Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bunny Sagas: the early days

My stepsons( Fester and Guido) are doing rabbits for 4H this year ( and the next few), so we find ourselves with a household full of bunnies. The boys chose polish, a nice mid sized rabbit breed and each have a buck and a doe. We will not let them mate quite yet, so there will be no bitty babies until next spring. And before you get too amazed, these are 4H rabbits and some of them will eventually end up as the breed originated- as food. Sam decided to invest some of her saved allowance money and bought a mini-lop. Now, don't let the "mini" in that name fool you. This one comes from a line that get to 6 or 7 pounds easily and "Hollywood" is likely to end up as large as the cats.

The bunnies are completely silly to watch and handle. Most of them ( except for Hollywood) fit well in the pockets on one pair of sweats that I own. These are big baggy over-sized sweats with patch pockets on each leg that Sam despises from a style perspective, but I have held onto for the comfort factor. This allows me to put a bunny in a pocket and still vacuum or do dishes or laundry. They will also sit for about 15 minutes in my lap while typing,before they get antsy and want to crawl up and explore the keyboard.

Latte is Fester's doe and cleans her face just like a squirrel, while Hollywood is more cat like, taking turns with her paws. Both of the bucks, Fleck and Loco, love to do somersaults on the couch, and Veloz, Guido's doe is insatiably curious, burrowing any where she can. Loco, Fester's buck, wants to emulate the cats and managed to leap up to the back of the couch this morning, where Cuddles was sitting and pondering what looked like dinner on the couch.

The cats have been equally funny in this saga, they know they are not supposed to get the bunnies, the people are holding them and like them, but that natural urge to eat small furry things is strong and they sit and watch in an intensely predatory pose. The Oblivious bunnies just want to sniff out the cats and play with them, not understanding the potential danger lurking behind the twitching whiskers.

It is nearly impossible to hold/handle and photograph the bunnies at the same time, but the boys are up for a visit next weekend and I will shot some pictures and video to add to the Bunny Saga journal.

Early garden start

The Ogre and I spent all day yesterday getting an early start to the garden. It is an awesome feeling to be on time this year and know that we are starting out a step ahead ( that advantage will soon be lost and I will be playing catchup, never fear).

We expanded garden space this year, turning what used to be the tomato plot into a full sized garden and deciding to spread out tomatoes- both within and between gardens. Yesterday we got our long growing root crops ( onions and potatoes) planted, along with some experimental early greens.

We planted 4 double rows of onions ( 2 red and 2 yellow) which if they grow well will yield about 200 onions. That should almost get us through the next year without buying store onions. I will be happy if we get enough to take us 6 months. We also planted 8 ( 11 foot long) mounds of potatoes ( red and yukon gold). This is the part that if they grow well, could scare me come harvest time. One row of each will be dug up early for baby potatoes and eaten duing the summer. We will replant that row for a late harvest row with the few seed potatoes we set back. We already have plans for a summertime renovation of the pump room downstairs to use as a modified root cellar, and if the potatoes grow well, we will need it.

The space for sweet poatoes is prepped, but waiting. Those get planted as plants and it is way too early to get them growing. In their space, I am running an early greens experiment and planted a row of spinach. If we manage to be done with hard freezes, we could be eating fresh spinach in less than a month and it should get to the end of its cycle about the time to plant the sweet potatoes. If it does freeze, we will just re-plant in another spot . Luckily, a single packet of seeds is not a great loss. Additionally, I planted 2 rows of peas and a row of sugar snaps. Again, a risk, since we could get an early freeze, but a small loss if we do. If we manage to slide through without bad freezes, we will be harvesting at memorial day. The fencing where the peas get planted will get overgrown by cucumbers later in the summer. The Ogre tried a new double fence arrangement which should support and make the cucumbers easier to harvest and contain.

An even better memorial day treat may come from an experiment that the Orge originated. He created three modified cold frames by wrap 3 of our 16 tomato frames with clear plastic and we early planted 3 plants- a Mr. Stripey, an Early Girl and a Cherry Tomato. I have my fingers crossed on this one, because if it works, we could have fresh tomatoes by memorial day or shortly after, instead of waiting until July 4. An extra month of tomatoes to eat is wonderful, but even better, if it works, we will do at least half of the tomato plants that way and will have extras to can/freeze as well.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tales from a Dying Town: Options Expo

No one is giving up yet, and even though none of the major employers in town is hiring, there is still a 2009 job fair going on at Ivy Tech tomorrow (March 25). This will be a group of potential employers, local educational institutions, military recruitment and volunteer organizations with openings all in one location at our Ivy Tech Campus for anyone interested. More and more, the "any port in a storm" theory makes employers who may have been your second or third choice look appealing.
There are people leaving town and looking for work in other towns or other states, but some brave folks ( or those trapped by mortgages on houses they can not sell) are sticking around and trying to make it work.
I will not be able to attend the job fair tomorrow, but I am interested in some perspective and insight from anyone who does go.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Testing Google Voice- Need some help

My GrandCentral account (finally) got converted and I am busy testing all of the GoogleVoice features. Be sure to check back in a week for a full update, but in the meantime, I need your help. Please click on the widget below and help me test out the embedded call feature. Your call should automatically go to a voicemail I recorded just for you. If you leave me a message that makes me smile, it might show up in the review post and you could be (sorta) famous. Be sure to tell me if you do NOT want your message to be published, but please leave me some love anyway.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tales from a Dying Town: leveraging social media

In this nationally advertised "dying town", there is a grass roots movement to be seen as active and vital. Much of this activity is taking place on Facebook, through a group called "Let's go Kokomo". The "let's go Kokomo" movement is not new, it has been active here on local radio for a couple of years. The movement was originally designed to help people find locally owned and operated businesses and to encourage them to shop there instead of driving out of town or shopping on the internet. The shift to Facebook has happened only in the last couple of months, and I think it is a nice rallying point for the folks here in town to gather and discover things about themselves. There is a lot of information on Facebook right now about Events and groups in Kokomo, but the truth is that it is still the result of a lot of effort by a very small group of people. And while it is fun and informative and makes living in a dying town less painful ( sort of like a morphine drip), I have not yet figured out how it will counteract the death march. If I am on Facebook, why would I search for and be interested in a group about Kokomo, unless I was already here? The Facebook activity reminds me of the Whos on the puffball, happily going about their business, in denial that the pot of oil is coming.

