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The plant with the blue flowers looks an awful lot like the Foothill Penstemon, Margarita BOP. But, the thing is, I was pretty sure it had died. Yet, here it is, blooming amid yellow wild flowers.

I don’t always remove dead plants. It’s not a plan. I just don’t feel like it all the time. This is the second “dead plant” that has seemingly come back to life. So, some plants can keep living in their roots and re-emerge when conditions are right.

It’s good to see it, regardless. Those are some pretty flowers.


Seedlings Update No. 1: frustration

It’s been 12 days since I started trying to germinate some seeds. California Poppys have a germination time of between 10 and 15 days, I’m told. I have two of those that have sprouted. But, that’s all. One looks good, the other looks, um, not as good. Is it, as they say, “leggy”? I’m not sure.

Two seedlings: in the foreground… lying down. In the background, standing up.

The picture shows the two seedlings. The one in the foreground is the first to have sprouted. It has been lying down like that the whole time. The second one, in the back, looks better with four leaves and is standing up. It’s possible others will still sprout. But, I’m a bit disappointed with the “crop” so far.

Spruce and Joshua Trees take longer to germinate, anywhere from 20 to 30 days. So, maybe they will still show up, too.

My tray has a heating mat and I have it on a thermostat set to 75 degrees (those are freedom units, of course. That’s what the F stands for, isn’t it?). I chose that number because it was about average for spring time and it’s what vegetable seeds seem to like. Also, I didn’t know I needed a thermostat initially. The mat didn’t come with one and the instructions said it would keep the soil about 10 degrees warmer than the ambient temperature. Since, the garage is around 50, I thought that would be okay. But, the mat was actually warming up to 80 or 90 degrees! That’s too warm. I’m wondering if I didn’t do something wrong with the seeds by having it too hot like that for the first few days. I also have two LED grow lights I bought on them during the day. I’m under the impression that the lights emit the right spectrum for plants to grow while limiting heat output and using minimal energy.

LED grow lights on the germination station.

Anyway, the seeds were cheap and this was just for fun. Maybe I will still get some more sprouts. And maybe I’m learning enough to not make mistakes with the veggies and the other poppy seeds I have. I bought some from Grow Native Nursery at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens. Those are the ones I’m really hoping to get growing this year.

Digesting Deconstruction

I’m listening to an album called “Deconstruction” by the Devin Townsend Project.  It’s brilliant.  Love it.  Most people will not like it.  Some will totally hate it.  But, I love it.  It’s a 70 minute journey of a man examining his place in the universe and finding that he was seriously self-indulgent and self-important.  It’s serious, but at the same time, it’s funny because the guy comes to see that he’s about as significant as a cheeseburger in the grand scheme of things.  I think.  Or maybe it’s that he realizes that life can be boiled down and reduced to eat, love, poop.  And, cheeseburgers take part in at least two of those.

Apologies and Excuses

I had said I wanted to blog every day.  That became weekdays.  Then, it was every other day.  Lately, not at all.  But, I have an excuse.

Number one is that work is very busy and keeping me occupied.  Two is that I felt maybe I was writing too  much, or I didn’t have something interesting to say.  But, then, again, you can always not read the blog.  Lots of people make that choice.  I only have about twenty people that regularly read it, give or take, so of my hundreds of people that get notified (ie. “Friends” and “Followers”) most people choose not to read.

Plus, I told myself that it was better to write something than nothing, and part of the reason I was writing every day was to get past those excuses.  So, yeah, that worked.

But, my occupation has taken up a lot of headspace and time and energy.  It’s that time of year, graduation time.  So, end of the year is upon us, lots of people anxious.  A lot of that anxiety gets directed at me.  Also, I have my interview tomorrow for my ASB position.  That has been taking up some of my time looking at budgets, finances, studying past activities, looking for my strengths and weaknesses.

