vaporized by a hadron-shooting reverse-vampire spawned from a magnetic monopole

Happy Monday folks.  Was a great weekend.  Keaton had a good time with Grammy and Grandpa in town, she got into full “show off” mode.  We barbecued, enjoyed some beer, and got some great weather.

For today, I’ve got a pretty random entry, ranging a bunch of pretty unrelated topics.  It happens sometimes on Mondays, it’s the prime day for blogging leftovers.  So, I’m gonna slap a bunch of paragraphs on a paper plate, punch in two minutes on the microwave, and pour you a glass of icewater or Pepsi or whatever.  Here goes.

Our neighborhood Fourth of July get-together was fantastic, like a huge hunk of fresh-from-the-oven Americana; with kids on bikes giving impromptu “parades,” lame-style California fireworks set atop folding ladders in the street, even down to the nametags, handshakes, and cakes decorated like American Flags.  We got to meet a ton of our neighbors and Keaton even ended up with a couple “she’s so cute” hand-me-down toys from some of the older girls.  We also put toghether an e-mail list for the block, something I thought was another stroke of genius.  Ahh, community… it’s kinda nice.

Changing subjecte drastically, I want to talk about the Large Hadron Collider for a minute.  Now, before I start, I fully realize you may have never heard of the “Large Hadron Collider,” not to mention knowing what the heck “Hadron” might be.  And, I’ll also let it go if you accidentally misread that as “Large Hard-On Collider,” it happens.  Anyway, it is “Hadron,” and all you have to know is that it’s got something-or-other to do with physics.  See, the LHC (as I’ll cooly call it from hence forward) is the world’s biggest particle accelerator, a device which physics boffins use to smash different kinds of subatomic particles together at super-high speeds.  They do this so they can observe what happens afterward, like new particles or other phenomenon created by the collisions.  To physics nerds, all of this is incredibly exciting.

There is, however, a significant amount of fear mongering and doubt on the internet about the LHC.  See, the machine has just finished being built, and is set to be fired up for the first time any day now.  This has a certain set of folks quite concerned.  These people are afraid that the experiments performed at the LHC may create awful things that could possibly destroy the entire planet.  Terribly scary-sounding things like “micro black holes,” vacuum bubbles,” “magnetic monopoles,” and “strangelets.”  Whatever those are, they sound pretty intimidating, and can, apparently, destroy the Earth.  And, even though the official safety study was incredibly comprehensive and found no cause for concern, it’s still kind of interesting to think of the unintended effects the massive machine may have.  Heck, I’ve even written about a similar scenario before.

OK, I know that probably wasn’t intersting, but I’ve been wanting to write about the Large Hadron Collider now for a couple months, and just decided I’d go ahead and do it.  If you’re interested in when keeping track of how much time you have before you’re vaporized by a hadron-shooting reverse-vampire spawned from a magnetic monopole, you can check this website.

Now then, let’s move on to something equally as off-topic.

I found this site online today and loved it. I mean, regardless of how “real” it is – what a fun escapist fantasy concept. I’ve talked before about how I have this lingering desire to “drop out’ and start/join a cooperative community, and seasteading is like that with an added layer of cool. Yeah, it’s perhaps a tad more isolated than a small community of like-minded individuals taking to an agrarian lifestyle up “in the hills” somewhere (trying to avoid Branch Davidian “compound” esque imagery here), but wouldn’t it be cool to give up modern life and go live on a huge self-sustaining bio-barge in the middle of the sea for a year? Yeah, sure you’d probably get some sort of cabin-fever, end up hating or killing or sleeping with everyone in your little water-locked society… but, y’know.

Told you it was random.  Goodnight.

wheating, or wheated, or whatever

Monday night. Two glasses of wine into the evening alone, and fresh off a late burst of cleaning to recline sweaty on the couch and tackle a blog for the day. Think I have it? I do. Let’s go.

Just last week, my frustrations with the state of my little postage-stamp of Northern California real estate had reached a pinnacle, and I was ready to pay hired labor to get things in order. On my list: fix the fence, do some landscaping to a small patch of front-yard land which has lain barren and weed-ridden for four years now, and re-plant the slope above our retaining wall in the backyard. I had become so fed up with it all that I actually began making phone calls and leaving voicemails requesting free estimates.

The Lord, however, deigned that this was not to be the road He’d have me take. No, instead, the work I reluctantly began on Saturday fixing the fence was meant to invigorate me anew, to stoke the coals within me and make me remember that, when somewhat motivated, my own hands work just as well as a paid laborers (albeit more slowly and less confidently). . The relative ease of the task has inspired me, and I’m once again motivated to do some work on my own behalf – starting with that landscaping in the front sideyeard. Time to order up some dirt and rocks (I still refuse to believe I actually pay for dirt and rocks) and get started. Maybe my house won’t be referred to be neighbors as “that blight on the corner” anymore… well, maybe.

