Author Archives: The Seeds of Spring

About The Seeds of Spring

Steve Bates Steve Bates is a longtime gardener and journalist. He grew up in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., where he still lives. Steve received a scholarship from the Virginia chapter of Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists, and he received a bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary. He has won numerous awards for his writing and editing for newspapers, magazines and the Internet. He spent 14 years as a reporter and editor at The Washington Post. This is Steve’s first book, inspired by his love of gardening and writing. He also enjoys baseball, travel and photography, and he plans to work toward certification as a garden and landscape designer.

Madman Across the Water


In case you missed it, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has agreed to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump. Kim, the man Trump once mocked as “Rocket Man,” reportedly has agreed to stop testing nukes before the meeting occurs.

The “In Sight” blog has learned that the North Korean dictator agreed to the meeting on one condition: His comments will be limited to lyrics from rock musician Elton John, who wrote the song “Rocket Man.” Because Kim is known for his odd behavior, U.S. officials decided to go along with him in the interest of world peace.


Here is a possible preview of the big meeting:

Trump: Nice to meet you. Before we get into all this nuke stuff, I was wondering if you could help me with a little problem I’m having. A lady problem. Any chance you could make someone disappear?

Kim: Like a candle in the wind.

Trump: Great. Now, about those missiles and warheads. I’d like to get to a place where no one has to live in fear that atomic bombs will end their lives any minute.

Kim: Live for each second without hesitation.

Trump: Hmm. I figured this would be difficult. Let’s try it a different way. I know that your people are starving. What if we offered food shipments or some, you know, financial incentives? That would help you live like a king, and it would reduce a lot of suffering.

Kim: I never knew me a better time and I guess I never will.

Trump: Come on, Mr. Kim. We need to accomplish something here. I can’t go back to Washington empty handed.

Kim: I guess that’s why they call it the blues.

Trump: Say, what if you come to the United States and saw what a great country we have. The greatest. You would enjoy meeting our people.

Kim: I’m not a present for your friends to open.

Trump: Listen, you tiny dancer, the U.S. military is very strong. If we wanted to force you to cooperate, it wouldn’t go well for you. We could obliterate all your cities and military bases. If you somehow survived the attack, you’d be thrown out of power.

Kim: I’m still standing.

Trump: Okay, I tried being nice. Now we do it my way. We’re going to impose all sorts of nasty sanctions on you if you don’t give up your nuclear ambitions. After a few weeks, you’ll be begging us to call it off.

Kim: I think it’s going to be a long, long time.

Trump: I’ve had it with you, Kim. Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t go home?

Kim: Get back, honky cat.


Welcome to the Hysteria Channel


It’s big, it’s bold, it’s chock full of Fake News.

Today I am unveiling a new cable network, The Hysteria Channel, which will titillate viewers with loosely researched episodes depicting conspiracies and secret societies throughout man’s time on Earth.


Sure, some TV networks purport to recount history. Others offer us Fake News programs one after the other. But this new channel goes far beyond, documenting the worst in human endeavor over the ages. Here are some of the episodes planned for Season 1:

INTERNMENT CAMPS: History books tell us that the U.S. government forced people of Japanese ancestry into crowded camps to prevent them from acting against this country during World War II. Our investigation proves that this is far from the truth. Instead, our forward-thinking leaders went out and found people of Asian descent who showed promise in math and the sciences. Instead of prison camps, they were installed in comfortable settings where they started work on modern computers and the Internet.

WATER FLUORIDATION: Yes, most municipalities added chemicals to our drinking water starting in the 1940s. But no, the chemicals were not designed to strengthen our teeth and deter cavities. The subtances were designed to control our minds, to make us susceptible to propaganda. The greatest proof came in 1969 when a majority of the population actually believed that humans set foot on the moon.

THE BERLIN WALL: The effects of the chemicals began to wear off by 1989, but not before a much-publicized November evening in which average people were photographed knocking down sections of The Berlin Wall. The so-called wall, which was designed to keep people from escaping East Germany for West Germany, was never built because of budget cuts. Instead, the East Germans erected a fake barrier out of painted paper and cardboard left over from World War II munitions shipments. The photos of people supposedly busting up the wall were shot at crumbling sections of the Great Wall of China.


