Article 1, Section 2.1

The Constitution gets referenced a lot in public discourse, and everyone is sure it supports their view. I suspect most of them don’t know what they’re talking about. Then I realized, I don’t know what I’m talking about. The Constitution is only a few pages long, but few Americans have actually read it. I read it through for the first time on Memorial Day, and now I’m going back through it, carefully, paragraph by paragraph, to make sure I understand it. After all, we should all be Constitutional scholars.  Continue reading


Butchart Gardens


I’ve visited gardens all over the world, but it took me nearly 20 years living in the Pacific Northwest to get around to visiting Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C. I finally made it up there a couple years ago, and felt pretty stupid for taking so long.

As the plural in the name implies, it’s not just one big garden, but a collection of themed gardens, and each is amazing. Their rose garden is much more impressive than the test gardens in Portland; their Japanese garden, while too lushly planted to be entirely traditional, is one of the finest I’ve seen in or out of Japan. The primary garden is the reclaimed pit of an old quarry. I spent most of a day there, and could have gone back the next day and spent just as much time again.

What I love best about the gardens, though, is that they rely almost entirely on the most prosaic plant palette. Perhaps the plant selection was fresh and exciting when Jennie Butchart laid out the designs, but almost everything you see is what I call “landlord plants,” those boring plants you can find at any hardware store that landlords use to fill the open spaces around their buildings.

Every single garden at Butchart is exquisite, and it’s entirely due to thoughtful design and impeccable maintenance – things that a home gardener can aspire to regardless of their budget.


On to the Articles!

I write a lot of articles, and this post should probably be a list of them (I try to do that monthly, but life). Instead, I’m continuing my exploration of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution comprises seven articles. I read the Preamble last week, and now I’m going to start the main text. Article 1, Section 1. Let’s roll! Continue reading

Records and Guesthouse

I can’t make it to Eistnaflug this year, but as the festival approaches, my thoughts wander to East Iceland. The tiny town of Eistnaflug has one record store – it’s a pretty good one, especially considering the size and isolation of the town. Upstairs is an apartment where press stays during the festival. I got to pass for press the first time I attended the festival, and met quite a few writers whose work I follow and respect, as well as some folks from record labels that have absorbed significant funds from my bank account over the years. I am quite fond of this little metal building in a remote Nordic fjord.

Rethinking the Blue Lagoon

The first time I went to Iceland’s Blue Lagoon was during Airwaves 2012. I entered on a press pass and listened to DJs while I soaked in the milky blue water, surrounded by lava rock. It was so cold and windy that day they couldn’t keep the water warm enough, but I stuck it out long enough to get a drink from the swim-up bar and experience each of the pool’s special features – waterfall, sauna, silica face mask. I concluded the Blue Lagoon was cool, but overpriced and over-hyped. Despite the pretty setting, the difference from normal Icelandic swimming pools didn’t justify the price.

Still, when I brought my whole family to Iceland this April, it felt obligatory. And now I’ve had to rethink my opinion. Continue reading


Last week I said I was going to read the U.S. Constitution properly, and share the experience here. I hope that doesn’t sound like a drag, because the Constitution is one of the most important pieces of literature/legislation ever written, and it’s actually a short and pretty straightforward document. Not only that, but many of us feel like it’s under attack these days (others would argue that’s been the case for years) so I think we all owe it to ourselves to find out what we’re talking about. We should all be Constitutional scholars. Today’s homework is easy – the Preamble. Continue reading

Festival Town

Hard to believe this little town is home to Iceland’s biggest heavy metal festival, isn’t it?

I’ve been there twice now, both times for the festival, and I marvel at how well the locals handle the influx of corpse-painted drunkards. (The festival mantra “No idiots allowed” is partly responsible, I’m sure.) One of these days, I’m going to visit on a normal day and get to know these easy-going hosts.