Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Soil Sifting

Oh, god, please let this be the most tedious part of gardening.

I'm in the midst of sifting all the rocks from the soil in my backyard. I made my own soil sifter with some 1/2 inch hardware cloth ($7 a yard?!?!) and a dresser drawer I found on the street. (On a side note, there are certain things which you can always find in the garbage in New York City; mattresses, broken arm chairs and sofas... and dressers.)

So now I'm going through the slow and rather painstaking process of tossing a few shovels full of dirt into the sifter, scraping dirt through, then periodically emptying it of rocks. Shovel, sift, repeat.

This is going to take me all week. But hopefully this will be the worst part and it'll all be downhill (and rock free) gardening from here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Battlestar Galactica Finale: In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb...

... a pathetic, diseased, bleeding lamb.

I was a great fan of this show from the get-go; I remember defending the uneven pilot episode to all my nerd friends, pointing out the beautiful use of the Firefly-inspired outer space camera work.

This show has gone the route of other science fiction shows I have enjoyed, such as Alias and Smallville: 2 1/2 good seasons, then it lost it's way and never recovered.

::SPOILERS FOLLOW::

BSG went off track after second season, when it ceased to be about the survival of humanity and more about ridiculous religious dogma and political "intrigue". The beauty of the BSG concept, both in the original and in the new series, is the idea that when fighting for survival you will see the best and worst of humanity emerge. New BSG was doing that beautifully for the first two seasons, then just dropped it.

Also, the series suffered because they never gave the Cylons a clear purpose, except for maybe after the Resurrection ship was destroyed. Then their motivation became about survival as well, through the capture of the Human/Cylon child, but we don't even really SEE that until the final episodes.

This entire final season has made little-to-no-sense whatsoever. The characters were written with zero consistency; people were acting in a manner completely contrary to their previous behavior, acting differently from episode to episode, without any explanation whatsoever of what might of changed their personalities. The Five had little to no transition from believing they were human beings to accepting they were Cylons. And did we really need to see Admiral Adama drunk for half the damn season?

As for the final episode itself, where to begin? It's so nice of Ron Moore to have a bunch of white people from outer space come down and teach us poor humans how to be civilized. I realize that's the concept of the original series, that the seeds of humanity were from outer space, but then maybe you shouldn't kill off all your minority characters before the end, except for one. Speaking of which, it's also good to have confirmation that all Asian people do indeed look alike, since we're all apparently descended from ONE FRAKKIN' CYCLON!

What was with the ridiculous little evil robot montage at the end? Oh no, our robo-toys are going to DESTROY us! Where's Sarah Connor? Did the BSG universe arrive in the Terminator universe? And it was done so emphatically, as though the danger of robots rising up to destroy us was somehow on par with global climate change, world hunger or the AIDS epidemic.

The whole Starbuck disappearing thing. So she was an angel of some sort? Not only was that a complete cliche that's been done countless times before (and better), but they had just done the exact same moment TWO EPISODES before, with Kara and her father! A ghost having visions of a ghost?! WTF? And we never see any real moment of realization on her part, or transition into acceptance of being an angel, much like with the horrible Five Cylons storyline.

And does anyone believe that 30,000 people, who throughout the entire series couldn't agree on ANYTHING, would all suddenly agree to destroy all their technology and ships to go live in the wilderness? Ridiculous! The idea that they didn't want to repeat the mistakes of New Caprica is ludicrous; the reason their lives on New Caprica were so difficult was that it was a relatively barren planet with a narrow strip of habitable land around the equator. New Earth is resource abundant! Provided of course you have, say, the TECHNOLOGY to access those resources. It's completely unrealistic, not to mention just plain bad story writing, to think they'd just fly their fleet of STARSHIPS into the sun. (On a bit of a tangent, it made me think of a similar situation in Star Trek 8: First Contact, when the crew of the Enterprise is forced to abandon ship on the Earth of the past, and Captain Picard instructs his crew "to find a quiet corner of North America and ...stay out of history's way." Much classier.)

I will probably keep coming back to this posting and updating it with more awful things about this finale as they come back to me. It's one of those seasons that the more you think about it, the worse it gets.

Waste of a good concept, waste of a good start.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I've Sown my Seed!

Late yesterday I came down with the flu, so being homebound today was the perfect opportunity to sow my vegetable seedlings for transplant after the last frost.

Now there seems to be some slight variation in suggested planting schedules from all the various sources I found on the net, but I figure if I start most of the items I want to grow from seed now, they should all be ready come mid-April, which is when our last New York frost is predicted.

