Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Last night Cheryl and I helped Bingo prepare for his upcoming, top-secret mission (we never know what he's doing). He wanted to test his new biocam, posing as a guide dog, but something went wrong with the conversion matrix mid-way through. He's working to correct the algorithm today. When I asked if I could help, he just snorted.

You know, I might not be the brightest bulb in the basket, but I'm getting pretty tired of his insults...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lost in Transition

In a few days we get a new puppy from the CIA training facility, a female black lab named Berkeley with all the latest techy apps and programming, like the ability to detect WiFi by actually sniffing it. In just a few years, so I'm told, all of our technology will be bionic and genetically engineered. And once we all get on the ambient power grid (now in top-secret development), we'll never have to buy a TV, cell phone or computer again. (It's nice to be part of this new wave, if only as a stooge--an old dude in the brave new world.)

Bingo we be off for special-opps training in early July. I can't help worrying if we have done enough to help him get ready. It's such a tough program--only the best of the best can make it. His language requirements alone will be very difficult. Here's part of what he was watching last night. A CIA training video I think...

Either that or it's some strange dog comic. Of course, when I asked about the video, Bingo just laughed in my face, just like some teenager who thinks he knows it all. I'm glad I at least provide some amusement for him.

Who knows where Bingo will be in a few months? Maybe undercover in Taiwan or Singapore. Maybe posing as a wild mutt in Paris. Or maybe running from cave to cave in Afghanistan. Good luck, little guy.

Now we start over with Berkeley...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Beating the Odds

Today (the 23rd) is my birthday and I'm 57 years old. For most of the past year I mistakenly believed that I already was 57, so this is really like getting a free one. Self-delusion works that way. I still believe I'm 23 on the inside. Why not?

I'm probably the luckiest guy on earth, in a very real, Vegas sort of way. 25 years ago I was in a bad car wreck, my band broke up, I couldn't drive, had no money, no job, no real friends (my fault). If someone wanted to lay odds on my prospects at the time, I would not have been a good bet.

So I mean lucky in a real way. I did get back into school and finally moved away--I did those things on my own initiative. But I was really lucky to meet Cheryl and I'm lucky she's stayed with me. I was really lucky to find the work I'm doing, and for the past 10 years I've been able to do it from home. I'm lucky now to have family, friends, a house, a yard, my health, our dogs.

What were the odds, the prospects for my happiness, 25 years ago? Not a good bet.

Friday, June 18, 2010

New Shoot

I'm thinking small today. Micro. Down on the level of microbes, thinking that it (the world down there) is just as nice a place as any. Why? Because I just spotted our first bamboo shoot of the season. It's in the very center of this picture, or at least you can just make out the tip. In a week or so this guy will be out completely, glossy green, bigger around than the thick end of a baseball bat, with one mission in life: to grow fast.

While I was down on my hands and knees I noticed that the stone patio has developed a really nice patina, a variety of microscopic fungus and moss on the stone itself, shades of green and gray, a velvet patch of fungus between the stones, and of course all the weeds that I am neglecting for now. We see only the refracted light surface of this world, not the amazing microscopic detail.

I got my face close, then closer, but my eyes have conspired against me so that I cannot see objects up close. I'm tempted to go get my glasses and go back outside, back on my hands and knees, to get a better look, but I guess I don't care that much.

The bamboo shoot is different. I'll keep an eye on him for the next several weeks.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

No Work Today

Today is hot, humid, overcast, thundery, and one of those days when every initiative (like should I go pull some weeds?) is easily squashed and pushed to the side.

I can't help wondering, had the stars lined up differently last year and I became president instead of Barack Obama: where would I be right now and what would I be thinking? The oil spill in the gulf continues with no end in sight, and I, the most powerful person in the world, am powerless to stop it. The economy tips back and forth, leaning at times into an unknown black hole, with state governments preparing to lay off thousands of teachers and police. Soldiers are dying and no one seems to notice. I can't help wondering if I could possibly deal with all of it.

Instead, I find myself rested after a long afternoon nap with Cheryl and the dogs, with time now to write wandering ideas into a blog. Our air conditioner keeps out the heat--I don't have to pull weeds today.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sitting on Spinach

The first swamp hibiscus flower of the season came in this week and it was a beauty, perfectly shaped and an iridescent blood scarlet that no other flower can quite match. These don't open slowly like a rose. No, they burst open over night and are usually gone in a day or so. As its name suggests, this plant likes water, so it is planted in a pot in the lower pond, where it dies away each winter and comes back new in the spring (this is its fourth year, I believe).

I'm not sure why it comes back every year. Does the new growth come from seeds dropped into the water or does it come directly from the roots? Apparently the swamp hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) is capable of both methods of reproduction, which makes you wonder how such a thing could happen. I mean, we know why humans have babies. What if we discovered that babies could also be made by sitting on cabbages or spinach? We'd think: isn't the one way enough?

I wish I knew more about everything.

My real fun this time of year is looking for the first bamboo shoot of the season. These come up from the ground at their full width (Oldhamii shoots are 2 to 4 inches in diameter), green with soft folds on top that allow them to squirm upward with amazing speed and reach their full height by the end of the summer--maybe 40 feet this year.

No shoots yet.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Frogs of Summer

Summer is here. I walked around the property early this morning to throw fertilizer on my favorite plants (I'm not on speaking terms with some of them), and I was soon covered in sweat. Then in the side yard, as I was clearing out some weeds, I noticed that the Bombax tree has recovered from the winter freeze, growing out and up from the dead brown stock just above the ground--I'd given up all hope on him. In this picture the new green stock is barely visible to the left of the brown one.

Life is resilient, and I would be more encouraged about things if not for all these videos on TV of birds covered in oil, many of them were dead or will soon be. It is a real crime and sad beyond words.

And the oil is heading our way...

The frogs are back in our fish ponds. They come and go with some invisible purpose, some schedule that makes no sense to me, sometimes with the rain and sometimes during a dry spell. Lately Bingo, our bionic CIA dog, is content to rest quietly on the back porch with us and listen.

It's no secret that Bingo is preparing for a top-secret mission (infiltrating the oil cartel), and there's a good chance that he will be away for quite a while. We'll miss him, but maybe at least he'll get transferred to a cold climate. He's definitely not fond of the hot weather.