Wednesday, January 30, 2013


I was reminded by a neighbor this morning that property values on the Shore are increased by the number and age of the camellias growing there! My house is small and humble, but not so my camellias! There are a number of things which increase property values, I guess, depending on where you live… a flat yard in the Poconos, for example and stone walls. Here on the shore all is flat except for a very few “hills” hidden away on a back road, where the elevation changes by about 30 feet or so. Stones are also rare, most of them have been brought here from way beyond our shores. I bring a few each year from my house in the Poconos… just because.

I have given camellias to friends up north who kept them on their sun porches, away from the unrelenting cold of winter. One friend kept hers in a half barrel thing on wheels and had a ramp built off her sun porch to be able to roll it outdoors in the spring, usually in time for the “onion snow.” One went to Reading, PA where I know it lived for years, the other to Michigan, and may still be alive tho’ in a new home. It was included in the will, can you believe it?

Many of my camellias are well over 12 feet tall. Some are old “named” varieties and thus more valuable, but many are the result of bees visiting, seeds dropping, and replanting the little ones, then being surprised to see what blooms develop. A few of these are close to 20 feet tall as I planted them when I first moved in here 25 years ago. Named varieties are slower to grow to such great height. A number of them were house gifts when I moved in. Those dear friends are all departed now, but the beauty of their friendship stays with the beauty of the plants.

My Camellias start to bloom in September and long before they finish, the next variety starts, then another. The latest to start to bloom doesn’t start until March. I confess, I love some more than others with Pink Perfection having been my favorite since I first saw it in probably 1967, the first spring I spent at home on the Shore. If you are really interested, there are a number of Encyclopedias of Camellias, my favorite being by Sterling Macoboy with over 1000 full color illustrations and the Japanese (or Chinese)  names along with the English names, cross referencing for many with numerous names.  The book is divided by the wild varieties, Sasanquas, Japonicas, Higos, Reticulatas, and hybrids.  First to bloom each year, usually on my birthday, is this spicy camellia, one of the few fragrant varieties. You can see the fall foliage behind it.  1stBloomDSC_2026 I have 2 bushes, each roof high. By the middle of Oct, they are covered with blooms. I love to see them at night. Nighttime shows off the multitude of blooms that the eye sees but the camera does not show as well in daylight. And here is a shot to give you an idea of how tall a number of them are. You can see the roof behind them, or a barn.

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These are just some of my camellias, each a different kind in order of their appearance.

DSCN0973  DSC_0011 DSC_0185FallCamellia DSC_0668 DSC_0670 DSC_0675 DSCN2604 DSC_0760 DSC_0196 DSCN2502 DSC_0183 DSC_0759 DSCN0980 DSCN1181 DSCN1232 DSCN2044 DSC_0206 DSCN1198 frankhouser  DSC_0207 DSC_0195 DSC_0180 DSC_0208 DSC_0645 DSC_1504 DSC_1506

I might have missed a couple. I have started planting them out in the woods as I have run out of space closer to the house. As you can see (the pic of my hand and Ice Angel) some blooms are large, most are 3 to 4 inches, and Yule Tide (red with stamens and bee) is the smallest, 2 – 3 inches. The peppermint bloom, 3rd from last, is part of a tri-color bush with red blooms blooming first, then white and peppermint.

I started with a camellia and autumn foliage, I will leave with camellias in the snow. I hope you enjoy my little Camellia tour! DSC_0127

Sunday, January 27, 2013

AUNT ALICE (and Friends)

WELL, NO, not my 2 legged Aunt Alice… she has been gone quite a few years… No, this is my favorite camellia, Aunt Alice. Actually I bought Aunt Alice because of her name, because I had an Aunt Alice, as you might have figured. She had only one bloom on her at the time, a sad droopy looking bloom that fell off before I even got the plant to the van. I planted her in a very sheltered spot, safe from sun burn in the winter time, and she has done real well there. Unfortunately I can’t see her from the house, but she is well worth the little walk to go visit this time of year. I know, there are a lot of pictures, but that is because each bloom is different and unique. (And I am redundant, but that is because I repeat myself a lot in my old age.) Anyway, here is this year’s blooming – pictures from last week that I took before the bitter cold got here and the SNOW!

DSC_2144  DSC_2146 DSC_2145DSC_2148 DSC_2153 DSC_2155 DSC_1293 DSC_1294DSC_1393

I just had to bring some in for the table. The big double pink is Debutante.  

Friday, January 18, 2013



There have been numerous postings lately about why God allowed all those innocent kids to be killed in Conn. I mean, really? God picked that bunch of little kids to prove a point? Then a cousin of mine (I am still shaking my head over this) sent me this email entitled the Perfect Answer with this picture:T shirtHere is my answer to that:


If I take "God" in my heart, He goes where I go.

