Thursday, April 30, 2015

Roses for Dad

My dad loved roses - he loved to grow them, he loved to look at them.  He liked them in all colors, he loved the ones with really large blooms, yet he also appreciated the normal sized blooms, and even the miniature blooms.  But for dad, the hallmark of a truly wonderful rose was the fragrance.

Dad never had the opportunity to go to the International Rose Test Garden, but he would have liked it there.   The International Rose Test Garden is located in Portland, Oregon. It's been in operation for nearly a hundred years, and the place is huge.  There are over seven thousand plants, and more than 650 varieties of roses.  The Garden truly is a testing garden.  Rose companies and rose growers from all over the world send hundreds of new roses to IRTG every year, free of charge, in exchange for the research and evaluation that is done at the Garden. Roses are tested for all sorts of attributes, including color, size, hardiness, and how well the blooms age.  And of course they're tested for fragrance. There's a plaque at the entrance to the Garden that lists Frequently Asked Questions and their answers. The final question on the list is "What is the most fragrant rose?", and the answer is "That is always up for debate".  But it's beyond debate that  fragrance is indeed a key attribute.

I was at the Rose Test Garden last fall.  It was past peak viewing time, but the Garden was still magnificent.  I did a lot of sniffing that day, and I took a lot of photos, but I didn't photograph everything.  As I said, I was there after the peak flowering time.  In order for me to take a picture, the rose had to be beautiful.  But equally important, it had to have a wonderful fragrance.  Dad wouldn't have it any other way.

Here are some of the photos I took.  You can see that they are beautiful.  You need to trust me that they all smelled wonderful.

My favorite type of rose is a tea rose... but then, you probably already guessed that.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Riot Act

We've all heard the expression  'I really read them the riot act'.  I'm not sure if the phrase was much more common 40 years ago, or if it's just a phrase that's addressed to children far more often than it's addressed to adults ....  but whatever the reason, I don't hear that phrase used much anymore.

Once upon a time I thought it meant that the person using the phrase was threatening to cause a riot if the offending person didn't change their behavior.  But I knew that there was a law in the U.S. against inciting a riot, so my definition didn't really work.  Over time, I came to understand that the phrase meant that someone had done something they weren't supposed to do (or had failed to do something that they were supposed to do), and they'd gotten in trouble for it. But even so, when I heard the phrase the other day and noted that there was no likelihood of a riot - either by the person being chastised, or the person using the phrase, I started wondering if there really was a riot act.

Turns out that The Riot Act was an act of Parliament from 1715.  The full title was "an act for preventing tumults or riotous"  something or other, something or other.  Sorry, but the full title is so long, I got bored before I got to the end.  So let's just call it the Riot Act.

And if you think back to what England must have been like back then, you'll realize that it was a time of unrest and rebellion.  England was involved in fights with Spain and France and some other countries, the colonies in American weren't behaving, and to top it off, when the Stuart monarchy came to an end and the British found themselves stuck with a king who didn't even speak English.   Generally speaking, the authorities were in a bad mood.

When I realized this historical background to the Riot Act, I feared the worst, but it turned out that it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.  You see, the Act said that if there was a gathering of twelve or more people and the authorities declared them to be 'unlawfully assembled', then the local sheriff could - literally - read the Act out loud, declare the assemblage to be unlawful, and give the people an hour to disperse.

On the one hand, twelve people seems awfully unreasonable, but on the other hand, an hour is a long time.  I mean - if I'm being disruptive and someone gives me an hour, I'm the type who will probably continue to be disruptive for another 50 or 55 minutes, and then go away. Seem to me that the hour is a pretty generous warning.  But then I discovered that if people failed to disperse, they were arrested, and if someone was injured or killed, the authorities weren't held responsible.

Hmmm.. maybe I'd better back up my disruptive period and stop after 45 minutes, or perhaps 40 minutes.

And it turns out that this was one of the problems.  Determining exactly when the Act had been read. Did you count from the beginning of the reading, or the end?  What if someone wasn't around for the reading, but they joined the mob fifteen minutes later?  And if I though the title of the Act was boring, that was nothing compared to the act itself.  What if someone died of boredom while the Act was being read?  (ok, that probably never happened... but it could have.)  And what if the person reading, didn't get to the end?  That really did happen, when someone tore the paper out of the hands of the official who was reading it.  Hmm, that raises another problem.  If there's an angry mob out there, I certainly don't want to be the person who has to stand up in front of them and tell them they have to stop.

In any event, England repealed The Riot Act nearly fifty years ago, and now 'reading the riot act' simply means to criticize someone harshly.  It no longer matters how many people are involved, there's no deadline, and there's no threat of injury or imprisonment.   Gee, after all that history, it's almost disappointingly meaningless.

Fortunately, I have a solution for being disappointed.. and I hear the kettle whistling now.  Time for tea.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

More Zombie News

I'm not into zombies - I neither write nor read zombie stories, and I don't watch zombie movies... although I did enjoy Michael Jackson's Thriller, but that was different.  Even so, nearly a year ago I wrote about Chicken Zombies, and explained that there really is such a thing.. although in my opinion, a more accurate name would be zombie chickens.  However as a general rule, I ignore all things zombie.


Today I came across an article on the Courthouse News Service (a nationwide news service out of Pasadena California) that mentioned zombies.
I was surprised.

I don't know that I've ever seen 'zombies' and 'courthouse' in the same context before.

Clearly, this required further investigation.

The title of the article is "Crowd of Zombies Blamed for Accident".  My imagination ran wild.  Perhaps this was another case of chicken zombies gone wild!  But it turns out that this isn't even close.

You see, while I might not be into zombies, apparently a lot of people are.  Turns out that there are Zombie Walks all over the world.
These are organized events where people dress up as zombies, and then walk somewhere.  Or perhaps I should say shamble and lurch somewhere.  In fact every year, Zombie Con (also known as ZomBcon) takes place in Seattle in October... and it features a lot of walks.  Among other locations, zombie walks have taken place in Singapore China, Toronto Canada, Brisbane Australia, and Knottingham England, as well as all over the U.S.  You can find a listing of zombie walks around the world, at

There are dozens of You-Tube videos telling you how to tear your clothes for that 'real-zombie'
 effect, as well as how to apply fake blood and create wounds, and do your makeup.
Zombies have even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records.  The Book has been keeping track of the largest zombie gathering since 2009.

But I digress.  Let's get back to the story in the Courthouse News Service.  In 2014, a woman in San Diego stopped to photograph the Zombie Walk.  As you might imagine, participants are wearing torn clothing and bizarre makeup, and are often covered in what looks like blood.  So I can see that someone might want to stop to take pictures of such a sight.  And not surprisingly the participants kind of lurch and stumble around - sure, I can see that if you were partaking in a Zombie Walk, you might be inclined to do that.  And apparently a driver passing by, stopped at the intersection to allow the zombies to pass.  I can see that, as well.

But that's when things took a turn for the worse.  Inside the car was a child.  Not only was the child not a fan of zombies, but he was terrified by all the lurching and fake blood.  So in an effort to leave this situation, the driver honked and began to inch his car into the intersection. Unfortunately, the zombies didn't like this, so they began to gather around the car, blocking it in even more than before.  This, of course, further terrified the child, and now the driver was scared as well.  So he continued to honk his horn and inch his way forward.

And somewhere along the way, the driver knocked over the woman who stopped to take pictures.
So now she's suing the Walk, the City, and the driver.  I don't have to make this stuff up, people .. it's out there, begging for my attention.

Hard to know what to say about all this.
Guess I'll just have a cup of tea.