Totally Tomatoes (by Kris)

Just thinking about a warm ripe beefsteak tomato fresh from my garden is enough to make me drool in the depths of January. Since the harvest at that point is six long months away, I do what I can to make the wait seem bearable. In short: I obsessively shop for tomato seeds and start them indoors. Yes, I could just buy greenhouse plants in May and put them directly in the soil, saving myself the worries of non-germination, wilt, and dampening off, but where’s the fun in that? A friend recently asked me, “You mean, you start your tomatoes from seed?” I wondered if she realizes that all tomatoes are started from seed by somebody!

Starting your own plants from seed allows you to choose exactly what you want to grow. You can experiment with heirloom varieties or the latest hybrized-resistant-to-everything invention. You can customize your garden to your particular climate zone or go exotic and specialize in South American wonders that hearken back to the original species. Or, go with a theme: all tiny varieties, all named after their hybridizers, all bi-colored, all Russian-types, all named after states (Oregon Spring, Carolina Gold, Alaskan Fancy, Georgia Streak, Kentucky Beefsteak, Nebraska Wedding, and New Yorker). Tomato names conjure up Country Fairs and contests of tall tales. Each hybrid a dream of the perfect tomato: early in the season, mouth-watering to taste, pest-resistance and loaded down with ripe fruit until frost,

This year, Craig B. and I placed a shared order from Totally Tomatoes, which carries about 250 varieties of tomatoes as well as over a hundred peppers and a smattering of cucumbers, melons, and squashes. There was a shipping mixup in which my shipment went astray, but the company quickly sent out another batch and they arrived in time for my February 25th seed-starting target. And a big thank you to Rhonda B. who gave me her indoor grow-lights. I think they made the difference; this year’s tomatoes look better than ever.

I chose eight varieties this year (leaving room for the two plants I won’t be able to resist buying at the Garden Show next weekend). And I displayed uncharacteristic restraint in starting only two plants of each kind (four seeds total, since I double plant and then snip one seedling off). Then, I actually composted one plant of each when I transplanted into pots, leaving me with one plant of each kind, ready for the garden. I selected the eight kinds based on: variety/color and days-to-crop. Here are my picks:

  • Quimbaya Hybrid — from Colombia, small 4-5 ounce fruits, blocky shape, 65 days
  • Aunt Ruby’s German Green — Heirloom green beefsteak, 12-16 ounce, with spicy undertone, 80 days
  • Caspian Pink — from Russia, this beefsteak has supposedly beaten the legendary Brandywine in taste trials, 80 days
  • Dr. Wyche’s Yellow — Golden-orange beefsteak up to 1 pound, 80 days
  • New Yorker — early 4-6 ounce salad tomato, 66 days
  • Bloody Butcher — Just loved the name on this one! High yield of 4-ounce fruits that are deep, dark red. Strong tomato flavor, 55 days
  • Riesentraube — German heirloom pear-type cherry tomato. Prolific, 70 days
  • Hard Rock — Free seed with order. 3-ounce fruits good for canning, 80 days.

Now I just need to get Jd to re-till the garden (when he feels better) and we’re less than three months away from a crop! He doesn’t like tomatoes, but he sure loves the Best Salsa Ever!

Monday, May Day, Monday

There’s been a lot of talk about this next song. Maybe too much talk. This song is not a rebel song. This song is Nuestro Himno.

Where do people get the idea that anyone wants to change the current national anthem to the Spanish version? Where do they get the idea that this is anything other than a heartfelt homage to the original? Why does this make them angry instead of filling them with pride?

This is a tempest in a teapot.

And when did the issue of illegal immigration erupt into such a frenzied debate? Was there some catalyst that I missed? Why are so many people opposed to immigrants — illegal or otherwise — who want to maintain a sense of their original culture? The United States is a hell of a lot more interesting because of the different cultures that have intertwined here.

