Eating Habits of the Eastern Cottontail in My Garden

Recently, within the past four or five years, rabbits have really moved in to my neighborhood and are eating everything. I thought I’d keep track of the things they didn’t like, as that would make life easier. I attempted to use various types of sprays to keep them away, but nothing really seemed to work, or work for long without constant maintenance. I figured it’s better to just focus on planting things they don’t like, and everyone will be happier. Anyway, this is my personal experience…I can’t vouch for all rabbits, but this is the stuff that the ones in my yard seem to like and dislike. Maybe it will be useful to you, as well.

Stuff they really like

These are plants that rabbits will devour entirely and will go out of their way for.

Clematis: although established clematis will be fine as the leaves will grow above their heads and they don’t seem to care for the woody stems. They’ll eat leaves close to the ground though.
Decorative grasses
Grape hyacinth
Morning Glory
this one is kind of a benefit. A weed, but one that rabbits absolutely love. I haven’t had a crabgrass issue in my yard since the rabbits moved in.

Stuff they will eat if it’s in their way, but may leave alone if it’s off the beaten path

Hostas: it seems to me that they prefer green hosts varieties to blue ones. They’ll devour young hostas, but may leave large hostas more or less alone. A hosta that is off their trail may be left alone, where one that is in a highly trafficked area might be entirely consumed.
Stargazer Lilies

Stuff they may eat, but don’t seem to really care for. Mostly safe.

Lavender: not sure about this one. I had a lavender plant that they ate last year, but this year won’t touch
Basil: also not sure. They ate one year, but another wouldn’t touch. I now grow it in a container out of their reach, so I’m not sure
Siberian Iris

Stuff they won’t touch. This is the good stuff

nb: young or juvenile (or perhaps just adventurous) rabbits will take a taste of just about anything, but these seem to be untouched in my experience

Ground Elder (variegated)
Lily of the Valley
Montauk Daisies
Orange Daylily

Machiavelli vs. Plato

I missed this when it was originally published, but this is a fascinating interview with Catherine Zuckert, author of Machiavelli’s Politics and professor at Notre Dame. I’m particularly interested in how she contrasts Machiavelli to Plato here:

What I did not see so clearly until I had completed the book was that in Machiavelli I had found the great alternative to Plato. Plato presents philosophy as the simply best form of human existence. Machiavelli challenges that conclusion by arguing that the most important aspects of human life are political. There is no great human achievement that does not presuppose the existence of a political order; yet political order is extremely difficult to establish, and even harder to maintain. As Xenophon indicated when he presented political leadership as the competitor to Socratic philosophy as the best way of life, great statesmen are characterized by extraordinary virtues—both practical and intellectual. Machiavelli goes beyond Xenophon, however, by showing how a political order can be founded and maintained that satisfies the desires of most human beings to secure their own lives, property, family, and liberty rather than serving the interests of a few.

Machiavelli represents, to me, a transitional figure in the shift from natural philosophy to that of modern science. He observes and reports the outcomes of political action in a way that very much anticipates the way that scientists like Galileo would approach their experiments in the physical world.

The Hitching Posts of Florence

Around many of the old palazzos of Florence, you’ll see these sconces, made of wrought iron, with an iron hoop and sometimes with a sconce for a torch above, as in those of the Palazzo Strozzi, shown above. These are ferri da facciata or facade irons. Their purpose caused me some consternation when researching Machiavelli, as some of my (later) sources indicated they were used for hanging banners or ribbons. This didn’t make a lot of sense to me, as they seemed designed for far more durable use than that.

Indeed they were used for tying horses, as you can see in the Nerli Altarpiece by Filippino Lippi. In a detail in the background, you can see a ferro da cavallo in use:

Machiavelli Clearance Sale

I have sixteen copies of my Kickstarter special edition of Machiavelli left. They’re signed and numbered, and I’d like to clear them out as I’m starting (no really this time I swear) a new project and want a clean slate. I’ve reduced prices by half to help them move ($9.00 for a paperback, $5.00 for a PDF). If you’d like to read a preview you can do so here, and if you’d like to order, here’s the order page.

Thank you so much for your support!


