"Luke, Don't give in to hate. Hate leads to the Dark Side."

I guess I just didn't understand before.  I didn't realize that our country was in ruins.  I didn't know that there was "American carnage."  I had not seen all of the Patriot Red blood on the streets.  I did not feel pitted in a struggle to the death with those who disagreed with my loathing of most fruit.

Donald Trump, President Donald Trump, set me straight with his remarkably dark Inauguration Address, citing one dire condition after another.  The country, in his view, is clearly falling apart and hanging by the thinnest thread.

No it isn't.  I refuse to give in to the Dark Side.  Are there things we need to improve?  Things we need to fix?  Yes, of course.  But wouldn't we rather take the part of the American Myth where we roll up our sleeves and link arms to go get to work on them?  FDR said that the only thing we need to fear is fear itself, and we are told to be fearful.  We are told to withdraw into ourselves and our little closed communities.  Fearful people are not motivated.  Fearful people do not take measured, sensible risks.  Fearful people rarely act rationally.

We're going to make America great again, but I have never heard, specifically, where we have fallen from Grace.  OK, maybe we'd better describe what we mean by greatness.  When America was great, what did that look like?  Specifically?  What are we aiming for?  And then, tell me what parts have fallen, and how they fell, and where they are now.  Then tell me, specifically, what we will do to restore each part.  So far, we have not heard a calm, rational, detailed discussion that answers these questions.  Our media fail to get answers, or, in my experience, even ask these questions.  These are the first-principle questions.  They supply our roadmap.  It's not good enough to just say "we're going to bring back jobs."  Which jobs?  From where?  At what rate of pay?  How do we factor in automation, that eliminated jobs, rather than move them?

And I, for the life of me, cannot understand why any woman would have voted for President Trump.  He's already waging a war on women worldwide.  I heard women before the election extolling his virtues.  I will note, in passing, that they were all post-menopausal.  I didn't see a lot of Millennial females.

So, I will sit looking out over the water on this gray, dingy, rainy day, and despair that America is in ruins.  I will look for the American carnage.  I just have yet to see any.

Hogwash.  I will not give in to hate and fear.  I will not turn to the Dark Side.  Don't you do it, either.

The Family

I have a family of Bald Eagles that live nearby.  There is a nesting pair, and this year they have two younglings.

They fly by, in some combination, pretty much every day.  It will never get routine to see one.  They are so magnificent.

A few weeks ago, the whole Fam Damily came and perched in my trees down my the water.  They hung out for a long time.  A parent and youngling would take off and fly down over the water, maybe 6 feet apart, circle, and come back to the trees.

Once, the whole family took off and flew together, 6 feet apart, over the water. 4 eagles.  It was so beautiful I wept.  I am so lucky.

My other family is a group of turkey hens that fly up into my trees by the water to roost every night.  At roughly dusk, they fly up one-at-a-time, and find a good perch.  In the mornings, just after dawn, they fly down.

Well, a couple weeks ago the two eagle younglings flew by early in the morning.  They saw the turkeys in the trees, and being young and foolish, like I wish I was, they screeched to a halt in mid-air, wheeled, and landed in branches near to a couple turkeys.

I thought I needed Air Traffic Control, because immediately the air was full of flying turkeys getting out of the trees.  They landed and proceeded to scurry around the ground in an unorganized fashion, clucking like turkey hens do.  The were upset wimmin, to be sure.  That kept up for a while, and they calmed down.  When they did, the to eagles took off and circled the water, which got the turkeys all cranked up again.  The eagles perched, and after a few minutes, the turkeys quieted.  Then the eagles did it again - misspent youth - and the turkeys went off again.  Finally, the eaglets got bored and headed back home.  It had been fun while it lasted.

I have found turkey tracks in the snow a foot from my steps.  I see them in the neighborhood all the time.  Soembody asked me if I was going to kill and eat one.  I repleied tht they practically have names, and you don't eat family.

This is a wonderful place.

Fun in the kitchen

I have been spending a lot of time lately on YouTube watching cooking videos.  

Gordon Ramsay is much better in his videos than on cable TV - he is a pretty good teacher, and what he makes is relatively simple and delicious.  

Anthony Boudain "No Reservations," and when they're properly pirated, "Parts Unknown," I find fascinating, less so for the food than for his insights and discoveries in the local culture.  I want to travel and have his advance team to find all of the wonderful little places he visits.

