Monthly Archives: July 2013

Personal interlude: the Czarina’s first encounter

Deep Ellum on a Saturday night

For those outside of Dallas, the photo above is of a parking lot on Elm Street in Dallas, in the famed Deep Ellum area. Just about half my life ago, it was just an empty field, with scattered patches of hardened mud mixed with the weeds. In September 1990, I met the Czarina in that field for the first time, although we didn’t know it at the time. I was there with my then-girlfriend after buying a new pair of motorcycle boots from a shop across the street, investigating a cluster of small vendors selling T-shirts and jewelry in the middle of the field. All I knew was this cute girl was selling handmade necklaces and rings from inside a guitar case, and if I’d known then that I’d marry her a full cycle of the Chinese calendar later, things would have been VERY different.

Anyway, the Czarina’s birthday is next week, so even if you don’t know her, wish her a happy birthday anyway. This year, I need to come up with something to top that initial bout of kismet, and that may be a bit tough.

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One moment of perfect beauty

Rootstock

Personal Interlude: Preparing for Cyber-Conversion

It’s quick and smartaleck to describe the air of North Texas as “a bit too thick to breathe, and a bit too thin to plow,” but it works. Even without Governor Rick Perry’s incessant efforts to give the Environmental Protection Agency the finger every time the EPA tries to improve Dallas’s air quality, our local and immediate atmosphere continues to work its absolute best to kill all life in the area. Dust blown off the Edwards Plateau from West Texas, more dust alternating from either Oklahoma or Central Texas Hill Country, junk blowing in from the Gulf of Mexico, and a whole contingent of fungus and mold spores, pollen from gymnosperm and angiosperm plants, cow belches, and the hydrogen sulfide from the mudflats of the Trinity River in the summer…in case of tornado, just separate off chunks of air with a chainsaw and build a shelter strong enough to withstand a nuke strike.

The practical upshot is that Texas hates me. Three years ago, trying to find a solution to an inability to get restful sleep led to a trip to an allergy clinic, and the initial allergen tests showed me allergic to most of Texas’s life forms. This, of course, makes working anywhere outside of a silicon chip fabrication facility rather problematic, so the immediate solution involved a long series of allergy shots. Considering that I share an aversion to needles with one of my childhood role models, and for much the same reason, going through the regimen demonstrated that I valued a decent night’s sleep much more than I wanted to scream and hyperventilate over a needle barely able to catheterize a mosquito. Three years of shots, and then a re-evaluation: I’m now immune to the various things in the aerosolized manure we cheerfully call “air”. The injections just encouraged previously barely noticeable allergies, though, leading to a whole new line of shots. At the rate I’m going, I may be immune to everything short of hard vacuum and death by fire by February 2061.

Ah, but there was that little issue with being unable to breathe, so it was time to go to a sleep clinic for further evaluation. I’d been to one clinic back in 2010, but never got a reasonable evaluation of my sleep habits: such things happen when the evaluating doctor is too busy trying to refer his customers to buddies offering medically worthless dentifrices and polishing his D magazine “893 Best Doctors Willing To Buy Full-Page Advertising In Our Special Issue” award to give it. This time, though, new doctor, new sleep clinic, and a whole new breakdown on how inefficient respiratory structures conspired against sleep during the summer.

The upshot, after being rigged up with cranial electrodes and heart monitors and watched in my sleep with infrared cameras, was a diagnosis of moderate apnea. Enough apnea that it affected REM sleep, which explained the crippling bouts of depression every summer. (Of course, that could have just been from looking at the thermometer.) Enough apnea that neglecting to treat it would probably lead to heart damage or a possible stroke, and that’s nowhere near as fun as my planned manner of demise. All that remained was to ascertain the best method of treatment.

“Okay, we know the problem,” I told the Czarina one afternoon after the initial test. “All I need is a tracheotomy, and I can both breathe and smoke through the same hole.”

