the fort knox of berries

Is it really Thursday already? That’s awesome. Work this week has been up and down, but mostly by virtue of my masochistic slack/work/slack/work cycle – which is self-inflicted, so a guy can’t really complain. But, I’m glad it’s Thursday – because that’s almost Friday and we actually don’t have that much booked this weekend, only one mandatory engagement… and that means a lot of time to mow the lawn and whatnot. Moving on.

The other day, I noticed that I had two red-red strawberries on the vine, both large and nearly ripe. What’s more, the birds hadn’t got to them yet – they were pristine. I tried my best to tuck them under a particularly leafy part of the plant to try and hide them from keen avian eyes – but those bastards must be able to smell the perfectly ripened fruit or something. When I got home, a bird had yanked and tugged the berry as close to my mesh coverings as possible, and had pecked a large hole in the thing.

Frustrated, I yanked the ripe fruit off and took it inside. I carefully cut around the bird-eaten bits, washed it – and enjoyed the very first edible item from my very first garden. And it was good, sweet and yummy. Now, with the sweetness of my toils still fresh in my mouth, my anger at the berry-thieving birds was running high. So, I went gathered together some material and set to work. Fifteen or so minutes later, I had this built:

An impenetrable strawberry fortress, the Fort Knox of berries. Extending a full eight inches above the berry bushes, and enclosing them all the way to the dirt, I’m hoping this will finally stop my pesky winged enemies. I’ll report back here if my “surge” strategy pays off.


sea of white

The Arcade Fire show Saturday night in Berkeley was just awesome. The bad was on-point, the sound was crisp and the mix was perfect. It was a sea of elated white people bouncing around and clapping and singing along to the Fire’s hooky hooks. I was entirely surprised that the band was able to maintain the energy levels they had when we saw them the 1st time in that little 200-person club. Sure, it’s harder to communicate that kind of energy to an audience of ~8,000 – but they had everyone on their feet by the end. Check out some video of them doing an oldie-but-goodie over here at YouTube.

I didn’t post Sunday night because I spent most of the evening working to backup all the files and databases on my server. That’s right folks, I did it: I signed up for a new hosting provider in an attempt to escape the sinking ship that is my current host. I made the call around 11pm Sunday night, mostly out of frustration, but also after sitting down and writing the following in a text file because I couldn’t access my blog. The background:

Over the past week my uptime has simply disintegrated to abysmal levels. Now, the downtime which used to be a fairly rare exception has unfortunately become the norm, and, more often than not, I can’t even get onto my own pages. Sunday night I spent a good chunk of time trying to gauge what effort would be involved in actually pulling up stakes and moving all my pages to a new host. The outlook was grim: moving all my database-reliant pages (the blog, the galleries, my personal server-stored bookmarking app) is going to be a bear, and there’s a real risk things won’t come over perfectly and will have to be rebuilt from the ground up. The whole migration process is iffy, and the prospect was almost enough to make me keep trying to get StartLogic to help me out – but I’ve just had such poor luck.

But, in the end, I the effort seemed worth it – and I bit the bullet. The switch will hopefully be transparent to you, dear reader. The only noticeable change should be the site speeding up and not crapping out all the time. I hope for things to be up and running and swapped to the new host by the end of the week. We’ll see. Just bear with us here at sounds familiar for a week or so, OK? Thanks.

Hey, wanna see some pictures of my garden? OK. From top to bottom: 1) I put up a mini-scarecrow to keep the dang birds from my strawberries, 2) It seems to be working, but one of the berry plants has aphids, 3) Flush with ripening tomatoes.

And finally, a web roundup of other pictures from our Memorial Day weekend spent camping (welcome to the digital age, folks, where everyone who you go camping with has digital cameras and websites): Bill & Susie post some pictures, and so does Megan. I particularly enjoyed the series near the bottom of of Keaton in the dog-cage while Jake pokes her with a stick.

Other than that, I don’t have much to write.

Hopefully my stupid webpage was up long enough to let me post this, and likewise let you read it. Stupid webpage.


sated, buzzed, and sweaty

A three-day weekend spent communing with nature. Three days with dirty feet and dusty skin, greasy hair and smelly clothes; three days spent sated, buzzed, and sweaty.