The best of all, however, are the Brothers Green.  Two crazy Millenial brothers who have a wonderful approach to cooking.  They don't measure anything, they combine crazy ingredients, they have a lot of fun, and judging by the things I've been inspired to make, they cook really good food.  They make me want to go into the kitchen and create crazy things out of what I have in the fridge, which is precisely their point.

If you follow them closely, you learn what you ought to have in the fridge - they are partial to BBQ sauce, which Josh makes, guacamole, made is a variety of ways, red onions, and scallions.  Hot sauce, too.

Rooting around the other day in my bin that holds food items, I found a jar of red Thai curry sauce.  I have no idea where it came from.  Curious, I opened it and fingered a taste. Good!  Then I read the lable, that said once opened, it should be refrigerated and used within three days.  Uh, OK.  A little research on the 'Net yielded a couple recipes.  Off to the store.

Red onion, carrots, red pepper - cook 'em up.  Chop chicken thighs into small bits, brown in a little oil.  Combine.  Add red Thai stuff, and a can of coconut milk.  I had some leftover mushrooms - threw them in.  Some more spices in, Coriander and scallions in reserve as a garnish.

Then, inspired by the Brothers - I took some rice, put it in a fry pan with a little oil, added spices - cinnamon, cumin, coriander, my Georgian spice blend, and roasted the rice.  When a little browned, added a mix of water and coconut milk.  Brought to a boil, and then let simmer for 30 minutes (brown rice takes longer).

Served the glop over the rice.  Friend Wendy said it was the best dish I had ever made.  I agree, and not only because it was so different from anything I have ever made.

So, I'm expanding my horizons in the kitchen, combining things I have never combined, trying things I have never tried.

It's fun.  French Guy Cooking is the next YouTube fetish.  He's fun, if a little precious, and not as adventuresome as the Brothers.  I hope to find more.

In the meantime, I'm going to Dubai with Tony.

Damn, s'been a long time

Well, to tell the truth, I got bored with myself, so I certainly understand why you did, too.

The Church goes on.  I've posted some Sermons onto YouTube.  I'll figure out how to get the links into the "Ministry" section at some point.  The Universe has been around for a long time, and as far as I can tell, will continue to be.  So there's no rush.

In the spirit of narcissistic bloggishness, here's the rundown.

I haven't traveled anywhere since June, when I made my way to Truskavets, Ukraine to stay at a resort/spa and take a mineral water cure for three weeks.  As always, Ukraine is fascinating.  Without Russian tourists (inasmuch as the two countries aren't getting along real well at the moment), Truskavets is a dying town. Most of the resorts are closed, and the one we stayed at was limping.  "We"?  I took my  Ukrainian "daughter"'s mother as my guest.  We had a nice enough time together.  The food at the resort was short of spectacular - large buffets in a big dining room.  Towards the end we escaped to a really fine little restaurant a block or so away.  We should have found it sooner.

The project of finishing my basement is underway.  When complete, it will be a 900-square-foot guest apartment, mostly decorated in white, with a big bedroom/office, living area, kitchen and full bathroom.  It's coming together far faster than I had thought that it would.  Drywall got hung on November 1.  I expected that to happen about February.  Making all the little decisions, like what toilet to but, kitchen appliances and arrangement, cabinets, and so forth, is fun.  Keeps me off the streets.

Merry Christmas to me!  After borrowing a GPS to find a small cafe in Boston, I decided that it was a toy I had to have in my life.  It has so arrived, thanks to Amazon.  We live in an electronic world.  There were no instructions other than to log on to Garmin.com.  Sigh.

Merry Christmas to me!  Life is too short not to have copper pots and pans.  So obtained from Wayfair.com: a ten-piece hammered-copper set that is beyond gorgeous.  My cooking needs to be worthy of the pans.  Inspiration.

Mo' later.

Even still world famous

Well, even more time has come and gone, and I have yet to recognize that I am World Famous.  I guess I need to do something about it.

I mean, Maria Sharapova is in Mexico with Chelsea Handler, having arrived, apparently, by private jet.  Well, that jet could have arrived in Brunswick.  I would have even gone to get her in my Chevy Van.  Poor girl needs consolation, and I'm just the man for the job.

Spring is here, sorta.  The weather can't really seem to make up its mind, running hot and cold.  Well, warm-ish and colder.

Looks like I'm gearing up to take on finishing the basement.  Motives for that are very, very murky.  On the one hand, it would be nice to have the space finished as guest quarters.  That's the overall design currently rumbling around in my head.  It will be a nice space, if I do what I think I will.  I want to talk to Scott Connors, ace builder-thinker guy about certain details.  I probably need to draw up plans for wall, electrical, the bathroom, etc. to get them out of my head and more easily communicated to the likes of Scott.