“What are you talking about? You don’t smoke.”

“Hey, Bill Hicks was onto something here. Get me an apple corer, and I’ll take care of it right now. Ker-CHUNK!”

“You are NOT giving yourself a tracheotomy.” See, this is why I can’t win with the Czarina. Most people would sit back, grab some popcorn, and watch the show. She actually fusses about my staying alive and stuff. She obviously married me for the money: my current net worth is $4.81, and that’s if she cashes in the glass Dr. Pepper bottles in the garage for the deposits.

The doctor, who is a joy to hang out with by the way, noted that the ongoing allergy shots were doing quite a bit of good, but proper treatment required being a bit more aggressive. The most extreme required surgery to remove or tighten up pharyngeal tissues in the back of my throat, keeping them from jamming up my windpipe and generally acting like wearing a prom gown to a chainsaw duel. (I offered again to try essential knowledge from my people’s wisest savant, but the Czarina both hid my Dremel tool and changed the lock on the shed, keeping me away from the hedge trimmers. She’s just trying to keep the value on the internal organs she can sell: that part is obvious.) The more reasonable solution, though, involved continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP. Back to the sleep clinic, this time to be tested with a CPAP machine to ascertain the best positive pressure necessary to keep me from choking on my own throat.

Now, when going for any sort of medical treatment, one of my absolute steadfast rules is “consider the opportunities to scare the hell out of your loved ones”. The best part of sitting in a hospital ER with a bad bout of pneumonia is that I can get away with telling her “I’m gonna TRY…not to…come back…”, and any threat of violence just might make things worse. (Of course, that wasn’t helped with an intern who believed me when she asked for symptoms and I said “Other than the zombie bite, I’m fine.”) Covered with electrodes, gauges, wires, a full head harness, and a full facemask, what could make the situation absolutely terrifying? Why, adding goggles and then sending my new selfie to her. I love living in the future.

Sleep Mask

Now, after a decade of marriage, the Czarina is almost used to these sorts of things. None of the obvious comparisons, or even asking if I needed fava beans and a nice Chianti with dinner. She just looked at the photo, looked at me, and said “If you’re going to wear THAT to bed, you’d better expect only to sleep.” And she’s absolutely right. I’m going to have to get out my old Nixon mask to go with it.

Review: The Savage Garden Revised: Cultivating Carnivorous Plants by Peter D’Amato

(A bit of context. This blog features regular reviews of books, horticultural products, and interesting related items, under this proviso. All items reviewed will be purchased by the reviewer in advance, at full retail price, in order to prevent any conflict of interest. Information about upcoming releases is greatly appreciated, but receipt of advance copies or samples will be announced well in advance and will not influence the final review. The world has enough Jeff Craigs and Maria Salases as it is.)

The Savage Garden Revised

The Savage Garden Revised: Cultivating Carnivorous Plants by Peter D’Amato

ISBN-10: 1607744104
ISBN-13: 9781607744108
Published: Ten Speed Press, 07/02/2013
Pages: 384
Language: English

With the current wealth in new research and archived knowledge on carnivorous plants, it can be hard to remember when that wealth wasn’t easily shared. When I first became hooked on carnivorous plants a decade ago, I did what most people did at the time: instead of hopping online and running a quick Google search on the subject, I sashayed first to the public library and then to available bookstores for more information. The library had children’s books on “The World’s Weirdest Plants”, usually in that horrible combination of sepia monochrome illustrations and one block of Kodachrome color plates in the center that were so popular in the 1960s. At this point, all of the independent bookstores in Dallas were long-dead, and both Borders and Barnes & Noble had a gardening section comprised of two books on local trees and flowers and at least 50 variations on “How To Grow Marijuana In Your Closet”. Not that I particularly had problems with either, but that wasn’t the subject. Online bookselling wasn’t necessarily an option, either, as most searches at the time required knowing the title of the book, and I wasn’t about ready to buy any book on the subject without being able to look through it.

