Culture

November 16, 2014

Jerusalem
This weekend saw the Rogue Theater’s presentation of Jerusalem, a play by Jez Butterworth.  I realized I’d read about it, ‘cuz  Hugh Jackman — Wolverine himself — will return to the New York stage in a production of Jez Butterworth’s play “The River”, which I’d just read in the NY Times1, mentioning Butterworth’s last play,  “Jerusalem”.  Then I remembered reading about Jerusalem a few years ago when it was on Broadway2.

I understood most of the ref’s to England – Spice Girls, Susan Boyle, Frodo, Beckham, William Blake’s poem.  Yes, the play was pretty profane, but I thought the acting was very good, and I enjoyed it.  (You can still see it this coming weekend.)  Photo from the Rogue’s Facebook page.

jerusalem

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land

Note: the poem has since been set to music, and was sung at the Royal Wedding.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yIWBO_7nio

jcc sculpture 013JCC Sculpture Garden
Sunday joined CAS3 for a tour of the Jewish Community Center’s sculpture garden.  It was created south of the building after the Alvernon Bridge was built over the Rillito and exposed the area.  It it now part of their Arts & Culture program, which also includes its art gallery (now exhibiting a quilt show) and their annual film festival.

You have no doubt seen this 40-foot sculpture by Del Geist4 if you’ve used the bridge.  It’s named Clavis Tower.  In archaeology a clavis is a Roman keystone.

jcc sculpture 004They also had a couple of new sculptures by Rotraut (pronounced “Roe-trout”)5, widow of Yves Klein.

We also had nice (kosher) afternoon tea, but with our standard wine instead of tea, of course.


Reading

black countJust finished The Black Count, by Tom Reiss, recommended by friend M, a historical tome (330 pages, with another 70 of acknowledgements, author’s notes on names – English v. French, notes, and selected bibliography).

It’s the story of Alexander Dumas’ father (the son, his namesake, was author of The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, and others).

Alexander the father was son of a French aristocrat who was a Haitian (Hispaniolan back in the 18th C.) plantation owner and one of his slaves.  Alexander was educated in Paris as a rich kid and an all-around Good Guy. He became a great general,  a 6’1″ black man in charge of 50,00 troops, mostly white, but was eventually screwed out of his position by Napoleon, who tossed out not only Alexander’s military compensation, but the Revolution for Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, and reinstated slavery in the French colonies.

Anyway, it was a bit historically dry for me, and I’m not that interested in military campaigns.  But it is obviously well-researched.

Scorpion
Friday morning grabbed the rest of the NY Times that I hadn’t finished (it takes me a whole week to read Sunday’s) from the floor next to my bed and stuffed it in the bag I take to the college, with my purse.  (Fridays afternoons are slow, as there are no classes, just the open lab, so I often finish the newspaper.)  When I took out my purse at lunch time I noticed a scorpion in the bottom of the bag.  It wasn’t moving, but I dumped out the contents and squished it.  Guess it had been in the newspaper.  Maybe my cat had killed it.  She does that.

1http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/09/theater/hugh-jackman-tests-his-limits-in-the-river.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3As
2http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/22/theater/reviews/jerusalem-with-mark-rylance-review.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
3Tucson Museum of Art’s Contemporary Art Society
4http://delgeist.com/sculpture.html
5http://www.rotraut.com/index_en.html

Three

November 14, 2014

This morning as I was warmly ensconced in my down quilt, drinking a latte and listening to the news (http://www.npr.org/2014/11/12/363058646/coal-mines-keep-operating-despite-injuries-violations-and-millions-in-fines – does that only anger liberals?), my cat sat up, at attention. I noticed something just beyond my back yard fence, so I went into the bathroom (with an unobstructed view of the area under the large mesquite tree).  Three healthy coyotes were checking out the area, urinating as necessary over rival scents. Appeared to be a mom and dad and teen. I’ve never seen more than two coyotes together in my yard before (they were the two very young siblings1). No wonder the cat has been staying indoors so much lately.

Seen Today
At the college the cleaning woman had the door open to the cleaning supply closet near our classroom. On the top shelf were four healthy philodendrons (the only indoor plant my mother could grow), for decoration.

Cleaning
Speaking of cleaning, I’ve done a lot recently since my house has gone onto the market. Paid to have the windows professionally cleaned, and paid my friend’s housekeeper to help me one day with yearly maintenance on the deck, but didn’t want to get the carpet cleaned, as only the stairs and the hallway needed it.  I had finished a carpet cleaning spray for spots that hardly worked and took a lot of elbow grease. Online found a formula of peroxide and baking soda. Worked great, although with a modicum of scrubbing with a towel. Only problem was the baking soda doesn’t seem to dissolve well enough, and the sprayer kept clogging.

Saturday decided to empty my bedroom closet to oil the wood shelves which were incredibly dusty.  Was wearing my dreadful work shorts and tattered T-shirt and had just started unloading the  bottom shelf when the front door opened to a real estate agent and her client! She had called but I guess I had been upstairs eating breakfast and missed it. Oh well – luckily the rest of the house was clean except for dirty breakfast dishes.  I went back to work and could hear her extolling the virtues of the house (she must have been a cheerleader in high school), but her client seemed non-committal.  Darn.

Corporate Sponsors

Had to copy this from a friend’s Facebook page:

boehner

Walkabout

An interesting article in the NY Times a couple of weeks ago2 about a 40-year-old Swiss woman, Sarah Marquis, who hiked 10,000 miles (!).