It would be wonderful if I could get Maryna and Yaroslav here.  They could live in the basement while they get their feet under them.  My heart wants that, but my head keeps intruding with all of the problems with the idea.  English skills, job prospects and job hunting, cultural adjustment, that I would financially support them while they transitioned, which would kill Yaroslav, or at least he would resent being reliant on me to pay his family's bills, and I understand and respect that.  Many, many significant problems that give the whole idea high risk.  Were I them, I might not take it.  That said, to even offer it would pretty much require me to marry Maryna's mom.  Once again, a prospect fraught with problems.

Sister Karen had the insight of the year in a phone conversation last week.  I was bemoaning how much I like to give and take care of people, but at the same time have trouble accepting care from anyone.  "Is it because you don't think you're worthy?"  Bingo, I replied.  "Well, you are, and I suggest telling yourself that you are regularly, so that it sinks in."  OK, that's worth a try.

You normal people really don't understand how hard it is for some of us.

Still World Famous

Well, days have come and gone, and I haven't noticed a real difference in my standing in the Universe.  I suspect fame takes time unless you're a cute kitty-cat in a YouTube video or a pre-pubescent girl demonstrating how to do her nails.  I am, thankfully, neither.

We have a new laptop, mostly up-and-running.  I just pretty much figured out that I have to get a new license of LightRoom for my photographs.  The disc I have is, apparently, an upgrade, and its installation requires me to have the serial number of the original installation.  Which I don't have.  It's only more money.  Otherwise, the new Lappy is great - it's a little bigger than the old laptop, but faster and with a hugely improved screen.  I had (have) been tempted to get a really big (24") monitor for watching futbal matches and editing pictures, but for the time being I won't.

Molly is out!  I uncovered her and put in her battery.  She started right up and off we went.  It's nice to have her back again.  She's going to get new tires.  Town Fair Tire is trying to find me some Michelins, but apparently they're back-ordered.  I'm patient.  Marga Chevy Van gets its winter tires off Monday, to be replaced by two new ones on the rear, complementing the new ones put on the front last Autumn.  From the weather forecast, I'll be driving through a heavy snowstorm to take off my winter tires.  Figures.

World Famous Rev. Bruce

We're going to try an experiment in self-fulfilling prophesies.

I am now the World Famous Rev. Bruce.  By no means am I world famous, but maybe if I start referring to myself that way, I will become so.

Why do I want to be World Famous?  For the entertainment value.  I think it would be really amusing.  Maybe it will get me on talk shows?  I'd really like to meet Diane Rehm before she retires late this year.

Maybe if I'm World Famous, Maria Sharapove will seek solace by coming to me?  I'd be happy to console her.  And she has performance-enhancing drugs.

Time to alter electronic signatures and other means of publicizing my Woldly Famousness.  I suspect this will be fun...

Embarrased to be American

As usual, I was awake in the wee hours.  Listening to BBC World on the radio while munching sourdough toast with peanut butter, I noted the glee in the newsreaders' voices as they talked about The Donald.  They delighted in playing clips of him delivering whatever bombast was the latest.

One reader called one ridiculous clip "the latest Clump of Trump."

I'm embarrassed to be American.

They called him out on his "fast and loose interpretations of the truth," such as his crowing about getting 46% of the Latino vote in Nevada.  The called an American expert who said that first, it was a little premature to know a statistic like that, but more tellingly: "these were Republican voters.  How many Republican Latino voters are in Nevada?  Not very many, so it is a pretty meaningless statistic."

The BBC thinks we're crazy, and I'm not sure they're far off.

I wrote my daughter in Ukraine and told her that if Trump gets elected I'll bring them to live with me in Ecuador.  No visa required.  She respnded with "What will we do?  Pick bananas?"  I wrote back "And what is wrong with bananas?"  She took me a little too seriously for a moment (always a mistake with the Rev) and replied that her and Yaroslav's professions required big cities, since they deal with the distribution of consumer products.  I immediately responded asking her if she knew about banana spiders, which are as big as your hand, and cousins to tarantulas.  "You could give each one you find a name," I wrote. "Every day!"  I don't know if that will impress her.  While she talks about chasing chickens on her grandmother's farm, I suspect she's a city girl at heart.

The Donald.  What we did to deserve him?  Maybe I will try to answer that, soon.

