Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Some things that I’ve been thinking:

I saw Iron Man 2 the other night with Lord Mycol.  I liked it better than the first Iron ManScarlett Johansson playing a bad-ass brunette reminded me of my friend Christine.  After the movie Lord Mycol mentioned that they will make an Avengers movie and that there is a rumor that Brad Pitt will play Captain America.  I said, “Oooh!  Brad Pitt can be MY Captain America. . . . He can colonize me!”

The day before yesterday Lord Mycol and I sat in the recently re-arranged living room and had a nice conversation for about an hour.  I like the living room better this way.  The sunlight and shadows combined with Lord Mycol in a white t-shirt against the backdrop of the spider plant and the matchstick blinds reminded me of Martin Sheen in the opening of Apocalypse Now.

Do you see it?  How about that koala bear?

Last Tuesday Yim and I spent all day working on the farm.  I transplanted our tomatoes and peppers from their indoor nursery into the garden.

Oh, the disappointment!  All but a few of our fledgling tomatoes submitted to death.  Of the 36 tomatoes only about 6 of them survived.  The peppers fared much better; nearly all of them made it.

Overall, the garden is doing well.  My favorite part about it is witnessing its amazing growth and progress from day to day.


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There is no love sincerer than the love of food. — Shaw

Yim and I talk about food a lot.  After all, he is the Food Vigilante.  We talk about the foods we love, the foods we are growing, the foods we grew up eating, and the junk we see people consuming everyday.  We talk about the home cooked meals we were raised on, prepared by frugal mothers with cooking skills.  There was no microwave in our kitchen.  We talk about the slender stature of nearly everyone when we were young, particularly the men.  In all of the old photos, the men were skinny relative to today’s standard male.  Today, I can sit on a park bench and watch the masses go by and wonder at their health.  They hobble along, lumbering on their swollen ankles.  They smoke with one hand and drink a 12 ounce can of corn syrup with the other.  Their bellies lead the way and there is no baby due.

These days, I feel lucky to have been raised by a family with farming sense.  For them, farming sense translated to food sense, which translates to health.  And though health is the ultimate objective, the bonus is that whole foods taste so much better than anything you could possible concoct in a laboratory, and they are a pleasure to work with.  You just have to learn how to prepare them, because it’s not as simple as peeling the top off of a Styrofoam bowl, adding water and popping it in the microwave for 3 minutes.  I happen to love the process of cooking from beginning to end.  When I am in the kitchen cooking, I always consider how wonderful the colors of the vegetables are (that’s my sense of vision kicking in).  I consider how everything feels; the weight of the vegetables or fruit, the grains of rice, the dry beans, the fleshy meat or fish.  Whatever it is, I consider the feel of it (there’s my sense of touch).  I consider the smell; the crisp smell of a cucumber or bell pepper when you slice it, the pungency of an onion, the oils released from the garlic.  All of my senses begin to engage and prepare my body to eat and absorb everything it can in the way of nutrition from these whole foods that are from the same planet as I am from.  Unfortunately, for people who don’t cook, life can find a way even when it’s fed on junk.  Furthermore, it seems that the body adapts to whatever it is fed regularly and begins to send warning signals to the brain when changes are detected by the senses.  For instance, so many children have become picky eaters because their brains go haywire when healthy food is placed on the tongue.  You can see the repulsion on their little faces.  They don’t know what to do besides cry and spit – surely they won’t swallow – because their receptors are getting high on vitamins and minerals absorbed through the tongue and it’s a shock to the system every time because they are accustomed to eating melted cardboard for dinner.  Seriously, try putting cardboard in their mouths and you’ll get no reaction.  So these picky eaters potentially become adults – some you may know – who refuse to eat anything different.  Green vegetables?  NO WAY!  Nothing green other than iceberg lettuce.  Medium rare steak?  You must be nuts; they want it burnt.  Sushi?  What are you, crazy?  Listen, folks; I have tasted green vegetables and they are better than corn!  I have had my steak both well-done and medium rare and guess what?  Medium rare is a lot tastier, not to mention easier to chew.  And sushi?  Sushi tastes less like fish than cooked fish!  It is fresh and clean tasting.  Could 128 million Japanese people be wong?  I mean, wrong?  Why wouldn’t you try it?

