Paha Ska Painting

Susan Salway has very kindly sent me a photograph of what she describes as “a very large buffalo hide painting done by Paha Ska in the late 1980’s that I refurbished”.  Her husband was the late Orville Francis Salway, the Lakota artist known as “Paha Ska”.  I met Paha Ska years ago and wrote about him in this post.

For a larger (and slower loading) file of the same image, that you can zoom in on, click here.

She says it’s a large one, about 7′x9′, and yes, it’s for sale.

Here are some more details from the painting:

Susan Salway blogs at and she is on Facebook.


tilth: The physical condition of soil as related to its ease of tillage, fitness as a seedbed, and impedance to seedling emergence and root penetration.

[Poem at the end.]


You can tell good soil.  A shovel goes into it like butter.

This is not good soil.  It’s on the west side of the garage, bordering the alley, and it’s a problem area full of weeds.  I want to plant it, but if you try to put a shovel into it, chances are you will hit a brick. Or a rock.  Or a piece of broken glass. Or a rusty nail. I don’t think it’s impossible soil though, because it’s full of earthworms and nightcrawlers, which aerate and fertilize the soil, and give it tilth.

Before anything else happens, the rocks have to come out.  Last week I mowed the weeds, so now  I start removing the top layer of turf and weeds.

There are too many rocks to just pick them up and put them in a pile, so I devise a system of shaking the soil through the holes of a plastic crate. The rocks are caught in the crate and I dump them in a small garbage can. When the can is full, I carry it to the newly created rock pile.

The sun gets lower and lower in the sky.  The shadows creep up to where I am working.  Then, it’s dusk and the street lights come on.

This isn’t rocket science, so I keep working in the dark.

The next day, it’s ready to plant. Except for the small problem of the new rock pile.

Can you garden and blog with the same pair of hands?  I don’t think so.  Even though I had leather gloves, my hands are scratched and infected. I’m not anywhere near done either.

Why was it again, that I left Wobegon and came to the Big City? Time for a little Sandburg.

Poem: from “The Red Son” by Carl Sandburg, in Chicago Poems.

My last whisper shall be alone, unknown;
I shall go to the city and fight against it,
And make it give me passwords
Of luck and love, women worth dying for,
And money.

I go where you wist not of
Nor I nor any man nor woman.
I only know I go to storms
Grappling against things wet and naked.”

There is no pity of it and no blame.
None of us is in the wrong.
After all it is only this:
You for the little hills and I go away.

Posted in Green. Comments Off on Tilth

These are bees for sure

The rain has ended and it’s time for non-stop gardening, punctuated only by enough medicine to keep the inevitable aches at bay  and smearing Neosporin on the scratches that have appeared on the typing surfaces of my fingers.

But I have not forgotten my adoring public.  Here are some real bees, unlike the creatures in the previous post that turned out to be wasps.   You can see the honey sacks on their legs. Also, they are quite furry.   The bee in the first photograph is still in flight; the camera lens is not fast enough to stop the action of its wings. You can see only a silver shine where the moving wings are.

Bee poem links after the photos.

Bee poem: Osip Mandelstam’s 1920 “Take from my hand…” Here is the third stanza, in Russian, and two versions in English: Languagehat’s translation, that to me shows the richness and texture of the original Russian, and Slawkenbergius’ translation, which takes liberties with the original that illuminate the poem and crystallize the understanding of it.

Mandelstam: Нам остаются только поцелуи,
Мохнатые, как маленькие пчелы,
Что умирают, вылетев из улья.

LH: The only thing that’s left to us is kisses:
furry, like the little bees
who die in midair, flying from their hive.

Slawk: So we are left, alas, only with kisses
Covered in wool, like feeble, tiny bees
Which tumble lifeless when they leave the hive.

Google translate: We are only kissing, Shaggy, like little bees dying, taking off from the hive.

Posted in macro, photography, Wildlife. Comments Off on These are bees for sure

Macro bees (or maybe wasps)

When I went across the street this morning to gather mint for my morning tea, the bees were taking quite an interest in the mint patch. It wasn’t the mint that interested them though, it was last year’s garlic stalks.  You could actually hear the sound of them chewing the dry stalks. I suppose they need it to build some sort of honeycomb.

