random stuff

I've been drooling over Tumbleweed tiny houses for a few years now, and this firetruck guest house reminded me of them--tiny and portable.  I don't think I'd actually want a house on wheels, but I like small spaces and the minimalism they require.

I've also been playing with floor-plans for kids' rooms, just for kicks.  I think this double bunk setup is awesome.

All Women are Real Women.  This struck a cord with me, since I've been bulking up a tiny bit from going to the gym pretty regularly since February.  This is the first time my body has changed in a noticeable way since puberty, and it's made me a little self-conscious.  Plus, I've been getting sugar cravings which probably just means I need to eat more real food to make up for the gym, but still, it makes me think of my body in ways that come with a lot of unwanted societal baggage (I should be this way or that way).  But no matter what, I'm a real woman and I'm happy with myself.

Speaking of sweets, I made a lemon curd this weekend to go with a white cake.  The cake was okay, but the curd was (and is) excellent.  (Half a spoon curd + half a spoon mascarpone = a sliver of heaven.)  And then speaking of mascarpone, I want to try making these poached pears.

Vertical gardening: ikea solutions (I have three askers in my kitchen with plants in them), Patrick Blanc (who seems like a marvelously silly man), air plantshanging terrariums, and many things on this site.

Lastly, a pretty wind map.

frost vs. freeze

About two weeks ago, we claimed our garden plot.  We fenced it, carved out and mulched two walking paths, and added some topsoil.  We've planted all of our seeds at this point, though we probably should have waited on some of them, and are in the process of hardening off the indoor-grown plants.

If you look close at the picture to the right, you'll see the stems of the plants are purplish.  That's a good sign that the plants are hardened off.

I have a three-phase system for hardening this year: first, I bring a tray out into the "tube," which is some spare fencing wrapped with plastic to provide windbreak and shade.  (It can only fit one tray at a time, so the process is pipelined.)  The next day, I move the tray outside the tube, but next to it, so it has some shade/windbreak, but less than before.  Finally, I move it out into the open, where it will be planted eventually.

While it's a great system in theory, there have been a few frost warnings recently, so I've had to bring the trays indoors some nights.  I want to wait until we're out of the woods on frosts before finishing up the process and planing everything.

We did plant a few tomatoes as a test, and they're still going strong!  We did a second wave as well, so there are about 30 little tomato plants living it up in our garden right now.  While that sounds like a lot, it's less than a sixth of the total number of tomato plants we currently have.  And there's no way we'll be able to fit them all in our plot.  There are still some open spots, so we might take them over if nobody's claimed them by planting time.

When there's a frost warning, like tonight, I need to cover these plants that are currently in the ground.  I've been covering them with plastic cups and putting a rock on top of each (they're still small enough for that, but barely).  One lady across the garden did nothing for her tomatoes a few days ago, and they went from beautiful, mature, and probably expensive plants to withered, black wraiths.  Another sad story impending: I noticed a plot with freshly-planted tomatoes today, about the same size as mine.  I almost ran home for more cups, but decided that people probably didn't want me to micromanage their garden.  I'd put money on the poor things being dead in the morning, though.

N loves explaining all the hydrological elements of gardening, and was kind enough to explain to me why a frost can happen when the temperature is above freezing, which happened this week.  Basically, while the general air temperature can be around 40 degrees F, pockets of air can dip down to freezing.  If the dew point is right, the dew will freeze, and it's the frozen dew that can rupture the cell walls of sensitive plants, killing them.  Nice bed-time story, no?

It's not me, it's you.

When I was a kid, I climbed things when I got upset, specifically the 100+ foot tall poplars in our front yard.  Mom and Dad couldn't climb them, and my brother was afraid of heights, so I could totally escape without, you know, actually running away from home, which was too scary a prospect.

It has been a really, really long time since I've been so mad I had to run away from something.  Middle school, probably.  Well, I was angry recently.  We're talking strong emotional reaction where you just have to turn and walk away, perhaps awkwardly ending a conversation, lest you do something more awkward, like physically break something.  The funny thing abut being angry?  It's usually over stupid stuff.

