Archive for September, 2005

Gardening: I’ve got a plot!

Monday, September 19th, 2005
Mystery Fruit or Vegetable

I now have a gardening plot in the local community garden! Woot! I had been on the waiting list for over a year. Turnover is pretty low as there are quite a few folks that have lived in the neighborhood for decades.

However, the family that had the plot ran afoul of the community garden police back in late June. In particular, the extended family showed up, stripped the fruit trees and let their kids run wild through the garden.

New Garden Plot

So, they got tossed. Now, I took possession of the plot on Sunday. The plot has had nearly zero care beyond watering since late June. If you are familiar with the Northern Californian climate, stuff grows incredibly well. Supremely well. Unfortunately, that includes both desirable plants and weeds (some of which are desirable).

More pictures of the plot and more info follows. The gardening feed will contain updates to my great garden adventure. In particular, it’ll contain my efforts to document the rather odd collection of stuff (like that orange thing pictured above) that I have inherited in the plot.
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Azureus Dashboard Widget

Tuesday, September 13th, 2005
Azureus Dashboard Widget

I recently discovered the Azureus Dashboard widget. Incredibly useful.

With it installed, I can easily add/remove/monitor BitTorrent downloads that are running in the Azureus BT client on my machine at home.

Not only that, but the dashboard widget’s user interface is far, far more pleasant than the Azureus client, itself.

Excellent stuff. In terms of usage, this is now my favorite widget. It provides a succinct indication of the current state of the Azureus client while layering on administrative tools without cluttering the UI terribly. About the only “oddity” to remember is that you have to drag a .torrent file onto the frog to have Azureus start downloading.

There are a handful of bugs/tweaks/cleanups that need to be addressed, but it is one hell of a useful and high quality initial release. Kudos to Andrew for nailing that one.

The Bug Whisperer

Sunday, September 11th, 2005
Bug Whisperer

Roger, my 5 year old son, has the innate ability to “tame” bugs. He is a “bug whisperer”, if you will. It is truly remarkable to watch. He will walk slowly up to a fly on the window or a butterfly on a flower and simply pick it up. As shown in the picture (there are two butterflies or moths — I’m not sure which), the creatures will frequently hang out on Roger for quite a while, content to crawl around at whim.

I have even watched him pick up a wasp so that he could show me the stinger. Before anyone asks, Roger has been stung before so knows quite well about the risks of “wasp whispering”.

Orange Lantana

He is always very gentle with bugs and injuries only occur through accidents. Well, almost. If a bug is identified as a bad bug — something that eats our flowers or house — it gets a thorough smashing shortly after close inspection.

I have started to make planting decisions based on the species of bugs or, more specifically, butterflies visit said flowers. As an example, I recently planted the Orange Lantana pictured at the right as it attracts a number of Roger’s favorite butterflies as well as hummingbirds. It should also grow into a spectacular bush about 3 feet high that is completely covered in orange blossoms.

BLT

Saturday, September 10th, 2005

Tea Leaves discusses the finer points of making a BLT.

I generally agree save for the Lettuce comment. Crispy, very fresh, but not strongly flavored, lettuce is absolutely critical to the creation of a good BLT.

Now, on the crispy thick cut bacon part. As TL suggests, microwaving bacon works surprisingly well. When I used to go that route, I would ‘wave the bacon on top of some paper towels.

Through Alton Brown, I learned a much better way to prepare bacon.

Start with thick cut bacon of excellent quality. Around Northern California, I have found that PW Markets has excellent thick cut bacon that you can buy by the pound.

Take a cookie sheet or baking pan and place a wire rack on it. Lay out the bacon strips on the wire rack. Place into a cold oven and turn it on to 400 degrees. Let the bacon cook for about 12 to 15 minutes. Once done to the desired crispyness, take out of the oven and let drain a bit further on paper towels.

The end result is excellent crispy bacon that has not shrunk terribly much. Perfect for making a BLT.

I’m heading to the farmer’s market in a few minutes and I do believe obtaining some heirloom tomatoes, fresh lettuce, and excellent home made bread will be a top priority. I know what I’m having for lunch today!

Wasps

Monday, September 5th, 2005
Paper Wasps

Roger found this wasp nest while we were dining at a friend’s house. Of course, he immediately hatched plan that involved creating a fake wasp nest out of leaves such that the wasps would think they were at the wrong house and move into the leaf nest. Once there, Roger could then destroy the old nest.

We are still working on the whole concept of the natural order of things.

TaylorUSA: Excellent Customer Service

Friday, September 2nd, 2005

My wife gave me a Taylor Wireless Thermometer & Timer as an impromptu gift. It is a probe based thermometer that includes a remote display such that I can easily monitor grilling temperature while cooking in the kitchen. The probe is made of stainless steel and is connected to the base unit via a long wire-braid covered metal cable.

Upon the first use, I grilled a couple of very yummy steaks and managed to produce steaks that were cooked exactly how we like them. Unfortunately, it appears that I also torched the probe!

I used TaylorUSA’s online customer support form to ask about the situation.

In less than 12 hours, I received a personal response from customer support representative at Taylor. The company is drop shipping me a replacement probe and I can buy additional probes for $5/each.

Now, that is some fine customer service and I will certainly be quite happy to purchase Taylor products in the future!

Contrast; Skeletons & Flowers

Friday, September 2nd, 2005
Skull and Sea Urchin
Morning Glory

Contrast.

On the right is a purple morning glory that popped up in our backyard. An oddity. It is the second purple morning glory to appear in a huge clump of white and blue/white morning glories that Roger and I planted. So bright. Simply bursting with life. Hairy, even. Yet, the beauty of life is ephemeral. By tomorrow morning, that bloom will be a shriveled brown husk. Then it will produce seeds that we will plant to preserve the temporary beauty again next season.

On the left is the skull of some small animal balanced on a sea urchin. Maybe a raccoon. Roger found it while we were hiking in Missouri. The urchin comes from the pacific coast and is another of Roger’s treasures. The skeletons of two creatures from very different worlds. A reflection on death. Even in death, still graceful and beautiful. Yet, static.

Should I donate to EFF again?

Thursday, September 1st, 2005

As soon as Bush was re-elected, I immediately joined the EFF. Now, nearly a year later, I have to make the decision as to whether or not I should effectively re-up my membership.

Unfortunately, this is proving to be a difficult decision. While, the EFF supports a bunch of causes that I believe in strongly, they are taking a number of positions that seem disingenuous. Worse, it appears that the EFF is practicing the same fear-mongering of the likes of Fox News or CNN. That is, blowing things way out of proportion to gain more eyeballs and, hopefully, more monetary support.

I was hoping the EFF was above that.
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