In light of these sentiments and in the style of the Pioneer Woman, I’d like to share with you a series of photos I took while cooking dinner the other night.  This is typical of the meals I like, which is to say that they nearly always involve chopped vegetables sautéed in olive oil.  I only cook with First Cold Press Extra Virgin Olive Oil and I use onions and garlic in almost every dish.

This meal started with these organic chicken sausages that were in my refrigerator.  I’d gotten them on sale, because otherwise they are too damn expensive, and realized at the last minute that day that they were still in my refrigerator and needed to be used or thrown out.

I decided to make a sausage, onion and pepper saute, which I would then serve with red beans and rice.  Yim and I had the best red beans and rice in Puerto Rico and have made them frequently since that trip.

Preparing the red beans (kidney beans) and rice was a little more detailed.  First, since I didn’t do an overnight soak for these dry beans, I had to bring them to a boil and simmer them for almost 2 hours.

I chopped up about 5 pieces of bacon and started it in a cold pan.

Once the bacon was crispy and the fat had been rendered, I threw in chopped onions, garlic and red bell pepper.

I mixed the spices; salt, cumin, and Spanish smoked paprika, with bay leaves and tomato paste.  ZP brought this tube of tomato paste from Italy for me, so don’t try to find it at the Piggly Wiggly.  Those bay leaves are also from Italy, but you can get them anywhere.

Somehow I missed the shot of the spices and the brown rice added to the saute pan, but that is what I did.  I let it cook for a few minutes and then added hot water.  I brought it to a boil, then reduced to a simmer and covered to cook for about an hour and a half.  The brown rice takes a bit longer than the white.  The point is just to get all of the liquid absorbed.

And voila!  Dinner is served and it is made entirely from fresh, whole, nutritious ingredients.  I hope that I have inspired you to eat better, cook from scratch more often and to try new things.

The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of man than the discovery of a star. — Brillat-Savarin

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As I mentioned, Tuesday was the absolute high to my low.  Yim and I are so excited about our garden and we accomplished a load of work on the land on Tuesday.  We arrived at ‘the farm’ around 10 am and got to work.  It is incredibly invigorating to feel the sweat on your brow as you labor with the land.  Yim cleaned the gutters, mowed the lawn, cut back the forsythia, mulched and put chicken wire up around the garden to prohibit bunny rabbits.  I cleared a second planting area of approximately 3 1/2 x 15 feet, pruned the rose bush, and hauled 4 wheel barrow loads full of kindling, compost, and burnable stuff around back of the property.  We are making good progress.  Every crop we’ve sown so far has sprouted.

Our onions:

Our shallots:

Our Swiss chard:

Our lettuce:

Look how big our radishes have gotten; they should be ready to harvest in 1 to 2 weeks:

As we worked in the garden, a Red-bellied woodpecker had lunch in a neighboring tree.

When I get a new telephoto lens for my camera I’ll be able to get shots like this one in real clarity.

We bought an old olive barrel from DeLallo’s to use as a rain-catcher.  Yimmy is going to outfit it with a spigot.

The garden is in stage one of protection against predators:

We still have to stake down the wire so that rabbits can’t get in underneath of it.  Then we will drape netting over the top to protect the sprouts from birds and squirrels.

The day was beautiful and had both of our minds reeling around future projects; painting, landscaping, etc.

As I cleared the new planting area, the smell of wild mint and purple lilacs in full bloom filled the air.

Towards evening we stowed the gardening tools and got some small scale jobs out of the way.  We had tomato seeds to sow in indoor peat moss cells,

and a friend asked me to sow some extra hot pepper seeds for her.  She gave me these:

I was extra careful to wash my hands thoroughly after handling these.  Even so, I managed to get some of their oils on my upper lip and felt the deep burn of their heat.

I got some help getting them planted:

And now all of our indoor seeds are set:

By July we should be regularly enjoying the fruits of all our labor and the hard work we put in will bring us happiness all over again.

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Yim and I are proud to introduce our first sown indoor seedlings, our multiples, our babies:

We call them “broccoli”.  And when they are old enough, we will eat them.  What?  Something wrong with eating your young?

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Shovelful by Shovelful

And just like that, it seems that spring has come to our fair city.  Suddenly, I am able to rise and shine a little earlier and with more energy, it seems.  I am excited for the day and the possibility that I will shed my coat and hat in the warmth.  Crews of people, neighbors, city employees, the teenagers from the church next door, have been out along the streets, armed with shovels, attacking the enormous piles of snow that rise 10 and 12 feet high.  They throw shovelful by shovelful onto the pavement to melt.

The snow in my yard will just have to melt on it’s own, but the plant-life isn’t going to wait any longer to push through and bud.  Walking around the house today I noticed the Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa luciliae) poking through the snow and leaves in the shady side-yard.

By the end of March, they will look be full grown and by April they will be in bloom.


Now here is why I ran back in the house and grabbed the camera:

That is one of my hydrangeas.  It can’t wait to grow and I can’t wait to see it!

Last year, Yim and I wanted to plant a garden, but we could not organize ourselves in time to put it in the ground.  I also wanted to finally get those laying hens I’ve yearned after for so long, but we had to decide that for the time being, other things were more important.  Given all of that, we have had gardening on our minds since September!  So, about a month ago I started gathering information.

I picked up the Farmer’s and Planter’s Almanac at the local book store and have studied the monthly guidelines.

Zia said she just can’t stand people who have to do everything by the book.  My grandfather had an almanac hanging from a nail in one of the joists in his cellar.  It was from 1964 or something.  He never bought another one.  He never even used that one, I think.  I bought the almanac because I think it’s neat, and I trust that it’s guidelines are accurate.  I also realize that there is a wisdom that comes from the experience of raising a crop year in and year out that cannot be relayed between the pages of an almanac.  And the “seasoned” gardeners are telling me about it.  Every time I say something like, “I have to start my indoor seedlings this weekend,” someone whose “grown peppers since they were 12” tells me it’s too early.  I come from a long line of folks who have grown crops for their own consumption.  My entire life I have been around large gardens that produce so much harvest that it must be shared.  I get bushels of tomatoes, peaches, zucchini, garlic, and kale from Zia.  I am friends with people who like to throw some tomato plants and peppers and herbs into the ground every summer, but my family has grown nuts, fruits, and berries in addition to a wide range of vegetable crops.  I have grown successful gardens myself, that produced more peppers, Swiss chard, tomatoes and cucumbers than I knew what to do with.  But it’s admittedly been awhile.  And I bought the almanac.  We’ll see what happens.

Yim and I have determined where the garden will go in.  We are putting it in his yard, which means that I am going to be spending a lot more time over there this summer.  Hello, suburbs.

We started composting around Christmastime.

This week we are going to mark out the territory and till and fertilize the soil.  A few days ago we thought we’d have to clear snow first, but it has been melting so fast, there’s hardly any left on the grass in his yard.  I got my rubber gardening boots, though, because it’s gonna be muddy to start with.  Once the soil is well enough drained, in go the seeds!  We researched local unmodified organic seeds and found a seller.  Unfortunately, they were inundated with orders and had to stop taking new ones until April.  And I could not wait.  So we went with a make-do blend.  Anything we could get organic we did, and anything we couldn’t, we didn’t.

Oh my God, I am so excited to plant these and watch them grow! First things going in are the beets, cabbage and lettuces.  I’m starting the peppers indoors, and it should only be another 6 weeks or so until the other crops go in.  We intend to can things in late summer; dilly beans, pickled cukes, maybe a giardiniera.  We’ll make raspberry jam for jarring.  I’ll try to foster the herbs indoors when the weather turns cold again.  We did not buy zucchini and kale, as Zia has more than enough for all of us.  Speaking of Zia, when she saw the bag of seeds that we spent our money on, she could not curb her enthusiasm to give us what for.  But she quickly shifted gears after her jibes and said that she should take some of our “organic” seeds and plant them herself and we could have a contest.

On your marks.  Get set.  Go!

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I remember a book on yoga in our house when I was young.  A woman in a leotard sat in cross-legged lotus pose on the cover.  My impression then was that yoga was weird.  And I was right.  But I love it.  I started taking classes years ago and even considered becoming certified to instruct yoga.  Over time I realized that I prefer to be the student.  I know which local studios I prefer and which instructors I prefer.  I also know that I do not prefer hot yoga, where they turn up the temperature to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, your pores open up like spigots on full throttle, and you feebly attempt to maintain traction on your mat which now resembles a Slip ‘N Slide.  That’s not conducive to the spiritual, mental, and physical meditation of the yoga I like to practice.

Another weird practice from the East that fascinates me is acupuncture.  At some point I became keen to the notion of having needles pushed into me.  I figured that my attraction to the method was rooted in my desire to feel therapy on a deeper plane.  I thought that acupuncture could reach energy circuits that yoga, massage, and acupressure could not.  Only, I never had an ailment that I felt I could go to an acupuncturist to heal.  For instance, I know a girl who has been plagued by many things and has used acupuncture as a remedy.  When I asked her who she’d recommend, she asked me what my ailment was.  I had nothing.  So I just waited and waited to see if something would pop up.

I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that I didn’t need a problem to benefit from acupuncture.  After all, I don’t do yoga or get massages to cure physical problems.  They are more proactive than reactive therapies.  They are lifestyle therapies.  They just feel good and make life seem fuller.

But oh!  A few months ago I pinched a nerve or strained something in my back so severely that it brought me to tears.  I felt like there was a stake driven between my spine and shoulder-blade and it hurt day after day.  Yoga and massage only seemed to exacerbate the pain, so I stopped doing them and waited to heal.  Three weeks later, still hurting, I remembered acupuncture and looked online for a professional.

There are lots of people practicing acupuncture around here and many of the online sites depicted offices that resembled day spas, and acupuncturists wearing white lab coats.  But I was looking for something a little more traditional.  I found it at Ming Yip, located in a hundred-year-old row house in the Strip District.  I scheduled my appointment.

The day I went I rang the doorbell and a tiny, soft-spoken Chinese woman let me in.  This is Bonnie Pang.  She gave me a questionnaire to fill out before we began.  I sat in the front room writing in my answers and looking around at the shelves and apothecary jars filled with traditional Chinese herbal supplements and remedies.

Before I say whether or not I liked the acupuncture and whether or not it helped my condition, here is what Bonnie Pang prescribed for me after our session.

I am supposed to take 1 tablespoon of this 3 times a day.  Bonnie said that my lips and tongue lack color and that my heart rate is low.  These are indications of my poor circulation and this dietary supplement is supposed to improve my blood flow.  Here’s how it works.  I pour the syrup into a tablespoon, brace myself, then disgustedly put it in my mouth.  As I conjure up the courage and then swallow this bitter, foul-tasting muck, I jump, shake and hop around the kitchen, which is why my heart starts pumping faster.  Voila.

She also prescribed these:

On the right are chips of dried ginseng root.  These are to be boiled into a tea, about ten cups worth, which I can keep in the refrigerator and then have a glass once a day for a week.  I haven’t tried it yet.

On the left is the circulyn extract that comes in the form of those little black bb’s you see.  One should take 6 pills twice a day with warm water, unless one is pregnant.  This supplement promotes circulation and helps maintain proper joint function.  Each serving contains 400 mg of turmeric, 260 mg of frankincense, and 260 mg of myrrh.  What about the gold?  Whatever.  I am going to save some of this so that I’ll have something to bring in case the second coming of the savior occurs.

But seriously, I do believe in homeopathic remedies and I will use these remedies that Bonnie Pang sold me.  I really liked Ming Yip and would recommend going there for acupuncture and herbal therapy.  All this despite the fact that I did not walk out feeling better.  In fact, I fear I went for this therapy at precisely the wrong time in my injuries healing process.  The needles and electrical pulses certainly aggravated my condition and I felt like I was back at square one.  I think I have satisfied my curiosity well enough for some time.

The funny thing was what I else I brought home from the office.  In order for Bonnie to work on my back, I had to lie face down on the exam table.  The head rest is a doughnut shaped pad and it is protected for each client with a new sheet of sterile parchment paper just like the table is.  After the 30 minute long session, when Bonnie said I could get dressed again and left the room, I couldn’t help but notice the impression left on the parchment paper where my face had been.  The natural oils from my skin left a darker silhouette in the shape of a face with big, fat cheeks on the paper.  My mascara left slanted black slash marks for eyes.  It was so funny that I’d left a Chinese face on the paper that I had to fold it into my bag and bring it home to show Yim.

