Letters to Holly

Friday, August 1

More Garden Stuff

The garden took a giant leap this week. I fed the plants coffee grounds from Starbucks (free most mornings; first come, first serve) and we had respectable rains for the last week. Combined, they have Garden Power! After months of not much, suddenly we could actually eat from our backyard.

The first green pepper:

now looks like this:

Also, it's officially the "first" pepper, as other tiny ones are blooming.

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Our first squash plants have come in. These look like acorn squash (which, baked with brown sugar and a bit of rum is FANTASTIC): I didn't know squashes grew from the bulb under the blossom. Once the flowers die off, the bulbs swell.

This might be butternut squash. I planted from a medley seed packet, and there's no telling what we're going to ultimately grow.

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This is the largest pumpkin plant. You can see the glove for scale. Pumpkins and other squash plants sprout vines and tiny tendrils hook them into place.

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Here's some corn stalks with the glove as scale. They have launched within this week.

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This was the patch where the wild berry bushes sat. I cleared them away to give me a decent garden corner, and I put in grass seed.

Now it looks like this. I got some ground cover mixed in, and that's fine. So long as it's not a dead swath.

Your Mom gave me grilling cedar planks for my birthday. I got my confirmation for the U-Haul rental for this weekend. We're bringing Granny's piano from Louis's house up to Mayberry. I'll need to take lessons to play it before the year is over.

Wednesday, July 30


That script was indeed a quick read. I finished it in a half hour. I had plenty of time to troll about Barnes and Noble to drool over Broadway DVDs and magazines.

I made myself run for at least 35 minutes, and I think I reached a full 5k. I used the boot-camp jog to save my legs.

I made a pretty good dish last night using some of the curry your sent from Snazziland.

Here's how it works:

1/8 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon of ground cumin
2 teaspoons of a curry powder
1 medium onion
2 pieces of meat (steak, pork, chicken)
1 cup sour cream or yogurt
1 cup of pineapple chunks

With a smidgen of oil, warm the meat for 15 minutes over medium heat. Drain the oil. Add the onion and 2 teaspoons of water. Sprinkle meat with salt. Heat to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the meat and keep warm. Add the cumin, ginger, curry, pineapple, and 1/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil until the majority of water is gone. Turn the heat down to simmer and add the yogurt/cream just until it gets hot. Remove and pour over chicken. I also added rice.

It's filling and yummy. I used the Tiakka curry.

Art News of the Day
New X-ray Technique Unveils Art Under Art

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) -- A team of European scientists unveiled on Wednesday a new method for extracting images hidden under old masters' paintings, recreating a color portrait of a woman's face unseen since Vincent van Gogh painted over it in 1887.

For years, art historians have been using x-rays to probe artworks hidden underneath other paintings, a technique resulting in a fuzzy, black-and-white image. But Joris Dik, a materials scientist from Delft University, and Koen Janssens, a chemist from the University of Antwerp in Belgium, combined science and art to engineer a new method of visualizing hidden paintings, using high-intensity x-rays and an intimate knowledge of old pigments.

The pair used the new approach on "Patch of Grass," a small oil study of a field that Van Gogh painted in Paris while living with his brother Theo, who supported him.

While not exact in every detail, the image produced is a woman's head that may be the same model Van Gogh painted in a series of portraits leading up to the 1885 masterpiece "The Potato Eaters."

The new method will allow art historians to obtain higher quality and more detailed images underlying old masterpieces. In Van Gogh's case, it could reveal details of works that were painted over. For other works, it could provide new insights into the studies that the artist built a painting on.

Dik and Janssens used high-intensity x-rays from a particle accelerator in Hamburg, Germany to compile a two-dimensional map of the metallic atoms on the painting beneath "Patch of Grass," which is part of the large Van Gogh collection in the Kroller-Muller Museum in the Netherlands.

Knowing that mercury atoms were part of a red pigment and the antimony atoms were part of a yellow pigment, they were able to chart those colors in the underlying image.

"We visualized - in great detail - the nose, the eyes, according to the chemical composition." Dik said. Scanning a roughly 7-inch square of the larger portrait took two full days.

Though his paintings are now worth millions, Van Gogh was virtually unknown during his lifetime and struggled financially before committing suicide in 1890. He often reused canvas to save money, either painting on the back or over the top of existing paintings, and experts believe roughly a third of his works hide a second painting underneath.

The painting under "Patch of Grass" adds weight to the theory that Van Gogh mailed paintings from the Netherlands to his brother Theo, and, after moving to Paris to join him, found the old works and painted over them.

Teio Meedendorp, an independent Van Gogh expert in Amsterdam, said the underlying woman was probably painted between November 1884 and March 1885, while Van Gogh was living in the Dutch village of Nuenen. In that period he painted a series of heads in what Meedendorp called "oil lamps and candlelight," followed by the famous "Potato Eaters" of April 1885.

Both Dik and Meedendorp were excited about the prospect of using the technique to probe paintings by Van Gogh and other famous artists such as Rembrandt and Picasso.

