Thursday, July 21, 2016

"Vote Your Conscience" and other Radical Notions

"Vote your conscience" is now, apparently, the most radical and un-American thing a Republican can say; at least according to the Trumpists who are hoppin' mad about the speech truthtellin' Ted Cruz gave last night. It's also precisely the reason I've supported Republicans for the last forty years. I wasn't old enough to vote in the '76 election, but rooted for Ford, then Reagan and every Republican nominee for president since him, until this year. And the reason was conscience: specifically, the Republican Party offered a home for those opposed, by conscience, to killing unborn babies (how can that even be a controversial position, I always wonder), and continues to do so while they are frozen out of the Democratic party.  I'm still a functional Republican, I suppose, until a viable option for conservatives materializes, and will support Republicans in local and statewide races; my party has just been hijacked by forces beyond my control, and they've sold my email address. I have been obligated to report as spam the fundraising appeals that have started to come in from Donald Trump and Ivanka Trump. So first off, let's get rid of the "no true Republican" fallacy and the "either-or" fallacy that are being thrown around so much. Forty years is twice as long as Donald Trump has been a Republican, and almost three times as long as the longest of his three marriages. And Hillary Clinton has already won the election, barring a completely unforeseen twist between now and November: she won when Trump won the nomination, and I don't think there's anything I can do about it, except vote my conscience. Certainly, she'll win in Washington State, where I didn't even have the option of voting for anyone in the primary who hadn't already dropped out of the race.

I've never been the biggest supporter of Ted Cruz: he strikes me as a little too divisive and a bit fakey in his speaking style, and I still don't think he could really unite the country enough to win the actual presidency. All of that is exponentially more true of my concerns about Trump. But in any case, Cruz gave a principled speech, locked into the convention corner as he was, and it didn't deserve boos. Not in America, where we know about conscience. Not from Republicans, who have defended conscience rights from the beginning. Here's the text of that speech. And indications are that Trump orchestrated the response just from spite and narcissism, when a truly gracious winner would have ignored it and accepted the decent spirit behind it. After tonight, the controlled environment of the RNC convention is gone, and any chance for Trump to unite the party along with it. What does it say that Trump never attempted to mend fences with John Kasich, the governor of the state hosting his convention? What does it say that Bob Dole (election cycle of 1996, 20 years ago) is the only living Republican presidential nominee to support Trump? To me, it says that most party leadership is going through the motions, doing the decent thing as they see it, knowing they've already lost. It also doesn't lay to rest the nagging worry that Trump is fundamentally a liberal saboteur whose intent is to hand the election to Hillary. It's probably not true, but can we trust him?

I have a great deal of respect for Mike Pence, and I think he was a good choice for VP. If the ticket was Pence/Trump instead of the other way around, I think I could vote for him, As it is, I doubt Trump would be a micro-managing president if elected, and I can't fault people who vote for the ticket in hopes that he would delegate the real policy work to decent people. But more likely, I think Pence will be the scapegoat who gets the blame when the Trump campaign goes down in flames. I've seen that before, too.

It comes down to another c-word, character. Bill Clinton was president for 8 years, and we objected to his character then. But he at least was ashamed of his lapses. Trump has bragged about his indiscretions, and never apologizes for anything. The never-Trump movement still has a point. More so now, as people become more informed about his foreign policy, which strikes me as truly disturbing.

As I've been musing about the election cycle and the lack of good candidates, I keep coming back to the thought that, even as I feel disenfranchised and shut out of the process, historically, you had to live with the king or emperor you had for life. We have a system that limits the damage even a terrible president can do: four years, maybe eight, and two other branches of government leaning on you the whole time. And we have a choice. We can vote our conscience. We can take character into account. It's America. We can vote for whoever we want.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Political Tuesdays: What I Saw at the Hostile Takeover

2016 may be the year I become apolitical.  But first, I have to blog this out of my system and close all those open windows in my browser.

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary to dissolve the bands of loyalty which had previously connected us to a grand political party, and to assume, among the Pokemon Go players of the earth, a relatively blissful ignorance and apathy about the downfall of civilization as we know it, a decent respect for the dozen or so readers of this blog requires that we declare the causes which impel us to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that the Republican Party has been hijacked by the overweening narcissism of one man; that Donald Trump does not represent the values and ideals associated with the Republican Party or with conservatism as a political philosophy; and that, being endowed with the rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, no free and independent American may be forced to blindly support the presumptive nominee of the Party to the detriment of her own conscience.

I realize that people of good conscience can and do disagree about where to proceed from this point. Personally, I still hold a flickering candle of hope that some of the Never Trump delegates I sent to the state convention will go on to Cleveland and be part of a peaceful counter-insurgency that will appoint an actual Republican candidate who stands a chance in the fall election. Otherwise, my vote is completely wasted, as is usual in Washington State. But I realize this is a very faint hope indeed.