I have the trays sitting on a Jefferson chair in my bedroom, in it's ironing board configuration. For those who don't know what a Jefferson chair is, it's an ingenious bit of furniture, designed of course by Thomas Jefferson, that acts as a stool, a step ladder and an ironing board, all in one.

Clever fellow, that Thomas.

UPDATE: Here's what I'm planting.

What I started today:
Broccoli, Butternut Squash, Collards, Lettuce, Mesclun, Marjoram, Scallions, Parsley, Habanero Pepper, Hot Pepper Mix, Rosemary, Sage, Spearmint, Bell Peppers, Tomatoes

And what's to come - I'll probably plant most of these direct seed into the ground:
Garden Bean, Beets, Carrots, Garlic, Peas, Radish, Spinach, Basil, Cucumber, Watermelon, Corn, Pumpkin Summer Squash, Zuccchini, Cilantro

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Everything's Coming Up... Something.

Yesterday in New York was a lovely and springlike 60 degrees, so I took a moment to go into our backyard (I still can't believe we have one) to do some cleaning and test the soil with my fancy new electronic soil tester. I have no idea if the tester worked as the needle barely moved, but as I was looking at the footprints the Verizon guy left in the garden, I noticed the tips of the flower bulbs I planted last November had begun to come up! 

I know this is pretty minor, but it's very exciting for me, as I've never grown anything from either seed or bulb before. I don't even really remember what I planted - irises and tulips, I think, plus whatever handfuls of loose bulbs that were on the bottom of the Home Depot bin that I just scooped up and tossed in my pocket to save them from the trash.

Tomorrow I plan on starting some vegetable seedlings in a tray, as I have a little victory garden planned for the rest of the unused ground. I also need to go to the Depot to get the makings for a soil sifter, as the ground out back is filled with rocks and debris. On the bright side, I was able to make a nice little rock edging with what I pulled out from one side of the garden.

I also have tentative plans for a small, self-sustaining watergarden/fish pond. That may be overly ambitious, but on the other hand, it would save me from having to find extra soil for the garden, so it might all balance out effort-wise.

Hopefully something will grow that I can eat.

Natasha Richardson

Natasha Richardson dead, age 45.

I've always found Natasha Richardson to be an actress of wonderful composure and beauty, adept at a stillness in her performances that few actors ever master. I was first exposed to her work in the film production of A Handmaid's Tale, and images of her in that piece have stayed with me.


And I find her thoroughly charming in the Parent Trap remake.

I know it seems odd, but one of the first things that sprang to mind wasn't one of her movies, but rather one of her husband's, Liam Neeson, "Love Actually." In the opening scenes, Neeson's character is delivering the eulogy for his character's wife, who had died young of cancer, as his adolescent step-son looks on. Neeson is so wracked with grief in that moment, and one can't help but imagine what the real life pain of him and their family must be like.

In any event, rest in whatever peace you sought in life, Ms. Richardson.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

167.2

So yesterday I bought a scale. Yes, yes, I realize weight isn't a measure of physical fitness, but for me, it's a good benchmark. Plus it was shiny. Now, right before bedtime (and again, yes, I realize this is when you're at your heaviest), I weighed 167.2 lbs. This is after a week of slowly beginning to get back into my exercise regimen with running 4-5 miles a day. This is, by far, the heaviest I have ever weighed in my entire life.

A bit disturbing for me to say the least. At 5'6", with a small to medium frame, I am clinically overweight. To look at me, this would be a ridiculous assertion to most; I carry this extra weight pretty evenly across my entire torso. But for the creative projects I'm interested in, this is a nightmare scenario. Aesthetically, this extra weight doesn't suit the roles I'm both pursuing and writing for myself. Aside from the simple visual aspect, I can't move or perform with the needed speed, power or grace for any of these roles either.

Just 4-5 years ago I was 140 lbs (138 lbs in the picture) and in some of the best shape of my life, and I let it slip away. Years of hard work wasted. And of course, now I'm older, it makes it that much harder for me to get back in shape.

At least it's not a mystery. I know how I got here - through injury and being distracted by the drama of romance and heartbreak. And of course, not controlling my eating and exercising regimen.  

There's some good news, though. While it'll be more difficult now to get back to where I was, it's not impossible. I know exactly the things I need to do (yoga, martial arts, running/cardio, weight training, count calories), and I've gotten myself to a point where I have the luxury of being able to do those things. 

It's just a matter of doing the things I need to do for myself. Unfortunately, that's always been the hardest thing in the world for me.

We'll see.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Account Service Fee: Dick Move, E*Trade.

So yesterday I get an email from my online brokerage account, E*Trade, where I've kept my (recently decimated) life savings for the better part of the last decade, telling me they were going to charge me a $40 Account Service Fee, because the balance of my various accounts have dropped below their minimum account balance.

