Friday, June 27, 2008

What is your Boom De Yada?

Today's episode of the web comic XKCD was derived from a recent Discovery Channel commercial. This subsequently spawned a discussion on a separate web comic board where people wrote their own Boom De Yadas.

This is such a great video and it's showing amazing viral behavior, not to mention its tremendous earworm ability. I spent most of the day humming the silly song. I tried to not hum out loud, but I don't know that I was successful.

So, what's your Boom De Yada?

Propagation Plan

This could be a wet weekend, so I'll have to get started early in the morning to get the yard stuff done. First order of business is pruning and deadheading. I need to deadhead the roses and cut out the damaged canes. Next I'll cut back the 1st year canes on the blackberry and raspberry bushes. (And pick the blackberries.) Finally, I need to have another whack at deadheading the coreopsis. I've already got a gallon bag of seed again this year. I should get another equal amount by the end of the growing season. I really like that the plants keep blooming all summer. I already cut back most of the daisies but can finish cleaning up the front beds. Some of the spent glads need to be cut back as well.

The second accomplishment will be to take cuttings of the boxwood and maple. I may or may not try to root cuttings from one or more of the roses. Boxwood apparently will propagate well from a hardwood stem cutting while maple and rose propagate from softwood cuttings. The American Boxwood Society indicates now is the prime time for taking cuttings and that they could be planted outdoors next spring. I think I'll try to root four or six cuttings in a small pot. I'll cover the pot with a plastic bag to keep the humidity high. I'll try the same method with a few cuttings from the maple tree in the back corner too. I've also got maple seeds to stick straight in the ground or in a pot.

Finally, I have two creeping phlox in pots to set out. I should also divide the existing phlox monsters from the main flowerbed. They're getting a bit out of control. The smaller phlox in the big bed need to be moved. Right now they are completely obscured by the coreopsis and probably aren't doing as well as they might. Next year I might move the coreopsis further back from the edge of the bed and put the phlox back in the front as a border. I really wish I could get some yarrow to grow. I think it's a pretty plant. Although it's supposed to be a fairly easy plant to grow, I manage to kill it no matter what I do. I may try one more time next spring. I've got a sunny corner now that might suit it. Why I think this sunny corner will be different than the other sunny corners, I don't know. I guess it's the eternal optimism of the gardener in me.

Here is the current state of the jungle at the front of the house. The glads started blooming just over a week ago. The black-eyed Susan has been going at it for a couple of weeks. There were a few day lilies in there which were pretty well obscured by the elephant ears, the coreopsis and the glads. Apparently there is an amaryllis in there that survives the winter as well. I didn't know they bloomed in the spring when kept outdoors and I also didn't know they'd live outside. I should try to map out where things are planted in this bed and consider re-arranging it for better visual impact, but I never seem to quite get around to doing that. It looks pretty good as it is.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Recipes for the Week

From The Book of Outdoor Gardening by Smith and Hawken.

Potting Soil, version 1
1 part compost
1 part peat moss
1 part sand or perlite

Potting Soil, version 2
1 part vermiculite
1 part peat moss
1 part sand or perlite

Mix all ingredients together. Add 1 part water to 4 parts mix prior to planting. Otherwise it's hard to get the stuff evenly moist and the water likes to run off instead of soaking into the soil.

I'll be mixing some of this stuff up this weekend. I'm going to try rooting cuttings. I found my bottle of rooting hormone last weekend, so I'm already to go cut. I'll be layering my three outdoor ivy plants and pruning back the new blackberry canes too. It won't happen this weekend, but eventually I should de-grass the area under my fruit trees and cover that over with mulch. That would simplify my mowing and would probably be better for the trees too. I'm going to have to get really bored or really energetic to get that done. I'll focus on getting the weeds out of the veggie garden first, then worry about the errant grass in other locations.

Food Recipe of the Week:
This has been my lunch all week long and will probably continue to feed me over the weekend. This is a lot of food. I actually cooked the couscous by boiling the water in my tea kettle, then pouring the 3 cups boiling water over the couscous in a glass bowl. It worked just fine that way.

Autumn Couscous from the Vegetarian Express Lane Cookbook by Sarah Fritschner
2 medium sweet potatoes
2 tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (I used 6)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 green or red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
28 ounces canned diced tomatoes, with juice
16 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (or to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups couscous

Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. This should be around 4 cups. Heat oil in a deep, wide pot. add garlic, cumin, cinnamon, and sweet potatoes. Cook over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Add bell peppers, increase heat to medium-high, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Uncover and cook for 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Increase the heat to high; add tomatoes and juice. Bring to a boil and add chickpeas, red pepper, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, until sweet potatoes are tender.

