South America. But Cortez is famed for his conquest of Mexico. So far as we know, he never ventured much west of what we call Mexico City today. He couldn’t have “stared at the Pacific” at all. The so-called “discoverer” of the Pacific—that word in quotes because, of course, it had to have been a European—and the natives that looked at it all the time where not “discoverers”—was actually Vasco Núñez de Balboa (1475-1519). Therefore Keats must have been wrong...

Now Balboa’s travels had him crossing today’s Panama. And in the eastern portion of that country is a region called Daríen, complete with some meaningful mountainous formations some of which, no doubt, feature peaks. So a peak in Darien is in Panama. Balboa really did see the Pacific, the first European actually to do so.

Today in that region—marked on the map that I show—is a very extensive national park, called Parque Nacional Daríen. It has plenty of peaks in its western-most region—and while Balboa did not get quite that far down, he did travel to the big island in the Gulf of Panama; it was known by his people as Isla Rica and is on today’s maps called Archipélago de las Perlas. Gold was what the conquistadores wanted; but they took pearls when they could.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

What Goes Up Must Come Down?

After my mention of technology yesterday, I got to musing about an interesting fact. It is that all things cycle in human experience, but inventions cumulate and seemingly are never lost. Empires may crumble but useful knowledge is never forgotten. A significant test of that lies ahead in coming centuries if, as I am fairly convinced, modern culture will collapse as one of its major supports, fossil energy, is finally exhausted. Will the use of electricity—unquestionably the most important discovery of this particular era of modernity—also disappear? My bet is that it won’t. What goes up must come down—to be sure. But useful knowledge just keeps rising.

That titular phrase is interesting. Pop culture attributes the line to Isaac Newton, who never actually said it. What Newton did say, in Principia Mathematica, was something else. He said: “Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.” Translated into pop lingo, Newton said: “What goes up will come down—as soon as it gets tired.”

We may exhaust our fossil fuels, but the knowledge that motion can be used to capture invisible energy that’s simple there, in the air, you might say, will not be lost. Knowledge belongs to a range of human experience not in the least affected by gravity or external forces. We may be on the way into a new Dark Age, but it will be lit by electricity. Somehow. Somehow we’ll manage to keep the copper turning inside its jacketing magnets to hold on to something that went up, spectacularly, in the nineteenth century and will never be forgotten again.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What Comes First?

In one of our discussions yesterday, Brigitte suggested that technology comes before science! I certainly wholeheartedly agree. The example that always comes to my mind is Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell; I had a post contrasting those two early last year (link). Faraday was a foremost discoverer of electromagnetism; Maxwell captured the laws of this phenomenon in mathematics. In Wikipedia entries (and that publication may be seen as a random sample of current views), Faraday is described as a “contributor” to electromagnetism and electrochemistry; Maxwell, in contrast, is described as a “great unifier” in physics, the second after Isaac Newton; the third, one presumes is Einstein.

My interest today, however, is not in physics or the emergence of reputations; it is in what comes first. It does not in the least surprise me that in the physical realm all of the great discoveries begin (and began) with hands-on experience—and that the formal descriptions of experimental results come (or came) later. Without observations, no one can later, by measurement and analysis, discover hidden laws.

But what comes first in those realms of experience not rooted in the physical? Let’s pick on ethics and render it simply as “the right thing to do.” What is the root of morality? A very difficult subject—particularly in such times as ours. First of all, in our times, all things are rooted in the physical and anything transcending it is denied to exist. But if that is so, “the right thing to do” loses its absolute grounding. Therefore our times are suffused with pragmatism. The right thing to do is that which produces the best results: pragmatism. How “best result” is to be defined is, of course, relative to the viewpoint of some person—never an absolute.

When we come to hard grips with this situation—where outcomes justify the means and the outcomes themselves are relative—we begin to see in quite harsh light just what is wrong with our collective life. It is built on the sands of relativity and, if we like the outcome, the ends justify the means.

Am I stirring the sewage here? Over the last few weeks we’ve watched the entirety of a very laudable British series called Foyle’s War. It has a mysterious attraction. The right thing to do is shown us, in that series, as an absolute, its root the inner nature of the human soul and Whatever created it. Innate, as I would call it. Such thoughts, therefore, tend to arise.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Seasonal Notes

November marched in with big splashing steps through puddles. Today a let-up and, with the sun lifting all hearts, the autumn colors around here were quite unbelievable this morning—probably peaking, we thought.

Belatedly I updated my chart on World Series winners, first shown on this blog October 7, 2011. Brigitte asked for some dates on that chart, and that version I show next.

Yes, the period in which World Series have been held now extends for 111 palindromic years into the past. The teams marked in green are those that we have rooted for; the years when those teams last won a series are shown—and those dates illustrate how rarely most fans are able to celebrate a World Series victory. The drama of this season for us was simply being in the playoffs. The sadness came when we learned that the Tigers’ manager, Jim Leyland, a man we much admire, is retiring. The famous Uncertainty Principle, therefore, will overshadow the 2014 season…

Hereabouts we are, this time of year, close observers of temperatures. The time to bring the plants indoors are fast approaching. Last year it was November 11. It’s very cool but still just above freezing by night. Everything is ready, however. We’ve polled our jade plan population and noted that we have too many to fit the winter, indoor space. I put ten out on the driveway with a sign yesterday:  Yours For the Taking. By late this afternoon all had been taken—and the last visitor seemed to like my sign, and the brick that held it in place, as much as the jade plants. Everything had vanished.

Last tomato note. Our plants are still attempting to make red tomatoes out of green ones—but in a fit of perversity they are producing fruits one half of each of which is red!

The most novel seasonal event this year was a fruit fly invasion of our kitchen—due no doubt to leaving the sunroom door open on very frequent trips in and out as winter’s preparations were ongoing. We’ve discovered that the way to deal with fruit flies is to use a vacuum cleaner to catch them and, by night, to trap them using apple-cider vinegar as bait.

Raking is still largely ahead. The bright colors, thick in the trees, are, on the ground, still relatively thin and brightly yellow.