After all of that, I feel even more strongly that I am the best person to be the Activities Director at my school.  I have four years of experience and education, formal and informal, that I can bring to bear in the years ahead.  With the tough financial times, I actually lowered expenses and increased revenues this year.  I don’t know what else that could be asked for.  I have steadily improved the students and activities.  I would have to imagine that if you took a poll of the people on campus, students included, I would have an approval rating well over 60%.  That’s better than the last two presidents enjoyed.

So, yeah, I guess that’s taking up space in my head.

The weather is unbelievable. What’s up with the rain and cold and SNOW??!! in May?  That’s just wrong. This time last year we were in the 80’s and this year it’s the low 70’s?  Honestly, the weather is making me a little edgy, too.  We’ve got all this crazy news and budget problems and layoffs and my own job uncertainty and then the flooding in the South, tornadoes, and unseasonable cold?

Sweet.  End of days.  Apparently a bunch of people think the Rapture is coming. I have a feeling that, despite the wackiness lately, there will be a lot of disappointed Christians on May 21st.

I don’t think we are in the End of Days, as much fun as that would be.  I think that people are a lot more on edge these days and that we see what we want to see.  We feel like things are going haywire and so we fill in the patterns with things that are going haywire.  No matter how crazy I think it is, I bet that if I did a little research into weather patters, I would find that the weather isn’t that unusual and that, once in a while, the weather does this in May.

I’ll try posting more frequently.  But, until May 27th, I think it will be sporadic.  Then, come summer time, lots of posts will be flowing.  Aren’t you the lucky one?

I Get Asked, "How Do You Like That Thing?" A Lot

It happens almost every time. I will be sitting somewhere in public, like a waiting room, and I am reading it or I’m at a store and I get it out to look something up, make a note, check my calendar, create a reminder. And, inevitably someone will ask me, “Oh, how do you like that?” Or, “Is that the iPad thing? What does it do?”

This is a tough question to answer in some ways. How do I like it? I freaking love it. I love it as much as any hunk of glass, aluminum and silicon I have ever owned. I don’t love it more than my health or my kids or HER. But, I love it. It’s like when I bought my first iPod. I remember thinking, back in, like 2002 or 2003, when the iPod first came out, that it was a kind of stupid idea. First off, I still remember when digital sound files were huge (they’re still the same size, but the memory got cheaper) and sounded awful. So, even then, the idea that people would listen to mp3s all the time was pretty ridiculous to me. But, by the time the 3rd generation iPod arrived, the one with the touch wheel and four buttons under the screen, I was sold. The screen was still grayscale and I think I got the biggest one that held 20 gigabytes. But, when I started loading digitized songs on there (this was before the iTunes store, too) and I was able to carry hundreds of albums and thousands of songs, I started wondering how I ever lived without one. I have bought, since then, a 5th generation iPod and the 3rd generation iPod Touch. I love all of them. I love listening to music and have thousands of songs on my iPod. Literally. In my lifetime I have easily purchased over a thousand albums. I used to have to choose which CDs I wanted to carry with me, but no more.

In November of 2009, I lost all of my computing equipment. It was a real drag. The only last “computer” I had was my iPod Touch. Luckily, I also was able to keep my WiFi in the house. So, for months, waiting for a chance to replace my equipment, all I had to browse the internet, do email, and any other computing, was the Touch. And, it was okay. Not perfect, but okay. If only it was bigger…

In January 2010, Apple announced the iPad. I had been following the rumors of a tablet device by Apple for a couple years and when I finally saw what they had announced I knew it was what I wanted. People said, “It’s just a big iPod!” And, the crazy thing to me was that they tried to make that sound bad!!! The iPad is more than a big Touch. But, that’s not a bad way to look at it, for a start.

The iPad is a portable computer. What’s really awesome about it is that Apple has started getting rid of the desktop metaphor. I don’t care, really, about a file structure most of the time. I have a desktop computer if I need to go mess around with folders and directories and stuff. But, what I really think is so cool about the iPad is that it just works. It just does the things I want to do. See, I realized that about 75% of the time when I was using a computer I was reading things on the Internets. Another 20% of the time I was doing email or word processing. About 5% of the time was spent doing processor intensive things like photo manipulation, say, or video editing, or audio encoding and editing. That small percentage of time is pretty insignificant to be lugging around a laptop or tied to a desk just in case I want to do those things. So, I have a desktop iMac to do those tasks.

What does my iPad do? Why do I carry it all the time? One of my primary uses for it is to keep track of tasks and “to dos”. My job, currently, has an insane number of projects going at any given time. Right now I’m trying to get new ASB members elected, interview other potential appointees, get ready for our graduation commencement ceremony, Baccalaureate ceremony, cap and gown delivery, Class of the Year party, graduation practices, coordinating the Junior Honor Attendants, an end of year ASB banquet, and start looking toward next year and summer preparations (camp?). Also, I have a family life, too. I do NOT have the memory to remember all the things to do to make those events all happen. I can’t keep them in my head. So, my iPad has an awesome app called OmniFocus that I use to organize all of the various things we’re doing.

My iPad has a very good calendar app, too, that I can put every single appointment into. Since I got my iPad I have not missed a doctor or dentist appointment, no matter how far in advance I have scheduled them. In fact, I laugh when the dentist calls to remind me about my 6 month cleaning appointment. It’s a pointless call because my iPad reminds me already. I read blogs and Twitter and my Kindle and iBooks all on my iPad. I’m reading three books, two magazines and about 20 blogs plus mainstream and independent news sources. I sometimes listen to NPR on my iPad on weekends when I’m downstairs making breakfast.

I do my 99% of my email on my iPad. The only time I have to go to my desktop is on the off chance that I need to look up a really old email message. That’s about it. I do my Facebook and blogging on my iPad, too. When I have a lot of typing to do, like this blog, I will get my Bluetooth keyboard out and pair it up with the iPad. It works great.

I play games on my iPad. My favorite games have been the #sworcery game, Words With Friends, Crosswords, Infinity Blade, Battle for Wesnoth, Tower Defense, Tunnel Shoot, and many more. The great thing is that most games, and apps, for that matter, are less than $5 each. For .99 I can stand it if the game is not very good.

I can DJ with my iPad. I have been playing with the Djay app a lot lately because I want to do really inexpensive school dances. And, this app is going to allow me to do that. It’s crazy. I come into contact with a few professional DJs and they are, no doubt, way better than me, but this app puts me on the playing field with them. For a big dance, hands down, I want a good DJ there to rock the house. But, for a little dance in the gym, I think maybe I can spin those tunes for nothing. Okay, actually, the app was $20. At first, compared to 99 cents, that seems like an expensive app. But, have you bought Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Office? What about Final Cut Pro? $20 is nothing, then! I pay that for a new BluRay disc or to go see a movie with my girl. Twenty dollars is not a lot of money in the big picture. A full-featured DJ rig costs thousands!

I can learn Spanish, watch HBO, Netflix, Ted Talks, write a term paper and so much more. What does the iPad do? Almost anything you want to it to do. Almost.

Does it replace a laptop? For me, yes. I don’t want a MacBook except maybe to be able to edit video when I’m not home… but that would happen so infrequently that I… um, what? Oh, the iPad2 can edit video? Okay, forget it. I don’t want a MacBook anymore.

I think that the iPad is a brand new way to compute. I think it will change the way we relate to technology. I think it already is. It is not a toy, and, for me, not really a luxury. I guess the luxury is the way it allows me to do what I want to do when I want to do it. I can shop, pay bills, make notes, look up information and entertain myself anywhere. I think the coolest thing about the iPad is that pretty much anyone can use it. This is a computer for people that don’t like computers. The only real drawback to the iPad is that you do still have to hook it up via a cable to a desktop computer with iTunes, but I’m guessing that within 5 years you won’t have to do that anymore. My five year old son uses an iPod Touch with no problem. If you know someone that should be using a computer but is scared by them, introduce them to the iPad.

I also highly recommend that if you get an iPad that you should get one with cellular 3G service. You might not use a lot of data and might be able to get away with a discount plan, even. But, I think you need to be able to get email and Twitter and Internet wherever you are. The iPad really comes alive with an Internet connection. It’s very useful without one, but it’s awesome with Internet access.

Okay, so I am accused of being an Apple zealot. Maybe it’s true, but I grew up with Windows machines. My first computer of my own had Windows 3.1 on it, okay? I had Windows 95 and 98. Thankfully, in 2001 I got to buy first Mac and have never been happier. I love the iPod, iPad, and Mac because they are awesome, useful, and beautiful pieces of technology. They have geeky, engineered guts and the soul of an artist. I still use Windows machines. We have three of them in the house for the kids to use. Windows is okay, but, to me, Macs are so much better.

So, it should come as no surprise that I think the Xoom, Galaxy Tab and other tablets are pale shadows of the iPad. It’s not just the hardware, it’s the software, too. It’s the iOS operating system and the iTunes environment. It is so nice to be able to just download a new app and know it’s not going to screw up my iPad by installing itself all over the place and then being impossible to remove like so many awful Windows programs. The iOS has it’s flaws, too, but I have an Android phone and, basically, I hate it. Android is a janky operating system. Honestly, if you ask me, the people that refuse to by Apple and swear by Android? Those are the religious zealots.

Now, can you imagine me really giving this answer in the waiting room for the dentist? Yeah, me neither. That’s why, when they say, “How do you like your iPad?” I smile, and say, “Oh, I love it. It’s great.” And when they ask, “What does it do?” then I laugh and say, “Well, it does pretty much everything.”

Portal 2: A video game you should play

I only have about 6 or 7 people that regularly read this blog. So, I guess if a post is boring then I’m not disappointing many people. Anyway, so I don’t have just one thing burning in my heart to talk about. Except for Portal 2.

Portal 2 is awesome. Have you played Portal? You really should. If you like video games at all, then this is a game for you. It’s got a little bit of action, but not really killing. And, it’s got puzzles that make you really think. I don’t want to give away any plot details so I will try not to say too much but I apologize if I reveal something.

So, in Portal, you play this mysterious character, at least, at first it’s mysterious. It’s from the first person point of view so you have no idea what you look like or who you are or what you’re doing. Then, a portal opens and you can go through it, but when you do, you see someone going through one in another room. So, you stop. That other person stops, too. And, then you go, “Oh, wait, that’s me!” And then your brain goes flip flop as you try to understand the weird geometry that you’re seeing. You’re watching yourself enter the portal you’re exiting.

So, the conceit behind the game is that you’re in a research and development science lab, Aperture Science Laboratories, and there’s this thing called a portal gun. When you shoot it at the right surface, it creates a portal. Shoot it at another surface and another portal forms. You can now go through one portal and exit the other. Then, you go through tests of your ability to use the portal gun to make your way through various obstacles.

Honestly, it bends your mind sometimes to try and see what’s going on. Portals have their own weird physics, too. For me, there’s a couple of times when I stop and say, “Hold on, wait a minute. What the heck is going on here?”

So, Portal, the first one, is hard to get these days. I had my first copy stolen so I just bought another one off of Ebay. For consoles, the only place you can get it is in “The Orange Box” which is a collection of several video games. You get Portal, plus Half Life 2 as wells as Half Life 2 episode 1 and episode 2 and Team Fortress 2. Half Life 2 is a darn good game, too. And, it’s kind of set in the same universe as Portal.

But, say you never played Portal and you don’t want to, or can’t get “The Orange Box.” No worries. Portal 2 kinda reintroduces you to the game and using the portal gun and all of that. But, it takes it all further. So, you can definitely play 2 without the original. But, if you can do it, play the original. If you have a computer, and you likely do if you’re reading this, then you can go on Steam and play Portal there.

Here’s the best reason to play the original. GlaDOS. You really need to experience her to understand. She is the Artificial Intelligence controlling the lab you’re in. She is sarcastic, funny, sadistic and all about the science. Portal 2 is much better if you already know GlaDOS. Plus, if you play the original then you get cake at the end. Seriously, cake. And, we all know that cake is worth fighting for.

The Portal games are very much adult games. Not that you have to be an adult to play them. They’re mostly safe for kids, I think. Like I said, there’s no real killing. You do dismantle some amazingly cute machine gun turret droids. And, you may have to incinerate a Weighted Companion Cube. That’s not fun. But, well, that’s science. The reason I say they are adult games is because they don’t talk down to you. They are smart. Some of the puzzles are pretty straight-forward, but others will really cook your noodle. Just tonight I was playing Portal 2 and I got stuck at one point. Now, the designers usually give a clue or two as to how to solve the puzzle. I won’t tell you the clues but, if you look around the area, you can often see how they want you to solve it. Some of the puzzles might have multiple solutions, too. But, for the most part, it’s a pretty linear game. You go here and here and here because that’s what you’re supposed to do. And you do this, then that and then you do the other. Then you finish that level.

What I love is that feeling you get when finally solve the problem. It’s like, “Yes, we solved the problem and we is the smartest!” It’s also fun because you’ll walk into the room, or whatever, and you look around and then it’s just so confusing. What do I do? How the heck am I going to get that over there and then get up there? So, you start trying things and then, WHAM, the solution presents itself and you feel smart and silly at the same time because it wasn’t that hard after all.

Tonight, I was stuck. I tried everything I could think of. I even thought I had it figured out and got a way to get on that spot that was pretty difficult but I got there. And, that wasn’t it. Dang! But, then I thought of another thing. What if I did that other thing? Well, might as well try it. WHAM! That was the answer. And I felt like I is the smartest again.

Oh, and there’s a whole two person cooperative mode that I haven’t even tried yet that should be fun, too.

You should play the game. You would like it.


Who killed the blog post? Blogsy or Blogger? Or neither?

The other day I wrote a post about the parcel tax in Fontana. Then, I had an exchange of comments via Facebook with a friend. I was rude and dismissive at first to him, then apologized when I realized the error of my ways. I then took his comments, responded, let him elaborate on his thoughts and put together what I thought was a very informative and long post about school funding and counseling and such. I thought it was pretty good.

Well, what happened was my iPad app, Blogsy, ate the first version. No big whoop. I recreated it and considered a second draft. But, half of that got “disappeared” into the digital ether. So, I wrote a third version, or at least the half that got lost. I checked it and posted it last night.

Today, it was gone. Totally. In fact, the post I just wrote about the Senior Assembly had the original URL of that long post from the night before.

So, I’m not using Blogsy for a while. I think it’s either bad luck or poorly written and screwing up my blog posts. I am leaning toward the latter. Sorry if you missed my post from last night. I thought it was worth reading, but maybe it really sucked and this is the god of the internet saving you from being subjected to it.

****Update**** April 30, 2011
I have just downloaded the updated Blogsy and am hoping that it is fixed. I have high hopes! I will say this much; the developer was very responsive and seemed genuinely concerned about both making their app better and making sure that my problem was addressed. I really like this app because it’s so much better to use and more full-featured than my other blogging app. Anything that makes the writing process easier is a good thing. So, I’m writing this on Blogsy and will write a new post on it later. I have a feeling that with a developer as good as these guys that Blogsy is going to turn out to be the best blogging app on iOS.

Video: "The Mountain" by Terje Sorgjerd

This is an amazing video. It was shot in time-lapse stop motion, meaning it took a separate picture, say, every minute to speed things up and show the sky wheeling above. Amazingly, the photographer managed to move the camera to get “dolly” shots, too. They look so smooth, but if you look carefully you will see that it jerks a tiny amount because of the stop-motion.
Check it out! (this is also an excuse for me to try embedding video in my blog.)

The Mountain from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.