Reworking the garden

So, this is the plan I made out for the new setup for the garden. I used this program. It was kind of a pain to use, since its all web based and kept freezing up randomly. However, its the best of its kind I’ve seen out there, so I made do. Its nice because if you add in where you planted all your plants, then it will tell you next year where not to plant the same thing. I haven’t gotten a chance to go in and add plants in since I’ve gotten my finalized seed list, but I will be doing that eventually. It will also send you reminders on when to plant out seeds, or start seeds for transplants based on your zone, so that’s pretty cool.

The area inside the “fencing” is in the backyard. The four boxes on the bottom are in the front yard. I just included them on there so I could put in what I planted. Pretty much all measurements are accurate, and I went through and staked out the garden according to the plan I made out.

Eventually all the staked out areas will be wooden beds like so:

However, I only have so much wood so far, and its about used up. My brother made up those boxes for me a couple weekends ago, and I finally had a chance to get them installed inbetween the rain today.

I’m using hay to mulch between the beds to keep down the weeds, as well as keep the soil moist. I am not going to have enough hay to do the whole garden tho, at least not with what I have now. I will be posting an ad on craigslist for more hay, trying to get some wood chips, and paying attention to the ads to see if I can get some more wood. I just love the look of the boxes, looks very tidy. I put up the string so I could tell where the beds and walkways would go, I needed some kind of visual marker.

In between working on the garden, while it was raining, I was productive inside as well. I made some DIY seed tape, these are carrots:

I will be doing more as time allows. Probably more carrots, some lettuce, and maybe some radishes, beets, and turnips. I’m not sure how well these will work out, but its an experiment I’m willing to try. I don’t have enough patience to plant these seeds one by one, as they are super tiny, and usually end up just scattering them out, then thinning. That’s not a bad way to do it, but I’d like to see if this is better.

All in all, I think its been a pretty productive day!


Clothes lines

I hang my clothes outside.

I haven’t used my dryer in close to a full year now. I have a line and a drying rack indoors that I hang my clothes up on when the weather is too bad outside for my wussy-ness. I hate the cold. This has been working out for me very well this winter.

Last year I had some issues during the winter with my clothes taking way too long to dry so my dad suggested that I use a fan to get the air moving a bit. That worked like a charm. We’ve had so few days this winter that have been too cold or rainy/snowy that I think I’ve only dried my clothes indoors just a handful of times. Mostly I have been paying attention to the weather and hanging them outside.

As you can see I have room for one more line:

There have been enough times that I’ve really needed more space that I think I am going to go ahead and get another one this year. I’m trying to decide between putting in another chain or one of the plastic coated metal lines. There are advantages to both.

I hang everything that would usually go on hangers up wet on their hangers then put those through the linkage on the chain. It takes up a whole lot less space that way and I have the advantage of not having an extra step. I can just take the clothes inside and hang them right in the closet, instead of having to take them off the line and hang them up.

I’m sure my neighbors think I’m weird being out there on these colder days hanging up my laundry. I’m sure they think that I don’t have a dryer. The truth is that I DO have a dryer, I just truly enjoy being outside hanging out the laundry. I even enjoy hanging it up inside, tho not as much as being outside. I’ve noticed a big difference on wear and tear on my clothes too. Especially the pieces that have some kind of elastic in them like underwear and bras. The heat from the dryer tends to ruin the elastic so they go all weird really fast. Hanging them up to dry I don’t have that same issue and they look brand new, even six months to a year after purchase.

I’ve been considering getting rid of my dryer completely. I would really love to put a sink in next to my washer, since its in my fish room, I could really use the water source! I probably won’t, at least not any time soon, but it is something I am considering.


Seed Starting

I started some eggplants and cabbage today.  I also tried a small flat of toilet paper roll seed starting pots of cabbage to see how it would work out. 


Fish auction!

Another spring fish auction has come and gone and I am absolutly wiped out.   I took many more bags then I usually do this time it looked like everyone else did too. 

