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Archived Entries from March 2011


Ready for Gardening!

So years ago my mother-in-law tried telling me to plant tomato plants up to their lowest leaves. I thought she was crazy, mostly because of what I (think I) know about trees--I was always told to keep the root ball underground and all of the tree above ground because too high and the root ball won't work correctly and too low and the wet soil will make the bark on the tree trunk rot--essentially that the tree knows what part to be above ground and what part not to be above ground and don't mess with that synergy.

I was wrong.

Read that again. My mother-in-law was correct.

Especially for lanky tomato plants (which is what mine look like right now). The tomato plant will spread roots all of the way up the plant, so stick it in the ground up to the leaves and that will put the original roots deeper and the plant will grow lots more roots from the stem that was planted under the ground.

I'd say "who knew?" but obviously my mother-in-law did. So the score is like mother-in-law 152, me, well, maybe 2 or 3 (every now and then somebody from the school tells her something ridiculous about computers that I get to debunk, but that's about the only time I get to be right about anything--heh...).

I'm not ready for gardening or anything.

Was looking into soil and stuff tonight and it turns out that both tomatoes and peppers like slightly acidic soil and that one should/could use pine needles as mulch under the plants to both prevent water from splashing up onto the plants (which can bring diseases to the plant) and to keep heat and moisture in--AND to top it off it slightly acidifies the soil (I knew that part).

I have an overabundance of pine needles in the back yard thanks to our great big huge white pine. To confess, I've been burning them as I've been cleaning the yard. Whoops. There should still be tons of them left, so I should still have plenty, but I need to remember for next year (really? this Spring isn't even going yet...) to not burn them but instead keep them in a barrel or something.

I read another rule of thumb that says that to have plenty of tomatoes for a family to plant two plants for every person in the family, and FOUR plants for every person if you want to can tomatoes. We have four people and I have 16 plants.

Yeah, we're going to double that. I really want to have a lot of tomatoes to can. Too much is not a bad thing in this case--I'll can all of them, and trust me, they will all get eaten!

Peppers like acidic soil as well, so I'm good there. I wonder if there is a pH problem that is causing (or helping cause) the decline of my green ash tree on that side of the house. So stupid of me to have emptied the pool there that one year all because our crazy neighbor behind us complained about her piles of siding that were on my property piled up against my fence got wet once from pool discharge. Grrr...

Oh well. Still trying to figure out how I'm going to organize my new, large garden. I do want to have a few raised beds with carrots and radishes and such, and need to have a place for cucumbers, and need to do something to the chain-link fence so the morons that spray Pete's yard don't kill all of it in one fell swoop either--I'm thinking 4 x 8 sheets of lauan cut lengthwise and attached to the bottom part of the fence with cable ties. If they are spraying so ridiculously that it goes over a two foot board and onto my garden, then yeah, I'll have to kick someone's behind.

I'm sure that's what led to the demise of our big pink rose bush in that corner of the yard. Sigh. Surprised with everything else he does on his own that Pete doesn't put down fertilizer himself and not have the ding-a-lings come spray. Oh well.

Anyway, like I was saying, planning the layout of my new garden will be somewhat of a challenge. I need to be able to take advice from my mother-in-law, listen to it, and discard it (sorry). I need to take advice from my wife, listen to it, and also discard it (sorry about that too). Then I need to listen to my obsessive-compulsive disorder and take that into account. I'll need to listen to the non-OCD part of my logical mind that will actually have good reasons for laying things out, including sun, water runoff direction, puppy-poop perimeters, overspray (see above), and other things that I think I know. Once all that is completed, we'll take a vote, and go for it.

And if I screw it all up, we'll revisit outside (of my head) advice, recalculate, and try again next year.

I have 16 tomato plants. If I buy 16 more from a garden center I think that will be prudent. I'll get all my pepper plants from them as well. After all, I only started the ones from seed to give me something to focus on while Winter let slip (finally!) her grip on the midwest.

And I'm very much looking forward to what the redhead does with flowers and planters and such this year. It's going to be a good Spring and Summer.

The sun was out today. I took a nice walk without a coat and the O&M people were out picking up leaves instead of plowing. They prey for Linus is quickly multiplying, much to his delight!

Spring is here!

Hmm. A couple of these "Big Boy" plants have gotten lanky and wonky. Time for surgery to open up the peat pods, remove the plant, move them further down, and tie them back up.