I don't generally have anger issues, nor do I have a hard time getting on with people, in general.  Sure, I make mistakes, have awkward moments, and dislike certain people, but actual anger is incredibly rare.  (And it scares me; I don't like it.)  I keep having a dialog in my head about how the other person was being unreasonable, and it wasn't their place, and they had this issue or that issue.  I know I could have been more calm or reasonable, but part of me has to ask, how much of this is my fault?

But then I say, screw introspection.  I mucked up some stuff, they mucked up some other stuff.  I learned a little and now I'm moving on.  Dwelling on this isn't worth my time, because unlike climbing trees, it isn't fun.


How do you process online content?

I put together an informal survey so that I can better understand what online services people use and how they use them.  In particular, I'm trying to figure out what can be done to make information-processing services smarter and more adaptive to their users; this is a first step in understanding the problem.  If you have a moment, please take the survey.


minimally problematic

Today I helped clean out some closets at my church building.  With the calling shuffle, we needed to know what was actually in the various Primary closets, since our now-released fearless leader was pretty much the only one who knew where everything was.

I found it interesting that I was the one who pushed to toss/recycle stuff we didn't need.  I've been progressively minimizing the amount of stuff I own, and given the amount of junk I've gone through so far, I've had a lot of practice at gauging need relatively quickly.  While I don't believe in waste, I also don't believe in keeping things that you realistically aren't going to use.  Given that I used to keep 10-year old balloons, boxes of dried paints, and clothes from elementary school, I am pretty proud of how far I've come.  Today allowed me to celebrate that a little.

Along the minimalism lines, I've been thinking more about eReaders.  I've gone from being opposed to owning one, to being theoretically okay with one, to kinda wanting one.  There is a huge appeal in trimming down our overflowing bookcases (the biggest remaining front of stuff), but the cost is the stickler for me.  Paper books are still so much cheaper, since I pretty much only buy used.  The local library has an increasingly decent collection of ebooks, though, so renting would be an option.

One conundrum is what to do with the paper books I already have?  Ideally, I'd like to only keep my favorites, selling the rest (or at the very least ensuring that they have good homes).  Selling is a bit tricky, since books are so cheap to begin with; Amazon buys a handful of used books, and then there are used book dealers...but I'd need to discover the ones out here.  (If we were back in Berkeley, I could get to the used book places with my eyes closed, partially because there were so many of them.)

An then there is the issue of what to get (if anything at all).  A Kindle/Nook is easier on the eyes, but an iPad is more versatile.  I think I lean towards the book-specific readers rather than the more general tablets, mostly because I don't need another window to the internet.  Plus eink readers have much better battery life, and Kindle at least has a "free" 3G option, i.e. no monthly payment plan, hence kindle is also better for travel abroad.  And then the classic, touchscreen, or keyboard?  I'm leaning touchscreen w/3G and no ads, but that's double the price of the classic.  Uf.

One thing that I need to do more research on is the reading of academic papers digitally.  If I would be comfortable with reading papers and maybe even taking notes on an eink device, that would be a strong selling point.  I've read mixed reviews on the topic so far, but many of them were from the early kindle days.

It's one of those things that I'll hem and haw about for a few weeks and then make an abrupt decision one way or the other.  I really wish there was an obvious choice, but I think there's just no ideal situation yet, at least given the constraints I'm imposing.


green things growing


 peppers (poblano).

tomato (yellow pear).

group shot.
(The uber-leggy ones at the bottom are tomatillos.)

I've done almost all of my thinning now; only a few rows remain (the ones in the upper-left of the last picture).  I've replanted some leggy seedlings (with more care than before).  The cabbage is mostly in control, but I don't know what to do about the tomatillos.  They seem to survive anything though, based on last year (in which I got a decent crop despite not hardening my plants off, extreme heat, hurricane, and flood).  My gut says to just let them do their thing.

Oh say, what is truth?

