Saturday, August 31, 2013

Poem for Saturday, Montpelier, Par'mach, Prisoners of the Sun

The Lonely Hill
By RA Harris

Wild grow the poppies in Tunisian vale
Gracing the green of a fertile land
And here comes "Peace" to lay her veil
On the hill of the foes last stand. .

Out of the Plain reared the lonely hill
Like a breast bared to the sky
Its slopes clasped the fallen ever still
And its bosom echoed the swallow's cry.

Small sanctuary of a fallen dream
Last bastion to Enfidaville
Your crumbled fort is a desolate scene
Where all but the winds are still.

The winds will rise and the tall grass bend
To ripple like waves of the sea
And time will take the scars to mend
On the lonely hill of the free.


Friday was all work for me so I have not much entertainment to report. I finished a couple of articles, posted a review of Deep Space Nine's ostensibly comedic yet rather problematic "Looking for Par'mach in All the Wrong Places", and saw five bunnies despite all the work being done on the neighborhood sidewalks. We had dinner with my parents, with Adam regaling us with things he has learned in school that he thinks are stupid.

When we came home, we watched a bit of college football and a special on the Galapagos until animals started killing their young, then we put on Prisoners of the Sun which I had never seen despite its having both Russell Crowe and George Takei because I have a hard time stomaching war movies and this one was no exception -- it starts with corpses being dug up and follows the war crimes trial of the Japanese soldiers and officers accused of murdering Australian airmen. The acting is terrific but it's an upsetting story.

The front of Montpelier, the home of James and Dolley Madison.

Though Montpelier was the Madison family's historic home, it was later purchased by a DuPont who bred horses there.

Now there are deer living wild on the grounds...

...and well-fed squirrels.

The formal gardens have been fully restored...

...which were an interest of Madison's parents more than Madison himself.

Me with one of Dolley's dresses...

...and my kids with a bust of Madison.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Poem for Friday, Back to School, Dolphin

The Road Not Taken
By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


Adam is reading that poem in AP English Lit class which is why you get to read it tonight -- we had Back To School Night this evening so we got to hear about the class discussion about it, among other things he's learning. I learned things like the fact that non-Chinese parents get very irritated when informed that native speakers/kids who've been sent to Chinese school since they were very young do better on the Chinese AP exam than kids who only started learning Chinese in middle school, and parents are as likely to snicker when the AP Psych teacher says "penis envy" as students. Son has even numbers of male and female teachers, which I like.

I don't have much news since my day was compacted to make time for getting to Back To School Night, which I enjoyed more than usual, partly because the teachers all seem very smart and didn't waste time explaining how to use Edline but partly because this will be the last one we attend. We ran into a couple of old friends in the hallways but didn't really have time for conversation. I am suppressing all anger about Syria, Russia, and teenage rape victims, anyway. The stories about Fox trying to turn Les Miserables into a soap opera made me snicker, but only TheMarySue made me laugh aloud! Some more dolphin cruise photos:

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Poem for Thursday and Spring Tulips

By the Waters of Babylon [V. Currents]
By Emma Lazarus

1. Vast oceanic movements, the flux and reflux of immeasurable tides, oversweep our continent.

2. From the far Caucasian steppes, from the squalid Ghettos of Europe,

3. From Odessa and Bucharest, from Kief and Ekaterinoslav,

4. Hark to the cry of the exiles of Babylon, the voice of Rachel mourning for her children, of Israel lamenting for Zion.

5. And lo, like a turbid stream, the long-pent flood bursts the dykes of oppression and rushes hitherward.

6. Unto her ample breast, the generous mother of nations welcomes them.

7. The herdsman of Canaan and the seed of Jerusalem's royal shepherd renew their youth amid the pastoral plains of Texas and the golden valleys of the Sierras.


Wednesday mostly involved more chores and the rain made me sluggish; there must have been a front moving through because my head was groggy all day. Given that Adam had an afternoon track meet and was eventually going to need a ride home, I did not get downtown for the march, though I watched on and off on the news. I did get the laundry folded (and watched Russell Crowe's episode of Republic of Doyle with his Merry Men, which I have since learned has also had Paul Gross in a guest role, so I need to track that down too).

