How much snow?

Bird Feeder and deck

Yes, I’ve ordered seeds and have the lights in place but it’s too early by weeks to plant, even indoors.  These days in central MA my life is defined by the weather to a great degree.  I would not mind the snow if I didn’t have to drive in it but one of my commutes this week was a record-breaking two hours – one way!  Fortunately, I can work from home occasionally and today is one of those days. 

Last night’s storm dumped somewhere between 8″ and a foot.  I’ll know better when I shovel the driveway.  Better get to it.

Videopress test

Update 1/29/11:  I have moved my Videopress testing to a free page on WordPress.com (see below) because it looks like this might never work. And I don’t want to add too much clutter, here.  At this time, the Videopress support folks are saying that Nero must do something that’s incompatible with their software.  I have asked them once if they would work with Nero; have asked them again.  I’ll start the support process with Nero and cross my fingers that the two companies might decide to work together. 

http://gaiasgift.wordpress.com/

1/25/11:  <Video Deleted from this page, you can see it on the link, above.> This is a test using Videopress.  I like the high definition, and being able to select the opening screen but it should be widescreen.  Working with support.  I promise to get back to gardening, soon.

Cincopa, tried and failed

Update 2/20/2011.  In spite of all of their reassurances about how there was always a free option, now that my paid two months have run out, they won’t even show the galleries that I made there in  a crippled format.  Instead, as of today, they show a big nasty demand for more money instead of any part of my gallery.   Is it an exaggeraton to call that extortion?  Hmm, maybe a complaint to the FTC for false advertising is in order.

Update 1/22/11. After opening my dispute with Paypal, Cincopa restored the already-paid-for service.  But now I know what happens when I stop paying.  My creations that I paid to develop on their site are crippled.  And, btw, the creations you see here have made me a power user, unable to add more projects using their free service.  Still looking… 

Posted on 1/21/11.  Since the Company has decided to put their advertising up on my web site, without my consent and in spite of prepayment for the next month for services that include my right to specify that this advertisement does not show on my blog, I though I would just add a couple of words.  Buyer beware.

This model bothered me from the start because the Company doesn’t really say what happens if you decide, after some period of buying their services, what happens to your creations.  There is always the free option they say, for anyone who’s not a power user.  But what happens to things you’ve paid to create?  Several unsatisfying e-mails between me and their customer service left me no wiser, and pretty much believing that they thought I was an idiot.  I signed up for the free two week trial to have more options for my slideshows and videos, you have to set up a repeating Paypal transaction to do that.  On the 15th day, my Paypal account was charged.  OK, I’ll invest in another month; but planning to either sign up for a year or find another way to do this, I cancelled the prepayment plan. 

What is this?  On day 16, after paying for a full month, on top of the two week trial, I am unable to use the paid account!  It’s been demoted to a free account with all of the crippled features, including the ugly black bands over my pictures and the advertisements that you see.

Although it’s on my blog, I don’t advise you to click through.  Paypal will probably get me my money back but who needs this?

If you have a recommendation for a reputable service like this, please let us know.

Rosarie du Val-de-Marne, l’Hay les Roses

[oqeygallery id=5]The archetypical rose garden, designed in the late 1800s by a Parisian businessman, Jules Gravereaux, who loved roses and Edouard Andre, a garden architect; this garden is a return to the structured, symetrical forms of the classical french garden, but on a smaller and more intimate scale.  Although it’s large for its purpose.  It was designed to display a single type of plant, the rose.  The genius of both the rosier and the garden architect are exhibited in the breathtaking use of roses to provde structure to the garden.  Roses form pillars of color fifteen feet in diameter and as tall as a house.  Roses cling to trellises and fences and swags of chan between the taller features.  Roses provide the colors of the rainbow on walls and are shaped over domes and arbors to provide delightfully scented shady places on hot June days.  Both the history and the beauty of the rose are celebrated here.

I discovered two of my favorite climbers there.  Veichenblau is an unusually shaped, small, purple/blue once-bloomer that shows off its colors in large clusters.  City of York is a simple, classic white rose but I can find it in any rose garden by its wonderful scent.

Although it’s in a nearby suburb, not Paris itself, you can take public transportation from central Paris.  You can use the RATP trip planner to plan your trip to the nearby suburb of l’Hay les Roses, Bus Stop: Sous-Prefecture-Eglise.  The bus stops right across from the entrance to the park. 

A word about venturing out of central Paris; there will be fewer people who speak any English.  Go armed with maps and visuals if you don’t speak any French.  You can print out the informaton for the buses at the RATP site, for example.  And I found it took me longer than the trip information said. On transfers, just about the time that I figured out which bus I should take it was pulling out and I had to wait for the next one.  But it’s really fun to watch the bus drivers navigate those huge city buses through the tiny streets.

The wisdom of buying locally

Reading some interesting discussion about the local foods movement, pro and cons.  An article where economists discuss some of the issues with over-doing it, based on well recognized economic principles  http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2011/LuskNorwoodlocavore.html

And another study that counters that to some extent.   I have not read the book yet but intend to download it.  http://www.communityfoodenterprise.org/news/test

 What strikes me right away is that the economists in the first model have not included self-sufficiency as an economic factor.  What happens to Esther’s food supply if Boston is hit by  a tsunami?   Therefore, what is the ongoing  economic value to Esther of her local (say West of 128 belt) sources that could still provide her with locally grown food when the regional transportation system was crippled.  What should she be willing to pay over the cost of comparable food, shipped from a distance.  Especially the farm that’s within walking distance.  Even more so, when we put a dollar value on the produce from our own gardens or greenhouses, how do we factor this in?

This is fascinating to me because I have to grapple on a daily basis with the fact that we often don’t factor risk into econimic and business decisions.  Information system security adds costs, I hear.  But not if the worst happens.  Then it saves money.  Security analysts work with risk assessments that try to factor in the probability and impact of that “worst” to include appropriate costs/spending for prevention or mitigation.  It can be a hard sell.

Thank you to the web site http://www.biofortified.org/ for presenting multiple viewpoints on this and other issues related to our food supply.

Bagatelle (and Bolivian bimbos in the Bois de Boulogne)

[wpvideo mUbud6D0]More Paris gardens for my one follower <smile>  It was very hard to choose from all of my Bagatelle photos on a trip in June of ’03 but not hard to pick what to pull from my trip journal.  It still makes me laugh.

Also found the way not to go to Bagatelle.  I can read a map and I picked out the way to Bagatelle from La Muette, walking over the peripheric and through the Bois de Boulonge, a larger green space in which Bagatelle is located.  I had read that in the evenings the Bois can turn into a red light zone but it was 2:30 in the afternoon when I started out, map and notes in hand. 

First I was not sure if the road I was on would actually take me over the peripheric, but after having made my way over both entrance and exits, I felt more confident that I could find my way.  I walked, and I walked.  The usual French consistency about road signs was consistently non-existent.  I saw sign after sign for the most expensive restaurant in Paris, located in the Bois de Boulougne but none for Bagatelle. 

When I turned onto the wide but heavily wooded Allée de la Reine Marguerite, I began to wonder just what a bad girl she had been.   There were women, or reasonable facsimiles thereof, and many, many men.  Cars were cruising and, unbelievably, slowing down to check me out. 

 I am not young; I am no longer what one would call pretty.  On a good day I may aspire to distinguished or attractive.  But frankly, when I am traveling I often do not give a damn (I am in the purple dress with a red hat time of life) and this day was one of those. There I was in my baggy black knit pants (really baggy as I’d worn them on the airplane and then for two days of sightseeing); a beat up straw hat; and a man’s big blue work shirt that I got from my computer job and love for the pockets.  And they were slowing down to check me out!  There were too many sleazy men and it did make me uncomfortable but at some point I was beyond that and started to have the impulse to laugh hysterically.  Trying to keep from giggling or laughing in someone’s face, I continued on.  No eye contact.  Absolutely no eye contact and no smiling!