Oh, I’ve been meaning to mention – my wheat finally started wheating, or wheated, or whatever. Yup. While I’d still be hesitant calling the experiment a smash success, at least I’ve got seedheads on a few stalks now. Seems they really did need the slightly warming weather and extra sun (which makes me wonder if I really did get “winter wheat” seed or not). But, with the thirty or so individual grains I should be able to harvest before I have to clear the soil for Spring planting, I figure I can make one heck of an oyster cracker or something. Maybe one really thin Wheat Thin? Eh, like I said when I started the whole thing, I can still just mill the seed I bought to plant in the first place – and I likely will do that as the base for this Spring’s attempt at a sourdough starter. It did make me happy though, that the thing wasn’t a complete failure (pretty close, but there’s still time for more seed to show I suppose).

Before I go, I wanted to pass along this awesome photo-essay (NSFW) I found linked from Fazed. Be warned, it’s very not safe for work – but I found it extremely… hard to stop looking at. As one commenter put it, “compelling and disturbing.” I know it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I seriously found it brilliant, beautiful, and sad, in a I-am-human kinda way. Maybe bookmark and save for when you’re on your own internet dime… if you dare.

Chugga-chugga-ch-ch!! Goodnight!

a nice way to start the day

As the doors of the elevator slid closed this morning at work, entombing me momentarily with four strangers, I had a head-snapping moment: I got a waft of the large blob of a woman who had taken position next to me.

Globular and short, she appeared to be experiencing much higher G-forces than the other passengers and I, for she seemed to be smooshed down into herself, her neck all but disappeared and her legs compressed to stubs. As I pondered the dimensional aberration she must have unwittingly stepped into, wondering just how much more gravity weighted her down inside that anomalous hole in the astrophysical norms of the universe, her scent brutalized my nose.

Now, here, I’m sure you’re expecting me to make a crack on this poor woman’s odor as somehow related to her size – not so, though, dear readers. The scent that tickled my nose was not objectionable in the least. In fact, she stank ripe and sweet of some familiar perfume – the perfume of a girl I used to think I was in love with. It was such an olfactory revelation to smell that scent again, a tug on the lapels from times past, flooding thoughts of the present with old memories instead. So powerful is that tie in my psyche that I actually had to take another look at the woman beside me. Nope; still large and largely unattractive; bummer. And anyway, the lumbering cables hoisted us to where we were going and we parted ways.

Was a nice way to start the day.


Today we traveled.

After two hours of delay in California, including a repaired hydraulic line, boarding and a taxi out, finding out the repair introduced air in the line and trashed the pump, and a taxi back in to move everyone to a new plane, we’re finally in the air and on our way to Oregon. Keaton held up well considering the long wait and lack of nap, her spirits buoyed by an ad-hoc dinner of chicken nuggets and a lot of walking around in the terminal. She’s restless now in the empty seat between Sharaun and I, but at least she’s behaving. At this point, I just want to be there (Keaton and Sharaun too, I’m sure.)

Back in California, the warm sunny weather is making me shamefully aware of the sad state of my yard. Winter weeds, fed by constant rains, have completely overrun my planter strips and any other patch of bare ground capable of sprouting seed. My grass is coming out of its cold weather hibernation and brownly awaits some Spring fertilizer, and my downed fence is still ghetto-propped with 2x4s. Plus, that the 10′ x 10′ patch in my front yard that’s gone unplanted since I had to drive machinery over it while building our retaining wall is really starting to get to me. I’ve decided, then, that I’m going to spend some money and fix it all. Gotta get things in shape for summer… Beer. Beef. Summer.

Goodnight from the North friends, think of me tomorrow in your sunshine as I’ll be mired in the rainy gray of Oregon.

Master Lieabout von Housebound, Esq.

A few times today and once last night I heard thunder; even saw lightning. I enjoy hearing it; it reminds me of the rainstorms we’d get most summer afternoons back in Florida. Back now from Hawaii, I settled right back into my pre-trip alter-ego, Master Lieabout von Housebound, Esq.. Today was spent reading, listening to music, wrestling with Keaton, and monitoring a few choice IRC channels. I know, I know… you (nor I) haven’t used IRC since, like, highschool, or something… but I have decent reasons (all legit and legally kosher, mind you). Anyway, Sharaun’s at the gym now and Keaton and I are dancing around to In Rainbows (I didn’t get to jam to it much in Hawaii and was getting the shakes). We like our alone-time, it’s good for our relationship and stuff.