I had a great time… lounging in the sun, swimming in the river, drinking around the fire, and taking a couple small hikes (4mi and 3mi, respectively) as a family. Keaton enjoyed herself too, and was a great little camper. We arrived midday Friday and broke camp bright and early Monday morning, bellies full of that camping staple – breakfast burrito ala Coleman stove. We were home by 10am, car unpacked and cooler emptied by 11. The rest of the afternoon consisted of trawling for new holiday weekend leaks (some good stuff too, the new Architecture in Helsinki, the new Polyphonic Spree, and the new Paul McCartney), and an afternoon nap. All in all I came away better for it, my only injuries being somewhat sore legs from our short hikes and some painful little nicks on my fingers from trying to open a Newcastle with a rock.

The first harvest of my first foray into gardening is nigh. This weekend, I counted a whopping fifty-nine green tomatoes (several different varieties), at least a few of which are big enough that I figure they’ll be reddening up soon. My corn stalks are all averaging about 2ft-3ft tall and look healthy, and I would’ve had a nice handful of strawberries by now had the dang birds not carried every stinking one away just before they were pickin’-ripe. Of all the things I planted, only the peppers have fared poorly. They’re growing, but they’re just slow… still tiny and seemingly stalled out as seedlings – some have been completely destroyed by some sort of pest, chewed through at the base. I’ve decided I’m going to dig up their squares and plant pre-grown peppers instead – I’m cheating.

I’m seriously considering changing webhosts, StartLogic’s performance has been on a steady decline for about a year now – and I’m wondering if they’re just overburdened and can’t keep up with the business. If I do switch, there’ll likely be a spotty transition period while the domains transfer and I attempt to setup all my major subpages again (a little worried about having to restore my blog and gallery…). Anyway, I sent this note to my current host today:

Subject: Database-reliant pages continue to be EXTREMELY slow

Hi there,

This is the 3rd time I’ve mailed about slow performance on all my database-reliant pages, but the load-times continue to get worse. Lately, I get timeout errors more often than not – making my pages nearly unusable.
Is there some concrete answer you can give me about this? At your suggestion, I’ve done many things to try and alleviate the slowdown:

  • Reviewed all my code for efficiency in database calls
  • Randomized database calls from a pool of all available users
  • Removed any high-load code

If I can’t get some increased performance, or if the answer is “upgrade to a higher-price plan,” I’ll be honest and say I’ll likely defect to a more reliable host.

Hope you can help me out – thanks.

We’ll see what happens. Sorry for the geek-talk.

I think that’s enough for tonight. I did upload a bunch of new Keaton pictures from our weekend outing – but I’ve not put them in a public gallery yet as I want to wait for some images from other cameras that were on-the-scene to get ’em all in one batch. Goodnight folks.

i crush your heart

Hey, long-dark-hair girl, I know you were here. I found some of you on my carpet today, while I was down there playing with my daughter. I don’t know what you’re trying to do, leaving pieces of you around like that. Maybe you think you can tempt me away from my idyllic family-man lifestyle, perhaps into some fiery tryst with you. You may have visions of my face, framed in your lilting dark tresses, lips locked to yours. Yes, long-dark-hair girl, you may think that your devious body-part scavenger hunt has tantalized me, aroused my curiosity. But, I’m sorry to say, I’m pretty firmly rooted here where I am. I already have a girl, she has blonde hair (at least, to the eyes). So, let me be clear when I say: Your siren song may lead weaker men to dash themselves against your supple shoals, but not I. While I must admit, the brute in me wondered of you – what used to be hooked to the end of your hair: the shape of it, the feel, the smell. A well-placed gambit, I’ll allow, but I’m immovable. I crush your heart. Live with it.

Hey peoples, it’s the blog intro, one paragraph into the blog (because I can do that). It’s Thursday night, coming up on a Friday that happened faaast. The week, feeling somewhat abbreviated by the trip to Oregon, seems to be ending so soon. Today was warm, and I swear I’m not kidding when I say that all those piping hot gamma rays and that UV whatsitcalled made my fledgling garden double in size. Every night when I get home from work I go out there, Keaton on my shoulders, to inspect the day’s progress. I slowly show her each plant, naming it and pointing to it, then tell her what food we’ll eventually get from it. “This is a tomato plant,” I say, “it gives us ketchup and spaghetti sauce.” Sometimes we touch the tomato leaves and smell our fingers, the pungent smell seems to interest her.

