Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My Community Garden: The First Harvest

A few days ago, I had my first harvest at the local Community Garden. For an anxious gardener like myself, I need immediate gratification, and there's no vegetable easier to grow than the radish. They're usually ready for harvest in about 21 to 30 days from the time the seeds are sown. Colorful and crisp, radishes are the perfect addition to salads and vegetable trays. And yes, homegrown radishes taste a lot better than the ones from the store.


Be organic and eliminate the need for chemical pesticides. Sow radishes with cucumbers and squash to repel cucumber beetles. Radishes also attract leafminers away from other vegetables, which can damage the leaves. The damage the leafminers do to radish leaves doesn't prevent the radishes from growing nicely underground.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Irène: A Crime Novel Not Shy About Depicting Violence

Pierre Lamaitre's Irène is a gripping fast-paced crime thriller full of violence, blood, and graphic detail. It's not for the faint of heart. Right from the start, the novel pulls you in, each page urging you on until its shocking climax.

I read a lot of crime novels. And for a seasoned crime reader, Irène is ingenious and totally unique. The unorthodox story caught me off-guard several times. Yet, the book has one fault, and it's a BIG one. Its title. More specifically, the title of the English translation. Its original French title was Travail Soigné (Craftsmanship). That title captures an important theme of the book, without spoiling a major plot twist. Even so, Irène's clean writing style, hard-boiled protagonist, and realistic depiction of violence kept me glued to my seat from start to finish.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Hillary Clinton's 'History' Tweet

Reaction to the Supreme Court's Decision on Marriage Equality

Monday, June 22, 2015

JetBlue's (sort of) Free In-Flight Entertainment

These days the airline industry tries to squeeze as much money from its passengers as possible. Airlines charge for extra leg room, aisle seating, and priority boarding. Last year, JetBlue announced that it would change its long standing policy of free checked baggage and begin charging $20 for each checked bag. (It was the last major airline to have a free checked bag policy.) So I was surprised (and a bit skeptical) to learn that JetBlue had a new free in-flight entertainment option.

JetBlue passengers who are Amazon Prime members can now stream tens of thousands of movies and TV shows from their iPads, Kindles, laptops, and other mobile devices for free. And while most airlines that offer wi-fi typically charge $5 per hour or $16 for a full day's access, JetBlue's Amazon Prime service is free. Of course, there is a hitch. You have to be an Amazon Prime member ($99 per year) to take advantage of this absolutely free service.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Finding Homes for Black Dogs

Black Dog Syndrome (BDS) is a phenomenon in which black dogs are passed over for adoption in favor of lighter-colored animals. Black dogs are often perceived as aggressive or even evil (like black cats). Fred Levy decided to do something about BDS and started the Black Dog Project in hopes of finding homes for these black beauties. It's good to know that there are people like Mr. Levy who are making a positive difference in the world. 

Fred Levy,
founder of the Black Dog Project

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Feeding Orioles

This past winter was particularly harsh, and it took its toll on a number of bird species including the Oriole. The Oriole is a beautiful bird with yellow markings and a flute-like song. I've noticed a couple Orioles in our yard this year, and I've tried to make them feel at home by offering them the right kinds of food. In the wild they like wasps (yes!) and mealworms, but Orioles also have a strong sweet tooth. Laying out certain types of kitchen scraps such as sliced oranges, grapes, bananas, peas, and even jams/jellies will attract Orioles and provide nourishment. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

USS Enterprise Building

A Chinese millionaire and Star Trek fan has boldly gone where no man has gone before-built an office complex in the shape of the USS Enterprise. The $160 million homage to the 1960s TV show and its numerous spin-offs was built between 2008 and 2014. Located in the south-east province of Fujian, the building is the headquarters of NetDragon Websoft and is the only officially-licensed Star Trek replica building in the world.

A Chinese version of Paris
The Chinese are noted for building reproductions of famous European places, including Parisian streets, Venetian canals, and Swiss Alpine villages. Now they've turned their attention to American TV shows. What's next? A multi-million dollar sport's arena in the guise of Batman's bat cave?

I have a thought. Perhaps the Chinese should build things uniquely Chinese instead of spending millions on things we already have enough of. Let's face it. How many Eiffel Towers does the world really need?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Film Noir Movies for Free

Kansas City Confidential (1952)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, you don't have to be a TCM subscriber to take part in its film noir series, Summer of Darkness. Many film noir movies are available free on the Internet. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Film Noir Friday

(Double Indemnity (1944), one of my all time favorites)

I love Film Noir. Film Noir is hard-boiled crime fiction from the 1940s and 1950s. It's filmed in black and white, and involves a central figure, usually a private eye, plainclothes policeman, aging boxer, hapless drifter, or some victim of circumstance caught in a web of crime and deceit. It shows us the dark underbelly of society, making us uncomfortable with the fine line that divides the good and bad in everybody. 

This summer Turner Classic Movies is having a Film Noir festival every Friday night. Summer of Darkness will feature over 100 Film Noir classics. And, as part of this festival, TCM is also offering a free nine-week Internet based Film Noir course available to non-TCM subscribers as well. I'm not a TCM subscriber but not to worry. Many of these classic Noir films are available on YouTube for free, including the German Expressionistic film M.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Overcoming Obstacles: Tennis Great Doris Hart

Most people have probably never heard of tennis great Doris Hart. Hart is one of only three women (Margaret Court and Martina Navratilova are the others) to have won singles, doubles, and mixed doubles titles in each of the Grand Slam tournaments. In fact, in 1951, she played all three Wimbledon titles in one day and won them all!

Ms. Hart died last Friday at the age of 89. As a child, Ms. Hart overcame osteomyelitis, a condition that permanently impaired her right leg and which limited her mobility. Doctors had urged an amputation, but Ms. Hart's parents rejected the idea. Hart spent much of her childhood bedridden. Yet, from her bedroom window she could see children playing tennis at a nearby park. She vowed one day to play the game, and play she did. She won 325 titles, 35 of them Grand Slam events.

As a teenager, I was inspired by reading her autobiography, Tennis with a Hart. In the book, she wrote, "Never feel sorry for yourself. The only antidote for self-pity is faith, courage and patience." I'm thinking of re-reading the book. I wonder if I'll be inspired again.

Monday, June 1, 2015

China Votes on Hand Gestures to Stop Smoking

June 1st marks the first day that smoking will be banned in indoor places throughout Beijing, China, with fines of up to 200 yuan ($33) for individuals and 10,000 yuan for businesses that break the rules. Smoking is a national pastime in China with nearly a quarter of the population avid smokers. 

Chinese officials have also launched a rare democratic initiative by asking online users to vote on one of three gestures to tell a nearby smoker to stop. What a great idea! (Maybe the USA should consider something similar.) For me, using hand gestures would certainly be less cumbersome and intimidating than having tell someone not to smoke. And for the record, I vote for gesture Number 1: I am Bothered by Your Smoke.