Boil the water in a small pot with the salt. Add couscous, cover and remove from the heat. Set aside for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Spoon sweet potato sauce over the couscous and serve.

Serve 4-6 (large servings).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"Interesting" Developments

Once again, my horoscope says "interesting" things will be headed my way, especially this week. To be precise, "if you enjoy a lot of stress, life altering choices and decisions, and change, then this is the time for you," says Alan Grey Wolf. It should be pointed out that this particular sentence/prediction is directed at *everybody*, not just my particular sign. It's good to know that the Universe isn't focusing just on me. It's also good to note that it doesn't mention that the choices, decisions and change will be bad. I figure that means there's at least an even chance that it will all be spectacularly good.

This weekend I found drowned frogs in my pool two days running. Either their suicidal or they need swimming lessons. The evening frog chorus was quiet both nights. At first I thought the croakers were the ones that drowned. Now I think the other frogs were just quiet out of respect, as the chorus returned last night. My sister thought they might have been at the wake or funeral and it just wouldn't do to croak at either of those events. One of the croakers is now croaking from near the garden shed. Hopefully he will make friends with the snake, not make a snack, though at least I won't have to bury the body if snackage occurs.

Yesterday and today I discovered that multiple computer accounts assigned to me at work were mysteriously deleted at the end of last week. Today the question was posed if I was certain that I still worked at my office. In the face of impending layoffs and budget cuts, this isn't a terribly funny joke. I sincerely hope that this was all just a case of an overzealous sys admin with the wrong list of names. I am really not keen on the option of trying to find a new job while trying to keep my head above water financially on my savings. Add onto that the possibility of trying to sell my house in the current housing market and having to find somewhere to live and there is way more "interesting" in my life than I care to experience on a regular basis. Yet for all that, "boring" and "routine" still aren't terribly interesting to me.

So I wandered out to the garden for an evening of stress management. I've got dirt crammed under at least 9 fingernails, dirt ground into my pants and dirt in my socks. I'll probably have dirt boogers in the morning too, judging from how dusty the rest of me got during a 2 hour weeding session. I worked my way through less than a quarter of the garden area, but the weeding itself when surprisingly well. Apparently the nasty Bermuda grass isn't really re-established yet, just loosely rooted in the recently tilled soil. Although it looks really overgrown, it really isn't terribly hard to rip back out. Now there is a pile of weeds and grass in the yard at the side of the garden. Tomorrow I'll rake it up and put it in the burn pile. Yes, it would save the planet from additional greenhouse gases to compost the Bermuda grass, but Bermuda grass doesn't seem to ever die in a compost pile. It just starts growing again, even when the pile gets really hot. Burning seems to kill it quite nicely and then I'll put the ashes in the garden.

So far nearly everything has sprouted or is otherwise growing. There is one pepper plant that appears to be trying to die from the wilts. The lettuce isn't sprouting like I expected and the peas didn't come up at all. I expected the poor pea performance since the seed is several years old. The lettuce might just not like the heat. I'm not sure the basil has sprouted yet either. I may overseed that area with chives. Several tomato plants already have blossoms on them. I even picked a banana pepper yesterday. I also pulled up two garlic bulbs and promptly left them lying in the yard. They need to dry anyway.

I really will have to call the nursery about straw this week and perhaps some mulch for the irises, roses and trees. The apple tree is just covered with developing fruit. Its branches are bending heavily. The pear and peach tree have a lot of fruit too. I'm really looking forward to having a peach pie. And then there's the blackberry bush. I could easily get a gallon of blackberries this year. The thing is just *covered* with berries. Yummy!!!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Recycling!

I have found a possible solution to some of my clutter problems, namely the accumulation of various bits and pieces of computers. The National Cristina Foundation accepts donations of computers, peripherals and software. The equipment is then given to schools or other organizations for use train people with disabilities, students at risk and economically disadvantaged persons. So I can clean up my computer room, get a tax deduction *and* help close the digital divide. Hooray!

This may well turn out to be a productive weekend. I've ordered a new case fan for my gaming box (a CPU temp of 55 degrees C is not a good thing), painted the hallway bathroom and completely re-installed all the audiobook software for my MP3 player. I haven't been able to listen to audiobooks for a couple of weeks. This has been very difficult for me. I've really gotten to like audiobooks and listen to them quite a lot when I'm doing data entry, cleaning or weeding the garden. I've just downloaded the Friday Night Knitting Club. It's been highly recommended and I'll give it a listen shortly.