"I was really surprised by the quality of the image, which is really promising for the future of research," Meedendorp said.

However, scanning other paintings may be difficult since the technique requires a particle accelerator, and few exist in the world and none in the Netherlands.

Dik and Janssens' scientific paper was published online Wednesday in the Journal of Analytical Chemistry.

Apply Forehead to Wall. Repeat.

Last night's script meeting was a whole bunch of not much. With just two weeks to go before we have to announce at least the first show of the season, we were asked to select the top six shows among the handful of genres for us to produce. Six people, 36 picks in total.

Here was my personal list of finalists and the picks I announced last night and the number of votes they received last night.

The Glass Menagerie
-- famous downer (4 votes total)

The Rainmaker
-- midwest romance (4 votes total)

The Mousetrap
-- the most popular mystery play ever (3 votes total)
Premature Corpse -- modern noir (6 votes total)

, Book and Candle -- witchcraft romance (2 votes total)
Six Rms, Riv Vu
-- Barefoot in the Park with cheating spouses (2 votes total)

At the end of our announced votes, we had named 15 shows. By next Tuesday, we have to whittle that down to six. We really and truly needed to become bloodthirsty this week. Ruthless and cruel. It was rough making my picks from the potential shows, and we all expressed surprise at what shows didn't make our cut.

In fact, some of us were so surprised by omissions that they insisted their favorites get a full reading by the remaining committee members. So, now, with one week before we make our final choices, we have, by my count, nine plays to be read by five members.

In addition, there are new considerations for the theatre renovation, and we still don't know exactly where our season will be performed. That will affect which shows we choose; about half our shows would be disqualified because they can't fit on the existing stage. Other shows we had already dismissed would be back in contention because they are easily staged. We simply aren't informed enough to confidently make the final list. We're stymied.

I've made a list of six shows that can be staged minimally AND can draw an audience. But I'm hitting opposition from a committee member who can't wrap her head around script adjustment. She said she dismissed one play because it includes a typewriter, and no one uses typewriters anymore. I was dumbstruck. We can do period shows. We can also update shows to a modern setting. We have options. That lack of creativity baffles me. I'm now worried about how many shows we've lost to this type of handcuffing.

I had high hopes for this week's meeting, and I'm deflated. I have one slim script to read as the 2009 Christmas show possibility. I think I'll be able to read it during lunch today. I won't be available to meet after next week. I believe we have to make our picks on Tuesday, the 5th. I hope we pick well. We're already braced for the backlash from the theatre regulars. But those folks can sign up for the committee next year.

Picture of the Day
My list is the best list since this guy came along.

Monday, July 28

Thinking Ahead

I found a website that sells surplus military equipment, and it could provide as much as half of our costumes and props. I also signed u up to walk in the annual DragonCon costume parade. It strolls through downtown Atlanta, and it consistently features hundred of costumed people.

I drove by the local surplus store and noted items we could use and the prices. Sometimes shopping for the stuff is as much fun as assembling the costume. Your Sis might use costume boots from the surplus store as part of her state-mandated motorcycle outfit. She's looking at helmets and jackets today while I'm at work.

We went by the lawyers this morning to update our wills. My Mom is about to hand Louis's house back to the bank instead of dealing with remaining payments and property tax. Her name isn't on the deed, and she has no financial obligation to it. We're driving down Saturday to pick up Granny's piano. It sat in his house after she died, and then I had it when I rented a house, and it went back to him when I moved into an apartment.

Man, I miss my first apartment. It as swank.

Anyway, I still have to go to the banks with Mom to sign off on account transfers. That will happen after our Outer Banks trip.

Picture of the Day
We all need naps.

We Have Plans

We avoided Belle Chere for another year. We instead drove to Hendersonville and watched the second Hellboy film. It took me a few years to like the first one; it veered far from the comic and injected a needless love story. The second movie hammers us with more love stories, and if not for a scene that rivals Mos Eisley for creativity, this film would be utterly disposable. It's a shame. We missed X-Files and Mama Mia for this. We were forced to drown our sorrows in fresh doughnuts before driving home.

Your Sis bought rope lights to attach to the deck railing, and she spent the weekend screw them in place. They look nice. She loves any excuse to use the power tools. I pruned the garden and applied Starbucks coffee grounds to the plants. She worked a lot at the school again Saturday and Sunday, ealving me with bachelor time. I polished off another play before Tuesday's meeting.

The big news is that we're going to DragonCon again, the annual geek fair in Atlanta. And we're going in costume as G.I. Joe characters.

We have staked out two local Army/Navy stores to find our costumes and props. I'll also hit toy stores for the parrot and musket. Your Sis will have an easy time assembling her outfit. The last time we attended DragonCon, we dressed as Lost characters. We always have a blast and return home ex-haus-ted. This will be a good little break between the first few days of school and the shank of the semester.

We've spent much couch time watching Mythbusters and MASH.