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February 29th, 2016


08:05 pm - Book Notes
Only two books in February -- guess I was hit more strongly by malaise than I thought. Also, i was sick for a week.

Four Modern Prophets
William M. Ramsay
John Knox Press, 1986

Ramsay's point is that Walter Rauschenbusch, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gustavo Gutiérrez, and Rosemary Radford Ruether are prophets in the same sense that Amos, Micaiah, Jeremaiah and other Old and New Testament prophets are: They say our primary purpose in life is to work to address social inequities and injustices, using biblical principles to guide our actions. I think he makes a good case, but I'm not a biblical scholar. I still think that "the bible" is such a large and cumbersome object, written by so many different hands in so many different political climates, that you can find something in it to justify your social prejudices no matter what they are. I still think you don't need religion to have an ethical understanding of life and our purpose here. On the other hand, I thought some of the quotes from Walter Rauschenbusch were invigorating and still all too applicable today, more than a hundred years later.


Eon
Greg Bear
Tor, 2015

Written in 1985, and set in the far distant future of a couple years ago, this is remarkably undated. Sure, there's no Internet, but everyone has a "slate" and "memory blocks" which I just took to be tablets and USB drives. But this is really a fun space opera, with many interesting ideas and extrapolations. I'm getting into the sequel immediately.

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January 31st, 2016


05:03 pm - YESC Seattle at Golden Gardens

About 25-30 high school students from YESC Seattle (YMCA Earth Services Corps) joined us at Golden Gardens on Saturday, Jan. 30. We removed ivy and blackberry along the bottom of the stairs that go from the middle parking lot up to the dog park. Altogether, we cleared and mulched about 2500 square feet. A good day!

Doug Gresham, the forest steward, lays out the work site.

Doug Gresham, the forest steward, lays out the work site.

After some introductory words up by the dog park parking lot, we moved down to the work site to learn about the tasks of the day.

After some introductory words up by the dog park parking lot, we moved down to the work site to learn about the tasks of the day.

Everybody is always so eager to get to work.

Everybody is always so eager to get to work.

The work party ran from 10 to 2, with a break for lunch. But the enthusiasm didn’t dim, and the students dug into finishing up the work and getting a solid load of mulch down (about 5 yards).

The initial ivy removal happened in the morning. In the afternoon, we had the tougher task of grubbing out the roots and underground bits.

The initial ivy removal happened in the morning. In the afternoon, we had the tougher task of grubbing out the roots and underground bits.

As the time to leave drew near, we all pitched in to a vigorous but satisfying bucket brigade to get the mulch onto the site.

Just a few minutes left before the supposed end of the work party, the leaders decided to push through because we were so close.

Just a few minutes left before the supposed end of the work party, the leaders decided to push through because we were so close.

Here we are about eight minutes to two. By the time they finished, this site was completely mulched.

Here we are about eight minutes to two. By the time they finished, this site was completely mulched.

A good, hard working time was had by all. The next work party at Golden Gardens will be on February 13. We hope to see you there!

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

02:49 pm - January Book Log
The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health
David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé
WW Norton, 2016

The authors began a journey into examining the role that microbes play in our lives by reconstituting the soil in thei yard. They discovered the soil was brought back to life with relatively little effort. This lead to a lot of research into what, exactly what going on, and a discovery of the rhizosphere, the wealth of bacteria and microbes that surround and enrich the roots of plants, providing available nutrients for the plant in return for carbohydrates and other exudates. When the wife of the team contracted cancer, they embarked on a similar journey into the depths of the colon and the microbial life we support and which supports us. (Full review to be posted on Nature Intrudes.)



Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
Atul Garawande
Metropolitan Books, 2014

At times heart breaking and heart filling, this book looks at the way we handle death and dying in the USA, how we got that way, and some changes that are beginning to improve our way of death. Up until very recently, we would do anything, expend every effort, without regard to how much time it bought or the quality of life of the person being treated. Now, we're beginning to learn to ask dying people what they want, what matters most in the time left to them, and to tailor treatments to their wishes. Frequently, they live longer than people getting aggressive treatment. There are two important lessons for me from this book: Have the difficult conversation much earlier than you think you need to. (Also, the difficult conversation is much more nuanced -- and hence more difficult -- than I thought before reading this book. ) Second, people have unreasonably optimistic views on their lifespans; they'll still be thinking in decades when the reality is days. I'm still thinking in decades (although it's only a few) when who knows how long I have left.



Half Resurrection Blues (Bone Street Rumba #1)
Daniel José Older
Roc, 2015

After a book about how farming practices are destroying the soil biome and medical practices destroying our gut biome, and another book about how unregulated global capitalism is destroying the world, and ANOTHER book about how American medical practices are destroying the quality of the ends of our lives, it was nice to read a book that merely threatened to destroy the world through demonic possession. It was a fun read, pleasantly blending elements of noir and urban fantasy. This is the second Daniel José Older book I've read and I'll read more. (Not least, the next one in the series.)



The Wandering Earth
Cixin Liu (translated by Holger Nahm and Ken Liu)
Beijing Guomi Digital Technology, 2013

I didn't finish this, but I did read eight of the 11 stories. Five of the stories have won the "China Galaxy Science Fiction Award," between 1999 and 2005, so it looks like these were all written prior to "The Three Body Problem" and any other novels, but there's no original publication data given so it's impossible to tell. They feel like early writing to me, a little clumsier than "The Three Body Problem", a little less assured with characters and emotions. In any case, there are bid ideas in every story -- arks of humanity sent into interstellar space to avoid a helium flash, Cretaceous civilizations, giant solar sails, and others. The stories feel very different to me than western SF. It's not just the slight clumsiness with characters and emotions, but in their favor they have a freedom from cliche that allows Liu to explore ideas that might not have been publishable in the west. If you really liked "The Three Body Problem" (as I did) this might be worth investigating to see the early work of Liu.



Peculia
Richard Sala
Fantagraphics Books, 2002

A collection of short stories that appeared in Evil Eye, a pamphlet comic published by Fantagraphics Books in the late 90s -- early 00s. Peculia is a "goth comedy" featuring an attractively-drawn young woman who gets into various scrapes and misadventures, all of which involve other cutely-drawn young women and/or removal or tearing of already-skimpy clothes. If I'd discovered this when it was being published, I'd have gushed over the line, the drawing, the art as if it mattered. Now, 15+ years older, I have the reaction above. However, my ultimate reaction (being slightly turned on) is the same. ;>





There was one unfinished book this month, "That Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climte" which I hope to get back to soon. I returned it unfinished rather than run up library fines.

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January 27th, 2016


09:00 am - The Hidden Half of Nature


The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health
David Montgomery and Anne Biklé
WW Norton, 2016

The authors began a journey into examining the role that microbes play in our lives by reconstituting the soil in their yard. They discovered the soil was brought back to life with relatively little effort. This lead to a lot of research into what, exactly what going on, and learning about the rhizosphere, the wealth of bacteria and microbes that surround and enrich the roots of plants. When Biklé contracted cancer, they embarked on a similar journey into the depths of the colon and the microbial life we support and which supports us. Both systems are bewilderingly complex, and there is much more cooperation and symbiosis than we thought. In both cases, a healthy microbial environment provides strength and immunity to the host (either the plant or us).

A few things prevented us from seeing these communities and benefits earlier. Our lab practices were focused on the “germ theory,” that microbes were inherently harmful and needed to be eradicated. This lead to studying only pathogenic microbes that could be easily cultured in labs. DNA sequencing allows us to study microbes that aren’t culturable outside their host environment. Further, relationships between organisms were viewed through the lens of Darwinian competition, which is only recently being challenged by new views on cooperation and symbiosis.

This is leading to a revolution in our approach to both farming and nutrition. For the second half of the 20th century, agribusiness concentrated on ever-higher doses of fertilizers and biocides for the short-term benefits of yield increase, ignoring the long-term problems of soil depletion, adaptation of pests, and destruction of helpful microbes and insects. A similar practice was happening in medicine, with a reliance on antibiotics that provided untold benefits, but which led to a larger problem we now face.

The farming practices, combined with dietary changes (and convenience foods) led to diets filled with nutritionally poor but high calorie foods. Meanwhile, our helpful gut flora were being destroyed by the antibiotics that were otherwise saving our lives. New research indicates that over-use of antibiotics is leading to both an increase in disease-resistant bacteria and chronic auto-immune and inflammation diseases.

“The Hidden Half of Nature” is filled with interesting stories about research into soil health that contradicted the agrichemical practices that was ignored, or research into gut health that went a little past the ability to visualize or quantify why things worked the way they did. One particularly fascinating story is that of Ignasz Semmelweis, who in the late 1840s noticed that the wards in his hospital run by midwives had significantly less mortality than the wards run by doctors. Why? The doctors wore their bloody coats with pride, and went between patients or autopsies and patients without washing their hands. Montgomery and Biklé say that by insisting the doctors wash their hands and change their lab coats, mortality in the doctor-run wards was reduced to the same as the midwife wards. This infuriated the doctors, Semmelweis was fired from that hospital, fired from another for instituting the same changes, and was so hounded by the medical establishment that he died in an asylum. Philosophers of science now use the term “Semmelweis reflex” to describe the autocratic rejection of new knowledge that contradicts established paradigms.

The authors are careful not to ignore the good results of agribusiness or antibiotics, but they fully acknowledge that it is crucial to adapt our practices to new realities. More careful administration of antibiotics, removing antibiotics from use as animal growth promoters, and more attention to prebiotics and foods that improve our gut flora are among their recommendations for human health. They also recommend farming practices that concentrate on soil health, such as returning stubble to the field after harvest, no-till farming, and organic farming. They acknowledge where research is still inconclusive, such as whether organically farmed plants are more nutritious than conventionally farmed plants.

“The Hidden Half of Nature” is informationally dense – the “Sources” section has pages of citations for every chapter – but is so clearly presented that at first I thought it almost felt like it was aimed at a young adult audience. Once they got onto things I didn’t know, however, I was fascinated by their stories. They mix personal experience with research in a way that brings the research into focus. The few notes are amplifications of the text that would have gotten in the way of their main point. There is also a good index.

I think this book makes a good companion to The One-Straw Revolution. Fukuoka’s book is much shorter, and focuses on his personal experience with restoring pre-agribusiness farming practices to his farm in Japan. Montgomery and Biklé present the history of the science of microbes, looking at European research into farming and medicine.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

January 26th, 2016


08:23 pm - Stewardship Adventure Squad at White Center Heights Park

Another fun day in a park, playing in the mud with a great group. We worked several times last summer with the Stewardship Squad, which is why I went back to work with them as a volunteer.

The day was gray and cool, but far from cold, and it didn’t rain. It was just cool enough that we warmed up quickly in our layers, but not so cold that we chilled when we took a break.

White Center Heights Park is located in — wait for it — White Center Heights. I was there last summer with a group from City Year, during the teacher’s strike. It’s a small park, with a pond and a seasonal stream. It’s at the intersection of SW 102nd St. and 8th Ave. SW. It’s hidden from those streets by a small riparian strip of trees, which screens some of the traffic noise and makes it a hidden gem, as they say. It has a small pond, which had some buffleheads and megansers in addition to the standard mallards. Stewardship Squad had been there previously to do some planting, and they were back for more.