We had over 720 items that we auctioned off…it took almost 7 hours.   Crazy times.   I worked the check in/out table this year and it was just non stop with items to be entered into the computer. 

The prices were not as high as the spring auction last year and there were some real deals to be had.  I picked up a co2 regulator for $24 dollars that I am super excited about.  I also got some spixi snails and a pearly occie.  I thought I had pearly occies….turns out they are black occies.  Oops. 

All in all a good time was had by all.  I am pretty sure I made enough money to pay for my pond expansion this year, which is all I was really going for.  It would be nice if the fish hobby paid for itself, or at least funded itself somewhat!  I am, however, glad there isn’t another auction till fall though, any sooner might kill me.  What a day. 

I am hoping today to get some eggplant seeds started.  I am also going to get some parsley seeds soaking to get them started out tomorrow.

It’s nice enough today that I have the windows open…which really, really makes me want to go plant something in the garden!  I have to keep telling myself that its too early.  If I plant out now then a killing frost will come along and wipe everything out just as it gets a good start. 

That’s how we roll here in zone 6a.


Seed starting

Wonder if I have enough pots? This is round 2. We planted out 18 flats yesterday of peppers and tomatoes but I forgot to take pictures. I also found a great big fat worm out in the garden yesterday when I was working on the pond!


Are You Writing Anonymously? Well, Maybe.

I’ve pondered running another blog with a more direct relation to my real name. This other blog would cover strictly professional / technical matters. Valuing privacy, not many bloggers write under real names. Over the years, I’ve written under many different pseudonyms on various forums and social media sites. Anyone seriously research me online would find this blog, but could they identify this blog from writing excerpts? How easily could someone associate my new technology blog to crazy political rants here?

There’s been some significant research on analyzing text to match writing patterns. The general idea is that every person has unique linguistic patterns and turns of phrase. Fin can pick out my writing (or her sisters) almost immediately.

At some point, I read about some researchers using compression to identify authors of text excerpts. Compression algorithms create new encoding schemes based on pattern recognition. In theory, we can recognize an author’s style by seeing which piece of writing results in the best compression. Does it work?

The idea seems too simple to work – at least with any meaningful accuracy. Still, finding it fascinating, I decided to run an experiment. Searching my google reader, I found 2 blogs covering similar topics to mine, and a third wildly different blog covering technical posts. Scouring these blogs, I worked at creating a text collection for each author. Excerpts were selected based on covering similar subject matter.

My ‘test’ subjects included a blog post written 3 years ago by myself, a work email sent roughly 3 weeks ago, and a collection of Google+ posts over the past few months. In addition, I grabbed 2 posts from the selected blogs. The work email and technical blog use extremely similar terminology throughout. In theory, the compression technique should fail in this case – picking up technology idioms instead of language usage.

To form a baseline, an unrelated text excerpt is added to each text collection. The collection is compressed using “Zip” and the final size recorded. After forming the baseline, I replace the additional text with each excerpt to identify.

Running the tests, I expected the results to be poor at a minimum. I’d purposefully selected difficult scenarios for the test, hoping to prod it into failure. In the end, all 5 tests resulted in a correct identification of the author. I’d suspected a few to hit on chance, but not a 100% positive identification rate. For those curious, my work email scored first with my personal blog here, and second with the technical blog.

The strongest match? Identifying the social media posts.

I’d guess that increasing the number of authors would decrease the positive ID rate. Still, we could improve that situation by adding to the baseline and test data sets. Obviously, a short test using a common sentence( eg: I’m hungry ) won’t work well. Conspiracy theory thought: isn’t social media providing an ever growing baseline data set?

The idea of social media building the strongest matches has interesting implications for this technique and author identification in general. While we write on social media with our real names, are we working against our interest in remaining anonymous elsewhere? In any security scenario, the weakest element tends to be the humans running the show. While we research technologies such as “Tor” for privacy and protection of political dissidents – the very published speech points right back at the author. Could a child’s grammar school paper condemn them as an adult?