Some will vote for Trump while holding their nose, because they fear Hillary more; some wholeheartedly support him because they actually believe he's serious about saving them from illegal immigrants or bad trade deals, or whatever it is they fear. I will try not to judge, if they will respect my freedom of conscience here. Simply put, I can't support any candidate who endorses abortion; that clearly eliminates Hillary, and Trump is equally clearly not credible on this issue. That leaves me a much sadder person, but it's oddly freeing at the same time.

In a more selfish vein, I am simply not able to take the constant anxiety. I don't see either candidate as fit for office, but I'm used to being the party out of power; the shame of being associated with such an unstable and self-centered candidate as the Donald, even if there is no chance of his winning, is enough to make me withdraw from politics altogether. Wherever I turn for amusement or distraction, I see a caricature of this buffoon: he's Nick Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream ("Methought I was enamored of an ass!") He's Anger in Inside Out, complete with orange hair:

He's evil rich Biff in Back to the Future II. The list goes on: if we don't want America to turn into Trumpville, we need Jimmy Stewart to turn things around and filibuster until people come to their senses and do the right thing like they never did in the primary. I realize I'm mixing my metaphors, but I was a literature major and there's a lot more where that came from.

Now, here's where I clear my browser, and believe me, it needs it:

Monday, June 27, 2016


Daniel's 22nd birthday is today. And he just graduated from college, and he's getting ready to head out to Washington D.C. and the Capital Fellows Program in September. We're pretty excited for him, and proud of all he's accomplished. If you're in town this weekend, there's an open house at our house from 2-5 on Saturday.

Following tradition of the last few years, Daniel grilled for his own birthday; today it was chicken in an apricot/honey marinade and salmon in a citrus and chili marinade; grilled asparagus and grilled corn on the cob. I did potato salad and a blackberry pie for dessert. It was all very nice.
The argyles are finished and were presented. By this time it was not a surprise, other than the fact that I finally finished them! We also bought him a pair of  Chaco sandals, which he requested and I drove to three different Portland shoe stores looking for on Saturday. It was an adventure. I aspire to be hip enough to shop for shoes in Portland on a regular basis.

Other exciting events of today: a raccoon was hanging around early this morning when Steve left for work, sniffing around Smudge's food bowl, which was empty at that point. He returned in broad daylight today when Daniel was on the back deck, and when I came along and growled at him to move along, he did not display what I thought would be the proper respect for humans... he bared his teeth at me and did not retreat. I ended up turning the hose on him and he climbed a birch tree, and there he stayed for the rest of the day, grooming his paws and taking over what I think was a jay's nest to nap in. He is the uppermost of the two dark blobs in this photo. Stay tuned. I'm hoping he moves along without the confrontations becoming a daily event. The bared teeth were a little creepy.

I really need to get cleaning for the party Saturday. 16 years of Latin books and files are still spread out over the living room floor. They are gradually getting sorted and somehow I'll find room to store them. I still feel like I need to have a big retrospective post about my years of teaching, but it's all still too exhausting to think about. I'll settle for clean enough, and process later. In my mother's Latin for Americans test booklet, which I've had for over a decade, I found a mimeo copy of a letter she wrote to friends in 1968, when I was 9 months old and we were living in the Netherlands. It was a beautiful treasure that I don't remember ever reading or knowing about before... maybe I'll scan or type it in to share here in the future.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Randomday and the Final Final

I am grading my last batch of final exams, ever. I might be tempted to feel a bit melancholy, were it not for my aching neck and the fact that the difference between the ideal and the actual is so vast.

Sentence translation, where I am currently stalled:

e.g. Christus, "Nemo servus," inquit, "potest duobus dominis servire."
(Christ said, "No slave can serve two masters.")
Student writes: Christ said, "Serve no one, but serve the Lord double."

e.g. Omnis, qui diligit, ex Deo natus est, et cognoscit Deum.
(Everyone who loves has been born from God and knows God.)
Student writes: He said to all, God is out of nothing, yet God knows all.

Sixteen years is enough; someone else can do it now, and I wish them very good success with it. Shortly I will regroup my nerves and soldier on, deducting a point for every wrong word, verbs and verbals count double, but squeezing in as much grace as I can manage. I do love my students, but sixteen years of middle school is enough. They will all be civilized by 10th grade for sure. I hope by then I've recovered what's left of my health.

Tertia is away at her school play. It's a student-written production, incorporating high school theater students, time travel, and Shakespeare. We saw it last night and it was a hoot. Tertia's role is small but she plays it with heart. That's pretty much her in a nutshell.