My to-do list is a bit up in the air at the moment. We had a big thunderstorm last night, so things are quite wet. I had intended to mow yard and trim the edges, weed the flower beds and the garden, plant my maple seeds, move a maple seedling to a better place and broadcast coreopsis seed. Now I'm rather limited to indoor activities, like touching up the paint in the living room and cleaning out unused items from my closets/storage areas. I may shampoo the carpet in my bedroom too. Speaking of shampooing things....I really should shampoo the upholstery of my car. It's never been cleaned properly, so it's definitely due, especially since I spilled coffee in it this week.

Well, back to being productive again! This is almost fun!

Monday, June 09, 2008

New Pet!

I mowed my lawn today and made an interesting discovery when I put my lawn mower back in the garden shed. I found a snake skin. A *big* snake skin.

The longest of the two "halves" is 3 feet long. I don't know what kind of snake it is, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I know why the moles are no longer living in my yard. (Who needs Whack-A-Mole, when you can have Snack-A-Mole!) In any event, I'll be extra careful when moving stuff around in the shed. I would hate for the snake and I to surprise each other.

Mowing Reduction Plan
As I have mentioned previously, I have a large yard. It takes about 90 minutes to mow it, plus another half hour with the weed whacker. I have decided that I need to reduce my mowing, partly to save fuel, because some of the yard isn't very grassy and because I think wildflowers are a better choice for aesthetic and water use reasons. Since I have a large supply of coreopsis seed from last summer, I think I will broadcast plant an area that is about 50 feet by 20 feet along the north wall. That will cover up an area that is fairly rocky and more weeds/violets than grass. It will take a couple of months to a year to grow in well, but I think it will look good once it gets established. And it ought to save me about 15 minutes mowing time, even more if I bring the edge of the flower area out to where the trees are.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Yay! I Saw the ISS!!

Not only did I see the International Space Station, it flew right OVER MY HOUSE! If they'd dropped something out the window, it would have landed on my head. Well, ok, so it would have burned up in the atmosphere and landed way to the east of here, following Newton's Laws, but you know what I mean. IT WENT RIGHT OVER MY HOUSE!!!!

I waved. :-)

Well, That Was Rather Anti-Climactic

There will be an even longer wait for the next Triple Crown winner. Big Brown didn't run well today. He got rated back hard at the start and again a few other times in the race when he wanted to make his move too early. When jockey Kent Desormeaux did ask Big Brown to run, he just didn't fire up. You could clearly see Kent ask him to open up and exactly nothing happened. No digging in. No putting his ears back and exploding as he has done in previous races. Nothing. In the end Mr. Desormeaux eased Big Brown up and just cantered across the finish line in last place. I agree with his decision. There's no sense in making a valuable horse run hard when he's probably going to finish last anyway.

On the other hand, watching Da'Tara run was great. He just rolled along after he settled on the rail. When horses came up next to him, he opened up a wee bit, then settled again. He was still running easily and in a relaxed manner when he crossed the wire. Is he a spectacular horse? I don't know. I don't know anything about him, actually. Today, however, he was the best horse in the Belmont Stakes. Congratulations to Nick Zito, Alan Garcia and Da'Tara's connections.

Garden Planted!
I avoided the library book sale today (I don't need more books) and picked up all my garden plants instead. I now have eggplant, cucumbers, canteloupe, watermelon, zucchini and 4 kinds of peppers planted. I also got all the seeds in the ground. This is all about a month later than I really wanted to plant things, but it's not too late to get some decent veggies anyway.

Unlike past years, I even marked where I planted things, instead of relying on memory. At my mom's suggestion, I used carpentry shims for markers. They worked pretty well. They're wide enough and long enough to write in big print with a Sharpie, even when I broke a few inches off a couple of them trying to pound them into the ground.

Now I just need to buy some straw and mulch from the greenhouse/nursery place down the road and I'll be all set. They're just a couple miles away and I bet they deliver. I wasn't going to bother with mulching the garden with straw, but it'll cut down on the watering and weeding I have to do, so I think it's definitely worth the work and expense. I had intended to get everything from Home Depot, but I think it'll be easier dealing with the folks down the road instead and there's something to be said for supporting local businesses.

Reading
I finished Duma Key by Stephen King last night. It was quite good. I slept with the light on for two nights, though one of them was because I fell asleep reading. It's been a long time since I thought Mr. King produced a well-written, creepy book. This one was the usual formula, but the details were quite unexpected, though that could be due to lack of recent exposure to either Mr. King's work or the horror genre. For starters, the setting was NOT in Maine. I did, at one point, think that Perse should date Pennywise. Perhaps that will be the next book.

I really am going to vacuum this weekend. No, really. The carpet is becoming more chunks of grass and leaves than carpet.

