Things in my late spring garden that thrill/don’t thrill me.

In order of thrill:


Totally off the thrillist:

  1. DEER
Outdoor dining chez UD.
Sunbeams set UD’s woods aflame…

… on the morning after a big storm.

Snake in the Grass…

… or, in this case, in the deck umbrella, which Les UDs had left lying on its side for a couple of weeks. A moment ago, UD lifted the umbrella, and out slithered a large garter snake.

What can I say? While no puling sentimental sort, I’m not strong and silent either – indeed, on seeing the snake on her leg, UD let out a sharp and quite pathetic shriek — a kind of I’ve seen a mouse times ten. Then she shook her leg for all she’s worth babe and you better believe it.

Having flung the thing off, she raced back into the bedroom to explain to a shocked Mr UD why the fuck she screamed like that.

I should have been thinking about snakes. My old friend Bennett came by yesterday as he does most weekends for a break in his ridiculously long weekly bike ride – I serve iced tea and he brings goodies – and he remarked as he took off his helmet that lately on his marathons he’s been seeing scads of snakes. I’ve certainly seen plenty of snakes in our gardens in seasons past. But I guess I forgot about them or something. I was entirely unprepared for this visitation. Yikes.

UD’s ‘thesda Jollies

A lifelong denizen of Bethesda, Maryland (she remembers going to downtown ‘thesda with junior high school friends when it was a post office, a Hot Shoppes, and the Baronet Theater), UD enjoys the way ‘thesda’s wealth is threaded into news stories, especially in populist rags like The Daily Mail. You recall that, during Kavanaugh’s confirmation, his ‘thesdanienne provenance was, for some, just on its own, proof that he’s an entitled asshole.

And look at this breaking story from England. Look how ‘thesda plays a recurrent cameo role. And note UD’s bolding throughout.

A 25-year-old Stanford graduate who attended the prestigious DC school Sidwell Friends and is the son of a top commercial lawyer has enraged British politicians and sparked a free speech row in the UK by removing a portrait of the Queen from the students’ room at the Oxford college where he is getting his PhD. Matthew Katzman grew up in privilege in Bethesda, Maryland, a rich suburb of DC where he attended school with the Obama daughters, the Biden grandchildren and countless other politicians’ kids. After graduating from Sidwell in 2014, he studied math and theoretical computer science at Stanford, obtaining a masters in 2018. Katzman is now getting his PhD in computer science from Oxford, the historic university attended by British Prime Ministers.

This week, he sparked fury by leading calls to remove a portrait of the Queen from the common room at Magdalen College in his role as president of Magdalen’s Middle Common Room, an organization of around 200 graduate students. They decided between them that the portrait was ‘unwelcoming’ and represents ‘recent colonial history’. They’re going to replace it with ‘art by or of other influential and inspirational people’.

The decision has been blasted as ‘absurd’ by British politicians who say the young students ought to ‘show some respect’ for the 95-year-old Monarch. British Education Secretary Gavin Williamson tweeted: ‘Oxford University students removing a picture of the Queen is simply absurd. She is the Head of State and a symbol of what is best about the UK. During her long reign she has worked tirelessly to promote British values of tolerance, inclusivity & respect around the world.’

Katzman is the son of Scott and Sandy Katzman, both 65. His father is a partner at the commercial law firm Steptoe & Johnson. The family lives in a sprawling, $4million home in Bethesda. They have not yet commented on the row their son has unapologetically caused.

Let’s start with numbers. Between refers to something involving only two people; the writer should have used among, says Scathing Online Schoolmarm. And about that house value: Achingly, it’s only valued in the mid-threes (or even lower) rather than four by most of the assessment sites UD checked. On the other hand, it does indeed seem to sprawl.

Okay, so note how The Daily Mail has laid it on real thick, ‘thesdawise. Katzman’s top, rich, privileged and prestigious, with his race horses and castles and land … I mean with his fancy schools and affluent parents; and with all those advantages he still takes down a portrait of the Queen…

Amid the British rage Katzman has excited (the story’s burning up the wires), the president of Oxford College issues a calm and lucid statement of support. Short version: The kids are alright.

Ah hell. Let’s do the long version.

Here are some facts about Magdalen College and HM the Queen. The Middle Common Room is an organisation of graduate students. They don’t represent the College. A few years ago, in about 2013, they bought a print of a photo of the Queen to decorate their common room.

They recently voted to take it down. Both of these decisions are their own to take, not the College’s. Magdalen strongly supports free speech and political debate, and the MCR’S right to autonomy. Maybe they’ll vote to put it up again, maybe they won’t. Meanwhile, the photo will be safely stored.

Oh, and back to numbers for a minute. Most young Brits would like to do far more than take down the Queen’s portrait, so it clearly falls to the old farts to collapse onto their fainting couches when some college students start to mix things up. And while the Queen is indeed an impressive and even inspirational person, the larger royal family… ain’t as grody as the Spaniards, to be sure, but the Windsors have long contributed more than their share of louche behavior to the commonwealth, and people have a right to oppose them as heads of state if they like. UD understands that the prospect of Charles The Next has alarmed enough Brits that many would like the crown to leapfrog over him to his blander, grander, son.