…For that trip, Marquis lined up her first sponsor, the North Face. She doesn’t think she impressed the company by her pitch. She believes it gave her a few backpacks, a couple of tents and some clothes because, she said, “when I told them what I was going to do, they thought, We can’t let that little thing go out without gear.” To supplement the inadequate supply of noodles she could carry, Marquis brought a slingshot, a blow gun, some wire to make snares and a net for catching insects. In the warm months, Marquis ate goannas, geckos and bearded dragons. In the cold months, when the reptiles hid, she subsisted on an Aboriginal standby, witchetty grubs — white, caterpillar-size moth larvae that live in the roots of Mulga trees. (Raw, Marquis said, they taste like unsweetened condensed milk; seared in hot sand, they crisp up nicely.) Throughout, Marquis tried to minimize human contact. She hid her femininity with loose clothes, big sunglasses, hair piled up in a hat. When water was scarce, she collected condensation, either by digging a deep hole and lining the cool bottom with plastic or by tying a tarp around a bush. If those techniques didn’t yield enough liquid — and they rarely did — she drank snake blood. At night Marquis slept close to the trunks of trees, touching the bark in a way that she describes as “almost carnal.” She fell in love with a particular twisted and wind-bent Western myall tree on Australia’s Nullarbor Plain…

The rest of Marquis’s trip was not all Zen bliss. Seven months into the walk, she lost a molar. Her gum abscessed, and the attendant infection, which couldn’t be controlled with the antibiotics, started moving down her neck, and she had to be evacuated from Mongolia. Marquis returned to the precise G.P.S. coordinates she left and made it to China, where, one day, some children followed her. She sang with them and taught them how to set up her tent — and then they stole her BlackBerry. In Laos, drug dealers descended on Marquis’s camp one night, firing their automatic weapons into the air. Soon after that, Marquis contracted dengue fever. She tied her left leg to a tree so she wouldn’t wander off in her delirium and drown herself in a river…

Of course, if you don’t die — well, then the experience of extreme travel is fantastic. After swimming across a river infested with crocodiles, Marquis wrote that every time she finds herself in the bush, “my happiness increases tenfold.”

1http://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/mesquite-seeds/
2http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/09/28/magazine/the-woman-who-walked-10000-miles-no-exaggeration-in-three-years.html

Cold Mornings

November 7, 2014

halloween weatherFall has arrived.  Check out the change in weather we had a week ago:

The cold mornings have meant going from iced coffee to hot lattes, from homemade granola to stone-cut oatmeal, from my cotton yukata to a warm terrycloth robe.  I was still wearing sandals last week. As of Monday I’ve been wearing closed-toe shoes.

Artist’s Studio

taborA week ago Sunday with CAS6 visited Lynn Tabor’s studio, in her home.  Enjoyed her oils (a display of small skyscapes), but was particularly interested in her pastel skyscapes.  (I did not take my camera, so this is off the Web1.)

And she had tall cabinets with little drawers all filled with pastel chalk (arranged in color order, of course) .  Plus, her studio was immaculate.  Never seen an artist’s studio as clean.

Downtown Tucson

A week ago Wednesday evening toured The Flats at Julian Drew Block2 with a Sierra Club group. Downtown Urban Living has never been more affordable!  84 WalkScore; 100 BikeScore.  (No parking available.)  The ONLY Condos for purchase in Downtown Tucson.

Usually don’t go out in the middle of the week, and was surprised to find so many people downtown, especially as it was a Wednesday night!  Guess the new trolley helps. Lots of sports bars and restaurants open.

studioBack to the condos.  The developer took an old apartment building, ripped out all of the old wiring, plumbing, and kitchens, and updated the look.  He put in 16 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio - mine are rated 13) A/C units, and low-E windows, but didn’t follow through with water shower headconservation.  (Putting in rain shower heads rather than water conserving shower heads, for example.)  Here is a studio apartment.

Developer Ross Rulney got more than $600,000 in street, sidewalk and utility improvements outside his downtown property in return for a commitment to build 53 condominiums.3

Ross is now building condos in Oro Valley in the abandoned, partially built Sunway Hotel Group’s development on the northeast corner of Oracle Road and Linda Vista Blvd.4

UA Dance

Saturday evening attended a UA Dance performance in the Stevie Eller Dance Theatre. WOW – loved the modern dance, imaginative with humor and great costumes. (Could have done without the ballet.)

Unbreakable… used 8 dancers to explore the intricacies of glass…
Five Studies in Locomotion showcased music from Mozart to Moon Dog, including Shostakovich, Hough and Glazunov…7

The Election

Totally depressing.
electiion

Early Thanksgiving

Bruno, our tour guide on CAS’s trip to Italy (see my blogs for the trip5) and his wife, neither of whom had been in the States before, are visiting, so CAS6 had a potluck Thanksgiving dinner for them this Wednesday evening.  All American food and wine.  A feast!  At the beautiful home of the S****s, a modern design with views of the mountains and the city. B is Principal Emeritus of S**** Associates Architects. Their large collection of art is pretty incredible too.

Was surprised that B didn’t know that I was an architect.  That conversation over 22 years ago is etched indelibly in my mind.  I had just graduated from architecture school and interviewed with him.  The next day he called me and apologized that he couldn’t offer me a job because his son would be taking over the firm and would feel uncomfortable managing a person older than himself.  A professor of mine was astounded that they hired T, a less than mediocre student, over me, top of my class, AIA Silver Medalist, etc.  Sure, blatant age discrimination.  But, sigh, I’ve also experienced sex discrimination, at my last firm.  Happens when only 16% of the AIA’s membership is female.  At least I don’t have to wear a burka.

hybiscus 002Blooming

My hibiscus is blooming.  Unfortunately, as I remember from Jamaica, each flower only lasts a day.

1http://www.ethertongallery.com/exhibitions/taber/index.html
2http://juliandrewflats.com/
3http://tucson.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/city-paid-k-in-unfinished-condo-deal/article_2b47ffe8-e75f-511d-a976-3ff5605bcad2.html
4http://www.arizonadailyindependent.com/2013/03/21/el-corredor-rises-from-the-ashes-of-abandoned-hotel-site-oro-valley/
5http://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2013/06/30/verona-venice-2013/
6Tucson Museum of Art’s Contempory Art Society
7http://dance.arizona.edu/performances

Books I couldn’t finish

October 24, 2014

RozChast is a staff cartoonist for The New Yorker.  She wrote Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? a graphic memoir of her parents dying; first trying to discuss death with them, then being with them in their final years.  I know it was on the New York Times Bestseller list at some point, but I found it A Bit Much.  Maybe I just had it easier with my parents.  I was here in Arizona when my father died back in Detroit.  And it was nice having Mom  live with me here for her last six months.  Hospice in the home made it work.

roz

This is a summary from the New Yorker:
http://projects.newyorker.com/story/chast-parents/
(The hardcover book is 228 pages.)