In general, the take away here is that writing on social media, or blogs, or English papers can be used to identify people in other contexts. Could I write this post and publish it truly anonymously?

Not as much as I’d like to think.

— Fate

Planning out the Garden and Shovels

This weekend was a super busy weekend but a whole lot of stuff got done!

I broke what I thought was my last shovel on Friday trying to get that tree stump out of the ground, which sucks, because I have a whole lot more stuff to do with a shovel before the season even begins this year. We went to several estate sales yesterday trying to find a new shovel with absolutely NO luck. Isn’t it usually the case that every time you’re not looking for something that they are all over the place but as soon as you go looking for it there is none to be found? That was the case with shovels yesterday. The only one we found was a really crappy short handled one and I really wanted a long handled shovel. I did end up getting a couple new large sized tomato cages tho, and when we opened the trunk of the car to stick the cages in there we found a shovel! Go figure. It must have been in my car when I hit the deer and gotten stuck in Fates car without me realizing it. Unfortunately it was a short handled one, which wasn’t what I wanted.

We went to Ace Hardware on the way home thinking to maybe pick up a new handle so I could replace the handle that I broke. Man, those things are expensive! They wanted like $15 for a new one. I started looking at the shovels on the wall and saw a all steel one for $29, with a lifetime warranty! Considering I’ve broken about 5 shovels or more in the last 3 years I figured the lifetime warranty was the way to go. I ended up getting this Fiskars long handled shovel. The wider base for stepping on and the life time warranty were the major attractions for me. Its a bit heavier then the other shovels I have used but I guess that works out well in the goal of I have of building more muscle! I haven’t had a chance to use it yet, but will be sure to post a review when I do.

Today was spent sorting out our massive seed order. 172 different varieties! I think we might be a bit insane. We have 4 different places we are planting. My parents house, my brothers girlfriends friends farm (in three different places), my brothers house, and my house. Seeing the amount of seeds we have I am having trouble believing that we have ENOUGH seeds. Then the other part of me wonders where in the hell we are going to even put everything. Its crazy.

We started a google document that listed out all the starting times for getting things started indoors, transplanting, and direct seeding for both the spring and fall time. I am super excited to get everything going. We should be starting out the first of our seeds here very soon as our last expected frost date is April 15th. I’m really wondering how that is going to go this year since we don’t seem to have had a winter around here. Knowing this area tho, even tho the winter has been super mild, I can see our last frost happening the end of May. A freak June snow storm isn’t out of the question either.

My brother took a bunch of the salvaged wood I brought home and made out quite a few of the boxes for the garden for me. I’m happy about that as it will save me a ton of work. There are quite a few to go, but he made a whole lot of progress on them today. I will be concentrating on getting those into the garden this week along with getting the rest of the hugelkulture beds in the front yard dug out and filled up. I have the wood now to get those going, and the new shovel to get them dug out! I need to get that little tree moved and then I am in business.

Things are really coming along around here!


The War On Masculinity – Part I

This post comes after Fin encouraged me to write it here – mostly, I think, because she was curious to read it. In formulating my ideas, I’ve discovered there is too much for a single post. This will be a running series and theme. For a while, I’ve termed myself as a “male feminist” – strongly believing that women should be afforded equal rights to men in society. When I talk about the war on the masculine – I’m not directly talking about the “Battle of the Sexes”.

I’m still looking for good terms and definitions that are not overly loaded on all this. When getting out on my own and developing an internal code of conduct, I’ve struggled constantly with how to be a man. The church defined things very narrowly and leaving left a gaping void in my personal philosophy. On some deep level, I wasn’t comfortable with the church’s definitions of gender rolls. Mostly, I found myself repulsed by “the good wife” described by the church. Fin, in a lot of ways, is the polar opposite. As I worked at growing personal, and especially after developing my relationship with Fin, I began noticing an odd trend. “Men” are under attack. Now, I don’t men as in male. I say “men” as a people – male or female – at the moment expressing a masculine quality. In this case, the English language is somewhat lacking in expressing ideas.

