Pulpology: Mark & Sonia's Intercontinental Absurdities!


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30 June 2009
Grrrrrrrrreat Success!
Special Olympics Victory Garden update

Great Success! High Five!OK, well, maybe not great success, but I will give myself a small Borat-style high-five. We're finally starting to see some veggies in the Special Olympics Victory Garden! Niiiiice, I liiiiike!

The herbs -- basil, parsley, dill, cilantro, sage, chives, thyme, oregano -- have been doing well, and I've been harvesting the thinned seedlings for salads and other recipes. However, I was skeptical that we had enough hours of sun in the backyard to produce any actual veggies. The tomato, cucumber, and pepper plants have been growing like mad. But I was beginning to think we'd have a bunch of gargantuan plants with no edibles.

one red tomaterJoy! This week, I noticed our first red tomato. This tiny cluster is from the Juliet plant we bought at the Falls Church Farmers Market. Woot! You can see from the picture that the birds have been trying to get at it. (Despite the menacing inflatable snake that ain't foolin' NOBODY.) It's not going to win a blue ribbon at the State Fair. No matter! After carefully photographing it, which I made Mark do because my hands were all muddy, we carefully harvested it, and it's now in the kitchen awaiting a place of honor in a salad of some sort. Hopefully there will be more where it came from. I may live to regret those words... in which case you will ALL be receiving cases of salsa for Christmas this year!

cukes!I also noticed that the cukes are starting to proliferate. These are also farmers market plants, which are clearly at home in their back corner of the garden and are threatening to overtake the beans and squash.

I continue to struggle with the southeast corner, which doesn't seem to get enough sun to support anything. Plus it's the lowest, wettest point of the entire yard. I've tried lettuce from seed packets, several times, to no avail. I got a few seedling freebies at a gardening workshop last weekend -- yes, I attend gardening workshops on weekends for fun, are you the least bit surprised at my geekitude? -- so I might put in some cilantro and dill back there to see how it does.

My other struggle is with the compost pile. We've held off buying an expensive rotating composter, and instead used an old plastic trash can. I tried to keep everything manually rotated and aerated, but I let it go for a week or so because of all the rain. And when I opened it up this week it was chock-full o' maggots. Barf! So much for that experiment. I dumped it out in a secluded spot in the backyard and let the birds have a nice lil' picnic. We'll cover it with grass clippings and still have a workable compost pile. Another lesson learned for the Victory Garden files!

the whole shebang, June snapshot

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Related links:
* Our Special Olympics Victory Garden (May update)
* Celebrating Joan with the first seedlings of the season (March update)

Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments


20 June 2009
I'm with the band

Here are a few snaps from Mark's latest gig... The band, American Giant, has only recently formed and this was their first outing. They played at a walkathon/fundraiser event for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, which was a little bizarre and very different from the standard smoky-drunken-divebar gig. I have to admit, though, watching them play onstage at the foot of the Washington Monument was pretty kickass. The National Sylvan Theater is little more than a rickety old bandshell, but the location makes it almost majestic. Having Jerome from Jimmy's Chicken Shack there to run sound on equipment from Rams Head didn't hurt either.

cool view from onstage

Mark and Glenn rock out

Jerome runs sound walkathon dude makes boring announcements

da band

ladies and gentleman, Mark "Two Sheds" Schramm

Hopefully there will be more American Giant gigs (and, ahem, a web site) soon, and y'all can come out and join us next time! Bring your earplugs. :)

Posted by sonia at 5:00 PM | Link | 2 comments


17 June 2009
All I really need to know about Twitter I learned in kindergarden
with apologies to Robert Fulghum...

TwitterI've been on Twitter for several months now. While the basic mechanics are pretty straightforward, it took me a while to get the hang of it and feel like I had a useful tool on my hands. There are approximately three gazillion "Twitter How-To" articles out there, but none of them really got to the heart of it. And it finally occurred to me that everything I needed to know about Twitter, I learned in kindergarden:

The Golden Rule
Follow everyone who follows you (unless they are an obvious spambot). You can always un-follow them later if their tweets get annoying, but at least give them the benefit of the doubt up front.

Share everything
Re-tweet helpful stuff. This has the double-benefit of sharing interesting tidbits as well as promoting someone else's tweet. If you do this on a regular basis, folks will start re-tweeting your stuff too.