My back injury has since healed and I am back to practicing yoga and getting massages.  I already knew my heart rate was low before I ever went to Ming Yip.  My doctor said I have a runner’s heart.  Which is fine with me, because I plan on running another leg in the marathon this year.

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Around about 1979 or 80 our mother went out with a fellow with connections.  His arms were connected to his shoulders, his legs were connected to his hips, and his head was connected to his neck.  If memory serves me.  So anywho, I go out to get on the school bus after school lets out one day and there’s mother and her man waiting for me in his car.  Bruvvah Rock was with them already, he may have been a 4 year-old half-a-day-er at the time.  And out to the country we went! Through the valleys and into the highlands where we spent the weekend at a motor-inn with a pool.  Hiking along the dirt roads surrounding the motor-inn, we found a box turtle with one eye, which is why we should have named him Dick, what with him sticking his one-eyed head in and out all day long, but we didn’t.  I don’t know what we named him, but we did put the box turtle in a box and brought him home to the city with us.  Again, if we’d named him Dick….


Back in the city our one-eyed friend found himself living outside in our old gerbil’s aquarium.  We were feeding him frozen fish from the pet store and it was fun to watch him wildly tear them apart by shaking his head back and forth with his beak sunk into the dead fish.  It wasn’t long before our mother’s boyfriend brought home another turtle, this time a painted variety from the pet store.  Now we had two turtles, with three eyes betwixt them.   And not long after that we were back to one turtle.  The victims of turtle theft.  Of course, we were left with the one-eyed country bumpkin, while that painted tart of a turtle likely jumped right out of that glassed confinement.  But really, anyone could have just lifted the screen off the top of the aquarium and reached right in.  And turtle thieves of the late ’70’s knew a re-sale opportunity when they saw one.  These turtles were moving faster than ever.  And I’m not sayin’ I know whodunnit, but I think you mightn’t had to look much farther than our very next door neighbors.  But before Cara Capra stole our turtle, I discovered an egg!  There we were, near the end of another perfectly played out summer day.  I took the egg out of the aquarium and excitedly showed it to my bruvvah.  It looked like these:


You know, when we were kids we used to find these rocks on the ground a lot and we called them “lucky stones.”  They look like this:


See the resemblance?

So this 4 year-old half-a-day-er who thinks he knows more than his big seestrah tries to prove me wrong by placing the egg squarely on the sidewalk, raising his tuffy-shoed foot above it, and stomping on it.  The amount of yolk a box turtle egg produces made the entire event somewhat anti-climactic, but still.  Bruvvah killed my turtle egg!  (Did I mention that the the turtles were living in our old gerbil’s aquarium?  Yeah… Bruvvah ALSO killed my gerbil!!!  And he KNOWED how much I loved animals!)

And so the story goes….

This guy that Mother was dating seemed hell-bent on getting us pets.  He knew some people with a farm who had a horse to sell.  He was going to buy her this beautiful black horse with a white blaze down it’s face.  We took a ride out to the farm and they also had a litter of beagle pups, the cutest things you ever saw.  I was in instant LOVE.  I spent the entire time ogling those puppies in that pen, letting them yelp at me and lick my fingers and face through the gate wire.  And I knew which one I wanted and I how I would take care of her and love her and call her…. “Clover?”

A few weeks after the first trip to the farm we returned to get our pup.  In sort of a trade, we put our box turtle in a box again and headed out of the city.  Along the side of a country road we pulled over to reintroduce our turtle to the free life.  There inside the box with our box turtle was another box turtle egg.  Not a lucky stone.  This time my mother saved the egg and we buried it in a bowl of salt on the warm window sill to wait and see if it would hatch.  But really, would you sit and watch a bowl of salt in the sun with a beagle pup nipping at you to play?

Oh, geez.  I nearly forgot the moral of this tale.  So, here is the stuffed turtle I made for my nephew:

Of course, little Rockwell won’t have a clue about what I am referring to, but little children like stories.  Plus, I figured my bruvvah would get a kick out of this reference to our past.  See, my stuffed turtle only has one eye!

And my bruvvah says he doesn’t remember a thing about all that I’ve just told you.  Which proves what Samuel Johnson said, which is, “The true art of memory is the art of attention.”  But even more so, in the words of Nisbet, that “A good memory is an essential element of genius.”

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