Monday, March 31, 2014

Live-blogging blogging!

So in a couple weeks, I'm to be on the agenda of the monthly meeting of the Terwilliger Users' Group (TUG), a gathering of people using or otherwise interested in computers at Terwilliger Plaza. My topic is to be "Blogging", and I was asked to keep it short -- five minutes or so. This morning, Scott Phillips, who is in charge of the group, called to ask if I'd be willing to make a blog entry as part of my talk. I'm more than happy to do so, since otherwise I'll be darned if I know what one says about a blog other than "I write about whatever I feel like and post it to the internet." With as many interesting people as there are here, it seems criminal that there are only three blogs listed on the Terwilliger Plaza page. Maybe I can coax a few more people to take the plunge.

Liveblogging will let me show off the Blogger interface, plus be a good source of questions about the mechanics of blogging. All assuming I don't get prohibitive stage-fright and find myself unable to recall the link to my blog. I'll write it down somewhere.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ivy: War of Attritiion

"When I first came here, I thought I was going to be able to wipe out the ivy," said Steve Price, Terwilliger Plaza groundskeeper. "But after a couple years, I realized that I'd be doing well if I could fight it to a standstill."

I asked whether the ivy did any good stabilizing the rock face. "See that triangular hole in the rock up there?" Steve pointed up at my mountainside. "A chunk of rock came out of that and smashed a car in the parking lot flat. That's when we put up the fence to protect residents and their cars. And it was ivy roots that pried that rock loose."

"Look up there," he said, pointing at the nearly vertical rock face between the parking lot and the street that winds by at the top of the cliff. "I had professional ivy-killers come in to try to kill the ivy up there. But the only way they could spray herbicide on that stuff at the top was to rappel down the rock face. We couldn't afford to pay them that much."

Steve fights the good fight as best he can, digging out roots where the slope permits, spraying herbicide carefully when weather permits, cutting finger-thick base stems and disentangling dependent vines, trying to keep Terwilliger trees free of the clinging marauder during spring and summer.

He is not above using propaganda to fight the good fight against English ivy. "Some of the residents thought the ivy was so pretty, they wanted to leave it alone. I got somebody from the Ivy Eradication Team to come in and do a presentation. That convinced them."

Steve is retiring in about a month, and Plaza residents who care about the grounds are very sorry to see him go. The English ivy is probably rubbing its leaves together in delight.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Villainous neighbors

Want to get a snarl out of a mild-mannered Oregon environmentalist? Just walk up to her and say, "English ivy".

If you are not in the know, you may think English ivy is a hardy, reliable, esthetically pleasing ground cover with glossy green, white-veined, three-lobed leaves. Even people who don't know many plants recognize English ivy and may have a vaguely romantic sense about it from an obscure Christmas carol, "The Holly and the Ivy".

But in Oregon, English ivy is an invasive plant that destroys habitat for other plants and kills trees -- yes, kills trees! -- by climbing all over them and smothering the tree's own leaves and adding considerable weight to the tree, making it more vulnerable to wind. It crowds out native plants, robbing small animals of their normal food sources (nothing, it seems, eats English ivy on purpose), and, left unchecked, will eventually Conquer the World. It's Oregon's version of the South's kudzu vines. (Actually, we've got two of those, English ivy and Himalayan blackberries, but Himalayan blackberries provide a delicious street-side snack every August, so it's hard to feel quite as much hostility to them.)

So why am I inflicting all this militant botany on you? Because the mountainside I have been celebrating since I moved in here is increasingly covered with -- you guessed it, English ivy. I went out this afternoon to examine the problem more closely, and there's a whole lot of the stuff clambering up the mountainside between the Terwilliger Plaza parking lot and the street that runs by above at about the ninth-floor level. Several trees already wear thick coats of English ivy, which is turning them into big broccoli spears where only the leaves at the very top of the trees manage to unfold. English ivy doesn't care about winter, at least not here, and its glossy green leaves and clinging vines persist year-round.

So where can I get more information about this, I was asking myself as I wandered beneath the cascades of English ivy? And voila! a fellow resident was pruning back dead fern fronds and had the answer for me: Steven Price, the Terwilliger Plaza groundskeeper, who is about to retire at the end of next month, but will be able to tell me probably more than I want to know about the local infestation of hedera helix (easier to think of it as noxious by its Latin name). Now it may be that we're leaving the clingy villain where it is because it's holding the mountainside in place. Someone characterized the rock constituting the mountain as "crumbling basalt", and I would prefer not to have to wear a hard-hat to walk to my car. Or it may be that the English ivy is serving some other arcane function other than coating the rocks with bright green leaves.

But if not, I'm curious to know what we're doing to get rid of it. It's on the state's list of noxious weeds, and if it's on our land, we're responsible for it.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Ominous shadows

Twice now, looking out into bright spring sunshine against my mountainside, I have seen the shadow of a big bird. Not robin-big, hawk-big. Being slow of foot in a messy room, I was unable to get to the window fast enough to see exactly what was casting the shadow.