For corresponding poetry here are a few lines of Sylvia Plath’s “The Bee Meeting”:

Who are these people at the bridge to meet me? They are the
The rector, the midwife, the sexton, the agent for bees.
In my sleeveless summery dress I have no protection,
And they are all gloved and covered, why did nobody tell me?
They are smiling and taking out veils tacked to ancient hats.

Since Ariel was republished, with some new material, most of the open source websites where you could get a taste of her writing have evaporated, some with a terse copyright explanation, but you can still read the rest of the first bee poem and some commentary at the Sylvia Plath forum.

Plath wrote a series of five bee poems: The Bee Meeting, The Arrival of the Bee Box, Stings, The Swarm, and Wintering; here is a link to a series of essays about the bee series, as well as a few more snippets of the poems. If you read The Bell Jar back in the 60’s, and puzzled about her suicide, the bee poems show a little different side of the poet.

On second thought, judging by the lack of furriness, these might be wasps.  In which case, let me offer up a wasp poem:

The Wasp by Ogden Nash
The wasp and all his numerous family
I look upon as a major calamity.
He throws open his nest with prodigality,
But I distrust his waspitality.
Posted in macro, photography. Comments Off on Macro bees (or maybe wasps)

Arabish: A cure for every aliment but tedium

Abu Huraira reported that he heard Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Nigella seed is a remedy for every disease except death. This hadith has been narrated through another chain of transmitters but with a slight variation of wording.
–From the hadiths of Sahih Muslim, Book 26, Number 5489


A few weeks ago I decided to stop drinking black seed tea and go straight for the (more potent?) oil, taken on a spoon with a little honey poured over it to mask the strong flavor.  The black seed (nigella sativa) is a well known Arab cure-all recommended by The Prophet (see this post).

I can’t find the Arabic text for Sahih Muslim’s hadith about black seed anywhere, but apparently this Egyptian firm is working from it directly.  The English portion says it is “a cure for every aliment” (من كل داء ) .

As if dealing with the slippery ways of English wasn’t enough, the firm’s website seems to have suffered even further from the labyrinthine ways of the western internet. The website listed on the box has been taken over by squatters demanding ransom, and not giving in to blackmail, the site’s guardians have moved it a different location, where we find the startling claim that the oil of the Blessed Seed is good for everything except “tedium”.

I beg to differ. With package inserts like this to puzzle over, I’m not going to be bored to death anytime soon.

How is it going for me so far with the black seed oil? Although I’m taking this to see if it will improve my breathing (I’m an ex-smoker), I seem to be losing weight, plus I find I’m not taking quite so much stomach medication.  As with many dietary supplements (like glucosamine, which nobody is quite sure works, but when they stop taking it, they seem to feel worse) the results are hard to judge.


For anyone who wants to try to follow the Koranic scholarship, here is a website in Arabic (via Google translate) that I found by googling من كل داء, the phrase on the box. Discussions of hadith in Arabic usually give the chain of transmission as well, which is how “strong” and “weak” hadiths are determined.  This website cites seven different sources for the hadith about the black seed.

Abu Hurayrah [narrated by Imam Muslim from Abu Hurayrah in a book of peace door medication pill black number (2215) (but they’ve got the hadith number wrong, that one’s in Book 5)-Nij] may Allah be pleased with him that he heard the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him says: «in black bean cure for every disease but poison». Ibn Shihab said: The toxic death, and black bean Alhuniz.

The  Arabic:

عن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه أنه سمع رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول: «في الحَبَّةِ السوْدَاءِ شِفَاءٌ من كل دَاءٍ إلاَّ السَّام». قال ابن شهاب: والسام الموت، والحبة السوداء الشونيز.

What  Al-huniz الشونيز (shouldn’t it be al-shunez?) might be I can’t guess, but it must be related to both death and boredom.

Book sale

Yesterday I ended up at a couple of bookstores, and while I don’t usually blog about buying books, yesterday was just too much fun to keep to myself.