OBAMA: Much was made about the proposition that Barack Obama, our first African American president, was born in Kenya. Our investigation has proven his Kenyan birth certificate to be a fake. In reality, Obama was born on Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter, to a space alien couple visiting the solar system to determine how to destroy our civilization. How else can you explain the abomination of Obamacare?

ELECTION MEDDLING: Some members of the so-called intelligence community have claimed that Russian hackers—acting on their own or possibly with the direction of top Russian leaders—tried to influence the 2016 elections. Newly released texts prove that two FBI agents invented the whole thing to try to divert attention from their illicit affair. These are the same two agents who set up a secret society to try to fire President Donald Trump. Lock them up!

Have any ideas of your own for episodes that will depict conspiracies and cover-ups? Send your ideas to this blog. And don’t bother trying to disguise your identity. We know who you are and where you live!

Identical Snowflakes Highlight Scientific Advances


Scientists have discovered two snowflakes that are totally identical, a stunning development in meteorological research that stands of one of the top advances of 2017.

Experts at the U.S. Department of Really Expensive Arcane Developments (DREAD) announced Thursday that the snowflake discovery occurred in the remote town of Damitskold, S.D. Sensors that examine every snowflake that falls in the town set off alarms at 4:12 a.m. when the twin flakes fell harmlessly onto the shoulder of Route 410.


Teams of DREAD employees were dispatched by helicopter to the site, where they excavated a 400-cubic-foot chunk of snow and frozen tundra and whisked it to an underground lab. There, scientists combed through more than 8 billion flakes to isolate the two identical ones.

“We know that this will be hard for some people to believe,” commented an obviously excited DREAD Director Abby Normal. “But machines don’t lie. These snowflakes are identical in every possible way. Unfortunately, in the process of recovering the flakes, one was damaged. And one melted when a researcher inadvertently breathed,” conceded Normal. “These workers have been punished severely for their actions. However, we stand by our findings, putting to rest one of life’s greatest mysteries.”

DREAD first made headlines three years ago when it found conclusive evidence that a stitch in time saves nine. Normal said she had no doubt that DREAD’s annual budget of $250 billion will be increased during upcoming deliberations in Washington.

“There’s so much left to do,” she stated. “For example, we have teams working round-the-clock trying to determine whether a picture is indeed worth one thousand words. Preliminary findings indicate that a typical picture corresponds with 914.11 words, but modern photo data-compression techniques might be impacting those results.”

Moving forward, DREAD hopes to determine whether laughter is indeed the best medicine. Several dozen volunteer subjects with a range of terminal diseases will be subjected to recordings of Jim Carrey, David Letterman and Samantha Bee 24/7 to monitor their reactions. Jerry Seinfeld was willing to speak directly to the subjects, but scientists agreed that he isn’t funny anymore.

“Determining whether the pen is mightier than the sword should also bear significant results for the public,” stated Normal. “We have purchased thousands of pens and swords and will begin testing them in January.” She said that while researchers have recruited more than 400 volunteers to use swords in the research, DREAD is still seeking people willing to enter combat with pens.

She hinted that DREAD might have another exciting announcement soon. “We started the ‘watched pot never boils’ trial in November. Fred, sitting there at the model kitchen, has been at it nonstop, and we are hopeful that he will avoid falling into a coma long enough to prove or disprove this saying once and for all.

“Now Fred, please try to keep your eyes open. Remember, good things come to those who wait.”

Wanted: Santa Claus


U.S. officials have added Santa Claus to the terror watch list. Yes, Santa, aka Kris Kringle, aka Father Christmas. He’s one bad dude, according to authorities.

Suspicion has centered on the North Pole resident for years. Living in proximity to Russia and wearing crimson clothing were the first “red flags,” according to one official, who asked not to be identified because his mother thinks he is working for some do-gooder nonprofit group saving the whales or some such nonsense.

But Santa has remained elusive. The FBI, CIA and NSA have been attempting to conduct surveillance of Santa for years, but they have not been able to locate his secret lair. Apparently, there’s a geographic North Pole and a magnetic North Pole and they are not the same. In fact, the magnetic one moves around, kind of like the island in LOST. Go figure.


U.S. officials have secured various search warrants for Santa’s base of operations, should it be found. One involves what authorities describe as clear-cut pattern of invasion of privacy. It’s common knowledge that Santa knows when individuals have been bad or good. And he even knows when they are sleeping. “That’s just wrong,” said the unidentified official.

The U.S. Department of Labor and international child labor organizations are concerned about possible sweatshop conditions in Santa’s workshop. Under-age elves reportedly are forced to work long hours without seeing the light of day during the winter months. Further, these elves might be categorized as aliens in every sense of the word.

Recently, President Turnip vowed to add the North Pole to the list of countries on the so-called Travel Ban That Isn’t Really a Travel Ban Unless the Supreme Court Says It’s Okay to Have a Travel Ban.

The government is extremely worried that Santa Claus is in possession of advanced technology that could pose a direct threat to international transportation. “Having reindeer that can fly represents disruptive technology that, if replicated, could put most commercial airlines out of business overnight,” lamented another unidentified official.

The Department of Commerce is planning to file complaints with the United Nations and the World Court over the massive production and distribution of knockoff goods expected from Santa Claus in December. Officials said Santa lacks licenses to produce the iPhones, Legos and other brand name merchandise that will be discovered under Christmas trees.

State and local authorities are also getting into the act. They will be sending police to city and suburban neighborhoods around the country on Dec. 24 to attempt to thwart an anticipated spate of break-ins in which a man in a red suit attempts to gain access to private homes through chimneys.

However, officials concede that Santa Claus is not all bad. It is widely expected that people who behaved inappropriately during the past year—including many politicians, most Hollywood personalities and all Democrats—will receive coal in their stockings this year courtesy of Santa. “This will be another boon to the thriving U.S. coal industry,” tweeted President Turnip.

Sex and Guns


This is a blog about men behaving badly. Some do it through sexual harassment and sexual assault. Some do it with firearms. While the latter is more serious, both cause lasting damage.

Is there a connection? Perhaps in a Freudian sense. Perhaps in another way: It’s all about power.


Men who coerce teenagers and adults into unwanted sexual behavior might be looking for a glandular thrill. But I believe that many such perpetrators have another motive: to revel in their power over those who are more vulnerable than them.

It’s a psychological compulsion. “I can do this to you and you can’t do anything about it” is implied, if not stated, frequently in these situations. For the perpetrator, that might be the biggest thrill.

One of the things that is so disheartening about this behavior is that it often is displayed by people who have power already. They seem to be white, employed, even affluent. They have jobs that put them in control of others: government officials, Hollywood personalities.

I have never understood the need to control another human being. I can’t recall a time when I crossed a line in a sexual context. I didn’t even manage to get my first date until I was in college. There have been times when I wished that I had more influence in certain social settings. But my thinking has always been: If you have to beg for something or bully your way to get something, it’s not worth having. Maybe if I looked like George Clooney things would have been different. I doubt it.

I have never understood the attraction of owning a gun, either. I have fired guns. In the Cub Scouts I was required to display a degree of marksmanship to earn a badge. So my den took a trip out into the woods. One by one we took turns gazing down the barrel of a .22-caliber rifle and murdering innocent tin cans.

As I recall, I wasn’t a bad shot in those days, when my vision was pretty good. I fired off a couple of rounds at a target at a carnival as well. But that was it.

Yes, I understand the Second Amendment right to own and use guns. And no, I don’t want to repeal the amendment or confiscate weapons. (Whatever happened to that rumored gun roundup that the Obama Administration was planning, alt-right people?)

Still, I don’t believe that those who wrote and enacted the Bill of Rights would have intended it to allow sick and deranged people to obtain weapons of mass destruction such as military assault rifles. The Founding Fathers would be angry at us if they could see the misery we have allowed to occur on a daily basis. They would call for an immediate uprising against the NRA and a re-wording or re-interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Americans, you are welcome to your guns. Please don’t use them against innocent people. What can drive someone to shoot up a school or a church or a concert? What sickness, what hatred, what lack of appreciation of the value for every human life could possibly drive someone to point that weapon at another person other than in self-defense?

