September « 2010 « verdure
Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Bigger and better ways for government to invade its citizens’ privacy:

Internet blacklists (from JL)

Wiretapping the Internet (from Mike)

Treasury Department data mining

When there is an actual benefit to society, that would be for the great unwashed, not the elite few at the top, and what is collected and presented is thoughtfully considered, I’m all for government programs. Census information helps us make better informed decisions. Social Security (more on this later) did not crash with the stock market. On the other hand, when we start sweeping up everyone and everything we do to be scrutinized (regardless of the feasibility of the second link) without requiring any prior suspicion of guilt, and no matter the efficacy or cost in money or freedom because it’s always for national security and you’re unAmerican to question it, it really starts feeling Orwellian.

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Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Island living is expensive. Even when there is a heavily tolled bridge placing you just a few minutes from the mainland, there is still hurricane insurance to pay, and there’s a limited amount of real estate. While the actual tourist attractions (of which the shell museum and wildlife refuge are both recommended) on Sanibel were quite affordable, we paid steep premiums for lodging and food. The island is distinctive, with its bike trails and unique shops, but was oddly dead in this its off season. Despite avoiding chintzy tourist trap-ville, this stark dependence on seasonal visitors left the town without charm.

Nature is the largest selling point on the island however. And our cottage was a few steps from the beach. We watched the storm off the coast, and then later walked along the beach in the moonlight.

storm, sun and surf

Hurricane Charley, a category four hurricane with 143 mph winds, hit Sanibel in 2004. “While much of the native vegetation survived, the non-native Australian pines suffered serious damage, blocking nearly every road.” (wiki, USGS before and after pictures.)

damaged mangrove

Of course much has regrown since then. There is a lushness to the vegetation which, although is made of many of the same species as around Tampa Bay 2 1/2 hours to the north, is a bit denser, with thicker vines, everything clamoring over each other.

Over half the island is wildlife refuges. This is the Calusa Shell Mound Trail, in the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.


Native Americans have accumulated shell middens in this area for thousands of years. The Calusa Indians developed a sophisticated fishery culture that lasted until the 1700’s. “Mollusk shells and wood were used to make hammering and pounding tools. Mollusks shells and shark teeth were used for grating, cutting, carving and engraving.” Fishing nets made from with palm-fiber cord were weighted with mollusk shells and had floats made from cultivated gourds. (wiki)

mounded shell

Not a native, looks to be dragonfruit, a climbing, night-blooming cactus

dragons be here

flower buds

Most of the J.N. “Ding” Darling refuge is mangrove forests and tidal flats. A 5 mile, one-way road winds through it. We went through the refuge twice. The first time was midday, low tide, and there were many more wading birds, several roseate spoonbills, osprey, a pied-billed grebe, and our first sighting of a reddish egret. It was also a weekend, and a persistent trickle of cars rolled past us.

ibis and egrets

little blue heron

Mangrove skipper (thanks Mom)

mangrove skipper

Blue morning glory



taking flight

The next morning at sunrise we went back to the refuge, and were the only ones there. The tide was in, the fish were jumping, and the kingfishers and cardinals were flittering around.

mangrove sunrise

unhappily 800 ISO

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rust and slate
Monday, September 20th, 2010

During a short trip to the Florida Botanical Gardens before the rain chased us back to the pickup, we watched a limpkin and what we think is a tricolored heron in winter plumage, although we’ve never seen one with this much red before.

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sticks and stones
Sunday, September 19th, 2010

I didn’t get a lot from the rest of this article, but I really liked this thought:

As social networks shift our perceptions of authority, we have to guard against the problems that can arise when large numbers of people have access to information without context. Institutional authorities provided this context in the past. Now that another, more organic kind of authority plays a larger role in how and how quickly we receive information, we have a new responsibility to ensure that the reporting we share is accurate.

As we’ve lowered the barriers to entry for broadcasting your own voice, we’ve also eliminated many of the consequences for spreading misinformation. With no entity enforcing authenticity on the internet, which I’m not saying is a bad thing, the reader gains responsibility in measuring the trustworthiness of the content they read and lend credibility to by forwarding on to others. In an environment where the arguments of experts, agendas and armchair commentators often claim equal authority, without research or first hand experience, repetition can be powerfully persuading, but does not ensure veracity.

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summer of pesto
Saturday, September 11th, 2010

We lost the battle of pinching back the flowers on the basil months ago. It didn’t turn out so bad though, as the basil reseeded itself, in pretty much every nearby pot. Even the original parent plants, whose older leaves get tough and pale after flowering, have grown a few fresh leaves since then. Many of the new plants have ended up a lovely hybrid between the purple and sweet varieties we were originally growing.

It really takes more than one or two plants of most herbs to support a kitchen. And other things than you may eat or otherwise kill your plants. Two armies of caterpillars ate through all four of our parsley plants. This is all that’s left.

So we’re back to buying parsley from the store for now. And parsley are difficult to start from seed.

Anyway, we’ve been making good use of all the basil, mainly by making pesto. Getting a food processor has been instrumental in this. Despite being often disappointed by pesto dishes at restaurants, it’s quite easy, although the ingredients are fairly expensive: fresh basil, pine nuts, parmesan, garlic and olive oil. (Parsley and walnuts are not acceptable substitutes.)

We toss the pesto with pasta, and we make chicken pesto pizza. I used to make the dough by hand, but we found that the local grocery store’s bakery makes a better version. I blame their success on letting the dough rise overnight.

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