Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Signs of Spring

Rhododendron in bloom
Late in the Winter, we get crocus and daffodils, which bring us some hope for the season change. But it is not until a little further in, when things really begin to green and early flowers bloom that I can say that Spring has settled in well.

 First the Rhododendron out front will bloom. It happens suddenly and almost always catches me by surprise, the buds turning overnight into full blown flowers. Unfortunately, even though it is in a sheltered area, this one is usually short lived, as it blooms right at the start of the spring storms and the delicate flowers are beaten and shredded by the winds and rain.

 Not long after that, the Phlox pop open.  Low to the ground, their color spreads up the hill garden where they grow.

When the Violets kick in, growing not only in the large garden masses where they were planted, but also popping up in random spots in the yard, I can be confident that we have turned the seasonal corner. Rarely will we get snow on top of violets. When we finally get a break in the rain again, I will be busily out gathering violets to be dried- for tea, for bath salts and a precious few to be sugared as cake decorations. 

Ostrich Ferns
 The unfurling of fern fiddleheads parallels the the unfolding of the season. We have always had a few ferns scattered about ( mostly at Cthulhu's feet), but planting a mass of Ostrich Ferns two falls ago has given us a new show to watch in the spring.
 And then there is the most classic sign of spring of all- the Dandelion, with a sleepy slow bee perched a top, slowly gathering up the first nectar of the season.

 Although I will be luxuriating in the lushness of the gardens in another 2 months, there is so much growth and activity that it is hard to take it all in. One of the joys of spring is that it is like a quiet morning, allowing you to focus on a few stories and follow them completely.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Earlier in the season, we were waiting for Seedocide, but it is looking like it will not happen, after all.  For the majority of the tomato seedlings, we have made it past the cotyledon stage  and well into "real" leaves.  For plants, this is even more significant than when baby teeth are lost and adult teeth grow in.

Over the weekend, I took the growing and leggy tomato seedlings and planted them deep. The seedlings had hit about 4 inches tall and were waving in the breeze, desperately rooted in the little spouting pellets of soil.

I collected random small containers about 6 inches tall and transplanted the seedlings ( pellets and all) so that all but the upper leaves are snug in some transplant soil. Tomatoes will gladly sprout roots from any part of their stem buried underground. This will give the plants an even stronger start.

Now all I need is for the rain to stop, so I can get them out in some real sun again.

Monday, April 25, 2011

She's a Super Geek

I recently had a good friend get on a roll with spoofed song lyrics.. and out of it came this one for me.

Super Geek ( to the tune of Super Freak)

She's a very techie girl
The kind that always stays connected
She will never let your spirits down
Once you get her off the net, ow girl

She likes the boys on the blog
She says that I'm her all-time favorite
When I make my move to her chat it's the right time
She's never hard to please, ow now

That girl is pretty wild now
The girl's a super geek
The kind of girl you read about
In Tech Crunch magazine
That girl is always techie
The girl's a super geek
I really love to tweet her
Just before we meet
She's on-line, she's on-line
That girl's on-line with me, yeah

She's a super geek, super geek
She's super-geeky, yow
(everybody sing)
Super geek, super geek

She's a very Facebook girl
(The kind of girl you want to poke)
From her wall down to her profile
Down to her faves, yeah
And she'll wait for me at Best Buy with her girlfriends
In a lime Hum-vee
(Going back in Cyber-space)

Games not a bore to her, she says
"Room 256, I'll be waiting"
When I get there she's got Ti-vo, Wii, and X box
It's such a geeky scene

That girl is really techie
The girl's a super geek
The kind of girl you read about
In Tech Crunch magazine
That girl is pretty wild now
The girl's a super geek
I really love to tweet her
Just before we meet
She's on-line, she's on-line
That girl's on-line with me, yeah

She's a super geek, super geek
She's super-geeky, yow
Rick Astley sing!
Super geek, super geek
That girl's a super geek

She's a very techie girl
The kind that always stays connected
She will never let your spirits down
Once you get her off the net

Blow, Sergey!
(sax solo)

  ---- mp

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Asparagus:Preparing for years of harvest

I finally got around to adding Asparagus to our perennial collection. Since all of our kids love asparagus, this will become a spring and early summer staple. We eat enough of it that I invested in 2 year old plants, so that we can do a light harvest this year and get a full harvest next year, rather than waiting two or three years. The savings at the Farmer's Market/grocery will more than offset the extra cost.