Yes, my wife thinks I'm crazy. Crazy for Spring! :)

Posted: Friday, April 01, 2011, 3:07 am
Mood: Awesome | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Humpday Extraordinaire

Not really. Just sounded cooler than putting "Wednesday."

Home early today because the redhead is under the weather. I didn't get to work out yesterday because as it turned out I did need the entire day to work on the freelancing project that I picked up . So this afternoon I figured I'd get some weights in and then see if it is warm enough for a bike ride (probably not).

Bench press: 8 x 135, 8 x 145, 8 x 155, 8 x 165, 7 x 185 (!), 1 x 205, 8 x 155, 8 x 135

Two-arm curl: 8 x 45, 8 x 55, 8 x 65, 8 x 65, 8 x 55, 8 x 45

I think I'll go walk Linus.

Posted: Wednesday, March 30, 2011, 10:03 pm
Mood: Happy | 1 comment| Article URL | Post a comment
 


Sinking In

It is finally sinking in that I am getting a Master's degree in computer science.

I've been trying to prove something for a long, long time.

That will soon be over. I'm done. I got there.

I've tried to not look at what I was doing or my motivations during the whole process. That way, if I failed, I had an easy way to just dismiss it as something unimportant.

But now we're here. And yes, we're here. Me, Betsy, Alex, and Mary Ellen. (I know, that wasn't a sentence--shut up, rhetoric degree...).

I wish my mom could be here for commencement.

All of my failures, and there have been plenty, make me feel like I let *her* down.

I've spent years and years making up for all of that. And that culminates in May.

I know I'm being melodramatic. I know that we're beyond this and life is bigger than that and our kids are doing great and all of that.

But at the end of the day, I fucked up. I was a failure. And that fault lies on nobody's shoulders but mine.

And it has taken a lot of time, and lot of effort, and a shitload of help, but here we are.

And when I walk across the stage in 49 days, I am officially crossing all of that off my internal list.

In 1984, when I was starting my sophomore year of high school, I was allowed to take the "advanced" computer class at our high school, which taught (sort of) programming in a language called Pascal. The class was only open to juniors and seniors, yet I was allowed to be the only underclassman to take it.

If you would have asked anyone involved, back then, if I would go on to earn a Master's degree in computer science, I doubt anyone would disagree.

Well, here we go. And the funny part of it is that my final project involves programming in the ancient language of Pascal. Funny the way that stuff works.

Sorry for the melodrama. This is a huge hump for me to overcome. Almost there.

Gosh, and then I think I'm taking piano lessons, which is another "mom thing." Drat. But it makes sense to take piano lessons--we have a piano.

I don't know. Let's get through this commencement in one piece first...

Posted: Monday, March 28, 2011, 12:29 am
Mood: Relaxed | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Friday Workout

Home from work early today. It's a bit chilly but thought I'd see if I could get a few sets in.

Bench press: 8 x 135, 8 x 145, 8 x 155, 8 x 165, 4 x 185, 8 x 135

Curl: 10 x 45, 8 x 50, 8 x 55, 8 x 60, 8 x 65, 10 x 45

Posted: Friday, March 25, 2011, 9:37 pm
Mood: Very Good | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Literature Review

Turned in one my last three major projects for graduate school--a literature review on web search engine technology from back at the turn of the century.

Glad to have it finished and uploaded!

Lifting weights for the second time in as many weeks, all while cleaning the garage in between sets.

Bench press today, 8 x 135, 8 x 135, 8 x 145, 8 x 155, 8 x 135, 8 x 135. Two-arm curl today, 10 x 45, 10 x 45, 10 x 55, 10 x 60, 10 x 65, 10 x 55, and 10 x 45.. (And then Alex got home so just for grins I benched 4 x 185....).

Okay, I need to go for a quick bike ride and then get dinner started. Great day!

Posted: Monday, March 21, 2011, 8:51 pm
Mood: Awesome | 1 comment| Article URL | Post a comment
 


Busy Saturday

I spent a good part of my day today out in the yard raking leaves and cutting back spirea and burning a LOT of yard waste. Everything still looks terrible, but I feel better about it.

I finally got Alex's bike back from Budge and Anna's garage where it has been since I rode it over there one night last year. I switched the seat on it since it was one of those tiny hard-as-a-rock seats and put one of the comfier ones from one of the other slew of bikes hanging in the garage.

One of the minions at work runs a bike shop out of his garage (have I mentioned this?) and he's going to charge me a paltry $25 to replace all the cables, adjust all the gears and brakes, and basically give it a bit of an overhaul.