A few years ago, Starbucks put some money into it. The results are a nice shelter, a p-patch, a great bridge over the pond, and signs in English, Thai, and Spanish. Since then, though, it’s been a little neglected, and it’s only recently that King County was able to get volunteers in to clean up the weeds and invasives and put some fresh plants in.

Lina brought shovels of many different sizes, even a trowel for the very smallest child.

Lina brought shovels of many different sizes, even a trowel for the very smallest child.

This little stream only flows during the winter. Planting its borders will help maintain the bank.

This little stream only flows during the winter. Planting its borders will help maintain the bank.

After finishing up by the stream, we moved to a more-wooded section for the afternoon"s work. We planted 50 shrubs here, for more than 60 plants altogether.

After finishing up by the stream, we moved to a more-wooded section for the afternoon’s work. We planted 50 shrubs here, for more than 60 plants altogether.

We had a scavenger hunt for the walk to the second planting area. One of the adventurers found this little case of insect eggs.

We had a scavenger hunt for the walk to the second planting area. One of the adventurers found this little case of insect eggs.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

January 20th, 2016


09:00 am - Indians of the Pacific Northwest


Indians of the Pacific Northwest From the Coming of the White Man to the Present Day
Vine Deloria, Jr.
Fulcrum, 1977, 2012

The first white people to arrive in the Pacific Northwest were British traders, looking to take advantage of the established trade routes of the Salish peoples for their own ends: The Makah whalers for whale oil, others for salmon or animal skins. They lived in relative peace with Salish peoples, even intermarrying, although they still brought smallpox. The Americans who came later wanted to establish permanent settlements, which resulted in the occasionally violent removal of first peoples from their lands and the establishment of reservations. I thought this book would be a pretty depressing read, but although it told the story of the thefts of Americans without flinching, it also told the many stories of successes that first peoples have had, in re-establishing their fishing rights and keeping parcels of their lands under their own control. I think this book leaves a lot out, as well, particularly the story of the Duwamish. It was first published in 1977, and an afterword provides an update as of 2011, which takes us through casinos and up to the first Elwha Dam removal.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

January 15th, 2016


09:00 am - Friends of North Beach Park January Work Party Announcement

Join Friends of North Beach Park for the wrap up of the planting season on Saturday, January 23, 2016. We’ll meet at the main entrance to the park, 24th Ave and 90th St. NW. The work party will run from 9 a.m. to noon, rain or shine.

We’ll be planting at the main stream crossing and streamside up and down from that point. We’ll also be transporting some mulch down to the planting areas. The plants we’ll be planting have been provided by Green Seattle Partnership and the Washington Native Plant Society.

We’ll provide tools, gloves, and guidance. Please wear weather appropriate layers than can get dirty (likely very dirty) and closed-toe, waterproof shoes. Rain gear will be helpful; expect late-January weather, whatever that means these days. Even in cold weather, it’s a good idea to bring some water and a snack. Note there are no facilities at the park.

Please sign up in advance so we know you’re coming.

All ages are welcome; volunteers under 18 must sign and bring a waiver (link next to the sign-up form). The #48 and #40 buses stop a few blocks south of the park; check Metro for details. Parking is available on 90th St. east of 24th Ave.

As always, you can support Friends of North Beach Park by making a directed donation to the Seattle Parks Foundation. All money donated will be used to fund the restoration efforts of North Beach Park.

If you’re looking for something on Martin Luther King Day, there are a number of special events all over the city.

If you can’t join Friends of North Beach Park in January, save the date for one of our upcoming work parties: February 27, March 26, or April 23. All work parties are 9 a.m. to noon, and will meet at the main entrance to the park, 90th St. and 24th Ave. NW.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

January 13th, 2016


09:00 am - The One-Straw Revolution


The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming
Masanobu Fukuoka
New York Review Books, 1978

Masanobu Fukuoka proposes a method of farming timed to natural sequences of plants. Cover crops and food crops are sown in sequence such that weeds are kept down. Straw and plant waste is returned to the field after harvest, returning most of the nutrients to the soil. This is a no-till method that builds the soil up year after year with no amendments. The soil is increasingly healthy, which prevents plant disease. The diversity of the crops prevent crop pests from taking over. Not spraying also allows the beneficial insects to live and protect the crops. The plants themselves are more resistant to pests and diseases because they are growing in healthier soil, and are consequently healthier. The healthiness of the soil and the extensive use of straw and plant waste as mulch greatly decreases water use. In general, Fukuoka used a method of farming that had been developed over time by the indigenous farmers of his region, before Western agrichemical practices took over. This method of farming is as productive as Western agrichemical farming, but with healthier soil and stronger, more nutritious plants.

This method of no-till agriculture and crop rotation would work in any location, but would need to be adapted to local growing seasons and crops. He also espouses a philosophy of being in touch with the earth and its cycles. In some ways, his method of farming reminded me of the Bradley method of restoration, in that both of them look to the cycles of plant life and soil health and ecology to accomplish their goals. This book left me wishing I had some land — even a back yard would do — to practice his method and adapt it to PNW climate.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

January 9th, 2016


09:38 pm - Golden Gardens with Youth Environmental Awareness

About ten volunteers from Youth Environmental Awareness joined Golden Gardens forest stewards and other volunteers for a day of ivy removal and mulching. They worked really hard, trucking full wheelbarrows of mulch down a long staircase and clearing several hundred feet of ivy. They also had a great time and brought plenty of snacks (always important!) and water.

The weather cooperated, with a cool, foggy start to the day. The work warmed us up pretty quickly, and by the time the work party was over the sun was beginning to peek through the fog leading to a nicely sunny afternoon.

Doug Gresham, forest steward for Golden Gardens, begins the work party with a welcoming talk, explaining some of the whys and wherefores of urban forest restoration.

Doug Gresham, forest steward for Golden Gardens, begins the work party with a welcoming talk, explaining some of the whys and wherefores of urban forest restoration.

After the welcoming talk, a bit of goofing around while everyone gets gloves and signs in.

After the welcoming talk, a bit of goofing around while everyone gets gloves and signs in.

More important preliminaries: Tool safety and work demonstration.

More important preliminaries: Tool safety and work demonstration.

After that last bit of preliminary, we got to work, and I was too busy to take any pictures. Plants installed last month were mulched, and a long section was cleared of ivy and other invasive plants (along the way, finding a couple buckets worth of trash). There was even a break for water and snacks, but everyone got back to work shortly. Overall, we had a great time, and were impressed by how much work was accomplished.

 

The end of the day, and still smiling. Making sure everyone took some water home.

The end of the day, and still smiling. Making sure everyone took some water home.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

January 6th, 2016


09:00 am - Sources of the River


Sources of the River: Tracking David Thompson Across Western North America
Jack Nisbet
Sasquatch Books, 2007

David Thompson was the first European to explore and map the full reach of the Columbia River from its source in the northern Rocky Mountains in what is now British Columbia. He ranged over the inland upper northwest, setting up trade houses and surveying for the NorthWest Company, a competitor to Hudson’s Bay Company for the fur trade. His sharp eye and meticulous practices lead to such accurate latitude and longitude readings that they stand up to modern techniques. He also observed the social practices of the First Nations he encountered (sometimes as the first white man they’d seen). He was able to record the locations of the tribes he encountered, mineral deposits, forests, and other geographic details. His work was motivated by a curiosity for the land and a desire to do a good job. The stories of his travels — compiled from several remaining notebooks, and a “Narrative” unfinished at the time of his death — are riveting, I can barely imagine the difficulties he and his crews faced as a matter of course. Unfortunately, after retirement, he was unable to get his maps published during his lifetime, and they have languished half forgotten. Nisbet interposes his own travels in the modern day inland NW, on a heavily dammed Columbia River.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

January 3rd, 2016


01:16 pm - Christmas Tree Disposal

Please DO NOT dispose of your Christmas Tree in North Beach Park or any other greenspace or natural area. The tree may have been treated with flame retardant chemicals or other additives that will decrease the quality of the greenspace. The City of Seattle will pick up Christmas Trees until January 31; here are the directions. In fact, it would take less effort to dispose of the tree correctly than to dump it. Yard waste dumping, of any type, is not helpful to greenspaces or natural areas, and contributes to or worsens the problem with invasive species.

Friends of North Beach Park had been actively restoring the North Beach Park ravine since April, 2011; this is considered one of the more successful restoration projects in Seattle. We are composed of volunteers and friends from the Ballard, Crown Hill, North Beach, and Olympic Manor neighborhoods. We have regular work parties on the fourth Saturday of the month, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. January 23 will see us planting native trees and shrubs that are under-represented in the park. All are welcome to join us, please register at the link above or write to lukemcguff [at] yahoo [dot] com for further information.

If you want to have your Christmas tree contribute to restoration projects, you can participate in Swanson’s Trees for Salmon program next year: Salmon Says: “Buy A Living Christmas Tree!.” If a living tree is a little out of your reach, there are medallions you can buy at Swanson’s that will donate restoration plants to local parks (Carkeek Park and King County Parks). (NOTE: Friends of North Beach Park has received plants from this program in the past, but is not participating this year.)

Thanks! We look forward to seeing you in the ravine!

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

January 1st, 2016


07:40 pm - Books Read, 2015: Statistics!
What's the point of keeping a spreadsheet listing books read if you don't come up with bunches of meaningless statistics? Hah!

The columns on the spreadsheet are: Title, Author, Publisher, Yr Published, Fict., Nonfict., M, W, T, POC, Nationality, and Notes. The first four and the last columns are what I use in the monthly books read posts.

...Messing with said spreadsheet revealed a counting error that took a while to straighten out. I started 45 books in 2015, not 49. Of those, I bounced off of (didn't finish) six, so the total actually read is 39.

Of the 39 books read, 22 were fiction and 17 were nonfiction. The most common reason for not finishing a novel was it being too standard a fantasy for my taste. The only nonfiction I didn't finish was because it wasn't of interest to me. In every case, I explained why I didn't finish a book in the notes and in the monthly books read posts.

Out of the total books started, 24 were by men and 21 by women, about 46%. 17 were by people of color, 37%. 12 were written by non-USA authors (I based this on country of origin.) I had a column for "Trans" writers, but as far as I know didn't read anything by trans authors.

I started the year with really ambitious reading goals, 75 books on my library hold list (as many as the SPL will allow) and hundreds of books on my "For Later" shelves, as the SPL refers to them. For a stretch there, I was avidly reading all kinds of recommendation lists -- "BookRiot Alternative Summer," "Reading American Cities" (all the books about Seattle), award recipients (and some award short lists and long lists),"20 Female Harlem Renaissance Writers," "Great Black Authors of SF," 2015 Lammy awards nominees, etc. As you can see, I paid particular attention to lists recommending books by people from populations generally under-represented in publishing. This was in response to the Tempest Challenge, in which K. Tempest Bradford suggested people stop reading books by white men for a year.

I didn't explicitly take the Tempest Challenge because my nonfiction reading is primarily about nature, restoration, etc., and that is mostly written by white men. But that's a weak sauce excuse, and I think proves her point. So, for 2016, I'll make more effort to read books about ecology and restoration by women and people of color (recommendations welcome).

For 2016, I plan to do more reading of books and less reading of Facebook (I've already had pointed out to me the irony of announcing that on Facebook). And I plan/hope to do more writing about the books I read, particularly the nonfiction that's appropriate to write about for Nature Intrudes.

For the spreadsheet, I'm going to add a "B" column, for "Bounced," to indicate books I didn't finish. I'm also going to split "Nationality" into USA (which will get a 1 for USian authors) and Other, which will get the country of origin (UK, India, etc.). For both those categories, I had to cursor through the spreadsheet and count, which is cumbersome.

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December 29th, 2015


08:20 pm - Books read December

Shadowshaper
Daniel Jose Older
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015

An urban fantasy YA set in Brooklyn, with Brooklyn (and the changes it's experiencing) being a character in the novel. I liked the main character, and her interactions with her family and friends. I also liked the family and friends themselves. There were a couple problems with the story though that other reviewers didn't comment on. I figured out a clue a few pages earlier than the characters did, which is a very rare thing for me. Also, the shadowshaper's tools are very portable, why did she not ALWAYS have her tools with her? It really wouldn't have weakened the plot, might have made it more tense, in fact. There's no indication that this is a series, but it ends with that possibility, and I'd be happy enough to read the next one if there were.


Ancillary Mercy
Ann Leckie
Orbit Books, 2015

The last two novels I read, I felt like there was an awful lot of set up then BOOM sudden action. This novel felt like the tension built steadily and inexorably. By now we've gotten used to the convention of this culture using the feminine pronoun for everybody. It's no longer a gimmick, but a great insight into the culture being depicted. The Radch might have gender equity, but they're pretty nasty in almost every other respect. Ancillary Mercy ends the trilogy in a way that wrapped up all the loose ends and felt final to me. And left me wanting to reread the whole thing now that all three books are available.


Black by Design: A 2-Tone Memoir
Pauline Black
Serpent's Tail, 2011

Pauline Black was the lead singer of The Selecter, one of the 2 Tone groups that sprung up in the late 70s and faded quickly. Her memoir tells the story of her life from her childhood as the adopted daughter of a white working class British family. She becomes lead singer of The Selecter almost by accident, and experiences its meteoric rise and almost as-rapid fall barely able to catch a breath. Her memoir looks at being mixed race in the UK, and how some things have changed, but many haven't -- even in the 90s, after successful stints as actress on stage and presenter for television shows, she's told to get toilet paper for the rest room by an old woman who sees only the skin color, not the clothes or demeanor. She only gets half famous, in sometimes embarrassing ways: encountering a fan who remembers her from her Selecter days, but only because she complained about the fish and chips he bought for her. The most triumphant moments in the book come from acknowledging her marriage and finding her birth families.


Indians of the Pacific Northwest: From the Coming of the White Man to the Present Day
Vine Deloria, Jr.
Fulcrum, 1977 (afterword, 2012)

The first white people to arrive in the Pacific Northwest were British traders, looking to take advantage of the established trade routes of the Salish peoples for their own ends: The Makah whalers for whale oil, others for salmon or animal skins. They lived in relative peace with Salish peoples, even intermarrying with first peoples, although they still brought smallpox. The Americans who came later wanted to establish permanent settlements, which resulted in the occasionally violent removal of first peoples from their lands and the establishment of reservations. I thought this book would be a pretty depressing read, but although it told the story of the thefts of Americans without flinching, it also told the many stories of successes that first peoples have had, in re-establishing their fishing rights and keeping parcels of their lands under their own controls. I think this book leaves a lot out, as well, particularly the story of the Duwamish. It was first published in 1977, and an afterword provides an update as of 2011, which takes us as far as the first Elwha Dam removal.


Sorcerer to the Crown
Zen Cho
Ace Books, 2015

Another fantasy set in Great Britain at the time of the Napoleonic wars, drawing on Jane Austen and other writers of that period. A number of the cover blurbs compare Cho to Georgette Heyer, whom I haven't read. I thought it well-written, but the world building felt occasionally clumsy to me. However, the race and gender relations depicted in the book felt genuine. By the end, though, I was carried right along. This is the first book in a trilogy, and I'll probably read the others.


Ilf and Petrov's American Road Trip: The 1935 Travelogue of Two Soviet Writers
Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov (edited by Erika Wolf)
Cabinet Books, 2007

This is the story, occasionally very funny and acerbic, of two Soviet citizens driving across the US in 1935. They were already well known for two satirical novels and were well-regarded journalists in the Soviet Union. This was during a brief period of cooperation between the US and the USSR. The US was lending technical experts to large hydroelectric and industrialization projects in the USSR. The Stalinist purges hadn't begun, and relations were fairly cordial. So the writers were both free to experience the US and free to write about that experience when they returned. Many of their observations are still accurate, which brings on a laugh-to-avoid-crying feeling. The writing is good, the photography is a little snap-shotty. The original negatives were long ago lost, and the surviving prints have been doctored in many ways for different publications (magazines, books, etc.). In some cases, there were no surviving prints of some photographs.


Well, there you go. I was going to do a statistical wrap-up of the year, but don't feel like it. Maybe later.

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December 6th, 2015


12:06 pm - Books Read November
I thought when I stopped working for the county that my reading rate would skyrocket. Well, it hasn't. It could be that I got just too addicted to Facebook and my phone in the intervening months -- very likely. Another likelihood is that all the non-school reading I did in school was just work avoidance: I'd get too depressed about avoiding schoolwork if I spent too much time on Facebook, but could pick up a novel "for a few minutes" and get completely lost in it. (I've also learned to stay out of huckster rooms on Friday afternoons, because if I buy something it will become The Best Book Ever and I won't actually socialize until I'm done.) Anyway, here are the books I read in November.

God, Dr. Buzzard, and the Bolito Man
Cornelia Walker Bailey (with Christena Bledsoe)
Doubleday, 2000

Cornelia Walker Bailey grew up on a small island on the Georgia coast. When she was born, the electricity was limited to the plantation house owned by RJ Reynolds and a few favored blacks. There was no indoor plumbing for blacks. Their living was working for Reynolds for cash and subsistence fishing and farming. Black people had lived there for approximately 200 years, establishing a deep sense of place. The Georgia coast islands were climatically very similar to West Africa, and entire families were enslaved intact to grow rice. This allowed the cultural traditions of Africa to be preserved in ways that didn't happen in other slaveholding states. The people became called the Gullah and GeeChee. Ms. Bailey is a Geechee.

What struck me most about this book is the sense of place that comes from having generations of your family having lived in the same location. This provides an almost innate sense of the tides, weather, and seasons. As more of the island was electrified, jobs left the island and it was more difficult to live just on the island, the cultural pathways, stories, and practices of Ms. Bailey's childhood were fading. She's worked to preserve them, and preserve the community of Hog Hammuck. This book is her memoir of growing up and how she came to be the preserver and story teller for her culture.

Heart and Brain
Nick Seluk
Andrews McMeel, 2015

Collection of the webcomic that I started following when the artist posted a comic about gall bladders on the day after Julie had gall bladder surgery. Brain tries to be responsible, heart tries to be free and impulsive. They need each other, though, and are stronger for their dynamic tension. Also, funny and sweet by turns. And funnysweet. Contains new material not previously on the web. (I liked it more than you might think from this bare bones description.)

The One Straw Revolution
Masanobu Fukuoka
New York Review Books, 1978

Masanobu Fukuoka proposes a method of farming timed to natural sequences of plants. Cover crops and food crops are sown in sequence such that weeds are kept down. The straw is returned to the field after harvest, returning most of the nutrients to the soil. This is a no-till method that builds the soil up year after year with no amendments. It works for the area of Japan he is in, because he had worked on the method for decades by the time of original publication. It would work in other locations, but would need to be adapted to local growing seasons and crops. He also espouses a philosophy of being in touch with the earth and its cycles. In some ways, his method of farming reminded me of the Bradley method of restoration. This book left me wishing I had some land -- even a back yard would do -- to practice his method and adapt it to PNW climate.

M Train
Patti Smith
Alfred A. Knopf, 2015

More of an impressionist meditation than a linear memoir, the writing in M Train is beautifully transporting, with a strong feeling to me of magical realism. Maybe a closer or second reading would reveal the linearity I missed the first time, but I liked Patti Smith's descriptions of the world she inhabits. There was an edge of unreality to even seeming prosaic events like flying home from Japan. Also, lots of coffee is consumed.

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November 28th, 2015


06:56 pm - November Work Party at North Beach Park

The weather was crisp, with frost riming the grass and leaves in the park. Good work kept us warm, though, and the sun shone through the thinning canopy to help.

Thirteen people were Friends of North Beach Park Saturday, ranging in age from 8 to 80 and from completely new participants to those who have been to every work party (a better record than I have, in fact).

The main goal of the day was to install plants. Some areas had been cleared by volunteers, and other areas had been cleared… by trees falling. In fact, in the last week and a half, two trees have fallen in North Beach Park, an alder and a big leaf maple.

This picture shows two fallen alder trees. The more recent one is in the center of the picture.

Two fallen alder trees. The more recent one is in the center of the picture.

This picture looks along the fallen maple trunk, from the root ball towards the crown.

Looking along the fallen maple trunk, from the root ball towards the crown. In the foreground are two replacement trees, a big leaf maple and a grand fir.

A fallen tree is an important part of the forest ecosystem, and the deciduous trees in North Beach Park are at the end of their life spans. The problem is that there aren’t enough young trees to take over the canopy. North Beach Park is lucky in that we do have younger deciduous and coniferous trees (ranging from saplings up to mid-canopy), but if we hadn’t started restoring it, the forest would be in serious danger. The canopy gaps create light cones to the forest floor; in a healthy forest, this would create a great burst of energy for the next generation of trees. However, in an urban forest, the danger is that the invasive plants will really take over.

The forest floor of North Beach Park is in better shape than it was when we started. There are nearly two thousand plants installed, ranging from trees to groundcover. These will benefit from the new light from the canopy gap, and the nutrients put into the soil by the decaying wood.

Today, in fact, we planted two trees at the base of the new falls and some falls from last year: a big leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum) and a grand fir (Abies grandis). This combination went into at least three places. We also planted a number of shrubs, groundcover, and wetland plants, including several that are underrepresented or were nonexistent in the park before restoration.

In all, we planted nearly two hundred plants. The table below lists what we planted.

  Genus Species   Common Name
Abies grandis grand fir
Acer macrophyllum bigleaf maple
Amelanchier alnifolia serviceberry
Asarum caudatum wild ginger
Dicentra formosa Pacific bleeding heart
Gaultheria shallon salal
Juncus acuminatus tapertip rush
Mahonia nervosa low Oregon-grape
Myrica californica Pacific wax myrtle
Petasites frigidus coltsfoot
Prunus emarginata var. mollis bitter cherry
Tiarella trifoliata threeleaf foamflower
Nicole, Morry, Julie, Kirstie, and Lina (with Jesse nearby) work in the Central Valley. Can you find them all?

Nicole, Morry, Julie, Kirstie, and Lina (with Jesse nearby) work in the Central Valley. Can you find them all?

Jesse found a bug!

Jesse found a bug!

The stalwart crew!

The stalwart crew!

Our next workparty will be January 23, 2016. We’ll be doing a lot of planting then, too, if you want to join us.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

November 22nd, 2015


10:50 pm - Northwest Fly Anglers at Three Forks

Three Forks is one of my favorite places to work because it has a great view of the south side of Mt. Si, which is practically across the road. I worked there many times last summer, with groups large and small — just a few Parks staff, the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and employees of the Norton Group (who gave us a BBQ lunch!), students from Ryther, and others I’m sure. What we had done is work on clearing blackberry from along the shoreline and in a small meadow.

Employees of The Norton Group and King County park staff work to clear blackberry at Three Forks Natural Area in July.

Employees of The Norton Group and King County park staff work to clear blackberry at Three Forks Natural Area in July.

Working again in the fall to plant in the cleared areas gave me a good sense of the cycle of restoration work. I’ve been through that cycle several times with North Beach Park, of course, but I felt it strongly Saturday morning.

The weather was perfect: brilliantly sunny, with an overnight frost that made the morning beautiful.

Frost rimed grass.

Frost rimed grass.

Unfortunately, the overnight cold temperatures had turned the potted plants into potted popsicles. We spent the first hour digging holes to give the plants time to thaw.

A field of popsicles, staged for planting.

A field of popsicles, staged for planting.

About eight members of the Northwest Fly Anglers joined us. Over the course of about four hours, collectively we planted nearly 300 plants. Trees and shrubs along the shoreline, and trees a little upland.

Northwest Fly Anglers Conservation.

Northwest Fly Anglers Conservation.

The planting had been delayed by three weeks, two floods, and four cancelled events, as the Parks project manager put it. Flooding had moved lots of plants, so before the volunteers arrived Parks staff had to restage them. You could see the flooding in two ways. Many plants had a layer of river silt on top of the potting soil.

River silt on top of potting soil.

River silt on top of potting soil.

Another way you could see the effects of the flooding was that many of the pots had a layer of dirt on one side.

River silt on the pots.

River silt on the pots.

When I had last been to this site in early August, there was a gravel bar large enough to comfortably hold 50 people for lunch. Here it is from last Saturday.

The lunchroom gravel bar completely covered.

The lunchroom gravel bar completely covered.

Keep in mind that this is several feet below the height of the flood — where my coworker (she’s brandishing the shovel) and I are standing would have been a couple feet under water.

The sun was warm enough to keep us comfortable as we worked. We were even able to wrap up early enough for the Parks project manager to give the fly fishermen a brief tour of the site, including Morgan Creek and the conjunction of Morgan Creek and the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie.

If I work for King County Parks again next summer, I’m sure I’ll return to this site several times. The plants will need mulching and weeding, and maybe watering. There’s also more blackberry to remove.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

November 18th, 2015


03:38 pm - November Work Party!

Join Friends of North Beach Park for some post-Thanksgiving green calories on Saturday, November 28, 2015. We’ll meet at the main entrance to the park, 24th Ave and 90th St. NW. The work party will run from 9 a.m. to noon, rain or shine.

We’ll be planting in different areas in the main body of the park. The plants we have range from small groundcover to giant conifers (well, they will be giant conifers in a couple decades). We will also transport mulch down to the sites using wheelbarrows and buckets.

Low Oregon-grape (Mahonia nervosa), salal (Gaultheria shallon), wild ginger (Asarum caudatum), and Pacific bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa).

Low Oregon-grape (Mahonia nervosa), salal (Gaultheria shallon), wild ginger (Asarum caudatum), and Pacific bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa).

Here is a complete list:

Genus Species
Common Name
Number
Abies grandis grand fir
10
Acer macrophyllum bigleaf maple
10
Amelanchier alnifolia serviceberry
9
Asarum caudatum wild ginger
20
Blechnum spicant deer fern
30
Dicentra formosa Pacific bleeding heart
20
Gaultheria shallon salal
25
Juncus acuminatus tapertip rush
25
Myrica californica Pacific wax myrtle
15
Petasites frigidus coltsfoot
10
Prunus emarginata var. mollis bitter cherry
10
Tiarella trifoliata threeleaf foamflower
20
   
204

We’ll provide tools, gloves, and guidance. Please wear weather appropriate layers that can get dirty. Rain gear will be helpful; expect late-November weather, whatever that means these days. Even in cool weather, it’s a good idea to bring some water and a snack.

Please sign up in advance at the Green Seattle Partnership Cedar website so we know you’re coming.

All ages are welcome; volunteers under 18 must sign and bring a waiver (link next to the sign-up form). The #48 and #40 buses stop a few blocks south of the park; check Metro for details. Parking is available on 90th St. east of 24th Ave.

Can’t make the work party? Help out the Green Seattle Partnership by taking the 20 Year Plan Update Community Survey. In order to guide the update to the GSP 20 Year Strategic Plan, we have a NEW survey that is targeted towards regular volunteers and/or non-volunteers. This survey is looking to gather information on how GSP can support volunteerism citywide.

Here is some more on the Green Seattle 10 Year Update.

And as always, you can support Friends of North Beach Park by making a directed donation to the Seattle Parks Foundation.

All money donated will be used to fund the restoration efforts of North Beach Park.

If you have any questions about the work party or Friends of North Beach Park, feel free to write lukemcguff@yahoo.com.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

November 10th, 2015


10:25 pm - Tahoma Outdoor Academy at Log Cabin

The “Outdoor Academy” at Tahoma Senior High School is a year-long, integrated program designed to teach stewardship in alignment with language arts, health and fitness, and AP environmental science. 85 students participate in this program annually, and King County Parks provides opportunities for several field trips in line with the academic goals of the program.