In Bend last weekend, we talked about immigration. Sabino’s family came up from Mexico when he was about ten. He’s worked hard and now owns a successful accounting firm. He’s an asset to the community and a citizen of the United States. Ron is taking over the family nursery. The nursery employs several Mexican immigrants, mostly hard-working men who have been with them a long time. Their employees are concerned about all of the fuss. We employee several Mexican immigrants at Custom Box, too. We believe they’re legal (we’ve done the required checks), but who can tell? Our employees are great: they work hard and are fun to be with.

On Monday — May Day — immigrants around the country plan to stage mass demonstrations. This, too, bugs some people. At our office, we’re giving our immigrant employees the day off — with pay — to join the demonstrations. I hope to see other companies in the Portland-area do the same thing.

There. I’ve kept my political rant short and civil. In closing, let me share one gem of a comment from the USA Today blog entry about Nuestro Himno:

Isn’t there some sort of copy right infringement law where you need permission to sing “anothers” song. If this was an Elvis song “they” sang in “Spanish” wouldn’t “they” need permission? Someone has to own the rights to the song and they should seek legal action to settle these questions. do you hear me George?



I was moaning to Kris this morning about how awful I feel. “You should sit outside, get some fresh air,” she said. While I can’t say that following her advice has helped me physically, it’s made a world of difference mentally.

The sun is shining. The birds and the bugs are flitting to and fro. (There are so many insects in flight that the air looks like a thriving insect metropolis.) Everything is green. A warm breeze brings cherry blossoms from the far corner of the yard. The grass is quite tall — I tell myself that perhaps I will mow it tomorrow. The goddamn flicker is still chirp-chirp-chirping, as it has been without ceasing for the past three days. (Kris thinks it must be mating season.) Jays swoop and squawk.

I doze a little. I read a little in The Annotated Anne of Green Gables. When all three cats come to visit at once, I pet each in turn.

I get up and go search for Kris. I find her sitting in the yard, facing her flower beds, as if she were a Queen, and the roses and tulips and herbs her loyal subjects.

“What are you thinking about?” I ask.

“Just flowers and colors and birds and stuff,” she says. “I saw two hummingbirds in the walnut: they were either mating or fighting, I couldn’t tell.”

Something rustles the irises. “Nemo,” we say together. Nemo loves to hide in the irises. They make him feel stealthy.

I think I will spend the rest of the afternoon on the back porch, dozing, and reading, and writing. (With Toto on my lap, apparently, as she’s just jumped up and demanded that I put the computer aside…)

Here’s a recent photo of Simon. I took about twenty at this time, but this is the only one I saved. He kept flopping and rolling and twisting; he wouldn’t sit still. I’m not even sure why I kept this one, but in retrospect, it’s kind of fun:

A Visit With Doctor Comic-Book-Guy

So, yes, I am sick. Very sick. My temperature of 101.4 had escalated to 104.0 this morning. It stayed there until my eary afternoon appointment with Doctor Comic-Book-Guy. He took a reading of his own: “103.8, huh? That’s not good. Let me see your throat. OUCH!” Ouch indeed.

I was pleased that he didn’t simply say, “It looks like you have a virus. It’ll take about three to five days to run its course. Get as much rest as you can and drink plenty of fluids.”

Instead he said, “Well, this may just be a virus, but with such a high temperature, you could have an infection, too. I’m going to write you a prescription for azithromycin. It’s great stuff. If a bacterial infection is making you sick, this will take care of it. If you have a both a virus and an infection, this will take care of part of it.” He paused for a moment and thought. “Of course, it could just be a virus, in which case the azithromycin won’t do anything, but it won’t hurt to take it.”

I coughed, and then gasped with pain.

“Oh yeah,” said Doctor Comic-Book-Guy. “Take some vicodin for that cough and sore throat.”

I was too disoriented to argue.

I make the drive between Canby and Oak Grove at least ten times a week. Today it took tremendous concentration. I clasped the steering wheel and locked my eyes on the road. I drove slowly. Fortunately, the vehicle in front of me was also driving slowly. I wondered if the driver was also suffering from a high fever and dizziness.