If parents raise their child in a faith and teach him to pray, and it is IN HIS HEART to pray, then God is there. NO ONE stops anyone from praying to the god of their choice at any time or in any place.

Do you think a kid is going to be good and holy if he hears the Lord's Prayer at school and is taught to be dishonest, mean and nasty at home? Really?

BUT, I would not want my kid to be lead in prayer by someone whose prayers I might not respect, would you?

If I want my kid raised with Catholic prayers then I should send him to Catholic school. If I want my kid taught prayers from a fundamentalist protestant, they have plenty of little Christian schools around. OR I CAN SEND HIM TO CHURCH. OR I CAN PRAY WITH HIM BEFORE HE GOES TO SCHOOL. My kid, MY responsibility!

This nation was founded on religious FREEDOM - that means your prayers are YOUR prayers and should not be imposed on me. And if i want to pray to Zoroaster and not Jesus, You should not have to be lead in prayer by me.

You want a Buddhist teaching your kid to pray? NO?

Who decides WHICH prayers should be said? There are kids of all faiths in our schools just as there are teachers of all faiths - or none. All have the right to respect and not have some other belief imposed on them. If your kid's teacher is a Muslim, do you want your child to learn their prayers? After all, it IS the same god.

Which God do you want? The one that we pray to to help us KILL the supposed enemy - like those Muslims we have killed on their way to a wedding? The Iraqis that did nothing to us? How about The God that told son of Sam to go kill all those people in NY?  OR The God who brought Katrina to New Orleans because of all the gays living there? (Pat Robertson's god???)...

Does YOUR God kill innocent children because some judges decided it was not constitutional to impose "my" prayer on your kids 30 years ago (or 250 years ago?) That is the real message of this T shirt. Because someone made a decision some narrow minded bigot does not like because they don't UNDERSTAND the decision, I (GOD) am going to allow the killing of innocent little babies. I’ll show THEM!

Wow, that is some god.

Buddhism does not worship any God, as such. Yet Buddhists have never declared war on any one else. Can Christians say that? Buddhists don't bomb other Buddhists because they have a difference in opinion on what Buddha might have said. Look at the Irish who have been killing each other for years. Buddhists do not pray to Buddha. They do not consider him a god... yet they pray. They pray to whatever power helps us to become better kind, loving , tolerant people. They pray for strength to avoid temptations. They pray for the wisdom to accept others on their paths and to have compassion for those struggling on the way. They pray to not be unkind, judgmental, but to be mindful in all they think and do.

They realize our thoughts are things - our thoughts are what define us, may they be kind.

Would I want a Buddhist to lead my child's prayer each day? You betcha. But a Buddhist would not try to impose their prayers on anyone else.

Your prayers, like your God, are in your heart and in your attitude. You take that with you whether it is into a school or a lumber yard.  And if you think your God punishes innocent kids because they don't say some prayer at school in the morning, then you are welcome to that god. I want no part of him. 

(But I love you anyway!) Possum

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


"Aaron Swartz, Hero and Martyr"

