Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Ira Glass on Creativity

Seen on Chase Jarvis’ Blog: Ira Glass on Creativity.

The take away– you have to work at it. And there is a stage (or, at least, there is if you’re progressing) where your taste exceeds what you can produce, and you have to keep working through it, pushing it forward.

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Link Dump – Retouching

* Tutorial Bucket: Good overview of basic retouching techniques.
* Retouch Pro: Lots of links to tutorials, some good some less so.
– Flickr Groups: Photoshop support group, Retouch Magic
Another approach, from a pro.
Christy Schuler on retouching.

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Fear is a Business Tactic

Fictional Stars Get a 21st Century Facelift – NYTimes.com:

“It’s a terrible world, and modern parents are trying to cocoon their kids as much as possible,” said Alfred R. Kahn, chairman of 4Kids Entertainment, which also manages franchises like Pokémon and the Cabbage Patch Kids. “What better way to protect them than wrapping them in nostalgic brands?”

Fear is a very profitable business tactic. Fear sells. Fear sells lots of things, and makes people do things that aren’t in their rational best interest. And because of that, there’s an industry devoted to informing people, parents in this case, that they should be afraid. So that they will buy something to make them feel better.

Don’t mind me. I’m just sick of the culture of fear. Fear is a choice.

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Carbon Neutral, by the numbers

Heavyweight physics prof weighs into climate/energy scrap

…biofuel crops demand vast amounts of land to produce quite limited energy yield. he notes that once upon a time the human race generated nearly all its energy from biomass fuel, but that only worked with a Middle Ages living-standard and population.

One of the things that annoys me about the global warming/renewable energy/hydrodgen economy arguments are that some attractive arguments aren’t terribly well grounded in numbers, the sort of numbers that tell us what would need to happen to make a significant difference at our current rate of energy consumption.

I’ve never been convinced that crop based biofuels are a good idea from a net energy perspective, and I’m really not convinced about hydrogen as a power source, unless there’s fission or fusion involved. Biofuels are great for turning a waste stream into usable fuel, but it doesn’t scale. There’s just not that much waste product to make a dent in the oil stream.

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The Garden

Now that it’s June, it was time to put in the hot weather plantings. Tomatoes got in under cover a week ago, with peppers and a tomatillo. This just past weekend, we prepared the two additional gardens that had been rototilled earlier with a light round of rototilling to knock down the new grass and weeds, and a little compost to cover the surface. Now, the nevada shaped garden is planted in 5 1/2 rows of corn and 1/2 row of quinoa. These are experimental, the corn because it’s so cold here, and the quinoa because while i have seen evidence that it grows here (at the county fair), I’ve never actually seen a plant of it in the ground. The other garden, known as the sprawly one, has sunflowers, pole beans, and various squashy things planted.

If it all grows, there may be 10+foot tall sunflowers, 6′ bean vines, and 20′ pumpkin vines. This is a scale that doesn’t really work for the littler raised beds that we have in the main garden patch.

In the other garden patch, something ate most of the beans. We need to replant. The spinach is going berserk, as is the lettuce. Somehow the latest plantings of salad stuff wound up pretty unevenly distributed, so I have to redo some of that. Most of the cauliflower came up from the first planting, and the two remaining hills got replanted and are showing tiny leaves. The biggest is about 4″ tall now. Broccoli is coming up, as are the leeks, carrots, parsnips, turnips and rutabagas. Not so sure about the lavender or the wildflowers, but the other flower bed is showing some activity. The kale that was transplanted in last fall, and then moved this spring is just about done, to be replanted at the end of the month. And the potatoes are going nuts. They like this weather. The two first plantings are about neck and neck, the one from mid May is pretty short still. The radishes have all been eaten, and now replanted to have more things for Ben to pull up. It’s good to have things that we’d prefer he pulls up, rather than going after the stuff that we wish he didn’t.

It’s a little nerve wracking when the seeds haven’t come up in a bed, and you don’t know if it’s something that you did or if the weather is just against you or what. So far though, we’ve only completely lost one planting of peas (which I suspect something ate). And most of this stuff can be replanted a few weeks later without too much trouble.

This is the main patch as of about a week ago:

And Really Large: a 4000 px wide version of the original 11k pixel wide panorama.

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I haven’t been in Iowa in the spring in a long time. In fact, it’s probably been since I was 5 or so, when we moved away. What I remember of the countryside is growing fields, corn as tall as me, and rows of soybeans converging on the horizon. This time, we were there in planting season, so everything was brown. Plowed and in the process of planting. And in that process, i realized some of the scale of the place. Three large tractors plowing one field. Looking very small in the process. The pattern of farmland with a corner carved out and surrounded by old oak trees, to provide a little shelter from the heat. A farm house, with an old dilapidated wood barn, and a couple of newer smaller metal buildings. repeated here and there to the horizon, over and over and over.