The next one I didn’t finish reading is Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein, also a New York Times Best Seller.  Wikipedia describes it thus:

The book explores the phenomenon of princess culture and in particular how the concept is marketed to young girls.

As I hate pink and Barbie dolls, the Disneyfication of Grimm’s fairy tales and Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, I dressed my daughter in blue (which looked great with her blue eyes), did not buy any Disney story books, and refused to buy her a Barbie.  (Two of her aunts  felt sorry for the poor girl, who was not exactly deprived, and both bought her Barbies one Xmas, so I had to deal with all of those tiny high-heeled shoes caught in the rug.)   But my daughter didn’t want to deprive her daughter, who has a closet of pink and even a huge Barbie dollhouse.  So to read about the marketing of all of this dreck made me sick to my stomach.

But I read a few good parts in the book included the discussion of X: A Fabulous Child’s Story (which, of course, I had) about a child – X – raised to like both boy and girl clothes (in yellow and green) and toys, both dolls and cars.  Also the discussion of Grimm’s fairy tales and how totally horrible they are.  For example, at the end of Cinderella…

For the doves were still perching on the girl’s shoulders. And as they walked into the church, the doves each leaned over and pecked out one of the sister’s eyesAfter the prince and the girl with no name were married, they all left the church, and the older step-sister walked on the bride’s left side this time, and the younger one on her right side. And so the doves leaned over and pecked out the other eye from each of them.

And apparently, from studies by psychologists, this blood and gore does not harm little children.  Much better for them than bland happy endings.  (How real is that?)

Articles I could finish

But basically because they were short enough.  This is continuing my Landscape Architecture study.

There were a series of articles from Landscape Journal, Spring 1991 on The Avant-garde and the Landscape: Can They Be Reconciled? There was a lot of high-fallutin talk, discussing landscape in terms of …

moving into that domain [chance and change] sets the stage for the establishment of a dialectic that ends neither in the elimination of one side (as with Socrates), nor with simple or not so simple contradiction (as with Kant), but with something that Neils Bohr dubbed “complementarity.”

Really.  Discussing Bohr’s theory of nuclear particles in an article about landscape?  But there is interesting discussions of earthworks, Christo’s Valley Curtain (see the tiny people at the bottom?) and Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, among others.  No plants are used in these Avant-garde “landscapes”.

spiral-jettycurtain2

The other article was Radical Romanticism.  (You can request these  articles from the library and they email you digital copies.)  Discussion of Frederick Law Olmstead (as in New York’s Central Park and other marvelous creations).  But especially like Bernard Tschumi’s Parc de la Villette in Paris, with its grid of deconstructed red cube “follies”.  I remember taking the kids to it when they were young.  (I never digitized my photos, so this from the internet.)

parc-de-la-villette-folies
Fall

Our weather is finally “cool” (84°/55°, typical, and we call that “cool” – my daughter calls 70°/37° weather in Idaho “warm”) and each night I open the sliders to screens.

daylilies 002The other night a butterfly fluttered in.  I placed it outside on a plant (then noticed the next morning that its wings were shredded).  As I was going back in a spider skittered in.  Taking that out to the rosemary (a cup over it, a card under it), a small praying mantis ambled in.  As I took it out a cricket jumped in.  All to the rosemary.

daylilies 003One drizzly day, into the evening.  The plants have gotten quite excited about the extra rain.  More trimming to do.  But my rain lilies, which I had thought were dead during the summer, not even a leaf, have miraculously appeared again.  Bulbs are incredible.

This morning a ruckus outside.  A snuffing growl, probably a javelina, and a high-pitched bark of pain, probably a coyote.  I couldn’t see what had happened, halfway to the wash from my back fence, but bet a coyote tried to grab a small javelina and got gored by a parent.

Memorial Service

nancy 001Yesterday evening a memorial service for an artist friend, Nancy Tokar Miller, who had lost her battle with cancer after many years.  (The painting I have of hers is in my dining room, and I took a photo of a work of hers at the Louis Carlos Bernal Gallery, here at Pima, for a blog1.)

There looked to be more than 250 people in the Tucson Museum of Art courtyard.  About eight people spoke – the TMA curator, a collector and two artists, all of whom I know from the Contemporary Art Society (which Nancy convinced me to join), the owner of Etherton Gallery who carries her work, a friend from the Orchid Society, and relatives, followed by a buffet.  A lovely celebration of her life and art.

1http://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/snow/

Pumpkins

October 15, 2014

I especially miss the grandkids on holidays, like Halloween.  Used to go to Willcox to pick pumpkins1.  Now they’re doing it in Idaho.  (Daughter’s photos of herself and youngest in pumpkin patch, with oldest two painting pumpkins.)
lis & aidenlis & kids
This I don’t miss.  (From my daughter’s Facebook page.)  Luckily she’s a nurse…

It’s amazing some children survive until adulthood. Aiden fell off an approximately 12′ retaining wall today straight down onto his face. It could have been MUCH worse but there was a lot of blood and some temporary panicking about head injury…

This child is “Scarface” in my blog from April, 20132.  But he’s also cute (also from my daughter’s Facebook page):

Aiden’s teacher told me today that he reported to her that In Our garden we are growing tomatoes, cucumbers, and bikinis.

October 13, 2014

Went to Home Depot today for my almost-weekly trip for gardening supplies, and not only did they have a huge display of pumpkins and assorted Halloween folderol but they had a huge display of Xmas trees and lights.  Am thinking of boycotting them until after Thanksgiving (when I think Xmas displays should be allowed).

