Last week, while I was writing about the word that is the same in every language, (huh?), Marc was traveling back to Switzerland to confer with his PhD students and check in on our first-born. When he landed, he sent me an e-mail: “In Geneva waiting for the train for Morges…..all the usual emotions of coming back somehow…” I asked him on skype later if he felt homesick. A little, he admitted. Well, we had lived in Switzerland for almost ten years, three years longer than any other place we’d lived before. I think I made a sympathetic noise. But I can’t really relate, because I’m not really homesick for Switzerland. I’m still enjoying shopping on Sunday and all these yoga classes.
It was a long, wet winter here in Heidiland. And is has been a cold, soggy, hypothermia-inducing spring. Down in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, Lago Maggiore is brimming over. Around here the farmers can’t plant their potato crops, because the fields are too muddy for their tractors to till.
All kinds of exciting things have been happening, and I haven’t written about any of them. Some of them involve running, and they will appear in the next post. This one is about my other current favorite topic, the human microbiome. Last week The New York Times had two very interesting articles, one about eating the weeds in your backyard, and another about the human microbiome. The first one speaks for itself. Apparently eradication can be dropped in favor of ingestion. Maybe I’ll give it a try. In any case it eases my weed aversion just that much more. The second article covers research being done in association with the Human Microbiome Project. Here’s my favorite quote: Dr. Barnett Kramer, director of the division of cancer prevention at the National Cancer Institute, who was not involved with the research project, had another image. Humans, he said, in some sense are click here to read the whole dang post [...]
It’s spring. The weeds are back in force. But somehow this year I just can’t get myself too riled up about them. It’s a combination of things: I’ve finally hired Oscar to deal with my garden overload. It came down to Oscar or tennis, and I chose Oscar. I look at the weeds and say “Oh, I must remember to tell Oscar to deal with that next time he comes.” Next time I see Oscar, though, he’s limping and I can’t understand his French any better than I did last time. I try to communicate about the weeds, but he’s obviously in pain and very busy so they remain. For the time being. I’ve decided that the horrible ones with the impossible-to-pull-out roots are hopeless. They win. I pull the stems off when I walk past them, and accept the fact that I will be doing this well into the click here to read the whole dang post [...]
Those who visit this space frequently know I have a thing about weeds (see my Weed Manifestos I and II). I like control and order, so these uninvited invaders offend my sense of decorum. I’m also lazy, which means I don’t want to do the actual physical labor involved in removing them. In short, I’m torn. Recently I lightened up a bit and decided to let them have their place in my garden. At least until Oscar comes and digs them all up. Today, a whole bunch of things came together that made me think again about weeds – and more generally about what constitutes an “undesirable.” In a press release from the University of Arizona, I read this: The recent field of invasion biology faces a new challenge as 19 eminent ecologists issue a call to “end the bias against non-native species” in the journal Nature. The group is questioning the automatic (and click here to read the whole dang post [...]
Since writing my Weed manifesto last month, I’ve been thinking a lot about my aversion to weeds. Every now and then, as I yank one up by the roots, I even feel a little twinge. Last week I had coffee at a friend’s house – a friend who has a perfect garden. I swear to you there was not a weed in sight. Neat mounded rows of lettuce, protected from the birds by clever chicken-wire covers, a stunning bed of irises, the trunk of the cherry tree neatly wrapped in anti-ant tape, pine boughs carefully placed under the blueberries. Little strawberry plants were artfully arranged under the apple tree. Aphid-free roses, their healthy leaves shining a deep, rich green, were setting the first buds of the season. “She has such a great garden,” I said wisfully to my neighbor in the car afterwards. “Did you see any weeds? I didn’t.” click here to read the whole dang post [...]
Just a quickie update on THREE things today: FIRST, as I anticipated, my brother Dave cracked the Venter code. Actually, within minutes of reading my post, at 12:34 am his time, he was trying to explain it to me in a gmail chat. Dave: You’re not going to believe this, but I already had a program that would decode it. Me: No way. Dave: Yep. A geocache puzzle was based on it so I added it to my code last summer. So for example: TTAACTAGCTAATGTCGTGCAATTGGAGTAGAGAACACAGAACGATTAACTAGCTAA decodes to: LTS*CRAIGVENTERLTS* (LTS* means letters) Right. That’s SO obvious. Then a minute later, he writes: Dave: Ok, I found the watermarks here (link to the PDF of Venter’s paper in Science magazine with pages of incomprehensible (to me) gibberish). A couple of minutes pass… Dave: Hmm… My table is only partly right. Dave: Hmm… well, I will write a decoder tomorrow. Me: get on click here to read the whole dang post [...]
Spring has come three weeks early to Switzerland. It’s 24 degrees (that’s 75 to you Americans), everything is bursting into bloom, the birds are singing their heads off at 4 am. The sound of the lawn mower can be heard throughout the land. Unless it’s lunch time or after six pm. Or Sunday. This is Switzerland, after all. There are rules to follow. The plants on our wall are thriving. Masses of purple, delicious daffodils, grape hyacinths. And, of course, the inevitable weeds. There is one particular variety that seems to get itself well established extremely early in the season. It has tenacious, pale, slimy worm-like roots that are impossible to extract. It grows into a big, ugly plant with bulbous pale white flowers that have no redeeming features whatsoever. Even the bees shun them. If you pull on these things — even with the help of a dandelion digger click here to read the whole dang post [...]
The daffodils are out this week. Spring is officially here. Never mind the groundhog (probably took one look and said “Okay, bad dream, back to bed.”). When the daffodils bloom it’s time to put the skis away and start buying tulips for the coffee table. Tip: if you put a penny in the vase, the tulips won’t wilt. I have a bit of a fraught relationship with the plant world. My mother and my sister are plant fanatics – on family hikes they’d constantly be stopping to identify flowers. If you saw an orchid, the day was made. My sister has since made a fantastic career out of the activity, traipsing around in jungles and deserts and swamps in search of stuff that nobody has named yet and getting it on the books before it’s too late. She’s amazing. We’ll be on a walk somewhere, and she’ll suddenly screech and click here to read the whole dang post [...]