One thing that I know I don’t remember is the wind farms. Every so often, there would be a cluster of little windmills out in the fields. Then we saw one of the blades being trucked down the road, and realized that they’re probably 75 foot blades on 150 foot towers. And our experience last month is that wind is a really good idea. There’s not a lot to stop it once you’re in the flat lands of northern Iowa.

The most surreal moment was when I needed to get a power adapter replaced at the Apple Store. Mine died in a warm burny smelling way, and I had enough battery power to find out where the apple store was before lights out. They had no problem replacing it under Applecare, I expected to have to argue a little bit, but no, simply no problem at all. Then, as the paperwork was printing out, I recognized the music. The Talking Heads, The Big Country. Not a big hit, sort of an obscure little tune from the end of their second album. All about the fly over country, and how they wouldn’t live there.

Then we come to the farmlands, and the undeveloped areas.
And I have learned how these things work together.
I see the parkway that passes through them all.
And I have learned how to look at these things and I say,
I wouldn’t live there if you paid me.
I couldn’t live like that, no siree!
I couldn’t do the things the way those people do.
I couldn’t live there if you paid me to.

I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard that on the radio. And to hear it in an Apple Store, in Iowa.

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Spendy Gas

For the first time, I’ve spent $4.00 (well, actually 3.999) for a gallon of gas. 7 of them actually, for the Miata. At this rate, I think we’ve finally crossed the point where we’re both driving enough and gas is that expensive that we’re going to spend more on gas than insurance. For a long time, we just haven’t driven that much, and with 2 or 3 cars sharing the 8k miles a year, the insurance worked out to be more. But I think that’s changing.

And speaking of expensive, I got the Miata back from the shop where it had it’s crank replaced. The 90-91 1/2 Miatas had a design bug where the timing belt pulley could get a little loose and wear out it’s raceway that keeps it aligned. While this is happening, typically the car feels like it has no power till 4k rpm, and all sorts of other bad performance things that I could just tick off as having seen. And once that happens, you’re due for a crank replacement, which means taking the engine out, apart, and putting it all back together again. On the bright side, once the engine is apart, replacing a bunch of other stuff that’s near the end of it’s life because it’s 18 years old is really cheap because the labor is already spent getting the engine in and out. Like the clutch, water pump, timing belt, oil pump, slave cylinder, hoses. Little things. Lots of little things. Happy Economic Stimulus Package Mr Mechanic.

And wow. It really has power now. OMG. And a grabby clutch. I nearly peeled out in the mechanic’s parking lot because I was used to the old performance. I can’t remember the last time I was even close to breaking the tires loose on dry pavement, or even wet pavement. I really had forgotten how much fun that car was (and is).

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Today’s finds

The fire circle continues to yield Morels, Ben found one today, and one was left in the ground to get a bit bigger. We also found a false morel (reported to be poisonous, it’s lobed rather than ribbed) over in the clearing outside the fence. We looked around a bit in the forest, but got too cold before giving up.

Supposedly they come up on warm days after it’s been cold. So far, we’ve had a lot of this cold weather, punctuated by a few nice warm days. we’re up to 6 or 7 morels, including one in the forest that we didn’t harvest before it got old and soggy. I’m hoping that we find a few more before the season is up.

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New Sourdough

I haven’t been making sourdough for the last month or more, since i got a little discouraged at making either unintentional sourdough flatbreads or bricks. I tried again yesterday, and this time, I think I got it right. It was one of the better efforts so far, good texture, strong crust, and a pleasantly sour flavor. It also rose and proofed well, and had a nice freeform shape out of the oven.


What was different? Not totally sure. I did add 1/16 tsp of yeast per batch (non-sourdough gets 1tsp), and that was probably a help. I started early in the evening, Didn’t mix the dough all that much. After mixing in the salt and yeast, I kneaded by hand for a few minutes. That didn’t seem to do a whole lot, but when folding the dough over later in the evening, it got very smooth and elastic. It rose overnight in a cold house, and in the morning, I formed the loaves, left them on the counter to proof, and baked around noon.


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Someone’s been reading Zen Koans

We’ve been reading the book Zen Shorts to the kids, and in it, there are three classic Zen stories that are told for kids. One of them, involving a robber and the gift of a robe, seems to have played itself out in real life recently, when a Social Worker gave his mugger his coat, then took him to dinner. And in the process, got his wallet back so that it was his treat. Link: A Victim Treats His Mugger Right

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