"Aaron Swartz, Hero and Martyr"
by Jeffrey Tucker

"My apologies for the sad tone of this piece, but a hero has fallen and we need to pay him tribute — and make sure his death is not in vain.
Every turning point in the history of civilization has its champions and its opponents. The opponents of the digital age are those who use the power of the state to keep the population in a state of ignorance, even though the technology is at hand to universalize knowledge through digital networks. The main weapon they use is known as “intellectual property,” even though the monopoly censorship they advocate has nothing to do with actual property.
The champions of the digital age are doing the opposite, breaking down the limits and working to spread enlightenment through peaceful means. They understand the astonishing power of computer networks to produce, reproduce, scale, and distribute unto infinity everything that can be rendered into digital form. Their work has set off the greatest migration in human history from the limits of the physical world to the unlimited possibilities embedded in global computer networks.
One such champion — now a martyr for the cause of freedom — was Aaron Swartz (1986-2013). He was the one of the brightest stars of his generation. That star took his own life in apparent frustration, depression, and fear over the ghastly hounding he was receiving from the U.S. Department of Justice. You might say that this David should have battled this Goliath to the death. But Aaron was only 26, a brilliant, kind, and sensitive young man whose passion was not war, but enlightenment. It was too much for him.
Born in Chicago, he showed astonishing promise at an early age. He came of age as the Internet opened to the world. He was winning prizes and meeting the greats at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at the age of 13. At 14, he co-authored “Really Simple Syndication,” an innovative means of assembling and distributing Web content that makes Web browsing easy. It powers the “app economy,” makes reader programs work, and enables the content to be mixed and remixed all over the digital universe.
Aaron founded Infogami, which later turned into Reddit, one of the Web’s most popular sites for information sharing and content generation. As with most of his projects, Reddit pushes aside the gatekeepers and puts the tools of creation in the hands of users. He then founded on the same principle: By devolving power to you and me and away from the big shots, we can create tools that serve humanity in unprecedented ways.
To Aaron, the digital economy was not really about running the world through code and technology. It was about empowering people themselves with the ability to contribute to the building of ever greater technologies in the service of humanity. As much as he loved code, his true affections were for the human mind and the way technology enables it to take flight as never before. He could never understand why government was in resistance. He was like a person in the Renaissance raised with the printing press, astonished at people who wanted to smash it.
He was so convinced that digits were powered by human minds that he even put it to the test in seeking the real power behind Wikipedia. He refuted the supposition of even co-founder Jimmy Wales that it was a relatively small number of editors who were the main content providers. He demonstrated that the main providers were millions of users themselves, thereby upending even what the owners and experts had supposed. (He was only 19 years old when he showed this.)
Aaron was facing a trial this coming April, with him on one side and the full power of the world’s most heavily armed government on the other. The prosecution wanted him fined more than a million dollars and jailed for possibly 30-plus years. And what had he done? He hid a laptop in a closet at MIT and downloaded academic papers that are already available to millions around the world, with the apparent attempt to make them available even more broadly. That’s all he did. For this, he was charged with wire fraud and computer fraud.
The database he had tapped into is known as JSTOR. It is a global archive of academic papers published over the last 100 years in all fields and disciplines. It allows students to search, assemble, cite, and study in ways that would have been unimaginable a generation ago. Bibliographies that once took months to assemble now take seconds. Research once available to a tiny number is now available to students and faculty the world over.
JSTOR is a mighty service, even a marvel, and there are good reasons to celebrate the company and its achievements. At the same time, there is something squirrely about the service. It is available only at superhigh subscription prices and allocated based on geographic IP address. If you are on campus, you can get the goods. If you are not and have no logins, you are out of luck. Outside the IP range, it’s darkness.
Remember, we are talking about scientific research that is mostly tax-funded and from which the authors themselves receive no royalty or payment of any kind. Moreover, the subscription system is made profitable not because of the forces of free enterprise, but because the payments are made largely by public universities also living off taxpayers. The whole thing smacks of a kind of information feudalism. The scientists are the serfs. Those without access are cast into the outer darkness.
To its credit, JSTOR never lifted a finger against Aaron. They knew of his downloads, but never pressed charges. In fact, JSTOR has responded to his activism by gradually moving toward a more open policy. MIT can’t say the same, but the real villain here was the federal government. “Stealing is stealing,” barked U.S. District Attorney Carmen Ortiz, “whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data, or dollars.”
Except for one thing: That is completely false. Crowbars hurt people. Stealing dollars takes from one person to give to another. But Aaron didn’t take anything away from anyone. Ortiz might not understand this, but when you download something, it doesn’t actually remove it from the original server. It makes an exact copy. It can do this with no limit. That’s the whole power of digital media.
The driving motivation in Aaron’s mind was information liberation. We have the capacity — right now in our times — to create global libraries of all known things. What’s stopping it is this antique institution known as copyright, an outright government privilege for monopolistic producers who use the violence of the state to stop peaceful sharing of knowledge. Aaron was offended by such limits in times when they are wholly unnecessary and cause unneeded human suffering.
Aaron didn’t choose the path of piracy and underground hacking to disable the feudalism. He wasn’t even particularly exercised about copyright itself. What he favored was freedom, free speech in particular. He sought constructive alternatives, which is why he was a great champion of Creative Commons, a system that uses existing copyright law, but allows writers and researchers to share their discoveries and creations with humanity, instead of having them smothered.
All that said, it wasn’t his attempt to liberate JSTOR that caused the government to go after him. No, it was something far more specular. Aaron also founded Common Dreams as a vehicle for digital activism. Much to the astonishment of nearly everyone, he marshaled the power of global networks last year to beat back one of the most deadly pieces of legislation to ever be proposed by Congress: the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. SOPA was at war with the whole idea of information sharing, which is to say the whole basis of modern economic life and cultural progress. It would have given the power to any private party to aggress against any distributor of information and to do so without warnings, hearings, or burdens of proof. Taken to its extreme, the legislation would have rolled back history to a pre-1995 state of being.
Because no one told him that he could not, Aaron used every innovation to stop it. Within a matter of weeks, Congress backed off in absolute fear of the global outrage that had been engendered by the educational materials that Aaron had distributed. What no one expected had happened. Even politicians in the pay of media moguls backed down.
It was beautiful. In doing this, Aaron not only stopped the leviathan state; he pointed to the possibility of something completely marvelous, a reinvention of the way that citizens take part in the political process. In other words, he was showing how computer networks themselves could be used to upend the power of the state as we know it. He was innovating a new form of restraining power and giving it back to people, doing for the business of civic affairs what he had already done with technology.
The establishment was insanely bitter about the defeat. Within days, the government took action against the popular file-sharing site Megaupload in a military-style hit against its founder’s private estate, using SOPA-like powers that Congress had just denied the beast. It was as if the establishment was saying, “We don’t care about Aaron and what he did. We want this power. We are going to use the power. The people have nothing to do with it.”
Aaron’s work pointed to a brighter future. The government never forgave him for this. This is why they hounded him. This is why they wanted to bankrupt him. This is why they wanted him behind bars. They wanted him brought low. They wanted him in an orange jumpsuit, eating old bread and groveling before the judges and wardens. And they would accept no compromise, despite his lawyers attempts to negotiate: Aaron must be captured and jailed.
He would not relent. He would not give up his dreams and let them be shattered by their lies, pomps, black robes, and prisons. Our hearts break — deeply and profoundly — at Aaron’s decision to take his life. Maybe he saw it as a last cry for freedom. His having done so makes it impossible for them to make him a slave.
The state has taken from us an epic genius and humanitarian. What can come of this? Sometimes, the suffering and death of one great individual can shock society into dramatic change in a legal practice. Such people become martyrs, and their memories touch the conscience of everyone. We are overwhelmed by the sense of loss, and we vow to never see its like again."