Oh E*trade - you bastards. Of COURSE my account balance has dropped - EVERYONE's has. It is RIDICULOUS, in this economic climate, when the vast majority of your clients have taken extreme losses to their stock portfolios, upwards of 50% in my own case, to add insult to this injury by charging some ridiculous account maintenance fee. ESPECIALLY when these clients are staying with E*Trade despite the current state of the market. You should be waiving all such snake-oil type fees for the immediate future, if not forever. It's shady business at best, bad business altogether.

Shame on you E*Trade. Shame.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Totonno's NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Fire Shuts Totonno’s, Legendary Coney Island Pizzeria - NY Times, 3/16/2009

I whispered the first "no" quietly, as shock and horror filled my heart (and stomach). My next was a Shatner-esque wail; Totonno's, the best, and longest continually-operating pizzeria in America, had closed.

I lived in Brighton Beach, at the southern tip of Brooklyn, for 10 years; a mere 10 minutes worth of hops, skips and a jumps from historic Coney Island, where Totonno's was located near. Their pizza, a thin crust, coal-fired, brick oven was perfection due to it's lack of perfection. The aged, sooty oven would leave blackened, but not burned, marks across the bottom and circumference of the crust, and the heat variations caused the rim to rise, pucker and brown in different spots, making each pie truly unique. Yet the flavor and texture were perfectly uniform, not too crunchy, not too soggy, just perfectly firm and chewy. Fantastic mouth feel. Their dough contained extra salt, which gave it an extra punch. Their sauce, rich and sweet, was made in a back kitchen that looked like any old kitchen in someone's house, and sat unpretentiously in a large steel bowl on a wooden work table. Their mozz, always fresh.

Also lost will be the atmosphere - the walls were packed with articles and photographs of celebrities and politicians (of an unfortunately and decidedly conservative bent) who had visited the small shop over the decades. The faded seaglass tint of the walls and the rigid, small wood booths - all lost.

Of the inside, she said: “It’s pretty bad. It’s a lot of damage. I have to redo the oven, because the water got into the bricks. We’re going to fix that, rebrick it.”

But, she said, this has been done many times before, to repair cracks. “I promise you, it’ll be the same exact pizza,” she said.

When Mei Lei Wai, the hands down best Chinese roast pork buns in all of the United States, was closed last year by the health department (bastards), I had a similar reaction. There was a great Times blog about it as well. But Mei Lei Wai re-opened, and the quality of their buns survived intact, and in my opinion, they were actually better than ever.

Totonno's plans to rebuild as well, but I'm concerned, because a while back they opened an expansion branch in Manhattan, a big, large modern restaurant in Grammercy, where the pizza, supposedly made the same way, just plain sucks. So when they say they're going to rebuild the oven, I'm concerned that whatever X-factor that made their pizza so wondrous is going to be lost in transition. I'm hoping the rebuild of the oven is minor and that they resist any urge to "improve" or modernize the appliance.

I feel like I'm being punished for liking a new pizzeria, Rizzo's, in my new neighborhood of Astoria. But she was always number two, Totonno's - she means nothing to me! You were always my number one! Always!

KHAAAANNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A.I.G. "Retention" Bonuses

“We cannot attract and retain the best and the brightest talent to lead and staff the A.I.G. businesses — which are now being operated principally on behalf of American taxpayers — if employees believe their compensation is subject to continued and arbitrary adjustment by the U.S. Treasury,” [Edward M. Liddy, the government-appointed chairman of A.I.G.] wrote Mr. Geithner on Saturday." - NY Times, 3/15/2009
I'm getting sick and tired of this argument on the behalf of bailed-out company heads. It's ridiculous. Are any of these executives, in this current economic climate, really going to quit if they don't get their bonuses? And if they do, are we expected to believe that, in a country with a workforce of 150 MILLION people and nearly 8% unemployment, there aren't people who are more than qualified take the place of any of these so-called "best and brightest" and perform as well, if not better, at a more reasonable salary. How "best and brightest" can they be considering they failed.

And yes, AIG execs, your company FAILED. You essentially went bankrupt. The taxpayers are not required to honor ANY pre-existing employee bonus contract, because without the bailout, there'd not only be no bonus, there'd be no job, period. So shut the fuck up AIG executives, and just be happy you're employed.

On a related note, why the hell appoint an A.I.G. Chairman who is going to try to defend, in ANY way, this sort of use of taxpayer funds? I want to see Ebenezer-fucking-Scrooge, CEO on a nameplate made of duct tape; those executive offices should be heated with a single lump of coal and any executive who wants to leave had best hurry up and do it and decrease the excess incompetent employee population.

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