If you’ll cast your memories back with me for a moment, you’ll perhaps recall that, before leaving for a week in the Pacific Islands, I had torn down my summer tomatoes and sown in a goodly sized crop of “winter” wheat – all part of some idea I got in my head about wanting to “understand” the real “cost” of a piece of bread. While I was away, modern suburban scheduled irrigation dutifully watered my crop for me – and, while drinking coconut-infused cocktails astride the pool in Maui, I often wondered if there’d be any noticeable growth upon my return. I hoped for growth, of course, results from untended efforts are some of my absolute favorite results, but I was careful not to get my hopes up. When we had finally pulled into the driveway, fetched the luggage and baby, and were walking towards the front door, however, I made sure to get on my tippytoes for a second so I could peer over that little dip in our fence where the gardenbox is visible. I was ecstatic the view greeting me home:

Not bad. Now we’ll see if it’ll make it to seed.

Moving on, I feel I would be remiss were I not to note the fact that today is All Hallows Eve Eve. If you’ve been following my blog here at sounds familiar for any length of time, you know I’m an absolute nut for Halloween – have been since I was a kid. Every year since we bought our house, I’ve constructed and displayed elaborate props for the occasion, and we’ve thrown an annual bash for the past four years. Originally I figured, with Halloween falling during my sabbatical this year, that I’d have even more time to repair the brokenness of last year and maybe even make some super fantastic new props. But, the way things landed: our week in Hawaii right up against my favorite of all holidays, the run-down state of the existing props, and me being worried about repeat thievery with a yardful of props and no one home – I just decided to blow the whole thing off. It sucks, and I’ve had three neighbors ask me what’s up… but I vow to be back next year with a vengeance. It just doesn’t feel like Halloween without all the preparation and work, I’m a beaten man.



Well, back from Oktoberfest and seemed to have picked up a small bug in the process. I started feeling iffy on the plane back, my head getting congested and just feeling altogether drained. Saturday I was OK, friends came over and we watched football all day, but sometime over Saturday night into Sunday I awoke with a fever and felt worse. Sunday I spent the entire day wasting away on the couch nursing a fever and seeming only to sleep and sweat. Sunday was the peak though, it seems, as yesterday the fever was gone – leaving only the fatigue and that I-was-sick “weak” feeling in its place. This morning, Tuesday, I feel nearly 100% – and so I figured it was a good time to step back into the blogging circle. Lucky us. Let’s do it then.

Anyway, I’m currently starting off the beginning of the first of two chunks of much-looked-forward-to sabbatical “home time.” With a mere month left in my extended time away from work, I’m happy to say that nearly all of that time is un-booked, un-reserved, un-planned. If you can’t tell, I’m quite happy about that. This morning I got up around 7:30am, readied for the day, and was in the living room with all the blinds pulled open and morning sunlight streaming through the windows while XM’s “Deep Tracks” station served up classic nuggets from the likes of Santana and Stones. Yesterday I lounged around to classic rock and read hour upon hour upon hour, finishing some 300 pages of my current tome to lilting guitar and frenetic percussion. I’ve got the house open for the breeze, and a pot of coffee brewed. I could, and quite possibly will, do this all day.

Well, that’s a bit of a fib, as I do have “plans” for some of my time today:

#1: Figure out how to “mill” (or “grind,” as most would say) some percentage of the winter wheat seeds I bought into flour. I plan to turn some portion into flour now, plant some, and save some. I know it may seem silly to make flour from the purchased seeds, as it pretty much seems to bypass the whole grow-wheat-to-make-flour thing, but I want to go ahead and try to have a sourdough “starter” ready and active by the time I (hopefully) get my grown wheat to seed and eventually milled into flour itself. That way, I’ll have a bread starter that’s 100% from the crop (in my mind, at least). The goal here, as a reminder to myself, perhaps, is for me to understand the “cost” of a loaf of bread. From cradle-to-grave, so to speak. What all goes into making bread. I’ll let you know sometime in the new year how it went; before then if it tanks completely.

#2: Turn the five pounds of tomatoes I yanked yesterday from the gardenbox into fresh marinara/spaghetti sauce, which I’ll then freeze and save for later use. I went out and picked everything remotely red or reddening yesterday, and gave a sad pause at the rampant growth I’ll have to tear-down to make way for my next experiment in agriculture and times-past: winter wheat. And, because this is turning into a new paragraph…

I can’t help but feel a bit of pride. Sure, for all the things I planted, I really only got a decent yield on the tomatoes (not counting a couple smallish cucumbers, one tiny bird-ravaged crop of strawberries, and the two or three okra buds I caught), but, overall, I’m happy with how the plants took off. The corn died, the watermelon did nothing, and the peppers grew and never fruited – but I still somehow feel good about what did grow and thrive. Maybe it just shows that any black-thumbed jackass can grow tomatoes, eh? Anyway, here’s a side-by side to give you an idea of just how awesomely (some of) my garden fared:



I guess that’s about it for today…

This was probably a little boring… sorry about that. Look for new pictures from Oktoberfest and of Keaton to be added to the gallery pages later this week. Until later, love y’all.

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.