Nobody likes a copycat
Don't just "RT" everyone else's material. And for god's sake don't spit out an endless stream of quotations. Add your own original thoughts from time to time!

It's polite to use someone's name in conversation
Use @ handles as often as possible. This directs a question or comment to a specific person, and you're more likely to receive a response that way. Unless you have a large pool of loyal followers, posing a generic question to the masses is not going to generate many responses.

Nobody likes a braggart
Constantly promoting only your own stuff (products, website, events, etc) starts to occur as spam after a while.

Just because someone's popular doesn't mean you need to be their friend
People with tens of thousands of followers aren't always the most interesting tweeple. More often than not, they're obsessed with rote numbers of followers. Yawn. (However, I do always give 'em a chance to really wow me, per the Golden Rule above.)

Know your friends
Use a tool like TweetDeck to group the people you're following into categories. This way you can easily skim a topic and see what folks are tweeting about. I follow a pretty diverse set of people -- travelers, gardeners, techies, foodies, winos, CSRfolk -- and TweetDeck helps me keep their conversations organized.


So what have I actually gotten out of Twitter? Here's a quick list of tangible benefits:

* I got someone a job
* I got some free plants (from several different people)
* I won a free bottle of wine in a contest
* I got a timely news snippet that proved helpful in a conversation with a vendor
* I've learned about lots of great local events
* I was able to give a particularly smarty response about hashtags in a work meeting
* I connected with a CSR industry expert who gave me some great jobsearching advice

...and, most exciting of all: I got an AMAZING fare to Italy by being in the right place at the right time and following the real-time advice of a travel guru.

Might I have gotten those things even if I weren't on Twitter? It's possible. But unlikely. There's something about the immediacy of tweets that is vastly different from an email you can stash away and maybe read later. And there's something intoxicating about gaining access to people who you might otherwise only read about or see on TV. Following a person and reading their random tweets gives you more insight into their humanity. And I happen to think that's pretty frickin' cool.

Do you have any great Twitter pearls of wisdom? Please share!

"Live a balanced life; learn some and think some
and draw and paint and sing and dance
and play and work every day some."
-Robert Fulghum "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarden"


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Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments


12 June 2009
How do you NOT plan a slow travel trip?

It's official. We're going to Italy in the fall. On Tuesday night, with the help of the good folks at FareCompare I found a redonkulously low fare from DC to Rome and just couldn't resist. (As a side note, it turned out to be a mistake on the part of the airline. They left out the fuel surcharge. Oops! Hee hee.) So, we're booked: September 16 to October 16. Italy, here we come!

And now comes the fun part! I love researching for upcoming trips. And while I have been collecting information, articles, blogs, tips, and contacts for a few months now, it's time for the real work to begin. Since we've never been to Italy before -- I know! unbelievable! -- we'll probably spend a few days each in "the big three" cities of Rome, Venice, and Florence. There's a wealth of information about what to do and see and eat and drink in these places. I may try to find us some couchsurfing hosts, and I hope to hook up with a few of the amazing Italy/travel/wine folks I've been chatting with on Twitter.

image courtesy of ConanilThat'll be fun, but this trip is really all about slow travel. A corollary of the slow food movement that began in Italy as a reaction to fast food, slow travel is a philosophy that embraces a decelerated pace, cultural immersion, and deeper exposure to the richness of "going local." Slow travel typically involves a stay of at least a week in one place, with day trips fanning out in concentric circles from your home base. After our frenetically-paced SE Asian junket last November, where we arrived home feeling exhausted and in need of a vacation from our vacation, I decided our next trip would be as slowed-down as possible. I've been drooling at pictures of small towns in Italy -- OMG, they're all GORGEOUS! I've been researching agriturismo venues where you can pick veggies from the garden and learn to cook fresh local dishes from scratch. Heaven! I've been collecting charming Italian wineries like baseball cards. After all, we will be there for the harvest season. Cin cin!

But I feel like I've hit a wall.

How do you *plan* a trip whose very essence is about not planning at all?

Is this information filed right next to the sound of one hand clapping? I haven't figured that one out either. Anyway, I'd love to hear from the slow travel mavens out there. How does one find the elusive balance that covers just enough of the basics so you don't miss out on all the good stuff, but allows the trip to unfold organically?

We also haven't decided which region to use as our home base. Any and all suggestions are being evaluated! Send your recs my way, please and thanks!

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Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments