Convicting Ourselves

Friday, 19 June 2009, 13:33 | Category : Politics
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The US Supreme Court yesterday ruled that there is no constitutional right to DNA testing of evidence for convicted criminals. Think about that… you may have the right to be considered innocent until ‘proven’ guilty, but if there is potentially evidence that could tested to prove your innocence, you have no constitutional right to have it tested. And one of the primary arguments Justice Roberts used to justify the majority position was that “(t)here is no long history of a right of access to state evidence for DNA testing that might prove innocence”. Well, no, there isn’t. The technology for DNA testing hasn’t existed for more than a couple of decades. Neither, not so long ago, was there a long history of a right of access to audio or video recordings of events. But would any court have ruled that someone trying to prove their innocence had no right to use recordings to prove it? This ruling says that we don’t honor justice in this country, we honor the judicial system. And there’s a huge difference there.

On another topic entirely – I continue to be amazed at the contortions we’ll go through, and the cost and complexity we’ll add to our current “health care system” to avoid creating universal health care for our population. We don’t have a health care system, we have an insurance processing system.

Giant Mutant Squashoids

Friday, 12 June 2009, 9:36 | Category : Gardening
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A Tale Of Gardening Gone Awry

In the summer of 1995 I planted Yellow Crookneck squash, zucchini, spaghetti squash, and Waltham Butternut in the same general area. After the crop had burned out in early August, I turned the whole mess under. Couple of weeks later, little plants began sprouting. They grew into a big squash patch, with plants that resembled zucchini, but fruits that were large, smooth, somewhat crook-necked, and a yellow-green-ish color. I managed to contain the beasts until the first frost, when they expired.

Spring, 1996

I noticed a squash plant growing across the footpath from my freshly-sprouted crookneck squash. It looked *just* like crookneck, so I left it alone, thinking maybe I had dropped a seed.


But soon the first fruits showed up. They quickly grew to about 10″ in length, shaped vaguely like a Waltham Butternut, and – I *swear* I am not making this up – green at each end, fading to yellow in the middle. There’s no sign of “crook-necking”.

squash pod

Mid-Summer, 1996

I left the plant alone because it was healthy, it was pretty (the flowers looked just like crookneck, only larger), and mainly because I’d gotten a little afraid of it. It was large and aggressive. But I knew at some point I’d have to deal with it.

Le Morte’ de Squashoid

Late Summer, 1996

The velvet blanket of dusk was slowly descending when the brave knight sallied forth. His armor oiled and polished, his sword set to a keen edge, his valiant steed tossing a defiant mane against the darkening clouds, he rode out as if the world held no enemy his worth. And yet, he knew, tho admitting it not, that his adversary was very much his equal. He would need all his training, all his knowledge, gained through all the years of practice, of watching, of reflection when the cold hand of winter was held at bay by only the fiercest of fires. But now, the time of meditation and
supplication behind him, there was only the task. A challenge long held in abeyance; a contest to the death.

A short journey brought him to the place. The creatures of the night were stirring, raising their voices as a herald for the coming hero – or a tribute to his mighty foe. For here, in the Plaines l’ Gardennes, one would triumph, and one would fall, to forever bear the shame of the defeat. There was no time to study the enemy. Holding its banners high, as branches against the sky, the beast showed its willingness to close at once. They met in a deafening collision of flesh and bone, of metal and wood. The dust of battle blinded those who dared watch, yielding only the sounds of wounding,
of pain, of bitter strivings. Surely both must fall! Time and again the knight withdrew, seeking the mortal places which all must have. And time and again, he charged back, ignoring the dreadful scars even now appearing on his arms. And suddenly, with a quick thrust into the foul temptor’s back, the struggle was finished. The beast collapsed, lifeless. As the dust of battle settled, the brave knight staggering back to his noble charger, he looked towards his castle, from whence his fair maiden was even then rushing to him to comfort him, to dress his wounds, to… well, you get the drift.

And through the kingdom, the bells rang out, their peals shouting the news of victory. The Squashoid was no more!

First Fig

Friday, 12 June 2009, 9:17 | Category : Gardening
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I’ve been reviving my vegetable garden the past few weeks. Not so many years ago, I had a fairly large backyard garden, growing tomatoes (of course), squash, zucchini, corn, beans…. I once harvested 200 ears of corn from my backyard patch. When we put the pool in, I lost much of my old garden spot, and haven’t done much vegetable gardening since. I decided a few weeks ago to start again. So, I’ve been preparing beds, planting tomato plants and squash seeds and deciding what else to put in. And yesterday, in the midst of working my little garden, I looked over at the large fig beside my garden, and saw a large, ripe, beautiful purple-bronze fig just begging to be eaten. It called to me, and I complied. It was delicious!

Playing With Pictures

Wednesday, 10 June 2009, 14:28 | Category : Nature
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During my time away from blogging, among the things I did was take an Alaskan cruise out of Seattle. I was going back through some of the pictures I took, and found one of a wildflower, probably a Shasta daisy. I have a thing about taking pictures of wildflowers, especially when they show up where flowers shouldn’t by rights be. (This one, however, was right where it should be). But in playing with the picture in Paint Shop, I discovered I liked the water-color treatment better than the actual picture:

Alaskan wildflower

You can click on the picture to see the full-size image.

Here’s the original photo:

Alaskan wildflower

Bailouts and Bankruptcies

Wednesday, 10 June 2009, 12:51 | Category : Life, Politics
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Chrysler’s emergence from bankruptcy and yesterday’s acquisition by Fiat got me thinking. As I understand it, the bankruptcy allowed Chrysler to basically shed all the bad things – high labor costs and years of debt – and keep just the good things. I do wonder where exactly the good things have been hidden all this time, because cars and trucks don’t seem to be among them. Chrysler’s quality is almost always near the bottom of the rankings; in Britain, they are ahead of only one company in perceived quality – Fiat. And my one experience with a Chrysler product, a 1984 Dodge Daytona, has made it so that I’ll never buy Chrysler again. That car was in the shop 45 times in 48 months.

But I digress. As I said, yesterday’s news got me thinking about ways this methodology could be applied in other areas. Football teams could declare gridiron bankruptcy and emerge in a couple of weeks having shed their losses, proclaim themselves undefeated, and proceed into the playoffs. Where, of course, they would be about as successful as the new Chrysler-Fiat marriage (Chrysiat? Fiasler?) will probably be.

Graduating college students could declare academic bankruptcy and expunge all grades below a B from their transcripts. That would help tremendously with their job search, or pursuit of graduate school. Until, of course, the same traits that rewarded them with that D in College Algebra will smite them with the mighty arm of reality. Maybe there could be a bailout package for them then, to pay for all those things that a salary would otherwise have handled.