Back to it

It's been too long since I wrote here.  Partly, I'm bored with what I put here, and figure that you must be, too.

The highlight of my recent life continues to be my subscription to streaming soccer (football, please!!!) matches.  They make good background noise for when I'm doing other things, and demonstrates why God invented Instant Replay.

It feels like Spring.  Temperatures are up, and there's that certain fresh quality of light in the sunshine.  The rain battered the roof the other night.  Asparagus is $2/pound - that's the sure sign of Spring.  We judge Spring not by what we see, feel, or smell, but according to the price of certain vegetables.  Arty-Chokes in April and May, I hope.  The sun is setting more to the west with each day.  Five Tom Turkeys tried to seduce the hens last night as the boys put on a full tailfeather display.  Last year's young hens have left to fend for themselves, leaving the seven older ones, who will hang out together all summer, except for one or two who will hatch broods.  Maybe this year I'll tell the girls apart and give them names.

I've scheduled my summer art show at the Chocolate Church.  Judy Grace, of Bath, who does really wonderful, colorful abstract paintings will get most of the wall space.  My quiet, horizontal-striped beach, water, and cloud pictures will be the emotional counterpoint on the short wall of the Galley.  Her work, as far as I know, is very different from what we usually have in the gallery.  That's good.  My contrast will also be an element...beyond?...what I have typically seen.  Conzeptyooal Ahrt.  We'll meet face-to-face tomorrow morning to get acquainted.

A cheap pork roast is in the crock pot.  When it's slowly cooked, I'll shred it for pulled pork.  This is the first time using the new crock pot.  When I have made pulled pork before, I've done it in a low oven.  I wonder how this will be different.  More tender?  I will report back.

Lunch.  More food.  Just what I need.

Barcelona and infidelity

I have become a rabid FC Barcelona fan.  They're a soccer (football, please!) team in Spain.  Many consider them to be the finest team in the history of the sport.  Maybe, but whether they are or not, they are wonderful to watch.

The other day, I found a way to subscribe to BeinSports, which streams the Barcelona games live on the internet, with English commentary.  That beats waiting a week or so for Bein to post the game on YouTube.  I have access to other sports channels, too.  For $9.99 a month.  About the cost of a movie.  I subscribed, and have already watched three football matches.  So I'm down to $3/match.  Barcelona plays today at 12:30 my time.  Hot dog!

Barcelona owes much of its excellence to its front line - their three forwards Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar.  They are all in the top 5 football players in the world, Messi being #1.  They like each other a lot, are unselfish, and uncanny in their sense of where each other is, and is going.  Considered to be the best front line in the history of the game, they are magical to watch.  They have a fine supporting cast, too, including two fine goalkeepers, wonderful midfielders, and tenacious defenders.  Barca has currently gone 30 matches without a loss - an all-time record, I believe.

BeInSports commentators are fun, too.  The play-by-play guy is an American, and good.  The color man, Ray-somebody, is a gray-haired Scotsman, who constantly, and accurately, describes Barcelona's play as "astonishing," "majesterial," "magical," even "Shakepearean."  And always at full volume.  He's fun, and his enthusaism is contagious.

I'm already planning a cheeseburger for the first half.

Infidelity.  Marga Cargo Van and I have been together since three years ago today.  I bought it three weeks before heading off on my trip around the country.  It has been a fabulous vehicle, nearly maintenance-free, and easy to drive (if terrifying to back up).  It was my companion for nearly 40,000 miles on my trip, and for another 25,000 since then.  I have a strong sentimental attachment to it.

But I'm strongly considering trading it in.  Infidelity.

Marga gets about 16 mpg in the winter on studded snows.  It gets about 19-20 in warm weather on regular tires.  It is very big, a little tough to park, still terrifying to back up, and well, feels like a heavy presence on the Earth.  It seats two.  Or one.  But not three.  Yes, it can cart a ton of stuff, and handles 4x8 plywood with ease.  I kept a 3'x11' cherry butcher block in it for four months last winter until I had four hearty soulls to carry it inside.

But I think the days of my needing to carry lots of stuff are mostly over.  If I need to, Lowe's and Home Depot rent Marga vans for $20/day.  I'd like to be able to carry more than 2 people, while still having enough space to fit camera equipment.  