Yeah, Keaton and I, we love that garden. It’s too bad though, that so do the ants. That’s right, I knew when I cleared the space for my planter that I had hit “ant city.” I didn’t really think much of it at the time, although it was easily the biggest congregation of the critters I’ve seen since moving out of fireant-infested Florida. I did my best to wash them away as I was installing the box, but it seems they’ve rebuilt and are now located somewhere in the depths of the earth directly below my garden. This is bad, for numerous reasons. Number one, they are already damaging plants. They’ve chewed up the fresh bean leaves. Number two, the internet says the tunnels and catacombs that are the ants’ houses below my plants can damage roots and whatnot. I gotta kill some ants, y’all! The internet says some pure clove oil mixed into a sprayer will get ’em for good without having to resort to harsh pesticides. So, to the local apothecary I’ll go. These ants must not jeopardize our harvest!

For about two days now, I’ve been listening to nothing but Yes’s Close to the Edge. An album which, until two weeks ago, I’d never heard in my life. I love it when I find albums like this; those which escaped my original rampage of discovery back in the day. Sometimes I get a little shocked, actually. How could such an incredibly radical album have flown under my radar for so long? I mean, I didn’t even really know the story of the album’s role as the cornerstone of the prog-rock movement – I was completely in the dark. It hurts a music snob’s pride, you know, to come upon albums like this. But, it also makes me glad to have found it. I tell you what, this album is amazing… even if you’re no fan of “prog,” you gotta give it up.

Anybody listening?


getting out of a rut

Let’s clear the air here first, before we do the standard blog fare: For about two weeks now, I’ve been pretty disappointed with the blog. I haven’t been able to put the right amount of time and effort into it, and it’s shown with multiple-day dry spells and bad entries. I know exactly why too – I’ve just been doing too much of everything else: hanging out with friends, yardwork, playing with the baby, reading – just to name a few. I don’t think this is a bad thing at all, but I would like to get back into some more meaningful writing (not because I feel guilty but because I actually enjoy it). So, I’m hoping to get out of the rut here soon – maybe you’ll decide to see me through it, sit with me through the doldrums and wait for the other end of the tunnel?

Hey, before you read more – go check out the big ol’ backlog of pictures I uploaded to Keaton’s gallery, you won’t regret it (she’s cute as crap!).

Sitting at the gate awaiting my flight from Shanghai back to the US. There is a brilliantly beautiful girl sitting not far from me, traveling with her family. She looks to be part Western and part Eastern, apparently the best bits of each. I’m pretty much in love with her right now. Seems she’ll be flying to San Francisco as well, so perhaps between napping, reading, watching some TV, and stealing an occasional glance of her – I’ll have an enjoyable ten hour flight. And now, much to your amazement and sure-thing applause, I bring you the next sentence from some fifteen-hours later: Sitting in San Francisco waiting for that last puddle-jumper home. The brilliantly beautiful girl is also going home, it seems, and her home is the same as my home. Although, I must admit the long flight has dulled her edges just a bit – but I must look even worse than my fresh-and-clean best too, so I’d say the mutual chances of a clandestine hookup have at least gone down proportionally. It’s OK, though, because I’m about to be home with my wife and daughter – and I’m ready ready ready…

Ahhh… the relaxation that can only come from being on one’s own couch, a full weekend ahead of him, having just returned from China (yes, it’s a rare form of relaxation indeed). Keaton’s here too, just dad and baby – while mom man’s some event up at church (she’s become quite Mrs. Involved lately with all manner of “mom’s group” doings, which I think is wonderful – and probably appeals to that sense of responsibility she cultivated and then had to leave when she started, then departed from, her teaching job). All this means dad’s got Keaton for the morning, up until her afternoon nap. After that, I plan to try and get my garden planted (providing the clouds break). I’ll get what I can as living transplants up at the Home Depot, and if I can’t find the exact breed of what I want there I’ll do seeds over the ‘net and start that way.