Tendonitis

Yes, I still have it.  But these are good for it:

>A two-hour lunch (Zona 78 – split a very good pizza) with friend B* on a rainy day
>An eight-hour day of work at the college
>Salonpas, a pain reliever patch that the tree trimmer (actually owner of the company – two others did all of the extensive work) recommended – took two out of the envelope and gave me the rest.  Totally marvelous!
>Tucson Meet Yourself on a beautiful autumn day (with friend R and her mother-in law V** – bought food that V had never had from many different countries such as Mexican horchata, Laotian eggrolls, Turkish dolmates, Polish pierogi (some potato, some mushroom), and French pear clafouti3)
>Lunch (Prep & Pastry – very good, as usual) and a movie (The Two Faces of January, a psychological thriller based on the 1964 novel, at the Loft)  with friend N

Bad for it:

>Exercise class at the Y
>Yard work
>House work

*B had good suggestions about water heaters.  First: turn them when you’re on vacation, and during the summer.  (Who needs a hot shower in the summer?  Who uses anything but cold water to wash clothes?  And the dishwasher heats its own water.  Second: if you have an electric water heater, buy a timer (like the one you put on lights in your house when you’re gone) and only turn hot water heater on, in the winter, when you’ll be taking showers, such as in the morning.

**Have to repeat story that V (pushing 90) told:
Her son had given her her first cell phone, with a cat meow for a ring tone.  (Think I want one of those!)  She wasn’t well acquainted with it and neglected to turn it off in church.  Of course it started meowing during the sermon.  Three meows, with many people looking around for the cat, before she could get it out of her purse and turned off.

Leif Erikson

Friends had their yearly Leif Ericson party.

Leif Erikson was a Norse explorer regarded as the first European to land in North America, nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus.

Absolutely delicious Norwegian food [such as gravlaks (sweet and salty cured salmon), kjøttboller (meatballs), sursild (pickled herring),  and geitost (brown/red cheese) meatballs, but no pig’s trotter or sheep’s head], and lots of friends.

Then there are the toasts with aquavit, kind of a caraway-flavored vodka, 40% alcohol by volume.  Or other flavors; this year R made loganberry-flavored, mixing the berries and vodka himself.  People used to chug the shot of the caraway-flavored ’cause they didn’t like the taste.  Now people were enjoying the berry-flavored shots.  The toast recited was: “Din skol, min skol, alla backa flicka skol” (Here’s to you, here’s to me, here’s to all the pretty girls).

1http://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/4%E2%80%9D-o-c/
2http://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/peccaries-and-plants/
3http://www.tucsonweekly.com/TheRange/archives/2011/09/22/prepare-your-waistline-for-tucson-meet-yourself

October Evening

October 10, 2014

October 10, 2014

Was putting garden clippings into the compost pile about 5pm this evening when a herd of eleven javelinas moseyed down the drainage wash and stopped to eat mesquite seeds under my large mesquite tree. I started to talk to them, as usual, and most of them came over to the garden fence to smell me, their noses wrinkling up and down, not usual.  Hackles up, but friendly. Usually only the alpha male checks me out.  Most of them were small, probably young.

About 20 minutes later I was clipping the rosemary, the cat next to me, when she looked over to the other side of the yard and jumped up a few of the spiral stairs. A bobcat was ambling past the yard on that side.

So I figured that it was time to go in.  Plus we had a full day and night of rain two days ago and the no-see-ums were out, biting my ankles.  Was surprised that we had them in Tucson.  Remembered them from New Jersey.

No-see-ums are small biting flies that appear during the summer months. These tiny biting insects are barely visible to the naked eye, but their bites can be very painful and annoying.

Literature references indicate that no-see-um species found in Arizona and the southwest are of the genus Culicoides. Adult no-see-ums are less than 1/16-inch long can easily pass through normal window screens, and resemble a smaller, more compact version of the mosquito. They are most active in early mornings and evenings of mid to late summer. Mouth parts are well developed with elongated mandibles adapted for blood sucking. Both males and females feed on flower nectar but only the female feeds on blood. She must consume blood for her eggs to mature and become viable.

No-see-um eggs are laid on moist soil. Common breeding areas include the edges of springs, streams and ponds, muddy and swampy areas, tree holes, and even water associated with air conditioning units. The eggs hatch in as little as 3 days. The wormlike larvae have short brush like breathing structures that allows them to breathe in an aquatic environment. Although larvae are not strictly aquatic or terrestrial, they cannot develop without moisture. After feeding on decomposing organic matter and pupating, adults emerge, feed, and mate.1

And a mosquito is sneaking around, biting my hands as I type.  Almost got her when she landed on the wall.  Almost.  On the news they had mentioned that we have a large crop of mosquitoes right now due to the rain.  So there are a couple of downsides to all of the precipitation we’ve had in the past two weeks.  (Plus yesterday morning after I got to work I checked the humidity – 93%!  Practically unheard of here.)

Landscape Architecture

Continuing in the reading of books on Landscape Architecture.  I had commented on The Meaning of Gardens when I was only in the Introduction2.  Now I’ve finished it.  Each essay is written by a different landscape architect.  These quotes are  not summaries, just ones that piqued my interest.

Clare Marcus, in The Garden as Metaphor, wrote that The earth began to be considered as an inertia geological object, replete with resources available for exploitation.  Since the notion of raping one’s mother was repugnant, the planet could no longer be conceived as Mother Earth.  The theme of raping the earth is repeated in a few of the essays.

Ian McHarg wrote Nature is More than A Garden, and mentions that, There is an accompanying belief that work outdoors, preferably in a garden, touching soils, plants, water, stone, confers not only physical but also mental health, a thesis that is often postulated throughout the book.

In Flowers, Power, and Sex, Robert Riley recalled …the angry reaction to Martin Krieger’s provocative, carefully reasoned question “What’s Wrong with Plastic Trees?”  That response culminated in an accusation by Hugh Iltis that anyone asking that question probably got his sexual satisfaction from water-filled, lubricated, female manikins.

Tucson was noted in Kerry Dawson’s Nature in the Urban Garden: …bird density was twenty-six times as high in urban gardens as in the surrounding desert of Tucson.  Well, we do put out water and seeds for them.  Note: my yard is a Certified Wildlife Habitat® by the National Wildlife Federation.  (I filled out a form and sent them $20.)  Kerry states that The urban garden should avoid plants with no value to wildlife, and then quotes Marangio’s list of common garden plants of the United States that have no known wildlife value.  Included are the acacia, Algerian and English ivy, blue gum (eucalyptus), French broom, ice plant, pampas grass, periwinkle, and Scotch broom.  But he doesn’t mention the desert broom, bain of my garden as my neighbor allows his to grow and the “desert snow” of seeds blow into my yard3.

Christopher Grampp, in Social Meanings of Residential Gardens, quoted two homeowners. Harry remarked, “I could never see passing the rewards of a garden on to a gardener.  Why would a person ever hire a gardener, unless he didn’t like to garden?” For Paul, it represents peace of mind.  “Gardening has maintained my sanity.  It’s a real therapy.  You get out and your mind goes blank.  It’s a relief, superior to tranquilizers.”  That view again.

In Garden of the World, Randolph Hester, Jr. hit hard.

ag…the lush, rectangular-patterned oasis in the otherwise-arid valleys… that have been transformed into an agribusiness artwork so large it can only be appreciated from the air.  To keep this garden green, billions of gallons of water are diverted from the network of rivers and marshes that once laced the central valleys and nearby watersheds… (it costs more than $2200 per acre for irrigation alone)…
A beautiful illustration of man’s ability to dominate and control nature, it features ecological insensitivity and disregard for place (hundred of environmental modifications somewhat less visually dramatic than a near-empty Mono Lake are its by-products.  Like other great gardens, it is manicured and parterred by the powerless to enrich the powerful, with more of both than Louis XIV likely ever imagined.

opus 40Deborah Dalton wrote of Harvey Fite’s Opus 40: From Private Garden to Public Art Work.  I would love to visit it!  (Opus 40 is open Friday through Sunday, and holiday Mondays, Memorial Day weekend to Columbus Day Weekend.)

Opus 40 is a six-acre environmental sculpture created from an abandoned bluestone quarry near Woodstock, New York.  The work is a series of terraces, pedestals, pools, steps, and ramps swirling around one another and spiraling up to the central focus, a nine-ton bluestone monolith.

The title of the quarry work, Opus 40, referred to the number of years he intended to work on the project…  Harvey Fite was killed in a fall at the quarry, just three years short of his goal.

[Ironically] he commented on Henry Moore: “…the representational object has a human value; more people can relate to it, comprehend it.  Non-objective art is merely decorative abstraction, or dehumanized art.  Moore’s work is too dehumanized, it has lost the human statement.  His abstractions of the reclining nude and family groups are so distorted that you can’t see the nude or the family.”

sf gardenGray Brechin wrote about Grace Marchant and the Global Garden.  I’m surprised that I never heard about it as I’ve been often to San Francisco.  This woman was incredible, as was the garden she created.

Grace was sixty-three then, and the trash-strewn, weed-grown right-of-way outside her window bothered her.  She set about hauling the bedsprings, tires, and lumber to the cliff and dumping them over the side.  Without asking anyone at City Hall she began conditioning the sandstone outcropping.  Over the next thirty-three year, she cultivated a garden that has attained world fame and created a community of the cottage and apartments around it.

Then he goes into a different vein (back to the rape of the earth):

The environmental and economic crises that now wrack the planet – ozone depletion, dying rivers, seas, and forests, the insidious spread of radioactivity, and the rising price of nearly everything – are the accumulated interest on 5,000 years of exploitive civilization.  Yet because civilization has many valued attributes, the costs involved in raising the facade that hides exploitation are seldom recognized.  Unable to locate the problem, we are helpless to find solution.

Another garden can represent that facade.  Famous in its time as one of the most luxuriantly landscaped estates on the San Francisco Peninsula, the garden created by William Barron at Menlo Park was modeled on those of the European nobility.  Rare specimen plants were imported from around the world to embellish the oak-dotted savannah, and the lawns were flooded throughout the summer to maintain their verdue.

The money to create the Baron garden was gathered from a much larger landscape wrecked twenty miles away and from future generations who would foot the bill for its beauty.  William Barron was principal of a syndicate that controlled the production of mercury in California, an element essential for refining gold and silver ores.  Today, the blasted cinnabar tailings of New Almaden leach mercury into the reservoirs and streams of the Santa Clara Valley and the sediments of San Francisco Bay.  Cleanup of New Almaden, if possible, is estimated to cost millions, but much of the downstream contamination is simply irremediable.

The Barron estate is typical of hundreds of other lovely gardens built from strip mining, clear-cutting, slave trading, chemicals, and munitions.  Seldom are the ugly mean and lovely end closely juxtaposed so that the observer can gauge the true costs involved.  Lacking the direct involvement of their owners, such gardens are as much expressions of conspicuous display as the other purchased accoutrements of the estate.

Garrett Eckko wrote Today into Tomorrow: An Optimistic ViewWay optimistic.  He first expects all of the countries of the world to Control population growth.  Wow, would that be great.  (I do advocate ZPG – Zero Population Growth.)  Would parents allow their children to become suicide bombers if they had only two children, no spares?  Also, then parents could afford to educate both children, even if they were girls!  That would so change the world.  But the religious groups – Muslims, Catholics, Mormons, Fundamentalist Christians, Orthodox Jews, those where men only become mullas, priests, ministers, rabbis, would never go for it.  Other points, Conservation of natural resources, Ecosystem resurrection, and so on, are dwarfed by Control population growth. But I should get off my soapbox and get back to landscape architecture and the book.

Catherine Howett, in Gardens Are Good Places for Dying, mentioned Versailles (which doesn’t have anything to do with dying, but I was impressed with the statistic):

The king’s landscape genius André Le Nôtre boasted, for example, that by continually “carrying out, removing, and bringing back” more than two million potted plants, the garden surrounding the Trianon Palace was “always filled with flowers… and one never sees a dead leaf, or a shrub not in bloom.”

1https://ag.arizona.edu/yavapai/anr/hort/byg/archive/noseeums.html
2http://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/gardening/
3http://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/desert-life-and-eastern-lawns/

Lost Boys of Sudan

October 8, 2014

duanyAre your kids spoiled, bored?