I rode, well, essentially around the block earlier this afternoon. I just traced the path on Google Earth and it is right about 2/3rds of a mile. I realize that as far as exercise goes, that's not very far to ride a bike, but hey, small steps are better than no steps.

After I got home I watched a little basketball and then I went out into the garage and actually busted out the weight bench. I did six sets of bench press and five sets of curls, and all the while I was cleaning the garage in-between sets.

And to cool down after the fact I took another .62 mile bike ride around the block. Why not, right?

I'll be sore as hell tomorrow, but at least I can maybe take some comfort knowing that all those muscles rebuilding are eating away at my daily intake of energy.

I'm so glad the weather has finally started to warm up.

One week to Spring!

Posted: Saturday, March 12, 2011, 11:54 pm
Mood: Awesome | 1 comment| Article URL | Post a comment
 


My Struggle

There's a religious saying that has something to do with knowing when you can make a difference, keeping your mouth shut when you can't, and having the "wisdom" to know the difference.

That's my struggle.

I wasted all that time in therapy thinking that I had all sorts of a problem because I lost my mother when I was 15. She might have been part of my problem.

I was bullied as a kid. Badly. I don't like injustices in the world, and I still get bent out of shape about them now.

I don't know if I blogged about that old coach at Immaculate Conception High School that bitched me up one side and down the other when I was in fourth grade and was asked by my teacher to bring a note to her husband. Her husband was a grade school coach and PE teacher and happened to be in the office of the high school coach when I was asked to bring the note. I walked over from the grade school, the door to the office was opened, and I walked in and handed Mr. Arthurs the note.

And before I could leave, the high school coach went CRAZY. He screamed and yelled and had me in tears. Really? The door was open.

I am now 41 years old. In the last year I asked my dad what the name of that coach was, and where he lived.

I was going to drive up there. And this time *I* will read the riot act. My teeth are gritted right now, and I'll spare the slew of words that would have come from my mouth. I'm not a scrawny kid anymore.

But he's dead.

Sigh.

There are bullies in the world, and they aren't all other kids. I fear that there are other bullies in our midst in Villa Grove, and they are being allowed to bully, even when they claim to be "against bullying."

There are things in the universe that aren't in order. Things that aren't "quite right."

I sense these things. My daughter senses these things.

It's hard to just sit still and be quiet.

How do I let this go? I have a great life! I have a fantabulous live! I love my wife! My wife loves me! My kids are awesome! I love that I have a kick-ass job. I love it that I'm going to grad school for free. I love that we have a fantastic house. I love Spring! I love it that our car gets around 30 miles per gallon and laugh at all the people still driving SUVs back and forth to work in Champaign. (Things could be a lot worse...)

I can't line things up better than have been lined up right now.

I'm seeing the forest. It's prettier than just the individual trees.

But at the root level, I'm still angry. Betsy gets it. She knows that there's still something there. Something years of chatting about my mom didn't get rid of.

There is a storm swirling in my head. A storm that I must contain. I think I may make a phone call tomorrow and try one last time to see if I can't get someone to help me get to the root of all of this. I don't want to spend the rest of my life angry. I think I get it, but there are things I can't let go right now, as much as I want to let them go.

Let me deal with what I can deal with, and not try to control what I can't. No matter how unfair the universe is.

Whew.

Posted: Thursday, March 10, 2011, 3:45 am
Mood: Alive | 2 comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Pulmonary Specialists

So I cancelled my appointment for Wednesday with this pulmonary specialist that I saw three months, or six months ago. I haven't lost any weight. Nothing has really changed. I'm too old to have to get scolded by a doctor. I get it. I need to lose 40 pounds. All the complaining by a doctor isn't going to fix that.

This whole specialist thing came to be because I mentioned in passing to my family doctor that I sometimes have trouble sleeping through the night and that my wife claims I have sleep apnea. Did the sleep test, nothing turned up out of the ordinary (other than I move my legs too much or something) yet the next step was to see this pulmonary guy.

You know, I have that problem swallowing food still, where my esophagus fills up and the food doesn't make its way down to my stomach until after the first few bites of lunch and it hurts like hell and I have to be totally, totally aware of all of this any time I eat anything to make sure the pump is primed so that I don't end up in excruciating pain while eating. Did the barium test. Nobody could figure anything out. THAT is something I would be happy to pursue if they wanted to. THAT is something I'll pay a specialist for to figure out. But no, that ended with a "we don't know what the problem is."

Well I know what the problem is with the other stuff. I need to lose 40 pounds. Think I mentioned that already. I don't need someone to tell me that every 3 months--I can tell myself that just as easily every day and it doesn't cost me any more money to do so (to be fair, now that we finally woke up and switched to the HMO plan through work, seeing a specialist only costs me a co-pay of $20--this really isn't about the money, just the fact that I see no point in any of it...).

Yeah, I need to walk more. Yeah, I need to start some sort of exercise regimen. I'm anxious for Spring to arrive for more than just flowers, bunnies, and gardening.

But my days of running are over. Too boring. Too hard on my knees, my feet, my shins. I think I want to join the throngs of nerds at work and become a bicyclist. I have a bike. Well, or as I read one person refer to my Huffy, "a bike-shaped object." Snobs.

And yeah, I probably will need to spend a few hundred dollars and get a "real" bike at some point if I'm going to be serious about this, but let's get serious about it first, and spend the serious money later. We've spent enough time moving exercise bikes and treadmills in and out of here and everyone else's houses. Hell, I get more exercise moving exercise equipment around...

So one of the minions at work is going to take my "bike-shaped object" and give it a tune-up of sorts, and replace the wires and brake pads and adjust all the gears and stuff, and has promised to consult me when and if it comes time to take the plunge and get a "real" bike. Apparently there's a lot to bikes these days. When I was a kid there were two kinds: ten-speeds, with thin tires and curved handlebars, that were ridden by biking aristocracy, and "dirt bikes" that were ridden by throngs of bullies who would appear en masse to knock one off of their ten-speed and make fun of them that weren't trashy enough to own a cheap dirt bike and be part of their stupid gang of dumb thugs.

Somewhere in there something called a "mountain bike" came along, and also somewhere in there I started thinking that every bike I saw was a "mountain bike." How silly of me. There are street bikes, racing bikes, off-road bikes, "hybrid" bikes, and seventeen other types that I can't remember. I think the decision was that the oil-and-chip roads around here are probably to crummy to ride a good street bike on, but that a mountain bike on the road for long periods of time is exhausting, so the minions think I should go with a hybrid.

Again, we're a ways off from that. We opted not to spend $900 on a golf membership again this year--I'm not spending $900 on a new bike, even if it does say "Trek" on it.

So anyway. Sort of a long way of saying that I'm not going to the doctor tomorrow. I get it. 40 pounds. Check.

Work has been crazy busy. I love the new duties, and of course love all the extra money, but holy smokes. I start work before we leave the house and am already on the ground running as soon as I get to the office in the morning. And the next thing I do is turn around and it is time for lunch. My annual report was due last week and I got the token not-really-nice message about not having turned it in over the weekend. My goal is to get it done by this Friday. It won't happen today. Probably not tomorrow either. I might be lucky and get it done Thursday or Friday.

And of course this is absolutely the wrong time for graduate school to finally turn into what I expected, rather than the sleep-walk that it was for the first 7 classes. I have stuff due every day. Sometimes multiple quizzes have to be taken during a given week. I have to write a literature review, have to do some programming in an old obscure language called Pascal*, and then have a monstrous final project where it feels like the grad school universe and I are going to collide and only one of us will walk away from it.

(*Funny thing, that Pascal is. I took a Pascal programming class my sophomore year in high school, back in 1985. I actually had to get special permission to take it because at the time it was only offered to upperclassmen, so it was me and a bunch of seniors in the class, and I was still probably the only person that understood what was going on... So yeah, I get to be the old guy of the class--the instructor comes up with this assignment in Pascal so that it will be a clean slate for the class and we'll all have to program in a language we've never used before. Um, yeah, no--I've done the Pascal thing.... Not that I have any recollection of anything I ever coded in Pascal. But just sort of amusing.)

It is supposedly going to be 54 and sunny (with showers? What's a sun with raindrops on top of it mean?) tomorrow. Hopefully i can get out of the office and get a walk in at some point. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday look like all three days might be dry, and Sunday might get up close to 50 degrees. I really, desperately need to get the remnants of fall raked and cleaned up and burned and get ready for Spring. Every time it seems I'm going to have a good day to take care of all that it rains, and unlike some of my neighbors, no, I'm not going to try to burn a bunch of wet leaves and just make the entire town smell like festering, smoldering gross wet leaf stench.

Wow. Someone is a little hostile this morning. Come on, Spring!

Posted: Tuesday, March 08, 2011, 9:41 am
Mood: Awake | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


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