What's worse than some smug bastid brag-complaining about everything that is wonderful in her life?
...Only some lucky so-and-so who doesn't even recognize her excellent good-fortune, that's what.
So here are yet more things for which I am grateful:
Spring blossoms are a moving target. It's not quite possible to pin them to a specific date in advance. During the winter, sadly, one cannot jot down that on March 23 "daffodil buds will open" or, "lilacs will be in full bloom in time for wedding party on May 9." Some winters are harder, some last longer, and Mother Nature sets her own schedule.
Of course, there's a horticultural work-around. It's called the "growing degree day (GDD) unit," and it's offers a fairly exact timer for when the flowers will arrive. Also, when the bugs will arrive, but let's put that aside a moment.
I find it cosmically reassuring to know that plants take a linear approach to growth. Frosts and floods and drought aside, plants start growing and then chug along at a steady rate. Year in and year out, plants reliably bloom after a specific number of GDDs.
That formula? Starting on March 1 (in the Northern Hemisphere, for New York State anyhow), take a mean temperature of every day the temps reach 50° F, and then subtract fifty. That number accumulates -- no need to subtract chilly days.
It looks like this:
(max Temp + min Temp) ÷ 2 – 50 = Growing Degree Day.
For example, a low of 43 at night, and a high of 65 results in 4 GDDs. A crazy hot day can really speed things along: a high of 85 and low of 60 adds a whopping 21 GDDs to the seasonal total. This magical number DOES depend on the weather, so it's not a long-term predictor, but still, I am always glad to see evidence that chaos does not rule.
It's possible to browse various cooperative extension publications and discover that forsythia needs 12 GDDs to start with its yellow blossoms, while "Spring Snow" crabapple will bloom after 209 GDDs...or that adult mosquitoes start doing their thing at 112 GDDs.
Which tells us how long it takes spring to spring. Which I hope is happening at the Would-Be Farm.
My favorite skipper steered us to victory over some excellent racing friends this past week at the Flying Scot Midwinters in Sarasota, Florida.
And while I can blather on about our charming little boat, what we do to get ready, or how we maintain a level of physical fitness, or what tactics gave us the tiny edge we needed, really, my heart's not in that story right now.
It's just another sailboat regatta...but not really.
It's never just another one. Each event is oddly* distinct even though we boil the sport down to a few clichés every time, like:
1. It is what it is. This useful phrase helps reconcile any philosophically challenging moments as we wait for the competition to get underway or recommence.
2. Everybody needs a little good luck. It's simple and true: every win in sailing requires an amount of good fortune. Sometimes all the stars have to form a bee-line (technically known as a "syzygy," which is a brilliant Scrabble word, by the way) before you can get the top spot, while only a minuscule scrap of bad luck can destroy months of hard work and preparation.
3. We aren't saving lives/doing brain surgery/making money out here, so we might as well have a beer while we are at it. (Q.E.D.)
There are more. Sports simply must generate clichés because of the repetitive repetitive nature of the games. But these three highlights are sufficient unto the day.
*Truly odd: decades' worth of regattas at the same location for some of these things and not once has the weather, our performance, AND the competition re-aligned to give the same experience. Not to mention the wildly fluctuating levels of good luck...
Just a quick update: no blog to speak of today, as we are on the water.
This photo from race #1. Results here.
The first thing to identify when you step aboard a sailboat is "the boom."
Cajun cooking and Paul Blart movies aside, the boom is a sort of beam that runs along the bottom of a main-sail. It frequently swings across the seating area of the boat -- and will very likely connect with your daydreaming noggin if you're not careful.
Seasoned hands will tell you, "It's called a boom, because that's the sound it will make hitting you."
But instead of the sensible advice of "Duck!" sailors pipe up with a variety of indirect comments: "Mind your coconuts," "Tacking!" or "Boom coming across." Or even "Helm's alee."
