Gardening and Writing

By cjohnson | September 12, 2005 1:54 am

Well, it was a quiet weekend here. I was working hard on writing a paper, and so did not go to any wild parties, or parties of any sort, for that matter.

peasI learned from Pharyngula that it was World Naked Gardening Day on Saturday, so I thought I’d give you an update on the garden, as I did do some pottering about out there…..and I know what you want to ask! The good news is that some of the peas are ready! But they’re going to come ready in separated stages, so it looks like I’ll have about four peas a week, annoyingly. Also, I got one early pepper, of quite an unexpected colour, that was ready the day after I did the last garden post, but I neglected pepperto tell you then since I thought you’d heard enough. No more have come, as the pepper plants seem to have decided to focus on growing to twice their size first. They do look healthy.

It’s an all out war between me and the skunk(s) again. And it might go nuclear again. I’d declared a truce for a while, but a few nights ago two of my zucchini plants were dug out at the roots just at the height of their flowering, so I’m mad. Will be re-arming with all the previous weaponry: sticks, stones (for throwing), cayenne pepper, and the nuclear option …ammonia!

Also on the gardening front, after a day’s calculating and writing yesterday, in the evening I decided to go to my favourite movie theatre, the Arclight, (in Hollywood, not too far from home, on Sunset Blvd, near Vine – best sound, seats and screens in town; check it out) and see The Constant Gardener. It was an excellent relatively low-key film, with a powerful and sad message. I do recommend it if you’re looking for ideas about what to see. Excellent performances (Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, among others), and directed by Fernando Meirelles, that excellent director who also directed a wonderful film that I love called City of God. Also, the film served as a reminder to me that unexpectedly crappy things can happen in your life while you’re worrying about the garden…

Today was spent mostly at home sat at the computer, writing. A sure sign that I’m getting old and distracted is the fact that it is much harder to get fully immersed in a writing project. When I was younger, much younger than today, I’d have been constantly working on the research with no other distractions (you know, committee meetings, teaching, etc), so that when I came to write the paper I’d have the whole paper essentially assembled in my head. Then I’d just sit and write it, sometimes all in one sitting, working through the night if neccessary. Not so now. Too many other things to worry about (not counting the blog here at all, by the way), so ideas come out all slow, not fully formed, and in the wrong order, which is not what I’m used to. Also -very importantly- I’m still trying to determine my favourite places to sit and work around the city when I’m in writing mode. Friday afternoon saw me at an excellent cafe I like called The Alcove (it’s in Los Feliz) for a few hours, writing and thinking. I spent yesterday working at home, mostly, but I did go for a pint or two at the Cat and Fiddle (a British pub (!), also in Hollywood, on Sunset Blvd; everybody checks everyone else out a little bit because someone spread a rumour that you’re supposed to spot celebrities there….tiresome, but a good spot) after the movie and do a bit of writing (on a folded-up bit of paper so as not to scare the patrons) on a bench there until about 11:00pm. I like changing venues a lot, getting on with life (seeing it and living it) and calculating and writing as I go. It’s one of my favourite modes of operation.

home office Today (Sunday) was mostly home, sitting outside from 8:00am writing and thinking, listening to the quiet morning sounds, broken only later by the guys building a deck over at the house across the street, and the sounds of the new neighbour (some minor celebrity, apparently) and his buddies moving into the other house opposite. Then in the late afternoon I decided on the spur of the moment to head to a new venue and scribble there: the beach. So I drove over to Santa Monica, parked the car, got out the bike and cycled into town, walked down the 3rd Street Promenade (checking that the buskers are still absolutely awful – they were (I have a theory about why)) and then cycled on to Santa Monica beach, then Venice beach, and then back to Santa Monica Beach because for some annoying reason there don’t seem to be any public tables at Venice beach.

beach office It was another gorgeous sunset, and after it got too cold to continue writing I did do a bit of cycling around to see what I could see along the promenade. I’m rather pleased with how much I got done in terms of quality thinking, computing and writing, although I do sometimes long for those days when I could get totally immersed, could stay up late both physically (and logistically) and just rattle off a paper like that, all in one go. On the plus side, I’m probably able to achieve way more across a variety of duties, and be useful to a lot more people, now as compared to then. So you win some, you lose some.

Don’t ask me what the point of this ramble was. I don’t know either, so there you have it. Anyway, now I’ve got to go write the lecture for tomorrow’s 9:00am class. And it’s almost midnight. Sigh…


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Gardening, Personal
  • Matt B.

    I think your bike may be broken.

  • Clifford

    Oh…that’s why there’s been that terrible dragging noise* and I’ve been feeling so tired cycling the last few days! 😉



    P.S. *Kidding! See this earlier post, which might help explain. Further demonstration can be arranged if still not clear….

  • Jill

    So what’s the paper about? Is it Secret?

  • Clifford

    Well, it’s a string theory paper. Once it’s out I’ll see if I can say anything blog-worthy about it. To protect my collaborators, I’d better not say what’s in it. But this does not mean its some great secret. Therew won’t be a stampede… I’ll be lucky if anyone other than myself and my collaborators bother to read it!



  • Plato

    Maybe the point is, there is no point….just a nice deliverer of a life, and story.:)

    But ya, like Jill said….

    You might of liked stacking and splitting approx 6 cords of wood to help you think on your writing? Getting ready for those winter months?:) My wife (what a trooper)and I, envy people who live in those warmer climates like you do.

    Hmmmm… maybe this is a story for me to write on good wood burning stoves?

  • Clifford

    Hey, Plato.

    Winter here was hell. More rain than you can imagine. Worried about it again this Winter, as I have a really leaky roof. No fun, I can tell you.

    Actually, I love doing stuff like that to clear my head.