But I had assumed that my mountainside was a great refuge for small birds against big birds. It's covered with a rough-grained wire-mesh screen to protect people and cars below from falling rocks, and the mesh is covered and interwoven by a spectacular tangle of old blackberry vines and ferns. If I were a small bird seeking a fairly hawk-proof nesting site, the mini-caves in the mountainside behind the mesh would seem ideal. I, being a small bird, could happily fly in and out through the mesh with worms and insects for my chicks, lacking only fingers with which to give one-finger salutes to the hawks, swooping in frustration behind me.

Still, these shadows are worrisome. It occurs to me now that small birds in transit from nest to insect hunt and back are just as vulnerable as they ever were. Which leads to soppy thoughts of orphaned chicks cheeping "Where's Mommy? Where's Daddy?" I like watching National Geographic TV shows about Nature, red in tooth and claw, but I'd prefer not to see her immediately outside my windows.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

How do you know when you're over a cold?

Thursday, it was real clear: I had a cold. I was plucking Kleenexes out of the box every few seconds, I felt achy and droopy, my sinuses ached, sleeping was not only easy but inevitable. I was sick.

Friday was a bit better, but not great. Still snurfly, still droopy, still clearly sick.

Yesterday? Well, maybe. Kleenex frequency was way down, daytime sleep was optional and brief, low energy, but I can do low energy when I am in tip-top condition. I believe it is referred to as "sloth" in the list of seven deadly sins, and, if I only had one, that would be it.

So today, though I hadn't slept particularly well, I arose feeling refreshed, determined to get to church. Ate breakfast (a healthy bowl of oatmeal festooned with raisins and raspberries), drank my coffee, and wham! Suddenly my nose is running, I'm coughing, and my energy level is back at the bottom of the scale. Isn't caffeine supposed to pep me up, make me MORE energized? Wasn't I cured just minutes ago?

So am I sick (stay home, don't spread the germs) or am I lollygagging (lazy, good-for-nothing wants to watch the rest of season two of "House of Cards")? And am I blogging about it so that, by the time I post this, it will be too late to go to church and the decision will have been made? Or is it all a diabolical plot to keep me from the communion rail until my soul is so steeped in depravity that Satan won't even have to nudge to put me onto the path to eternal damnation? No, I'm pretty sure that last one is not an option. In the first place, God loves me whether or not I take communion, and in the second place I'm just as easily seduced by that bag of Lindors truffles in the cupboard as by taking an extra day to baby a cold.

Oh, and look! The cliffside tree opposite my windows has what look like buds on the ends of its bare branches, Maybe it will bloom! Maybe the whole mess is allergies to spring pollen. Where's that Kleenex box?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

if it's good enough for Krugman ...

"Regular readers have noticed a certain ... thinness ... of blog posting this week." So writes New York Times economist Paul Krugman this morning. "Too many commitments came due at the same time, and I'm swamped."

Me too, Paul. Of course, my swamp does not compare in depth and breadth to his. He has international speaking gigs, classes to teach, and promises to take part in nationally significant panel discussions. I have overdue financial data entry to do at church, "new kid" events here at Terwilliger Plaza, and a felt need to have some staring-into-space time, which in future will masquerade as bird-watching.

And sometimes, one finds one just has nothing to say. I don't know what people who get paid to blog do about that. I've found it's most convenient at such times to just not say anything. (My apologies to those of you who are sensitive to split infinitives. Sometimes the flow of the prose demands an artful awkwardness. Hmmm. Maybe "... just not to say anything" would work, but I really want the "not" closer to the "say" than the proper construction will allow. Feel free to disagree.)

Monday, March 10, 2014

A peculiar kind of lost

I've been here nearly a month now and find that I'm suffering a peculiar kind of lostness. I want to move into the Terwilliger Plaza space, but my pre-Terwilliger life keeps pulling me away. Example: I was to give a brief talk about this blog to the Terwilliger Users Group tomorrow, but the timing conflicted with a meeting with my realtor to move my prior residence onto the market. Example: I wanted to attend a class in an ongoing series about the brain, this one focusing on sleep and dreams, but my work as treasurer of my church overflowed into the class time despite my best efforts. "I really do need to leave by 2:00," I affirmed. Then it was " 2:15", then " 2:30", and when I finally left at 3:00, I realized I hadn't eaten lunch, and by the time lunch was attended to, the class was over.

If I had moved here from more than a few blocks away, of course, I wouldn't feel this kind of lost, I'd feel another kind -- maybe missing old friends and the rhythms of old networks, maybe looking out at the Oregon weather and missing a different light, different winds on my skin. But I'm in a new place in an old place, and I am suspended as if in mid-leap over a river with my feet definitely having left the near bank but not yet firmly planted on the far bank.

Maybe it's just daylight saving time stamping the wrong numbers on the shape of my waking time. Springing forward is always disorienting.

Or (my anxieties suggest) maybe I made this move just before Alzheimer's started unraveling my mind and what I'm feeling is the first dissolution of who I am. Old age has so many possibilities, very few of them at all appealing. Except, of course, when compared to the alternative.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

one upside of smaller space

I've got slightly more than half as much space here as I did in the condo. And it's stretched out so that the long side of both rooms is windows. I'm sure I could have watched it rain in the condo, but I very seldom did. (Of course, in the condo watching the rain would also involve staring into the windows of the condo across the way, a definite social dissuader.)

Here, I can't get away from the windows and so I can always watch the rain mist or pour or or pelt or dribble down against ferns and blackberry vines on the basalt cliffs. I know there are those, my son Jeff among them, who would consider that a downside. But it cheers and soothes me to watch the rain fall. I'm not particularly hoping for more snow this year, but, should it come, it too will be beautiful and magical.

Jeff, how could you possibly want to trade the peaceful gray and damp of Oregon for the alligators, swamps, humidity, hurricanes, and general craziness and corruption of Florida?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

in-house eats

Here's last week's specials at the restaurant downstairs. I may have to use my free dinner coupon soon. I'd go today, but it's Sunday, and there's no dinner serving. (Sorry about the dead space, I don't know how else to move it past all that stuff on the right side of the page.)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Big Brother

My life is getting a great deal more organization imposed on it than I am used to. Probably a good thing, but somewhat -- noteworthy.

Item: Monday, the new member services lady, Sandy, will come to my apartment and give me an hour-long presentation on what new members need to know. She called me on my in-house phone and left a message. We played phone tag for a while, finally set up the appointment for Monday. An hour! I suspect I will come away with a pile of paper to process and/or sign and/or agree to. I'll let you know after the meeting.

Item: next Wednesday I will meet with someone from the Wellness Center (gym, swimming pool, massage and acupuncture available, sauna) to set up a program -- a Program -- to improve my physical condition. Which is a good thing, of course: as my friend Joyce says, I need to do what I can to keep what I have. But the Wellness Center lady called me to ask whether I wanted to. Up until now, my neglected gym memberships just sat and sucked sustenance out of my bank account until I admitted defeat and canceled them. Here, I don't pay extra, but they actively seek me out to encourage participation.

Item: a week from Tuesday, I will give a short presentation on this very blog to the Terwilliger Users Group. (What does one say about a blog? "I write because I like to, people read because they enjoy what I write (or for whatever reason), any questions?") This came about because I asked to have my blog listed on the internal web page with the two (2!) other people's blogs. One of the listed blogs is titled Knit a Condom Amulet, by the way. Interesting, diverse community here. But anyway, so I asked to have this blog added to the list, and they invited me to come to the users group.

Item: camel bells once a month so I don't miss the floor meeting. Can't really complain about that one, but still.

I suppose "Big Brother" is an unfair title for this entry. But I'm used to going days at a time without anyone interrupting my solitude. That's not going to happen here. Which is, I suppose, part of the reason I moved here. But It's Not What I'm Used To, she whined.

Living without habits

It's much better now than it was at first, but living without habits is exhausting! Yesterday morning, I forgot to take my pills. I thought I had set up a system, vastly superior to what I did in the condo. I bought this seven-day two-tier pill box, places to put morning and evening pills for each day of the week, morning pills in the yellow side, evening pills in the blue side, what could go wrong?

Lack of habits. I forgot to look for the pill box, which was in plain sight.

I know, not a really big deal, people forget things all the time, especially people in a residential community whose youngest member is 62. But dang! It is such a good system. And its only shortcoming is that I have to consciously remember to use it.

It's like typing this sentence. I don't think about what my fingers are doing, I just generate prose, and my hands and fingers know how to turn the prose concepts into letters and words and punctuation without my having to figure out how to get each bit from my head to the keyboard.

I'm not an organized person in the first place, I often make it up as I go along. But I am appreciating how much having set habits eases things. If I were an organized person, I suppose I would set out to define and acquire the missing habits, practicing, scheduling, checking things off on lists, going to bed justified in the secure knowledge that my life is under control. The way disorganized people form habits is by bumping into things until either calluses form or bruises make the bumping so uncomfortable that it is actively avoided.

Ah well, as I said, it's better now than it was two weeks ago.

Dang! Two weeks! I've been here two weeks. And I have yet to gather the courage to get my free dinner in the restaurant. I'll have to pick up a menu and see what's cooking.

unexpected sounds

So I heard bells. Ka-ling, ka-ling, ka-ling. Not Christmas-y sleigh bells, not church bells, not jingle bells, not wind chimes, resonant, melodious, substantial bells. They sounded too leisurely to be some kind of alarm. I poked my head out the door, and there was the man who teaches the "Inquiring Minds" class striding down the sixth floor hallway waving a set of three or four metal bells ranging in size from coffee-cup-size to pint-size on a leather harness. "Camel bells," he said with a grin. "It's how we announce the monthly floor meeting." He taught in the Middle East before he retired, so they're probably genuine. And they sound very nice. So once a month, I will get to hear camel bells. I wonder whether he might share the pleasure of walking them down the hall.