Finally, one day in spring 2003, while killing time before a job interview, I entered a Borders in North Dallas. After a pass through the magazine section to see which publications hadn’t survived the dotcom crash that week, I thought “Hey, let’s see what’s in the gardening section?” and took a quick peek. This time, in between a Better Homes & Gardens volume on citrus and a purely theoretical exercise on growing your own psilocybin mushrooms for fun and profit, I found a title that caught my eye. On the spine was a stunning Sarracenia pitcher plant, and the photos on the inside were even more fascinating. No arguments, no debate: that book came home with me, and it changed my life.

When I’m asked by carnivorous plant neophytes about resources and references, I’ll recommend several. Anything by Barry Rice and Adrian Slack is essential, but the one absolute I had for anybody wanting to work with carnivores was to get, by any means necessary, a copy of Peter D’Amato’s book The Savage Garden. Over the last decade, I’ve haunted used bookstores for spare copies, and I’ve been known to hand them over with a plastic smile and an earnest plea of “Let me tell you about my church.” In return, the lucky recipients of that largesse promptly had their minds blown. A couple even stated, after going through the whole volume, “now I understand why you quit writing.”

I exaggerate not a whit by noting that, particularly for beginners, The Savage Garden was one of the most valuable books on carnivorous plants written in the last two decades. Not only was it an excellent reference book for those seeking to view carnivores in the wild, particularly in the United States and the UK, but Mr. D’Amato’s experience in running California Carnivores, one of the largest carnivorous plant nurseries on the planet, showed on every page. In addition to being informative, the book was humorous, insightful, and thorough. The only thing that slowed it down a bit, honestly, was that it was a product of its time.

If that first edition of The Savage Garden had a problem, it was its publication at the beginnings of the Internet era. When it came out in 1998, it was one of the most authoritative books on the subject, but nobody expected the nova of new research over the last fifteen years. Between new explorations and DNA analysis, the number of carnivorous plant species known to science jumped to over 600 species (double that if you want to count the triggerplants, Stylidium spp, in that list), and the number of hybrids and cultivars jumped in that time as well. Stewart McPherson’s heroic expeditions to catalog and photograph all known species in the wild made the news, as did new research into carnivorous plant function and natural history. I regularly note in lectures that this is the most exciting period in carnivorous plant research since Charles Darwin was still alive, and after some of the recent developments in understanding sundew and Nepenthes pitcher plant physiology, I’m being conservative.

All in all, The Savage Garden desperately needed a revamp. It needed metric conversions for non-American readers. It needed further listings on newly described species now available in cultivation. It needed further options for husbandry, such as the new procedures for keeping Portuguese dewy pines (Drosophyllum lusitanicum) happy and hearty. Oh, and it needed resources on such diverse subjects as carnivorous plant societies and sterile tissue propagation.

Well, guess what?

For the beginners, stop right here and buy this book right now. Don’t worry about whether you have to choose between the book or groceries, and definitely ignore that burning school bus full of paraplegic nuns. They’ll still be there. As I like to tell the Czarina, it’s financial decisions like these that make me glad I have two kidneys but regret I have only one liver. Just shut up and get it now, and when you’ve won the MacArthur Fellowship award for your outstanding research, just rub the scar where your right kidney used to be and remind yourself that it was worth it. I won’t even say anything if you decide that selling spare organs doesn’t necessarily mean yours.

For the long-timers, you have reason to ask “is this worth the cost of a whole new edition, seeing as how the original edition is so thorough?” Well, that depends upon your specialty. The coverage of all of the world’s pitcher plants is effectively doubled in this edition, especially with new Sarracenia hybrids and new Nepenthes species. The section on sundews is even more thorough, especially thanks to all of the tuberous and pygmy sundews now available, and the updated photos of everything are spectacular. Oh, and for bladderwort buffs, get a good look at some of the new terrestrial varieties now available in cultivation.