Speaking of my garden, the folks in Shanghai were quite astounded when I told them that I was trying my hand at the trade. Seems their notion of American suburban backyards doesn’t include gardens (wonder why) – and my desire to “farm” had them somewhat befuddled. I liked it, added to my Western sense of mystery, I’m like a storybook figure: A rich American engineering manager with two cars who can have limitless babies if he desires and grows vegetables in his backyard. All I need is a blue ox and a loom that spins gold and I’d be a timeless legend. Now I have the added pressure of a few Chinese coworkers imagining my bounty of homegrown vegetables to deal with as I tool my crop to success though – if it’s a complete bust now I’ll be letting an entire nation down.

Anyway, Keaton and I are sitting around watching the sun try to break through the morning clouds. We’re listening to the astounding-sounding MFSL version of Yes’ calssic 1972 album Fragile, which I just put on my iPod this morning after discovering, after getting a sudden and strong yen to rock out to it during my flight home, that, much to my horror, it was not already thereon. (Man, I re-worded that sentence like four times before I decided I’d placed all the comma’d-off portions correctly. If you do that “it has to make sense without the comma’d parts rule” it should read: “…after discovering that it was not already thereon,” sounds right to me). Anyway, the omission made me realize that my Yes collection is somewhat lacking, so I ran out and picked up both 1971’s The Yes Album, and 1972’s Close to the Edge, which are both sounding mighty fine to me right now.

Oh, I’ve been wanting to write about all the things Keaton can now do – more for my own recordkeeping than bragging, although a mite of bragging ain’t never hurt no one that I heard of. Anyway, Keaton can now say the following things: “bye-bye,” “hi,” “dog,” “ball,” “hat,” “night-night,” “wow,” “mom,” “dad,” “bread,” and most recently, “no.” She can correctly point to the following body parts when asked: eyes, ear, belly, feet, nose, and tongue. As of tonight, she’s taken eight consecutive steps while standing, so on the road to walking. She can make a roaring sound when you ask, “What does a lion say?” Sharaun thinks she’s a genius because of all of this, I just think she’s regular.

Just finished my taxes. I had put in Keaton’s SSN yet because I couldn’t find the card. Found it, put it in, and saw my Fed refund go from like less than $200 to just over a grand. I thought that was hardcore awesome. Goodnight.

green thumb

Alone on a Saturday night, nursing a headache again – but this time I think it’s from spending most of the afternoon in the sun. I worked outside today, and it was an excellent break for me. Got me digging and sweating and realizing how out of shape I am. I was putting together a little planter box to grow veggies in, something I’ve wanted to try for a long time. I have a notoriously not-green thumb, most things I plant seem to wither or just never take root – so I did quite a bit of research before starting out. A few of our friends have had some success with raised-bed type vegetable gardens, so I decided to go down that route.

After a few hours surfing gardening sites, message boards, and newgroups – I decided I would ally my garden wholly with Mel Bartholomew’s “Square Foot Gardening” method. I followed the instructions to a tee, down to the exact soil mix and suggested crop layouts. It’s gonna be tight in my little 3’x10′ spot, and packing it in like SFG recommends goes against my instincts just a little, but what have I got to lose? Anyway, taking care of veggies should give me something neato to do outside on summer evenings after work, so I’m looking forward to it.

For the curious, here’s a picture of what my planter turned out like (click for larger version):

And, for the even more curious, here’s a snapshot of my tentative close-quarters crop layout, which I pretty much bit off another SFGer on the forums.

I’m supposed to leave for Shanghai this Friday, but haven’t yet bought my ticket. Monday looks booked, not sure I’ll be able to make the time. Can you tell I’m stalling in hopes of having to push-out my trip? I just don’t want to go, and to be perfectly honest, while there’s certainly plenty of work I can do there, there’s no real need for me to go that particular week. I’m not sure I’ll be able to put it off, I’ve already applied for a rush visa and sent off my passport, and my boss kinda expects me to go. I’m usually pretty good about getting these “feelings” though, and this time I just feel like, come this Friday, I may not be going anywhere.

Man I love the image that I chose for this post, I’d hang that thing on my wall… it’s that awesome.