This morning I picked up Nietzsche's Between Good and Evil from my to-read shelf for my walk to work.  I skimmed through the translator's preface, bibliographical note, and actual preface--who knew a book needed so many introductions?  Anyway, when I finally got to the meat, Nietzsche asks questions like: What in us really wants "truth"?  He talks about the will to truth and the value of that will.  As he puts it, "It is a rendezvous, it seems, of questions and question marks."

After about the first page or so, I stopped reading to ask my own (unoriginal) question, what is truth?  Nietzsche goes on and on about truth and finding it, but let's presume for a moment that we have some truth, just a sliver of the whole thing, perhaps in a bucket, sloshing around, or maybe even in a nice cardboard box, sealed with masking tape to prevent it from slinking away. That's all well and good, but how do we know that it's actually truth?  And once we identify it, what do we do with it?

Is truth something we put under our pillow at night, like a child's tooth?  Is it something we sell?  That Mr. Janson has quite a bucketful of truth, I've heard.  Excellent investment.  Does it simply make us feel good?  Does it show others our greatness?  Does it make the world a better place?  (And how do we define better?  We'll need another bucket.)  Our understanding of truth guides our actions, but can't good things happen with a false understanding of the world?  Sometimes an increase in truth causes an increase in harm. Or does that violate the definition of truth?  In essence, what role should truth play in our lives?

The struggle for truth is the journey through what we have been taught, with our mind as a compass.  The hope is that when we reach the summit, we will be able to look back and say "There was beauty in my struggle.  I am glad I am here."  This journey features our heart--our feelings, be they nurture or nature--against our mind, the part of us we see as logical or rational.  If that's not complicated enough, the set to this play is also crucial--we live in a physical world and exist as embodied individuals.

Does any of it matter?  Well, it certainly matters in that lots of people think (or feel) that it matters.  I'm starting to feel that the endless nitpicking and banter doesn't matter...that it doesn't help discover truth.  I've found that truth is more experiential, that is that the embodiment is more important than I had previously realized.  (I know that there are many people with severely limited bodies, but that doesn't mean that their physical experiences are any less valid.)  Let me give you an example.

I've seen lots of violets all over the place recently.  Their existence is truth; my seeing them is truth; my writing about them in this post is truth.  Why does it matter?  Acknowledging the truthfulness or reality of things or experiences amplifies my experience of their beauty.  And why does beauty matter?  It's my drug.  Less crudely, my experiencing real beauty, the development of my inner light, is the driving force in my life.  But then, what is real beauty?  I know it when I feel it, which makes me an irrational beast.

Dave-to-Girl ratio

I was reading about Etsy's latest grant for women, and stumbled on the term "Dave-to-Girl ratio."  It's an old joke, but I laughed, and then realized that the Dave-to-Girl ratio for my research group was 2:1 (I count either Dave or David).  For the faculty in my department? 1:2.  The ratio is much better for the department as a whole, though.  What's the Dave-to-Girl ratio where you work?

Oh, and I just heard two IT guys out in the says to the other, "What about this one, Dave?"


bring out yer dead

Thinning seedlings is my least favorite part of gardening. Ideally, I would have enough space, both to sprout seeds and to grow adult plants, that I wouldn't need to do this. Unfortunately, I currently have neither. So, today I executed near one hundred tomato seedlings, and stacked up their corpses.

I planted about two seeds per cell for all of my indoor-start varieties.  The packaging on Halliday's Mortgage Lifter (one of my 4 varieties of tomato) said that its test germination rate was 96%, so I was expecting to thin quite a few of them, but it doesn't make me any less sad.  Last year I put the thinned plants in spare pots and glasses, but I can't do that with my current setup under the table; there's no place to put anything.

The peppers and eggplant managed to sprout an average of one plant per cell, but there were still instances of two plants or no plants in some cells.  I tried to even out some of these instances a few days ago by transferring plants, but I damaged some of them and they died.  I replanted some tomatoes into those empty cells, but I have no idea if those will survive either.  It's not like I'll have room for all two hundred tomato plants in the garden plot, but I'm hoping there will be folks willing to take them off my hands for twenty-five cents a plant. (That's half the going rate at the farmer's market and about my per-plant operating cost, including lights, trays, etc..)