    For a while on Saturday I was out there “clearing brush”, in the words of everybody’s favourite hardworking hero president.


  • Quantoken

    Clifford said:

    “Winter here was hell. More rain than you can imagine. Worried about it again this Winter, as I have a really leaky roof. No fun, I can tell you.”

    What’s so difficult getting your roof fixed by yourself, or pay some one to do it, before the winter rain seacon comes? You have a whole summer to do it, and it does not involve any high tech.

    Talk about winter as hell, you should really be blessed that you live in a place where there is natural air conditioning all year around. This winter will be hell for many people living in New England or Mid West. During a normal winter they would be paying a dear price just to keep the room warm. It is expected due to the Katrina related fuel shortage, the heating oil cost would be many times more over. It’s going to be very very miserable. People in the cold areas, you’d better start to stock up supply now, or fortify up your house, or maybe start to dig holes underground to escape the cold weather.

    And comparatively, certainly Clifford’s leaky roof would start to sound almost like a heaven.

  • Clifford

    um….Thanks Quantoken. Actually, I need a whole new roof. It’s very expensive. I’m working on it, but thanks for the…advice.

    About Winter hardships: the Southwest has its share…..The rain here was exceptional this last Winter….a leaky roof for me corresponds to flash floods, mud-slides, houses falling into sinkholes, and off the sides of hills, etc in other areas….not good at all for those people. Just as traumatic as things that can happen in Winter snowstorms.



  • Quantoken


    Whatever the cost could be, you can simply put it into your mortgage loan and not have to pay cash up front, and save some tax dollars. The investment you make to your roof can be paid many times back by increased market value of your home. Who in the sane mind would buy a leaky house, even if it is $50K cheaper than a normal one? Only those smart ones who figure he can spend $10K to repair the roof, and re-sale the house for $50K more and make some profit out of the deal.

    Not to meantion that the damage caused by leakage is much more expensive. As is shown in New Orleans, repairing a levee is very costly, but the damage caused by a leaky levee is way much more expensive.

  • Clifford


    With all due respect…….I think that it is safe to say that I’ll get my roofing and other financial advice from a qualified professional! Thank you so much for your words.

    Move along now. Nothing to see here.


  • Quantoken

    Clifford said:

    “I think that it is safe to say that I’ll get my roofing advice from a qualified professional. Thank you so much for your words.”

    Clifford: Do you realize it is almost a universal law that virtually all “qualified professional“s more or less have a sales agenda which is directly associate with their own interests, therefore, if you seek their advices, you should automatically assume that they are biased and many times their opinions are NOT objective or scientific, despite of their professional background.

    It’s universally true, whether it is a roof repair professional, a mechandise vendor, a global warming researcher, or a super string theorist. I have meet “qualified professionals” who come to my home and vendoring me $1200 vacuum cleaners, and have been to time share seminars. Of course, according to you, I should have listened to those folks because they are “qualified professionals” in the know, right?

    You can be sure I have no vested interest in your roof repair business since I am not a “qualified professional”, so at least there was no bias. And congradulation to you, for having listened to a none-qualified professional for the first time in your life. You did seem to have done the stupid reverse word counting, and discovered the spot where you got the Plank mass wrong, although it did took you, on the slow side, a little bit over one hour to do that :-)


  • Clifford


    So you’re suggesting instead that I take advice from some random bloke on the web instead? That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard this week so far!!!!!!! Good one.

    And no, I did not play your rather silly game, I had better, more important, and more entertaining things to do, such as watching some already very dry paint dry a bit more. In fact, someone else pointed it out in a mature and sensible way, and I thanked them for it in the post.

    Ok! It was fun… bye.



  • Mark

    I’m going to break several self-imposed rules here. Sorry.

    Quantoken, I’m begging you – go away! Clifford writes a nice, non-controversial piece, and you respond with this drivel. I’m tired of reading your nonsense, particularly when it is unnecessarily rude. I can only speak for myself, but you are not wanted here!

    I suspect that, rather than respecting my wishes, you’ll respond with your usual semi-incomprehensible, insult-laden fragments of sentences. In any case, I’m done responding to you and won’t be drawn in. But please, please, quit posting here and go bother someone else if you have to!

    We now return to regular commenting.

  • Clifford



    Yeah, I broke my own similar self-imposed rule back when he made some offensive remarks on an earlier post of JoAnne’s. I just don’t understand why he can’t just interact with people in a civilized way like everyone else manages to do here. Sad, really.

    Let’s see how long he takes before the predictable torrent of abuse comes….


  • Adam

    Mad, you call me mad? I, who have discovered the very secret of life itself?

  • jill

    cvj said: Well, it’s a string theory paper. Once it’s out I’ll see if I can say anything blog-worthy about it.

    What?! Of course you can say something blogworthy about it! And as for worrying about who will read it — well, I wouldn’t worry, in view of the collapse of the citation market! Nowadays it seems [correct me if my unscientific survey is wrong..] that it is hard to get cited at all, and getting past 10 citations is a major achievement. If I am right about this, then *everyone* is feeling that nobody reads their papers, and they will have to stop worrying about that and learn again the fine old art of taking pride in work well done, which I’m sure is the case for your paper. Sorry if this has meandered a bit but I just heard someone lamenting the demise of the pp wave era….”you could get 50 or even 100 cites with any old crap in those days!” Ah, for the good old days! But were they really so good?

  • Clifford

    Hi Jill,

    Well, I for one have always lamented that nobody reads my papers. 😀 It’s true!

    On the citation market: Ah, the pp-wave era. But that was nothing compared to the strong/weak coupling duality era, or the black hole state counting era. That’s where my generation made its fortune, you know, and as a reward I get to live the “gentleman physicist” life in Hollywood!… 😉


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