I took the prescriptions to the Safeway pharmacy, and then wandered the store in a daze. I wanted apple sauce, but for some reason I couldn’t remember where the apple sauce might be. I did, however, find the gelatin and pudding aisle. I thought about picking up some cook’n’serve stuff, or some tapioca, but then I noticed that the pre-packaged puddings were on sale at Ten for $10. (That’s a dollar a piece for those of us not living in la-la supermarket pricing land.) Each package contained four pudding cups, yielding a total cost of only 25 cents per cup. And each cup only had 80 calories. In my fevered state, I felt like I’d found the promised land! I loaded my basket: chocolate, chocolate fudge, banana cream, lemon meringue, tapioca, tapioca, tapioca. When I had finished I noticed an old man standing next to me, staring at my basket full of pudding. I smiled wanly and made my way to the dairy department.

I was struck with the idea that strawberry milk might be the most perfect food in the world. Yes, what I needed was strawberry milk and a donut. And what’s this? The pre-packaged “bake it yourself” Nestle chocolate chip cookies were “buy one, get one free”. What a deal!

That was the extent of my shopping adventures. I had begun to sweat profusely, and my dizziness was changing to nausea. I found a chair and waited for my prescription to be filled.

At home, I took my azithromycin and my vicodin and my St. John’s wort, and washed them down with a swig of strawberry milk. And a bite of a chocolate-covered donut.


Dad was an entrepreneur.

He was always starting businesses, or trying to help others start them. When I was very small he operated Steve’s Lawnmowing Service. We still have the sign for this venture sitting out in the Custom Box Service warehouse. Nick loves it. So do I.

He also sold World’s Finest Chocolates. He would bring boxes of chocolate bars with him to church, and sell them after Sunday School. I can remember standing on the front lawn of the Mormon church in Canby, waiting for Dad to sell chocolate bars to all the parents. (I can also remember getting into a box of chocolate bars one day, and eating two of them before Dad found me, smothered in goo.)

He tried lots of other things, too: he was a flight instructor, he sold Shaklee (I think), he raised nursery stock.

But his first real success came with Harvest Mills. Dad started Harvest Mills in the mid-seventies. He built a wheat grinder from scratch. He like it so much — and so did his friends — that he decided to sell them. He developed a system for manufacturing them in a production line. Then, further capitalizing on the craze for health food, he developed the Little Harvey food dryers. These were an enormous success, and before long he had purchased one of the first plots of land in what was to become the Woodburn Industrial Park. Harvest Mills was a success.

Dad sold the business in the late-seventies for a large sum of money. For reasons that are no longer clear to me, he never saw full payment for the business. (My memory is: he sold the business for $300,000 payable in ten yearly installments, and that the buyer went bankrupt and somehow we only saw the first payment.)

The next six or seven years were tense. It was the early eighties, and the economic outlook was poor. Dad moved from one sales position to another: selling staples, selling industrial supplies, selling boxes. On his fortieth birthday — 31 July 1985 — he left his job as a box salesman and founded what would become his biggest success: Custom Box Service.

Died died ten days before the business turned ten-years-old, but his children (and nephew) have kept it running since. None of us are entrepreneurs, though. We don’t have that drive. Sometimes I sense a glimmer of it inside myself, but I recognize that in order to prosper as an entrepreneur, you need to be chasing a dream that you believe in one-hundred percent. Boxes are not my dream.

When I was a boy, Dad tried to get me to develop an entrepreneurial spirit, with mixed success. He encouraged me to sell seeds from a magazine. (I was too shy to knock on doors.) He tried to teach me to peel chittum bark that could be sold to god knows where for use as a natural laxative. (Carving bark from trees didn’t appeal to me.)

The only entrepreneurial bits that took hold were those that I developed myself. In fourth grade, in order to generate money for new comic books, I would take my old comic books to school and sell them to the other students. I would take my Star Wars trading cards and repackage them, selling each thick package for twenty-five cents each. I sold my Hardy Boys books in much the same way.

Now, for the first time in twenty years, I’m beginning to feel a bit of that entrepreneurial spirit. I have an idea, a plan, a vision. I know of a way to do what I love and to make money at it.

I will become an entrepreneur.