Asparagus comes as rhizomes with a crown..  we got three varieties, Jersey Knight, Supreme Jersey Knight ( for large stalks for grilling) and a Purple Asparagus ( supposed to be sweet enough to eat raw..)  The hardest part of planting asparagus is digging the trench.  It needs to  be 12-18 inches deep.  I put one variety here, close to the house, so it is easy for dinner harvest. The other two varieties got planted yesterday in a 30' trench at the edge of the far east vegetable garden. We just agreed to  turn this into a permanent bed and lose 2 feet of garden. It was  much easier to dig than this trench, which was in un-tilled clay ground. This will also save us from augmenting the soil with lots of organic matter as we will have to do with this bed.
The rhizomes are planted crown up, and rhizomes spread in the bottom of the trench and covered with 2 inches of soil. As it sprouts, we will fill in the trench until there is a slightly hilled asparagus bed.

Plants are spaced between 8-18 inches apart, according to variety instructions.

Fingers crossed and a little sun mixed in with this rain, and soon enough we will have green sprouts shooting up through the ground.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Entrepreneur Apprenticeships- How do you Grow Entrepreneurs?

Scott Adams published an article earlier this month in the Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition on the value of college for an entrepreneur, and it made me immediately reflect back to Cameron Herold's TED Talk on raising kids as entrepreneurs.

The crucial point that both of them raise is that you have the best shot at becoming a better entrepreneur by doing , trying, ( and even failing).  When you are personally motivated ( either for cash- or for Free Beer, as Scott was at The Coffee house, or just by reputation), you try things that might have seemed daunting before or take risks that might have been too much effort.  This is in many ways like the apprenticeships of old, where you work side by side with someone with more experience, but have real responsibilities in the business and learn by doing, not by listening to lectures.

While highly motivated parents and students seek out opportunities to grow entrepreneurial skills, I would love to  see more colleges and universities add apprenticeship type opportunities to the curriculum ( much like an engineering co-op) so that we raise more highly skilled entrepreneurs and fewer lawyers.

How do you as parents nurture entrepreneurial skills in your kids? How do you grow them personally?


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Puddles of Hope

It's that rainy time of year that makes gardeners nervous and hopeful all at once. After a few days of rain, this is not what you want to see in your potato trenches.

And yet, we push forward. I have to admit, today I mostly planted flowers and not the asparagus and horseradish waiting in the wings. In the muck, it seemed the perfect time to plant toad lilies and wood poppies at Cthulhu's feet.

The Toad Lilies love the wetness and hopefully will soon be sprouting gorgeous spotted bursts of color. Until then, I planted a new Lilac bush where the TikiMan used to be, and filled in strawberries where we lost a few over the winter.

There is something intrinsically hopeful in the act of gardening, We put scraggly little seedlings, dormant rhizomes, or tiny little seeds into the dirt with unwavering faith that even in the absence of visible life, soon enough growth is certain.

And even in the midst of puddles that seem like they must drown everything in hopelessness, we look closely and there we find the green sprouts of hope.

New potato sprout

Monday, April 18, 2011

Peculiar Preztelmen- the cure for Mondays

Over the weekend, I got turned on to The Peculiar Pretzelmen by Ms.Pat Kight. My life has not been the same since.

Their music is an amazing and complex blend of old fashioned gritty jazz/blues, chaos and the experimental joy of making music with everything around you. The rhythms are infectious, make me want to move and even their darkest topics made me smile.

Close your eyes and you are transported back to dustbowls, a hard scrabble life and simple pleasures and joys. The gravel in the lead singer's voice makes him somehow more grounded and real- someone you expect to look up and see banging on a banjo on your front porch.

With a philosophy of renovating, recreating and restoring old instruments, they fit well in the Maker ethos, bringing a modern beat and exploration of sound to life on musical history itself.

If a song like "Wash the Ground" does not turn around your Monday, nothing can. A slow start of melodic rhythms that eases into gravelly vocals backed by instruments that sing the harmonies, this song had my toes tapping, then my legs bouncing, then me up out of my chair and dancing inn the office. So come on down.... time to get infected by the Peculiar Pretzelmen.