“The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins.”

— Soren Kierkegaard


Saturday, January 12, 2013




When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you hang my
first painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately
wanted to paint another one.

When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you feed a
stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind
to animals.

When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you make my
favorite cake for me, and I learned that the little
things can be the special things in life.

When you thought I wasn't looking I heard you say a
prayer, and I knew that there is a Power I could always
talk to, and I learned to trust.

When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you make a
meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I
learned that we all have to help take care of each other.

When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you take care
of our house and everyone in it, and I learned we have
to take care of what we are given.

When you thought I wasn't looking I saw how you
handled your responsibilities, even when you didn't
feel good, and I learned that I would have to be
responsible when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn't looking I saw tears come
from your eyes, and I learned that sometimes things
hurt, but it's all right to cry.

When you thought I wasn't looking I saw that you
cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be..

When you thought I wasn't looking I learned most of
life's lessons that I need to know to be a good and
productive person when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn't looking I looked at you and
wanted to say, ‘Thanks for all the things I saw when
you thought I wasn't looking.'

Each of us (parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, teacher, friend)
influences the life of a child.

How will you touch the life of someone today?

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply.
                          Speak kindly. 

Think good thoughts – thoughts are things… and someone just might be watching!

Saturday, January 05, 2013


The CRÈCHE came down this week. These are the final scenes. As you may remember, the location of the people and animals changed every week for a month. The Wisemen never arrived in Bethlehem, as in truth, they did not head there, since Mary and Joseph were only in town for the census (tho ancient records debunk this story also). The purpose of this blog is not to argue the truth and fiction of the Christmas story, there have been books enough that do that far better than I can in this small space. But, suffice it to say, the Wisemen were shown, just not in Bethlehem. Stables back then were not barns but small caves or areas in the rocks that could be closed off to contain animals. Roofs were unnecessary for the animals but tradition makes us put some sort of shelter over the couple and child. Wood was scarce and too much of a luxury to put over an animal, plus it very seldom rains in this area. Most stables were on the outskirts of the city. You can see the gates to the town in the background. DSC_2132DSC_2134

In this last scene, the shepherds and their sheep have arrived. If you look carefully, you will see some chickens and little biddies, and the rooster. The trees are live (except the palm trees)… those are real rocks – most from my place in the Poconos, a couple from Maine, one from NH. DSC_2135

The Wisemen are still traveling, supposedly to meet up with the Holy Family a year later in Nazareth. 

There was a different ground underneath everything when I first set it up, but whoever put the tree up behind the display moved everything from its original table (where the poinsettias are) dumping sand, kitty litter, and straw on the floor – so we just put a table cloth under everything. If I do it again next year, I will bring in a piece of plywood and get rid of the tablecloths… but, sometimes ya just gotta make do given the circumstances. As I said, everything moved to a different place in the church every week. This last week Bethlehem was closer to the middle of the church, to the left of the tree, just in front of the poinsettias. DSC_2109 (For those of you who know me real well, yes, the roof is still standing! Lightning did NOT strike!)