Sunday, July 28, 2013

Guess who? The distinctive look of twins...

Can you guess who in each picture? Some of the helpful clues for the parents have come and gone (Moses used to have the most hair, for example), while others have remained. At their last weight check, they were within 1 oz. of each other. However, Moses still rocks out in the "dome" category with 2 extra inches in circumference over Shadrach! He's also 1 inch longer.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The July Bookshelf

We've been reading a bunch around here this summer...

Interview with David Driskell for Recent Work exhibit at York College Art Gallery

"It was common to say, 'No, black people can't do this,' and yet it was happening. It was like a quiet stream flowing, which ended up providing the same kind of fresh water in the ocean that makes the ocean so special. Other rivers come in: all of it being a very important part of replenishing what is there in the sea."

Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller

"We learn that through all of life there runs a ground note of cosmic disappointment... No matter what we put our hopes in, in the morning, it is always Leah, never Rachel."

Ender's World: Fresh Perspectives on the SF Classic Ender's Game, ed. Orson Scott Card

This collection of essays provides excellent literary criticism as I prepare to de-brief the 6th grade summer read in the fall. I particularly enjoy that the essays are accessible even to a non-English major. Literary criticism seems to have largely relegated itself to obscurity in its post-modern revisionism. Although I was an avid reader and excellent student of literature in high school, I struggled mightily in the few English classes I took in college. I was just lost.
Well, my students are currently reading Ender's Game and discussing it on a class Wiki. The buzz for the Hollywood treatment being release in November starring Asa Butterfield is growing. Class field trip?

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie

While trading in crass middle and high school humor, there is something fresh and appealing about the first half of this book. Laura and I both enjoyed it. Maybe part of its appeal is that is presents a modern, non-sentimental look at life on a reservation. The second half of the book, however, falls flat and feels a bit more memoir than novel. Alexie seems to lean too heavily on a few memories in order to bring the book to some sort of satisfying close. The funny dark humor that carries the first half fades.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Jared Diamond

Just starting, but: What about religion? Hasn't that mattered in the "fate of human societies"? Let alone divine providence, just the power of ideas...

Friday, July 12, 2013

No Mess Shrub Cutting or Removal

Have you ever launched into a massively overgrown bush with shears only to discover that after twenty minutes of ecstasy you've created an hour or more of back-breaking clean up? Is your city or township persnickety about bush pickup requiring bundles using twine only, with branches of no more than X diameter and Y length? OOO! Me! Me! Pick Me!

Oddly, this isn't my first post on overgrown shrubs. Clearly we bought a house whose landscaping was far beyond its expiration date, hastened by negligence and\or neglect. I've had plenty of opportunity to devise new techniques for making life with large shrubs more enjoyable. In this post I will share a method I've discovered for effectively cutting back or completely removing a bush in about half the time it would otherwise take.

STEP 1- Start with a bush that needs a haircut in a bad way...
This bush, while screening our porch from the street nicely, will be unnecessary once the fence is finished, and boy is it ugly!

STEP 2- Tie a small loop to the end of twine.

Twine, cheap and plentiful
STEP 3- Divide the bush into "chunks," bundling each tightly before cutting anything on the bush. Go on to the next picture to see how to do this.

After wrapping the twine around a portion of the bush, thread the end of the twine through the loop you created. The lasso you now have will help you tighten down the portion of the bush you've looped. CAUTION: Especially if you have twine like that shown, don't rely on the strength of the twine to condense the branches of the bush into a tight bundle. Use your hands and arms and bear hug the branches while tightening the twine. 

STEP 4- You've already done the hard work. Now comes the fun!

Cut or trim the bush at the desired height. If your city requires brush to be a certain length, keep that in mind. In this case, my city asks for 4' bundles maximum, and that was about the height of the bush WHICH I WANTED GONE. I didn't bother with shears and went straight for the chainsaw.

STEP 5- Move your bundles to the curb!

Inevitably a few stray branches have to be tucked into a bundle or a bundle needs to be tightened or needs additional wraps of twine. But for the most part, your work is done.