In which I still hate nature

I’m still holding true to one of my summertime goals: every day, do something to clean and/or organize and/or improve something around the house. Frankly, most days I’m doing multiple things, but even on the laziest of days I’m trying to get something minor accomplished. To wit: there is a bush in front of our house, and there were a bunch of big weeds and two actual small trees growing out of the bush that needed to come out. I initially posted a picture of one of the weeds to Facebook, because it reminded me of something that the back of my head was telling me was poisonous and I wanted to know if anyone could identify it. (The poisonous things are hemlock and giant hogweed, which are both superficially similar; I do not think this weed is poisonous any longer.)

Several hours later, I still don’t know what the hell the thing is and now it’s a blog post. We’re all about plants around here today.

Anyway. First picture: I pulled the thing out of the ground barehanded and with very little effort, so the roots don’t go deep. I tossed it on the hood of my car for scale. This was not here last week, so it grows fast.

A close-up on the flowers. Note lots of tiny clusters of white flowers but no stamens (stama?) anywhere. This is relevant, as lots of plants have the flowers but they have stamens all over the place.

The underside of the flowers:

And the leaves:

I took another picture that was a close-up of the stems, but you get a good look in the lower corner of that picture. The two most common guesses have been mock bishop’s weed and Queen Anne’s lace. I feel like neither is right. Mock bishop’s weed has really needly leaves:

And Queen Anne’s lace leaves don’t look right either, although they’re a lot closer, and I keep seeing QAL described as “hairy”:

… which, shit, maybe this IS hemlock. The stems and leaves look right, but the flowers really don’t. This is hemlock:

No little stamen thingies on the flowers, so not hemlock. And, interesting: I just scrolled back up to look at the pictures of the flowers more carefully and the stems by the flowers are a little hairy. So maybe it’s Queen Anne’s after all?

EDIT: Found a website about QAL and hemlock and now I don’t think it’s either, because the stems don’t have any purple in them (which hemlock does) and the flowers don’t have any purple spots in them or any bracts, which Queen Anne’s Lace does. So I think it’s another thing altogether.

Gah. Screw nature; it’s stupid.

Christmas Eve

The boy is watching the My Little Pony Christmas special, as is traditional.

Outside, all the trees are blooming, as is also trad–





Things I want to learn

Had to cancel another ukulele appointment yesterday; it’s been two weeks since the first one, which is still the only one I’ve been to.  Other things keep intervening on both our parts.  I’m practicing occasionally but not really committing to it.  Still can’t handle that whole three-finger-chord thing.  I suspect when I topped out at Medium difficulty on Guitar Hero and Rock Band that was life telling me that I was never going to be any good at playing stringed instruments.

That said, it got me thinking about what other shit I was terrible at that I didn’t want to be terrible at any more.  Here’s a partial list.  Add your own!

  • Cooking.  I’m actually making great progress on this so far this year, as shown by the fact that half of my posts are about something I made.  But I want to be better.  I’m still doing pretty well for someone who could barely boil things at the beginning of 2013.  My next target is going to be chicken paprikash; sometime in the next couple of days.  In the meantime I need to find some hot paprika.
  • I have failed at learning two academic things in my life.  The first is calculus, which I dropped out of about 2/3 of the way through my senior year when I realized that a) I didn’t need it to graduate; b) I was already admitted to and scholarshipped at my school of choice, and c) I was a goddamn second-semester senior and screw calculus.  I took no math whatsoever in college, unless statistics count, and I loved both of the statistics courses I’ve taken– I tested out of all of the requirements my college had.  But I would like, as a grown-up, to have at least a vague understanding of what calculus is about and how it works.  There is a course on my iPad.  I’ve never opened it.
  • The second thing is Arabic, which I made the mistake of taking my first semester of my freshman year in college, and I wasn’t prepared for it so I dropped it.  I’ve learned Hebrew since then so I know I can handle non-European scripts.  There’s a course for this on my iPad too.  I don’t even necessarily want to learn to speak or understand it; I just want to be able to read and write in it.  I can still read (pointed) Hebrew, if slowly, despite the thirteen years that have passed since I had any formal instruction, so I figure once I’ve learned it it isn’t going to go away.
  • The building trades.  I could make this four bullets if I wanted to, but I gotta leave for work in a few minutes.  In no particular order:  Carpentry, plumbing, electrician…ing, and enough basic mechanical engineering that I feel like I know my way around an engine.  I’d like to know enough to be able to wire up a lamp to a switch or build a bookshelf or replace drywall or fix a spark plug or trade out a toilet without screwing it up.  It’s entirely possible that I’m already capable of these things if I take my time and am careful about it, but I’d like to know enough to know that what I’m about to do isn’t going to work, rather than my usual method of repeatedly screwing up until I get it right.  I’m not completely clueless; I managed to install a new radio in my current car without electrocuting myself, but still.  Better is the metric here.
  • Botany.  There’s a bunch of goddamn plants in my back yard; I wanna know what they are.
  • Music, specifically ukulele and harmonica, and whatever music theory knowledge is required to be able to competently handle those two instruments.  I have a story that I need to remember to tell you about going to Guitar City yesterday.  I very nearly did something bad.

I’m sure there’s more; I’ll edit if something obvious comes up.  What do you want to know about that you don’t?