Gardening

We decided this would be the year to try to start a garden in the back yard. We have a strip of  land next to our garage that was going unused, and gets a decent amount of sun, so we figured we’d try tomatoes and onions this year to see what happens. We also decided to plant some flowers out front.

Below are a few before and after pictures of our weekend efforts. We started by turning a nasty old tree stump into a respectable-looking flower bed.

Before:

Nasty old tree stump covered in nasty old mulch

After:

Retaining wall bricks, new mulch, and some petunias. Much better.

We were pretty proud of that transformation.

Next up was the garden.

Before:

Old, unused stretch of dirt in the back yard.

After:

Much better!

The entire back half is un-planted because of lack of sunshine back there. We just covered it in mulch to try to control the weeds. There’s 4 tomato plants in the front, and 4 rows of sweet onions in the back of the chicken wire enclosure.

We’ll see where this goes.

Standing desk created from re-purposed cubicle parts

Standing desk created from re-purposed cubicle parts

In an effort to lose weight, and not wishing to die an early death, I decided to take on the task of creating a standing desk in my cubicle, with no budget, and no tools.

Fortunately, my own cubicle had plenty of material to work with.

Seeing as how I work in a call center and have very little in terms of files and storage needs, I happened to have an overhead bin that wasn’t being used for anything other than a couple bottles of hand sanitizer and a koozie from a conference I attended last year. It was a little effort to get the dang thing off of the wall, but once it was down, it was just a simple matter of reorganizing a bit, and re-routing a few wires.

My monitors are held up on letter trays, and I’m using the space underneath to keep paperwork and resources that I frequently need close-at-hand.

In all, 30 minutes of work later, I have a functional standing desk and an area to sit and work on paperwork, if needed.

Catching up on my childhood

Everyone read comics as a kid.

X-Men #1 cover

X-Men #1 (1963)

Everyone, that is, except me.

I mean, I had a few comic books that I read occasionally. I have a copy of The Death of Superman hidden somewhere in the recesses of a closet in my parents’ house, alongside a couple other obscure comics that looked fun at the time. But, I never really got in to comics. I guess that’s why, now, with the rush of comic books being adapted to movies, I’ve had a reawakening of my childhood, and I’m wanting to see what the fuss is all about.

So, as I do when I pick up a new hobby, I am diving in, head-first into what I would consider to be my “favorite” team of comic characters — The X-Men. I’ve read that the best place to start is with Giant-Size X-Men #1, and X-Men #94, which is where everything picked up again after a hiatus in the mid 1970s. But why do that when I can start at the very beginning with X-Men #1, thanks to the power of my local library, I have access to the “Essential” volumes, which gives me all the artwork (sans-color) and all of the story line (including all the terrible writing of the 1960s-era issues).

As I write this, I am on X-Men #28, which is part of the 2nd volume of “Essentials”. At this rate, with well over 500 issues, spin-offs, and cross-overs, I think I should be completely caught up with everything by the time my own children are deciding to pick up comics for the first time in their 30s. I may yet decide to skip ahead a bit, because, to be completely honest, some of this writing in the early issues is just plain bad. 

I did notice, however, that the writing got better as soon as Stan Lee stepped away from writing and took the editorial seat. Now, all I have to do is put up with corny nicknames that he gives himself in his cross-referencing notes (Scholastic Stan, Sentimental Smiley, Substantiating Stan, etc.). I appreciate the cross-references and reminders, but c’mon…

So, I guess we’ll see how this goes as I turn my brain to mush, following the fictitious adventures of a a bunch of mutant teens, their inability to say anything without an exclamation point, and the endless love triangles that Jean Grey finds herself in.

The Lumineers — My music of the moment

Anyone who knows me knows that my taste in music is varied, and what might “grab” me this week might be completely off my radar next week.

That being said, my music of the moment is The Lumineers, a band that I was turned on to by my good friend Cody. As styles go, I’d put them in the same category as my previous artist-du-jour, The Civil Wars, or perhaps Old Crow Medicine Show, except that where The Civil Wars are heavy on harmonies, and gentle melodies, The Lumineers have a more driving, raw feel to them. Great harmonies, for sure, just less of a focus on them.

Also, a cello.

Naturally, one would be drawn to them via their single, “Ho Hey,” but you’d be remiss if you didn’t dive into the album a bit more and listen to some great tracks like “Dead Sea” and “Stubborn Love.”

“Ho Hey”

“Dead Sea”

“Stubborn Love”

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury in 1975

Ray Bradbury died today at the age of 91 years old.

As a friend said on Facebook:

It’s sad that Ray Bradbury died. It’s sadder that I didn’t know he was still alive.

I’ve found that I often have this belief that if I was “forced” to read a book in school — such as I was with Fahrenheit 451 — that the author of said book must certainly be dead. As it turns out, there are actually authors of notable books that are, in fact, still alive.

Of course, today, that number has been diminished by one. I’d list others that are still alive, but as previously mentioned, I won’t know who they are until I read in the news that they’ve passed.

I’d like to say that I’m a huge fan of Bradbury’s work, but I can’t. Not because I don’t like his work, but because like many who had “the greats” foisted upon them by well-meaning, but joy-depleting high school English teachers, I never wanted to pick up another one of his novels after graduation.

Perhaps this type of science fiction never appealed to me properly. I never could read H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine, either. I read more Star Trek: The Next Generation novels than I care to mention, and I loved reading The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings series, so maybe I was more drawn to the fantasy, than the science, which these authors seemed to embody.

All that being said, as usually happens when one of “the greats” dies, I find myself compelled (obligated?) to try to figure out why it is that they were considered in such high regard. This, coincidentally, is how I became a fan of Warren Zevon beyond simply howling like an imbecile every time Werewolves of London gets played on the radio.

Maybe I’ll try something new, like Something Wicked This Way Comes, or maybe I’ll just stick with what first introduced me to him: Fahrenheit 451.