On the subject of things I should probably have emphasized more carefully with my special needs daughter, the other day she was walking home from play practice and I picked her up on the way. She had a Dutch Bros straw cup with a watery substance that she was drinking from. I asked her about it. "I just found it," she replied. I may have panicked slightly at this point. She had found it, less than half full of something she said was lemonade, on the box where the button for the crosswalk was. And it was a hot day, and she was thirsty, so... Well, we are counting on her guardian angels for this one, and I think she knows not to do that again.

Tuesday on the way to school the "change battery" indicator blinked on. So on the way home from school I took it to the dealership where they diagnosed that yes, the battery was failing. Fortunately the dealership is a short walk from Barnes and Noble, so I spent a pleasant hour and a half getting lunch at their cafe and reading. Who knew going to the dealership for unexpected work could be so...refreshing?

We are having a heat wave, with temperatures almost reaching 100 today. A few days ago on our walk, Steve and I had some ripe cherries, and then even found some early ripe blackberries. When inside temps go over 80 I start melting and asking for the AC. And I'm significantly less ambitious to do tedious work like word-by-word translation corrections. Three more pages of those to go, and then the sayings and mythology matching questions. I'm going to finish making a pitcher of mint tea and eat some raspberries before tackling it again. Or maybe even put it off until Monday.

For a few short weeks, we had all family members at home; Peter is off doing his 2 weeks training with his unit now, but will be back after that. This will probably be the last summer with all family members around. Daniel is off to Washington D.C. in the fall for an internship. Right now, he and Steve and Quarta are playing Minecraft. Quarta has a Chicken Run style enterprise, with chickens laying eggs that drop to a holding pen, where they hatch and grow until they are tall enough to get cooked by the lava blocks just above them, providing her an endless supply of "cooked chicken." In real life today, she baked a giant, pizza-sized chocolate chip cookie.

Tertia is now back from her performance, where she received a very pretty pink and white rose from a fellow cast member.

Well, I have randomly blogged my way to the point where it's too dark to grade finals with natural light, and so I might just finish one last page and read in bed instead.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Lazy Blogger's Garden Tour, Part 3

So, I think I've established this year that I'm a lazy blogger, and after this final installment of my series you'll agree that I'm a lazy gardener, too. I favor herbs and pretty flowers that are hard to kill, and that spread easily, and don't usually die of neglect in the hot and dry stretches of summer. The key to my "success," such as it is, is wise choice of climate. I live in the Pacific Northwest, where it's cool and rains a lot. If you can limit the slug infestations, you're pretty much home free with this philosophy.
Case in point: Nigella Damascena, also known as Love-in-a-Mist. We dumped a bunch of seeds by the raspberry patch a few years ago, and they have thrived.
 Lobelia, one of our favorite annuals.
 Lobelia again; Steve bought these this year. We don't plant a lot of annuals normally, but there are some exceptions.
 California Poppies, going strong in the sunny garden behind the garage. There are also some wallflowers in the background and plenty of Lemon Balm mixed in.  All of these are completely naturalized in this spot.
Hardy Geraniums; they have been in our front flower bed since the previous owners moved out 17 years ago. I guess that makes them hardy.
 Here's a little-known gem of a flower; Rose Campion, which has fuzzy silver leaves and those extremely hot-pink flowers; it reseeds itself from year to year. It can get a bit scraggly looking toward the middle or end of June, but it's just a charming flower.
 My front porch planter with a bicolor ivy geranium and a sweet potato vine. My front porch is another example of when I like to buy a few annuals.
 Lithodora, bought this year from the Walmart plant section. I think it is a newer variety of Lithodora, because the older kind is monochrome blue:
Very tiny flowers but a beautiful little blue treat in the front rock garden by the fence.
 Speaking of little blue flowers, here are some remnants of the Veronica blooms.
 The Clematis is just now blooming on the fence. Steve has been busy over the last week, painting pickets and replacing the parts of the fence that were smashed by vandals after Christmas.
 Here you have our south-side bed in not very great order, but a case in point for the lazy gardeners; parsley, nigella, rose campion, forget-me-nots, daffodils, and probably some lemon balm all mixed together.
And the golden raspberries, just coming into season. Life is good!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Lazy Blogger's Garden Tour, Part 2