Anyway, what you’ve got here is dueling elitisms – premodern and postmodern. Katzman embodies the global reign of the symbolic analysts; Elizabeth is… from another time.

“Now I’ll have to take a shower,” said Mr UD.

UD had just read him this NPR article, which she thinks might be an out of season April Fool’s gag. Here are excerpts, with occasional parenthetic commentary from UD.

A fungus called Massospora, which can produce compounds of cathinone — an amphetamine — infects a small number of [cicadas] and makes them lose control.

The fungus takes over their bodies, causing them to lose their lower abdomen and genitals. And it pushes their mating into hyperdrive.

“This is stranger than fiction,” Matt Kasson, an associate professor of forest pathology and mycology at West Virginia University, tells NPR’s All Things Considered. “To have something that’s being manipulated by a fungus, to be hypersexual and to have prolonged stamina and just mate like crazy.”

… [J]ust before the cicadas rise from the ground, the spores of the fungus start to infect the bug. Once it’s above ground and starts to shed its skin to become an adult, its butt falls off.

Then a “white plug of fungus” starts to grow in its place.

… The insects have no idea what’s happening.

[It was about here – when the NPR writer reassured us that the cicadas have no awareness they’ve become buttplugged zombies – that ol’ UD began to wonder if something April Oneish might be going on… Don’t worry we’re sure they are unaware… Huh?]

Males that are infected will continue to mate with females, but they’ll also pretend to be females so they can spread the fungus to even more partners. [Now it’s Lesbian World War Z.]

… “It’s sexually transmissible,” Kasson tells NPR. “It’s a failed mating attempt, of course, because there’s no genitalia back there.”


The story’s origin is clearly The Golden Screw story, which my father – with lights out and much spectral OOOOing – told the four Rapp kids every Halloween. UD thought it was just her family’s story – just her father’s creation – until, for this post, she looked it up, and it’s like this major American joke/folktale. Her father’s only contribution was to Judaify the punch line: “And then… [long pause… ] his TUSHY FELL OFF.”


Anyway, Mr UD just thought the whole thing was gross. UD of course has been laughing… her butt off.

The Casement Diaries

Two pics of the little buggers caught in the act of molting. One from UD‘s backyard, one from the front.

Enlarge this! Too cool!
Little bugger leaves his case on a solar lamp and climbs down to his reproductive doom.
Groundhog in the Bedroom!

Well, not exactly in the bedroom; but late this morning as I sat in bed news-scrolling, I looked through the sliding glass doors to the garden to see a very big mammal of some sort staring at me. I mean, quite big. Perched on a paver among the lavender and bee balms. We looked at each other for a few seconds, after which the thing trundled off, dark flat tail trailing… A hurried Google search turned up this helpful graphic

on which my choices were American Beaver, Muskrat, and Groundhog. I went with Door Number Three and then of course read about what a spectacular garden pest it is, etc., etc. Again consulting the poster, and trying to put it in perspective, I concluded that a bear would have been worse.
Casing the Joint

Cicadas are leaving their encasements all over UD‘s garden this morning.

Things are happening fast.

Ça commence!
While UD was innocently gardening this morning, she stumbled on her first sighting of the soon to appear everywhere cicadas.
This morning, UD’s garden.
Pre-cicada oblivion.
It’s family fun time on the beach!

Police ended up seizing black tar heroin, powder cocaine, a digital scale, packaging materials, money, a .9-mm handgun and a loaded extended 30-round magazine.

On the boardwalk in Ocean City, MD.

Faithful readers will recall that the Rapoports, UD‘s father’s family, have been in business in Ocean City since 1910.

The inevitable photo of La Kid…
… at the Tidal Basin, with cherry blossoms.
UD’s dog lies around watching people eat Easter lunch.
Jerzy Soltan’s Book about Working with LeCorbusier is Now Out, in Polish.

UD’s father in law spent four years in Corbu’s atelier just after WW2 – and I mean just after, as in he pretty much traveled directly from Murnau POW camp (where he spent the whole war, having been captured by the Germans early in the conflict) to the Paris studio. UD worked with Jerzy, who wrote the original manuscript in English, on his written English (English was his third or fourth language) in the main essay, which you can find here. (You can find a mistake-free version of the essay in this book.)

One of my happiest memories is sitting on the porch overlooking a pond at Wojciech Fangor’s house one summer, going back and forth with Jerzy, paragraph by paragraph. He had a big broad excitable style with major use of dashes, dot-dot-dots, and exclamation marks; he took all of my editing suggestions in good humor.

Here’s Jerzy’s acknowledgement of our work together.

And here’s his just-released writing about Corbu, translated into Polish:

He was dashing, wasn’t he?
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