So here’s the list of what I scored:

Ruth Rendell, An Unkindness of Ravens (thanks, m-l)
Sara Paretsky, Bleeding Kansas
Dorothy Sayers, The Complete Stories
Roger Dixon and Stefan Muthesius, Victorian Architecture
Emil Kaufman, Architecture in the Age of Reason: Baroque and Post-Baroque in England, Italy, and France
Eight issues of The Tuilieries Brochures from 1931 and 1932 with outstanding photography:

French Architecture as Source Material
Provincial Architecture of Northern Franc
Some Small Houses from French Villages
Formal Design in Minor French Buildings (see Amazon listing)
Dijon–Capital of Burgundy
Saulieu of the Morvan
An Architect Revisits France
Falaise–The Heart of Normandy

L.C. Kalff, Creative Light
Arnold Lewis, American Victorian Architecture
The book division of the National Geographic Society, The Builders: Marvels of Engineering (1992 with the World Trade Center on the cover)

A little heavy on the architecture, yes.  I love looking at architecture books, but that’s not usually something I’m willing to spend money on.  But they all came from the dollar table at the Antiquarian’s book sale, and were 25% off to boot. How could I resist?

A nice assortment.  The first thing I started reading was the Rendell whodunit (or whydunit as the case may be).  From page two: “Joy Williams took him into the front room that she called the lounge.  There were no books.”  Somehow, you know this is not going to end well.

[The rest of the photos are clickable.]

Moving on to The Builders (1992), which I picked up because it had photos of pyramids, and bridges and cathedrals, on the front cover is a photo of the World Trade Center, with another inside.  These photos give me an odd moiré pattern when I look at them with various browsers, but are very nice viewed with zoom. And yes, I know they load slow, but they also have high resolution.

The cover photo is supposed to be “framed by an Alexander Calder sculpture”. Maybe World Trade Center Stabile (Bent Propeller)?–here are before and after pictures of the Calder sculpture.

[Note: the link is no longer working, but I will leave it up in case someone can find it in google cache–I have had no luck–or the wayback machine after a suitable amount of time has passed. In the meantime, no more Ms. Nice Guy with polite links to images of unknown copyright status.  Here are some images of the statue, if you see your image here leave a message and I will credit you.]

Creative Light is out of print.  This page demonstrates how light principles work in a church sanctuary.

And here is le Corbusier’s 1937 “brises soleil”  invention–facade of screens for protection from the sun (Ministry of Works, Rio de Janeiro).

Corb’s “Chapel of Ronchamp” uses semi-cylindrical towers to channel the light to the wall behind the altar.

His monastery at La Tourette uses “light cannons” to direct light.

The “Tulierries” pamphlet series has striking architectural photographs of various areas in France.  (And except for one or two issues, these are totally out of print and unobtainable.) This page is from Provincial Architecture of Northern France:

From Formal Design in Minor French Buildings:

Why again should we take French architecture of this particular period rather than that of an earlier time?  Precisely because the charm of the French Formal style depends upon intrinsic excellence of design rather than upon the charm of softening line and surface texture resulting ;from the decay of age as in the farmhouse type.  It is the spacing and  balance of the windows and their relation to the wall surface texture resulting from the decay of age as in the farmhouse typel  It is the spacing and balance of the wqindows and their relation to the wall surfaces that pleases us, not the irregularities of hand work.  The wall surfaces are as true as the machine-minded American workmen could make them; the lines of the ridge and the eave do not sag despondently.

In the last analysis is not this fad of living in imitation primitive farmhouses, surrounded carefully by all modern conveniences, a little ridiculous?”

Um, no.

But the photos are still incredible.

This one is from Some Small Houses From French Villages:

This type of photography simply doesn’t exist any more. Typically this type of photo was done with a 4X5 large format camera. In these days when the SLR has suddenly been replaced by the digital camera, who knows what the future of this type of photography will be.

As for the buildings, give me the key and I’ll be ready to move into any one of them.

Urban Book Exchange

Some time ago I wrote (here and here) about a book exchange in a forest preserve near where I live (image: right).