We had Italian "sausage" and white beans for dinner, which was yummy, then we all ran out to CVS because we had several coupons and Adam needed notebooks for school, plus Shout to get out the stains his bike chain left in his pants. After he went to do calculus, we watched Broadchurch, which is really making me miss my nighttime sanity hour with Stewart and Colbert -- they better be back next week. Here are some pictures from last April of the tulips at Brookside Gardens that I found while I was uploading summer photos to Flickr:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Poem for Wednesday, Brookside Butterflies, Now You See Me

Tale of Two Cities
By Mark Jarman

Sick as it approaches, sick as it departs.
In fall the hulks of burned out houses stand unrazed.
In winter bearded with fire truck ice they stand unrazed.
The ice cream maker, the piano tuner, the ceramist and tile engraver,—
The belovèd craftsmen turn up killed at their work places.
And the river, stingy, greedy, shrinks and enlarges.
And bumper stickers protest how people like it here. The hated city.

And the loved city? Only at a distance can it be loved.
How else do those mean little squares and boulevards sprouting their haystraw weeds
Become the Champs-Elysées and Princes Street, except in memory?
Shadowy byways and alleys, wildflower chain linked lots
Where a lover turned and smiled and did more than kiss,
And corners where small hilarities gathered, teasing,
But singing in unison,—these map happiness.

The hated city. The loved city. The same city.


Today's Poem-A-Day from the Academy of American Poets, about which the poet says, "The place I describe here is a composite of cities I have called home or had to call is possible to hate and love the place you are from." More of Jarman's commentary is in Body and Soul: Essays on Poetry.

I have nothing to report but chores -- mostly laundry, though I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to organize photos that have been lying around un-organized since about 2007 (kids' school photos, our last big trip that we actually printed photos from instead of putting together a Shutterfly book), then I gave up because there is so much in the kitchen and basement that needs to be sorted but I need input from other members of the family before I can get rid of a lot of stuff. *coughs* We can' work on the big things that need fixing, like the carpets, till we get rid of enough stuff to move things around. Otherwise, I figured out how to do various things on my new phone (for some reason my photos are importing upside-down even though they appear on the phone right-side-up) and signed various school forms for Adam, who has somehow gotten a cold the last week in August.

We had pasta for dinner because Adam has a scrimmage on Wednesday, then watched a copy of Now You See Me that a friend with studio connections got in advance of the DVD release; other than its limited women's roles -- two decent characters not defined by their sexuality but no real interaction between them, and there easily could have been -- I liked the magic quite a bit. Generally I like Mark Ruffalo in most things even when he's playing an utter creep, whereas I don't much like Jesse Eisenberg even when he's NOT playing an utter creep, but they have entertaining chemistry playing riffs on characters they've played in lots of other movies, and Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, and Morgan Freeman are pretty much always entertaining though they're also playing pretty close to type. Here are some photos from Brookside's butterfly exhibit early this month:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Poem for Tuesday and Starting School

A Firefly
By Yosano Akiko
Translated by Roger Pulvers

A firefly slips off
The dangling sleeve
Of my light summer kimono
Taken by the wind, drifting away
Into this blue night


I had a busy Monday so this will be a quickie. It was Adam's first day of his last year of high school, probably less weird for him than for me -- it is very strange to think that I have no more first-day-of-school rituals (lots of paperwork, schedule adjustments, etc.) in my future. Meanwhile Cheryl came to visit and went with me and Daniel to see The Wolverine, since she hadn't seen it and Daniel wanted to see it again; then we went to California Tortilla for lunch, came home and watched some Horatio Hornblower with a brief interruption to pick up Adam, who couldn't bike home after cross country practice with his four huge new textbooks.

Cheryl went home around dinnertime, so Paul and I ate with both kids, then left Adam doing homework and took Daniel to the Shoppers Food Warehouse in College Park to get food for him to cook and eat this week -- his first at college not on a meal plan. Then we went to his new apartment to put the food away, put his new comforter on the bed, and take the rest of his things in; only one of his three roommates has arrived, but Daniel has plans with friends on Tuesday and meetings about his T.A. positions on Wednesday so he wanted to get his computer and TV set up before that. We didn't get home till after 10, so here are a few pics from the day; will catch up tomorrow!