And since I am really more worried about my backpack with camera and money inside than someone seriously testing my virtue, I also tried to be sure that anyone who passed me kept going and anyone who was faster than me was able to pass me easily.  But no eye contact.  Try that!

I failed with one poor man as I avoided his eyes when he approached and then made eye contact as I looked back to make sure that he wasn’t turning around.  Quick about face, pick up pace, try not to giggle.  So, finally, after 50 minutes of walking I found a sign, that directed me back the way I’d come but deeper into the woods.  In spite of my uncertainty, I saw families and couples, so I took the path.  And crossed a side path just as the same poor man was coming out of the woods on the path he had taken minutes ago.  He mumbled an uncertain bon jour and I once again moved my eyes quickly away.  What’s an honest woman to do?

One of my research sources said that Bois de Boulogne was a favorite place for working Bolivian transvestites.  I can attest to seeing and hearing things that made me think that source might be right but why Bolivians in the Bois de Boulogne, (other than it makes for lovely alliteration, especially if you throw in a bimbo.  Bolivian bimbos in the Bois de Boulogne)?  I think that it’s probably something that the tourist office would rather not discuss.  The source also implied that it was authentically French because the original owners of Bagatelle threw their lust around in the French Royal court.  That’s what he said, really.

 So I walked some more and finally found a gate for Bagatelle.  An hour of walking, history and current events thrown in for free.  And Bagatelle was everything the tourist books said it would be.  I took some pictures of roses but there are still other things that I want to see.  I will go again tomorrow but I think I will take a bus.

Be sure to allow plenty of time to visit the rest of the garden, beyond the roses that make it famous.  The “folies” and perspectives still show the influence of Thomas Blaikie, called the Capability Brown of France.  His fascinating life as a gardener to kings and princes spanned the period before and through the French Revolution.  You will see much more if you research the many stories about the garden before your visit.

More on Blaikie another time…

Snow Day

[wpvideo MvjAYclV]This will be fun to watch in hot, steamy July.

Remember when a snow day meant you could goof off?  Being able to work from anywhere means you are expected to work from anywhere.  Good thing I usually like my job.  Took some videos of birds at the feeder, played with the cats.  Worked.  Gazed out of my basement study window and watched the snow slowly bend the branches of the foundation evergreens to the ground… Worked…

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

[cincopa A4BAWZ6JpeSB]  Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, MI.

Although I’m from Michigan, my deep appreciation for the role of public gardens blossomed after I moved to Massachusetts.  As I looked to combine garden visits with my regular trips home to family, people kept recommending this garden.  I visited with the family in October, 2009.  It was late enough in the season that we didn’t have high expectations  and we hadn’t even packed the stroller.  The fall colors, enhanced by plantings and landscaped effects were impressive and we wore out the grands, and the big folks who took turns carrying them.  Now I want to visit in summer.

Whenever I’m in Paris

[cincopa AkGAzZ6VsywK]  

I heard myself saying that one day and it stopped me cold.  Born and raised to a barely middle class family in rural Michigan, I grew up thinking that one trip to Europe in my lifetime would be a lucky event, involving huge expense and sacrifices beyond my grasp.  In this lifetime, anyway.  The complete story of how I got to the day where I could offer travel advice with authority is too long for this post.  But it was culture, not gardens that I wanted to understand in my first visits to France.  Visits to public gardens were the means, not the end.  That didn’t last long.  There are people in the world who value the contributions of long dead gardeners so much that they preserve their work through history.  Lots and lots of them at great expense and, no doubt, the occasional sacrifice, maybe even sacrifice beyond my grasp.  Who knew?

So, of course, I did learn about the culture, and history became more than dates and times that I had to memorize to pass a test in school, and then those became the means to help me more deeply appreciate the hundreds of public gardens that preserve culture and history in color and transformed light. 

When I started this blog in winter, I promised myself that I’d spend the dark days of January and February  sharing some of these treasures, both in Europe and in the US, with you. 

More soon…