If streaming music is more your thing, you can also find them on, myspace, or check out the Pandora Station I created. If you fall in love with them, check them out on CD Baby and help support some great music.

I have not had the privilege of seeing them live, but will be watching their tour listings for something close by. Do you have Peculiar Pretzelmen stories to share?

edit note: updated to correct the amazing person who originally turned me to the Peculiar Side-- I apologize for the confusion. Mary Mactavish still has an awesome blog ya'll should check out if you love geography.

An Art and Technology Cocktail

What happens when you mix together Artists, Engineers and Scientists? A recent course at Purdue undertook this experiment and produced results that can be seen in the show "Images of Nature" which opened last Friday night and runs through April 29.

With installations as varied as dance routines with motion tracking that explore the effects of prosthetics and disabilities on movement, to a Greenhouse constructed of recycled windows, there is something in the show for everyone.

One of the interesting things about this show is that the blog from the class is public, so you can get insight into the influences and progress of the projects during conception and construction.
If you are in the Lafayette area over lunch or right before dinner in the next 10 days, be sure to stop by the Frontier building at 7th and Main and see what mixing together technology and art can produce. It is a result both sweet and intoxicating.

For more information on the class, see the overview video.  For more of the sights and sounds, you can click through on the slideshow to see my photo album.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Food Prices Rise, thus my garden grows

Pea Plants Sprouting- Aptil 15, 2011
Gardening is good for the soul. It is meditative, relaxes and helps restore us to balance.

It also feeds my family.  In the summer, we have a minimum of 6 mouths to feed (I am always glad to have friends and family over at meal time, so our table size often grows beyond immediate family).

Ours are no longer little tots who barely count as a mouth. The youngest is 11, the eldest is 19 and almost all of them now out-eat me on a regular basis.

Putting fresh vegetables and fruits on the table in the needed quantities could quickly become daunting- and not just in the summer. We often have the majority of the family here on weekends, holidays and other school breaks during the rest of the year. We always have at least a few of us here.  And now, food prices are on the rise.  It really doesn't matter if it is energy, weather and unrest; rising fuel prices, or just people playing the futures and gambling some people's starvation against their profits- it is hitting all of us. Food prices in February had the highest jump in 36 years, and there is no end in sight. It is not just processed foods or finished, packaged goods that are rising- even staples are going up in cost. The continued rises are expected to push more and more people into poverty and into starvation or malnutrition. I was even interviewed by the Christian Science Montior about rising food costs earlier this winter.

What bothers me the most about all of these articles is that they document the rise of costs and the increases in problems, but I do not see any recommendations to people on how to cope. All they do is raise fear and hopelessness.  It is time that we in the US return to our roots, so to speak, and tackle this the old fashioned way- start planting and growing some of your own food.  Give me an excuse why you can not, and I can counter it.  Plants are expensive? Seeds are cheap. And for many plants- like these sprouting tomatoes, the packet holds many more seeds than any one family needs- share with friends and family. A packet of tomato seeds holds on average 30 seeds. If you want 5 plants just to supplement in the summer and fall months, that is 6 families worth of tomato plants for about $2.  When you go to the grocery and tomatoes are 3-5$/lb, the savings seems obvious.  Don't have time to start seedlings? You buy the seeds and let someone else start them    in exchange for some of the plants.  Have the time and money? Sprout extra plants and give away the extras to someone who has neither.

Container Grown Lettuce Sprouting
Space is always cited as an issues- but there are a myriad of vegetables and herbs you can grown in containers, on balconies and rooftops. And many cities and towns have community gardens that you probably already have access to. Now is the time to claim your spot. This early lettuce will never leave the container, it will provide a first crop of lettuce before the ground is warm enough to sustain.

There are a million reasons to grow food- even if you pick just one thing to grow. Besides taking the pressure off of food demands, you know where the food  has been and what it was exposed to. You will taste flavors and textures you can never get in a grocery store. Given the opportunity to pull dinner from the ground and help prepare it, you will be surprised the foods your kids will eat.  At a minimum, if you are not physically able to grow your own food, stop by your local Farmer's Market this weekend- almost all of them are now open - a simple google search will turn up local opportunities you might not have known existed.

Early Sprouts of Spinach
It is time to combat the fear of food prices with a few simple tools- some seeds, some dirt, some water and some sun.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Roku Support Hell??!!