Out of nowhere, I have a cough. As near as I can tell it was caused by a bowl of raisin bran, but that makes as little sense to me as it probably does to you. I’ve been coughing all day, a cough both dry and phlegmatic all at once.

Around noon I decided that I had a headache and took to ibuprofen, but they didn’t help.

In the evening, Kris and I watched Rushmore for the gazillionth time. “Feel my forehead,” I said midway through.

“It feels normal,” Kris said. “Are you sick?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Where’s my temperature gauge?”

The temperature gauge was not upstairs, so I waited until after the movie to find it. By then I was shivering uncontrollably. I am shivering uncontrollably now. My body is cold, but my ears (and forehead) are burning. The temperature gauge says I have a fever of 101.4, my highest temperature in 4-1/2 years. (My normal body temp is between 98.0 and 98.2.)

I am cold. And coughing. And going to bed.

Coming Home

Coming home from Bend was better than the vacation itself this year.

The three-hour drive was spectacular: the sun was shining, the air was warm, the scenery beautiful. The peaks in the Santiam Pass were blanketed in white, but the Willamette Valley was verdant with new life. I drove with my window down from Stayton to Oak Grove, cutting through the countryside to take in the fields, flowers, and trees, breathing in the sweet smell of spring.

At home, when I opened the front door, I was surprised to find that it smelled the way I always think it should, like a hundred-year-old house. (When I’m home every day, I become inured to the odors of old wood and musty carpets; it takes some time away to make me notice these smells again.)

In the afternoon, Kris worked in the yard, planting geraniums, pulling weeds, and watering flowers. I sat on a chair in the sun, surfing the web. The cats, locked up for days, enjoyed their return to freedom. They bounded across the yard, chasing bugs and each other. They paused now-and-then to roll in the dirt.

We took a walk in the late afternoon.

Down the street, we passed an old woman who was washing her truck. She wore shorts and a t-shirt. In one hand she held the hose, in the other a cigarette; an open can of Budweiser rested on the rear bumper. The truck itself was not in need of washing — it was in need of demolition. It was one of those old Toyota pickups, and once had been painted grey or purple or maybe black. Now it was mostly the color of thirty years of use. A blue tarp was draped over the truck, and the woman peeled the plastic back in spots to wash her vehicle. She was in no hurry, and I calculated that it would probably take her until sunset to finish the job, which was probably her intention all along.

We walked through Risley Park, where parents played with children, and younger couples walked their dogs. A group of boys played at the base of a large maple. One boy had a rope that he was casting into the branches above him, trying to get it to come back over. The other boys might have helped him except they were too busy wrestling with each other. In the middle of the field, a teenage boy was pitching a baseball to a teenage girl. She swung her bat and missed. She picked up the ball and tossed it into the air, swung again, and missed. After another miss, she tossed the ball back to her laughing boyfriend.

We walked down Concord — a street I’ve only seen at thirty-five miles per — and admired the houses and the interesting lots. We picked up a real estate flyer for a 4,000-square-foot Tudor home ($488,000), and though the house was nice, we agreed that we would never give up Rosings Park for such a place.

We walked down River Forest Loop, past a father throwing a football to his son, past barking dogs, past towering oaks, past the empty lot that is filled with boulders, past the house that I do covet. Kris stopped every few hundred yards to smell flowers or to examine plants.

Back at Rosings Park once more, I took a cool bath, and I realized that finally, after nearly two years, this place feels like home.

Four Color Comics and Get Rich Slowly

I’m on vacation until the middle of next week.

Meanwhile, check out the status of my two blogs-in-progress: Get Rich Slowly and Four Color Comics. They’re both nearing fully-operational status; I hope to have everything completed in the next couple of weeks. (Yes, I’m insane to be trying to maintain three blogs, four if you count the flotch.)

Get Rich Slowly is my new personal finance blog. It’s a spinoff of my get rich slowly weblog entry from last spring in which I analyzed financial self-help books. This site is meant to be less about high finance, and more about daily personal finance for the average person: avoiding (or eliminating) debt, living frugally, and learning to invest for the future. I just opened the discussion forum this morning where anyone can go to post a question or to chat about personal finance stuff.

Four Color Comics is my new comics blog. I claim that it’s about “comics for grown-ups”, but really it’s just about whatever comic stuff Joel and I want to write about. Check out the comic reviews section for some of Joel’s very witty writing. Or, take a look at the daily funny pages, to which I post scans of old comic strips.

Trying to maintain all of these weblogs is a huge time sink, as I’m sure you can imagine. Because of this, I’m looking for people who have the time and inclination to contribute to them now and then. Send me links! Point me to magazine articles and books and graphic novels! Better yet, write a comic review, or send me info on how you save money by frequenting garage sales. I’m willing to take as much or as little as you give.

I’m off for a relaxing weekend in Bend. Take care.

Happy birthday, Mom!

Spring Reverie

Today, at last, the world was beautiful once more. The sky was blue. The sun shone rich and thick and warm. The trees and grass strained and stretched for growth. The tulips and camellias smiled brightly. In the late afternoon, the air was still and perfect: room temperature outdoors for the first time since last October. T-shirt weather.

The morning was cool and white. A thin mist hung over the newly-plowed country fields. Turning from Gribble to Oglesby, I slowed when I saw the bowed outstretched wings of an enormous bird: it swept over the pond, dipped, rose, and then landed on the muddy bank. The bird cocked its head and, for only a second, seemed to be looking directly at me. A tall and willowy blue heron, perched on reed-thin legs.

McLoughlin Boulevard skirts lower Oregon City, hugging the edge of the bluff which overlooks the river. In the morning, people gather at the side of the road to fish. They cast their lines from the short stone wall to the Willamette River below. They’ve been doing this for decades. (One of my earliest memories is stopping here with my grandfather to watch people fish.)

Today as I drove through Oregon City on my way to work, I smiled to see a burly white Alakaskan Husky sitting near his master, lounging at the side of the street, in the parking area, scrutinizing each passing car. It owned the place. It seemed perfectly content.

Arriving home last night at ten, I stopped to rub my hand over the bark of the dying clarendendron. The tree is a shell. Half of it has split and fallen away; the other half is hollow, clinging to what remains of its root system. I closed my eyes and took pleasure in the warm night air. I inhaled the sweet scent of freshly cut grass. (When I had left for the writers group meeting, there were at least five lawnmowers humming in chorus throughout the neighborhood.)

Something moved in the rose garden. “Hi, Simon,” I said, but he didn’t respond. He slinked away. His collar didn’t jingle. “Simon? Flash?” I walked over to see which cat was there, and the garden erupted in motion: dark striped figures slid into the boxwood hedge. One made its way to the sidewalk, where it stopped in the open. A raccoon! Several, from the sounds of it.

I backed away. I let them be. I strolled through the darkened yard, examining strawberry blossoms and budding pears. The raspberries are a riot of new growth. I stopped to piss under the locust, which is just beginning to leaf. Rounding the corner of the house, Simon bounded from the ferns. He trotted beside me as I finished my inspection of the yard. On the sidewalk near the fron steps, he rolled and flopped, begging me to pet his belly.

Spring is here.

Sesame Street Video Clips

Update: Foldedspace reader Dennis has found a popularly-requested video. Here’s Loaf of bread, a container of milk and a stick of butter. Thanks, Dennis!

Update #2: Dutch has posted a bunch of YouTube clips for toddlers, including what seems to be additional Sesame Street clips. Right-click and open in a new tab, folks. You’ll want to go there next…

I state quite confidently that this is the best entry I’ve made in five years of weblogging. Go away if you have work things to get done. This is an enormous time-waster.

Below you’ll find a fantastic collection of Sesame Street video clips. These are great. I remember many of these from when I was a kid. I’ve tried to organzize them as best I can. If you know of more Muppet/Sesame Street clips, please let me know.