I do not want to discourage the Let's Go Kokomo founders, because as a resident, I find the information infinitely useful. I even contribute. But we should be honest that we are doing this for ourselves, not to save the town.

I think there are ways to leverage the web and technology to let people out there know what a great town and what talent awaits businesses here in Kokomo. We need to get more involved in online activities that are focused outside of Kokomo and let people know where we are from with pride. Here are a couple of potential starting points:

1) The OpenStreetMap of Kokomo is almost empty. With so many people who have technical knowledge finding themselves with time on their hands, we should have the most densely filled in and informative map out there. Not only would this be helpful to people in and outside of Kokomo, but it shows that we take pride in our city and that we have a vision of the future where OpenSource and OpenData are important. A town full of forward thinking individuals is attractive to businesses, start ups and innovators.

2) Take all that resourcefulness and start innovating yourself. Stop looking to figure out how you can move away and get a job, start looking at all the great ideas trapped in those engineering brains and start building things right here. There are people already starting, and there are resources to help you out. The Inventrek center is looking to expand and launch lots of startups.

3) If you are out of ideas, or are not convinced that yours are worth working on, help out with someone else's. Head over to ( or your favorite open source area) and start contributing actively to other opensource projects. After you put in your 4 hours of job searching time each day, do not waste time cleaning the garage, or watching reruns on TV. Sit down and build something. Interact with the other people on your project, make connections and make the world a little bit better.

4) If you can not afford to give your time away for free and really need to work on more income, check out for crowdsourced engineering and problem solving opportunities for pay.

These are just a few ideas. I would love to see discussion in the comments from the folks outside of Kokomo, what would you like to see and hear that would convice you that we are in fact alive? What will break through the barriers of understanding so that you hear us yelling "We are here, we are here, we are here...." ?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Is Twitter the perfect Maven Trap?

With 12 hours of solo driving to do over the previous 48 hours, I decided to re-listen to Malcom Gladwell's, The Tipping Point to pass time and see if anything new jumped out at me. If you are not familiar with it, The Tipping Point is one of those interesting thought starter books that you can listen to about once a year or so and it will blend with your additional experiences to create new synergies. It has been about 18 months since I listened to it last, so I was curious to see what would come popping out of my subconscious during the drive.

Sure enough, during the chapter on Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen, it seemed obvious that Twitter is an application that would attract all of these types of people, but especially Connectors and Mavens. Connectors are folks who like to meet new people, to "collect" contacts. Mavens are people with a passion for a topic and love to help other people. Mavens love to reach out and assist people, with no apparent benefit for themselves. If you have spent any time on Twitter, you have met people like this. @linnetwoods is one of my favorite connectors on Twitter, bringing together and introducing groups of people who would not have met each other without her intervention. Whoever started #followfriday is absolutely a connector and a salesman who encourages others to connect as well.

But Twitter is a congregating place for Mavens as well. This is the perfect space to find people asking for help and to be able to reach out to them. This fact is probably what led @yatpundit to complain about the hysteria that stormed when the Facebook TOS first changed a couple of weeks ago. With such a high concentration of Social Media Mavens on Twitter, you are bound to see a flurry of warnings and helpful hints when this sort of event occurs. But Tehnology Mavens are not the only ones hanging out on Twitter. I have seen helpful posts on topics ranging from coupon shopping to homebrewing. If I were a business looking to locate Mavens for my vertical, Twitter is one of the first places I would start to look.

Mr. Gladwell ends the book with the comment that he is not sure there is any sure fire way to locate Mavens, but I am beginning to be convinced that Twitter might very well get you 80% there. By starting with a twitter search to locate people talking about the topic you are interested in, then following this with some analysis on the posts of that subset to find the folks who are making helpful responses to the widest audience, you will end up with a list of the Mavens you are looking for. The perfect Maven trap.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Innovate or Adapt, but don't Bastardize

The naming of towns and cities is an interesting thing. It is a hard thing to be truly innovative when naming a place, so names get re-purposed frequently. Sometimes towns are named after the place people came from (New York, New Jersey, etc..), sometimes they are named for famous people ( Maryland), and sometimes people seem to borrow names of famous places ( Paris, Tx). I really do not have anything against not being original and re-purposing names in this way, but if you are going to borrow a name, you can NOT just re-pronounce and think you invented something new. The midwest is rife with this practice and it is a small quiet pet peeve of mine. I may be smiling happily when you welcome me to your town, but it really does send a small little voice in my brain just screaming down the hall waving his hands over his head. Let me give you a few examples.

Just north of us there is the small town of Peru, In. That would be Pea-Roo, In thank you. Nice to have you visit. How about the small town south west of us, Russiaville, IN. Nice to have you visit us here is Rooshya-ville, IN. This is not just an Indiana thing- just yesterday I had a chance to visit the small town of Vienna, OH. Vye-enna, OH is full of friendly people.

What are we thinking? This does not make us look innovative or creative, it just makes us look unintelligent. Is this strictly a midwest phenomenon, or does it happen near you as well? I would love to hear yout tails of bastardized place names.