I love Roku. I have been a purchaser, gifter, recommender. You might call me an unpaid evangelist for the danged things. And now, I am more than a bit embarrassed by them. 

I have had a Roku for years.  We loved it so much, two Christmases ago, we gave one to my parents. Last Christmas, I gave one to my sister. Last fall we retired the original Roku to the downstairs TV and picked up a new XDS to go with the HD TV we finally got around to buying. 

I know of at least a  handful of Rokus that other people have purchased, because I told them how amazing and wonderful it is. 

The year I bought one for my parents, there were floods in California and shipping was delayed and lost and the one i ordered was never going to make it in time for the holiday. I called their support line and they worked with me to make sure that a box arrived at my parents house in time, even special overnight shipping it. 

So much can change in 18 months.

One of the people who bought one on my recommendation is a friend. They bought theirs on Dec 1, 2010. The remote died in March. ( ??!!). They have been fighting with customer support ever since to try to get a replacement. 

First they sent an email and got this response: 

From: ROKU Technical Support <>
Date: Sun, Mar 27, 2011 at 4:44 PM
Subject: Roku has updated support CaseID #665373

Please note that the below has been entered:

Thank you for contacting Roku Customer Service. My Name is Karthick and I will be helping you with your query. 
From your e-mail I understand that your Roku remote is defective and it might need a replacement.
The best way to handle your request is with a quick phone call to our call center.
Roku does not process RMA or return requests by email.  
Roku Customer Support can be reached at 888-600-7658 (Roku) Monday to Saturday, 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM PST.  
A knowledgeable Roku support agent will gladly provide assistance..
Thank you for providing us with an opportunity to assist you and thank you for choosing Roku.
Best Regards,
Roku Customer Service

But when they called that number, they told them phone support only lasts for 90 days and they could not help him on the phone line, they should be using either email or chat help.  ( crossed roadsigns anyone??)

The case finally got entered, a remote was supposedly  ordered, so recently,  during a 10 minute break,  my friend decided to hop onto Roku support chat and check the status, see if the remote had been shipped yet:

Notice the  4.5 minutes of silence from Roku once my friend confirmed it was the correct case, then Roku comes back and asks if there is anything else-- as if "John" had helped in the first place. The only thing I can figure is that the chat agents are juggling so many windows at once that "John" lost track of who he had helped and who he had not. This is completely unacceptable as a way to run customer service. 

My Friend is at his wit's end and is honestly ready to  give away the Roku once the remote comes and it is functional again ( you can not use it at all without a remote).

I am just embarrassed to have recommended this product so strongly, and am rethinking.  Maybe it is time to get a Boxee Box and check them out seriously.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

'Bama Said

Mama Said has been a hit for lots  of recording stars over the years from The Shirelles and the Chiffons to Dionne Bromfield and Amy Winehouse. Last night, a version of the song popped nearly whole into my head and I just know it could be a hit for me... If only I could sing....

'Bama said there'll be days like this, 
There'll be days like this 'Bama said 
('Bama said, 'Bama said) 
'Bama said there'll be days like this, 
There'll be days like this O'Bama said 
('Bama said, 'Bama said) 
I went walking the other day, 
Everything was going fine, 
I met a little boy named Muammar
And then I almost lost my mind 
'Bama said there'll be days like this, 
There'll be days like this 'Bama said 
('Bama said, 'Bama said) 
'Bama said there'll be days like this, 
There'll be days like this O'Bama said 
My eyes are wide open 
But all that I can see is, 
Fine new jobs  are callin for everyone but-a me 
but I don't worry cause 
'Bama said there'll be days like this, 
There'll be days like this 'Bama said 
('Bama said, 'Bama said) 
'Bama said there'll be days like this, 
There'll be days like this O'Bama said 
And then he said healthcare will come to me 
to ease my aches and woes one day, 
then I might find 
I don't want it any old way, 
so I don't worry cause 
'Bama said there'll be days like this, 
There'll be days like this 'Bama said 
('Bama said, 'Bama said) 
'Bama said there'll be days like this, 
There'll be days like this my 'Bama said 
'Bama said, 'Bama said 
Hey! Don't you worry, 
'Bama said 'Bama said 
Hey! Don't you worry now. 
'Bama said 'Bama said, 
Hey! Hey!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Twitter: Do Businesses really "get" it?