So I'm looking at Ford Focuses (Foci?).  Used, prefereably hatchback, automatic transmission, late-model low-miles to still have some warranty left.  Leasing makes this easy, as does the popularity of the Focus as a rental car.  Many pop up at the local Ford dealer in Wiscasset, which has the added benefit of being close by for service.  I think I can almost trade even off the lot, including Maine's sales tax.  I'll probably get about 30 mpg in the summer, which I'll gladly take even with low gasoline prices.  It will take up a lot less space in the carport, not that it matters.

I have another year to go on the loan I took on Marga to keep it out of the mess of my divorce.  I want to check the remaining balance, and probably pay it off.  Then I'll have the title in hand, and can trade on a moment's whim.  It will likely happen this spring, all sentiment aside.

warm, at last

I finally feel warm.  The temperature rose last night, I was able to shut down the propane stove and use only the heat pump.  When it was cold, I found 66 in my house to feel really chilly.  Now that it's warm out, 66 feels comfortable.  The mind is a scary thing.

Ukraine is in trouble.  The reform-minded politicians are resigning in the face of endemic corruption.  Europe is pissed, the US is pissed, the IMF is pissed.  If they all walk, the country collapses.  I heard a guy from the Ukrainian government say that if they could weed out corruption in government procurement, the federal government could save $2 billion a year.  As I recall, the federal budget is about $14 billion.

Sadly, I don't see a way out.  The Gryvna has fallen to nearly 27 to the dollar, and continues to fall.  How will it ever recover?  How will the Ukrainian economy ever recover?  They need massive investment in modernizing industry and improving infrastructure.  From personal experience, many of their major roads are virtually unusable.  Any foreign investment will likely be made near the major cities, so little hops is left for the countryside.  It breaks my heart.

Not to mention worrying about my "family."  Lilya, my Russian teacher, remembers when the Russians devalued the Rublw in 1999, wiping out everyone's savings overnight, and without warning.  She says that the same goes for Ukraine.  My "children" should liquidate their savings, buy furniture, stockpile food, take a holiday now, before it all falls apart.  I feel helpless other than to give opinions and advice.  I can't send them money beyond holiday presents - it woul deeply insult Yaroslav, and I have too much respect for him to do that.  I hate feeling this way, when I care for them so much.

Almost lunch time.  I'll brood over a hot dog.

Surf's up!

Gravitational waves.  First hypothesized by Einstein as part of his General Relativity Theory 100 years ago, Einstein also thought that we would never observe them.  Well, looks like we have, and the circumstances should add to our sense of wonder of the Universe.

Gravitational waves don't look like water waves.  Instead, gravitiational waves compress and expand space itself just a little bit.  We get squeezed and released.  How much?  Well, the detectors built in Washington and Louisiana ara capable of measuring a distance with a precision of less than one ten-thousandth the width of a proton.  It's equivalent to measuring the distance from Earth to the nearest star (28,000,000,000,000 miles) with a margin of error the size of a human hair.  That's not a lot, and they needed that precision to detect them.  Gravitational waves are unlikely to help constipation.  Not enough squeeze.

The waves scientists detected come from two massive black holes that are colliding in a galaxy a billion light years away.  Remember what a black hole is?  It's what's left when a really big star explodes.  The matter in the core collapses to where the its gravity is so powerful that even light cannot escape it, and everyhting that gets within its pull is sucked in.  

One black hole is 36 times the mass of our sun.  The other is 29 times bigger.  The combined black hole is 62 times the mass of our sun.  Wait a minute! The arithmetic would imply that the combined black hole would be 65 times the mass of the sun.  What happened to the other 3 solar masses?  They were converted into energy.  Remember E=mc(squared)?  That's the formula for converting mass to energy.  3 solar masses were converted into energy in an instant.

3 solar masses into energy in an instant?  Our sun creates 10 billion hydrogen bombs worth of energy every second, and will do so for ten billion years.  Take three of our suns, and convert them all into energy in one-fifth of a second.  That energy was produced in the form of gravitational waves.  That is more than all of the enrgy emitted by all of the stars in all of the galaxies in the Universe combined. All of them.  More.

One of the lead scientists on the project to detect gravitational waves is Kip Thorne.  He wrote the original ideas for the movie "Interstellar," and is one of our premiere astrophysicists.  Cool guy.  The detector is newly-completed, and only within the last little while calibrated.  After calibration, they turned it on for real, and almost immediately detected these waves.  Luck?  who cares.

Scientists are comparing the detection of gravitational waves to the biggest atronomical discoveries in history.  This, dear friends, is a very big deal.  It opens up a new avenue of research - beyond visual astronomy and radio astronomy, we can now look for other instances of gravitational waves.  They allow us to see all the way back to the Big Bang, and possibly understand how it all came about.