Tonight I saw a book exchange right in the middle of the city.  It’s in the Hyde Park neighborhood, just a few blocks from Obama’s mansion, so as you might expect, there is an outstanding local supermarket nearby that carries arigula, not to mention Jarlsberg cheese.  This is also where you will find Binny’s Express , a tiny hole-in-the-wall liquor store that carries Stone’s ginger wine (it took me three weeks to find this product locally-indispensable for marinating fish) as well as three brands of Australian port (the reason for today’s mission in the neighborhood in the first place) and an entire shelf of single malt scotch. By shelf, I mean five or six feet long and maybe five feet high. Yes, they have Speyside’s Cragganmore.

And there are bookstores.  For new books, there is the Seminary Coop Bookstore and its smaller branch on 57th street, but even better are the used books at the Antiquarian, where I once found a copy of the two-volume compact OED in its slipcase, complete with magnifying glass, and Powell’s, open until 11:00 p.m., as a bookstore should be.

Posted in Books. Comments Off on Urban Book Exchange


After the rain stopped, this snail found itself plucked from its comfortable rock in the middle of a puddle, but eventually decided to extrude a couple of antennae anyway and go for a walk.

The way it carries the shell on its back is asymmetrical; the face, if snails can be said to have faces, is asymmetrical as well.

Posted in Wildlife. Comments Off on Snail

Macro seeds

When I read XKCD this morning (the mouseover says “you can get it from my seed at whenever that project gets going”) I had to google the diaspora people and see what they were up to.  Diaspora also came up in a LL thread about Facebook privacy not too long ago.

To my surprise their blog header has a photo of a dandelion that looks a lot like the ones I took last night in the rain. So at the end of this post I will put up some macro photos of dandelion seeds.

[Image:  screenshot from  One of the project’s video presenters takes aim at the imaginary audience with a gun while making “piu piu” noises.]

The faces are all young, white, and male, but to their credit they say they want to create something they would want to use themselves. They say are already running a beta version of their software.  What exactly it consists of isn’t clear.  The difference is supposed to be encryption, but hey, if someone creates something that’s encrypted, doesn’t that mean they have the key for it?  And wouldn’t that also mean you have to download something into your own computer in order to use it?  And somehow receive software updates? And anti-virus and DDOS protection?

Will the Diaspora get it Together? (pun alert) We’ll see. In the meantime there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for a Facebook alternative. So far the Diaspora has defined themselves in terms of what they are NOT (Facebook) and in the fact that they have left the reservation.

Now that you mention it, how DO you pronounce “diaspora“?  And will you have to be Jewish to use it?  I suspect there is a market here for something with less than four syllables, and that Diaspora may have some competition.   And does the Diaspora have a political slant?  We already have a Wikipedia by Libertarians, and a monopolistic rural radio network (Clear Channel) defined by the extreme right wing.  Where is George Soros?

Posted in Technology, Wildlife. Comments Off on Macro seeds

New avatar

A new government website from the FTC,, teaches kids about advertising. There is already an older website for that, Youarehere, but this one is a little better, since you can get an avatar.  I don’t have the patience to wade through either of these, or to listen to the intro over and over just to enter the “game” area of the site.  I’m just in it for the avatar.

Admongo registration page:

Everything I know about kids and the internet I learned from the kids downstairs, but I can tell you these websites are no competition for social networking sites like Wee World. First of all, kids want to “get” stuff. The avatars on Wee World have a fashionable clothes with plenty of color selections.  You’re not stuck with pink if you don’t like it, plus you can make the tops and bottoms actually match without expending a lot of effort.  You can even outfit yourself with toys and pets.  With the government website, I can’t even see the shoe selections on my 10″ screen.

Wee World registration page:

The other thing kids want to collect is points.  They want to see their point totals when they log in, or maybe some icons for prizes they’ve won, and they want the other kids to see how many points they have.  But do they get points for correct answers on Admongo?  No.  But you better believe they get beaucoup points for answering the Wee World marketing questions.  And the irony is that they probably don’t even recognize it as marketing.

Via Slate.

Posted in Conspiracies. Comments Off on New avatar