And yes, I know you assume that this isn’t a perfect volume, and it isn’t. The biggest complaint lies with the seemingly arbitrary listing of species and cultivars within a section, especially concerning butterworts. In an end chapter on potentially carnivorous and protocarnivorous species, the devil’s claws (Proboscidea lutea and louisianica) finally get more respect, as do both known species of Roridula, but there’s not a peep about triggerplants. (That’s only fair, in a way: triggerplants deserve a major volume all on their own.) That’s more than mitigated, though, by some very solid and thorough advice on growing carnivores indoors: I recently started raising Nepenthes and Brocchinia plants under T5 high-output fluorescent lights intended for planted aquaria, with excellent results in both growth and color. Not only has Mr. D’Amato beaten me to the punch on their usefulness, but he’s also noting that recent developments in LED technology will probably make these as obsolete as carbon-arc lights within the next ten years or so.

So here we have it. One of the most influential print references on carnivorous plants, revised for 2013 sensibilities, available in an autographed edition. Fifty years from now, when you’ve dumped sordid habits like heroin and tobacco and writing science fiction in favor of raising carnivores, raise a glass to Peter D’Amato, because for a lot of us, it’s all his fault.

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Cat Monday

Cadigan

Have a Great Weekend

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Cat Monday

cadigan_61713_5

Have a Great Weekend

Cat Monday

Cadigan

“You put that on Facebook, and I’ll leave a skidmark the size of Rhode Island right on your pillow.”

Have a Great Weekend

Taking Out Some Guy

A little interlude. Every one of us has a nemesis, an irritation that makes a person want to recreate the last ten minutes of a Sam Peckinpah or George Romero film. I am just like you. I know one person that gets me roiled to the point of contemplated murder. This is an individual whom, if I ever get in a situation where I’m alone with him for more than five minutes, I’m going to do horrible things to him. First, it’s a matter of nailing his feet to the floor, without taking off his shoes first, and soaking him with a fire hose full of pepper spray. Then it’s time to take off his arms with an angle grinder and cauterize the stumps with a blowtorch. Then I’m going to rig him up with his eyes held open, in front of one of those portable DVD players, A Clockwork Orange-style, and leave him there with the William Shatner movie Free Enterprise running over and over. When I come back in a month, then I’m going to get mean.

It wasn’t always like this. Twenty years ago, I was blissfully unaware of my nemesis. But he kept pushing it. He went out of his way to drive me to this state, and when I take out his tongue and fill the space in his mouth with fire ants, I plan to remind him of this. Slowly. Carefully. With the understanding that it didn’t need to come to this, but he was so damn determined.

My first exposure to him came in the early Nineties. I was dating an ER nurse, and she told me about him. At least once per day, as often as ten on a weekend night, they’d get some poor schlub with gunshot wounds, stab wounds, or a fireplace poker fitted rectally, and they all had the same story. “I was on my porch, minding my own business, when Some Guy came up out of nowhere and shot/stabbed/sodomized me and then took off. No, I don’t know who Some Guy is, and I can’t ID him.” At first, I thought she was joking, considering the amount of stress she was in, and then EMT techs told me the same thing. A few trips to the ER on my own for various reasons, and I even heard it: Some Guy, over and over. He’d come in, wound with impunity, and disappear like the protagonist in the film Bruiser, over and over and over.

At that time, though, he hadn’t actually committed any offense against me. Sure, he inconvenienced my girlfriend, but she claimed she was used to it by now. In a way, Some Guy gave her job security, because the paperwork was less. “Cause of Injury: Some Guy”.

