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While at one of Madison's many fine used bookstores (Frugal Muse east), picking up a couple of orchid books for Mom, I ran across John McPhee's Oranges.  Mom's one of the few people in the country who still squeezes her own orange juice from time to time, and even when she doesn't she has her morning OJ, every day. 

So, I picked up the book for her.  But I ended up reading it first, then passing it along to Z. for a read.  

McPhee's a fun author.  He writes non-fiction, with I think a fair dose of flowery exaggeration.  And he writes detail. 

The other book of his that I have is the Pulitzer Prize-winning Annals of the Former World.  I feel like I need a geology degree to truly appreciate it, but it's full of cool words, wide-ranging trivia, and nice turns of phrase. 

Similar to Oranges, but Oranges is only 150 pages.   In Thailand, oranges are not orange-colored; they're green, because it never gets cool enough to turn the skins.  Something to remember, in the unlikely event I ever try to teach English to someone from Thailand.

from Oranges:
Some foes attack underground, most notably the burrowing nematode, a small worm that is the author of a disease called the spreading decline.  The nematode feeds on small roots and increasingly cuts off the food supply of the tree, which dies slowly, from the top down, as more and more skeletal branches appear each year and the amount of fruit steadily decreases.  When people in Florida are feeling depressed and miserable with some unspecific malady, they sometimes tell one another that they have the spreading decline. 
Since no one has yet found a way to kill the nematodes without killing the tree, decline brings economic disaster.  Whole groves of affected trees and a surrounding margin of healthy trees often have to be bulldozed into a great pyre and burned; after the land they stood on is fumigated, it must be left empty for three years.  As we drove along, Mathias would now and again point to areas full of half-dead trees and say, "Decline."  Some were all but leafless, and looked like Northern apple trees in February.  Once we were on a secondary road, moving along between healthy, thick-foliaged orange groves, when perhaps fifty acres of treeless land suddenly came into view, covered with new houses, all of which looked alike.  "Decline," Mathias explained.

It was perhaps inevitable that, when I bought groceries last night, I ended up with a sack of organic cara cara's (navel oranges, and thanks to the book I now know why Valencias weren't available, and I'm disappointed) and two blood oranges (to prove that American women are not afraid of them).  Anyway, one of the blood oranges had a chimera, so I had to buy it.


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Constructive criticism is also welcome - whatever it is, trust me, I've heard worse.



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