See me talk about Machiavelli at TEDx Boston:

November Sketchbag

I watched Beat Takeshi’s Zatoichi the other day and cranked out some art on the iPad using Adobe Draw. Takeshi had an incredible creatively fertile period in the 90’s and early aughts where he wrote, directed, and starred in a number of excellent movies in his own idiosyncratic style. He worked together with Joe Hisaishi before the composer exploded into popularity with Studio Ghibli and Hisaishi’s scores provide a lot of the emotional impact to films like Hana-bi and especially Kikujiro. Takeshi’s movies tend to be odd and darkly humorous, focusing on misfits and eccentrics. They’ll use some genre notes, like having a Yakuza or samurai protagonist, but then structure the plot around a vacation or a trip, focusing the plot around their personal life and relationships rather than a heist or battle. Here’s Takeshi as Zatoichi, the blind swordsman:

Rebuilding the Web

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Brad Enseln has posted a nice call to action on rebuilding the Web. He argues, and I agree, that one way to reduce the dominance of social silos is to rebuild and reinforce the interconnections between independent blogs. (I also think some nice trustbusting on the part of the federal government w/r/t Facebook would excellent policy.)

We, the little people, need to rebuild the web.  It does not do to just complain about silos and then point out other corporate alternatives, first and foremost the web needs websites built by individual humans, not just corporations, SEO’s and people trying to get their hand in your pocket.  This is the foundation of everything. [emphasis in original]

As I have written before, the ways that large social media advertising companies manipulate us has a corrosive effect on society and ourselves. I’m excited by the work that some folks are doing to get back to blogging, like Brad and Kicks Condor, and others like Duncan Black at Eschaton, who never left. I’ve been working harder to post here on my own site and happy that I am not contributing to something malign. I’ve had good experiences on both Twitter and Facebook, finding new friends on the former and reconnecting with old ones on the latter. But these companies have not been good stewards of the free labor we have given them. Here, on my own site, I published my comic for the first time and was an early web comic artist, trying to hack together weekly pages in comicspress after the financial crisis scuttled a book deal. Even aside from any larger societal impact, I can’t say that anything I have done on social media has been nearly as worthwhile. The past year, since about March, I’ve committed to spending less time on social media, and my creative output is way up. I can see it not only in the posts I’m creating, but also in the artwork I’ve created, on both paper and iPad.

So. Back to blogging. Back to drawing.

World Wide Web Starter Pack

So if you’re looking to do a little less Facebook and Twitter and a little more RSS reading, here’s what I use:

Feedly: Since Google Reader went away, you need a way to organize your feeds that will sync across your various devices. I use Feedly. It’s free for basic use (there’s a pro option if you need to have multiple feed groups or want to follow more than 100 blogs, or want to use it for teams) so it’s a good place to start. I’ve also heard Feedbin recommended.

Reeder: Now, you can use the Feedly app to do your reading, but I use a third party reader, Reeder. NetNewsWire is another good option, it’s in the process of being rebuilt from the ground up, and it’s a bit of a beta right now, so Reeder is probably a better place to start. But what if you want to write? WordPress lets you create a blog for free with an account, and you can even use it as a one-stop shop for reading as well, perhaps obviating the need for a reader and a sync service. I haven’t ever used it this way, so I can’t vouch for it, but I do use WordPress as a CMS for this site, hosted on my own domain. For simplicity of use, I also highly recommend Tumblr. Tumblr is probably the simplest way to get up and running with a blog. Although it is a bit of a walled garden, the fact that a Tumblr blog creates RSS feeds and if fully interoperable with the open web. If it’s a walled garden, it’s a small wall, like a little stone border you can easily step over.

Monday Sketchbag

I’m testing out the excellent MarsEdit and seeing how it will handle an excerpt and an image-heavy post. Can it handle image resizing? Send different sizes to WordPress? Post my excerpt to Let’s find out!

Here are some choice morsels torn from the sketchbook.

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Whisper of the Heart is the most underrated Ghibli movie. It’s quiet, intimate, and does an excellent job of telling a coming of age story filled with very well observed aspects of Tokyo daily life.

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The Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts Fifty-Fourth Regiment in Boston, work in progress. I drew this one in Procreate in iPad (yes, yes, I know. I am completely sure that some CEO out there thinks this name is just the cleverest thing ever and no-one has the courage to sit him down for some real talk). I love the way the Memorial takes such time and care with the individual soldiers. Look how each person is sculpted as a unique individual. If you’re in Boston, stop by The Common and see the Memorial, which is right in front of the State House.

I am starting to get the hang of drawing electronically, and am becoming more comfortable with it. Still, I feel that the work I’m most pleased with are those I have done on paper. Then again, that may be because I’m still not nearly as masterful on the iPad as I am with pencil, paper, and watercolor or ink. Perhaps there are satisfying electronic works in my future.