An article in today's Indianapolis Business Journal  features the faces behind 6 local successful Indianapolis business Twitter  accounts. and an explanation of their strategy.  Although the advice is good, I found it striking that only one of the 6 is an actual retail business ( West Coast Tacos), one is a retail service business ( AAA) and all the others are some sort of service that would already have a loyal following ( Pacers, ButlerU, Indianapolis Symphony, IU Health).   They did give the well known example of  the Brewhouse franchise, but the lack of other consumer brick and mortar businesses makes me wonder if the local businesses "get" Twitter yet.
It is a relatively easy leap for non-profits and educational facilities to move to the conversation of Twitter where they can engage existing supporters and followers.Having a history of being dependent on donations means that they are already used to a deeper level of engagement with supporters to succeed. With a follower count of just over 2700, I have to wonder what percentage of those followers are new growth for the Indianapolis Symphony and how many are previous supporters who merely extended their interest to Twitter as well.  Yes, if you do Twitter badly, you will lose followers, so maintaining them shows that @indy_symphony is doing good things- but what in their strategy shows consumer facing businesses used to a "flyer advertising" mentality how to switch and be successful on Twitter?
I think interesting things are starting to happen on Twitter here in the Midwest, but there is still a lot of room for growth, and a need for people to give support, education and information. Anyone know of other really successful Midwest Businesses on Twitter who might provide role models for other businesses just getting started?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Garden ReHab

Last fall I got sick, and the fencerow perennial garden didn't just go wild, it got overrun by crabgrass and weeds. You can see the results this spring. It was not only horrendously ugly- it is pain in the making all summer long when that crabgrass wakes up and starts to sprout and grow. With the ground soft from recent rains and the crabgrass not yet growing , today was the day to tackle this.  The fence is about 50ft long and there is garden on both sides. In addition to over wintered crabgrass with months of roots, there was also the monster weed that infested and overgrew everything.,
I decided to tackle this with a trowel, some clippers and a large shovel. I used the shovel in between the clumps of perennials, turning over every bit of the garden, pulling up roots and destroying the invaders. Closer around the perennials, I used the trowel to get close but not tear up the barely sprouting new growth.  After 5 hours of work, the results have made me very happy and will be much easier to weed going forward. The garden does need a load of mulch still, but the uncovered perennials ( bachelor button, echinacea, black eyed susan, gay feather, bergamot, daisy and tiger lillies are what are starting to sprout at this point) have lots of room to get water and sun- and much less competition.  Stay tuned later in the season when the garden is in full bloom and the butterflies flock from miles away.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Mighty Hammer Clangs

Although I am  excited for the release of Thor, I  am lucky to be able to hear the ring of hammers around here when my eldest stepson is home. The latest project will be his first homemade Axe head. At current time, I can still hear the hammer going outside and they have been going for about 2.5 hours.  That might sound like a crazy long time, but it is a great bonding experience for father and son, There is also the benefit of a  learned skill and a cool piece of metal work as a bonus.  Around here, it brings an instant smile when I can spend a spring evening watching and knowing they are having a great time staring into the fires of the forge.

A Little Blacksmithing action:

Friday, April 8, 2011

The meaning of maturity

That whole "using a crucible to burn to truth" and "from hardship comes wisdom" thing? Sometimes it works.

Through some recent rocky roads, I have had reason to try to clarify some frequently used but slippery definitions.

The difference between adult and child is fairly easy- it is either a legal or biological one. You can choose which one to use, depending on the appropriate circumstances. While it sucks to have more than one definition, they are not very slippery ones.

Then comes the challenge of mature versus immature. This has nothing to do with age or biological function. Certainly we have all encountered the very mature child or the immature adult. This morning, in a moment of clarity, the difference crystallized.

Someone who is immature receives input/feedback/critique from others, assumes it must be true, even if it conflicts with their experience and reacts to it emotionally.
Someone who is mature receives input/feedback/critique from others, self- reflects on it, agrees or disagrees with the input and decides what action to take ( or not).

For example-

An immature child who wears hand me down clothes to school has someone tell him that he looks like a goofball. He assumes their statement is true and reacts emotionally ( hurt, sad, angry) and his actions are then driven by those emotions.