By the age of 14, Ger Duany had wandered barefoot for hundreds of miles through his native Sudan, spent four years in Ethiopian refugee camps and fought as a child soldier. On one occasion, he walked for so long that all his toenails fell off; on another, he fled from soldiers by swimming across a river choked with corpses. But Mr. Duany, one of thousands of so-called Lost Boys left homeless by a Sudanese civil war that began in the 1980s, isn’t one to complain.  “I would not call it a difficult life, really,” he said. “I just had a lot of challenges at a very young age.”

Goateed and cat-eyed, Mr. Duany spoke of his life… Now 35, he has a wry, winking wit, whether discussing the size of his family in Africa — 63 brothers and sisters, the progeny of his father’s nine wives — or recalling his surprise at learning how much a typical American eats, and how often

“As soon as I got here, I was a freshman in high school, even though I had never really gone to school,” he said. “I only knew my ABCs, and could barely understand what my teacher was saying. But I knew that I was smart enough to learn. I knew that I could learn, if I could just go to school and not hear gunshots.”

This is in an interesting article on one of the Lost Boys of the Sudan, in last Sunday’s NY Times, about a new movie, The Good Lie, which Ger Duany plays a character in, about Lost Boys in Kansas City1.

The Lost Boys of Sudan is the name given to the groups of over 20,000 boys of the Nuer and Dinka ethnic groups who were displaced and/or orphaned during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983–2005); about 2.5 million were killed and millions were displaced.

Tucson Festival of Books

rock bottom retainersEvery year I volunteer for the Tucson Festival of Books.  They send me many emails, most of which I don’t read, but I found one interesting, about the Rock Bottom Remainders.  This article was in the Arizona Daily Star:

The Rock Bottom Remainders, America’s most literary oldies rock cover band, will reunite at the 2015 Tucson Festival of Books.

New York Times best-selling authors Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, Dave Barry, Scott Turow, Ridley Pearson, Ray Blount, Jr., Alan Zweibel and Greg Iles, aided by a couple of ringer musicians, including drummer Josh Kelly and Albom’s singer/actress wife, Janine Sabino Albom, will perform a 90-minute show in the University of Arizona Student Union Memorial Center ballroom to kick off the festival on March 13…

This will be the first official performance for the Rock Bottom Remainders since they called it quits in 2012 after the death of band founder Kathi Kamen Goldmark. Several members of the band, which played together for 20 years at book festivals and literature events, did an informal performance at the Miami book festival last year.

“We retired, so to speak, and the joke is now we are going to start doing the first reunion tour,” said Tan, the band’s self-appointed dominatrix, who dons a wig, knee-high boots, fishnet stockings and a whip on stage. “We’re going to be like the Rolling Stones or whatever those groups are that do those reunion tours. This is our first farewell tour.”

“As Mitch Albom says, ‘We’re such a bad band, we can’t even break up correctly’,” Barry added…

Albom recounted what Bruce Springsteen told the band several years ago, which has become something of its guiding light: “You’re not that bad, but I wouldn’t get any better. Because if you get any better, you’re just going to be another lousy band.”

“We were so bad that we were funny. But if we got any better, then we would just be lousy,” Albom explained. “So we’re ranked slightly below lousy, which apparently, according to Bruce Springsteen, is actually a pretty good place to be.”

The Rock Bottom Remainders will likely get together an hour or so before the March 13 show to rehearse. But Turow said those rehearsals will do little to improve their performance.

“Even new songs don’t get much in the way of rehearsal. … And then we get onstage and we flub,” he said with a laugh. “And even the songs that we’ve done a million times before, there’s an element of improvisation every time we perform. I never manage to come in on the right place when I’m singing, so the band has to follow me breathlessly, waiting to see when I’m going to start and what key my voice it’s going to be in that night.”

Those little imperfections are what have been the hallmarks and the joy of the band’s performances.

“ If you’re not bad and expectations are low, then what you have is a funny show,” Tan said.

According to the email,

Between them, they’ve published more than 150 titles, sold more than 350 million books, and been translated into more than 25 languages. The Festival is thrilled to offer the Tucson community and Festival guests this once-in-a-lifetime experience to see these literary lights perform live!

Date: Friday, March 13, 2015
Time: 8-9:30 pm (doors open at 7:15 pm)
Location: University of Arizona Student Union Memorial Center – Grand Ballroom
Attire: Casual concert dress
Tickets: Ticket price will be be announced in November 2014 and sales will begin on Monday, December 1 at 12:00 noon, Mountain Standard Time. Friend of the Festival members will be able to purchase tickets before general sales begin. Not a Friend? Join now!

White Pomegranate

tree 001dark plants 001

The first photo of the pomegranate and the Texas mountain laurel seeds, bright red, that I mentioned in a previous blog2.  The second of the cut pomegranate; the seeds don’t look red, but they don’t stain your hands, just your clothes.

I used to assign my son to take the seeds out of the pomegranate for the Xmas red and green salad (spinach, avocado, pomegranate seeds), so I didn’t stain my hands.

The other dish I’ve made with the seeds is a watermelon, raspberry, pomegranate seed salad with lemon and orange zest in the dressing.

1http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/28/movies/the-actor-ger-duany-reflects-on-his-journey-from-sudan.html?_r=0
2http://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2014/09/23/decorated-skies/

Gardening

October 1, 2014

In my continuing study of landscape architecture I have started reading The Meaning of Gardens by Mark Francis and Randolph Hester.

I’ve only read the first chapter, an introduction, but I enjoyed this quote:

Riley develops a typology of gardens including the jungle as sex beyond control; the domestic garden as delightful, as controlled sex; and the lawn as overcontrolled sex.

And this:

The garden has been nature-under-control…

If I could finally control mine!  The huge mesquite tree outside the fence (whose seeds are eaten by the deer, javelinas, and coyotes1) put out a root about 25 feet to a large pot next to my patio, crept up into the pot through the drainage hole and filled it with a tiny maze of roots.  I remember telling my granddaughter how smart a bunch grass was to sneak into all of my formal plantings.  She said Plants aren’t smart.  Plants can’t think.  I don’t know.  That mesquite tree’s root was pretty smart.

dark plants 002I emptied the pot, took out the knot of roots, which were half of the contents, added lots more potting soil and four plants from my favorite nursery, Mesquite Valley Growers, a purple sweet potato vine, purple and pink petunias, and a purple alyssum.  I must have been having a dark day.

I also bought a dark goldfish plant, so named because the flowers look like goldfish, for my kitchen window.  dark plants 003goldfish(When I had re-potted my ivy I inadvertently grew a tomato plant from seeds in the potting soil, so I put it in the vegetable garden).

Then I replaced the insect-ridden outdoor coleus with a dark-leaved hibiscus, which should bloom red.  (To rid the pot of the reoccurrant mealy bugs2 I baked the potting soil, in batches, in the oven at 200° for 3 dark plants 004hybiscus flowerhours, and scrubbed out the pot with diluted bleach. A lot of work! So those pesky bugs better not return!)

Because September is the fall planting month for Tucson I sifted one of the two compost bins I keep going (to take out twigs and stuff that hasn’t composted yet and put in the other bin) to add to my veggie garden.  Couldn’t bear to throw away the volunteer snapdragons so dug them up and put them in pots.  Gave five to the housekeeper.  Anyone else want some?  Digging out lots of tree roots there too.  Bought two more tomato cages and am cutting back my tomatoes.

Here are six good reasons to prune tomatoes3:
  • To grow more flavorful tomatoes.
  • To grow larger tomatoes.
  • To grow more tomatoes over the length of a season.
  • To keep plant leaves and fruits off the ground and away from pests, insect damage, and fungal disease.
  • To keep plants smaller and more compact.

Cleaning and Repairs

Yay!  Had my windows professionally cleaned.  Wow, what a difference.  Am getting cleaning and repairs done before I put the house back on the market.  My handyman fixed a few minor items and is presently replacing the cross beams for the spa deck – rotted not due to termites, as they had been pre-treated, but from water damage.  Replacing them with redwood, which is supposed to hold up to everything.

A friend of mine was on vacation so I borrowed her cleaning lady (who is my house-sitter when I’m out of town) for a day to clean the cupboards on the deck, scrub the patio cushions, and tend to other tasks that haven’t been done for two years, when I last hired her to help with the cleaning.  (My mother would have thought me a slacker…)  Am still working on the accumulated dust, not attended to since I took the house off the market in May.  (Can only bear six months of cleaning.)

lts 001The electrician is here to replace the final bad bathroom fixture.  I have overpriced light fixtures in both the master and guest baths.  When the house turned ten years old they started to go out.  With some the bulb melted into the fixture!   I couldn’t exactly choose a completely different fixture as the mirrors (large and probably expensive) have spaces between them for the lights.  And originally only one was out.  After replacing five of the six I asked the electrician to put the one that was only blinking off occasionally in the guest bath, which is seldom used.  Of course that was a bad idea.  Why those in the guest bath would go at the same time as the ones in the master bath which is used daily, I don’t know.  Conspiracy.

Need to get the trees trimmed too, but the tree-trimming guy was sick, so postponed ’til next week.

McMansions

Defined by Wikipedia:

A McMansion can be a large, new house in a subdivision of similarly large houses, which all seem mass-produced and lacking in distinguishing characteristics, as well as appearing at odds with the traditional local architecture.

McMansions in China4 in Sunday’s NY Times.  Money doesn’t buy taste.  There or here.

china mcmansions

Generic Brand Video

Heard this on Marketplace on NPR earlier this week:  http://www.marketplace.org/topics/business/generic-brand-video

1http://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/mesquite-seeds/
2http://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2012/08/18/cool-weather-heated-politics/
3http://www.harvesttotable.com/2009/04/how_to_prune_a_tomato/
4http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/21/magazine/let-a-hundred-mcmansions-bloom.html?_r=0

Decorated Skies

September 23, 2014

clouds 009

White billowy clouds,
But no precipitation -
Decorated skies.

Rogue Theater

Saw the play at the Rogue Theater last weekend.  Clifford Odet’s Awake and Sing, about lives of an urban family during the Great Depression,1 was pretty good.  Go see it!  David Greenwood, who plays the grandfather, Jacob, is in my qigong class.  He was great, sounding like a Jewish patriarch, and no longer in my head as the Southern father in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, in which he was fabulous.

texas mountain laurelThen had drinks with friends.  He gave me one of their white pomegranates, and seeds from their Texas mountain laurel tree, which are bright red.  (I’ll have to add a photo after I cut into the pomegranate.)  Maybe because I’d been discussing hallucinogens in my last blog.

The Texas mountain laurel is called mescal bean by some gardeners. It forms a seedpod that contains red, round beans by late summer. The beans cause hallucinations at low levels. The beans are also very poisonous if the alkaloids within are released. The same seed coating that protect the seed from drought, however, will allow it to be swallowed and pass through our bodies without harm, in most cases.2

The friends also suggested that for organic food I join the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)3 which has pickups at the old Y, which is also the home of the Rogue Theater.  This last week’s produce was bell peppers, cubanelle or marconi peppers, honeydew melons, okra, red onions, roasted chiles, roma tomatoes, summer squash.  I must think about that.  I remember when my daughter was in a CSA in Phoenix and had huge amounts of greens during the summer.  She had called to ask what to do with mustard greens.  I’ve never cooked mustard greens!  And it might be too much food for one person.

The Tucson CSA quotes Michael Pollan (who wrote The Botany of Desire, which I had discussed two blogs ago4), Eat Food, not too much, and mostly plants.

Rosacea continued

A few blogs ago5 I mentioned that my cousin had recommended argan oil with oregano oil for my rosacea. The guy at The Vitamin Shoppe (pronounced shop-ee?), when finding argan oil for me, mentioned that he thought emu oil for good for rosacea.

The emu is a flightless bird that resembles a small ostrich. Emu oil is taken from the fat of this bird during processing. It is used to make medicine.

Emu oil is taken by mouth for improving cholesterol levels, as a source of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, for weight loss, and as a cough syrup for colds, H1N1 (swine) flu, and flu.

Some people apply emu oil to the skin for relief from sore muscles, aching joints, pain or inflammation, carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, shin splints, and gout. It is also used topically to improve healing of wounds, cuts, and burns from radiation therapy; to reduce bruises and stretch marks; to reduce scarring and keloids; to heal surgical wounds caused by removing skin for skin grafts; to reduce redness due to acne; and to soften dry cuticles and promote healthy nails. Emu oil is also used topically athlete’s foot; diaper rash; canker sores; chapped lips; poor circulation; and skin conditions, including cancer, dry skin, dandruff, eczema, psoriasis, wrinkles or age spots. It is also used to protect skin from sun damage and to promote more youthful looking skin.

Emu oil is also applied to the skin to reduce pain and irritation from shingles, bedsores, hemorrhoids, diabetic nerve pain, insect bites, earaches, eye irritation, “growing pains,” and frostbite. It is used for rashes, razor burn, and nicks.

Some massage therapists apply emu oil to clients’ skin as part of their treatment.

Some people put emu oil inside the nose to treat colds and flu.

Emu oil (7%) is used in combination with glycolic acid (10%) for lowering blood fats including triglycerides, and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol; preventing and treating allergies; preventing scarring; treating headaches, especially migraines; preventing nosebleeds; treating and preventing cold and flu symptoms; and relieving discomfort associated with menstruation.

In veterinary practice, emu oil is used to reduce swelling in joints, prevent cracked or peeling paws, calm “hot spots,” and reduce irritation of flea bites.

In manufacturing, emu oil is used to sharpen and oil industrial machinery, for polishing timber and leather, and for conditioning and waterproofing.

How does it work?

Emu oil contains chemicals called fatty acids that might reduce pain and swelling (inflammation). There is some evidence that emu oil might work better for sudden (acute) inflammation than for ongoing (chronic) inflammation.

When emu oil is applied to the skin, it has moisturizing and cosmetic properties that resemble mineral oil.6

With all of its claims (cholesterol, aching joints, cuts and burns, dandruff, hemorrhoids, colds and flu, migraines…) emu oil sounds like the old snake oil…

1http://www.theroguetheatre.org/ourseason.htm
2http://www.plantanswers.com/texas_mountain_laurel.htm
3http://www.tucsoncsa.org/harvest-history/
4http://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/plants/
5http://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/family-history/
6http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-825-emu%20oil.aspx?activeingredientid=825&activeingredientname=emu%20oil

Hallucinogens

September 19, 2014

Toad

A tiny  toad has taken up residence in my back garden, I think in the rosemary which borders my bedroom patio, but I don’t know if it’s a spadefoot or a Sonoran Desert toad, both of which come out during our monsoon season.    The Sonoran Desert toads are the hallucinogenic ones.1  Must look it in the eye; the pupils are vertical in the spadefoot, but the Sonoran Desert toad has golden eyes with horizontally elliptical pupils.  I see it out at night when I open the sliding door to the screen.  But the other night I saw something dark go under my rocking chair cover, and assuming it was a cockroach, pulled back the chair so that the cat would catch it.  It was the tiny toad.  How in the world did it get in?  I know that cockroaches can slither under doors, but the toad was the size of a large marble when it tucked in its extremities (although it looked like it was a poorly-made leather marble).  The cat wouldn’t have anything to do with it.

Couch’s spadefoots have a skin secretion that may cause allergic reactions in some humans.2

If picked up or mouthed by a predator, Sonoran Desert Toads will exude a potent, milky white toxin from their parotoid glands. If ingested, their toxin is capable of seriously sickening or killing potential predators.3

So I grabbed the toad myself.  It was wet (with poisonous secretions?), so after I put it outside I washed my hands.  Twice.

Sacred Datura

The leaves of the myriad sacred datura plants4 which have cropped up all over my backyard are covered with tiny holes.  So bugs eat only that much and then get high?  Do insects hallucinate?   No leaves have large bites taken out of them, like the tomato leaves, eaten to the nub by the grasshopper I missed catching.

Organics

My cousin had given me this web site5 to see which vegetables I really must buy organic.  (They list 48; I’ve listed only the first 12.)

Fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue data
EWG analyzed pesticide residue testing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration to come up with rankings for these popular fresh produce items. Foods are listed below from worst to best.  (lower numbers = more pesticides)

1. Applesapple

 

strawberries 2. Strawberries

 

grapes3. Grapes

 

celery4. Celery

 

peaches5. Peaches

 

spinach6. Spinach

 

pepper7. Sweet Bell Peppers

 

nectarine8. Nectarines – Imported

 

cucumber9. Cucumbers

 

cherry tom10. Cherry Tomatoes

 

snap peas11. Snap Peas – Imported

 

potatoes12. Potatoes

 

In my last blog I mentioned that I shall only buy organic potatoes from now on, because of all of the pesticides and herbicides that the potato field are drenched in.   But there are eleven vegetables and fruits that are worse!

Last week I bought organic milk and orange juice from Safeway (its O Organics™ brand) and from Albertson’s, organic eggs, strawberries, canned diced tomatoes, apples, flax seeds, red grapes, mushrooms, and, of course, potatoes.

Word of the Day

Fungible – (especially of goods) being of such nature or kind as to be freely exchangeable or replaceable, in whole or in part, for another of like nature or kind.

This from an interesting column in last Sunday’s New York Times, Useless Creatures:

…In some cases, conservation groups or other interested parties actually put down cash for these ecosystem services — paying countries, for instance, to maintain forests as a form of carbon sequestration. The argument, in essence, is that we can persuade people to save nature by making it possible for them to sell it. They can take nature to the bank, or at least to the local grocery. They can monetize it. (The new revised version of Genesis now says, “God made the wild animals according to their kinds, and he said, ‘Let them be fungible.’ ”)6

Flash floods

Flash floods predicted for the week were a dud.

hurricane

1http://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/getting-high-in-the-desert/
2https://www.desertmuseum.org/books/nhsd_spadefoot.php
3http://fireflyforest.net/firefly/2007/08/12/sonoran-desert-toad/
4http://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/family-history/
5http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php
6http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/13/useless-creatures/?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C{%222%22%3A%22RI%3A15%22}


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