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A little decorative initial I created for The Cloud of Unknowing, a Medieval text of Christian Mysticism. This one is pencil on paper. Water soluble graphite to be more specific. By putting the monk in a Zazen sitting, I’m drawing some attention to the harmonies between the Cloud author’s eponymous cloud of unknowing and the Zen rejection of epistemology and ontology more generally. I’m looking to do some writing soon on Thomas Merton and mysticism (both Christian and Buddhist) more generally.

Apple’s Unsocial Network

Apple skepticism is de rigueur these days, as stumbles in hardware and software (particularly MacOS software) leave observers wondering if the company has lost a step, or lost the plot entirely. Yet quietly, in areas that tend to be overlooked by technology enthusiasts, Apple has put together a compelling suite of services that appeal to the non hobbyist end user. In this environment of growing suspicion and hostility to social media monopolists, Apple’s unsocial offerings make a compelling case for a connection in which the user is not being exploited. I wonder if Apple is not poised to capture some more attention from people disillusioned and embittered by social media.

Apple’s iCloud services are social adjacent; they’re social, but not in the same avaricious and toxic way that characterizes social media today. iMessage is obviously social, in that it’s a messaging service, and probably the tip of the spear that could pry people away form other messaging services. But it is a private mail system, one in which Apple plays the simple role of courier. This is in marked contrast to Facebook and Twitter, who are mining and parsing your communications looking for angles and hooks their advertisers can use to sell things to you.

iCloud Photo Library, particularly iCloud photo sharing, represent a really excellent replacement for Facebook. The walled garden approach to shared media, which once seemed a drawback to Photos, now seems like a value proposition. “No one outside your circle can see these photos” seemed like a criticism in 2015, but sounds like a marketing tag line today. Additionally, features like comments and likes allow Photos to behave like a mini Facebook, but one without news, people you barely know fighting in your comments, or a malevolent corporation selling your data to foreign adversaries looking to break your political system. Instead, it’s made up of your friends and family only, it’s just pictures, and it’s nice. I really encourage anyone who uses Apple Photos to try using it in place of Facebook. It’s a lot better.

Apple News is not bad, either. As Farhad Manjoo wrote in the New York Times, “Just about every problem we battle in understanding the news today — and every one we will battle tomorrow — is exacerbated by plugging into the social-media herd. The built-in incentives on Twitter and Facebook reward speed over depth, hot takes over facts and seasoned propagandists over well-meaning analyzers of news.”1

It’s interesting, as Apple’s unwillingness to mine every scrap of data they have on their users has been portrayed by tech commentators as a weakness. We may now be seeing, as we re-evaluate of the costs of social media, to be an argument in Apple’s favor.

1 Admittedly, the NYT, home of “but her emails” coverage and promoter of the neo-fascist “intellectual dark web” is a bit rich, but Manjoo has diagnosed the problems with social media news correctly. Would that the NYT would apply the same amount of analytical rigor to themselves.

Don’t Feed the Trolls, and Other Hideous Lies

The pseudonymous Film Crit Hulk writes in the Verge today about the ways we have accepted troll behavior as kind of a given on the Internet, and the way that social media companies in particular have abdicated any responsibility for policing themselves: “the large-scale internet needs the figure out the way to guarantee the same protections as smaller communities by moderating with a sense of decency and displaying the same basic sense of judgment as a damn open mic night.”

“Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are now so large that they are considered “unmoderatable” communities. We like to pretend this was a pure facet of their size, but it is inescapably a part of their ethos. They are platforms forged in the fires of troll culture, founded and operated by techno-libertarians who didn’t understand why they had to care about any of this. They set out with no intention to moderate at all. Zuckerberg just wanted to rate hot girls, after all. But in 2018, the staggering effects of non-moderation are just starting to hit them, and they have little idea how to address or even intellectually engage with the idea.”

“It’s no accident that the corners of the internet that subscribe most deeply to this idea are also the most openly miserable. While some clearly use “joking” as a justification for abuse or even violent threats, there’s little larger comprehension or interest among huge swathes of internet culture about how satire, irony, or intent actually function, much less in the distinction between what they consider “trolling” and actual abuse. Drawing such lines would be against both the protocol and intent behind the creation of internet culture at large — a culture that was designed to escape the responsibilities of the social order. In that pursuit, internet culture subconsciously turned itself into a calloused nub, a place where so many “jokes” are the equivalent of running and shouting “fire!” in a movie theater, and a place where the biggest joke of all is the idea of caring about anything in the first place.”

As they say, read the whole thing.