The mature child in the same circumstances self reflects on the comment. They might disagree and move on, or they might agree. If they agree, they might reflect back to the critic that they might look like a goofball, but those are the only clothes they have. Or they might reflect and decide that putting the plain shirt with the striped pants was a mistake and choose different clothes the next day. In each case, their action was chosen and was the result of self reflection, not an immediate emotional response.

The potato saga cotinues

Here in Indiana, it is Potato Planting time. This is our third year of a growing potato addiction. The first year it started with a walk through Rural King , and we happened to pass by the bins of seed potatoes.

"We should grow some potatoes this year..." , was quickly followed by picking through seed potatoes and filling a  sack or two with small seed potatoes that could easily be put into the ground.  We broke new ground for that garden, made some mounds, planted the potatoes and let them grow.
 Our yield was relatively low that year, but honestly not bad for someone who had never grown potatoes ( how is it I grew even peanuts as a child, but not potatoes??). We hand pulled small ones during the late summer and our harvest took us until Dec 1. It was satisfying, the potatoes were delicious and we were hooked.  Over the winter, I read more on raising potatoes and was more prepared the next spring.   

When the gardening catalogs started coming in, I poured over all the potential types of potatoes.  I was excited to try something other than the red, yellow and russet that were available in the grocery stores and locally.  I had learned that we needed to grow the potato mounds as the plants grew to increase yield.  We dug, planted and watched them sprout and grow.  We fell in love with Kennebecs, before I found out they were the new darling potato in upscale restaurants. ( no surprise why, the flavor is gorgeous, they cook well and have a beautiful  creamy color). We love the taste of the Purple Blush, the lightly purple skin always revealing amazingly sweet pure white potato flesh. Unfortunately, their yield is lower, so they were a cherished treat.  Last year we learned lessons about overcrowding plants and flooding. However, we started eating potatoes hand picked from the garden in June and did not buy another potato until March. We had improved.

This year, I am starting to feel like an expert. I had set aside a few of our favorite potatoes (Kennebec, Red, Purple Blush, Yukon Gold and a handful of russets I got from my father in law) , so there is no expense of seed potatoes.    Last year, I learned how to cut and ash the sprouting potatoes so we were not dependent on many small seed potatoes and a few potatoes yields many new potato plants. Rolling the freshly cut potatoes in ash ( I clean out the fireplace- you can also clean out a grill) helps to protect the potatoes from insects and infection both as they sit and scab over and after you plant them in the ground. 

After cutting, you let the potatoes sit for at least 2 days, allowing the cut edges to "scab over" and making them less vulnerable to infection.  I plant in cycles. By planting new potatoes every few weeks ( and then again some at the end of June), I stagger the harvest and protect against a random weather event that trashes a crop ( lesson learned from massive flooding of huge first crop last year).  Since I am going to plant multiple times, when it is time to plant, I choose the potato starts that are most sprouted and have the smallest remaining old potato to continue nourishing them.  Potatoes that have accidentally been let to oversprout have to be planted ASAP and handled very carefully.

First, we dig trenches about a shovel head deep. Yesterday I did six 10 foot rows. The rows are put in about 2 feet apart. Potato plants grow pretty big and bushy and this year I am being careful not to overcrowd.  I then use a hand trowel to dig down  a few inches in the bottom of the trench and place a potato start in the hole.  How deep I make it and how much dirt I put over it depends on the impending weather. When we are due for several days of rain ( like now) right after planting- a good healthy time to plant, btw- I plant a little shallower, because the rain is going to erode some of the dirt off  of the hills and down into the trenches, burying the potato deeper.  When I plant in a dry spell, I make sure the potato has about 6 inches of dirt over it.
As the potato plants sprout up, we will gradually continue filling in the trenches and burying more and more stem of the plant. It is from these buried stems that the potatoes will sprout and grow. When the ground is level again, we start digging in between the rows, piling the dirt up around the potato in mounds, until the potatoes are eventually growing on mounds with trenches in between.  This helps to increase the potential yield from each crop.

I have what look to be many extra small yellow and russet potato sprouts, and perhaps even some reds. If you are local and want one or two to experiment with growing potatoes in your garden, give me a holler and we will addict you too.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Purdue Regional- FIRST Robotics

We have several family friends who are involved in FIRST robotics- either as students, parents or coaches. When the Purdue Regional was held a couple of weeks ago, it was close enough that it was the perfect opportunity to go by and catch a little of the action.