This will be the herb edition, starting with lots of mint. Semper Mentha! As I mentioned in Part 1, my primary philosophy of gardening is to plant nice weeds and step back. I plan to have a more well-rounded herb garden eventually, but for starting out it's always a plus if the herb has an invasive growth habit.
From earlier this month, l-r: Apple Mint, Spearmint, Chocolate Mint(?), Lemon Balm. I researched the mints and their larger family, lamiaceae, lest you think I'm making this up about invasive growth habits. The Force is strong with this family; almost all of our longest-established herbs are part of it, including the long row of mints up against the back fence. Over the years, they have grown together and I'm not sure if there's any Peppermint left. So we're attempting to weed them back to a modest and more clearly defined patch for each variety.
Chocolate Mint seems to be easily overwhelmed by the other mint cousins. I found this patch and pulled out all the Apple Mint around it. Chocolate Mint is a hybrid of Peppermint (mentha piperita).
Here's the long view of the fence, starting just after the Chocolate Mint; it's mostly spearmint (mentha spicata) in the immediate foreground; that's the legendary plum tree in the background.
Orange Mint... we had some years ago planted in a different spot but it died out, proving that mint doesn't always invade. This was bought this spring, and we planted it where we had cleared out some Apple Mint.  Orange Mint is also a variety of Peppermint. I am not at all sure that we have any true Peppermint left in the mint bed, and so we may need to buy some of that too.
By far the dominant mint, with the most invasive growth habit, is Apple Mint (mentha suaveolens). It's fuzzy, and not quite as strong-smelling as the other varieties. It's nice enough, but it's the variety we've been weeding out the most lately. We've been making plenty of mint tea.
Moving on to the L-shaped brick raised bed, which I have been thinking of as an herb garden for many years; this is the year I'm really trying! I planted a packet of Cumin seed here; I've never tried growing this herb before. It's a member of the Apiaceae family, which also includes carrots, parsley, celery, lovage, dill, fennel, cilantro and caraway. I am letting the broad-leafed plant grow because I think it might be Borage, reseeded from a previous year. The hydra-headed bindweed is a real problem in this bed, but I am going after it regularly and it's less discouraging than in the past.
Oregano, another member of the mint family, is naturalized throughout our yard. This may be close to where we originally planted it, but it is quite literally all over. It's at least a good-flavored variety.
I planted two Cilantro plants and sowed two beds of seed around them; so far so good.
 Here's a gift from the VP's garden last year; Feverfew. I had no idea it would get so tall. It's already overshadowing the Lemon Thyme I planted this year.
Two well-established Rosemary bushes; my long-term plan is to thin out virtually everything else around them and put in some more herbs, but the wild phlox and daisies and other unidentified plants need to be pulled out.
When I planted this sage 17 years ago, I did not know there was a peony almost right under it because it was late in the season. There might be two inches separating them. I want to grow more sage and thyme if I can. I didn't get a picture of the parsley, basil, marjoram, chives, dill, pineapple sage, lemon verbena or fennel. I'd like to relocate my lovage from its current location by the back door. I'd also sometime like to try savory and caraway.
Closing with a picture of lavender because it's so pretty, and one of my favorites. I toy with the idea of getting a still to distill my own essential oils; it probably would not be cost-effective though. But with multiple lavender, rosemary, mint varieties and lemon balm, it might be fun to try.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Lazy Blogger's Garden Tour, Part 1

The trouble with being a lazy blogger, or even just giving yourself a much-needed break, is that life keeps barrelling ahead. Thinking about blogging doesn't count, but sometimes you take a bunch of pictures while thinking about blogging. And then two weeks pass, and you take another bunch of pictures while thinking about blogging, and then you have a multi-part series and a quick photo-dump on Facebook just won't do. So let's just go into this with the pics from 2 weeks ago and see how far I get.
The Foxgloves were really pretty this year. They re-seed themselves and do well in our soil. Steve and I believe the secret to gardening success is to live in a favorable climate where even the weeds are nice to have around. Most of our flowers require no effort on our part.
The only real challenge with foxgloves is that they're so tall, they'll need to be taken out after blooming so they don't block the sun from the tomatoes behind them.
Forget-me-nots also are weeds in our garden, and I took this picture on the tail end of the brief time they look nice.
California poppies, also comfortably naturalized, along with lemon balm.
More foxglove, hanging out by the grapevines.
See, this is the trouble; we could be better vegetable gardeners if we weeded up the things that just settle in, like these columbines...but they're too pretty!
And of course, with our 100+ year-old house and a flowerbed made from the foundation of an old barn, plants just settle in.
Here's my sage in blossom. I have a master plan for the L-shaped raised bed with the brick border, made from the old foundation. I've had it for seventeen years, and by gum, this is the year I turn that bed into an herb garden. The sage has been there since we moved in, but it has to fight with some wild phlox and daisies and peonies
Every year I like to have a hanging basket and see how long I can keep it alive. I favor lobelias because they are such a pretty blue and peonies because they usually do well in hanging baskets.
 The rhododendron bushes are probably at least 75 years old.
We pruned this red one back pretty severely last year and it did pretty well.
Some of the peonies. That narrow strip by the driveway is tricky, but they are content.
So is this shrub, whatever it is. Now that Tertia is almost 17 I suppose we need to remove the gate we used to keep her off the street when she was a toddler.
 I love living in a climate where you can grow lavender so easily.
All these pictures were taken when Steve and Daniel were on their road-trip back from graduation, about two weeks ago. Parts 2 and possibly 3 coming up soon.