A bunny that tried to hide from me and Cheryl.

Here we are after Wolverine and CalTort.

Adam off for first day of senior year.

Daniel in his new room at UMCP.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Poem for Monday and Scotts Run

"I'm afraid of death"
By Kathleen Ossip

I'm afraid of death
because it inflates
the definition
of what a person
is, or love, until
they become the same,
love, the beloved,

I'm afraid of death
because it invents
a different kind of
time, a stopped clock
that can't be reset,
only repurchased,
an antiquity.

I'm afraid of death,
the magician who
makes vanish and who
makes odd things appear
in odd places--your
name engraves itself
on a stranger's chest
in letters of char.


Our morning was spent doing chores -- Adam had to get forms signed for school, Daniel needed his new linens washed, things like that. Then, since it was Daniel's last full day at home, we all went out to Minerva for Indian buffet for lunch and ate lots -- they had more vegetarian choices than ever before, plus Tandoori eggs. After a couple of shopping stops, we went to hike to the river at Scotts Run, having realized that we might not be able to get everyone there in the fall for the annual family photo and wanting to do it while we had the opportunity, even if it will have greener leaves than usual!

A dog enjoying the creek at Scotts Run...

...and a snake enjoying the sun.

We had to climb over and around the branches of a big tree down across the path.

But we made it to the Potomac.

Here is Scotts Run falling to the river.

There were damselflies above the water...

...and toads hiding in the woods.

A variation on the annual family Scotts Run photo.

We came home and watched the end of the Saints-Texans game, sent Adam off to go swimming with a friend since he'd finished his summer homework, and had a small dinner since we were all still full from lunch. Then we put on the VMA Awards -- Daniel wanted to see Daft Punk, I wanted to see N'Sync, Paul wanted to see what was the silliest performance -- but after Miley Cyrus and the bears, we couldn't take any more and switched to this week's episode of The White Queen (wow it's hard not to hate Margaret), then the end of the 49ers-Vikings game. We did not see the Orioles win or the Nationals lose!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Poem for Sunday, College Park, Gatsby

By Carl Sandburg

The horse's name was Remorse.
There were people said, "Gee, what a nag!"
And they were Edgar Allan Poe bugs and so
They called him Remorse.
                                    When he was a gelding
He flashed his heels to other ponies
And threw dust in the noses of other ponies
And won his first race and his second
And another and another and hardly ever
Came under the wire behind the other runners.

And so, Remorse, who is gone, was the hero of a play
By Henry Blossom, who is now gone.
What is there to a monicker? Call me anything.
A nut, a cheese, something that the cat brought in. Nick me with any old name.
Class me up for a fish, a gorilla, a slant head, an egg, a ham.
Only ... slam me across the ears sometimes ... and hunt for a white star
In my forehead and twist the bang of my forelock around it.
Make a wish for me. Maybe I will light out like a streak of wind.


We spent most of Saturday shopping and moving Daniel's things back to College Park. He is in a fabulous new apartment, off-campus housing but owned by the University of Maryland, with lots of amenities that we got to see for the first time -- in addition to the swimming pool, volleyball court, and picnic areas, there's a clubhouse with a plasma TV, game room, fitness center, study rooms, computers and a printer that's free for residents; the quad that Daniel is in has a full kitchen with dishwasher and microwave, two bathrooms, a living/dining room, and a washer/dryer. Paul and I didn't have the latter in our own space until we had a townhouse!

Since Daniel's bedroom has a double bed instead of a twin, we drove around Redskins traffic to Kohl's when we left campus to buy him a new comforter, plus we stopped in Best Buy to get screen protectors for our new phones (I'd already ordered a case after reading many reviews). Neither Daniel nor Adam's friend Daniel Wigle had seen The Great Gatsby, so we watched that on Video On Demand -- I still think it looks better than it plays, not sure anyone could make a movie that really captures the spirit of the book. With so many boys it was a noisy viewing with many comments about Gatsby's clothes! And the Redskins won well.