Today (Tuesday, 11/10/15) they came to Log Cabin Reach, a natural area along Issaquah Creek. This was once a farm, and is being returned to forest. Issaquah Creek provides cold water to the Cedar River, important for salmon. The task for the day was planting, more than 400 trees and shrubs. The weather was very cooperative — sunny while we worked, then it cooled down and clouded over almost as soon as we were done. About 75 students were able to join us today.

Tina Miller (left, on truck) and Tracy Krause (right, on truck) call the students to order and get the day rolling.

Tina Miller (left, on truck) and Tracy Krause (right, on truck) call the students to order and get the day rolling.

Tina Miller (on truck) gives the tool safety lecture to the students.

Tina Miller (on truck) gives the tool safety lecture to the students.

Everyone gets a shovel!

Everyone gets a shovel!

After everyone got a shovel, we had a short walk to the work site. There were 400 plants laid out in a field that had been mowed and treated for blackberry. The students made short work of the plants, quickly getting them into the ground.

Students and plants.

Students and plants.

Working students

Working students

A large group of working students.

A large group of working students.

Sign of a successful planting work party!

Sign of a successful planting work party!

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

November 7th, 2015


08:37 pm - Green Seattle Day at St. Mark’s Greenbelt

It was rainy for the 10th annual Green Seattle Day, but this was hardly the worst weather I’ve experienced. There were about 16 events all over the city; I went to St. Mark’s Greenbelt. We had 300 plants to put in and ably met the task. There are five forest stewards at St. Mark’s, some of whom have been working there as long as ten years, some only a couple.

Low Oregon grape, sword fern, salal, and some other plants ready to be installed.

Low Oregon grape, sword fern, salal, and some other plants ready to be installed.

There was a good crowd of people, about 25 to start with.

Getting to work

Getting to work

The rain never got too hard to be soaking, but it did give all the plants a nice thorough drink as we planted them. We installed Douglas and grand fir, tall and low Oregon-grape, sword and deer fern, nootka and bald hip rose, cascara, and a few others. In preparation for the planting, invasives had been removed over the summer and the work area covered in burlap. When my coworker pulled the burlap aside once, we found two different kinds of insect eggs, I have no idea what kind.

Two kinds of insect eggs.

Two kinds of insect eggs.

Getting all the plants in took less than the allotted time. A number of people took off before we had the chance for a group photo, but here are the stalwarts.

About half the workers.

About half the workers.

The fun wasn’t over yet, though, as we set to removing ivy that had grown up into the canopy of a few nearby trees.

They could sure use it.

They could sure use it.

Attacking the problem.

Attacking the problem.

Result!

Result!

Two important clarifications: (a) The two people in the second-to-last photograph were not the only ones who worked. (b) There were several more trees worked on than in this photo.

By this time, almost everyone but the forest stewards and four or five die-hard volunteers had left. There was still the all-important “must be present to win” raffle. I even think it went to the hardest-working volunteer.

Angel, with the backpack donated by REI.

Angel, with the backpack donated by REI.

One thing I like to do when volunteering at Green Seattle Day or Duwamish Alive, or any other large planting effort, is think about all the people all over the area (the Green/Duwamish watershed or the city of Seattle) who are pitching in to help make the future a little better, and how all our work connects together.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 

October 31st, 2015


09:51 pm - Books Read October
Future Days: Krautrock and the Birth of a Revolutionary New Music
David Stubbs
Melville House

A pretty thorough examination of Krautrock. A long prologue establishes the cultural, political, and economic antecdents of the music, and explains why some West Germans wanted to tear down the preconceptions of Anglo-American blues based rock. Stubbs knows his material very well, drawing on decades of interviews and articles as well as his own writing and original research. The first four chapters consider Amon Duul II, Can, Kraftwerk and Faust individually, looking at their origins and continuing influence (Kraftwerk's chapter is the longest). The next several chapters all look at combinations of performers, and the last looks at the reimagination of "krautrock" as a style and how it continues to influence contemporary musicians. As a krautrock aficionado, I found it fascinating, of course; even if you're not interested in krautrock, it might help explain the noise.


Loving Day
Mat Johnson
Spiegel & Grau

I don't think I liked this book as much as Pym. Maybe it's because I didn't understand the satire in this book as well as I did in the other. Pym's satire was aimed straight at black/white relations. Loving Day is more subtle, looking at the differences between people who identify as all black and people who identify as mixed race. Someone who has had those identity issues might find this book hilarious. The few times I laughed out loud were at the behaviors of white people. Still, I found the book very moving and sad.


March: Book Two
John Lewis (with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell)
Top Shelf

At times a very horrifying recounting of some of the early struggles to desegregate the south. In high school history, the Freedom Riders (if they're taught about at all) are depicted as noble and united, the struggle to desegragate brief and clean. This book makes clear their personal struggles -- with different tactics, different commitments, and genuine fear for their lives -- and the length and viciousness of the struggle. The Freedom Riders were at times faced with life-threatening vicious attacks and riots, while the police looked on. They were also told repeatedly by white moderates to calm down, not to push too hard, to step back and wait. I think this is an important lesson, too: that progress in black civil rights has frequently come at the discomfort of white moderates. </td></tr>


Of Noble Family
Mary Robinette Kowal
Tor
The last of the series of the glamourist books. It started slowly and the climax came on very fast, so it felt to me like 400 pages of very little happening followed by 170 pages of almost everything at once. That's more likely due to my reading than the author, though. The end was very gripping, with some effective gut punches. I'm satisfied to leave the characters where they landed.

Four books in October, as many as I read in July, August, and September combined (which I didn't bother to post about.) I guess being unemployed really has improved my reading rate.

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