Seriously? Isn't the arcane and mystifying vocabulary enough as it is, without making up some kind of Cockney rhyming cant to keep newcomers in the dark?
Thus: The first vocabulary lesson of sailing leads directly to the first learning: crouch! When in doubt, get low.
And also, should you enjoy knowing, the word comes to us via the Old Dutch for "wood."
(*Above GIF of Rihanna comes from Giphy.com)
Thank you, James Frances Child.
Born in 1825, this son of a sailmaker* went to Harvard on scholarship and later put his passion into studying and collecting the folk songs of Scotland and England. Starting in 1882, he published ten volumes of English and Scottish Ballads with notes and side-by-side commentary about multiple versions of 305 songs.
He categorized the ballads by theme ("Supernatural Beings," "Tragic Other than Love," "Humor," etc.) and numbered them. For example, Child #26 is "The Twa Corries" also "The Three Ravens," a song from before 1600 about carrion birds discussing their future meal of the body of a fallen knight.
Child #39 is "Tam Lin," which has a dozen versions of the story in which a spunky maiden must save the handsome human knight she loves from his doom as a prisoner of the court of Elfland. Some may remember Sandy Dennys of Fairport Convention singing it. The story of Janet (or Margaret, depending on the version) and her knight has inspired a handful of recent novels, including two that I like very much:
It's funny and suspenseful and –– like so many of Jones' novels –– very cleverly plotted. As I lift the book from my shelf, I see that I purchased it from The Strand Bookstore for $2.
Chosen simply because it was published by Greenwillow Books, which was then run by one of my publishing idols, Susan Hirschman, it has been a happy find and a great bargain.
A sort of literary child of Child.
(* No, really...
Which make these also the grandkids of a sailmaker.)
Aside from some bad actors, dogs get a lot of good press. They save children. They alert their owners to the dangers of smoke inhalation. They fetch and guard and sometimes even sit and stay when asked.
I clicked on a link about a small dog that ran away from home and wound up in a hospital where its owner is getting treatment. The dog had never visited the hospital before, but somehow it got through the front doors in an effort -- the reporter speculates -- to comfort its ailing owner.
I don't mean to be unkind.
Perhaps that small dog has buckets of compassion. But my small dog, while she is an excellent sick-bed visitor and was happy to snooze quietly on Mummsie's hospital bed for hours at a time –– well, I am not so sure she's all about offering comfort. Seemed like she's more about offering access to her prime petting zones. (Ooh, a little to the left. Grunt! Grunt! Sigh.)
If Lilly ever tracks me down to a hospital (heaven forbid), it would be for the really good dog-biscuits. It would be because Uncle Markie or her own Food God had forgotten that she covets the ones I keep in a tub with bacon drippings in the fridge.
The English dismiss it as "cupboard love," but when she sits on my foot and gazes winsomely into my face with her sweet, clouding bug-eyes, well, okay then. Bacon-dripping-soaked dog-biscuits it is!
The Florida State Fair takes place in February –– a fact that continues to surprise me, despite knowing full well what the weather is going to be like in August.
Heading to the Fairgrounds, I find I have just enough intestinal fortitude to share a single deep-fried delight (A plain but weighty elephant ear this year. 2014 was the year of the maple-bacon funnel cake), but a perhaps endless appetite for the livestock aisles.
There was a bit of drama among the fowl. Imagine the scene at home for this guy:
Setting: A modest living space, well-lit but with very sparse furnishings. Our hero enters in a state of greater-than-usual dishevelment and begins in a rush:
"I'm ADOPTED?! Mother, how could you let me go to the Fair, knowing what would happen? You know what? I'm GLAD to be going to the slaughterhouse. You ruined my life!"
The scene is a long dining table. The murmur of voices diminishes, and from the head of the table, a deep male voice rings out:
"So, it appears that Junior here is NOT a Cochin? Marge, is there something you want to tell us?"
And in the hot-headed world of the Telenovela:
" 'Cochin' mi culo! Más como cochina!"
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