Why didn't I save some of my seeds for later?  I could have, and probably should have, but when I planted, I thought that I'd be able to do what I did last year with the extra pots, but the lighting situation is rough enough that I can't.  Also, other than the Halliday's seeds, which I bought in bulk, none of the packaging gave me an approximate germination rate.  I also couldn't assume that and that other seeds were close to Halliday's, because that variety has a reputation for being insanely vigorous.

On some level not printing the germination rate makes sense--there's a cost to germination tests.  But on the other hand, seed sellers are probably doing germination tests anyway.  How much extra work would it be to print the germination rate on the package?  How many people would bother to look at it?  Are most serious gardeners already familiar with the approximate germination rates?  Or are they buying seeds in bulk, where they rate is printed?  Are the sellers worried about consumers complaining when their small sample size germinates at a lower rate?  My bet is that this last one is probably the read reason.


dear diary

It's been nose to the grindstone here, or nose in the books, or however you want to say it.  Work.  Noses.  It's all the same.  So here's an update on a bunch of miscellaneous things.

I've been reading Go Ask Alice and Cloud Altas, both of which are excellent.  And I'm still going to the gym, for the most part.  I've taken a few sporadic days off recently due to the aforementioned nose issue, but I don't plan on stopping any time soon--it feels great.  I keep looking at my arms and being amazed that I can actually see a hint of muscle.

My seedlings are growing leggy for lack of light.  N did all sorts of research on it yesterday (including some Matlab computation) to figure out if we needed to buy different lights for them.  He decided we did, so we went out today for that.  I'm thinning them out and replanting them in the same containers, just deeper, so they stop falling over (cabbage, I'm looking at you).

What else?  I was released from my calling at church just to be re-called to the same thing--one of those leadership shuffles.  Kinda wigged me out, I must say, since they emailed me in the middle of the week to schedule a meeting for Sunday.  I haven't had a formal meeting time set for a calling since I can remember, so I kept wondering if I was in trouble for something (a.k.a. corrupting the young'uns with my blasphemous ways), or if they wanted me to do something crazy.  N kept saying they were going to call me as prophet.  But no, it was nothing special.

Funny thing though: I was teaching a lesson to the young'uns the day I was recalled...and I was talking about the good things prophets tell us to do (e.g., praying), the bad things they tell us to avoid (e.g., gossiping), and grey-area things where they give us some council but don't straight-up tell us what to do (e.g., who to make friends with).  When I asked for examples of bad things to avoid, one of the teachers came out and said that Hinckley warned us not to attend raves.  In response, I told her that I used to go to raves.  It cracked me up to hear all the kids gasp.  Regretting that re-calling now, eh?

But, it was a good segway into the grey-area bit, saying that parties are something that we need to be careful about, blah blah blah.  With Go Ask Alice on my mind, I warned them against drugs.  One kid pretended to offer drugs to another, and I got to tell them that people actually do that.  It's real.  I've been offered drugs at parties by complete strangers, I told them (and it's true).   Drugs aren't a joke.  They make people to crazy things.  Betcha nobody was expecting to have that conversation.  Good times.

Another thing that's been on my mind of late is the line between constructive criticism and destructive criticism.  In particular, I've been thinking of how it relates to improving a religious organization like the LDS church, wherein the whole purpose of said organization is supposedly to bring constructive change to people's lives.  On some level, I criticize an organization or its members for my own sake, usually to justify my feelings on various points.  On the other hand, if I feel negatively about some aspects of the organization, do I have an obligation to help change it?  How about if the struggle for change is personally painful?  How about if that struggle brings unwanted personal change?

Lots of random thoughts.


not an april fools post

General Conference weekend.  Lots of silly things, which I won't bother to rant about since others have it covered.  But, in my effort to focus on the good things, Elder Uchtdorf's talk today was excellent.  In fact, it was the only one I bothered to listen to.  (I prefer reading them.)