When Einstein was young, physicists thought they had it all figured out, and there were only a few t's to cross and i's to dot.  Einstein had different ideas.  With the discovery of the Higgs Boson in 2012, scientists were disappointed because the quantum model of the Universe was basicall complete, and it all conformed to their ideas and theories.  From what I read, nobody's disappointed anymore.

Feb. 15, 2016

Ain't the Universe grand?


It got really cold last night.  It was -8 when I got out of bed about 6:30.  At that temperature, my heat pump just gives up and shuts off.  It doesn't work at that temperature, and has the good sense not to run up my electric bill for nothing.  

My propane stove, I have decided, is undersized.  I had a choi9ce between two, and thought the smaller would be sufficient.  In the strictest sense, it isn't.  I got up around midnight, and the temperatrure had fallen from 66 to 58, despite the cheery flame of the stove.  Not good, I thought, but there is nothing to be done.  This morning, it was 55 inside, decidedly chilly.  But you know?  With the addition of a heavy denim shirt over my usual sweatshirt and vest, I felt fine.  Off to breakfast at Wendy's, and when I returned late morning, the outside temperature had risen to +6, the heat pump had resurrected and was blowing warm, if not hot air.  The temperature had yet to rise above 55, but the sun through the big windows soon had it increasing.  2 hours later we're up to 60, and all is fine.  

The weather is this cold only for today, going into the 20s tomorrow and 50 on Tuesday.  In the 20s the heat pump has no trouble maintianing 66, and I'll shut the stove down.  That will likely be tomorrow morning.post-Russian lesson.  We're forecast to go to minus 3 tonight.

In my continuing effort to fight slugdom, I now set a timer for 25 minutes.  At the end of it, I walk laps around my house for 10 minutes.  Gets the blood going, gets me out of the chair, gets me some exercise.  As in all things, my self-discipline will be sorely tested.  Here's hoping that I can make a new habit.

A half-pint of fixer is resting in a bucket of warm water, trying to bring it up to usable temperature.  Two rolls of 120 film are loaded into developing tanks, ready to be processed in my newly-completed darkroom.  All print wahsers are installed with new tubing connecting them to water, and draining them into the drain.  I'll cut the 1" hose to a better length while I develop.  I purposely bought more than I needed, just to make sure.  It feels good to have a darkroom again.

Time for a piece of fudge, setting the timer, and strolling around the house for a few minutes.

So much for habits

After writing on Thursday about cementing daily habits, I missed writing an entry the day after.  This is the pattern.

But I'm back in the saddle on early Saturday morning, waiting to leave for Freeport about 7:30 on an adventure.  The cold weather has had me hunkering in the bunker for the last few days, going hardly anywhere.  So, restless, I'm off this morning.  

I hope to muster the gumption to go to Lowe's, where I'll spend a gift card on fittings for the darkroom.  They have the hose adapters I need that the local True Value doesn't have.  This ought to be easy.

Last night, just before bed, I made my easy fudge - this time with Guittard Bittersweet chips, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla.  Melt the chips and milk together - 3 minutes in the MW at half power.  Stir with a spatula and add the vanilla, and then spread in a wax-paper-lined pan.  Mine is 6x9.  Chill.  Cut.  Try not to eat all at once.  I cut mine into really little pieces - 1/2 x 1/2 - and I'm trying to limit myself to one piece at a time, and those times spread out.

My lust for chocolate is satisfied.  I'm not sure about the bittersweet chocolate.  It may be a little too stark for fudge.  In general I like less-sweet chocolate, but this may be a little too far for fudge.  It feels like it's fighting the sweetness of the condensed milk rather than complementing it.  I'll give it away, which I should anyway.

Watching it get light, it's a silver morning.  Snow showers in the forecast, but the clouds look too light right now.  The water is skimmed by the breeze and without real pattern.  Ice flows yesterday were lovely.  The cold has brought back the ice and I should get out with a camera and take advantage of it.  I want to do some Holga portraits, too, and crank up the 4x5 for some portraits.  Maybe go to Bath and set up near Cafe Creme and pick on passers-by.  Gotta get ready for this summer, when I'll be An Attraction at Art Walk.

But first, the darkroom has to be up and running, print developer mixed and decanted into single-serve bottles.  I'll mix both my special Dektol and my Fine Art VersaPrint.  