Let’s start with a song we all know by heart: “one two three FOUR five, six seven eight NINE ten, eleven twelve…”

Next we have a random selection of number and alphabet clips, as well as random skits:
Letters versus numbers.
Telephone rock
Look at this
The alligator king and his seven sons
Yakety yak
I remember liking this one as a kid: sounds
My martian cutie (number nine)
Jake the snake — body parts
King Minus
Fishing for the alphabet
Animal department store elevator
Song about riding the subway.
The rhyming song
Count it higher
Robert DeNiro imagines he’s Elmo (the spawn of Satan)
For Kris: the mad goat
Funny farm
The ladybug picnic
The number painter (and Stockard Channing! — I always loved this)
Mahna Mahna
We all live in a capital I
Choosing a national bird (hilarious!)
The villain in the panama hat

How about a collection of popular songs done Sesame Street-style?
Johnny Cash and Big Bird: Don’t Take Your Ones to Town”
R.E.M. and the Monsters: “Furry Happy Monsters”
Stevie Wonder: “1-2-3”
Ray Charles (and Patrick Stewart?!?): The Alphabet Song”
The Beetles: “Letter B”
Norah Jones (and that spawn of Satan, Elmo): “Don’t Know Y”
“Born to Add” (minus Bruce Springsteen)

For Jeff — the ‘yip yip’ Martians:
The Martians meet a telephone
The Martians meet a computer

Guy Smiley
The Remembering Game
Beat the Time
Mystery Guest

It’s Not Easy Being Green
I Love Trash

Grover is surprised
Grover examines Kermit’s teeth
Grover’s echo
Grover takes a bath
Grover takes a day off
Grover goes to bed
Grover the waiter: big or small?
The monster in the mirror
Grover and the butterfly

Cookie Monster
Disco Cookie
Casey McPhee
C is for Cookie!
Cookie Monster raps about healthy food (boo! sell-out!)
The mystery box (with Kermit)
Rhyming (with Kermit)
Cookie steals Ernie’s cupcakes
Cookie steals Ernie’s pillow
Cookie and Ernie sing about D
One of these things is not like the other
Eatin’ Cookie (a parody of “Makin’ Whoopee”)
Six cookies
Monsterpiece Theater: Chariots of Fur
Monsterpiece Theater: The King and I
Monsterpiece Theater: Twelve Angry Men

My favorite has always been Kermit
It’s Not Easy Being Green
A-B-C-D-E-F-Cookie Monster (very, very cute)
The mystery box (with Cookie Monster)
Rhyming (with Cookie Monster)
Muppet News Flash: Santa Claus
Muppet News Flash: The Six Dollar Man
Muppet News Flash: Cinderella
Muppet News Flash: The Beanstalk
Muppet News Flash: The Wrong Seven Dwarves

And now for the grand finale, a collection of Bert and Ernie videos!
Bert and Ernie go fishing
Ernie does the laundry
Bert’s favorite number
Ernie can’t sleep
Bert can’t sleep
Bert and Ernie remember (and can’t sleep).
The ‘la la la’ song (This is a classic.)
Bert is locked out
Artwork by Ernie
Ernie and the chocolate cake
Ernie and Bert at the beach
Ernie goes rock hunting
Bert and Ernie explore a pyramid
Bert’s brother, Bart
Ernie quizzes Bert
Bert and Ernie play tag
Ernie breaks the cookie jar
Ernie has a banana in his ear (One of my all-time favorites.)
Bert and Ernie and the ice cream man
Bert and the National Association of W Lovers
Cookie steals Ernie’s cupcakes
Cookie steals Ernie’s pillow
Cookie and Ernie sing about D
Rubber Duckie!
Ernie and Lefty
Lefty and the painting
The broken ukelele
Natalie Portman (hubba and hubba) and Elmo (spawn of Satan) play the princess and the elephant

And, finally, the Muppet tribute to Jim Henson: Just One Person.

If you love these video clips, check out the complete first season of The Muppet Show, which is now available on DVD. (Also, this Songs From the Street boxed set features many of the songs above. Teach your children the songs you love!)

After watching some of these, I groused about Bert: “Bert is so lame. Who likes Bert?” “I like Bert,” mumbled Kris. “Why? How can you possibly like Bert?” I asked. Kris was firm: “Bert is sensible.” I just shook my head.

[all of this madness is via Metafilter, of course]