Whatever pleasure a power-seduced person might get from sexual abuse or from shooting someone, it won’t last. These people need to find another way to exercise their power. If they can’t, we are in trouble.

Take the Fake News Quiz


Welcome to the October Fake News Quiz, in which we challenge our readers (or, some months, our reader) to determine which of these news items are true and which are fake. Here is this month’s lineup. Good luck.


  1. Drew and Jonathan Scott, aka the Property Brothers on HGTV, are actually robots built by craftspersons working for the network. After trying unsuccessfully to cast a pair of human brothers with the necessary skills, Hollywood looks and aw-shucks demeanor, the HGTV team spent months secretly perfecting this pair of androids. The first attempts failed; the bad bots were re-purposed for other shows, notably the unfortunate remake of “Will & Grace.” Now that the robotic Property Brothers are fixtures on all-day TV, they are demanding better salaries and perks, like an upgrade from diesel fuel to refined plutonium.
  2. Aloof Acres, a gated community in the Hamptons, is offering buyers of new multi-million-dollar homes the option of additional utilities that will bring liquor directly into the residences. Along with water, gas and electricity, purchasers can choose from pipelines delivering scotch, bourbon, gin, vodka and–for the kiddies—chocolate milk. The meters can monitor the commodities remotely because electronic sensors measure consumption right down to the molecule. Temperature controls do pump up the price tags of these consumables, experts point out. However, as the president of the homeowners’ association puts it, “Don’t judge us just because we are rich and frequently drunk. Someone has to set standards.”
  3. Yoga for Pets, the franchise created by an out-of-work Zeppelin polisher and his wife in their Toledo, Ohio, basement, has spread to 43 states plus much of Europe and several of those countries that end in “-istan.” The secret to the success of the business is getting the pets’ owners to leave and not watch what happens during the yoga sessions. It would be too painful for the owners to realize how little their pets need them and how relaxed the animals become once the lights go down, the music comes on and it’s time to streettttcccchhhh. The business does have some mixed classes (dogs and cats); however cats and birds are required to take separate classes after several unfortunate incidents.
  4. Marijuana stores in the states where recreational use of pot is legal keep selling out of the new strain of dope that improves memory and decreases appetite. Most varieties of marijuana are known for impairing the memories of users, sometimes causing sleepiness. And, of course, most strains cause users to want to eat things that they otherwise would never think of consuming, like dippin’ dots and that carton of leftover Chinese food that has been in the back of the fridge for weeks. I mean, don’t even think of opening it. It could be—I’m sorry, what were we talking about? Oh God, I’m so hungry. I could almost eat quinoa. Oh, no, I think this is the wrong….
  5. The Unites States remains the only large developed country where military-style weapons and ammunition are allowed in virtually unlimited quantities in the hands of almost any resident, including nut jobs and potential terrorists. Despite the fact that a majority of Americans favor modest controls on the kinds of powerful killing machines that were never imagined by the backers of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, the National Rifle Association and the members of Congress they control through threats and contributions continue to ignore the will of the people. And every week, more Americans are shot to death needlessly, including children.

ANSWERS: Of course, all five of these items are fake. Who would believe any of them?!

Escaping Irma


It was about 6 p.m. Monday when we noticed the men boarding up the shops and deploying sandbags around the waterfront area in Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten, in the Lesser Antilles Islands of the Caribbean. Meanwhile, a pool party went on as scheduled a few yards away, with many of the guests from our resort drinking, dancing and splashing to the pounding beat.

Something was very wrong with this picture.

As it turns out, the revelers and the resort managers were not taking Hurricane Irma seriously. But it’s difficult for me to criticize them. The party participants had paid good money for their vacation. The resort needed to maintain some semblance of normality. And I was there, with my wife Jean, despite the fact that we knew before we left home that Irma was lurking somewhere west of our destination.


We had departed from Newark on Saturday morning. After arriving, we chatted with the friendly car rental agent in Sint Maarten. Even then, three days before Irma made a direct hit on the Dutch-governed portion of the island, he had these words of advice for us:

“Go home.”

All through our truncated stay on the island—including a drive through the French half, known as Saint Martin—there were two constants: beautiful weather, and friendly local residents assuring us that they had survived previous hurricanes. We know now that there never has been a hurricane as strong as Irma was becoming. If there was a Category 6, she would have been a strong candidate. Sustained winds of 185 miles per hour for many days, with gusts up to 225.