That didn’t last long. Shortly afterward, I started working as a clerk for ITT Hartford’s Worker’s Comp division, and I had to clean up his messes. “Some Guy tripped me at work.” “Some Guy left spilled vegetable oil all over the floor, and I threw out my back slipping on it.” “Some Guy told me that if the adjuster denied my claim, I should camp out in the building stairwell all weekend and confront the adjuster firsthand when she gets into the office on Monday.” It was obvious that Some Guy moonlighted in the building, too, as when a supervisor told us all that comparing notes as to which of us got a raise was grounds for termination, in blatant violation of the Labor Act of 1936. When asked who told her that this was grounds for termination, she answered “Some Guy in Legal.”

Ah, so no wonder Some Guy kept getting away with popping caps in asses. He was a lawyer, so he knew his way around the legal system. Certainly, calling the police and telling the dispatcher “You know, Some Guy works in my office” got no response, so I wrote it off. Some Guy can’t be everywhere, can he?

Ah, but he was. I went from that office to a weekly newspaper, and found that I couldn’t be hired on full-time because they needed to do so for the “humor” columnist. Said alleged humorist was extremely popular according to the editor, based on the fan letters and E-mails received, and they all came from Some Guy. Some Guy even wrote those letters in the editor’s handwriting and with the editor’s IP address, to throw everyone off the scent. I took another job in Portland, Oregon, based on recommendations from friends about how great Portland was. Once I escaped eighteen months later, I asked “Have you ever been to Portland?”

“No, but I was told that it was a great place.”
“And who told you this?”
“Some Guy.”

It just kept getting better and better. After moving back to Texas, Some Guy really had it out for me. My phone number had belonged to a drug rehab center that had shut down five years earlier, and for the next five years I had that phone number, I was awakened at all hours by people calling up asking “Is this Darco Drug Labs?” When I’d ask who gave them this number, the answer was almost always the same: You Know Who. When the answer wasn’t “Some Guy,” I’d get a contact number for the facility, church, or Narcotics Anonymous sponsor who passed on the number, and I’d ask them where they got it. Three guesses as to the person who supplied it.

After a while, I realized that Some Guy didn’t have it out just for me. He had it out for all of humanity, with a deep and obsessive hatred of the entire species. Talk to anybody who works in retail. “Some Guy told me that your manager will give me a discount if I ask for it.” “Some Guy left me a big box full of samples for free, and if you don’t give them to me, I’ll sue.” “Well, Some Guy told me that I can keep anacondas in a ten-gallon fishtank, and all I have to do is not feed them so much so they’ll stay small.” “I can’t believe it. Some Guy told me that you had a bottle of wine that nobody else has ever heard of and doesn’t show up in your inventory database, so you’d better find it NOW.” Talk to anybody who works a Customer Service phone center, and they’ll tell you not just what they’ll do to Some Guy when he’s caught, but how they’ll set the corpse on fire and sow the ashes with salt to prevent him from coming back.

And why do I bring all of this up? At least four times this week, I’ve been contacted by people seeking to buy a Venus flytrap. Not a problem there in the slightest, but then they tell me “We’ve got a problem with mosquitoes in our back yard, and we want to get a flytrap to eat them all.”

“Huh. Interesting. You do know that flytraps generally don’t catch mosquitoes, and even when they do, they actually attract them, don’t you?”

“That’s not what I’ve heard. Someone told me that one plant will eat all of my mosquitoes.”

“And who told you this?”

“Some Guy.”

Yeah. I think I’m going to skip out on the fire ants and the angle grinder. I just need to find out where I can rent a sausage grinder and a cubic meter of live rats. I’m going to keep the DVD player right there, though, because some people are so foul that they deserve the worst punishments imaginable.

Projects: Cybersaurus

Cybersaur 1

As mentioned a while back, I’m an unrepentant fan of the palaeoart of Raven Amos and Scott Elyard, two old friends in Alaska who fill my PO box with entirely too much wonderful stuff every time they have an art show. After a while, I started thinking “What would it take to make their work into garden sculpture?” (As the Czarina can attest, this sort of thought happens quite often. This is why we don’t have a hitch trailer for hauling heavy items, because otherwise the back yard of the house really would look like a set for The Red Green Show.) However, not having the studio nor the talent of a Bruce Gray, it was a matter of keeping things small.

Cybersaur 2

Also as mentioned previously, I share so many habits with Gila monsters that they’re practically my totem animal. The venomous bite that’s painful but rarely dangerous is a given, as is a taste for sucking eggs and eating baby bunnies in the spring, as well as looking very fetching in orange and black. No, the wisdom I learned from Heloderma suspectum that I most appreciate is “if you don’t have to be out in the heat, stay underground.” With summer finally kicking in, this means that days off, evenings, and weekends are spent as far away from the yellow hurty thing in the sky as I can manage. Others might fill that time with reading, online porn, or Russian roulette under tournament rules. Me, it’s a matter of getting ready for next October’s FenCon X show. If that means huffing europium paints until I sneeze luminous boogers, then it’s worth the effort.

Cybersaur from above

The real surprise to Cybersaurus (2013), aside from the final plant arrangement in which it’ll appear in October, isn’t that obvious in full daylight. However, inspired by Raven and Scott’s work, most of its best detail is most visible in the dark or under ultraviolet. That all depends upon the amount of light it receives, as one of the best discoveries of the whole project was learning that europium absorbs enough energy in full sun that it glows in shade. (The plan for a subsequent sculpture involves built-in UV LEDs powered via solar cells on its back. I just need to find a suitable Spinosaurus or Acrocanthosaurus skeleton model to make it work.)

Small tyrannosaur sculpture

Small Triceratops

And it keeps coming. A very large order of custom glass means that several larger custom arrangements can be finished this summer, with comparably scaled cybersaurs of their own in them. A good wash of paint to bring out the metal, a bit more europium paint, and suitable weathering, and they should work quite well. And so it goes.

Projects: the bounty of summer

Bhut Jolokia peppers

The good news about having a greenhouse full of Bhut Jolokia, Trinidad Scorpion, and Moraga pepper plants being trained for bonsai: with the beginning of July comes lots and lots of fruit. The seemingly sad news: since the plants themselves are being deliberately dwarfed for that bonsai, the peppers aren’t anywhere near as big as they’d be if they were fertilized on a constant basis. The excellent news, at least for those with a taste for the dangerously spicy: stressing the plants in this way pretty much guarantees that the peppers will peel the enamel off your teeth in big floppy strips. Now I need to figure out a way to get these to my little brother the chilihead, because he pretty much eats these fresh off the bush.

Cat Monday

Cadigan

“Hey, YOU! Human! The litter box was insufficiently cleaned! Get to it, or I’ll have you flogged!”

Have a Great Weekend

Contrary to popular and justified opinion, not everything in the Eighties was bad. Oh, the hairstyles were terrible, the clothing worse, and the television absolutely brain-damaging, but we also had midnight movies worth watching. It almost evened out.

Doing a solid for Ellen Datlow: win yourself an iTerrarium

iTerrarium Mark II

In a long, roundabout way, I blame Ellen Datlow. For all of it, or at least the last thirty years. In that roundabout way, if not for her and her influence, I wouldn’t be raising carnivorous plants right now. Well, it’s partly Jeff VanderMeer‘s fault, too, but I never would have met him if not for Ellen. It still comes back to her. And because of that, I have a debt that I truly cannot pay, but I’ll try to cover the interest nonetheless.

For those unfamiliar with her, Ellen Datlow is one of the most famous editors in the history of science fiction. Anybody perusing a newsstand during the Eighties and early Nineties couldn’t help but notice the copies of OMNI magazine on the waterfall shelves at the time, and Ellen had the Herculean and possibly Sissyphean title of fiction editor of OMNI. Starting with my freshman year in high school, I devoured each issue of OMNI for a solid decade, and Ellen’s story selections directly led to my becoming a writer at the end of that decade. After the print edition and later the online edition of OMNI cratered in the mid-Nineties, she and her crew tried to keep the tradition going with the late and lamented online magazine Event Horizon, and the high point of my literary career, such as it was, came when one of my science essays appeared in the last installment of Event Horizon.

(Shameless plug time. For the record, I wrote two for her, one on the implausibility of “lost worlds” and the other on using the history of the human colonization of New Zealand as a model for the ecological issues with the colonization of Mars. If you’re really interested, they’re reprinted in the collection Greasing the Pan: The “Best” of Paul T. Riddell: buy enough copies, and I’ll finally be able to get that new greenhouse.)

Although we later wandered different trails, Ellen and I stayed in touch: among other things, her cactus collection has a Triffid Ranch-rescued Echinocactus texensis that I gave her several years ago. When she yells “Jump,” I ask “Where’s the shark?” That’s how I find myself involved in her latest scheme involving the KGB Bar in New York.

Specifically, for years, Ellen and Matthew Kressel hosted the Fantastic Fiction At KGB reading series, which allows visiting and resident authors of fantastic fiction to read in front of an enthusiastic and attentive audience when alcohol is present. Every few years, Ellen announces a fundraiser to gather enough money to cover the readings’ operating costs for the next few years. You’d think that the only thing I’d ever get from her in print or email would be “I should have killed you when I had the chance,” but instead she asks me for carnivorous plant goodies. This year, the tradition continues.

This time, instead of running a raffle or other basic event, Ellen and Matthew started the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Fundraiser via Kickstarter, and she needed prizes for each level of participation. In my case, I figured that the best thing I could do was offer something suitably odd, so the iTerrarium Mark II, shown above, is now up for auction.

Please note, right off the bat, that this prize is only available to bidders within the United States. It includes the iTerrarium itself, potting mix, a mounted thermometer and hygrometer, light bulb and mount, a Nepenthes x ventrata pitcher plant, decorative elements, and assembly and maintenance instructions. The payment also covers the cost of postage anywhere within the continental US. Considering the cost of the postage alone, this is already a deal, so get in your bid before July 26 and help out a good and worthy cause along with a definite conversation starter. Oh, and feel free to spread the word: just because the Kickstarter already reached its goal doesn’t mean they couldn’t use more traffic and more bids. And so it goes.

Bloomapalooza 2013: the best-laid plans

The person who first described March as “coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb” apparently slept through July every year. This one in particular keeps getting better and better. Among other things, my niece Hailey and her husband DJ (one of the two best nephews-in-law a guy could ever have) just had their first child this weekend, which officially makes the Czarina and I a great-aunt and great-uncle. (Because she argues that she’s already a great aunt, the Czarina told me that she plans to encourage the next generation to refer to her as “Auntie”. In response, I’m planning to teach all of the kids to ask her “Who run Bartertown?” When I do it, she hits me.)

Even with all of the craziness coalescing within the next few months, we made tentative plans for a working holiday at the beginning of August. Nothing much: I figured that it might be nice to visit Michigan without needing a grandparent’s funeral as justification, and let the Czarina see my childhood stomping grounds when they aren’t decorated with carved blocks of frozen oxygen. (Or at least, that’s her perception. The first time she saw a snow broom in the back of a rental car, I thought she was going to have a heart attack when I explained what it was for. I didn’t have the heart to tell her about how the mosquitoes in summer were so thick that their carcasses tended to sandblast the paint off the front of vehicles, so we were actually glad for the snow when I was a kid.) When we heard about a combination independent garden center conference and music festival called “Bloomapalooza”, running maybe a thirty-minute drive from my childhood house, we both figured “Why the heck not?”

In the meantime, life intruded, and I learned today that Bloomapalooza’s organizers just canceled it. No trip to Michigan, and no music festival. I guess that means I’ll have to organize the “Manchester United Flower Show” after all, doesn’t it?

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Cat Monday

Cadigan