I also have a light leak to plug in the ceiling.  I can do that with scrap wood up in the Zen Loft, which, eventually, I will trim with baseboards.  The baseboards will do it, and actually I shoulkd work up the gumption to sand them in the basement, cut them to size, and install them.  A good winter project.  The basement is staying pretty warm, even when it's subzero windchill outside, so it's pleasant to work down there.  I have the stock, and with 30 minutes of sanding I could have it ready to install.  I should coat it, first, since Daniel my trim guy insisted on coating baseboards on the backs, too.  He would know.  Coating the backs would add, oh, 5 minutes to the whole process of preparing them.

So, if gumption remains, it will be a busy day.


It's late morning.  Usually, I have written these Dispatches before 8 am.  I fell off the cliff this morning and didn't do it.  I want to cement the habit of doing it first thing in the morning.  When I do it then, I have been more active and "productive" for the rest of the day.  It's part of my plan to live more fully, and "waste" less time.  So far, the incremental improvement has not happened this morning.

But now I feel more on-track.  I want to study Russian today.  I have much to review and learn.  I have darkroom stuff I can do, both getting things installed and developing film.  I should mix print developer, too, and thereby be ready to proof and print.

I have disaster burnout.  I'm numb listening to reports about Syria, migrants, NPR fundraising, and Donald Trump.  I'm ready to live in silence for a while.  Not a bad idea.

It started out chilly, but has warmed up on a mostly sunny dy.  The water is pretty as the tide comes in - small ripples in a light breeze.

Off to do some work in the darkroom, attaching my print washer.

Feb.11, 2016


The title is Russian for "cold," because I awoke to 9 degrees outside.  Toasty warm inside, because when I had gotten up for a minute at 4:15, I checked the inside temperature and turned on the propane stove, which by 6:30 had brought the house back to its normal temperature of 66.

My darkroom works!  I have a thermometer on the spout of the faucet, and have carefully set the temperature valve so that when the water comes up to temperature, it remains a steady 70.  I've tried it several times now, and it always comes to, and holds at 70.  Perfect for chemical madness.

At this moment the sun is rising behind me, turning the trees across the water to gold.  Dark sky above, dark water below.  It will last only a few moments, but special ones.

I'm going through the 10,000+ photographs on my computer and selecting those to go on this site.  I'm in Oregon now on my big trip, and the nostalgia is palpable.  Mostly I remember being in the moment so often, which is necessary for good photography, in my opinion, and so joyful.  It can be done while driving (I'm still alive and unscathed), and when consciously sought.  I miss it, and am trying to regain it now that I'm behind qa desk more often that behind a camera.  I found Mindfulness, which I later learned to call it, just as it was getting really trendy.  I don't care about the trendy part, I only want to experience it more frequently.  Like all the time.  I understand that all-the-timeness requires a level of discipline that I sadly lack.  Can I develop it?  An article I have bookmarked talks of getting only 2% better each day at whatever you are trying to do.  I can do that.

I'll work on Russian today, and develop my first rolls of film in the darkroom rather than in the sink.  That's exciting.  I'll upload the Bucket Trip Gallery here, and continue exporting pictures out of LightRoom.  A busy day, as long as I stay on task and not stray to random walks through the Internet Ether.

Feb. 10, 2016


I'm feeling especially virtuous this morning, having mopped my floor last night.  I shouldn't.  You should see the color of the water in the mop bucket.  Mopping is not an everyday occurrence.

We seem to have dodged the bullet of heavy snow, having gotten only about an inch.  That means I can go out in the world.  Exercise, $1 coffee and a Powerball ticket, the ATM for my Russian lesson fix Friday, and some plumbing things for my newly-plumbed darkroom.  And a special puppy ball for a little furry friend who is invited to visit often.  Sounds like a busy day.  At least this morning.  

I want to spray foam around the pipe that connects my darkroom vent fan to outside.  It's a light leak.  That will be slightly challenging, since the sink is in the way.  I'll figure it out. I also have to create the channel for outside air to come into the darkroom.  That's one vent up high outside and another between the same two joists onthe inside.  I have the vent covers, and a template for the rectangular hole size.  That should be easy.

A lot of weede-out papers for storage downstairs.  I may do a little more.  I ought to just rhow them all away.  It feels lighter with every piece that goes.  There's a long thought process there about shedding prior lives, and it's true.  The past falls away in layers, and I seem to float a little more with each trip to the recycling center.