We had barely unpacked on Saturday before starting to monitor Irma and think about options should we decide to leave.

On Sunday, our concerns grew. I bought only enough food for a few days, in case we decided to leave early. I felt almost silly lugging a big case of bottled water. But why take any chances? I started looking at flights out of Sint Maarten on Monday and Tuesday, using the Sint Maarten airport website as a starting point. There were not many flights out of the hurricane zone, and none directly to anywhere in the U.S.

On Monday morning, we were starting to realize that remaining on the island was probably too dangerous, particularly given our limited supplies of medications. By Monday afternoon, we knew that we had to leave.

Our cellphones would not work on the island, despite both of us having arranged for service there. The landline in the resort room was also balking. As I started surfing airline sites and secondary sites such as Kayak on my tablet, I realized that everyone else in the resort must have been doing the same thing.

Service got slow, then slower, then crashed.

“We can ride it out,” said Jean.

I kept trying to find a flight. A couple of times a site showed seats on a KLM flight scheduled to leave Sint Maarten late Tuesday and arrive in Amsterdam on Wednesday. It seemed like a long way to go. But the alternative was to ride it out—and risk a delay in getting home, among other things.

Each time I tried to book two seats on that flight, I went through the whole process down to the payment, only to receive a message saying “Sorry, these tickets are no longer available.”

“We can ride it out,” said Jean.

Internet down. Internet up. Internet slow. CNN providing dire news. I kept plugging away.


Wait. What’s this? Business class seats to Panama City, Panama? Our only connection with Panama City was that last year one of our lost bags went there. But on Monday afternoon, getting off the island to anywhere was a priority. I would have paid up to the limit of my credit card for two flights to the South Pole.

I got through the booking process for Panama City, right through the payment. Then the “Sorry” message again. No such seats.

I tried a second time, with the same result.

The third time I tried to book the Panama flights, a screen display seemed to say that I had actually booked the seats. I stared incredulously at the tablet, afraid to say anything in case the world had decided to play yet another practical joke on us. I raced to another device and called up my email. Sure enough, two tickets, business class, with a confirmation number.

You could probably hear the happy screams back in the states. Still, I was worried that the airport would close or the flight would be canceled.

After a sleepless night, we drove to the rental car facility, where we were told that the airport was closing at noon. Our flight was supposed to be at 12:30. While waiting to process paperwork, I approached a woman who was sweeping the floor. “Where will you and your family go?” I asked. “There is a school made of concrete. Very strong,” she said.

By the time we entered the terminal, the atmosphere was fairly normal, other than a panicked tourist who kept running back and forth.

“She’s been doing that all morning,” our Copa Airlines gate agent said as she checked our passports and processed our bags.

“You seem awfully calm,” I said. She just smiled. Supreme confidence in her ability to handle anything—plus, I suspect, supreme trust in God’s will.

As we waited to board, flights were being canceled left and right. We had two gate changes, which I interpreted as good signs. You generally don’t change gates for planes that never arrive.

When our plane finally arrived from Panama City, a surprising number of people got off, including children. I could only hope that they were there to be help relatives on the island.

Our flight left right on time. Within 15 minutes I was fast asleep. Sometime within the next 18 hours, the airport was destroyed. There was no way on or off Sint Maarten. Six deaths occurred on the island. There was no running water. There was no food. Looting was reported.

As I write this, I think not only of the residents I met but also of the vacationers stuck on the island indefinitely. If some of them lack access to important medicine, the situation could become life-threatening.

The experience imparted a few lessons:

One, people are resilient when they have to be. They help each other when they need to. They are fundamentally good.

Two, natural disasters cause a lot of suffering. It is the poor who always suffer the most.

Three, another hurricane was headed for the Lesser Antilles, while Irma was aiming at Florida and another major storm was churning in the Gulf of Mexico. A huge earthquake hit in Mexico. The planet is warming. Maybe it has nothing to do with human activity. I wouldn’t bet on that.

Four, I’m never scheduling another Caribbean vacation during hurricane season. Mountains, here I come.