This year's competition involved the FIRST robots being able to pick up and place giant inflated shapes onto target pegs on a wall. The program is an awesome one, with students actively involved in designing, building and maintaining the robots throughout the competitions.

The teams are given the challenge in January, then have exactly six weeks to design a solution, build and program the robot and get it in a box and shipped off to FIRST central. The teams do not see their robot again until the competitions. there is a large pit area at the competitions ( which generally run Thurs-Sat) where the teams can fine tune or repair their robots between matches.

By the time of the finals, only a few teams are still competing, but all the teams stay to watch. The stands are filled with high spirited groups overflowing with team spirit, choosing sides- Blue or Red as groups of three teams are brought together to compete against each other.

If you have a FIRST event near you, or you get the chance to hop over to St Louis for the National Competition in early May, this is a great Geek Family Outing.

Click through to see the complete set of pictures shot at the event.
FIRST Robotics                            

Video of the Final Championship Match:

Monday, April 4, 2011

Garden Starts

Finally... it dried out enough to till and start working the garden. I am exceptionally lucky to have a man in my life who likes to till. There is nothing other than a newborn that has as much lurking potential as a freshly tilled garden.

Today I cut and ashed the sprouting potatoes I managed to save back. The only time that did not get sprouted are red, so I will need to grab some red seed potatoes tomorrow. For the rest ( purple, yellow and Kennebec) I have over 100 potential plant starts. I am a little low on the Kennebecs, and we fell in love with those last year, so I may grab a few more of those when I get the reds. I only have a dozen of the purples, but they produced badly and were very insect prone, so we are mostly keeping those as novelties and to eat as they grow in the summer. they need to sit in brown bags on the gardening work bench for about 48 hours before planting.

I was planning on planting first round of peas, snow peas and spinach early this am, but late last night realized that they were calling for a couple of days of rain... which meant not only missing the raining days, but also the following days it took the garden to dry out again... so I bolted outside last night at 9:30pm and planted a row of each ahead of the rain. That will allow me to put a second round in the garden in about 10 days to stagger harvests, rather than just getting the first round in then.

Knock wood, the tomato seedlings are still growing, but the peppers have not sprouted much at all. I rearranged them under the grow lights and put some under a plastic "greenhouse" lid on the porch to see if additional light helps.

I love the feeling of dirt between my toes and soil on my hands. This is the time of year that awakens my hibernating soul and makes me smile for no apparent reason.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A rock and a hard place...

I just did something I swore I never would... I just googled to see if Verizon FIOS is available locally. Luckily, it is not, so I was saved from that conflicted decision.

Long ago, we were very happy with the internet we got from our local cable company. Then they were consumed by Comcast. Shortly after that Comcast started agressively throttling our bandwidth.

We do not do P2P or illegal file sharing. However, there are two IT professionals in the household who often work from the home office and upload and download large files. Comcast did not like that. I wrote about it three years ago when it was happening. Comcast even replied, but could not unthrottle me. It was unliveable. We switched to ATT/Uverse just a little over 3 years ago.

We have been happy with the service. So much so that I have evangelized it locally and convinced many others to change over. Then came the bandwidth cap decision, which has me concerned and is unresolved.

Add to concerns of much higher charges, in the last week Uverse performance has SUCKED. I will be on the phone with them tomorrow, but this is crazy. We will be watching something On Demand or DVR and it will cut out. We either get a "temporarily unavailable" error message or none at all, but booted out to the main menu "Press OK to watch Uverse".

This is NOT cheap service. we have a nice package and the fastest Internet connectivity available. That does not seem to matter any more.

I am feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place and it is cold and uncomfortable, with something sharp poking me in the ribs.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Peek inside the 3DS world.

I am slowly collecting pictures of what some of the in-game experiences are like. these are 2D pictures of a 3D experience, so do not translate as well as you would like, but they do show some of the potential, especially with the 3D AR, which we have been enjoying very much. Click on the picture to be taken to the Picassa Album.

I am taking my 3DS with me in my pocket today when we go to the Science Olympiad Award Ceremonies. I figure if I do not have any StreetPass moments amongst hundreds of middle and high school geeks, it is hopeless for me for a while.

I will let you know tomorrow how that experiment goes.

now-- back to my Real 3D world and a little Saturday morning chores....