Friday, June 06, 2008

I Will Not Complain About Fixing My Toilet

I finally got everything fixed a weekend or two ago. I decided to go ahead and use the part that was theoretically too short. It works just fine now with no leaks, no running on and no other troubles. I ended up fixing it the night I got back from my trip North. You see, the water shut-off valve doesn't completely shut the water off. Water continued to ooze from the top of the water supply line while I was away and the toilet was disassembled. When I returned, there was a sizeable puddle in the bathroom, which caused some moments of panic since the water was pooling up against the baseboards and wall. (There appears to be no water damage.)

The whole reassembly process took about 10 minutes from start to finish, including cleaning up the flood. The quest for the right part took about 4 days and cost me about $10 total.

So, where does the "no complaining" come in? When I needed to get parts, I just had to drive seven miles to town to get them. If things went badly, a plumber was just a phone call away. I also have two bathrooms.

These guys? Their one and only broken toilet required parts to be shipped 217 vertical miles via space shuttle ($450 million per launch). Fortunately the shuttle was already scheduled to launch last week and there was room to put said toilet parts on board. The shuttle program even loaded up extra "consumables" so that the ISS crew could use the shuttle toilet until the ISS toilet could be fixed.

Wouldn't it have been awful if the toilet broke *after* the shuttle launched? Obviously, the parts would have been sent up via rocket, but that still takes time to plan, assemble and launch. I'm glad the timing worked out as well as it did. I'm also amused that this incident has caused adults and children alike to consider the potential difficulties of using a toilet in a micro-gravity environment.

On a Related Note:
You can find out when various spacecraft will be flying over your location at the Real-Time Data website. I'll be waving at the conjoined ISS-Shuttle tomorrow night. In July, I'll be at the Kennedy Space Center and am looking forward to having lunch with an astronaut. Now, if only I could get some Lucky Rocketship Underpants, all would be good.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Today's Overheard Conversation

I had to work really hard to not laugh at this one.

Speaker #1: "....well, first we found out that the new girl's husband is an atheist."
Speaker #2: "Oh, how awful! I'm sorry."
Speaker #1: "That's not the worst of it. They're vegetarian!"

It's saying a lot here in the Bible Belt that being vegetarian is worse than being atheist.

Monday, June 02, 2008

It's Official!

Every house on my block but mine now has a new roof. I'll have to call one of the roofing companies and ask for an estimate/damage assessment. I didn't think there had been much roof damage in the area after the February tornado, but apparently there has been. If the roofing guys can verify there is significant damage that needs to be repaired, I'll see what the insurance guys have to say. I don't want to replace a roof that is ok, but I also don't want to keep a roof that needs to be replaced.

Maximizing Motivation
I'm back on the heavy duty working out wagon. The past couple days of yard work have shown me that I'm in better shape than I used to be, but that I also could improve my fitness level. Until today, I had planned to work in the yard every evening until dark and then workout. Unfortunately this doesn't actually work. By the time it is dark, it's nearly 9pm and I'm tired. My new plan is to workout first and then go play outside. I can usually get my workout finished by 6:15, which leaves plenty of time to even mow the lawn afterward. Obviously it would be much simpler if I'd just get up early in the morning to workout, but I haven't managed to do that more than a dozen times in the past ten years.

Next on the motivation list is to keep making sensible food choices. I've been slowly improving my decision making in that regard. I'm still vegetarian, avoid fried/greasy food and eat out just 1-2 times a week. I feel much less sluggish and have more energy. My last batch of bloodwork was really good and I'd like to keep it that way. There's not much point in working out if I'm going to undermine it by eating poorly. With the farmer's market and my garden, I ought to have plenty of delicious fresh produce this summer. Until last week, I was even remembering to pack a lunch the night before. I need to get back into that habit. That is my food goal for this week. Tonight I made some teriyaki stir-fry veggies and packed it into two lunch-sized containers. One container, plus some fruit or a whole tomato will be lunch for tomorrow. I also have some cooked pasta and marinara sauce ready to go.

Creepiness and Unsettledness
A week or two ago, the movie Signs was on TV. This movie always unsettles me and causes the hair on the back of my neck to stand up. It's the half-seen glimpses of the creatures. The lurking of something bad just outside your field of vision. I haven't been able to watch the whole movie since I saw it in the theater. The only reason I saw it all the way through then was that I didn't go to the movie alone. I did, however, sleep with the light on for several nights.

Despite this movie having such an unsettling effect on me, I like to watch it or at least chunks of it. It's not just the humorous bits, like the foil hats, that appeals to me. It's the actual unsettling that I like--the feeling off balance and on edge. I feel more aware and alert. I guess it's the mental version of an adrenaline rush. It's the same reason I keep reading Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. I get the creepies, leave the light on and make sure my feet aren't sticking out from under the blankets, but it feels good somehow. Oddly enough, I never get nightmares after a creepy movie or creepy reading night.