In explaining difficult abstract concepts, sometimes mythology helps.

Photo Credit
Meet “The Green Man”. He exists in many different religious traditions and provides a base-type for multiple fictional characters and myths. He’s generally portrayed as grown from vegetation, or made with stone. Much of Robin Hood’s image and mythology points toward the Green Man symbol. I pick the green man as being a very specific symbol of masculinity without too much extreme baggage. Many religious traditions use the masculine in their figures such as Jesus in Christianity, the Horned God in Wicca, or Hercules in Greco Roman mythology.

Looking at the Green Man and related figures, we find a general set of values represented by the Masculine – strength, courage, ingenuity, sexual prowess, independence, protection, and sacrifice. While termed “masculine”, there is nothing male specific here. Indeed, on rare occasions the green man could be depicted as female. The importance of the myth is a reminder of masculine values in ourselves.

While some would say feminism has done a lot to “push-back” masculine values, I would disagree. To understand why, let’s start with how I see masculinity being attacked:

  1. Preventing children from expressing masculine energies when they are inclined to do so. Young children need healthy outlets for masculine energies – including competition and physical activity. EVERY child (boy and girl) should be doing something they enjoy that at some point will cause them physical and/or mental pain. Another way of putting this: kids should be kids.
  2. An insistence that everyone be constantly “in touch” with their emotions. Dr. Phil is probably the worst offender here. A stoic countenance requires extreme emotional control – not a lack of depth.
  3. The idea that all problems can be solved without use of force, or that the use of force to solve a problem is a failure.
  4. Forcing men to act feminine, and not accepting women acting masculine. There are naturally feminine men. There are naturally masculine women. This has nothing to do with gender identity or sexual orientation.
  5. A generalized view of the “intellectual” as superior to the “laborer”. I say laborer for lack of better term. I’m speaking of the skilled trades here – electricians, farmers, janitors – as opposed to the banker or software engineer. There’s definitely intellectual aspects to wood working and so on. I must admit, I’d find it more difficult to speak for the physical aspects of software programming…
  6. A lack of respect for the warrior. We “support our troops”, right? We support them yes, but we don’t give them anywhere near the respect they deserve. This is really somewhat contained in the previous item, but it’s important enough it needs added again.
  7. A pervasive sense of entitlement. I don’t think our perception here matches the reality, this cuts a lot of ways and across all demographics – from “trust fund kids” to the stereotypical abusers of social programs.
  8. A constant desire for safety, and freedom from pain or consequences. This beyond anything else, is perhaps the most damaging to masculinity.

As an aside, these are societal pressures against masculinity. There’s been various mentions in news sources and documentaries about environmental impacts as well. Our growing mastery of chemistry exposes bodies to a whole range of newly created concoctions. Why are young girls entering puberty earlier? Do these environmental impacts also hurt male development? I have a feeling they do, but without knowing the exact causes, there’s no telling. This aspect is interesting, but I’m not going to go too much into depth here.

In parting my list of the current attacks on masculinity, only a few are directly associated with “female” centric values. The observant might note that several items on the prior list are rooted in feminine values not being expressed. In these cases, a furtherance of feminism would help restore masculinity.

I hesitate to name a single “enemy” collecting troops to fight, but at least two weapons are clear: fear and wealth. Combined, these weapons have driven us to drive away the Green Man, pushing him back into the forest as a lowly creature worthy of no respect or honor, and removing all but a dim shadow of his vitality.

I think there’s a lot of questions I’ve introduced here: Are the above attacks on masculinity valid, important, or real? What exactly is causing them? Is there anything to be done? I hope I’ve at least introduced a new viewpoint for anyone reading. Phrased simply, this viewpoint is – Masculinity is under attack and Feminism has little to do with it.

— Fate