I've come up with an alternative to shredding, which required me to either buy what would be a seldom-used shredder at great expense, or paying for it at Staples.  I put the shreddable papers into a garbage bag, tie it closed and - gasp - throw it in the landfill trash!   As far as I know, that stuff is taken to the landfill, dumped, and covered.  I'm hard-pressed to beive that anyone who's searching the landfill bags by cutting them open will find my stuff, and even if they do, I'm hard-pressed to believe they'll know how to steal my identity.  If they are that good, they deserve my respect and my accounts.  Have at it.

Feb. 9, 2015 

Day 4: Russian Lessons

I have two Russian lessons a week, each presumably an hour, but we usually run over.  Mondays are tough because I usually don't feel prepared.  The last lesson ia usually Friday, and it seems like the distance between Monday and Friday is far longer than the distance between Friday and Monday.

These days, lessons start at 7 and end pretty close after 8.  Lilya, my teacher, has video classes with Army Special Forces guys from 9 to 4 five days a week.  She's frustrated with them, but actually, I cannot imagine studying Russian for 6 hours a day (they have a 1-hour break at 1:00, or 13:00 if you're a Special Forces person.  One hour pretty much cooks my brain.

Each lesson I get a Russian tongue-twister and a proverb to practice and, supposedly, memorize.  This morning was a disaster.  All my well-memorized sayings dribbled out my brain and were not there on command.  I felt pretty foolish.  I have enormous respect for Lilya.  She has been a fabulous teacher, encourager, coach, and friend, and I hate to let her down bt being a lump.

When she's not teaching all day, lessons start at 8, and I usually don't leave until about 10:30.  We always have a lot to talk about, between our families, my adoped family in Ukraine, goings-on in Russia, Ukraine, and here.  From Siberia, she has the outsider's perspective on the US that's always so interesting, and she keeps up with what's happening in Russia, and always has interesting points of view.  I don't have a lot of folks nearby with whom I can have conversations at that level - she's smarter than I am, with a much better memory, so I always have to keep alert.  

Russian lessons are a highlight of the week.

Feb. 8, 2016

day 3. the boy's on fire

Well, I'm not totally optimistic.  In many things, my gumption leaks out all over the floor about day 3 or so.  The past is littered with all the things I have started, and abandoned.  Some say that' good, becaue I'm leaving behind all of those things that don't matter.

If they don't matter, why did I spend so much time thinking about them, figuring out how to do them, organizing them, and starting them?

For the things that I have kept up, why?  Photography.  Music. Molly Miata.  Cooking. Having adventures.  Making things, including and up to fine furniture.  Writing, albeit sporadically on that one.  Does the trickle of gumption come from inside, or outside?  Outside is hard for me to figger, since especially now in my cumudgeonly years, I really don't care what the world thinks.

I'll have to mull that one.  Day 3 was useful in posing the question.  Value!  For the author, at least.

Feb. 7, 2015

omigosh, I made it to Day 2

Early Saturday morning.  Coffee's made and in the covered travel mug I use to drink it, since I sip slowly and the mug keeps it cols.  Keeps me from spilling, too, which is the constant worry of a clumsy person.

It's just getting light - 6:15.  The radio has some woman and some guy ranting to a Canadian about how we are committing an immoral act by watching professional football because of the concussions.  She also said we should not watch soccer because of all the concussions.  Not watch FC Barcelona?  Not watch their frontline of Messi, Neymar, and Suarez?  Forget it!

Saturday will be cleanup day, to rid my house of its piles of mostly paper clutter.  It's more an organizational issue than a dumping issue.  I've already done the dump part.  Some of the papers will go to the basement for long-term storage after I shovel out the way to get there after 8" of snow yesterday.  I'll practice Russian, learning proverbs and tongue-twisters, reviewing recent verbs and their conjugations, listening to Russian off YouTube or VK.com, the Russian Facebook.  It has buckets of US movies dubbed into Russian.  If I pick one I know, I can sorta follow what they're saying.  Jason Bourne in Russian.  Bladerunner.  Firefly.  It's fun.

I'll write my Ukrainian family, too.  My "adopted" daughter wants me to go take specific pictures of product displays at Costco, but she hasn't had time to tell me which ones.  Busy girl, poor bunny.  I'll write Mom, too (does that make her my "adopted wife"?) because she's in a state about how hard daughter works.  I will try to be a calming influence.  Not much success being so in the past, but I'll try.

My right hip hurts.  Don't like that at all.  I replaced the left one in 2012, and don't want to repeat that.

It's getting light, and the snow on the trees across the water is pretty.  Time to just sit and appreciate it.

Feb. 6, 2015