Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dreaming of Gardening Despite the Snows of January.

The Best Part about Winter is Dreaming About Spring.

I have looked back at old garden posts, and they need some information about how different garden plants turned out.

In 2009, I posted on the Profusion Zinnia in the front yard, and they did not work out. They came up and grew, but the fairly shady spot with its weak soil was a disappointment. The plants never were tall enough and showy enough.

I posted on the "well-reviewed" yellow pear tomatoes too in 2009.  The plant grew vigorously, but the yellow pear tomatoes tasted like like wheat-paste. Not very good at all.

The Black Cherry tomatoes were a big success. The tomatoes were so good that I wish they would have been more productive.

Last Year's Garden Plants - 2010

Eggplant - standard variety - very product, but took up more space than expected

Leaf lettuce (Burpee Muslin Mix)/Spinach/Arugula (Burpee) - turned out well, I planted them between the tomatoes, and the shade extended the season. The rabbits never found them, or if they did they left them alone. The Arugula was great.

Zucchini (Ambassador) - Very strong and productive, and lasted all season. Large plant that needed more space.

Cucumbers - big success. I just bought them at the store, and it worked pretty well.

Peas - (Burpee Snow Wind and Burpee Mr. Big) Not a good year for these. I only harvested a few peas. the cucumbers grew through the rabbit fence that I had around them, and I never was able to take the fence down.

Catnip - God! The catnip grew and grew. Even with Jenny harvesting continuously, and the cats flopping down on the plants, they still invaded the eggplant and the peas.

Tomatoes - one of each -  Burpee Big Boy; Pinetree Seeds Black Cherry, Burpee Black Truffle, Sungold, Sweet 100;  The most disappointing part was the failure of the large tomatoes. My tomatoes typically get mold during July, but usually they keep growing faster than the mold can kill them.  The plants had a good start, and the red cherry tomatoes produced pretty well. The Black Cherry, Black Truffle and Big Boy were very disappointing. In 2011, I intend to start a second crop of tomatoes in June -- in addition to the main crop started that I put in the garden in April using Wall-o-waters.

Pineapple Tomatillo (Pinetree Seeds) - I only planted one of these, and it was just OK. I have had more productive plants in other years.  These taste great though.

Strawberries - This was year four for most of the strawberries, and I was really disappointed. I attributed the bad harvest in 2009 to over crowding, and thinned aggressively. The plants did not seem to take off in the Spring like they should have. I thinned them out again this year, and if I don't get some fruit, I am going to take these out, and put in flowers.

Petunias (White and Red Madness) - One of my favorite varieties, but increasingly hard to find. The white ones were more vigorous than the red ones, and some parts of the planting were out of balance.

Brussel sprouts - turned out pretty well, and tasted like Brussel Sprouts.  Ended up with more brussel sprouts than I wanted.

Butternut squash - good year for butternuts. Still have some.

Pimento - I like pimento. It has a thick skin, and never gets hot. The peppers are small enough that half don't go to waste.  One thing I have learned is that all my peppers are 100 times hotter than the store bought analog.

French Marigolds - I planted two trays of French Marigolds as a border around the garden, and that worked pretty well.

Basil - I only plant basil for the fragrance in the garden. I seldom use it in the kitchen - perhaps once a season. I don't really like pesto, but it does smell nice outside.

2011 Garden Plants

Eggplant (Lavender Touch) -

Arugula and leaf lettuce -

Cucumber (Muncher) -

Zucchini (Eight Ball, Pinetree Seeds)-

Tomatoes - eight plants - five started in April; three in June - (Sun Gold, Sun Sugar, Black Krim, Early Girl (Improved) and Celebrity) Early Girl and Celebrity are returning to the line-up after several years on the bench. Early Girl is the most popular tomato in the US, so there must be something good about it. I am also after a medium sized tomato. Celebrity has a lot of disease resistance. I have never been too impressed with it in the past, but the Celebrity tomatos look nice and taste pretty good. Black Krim may be a mistake -- it is a Black Russian Beefsteak Heirloom, so there is a 90% chance that next year's posting will talk about how I got only 1 or 2 decent tomatoes from this plant, but I can hope it will be a treasure of flavorful exotic fruit. I hope to plant the Sun Gold and Sun Sugar today.

Pimento  - Got these on eBay from Dragonfly183.

ASPARAGUS - The story is that in every house I have lived in, I always get transferred before the asparagus is large enough to eat. I have been hesitating planting it since I am not ready to move. I am ordering asparagus roots this year. I am going to take space devoted to strawberries, and convert it to asparagus.

Zinnea (Queen Sophia) -

Petunia (Prime Time) -  I gave up on looking for more of my favorite, the Madness Petunia. I don't want to try Waves; it seems everyone is planting them.

The backyard is waiting for Spring too.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It is the End of Books.

"For every 100 paperback books sold, Amazon has sold 115 Kindle books since the beginning of the year, the company said."  Amazing how paper books are plummeting. 

Can you believe that the 560 year run of ink on paper books is drawing to a close?

I love my Kindle, and I won't buy a book that is not on the Kindle. I am so over paper.

I wish Kindle would enable better magazine reading. I think the local newspaper, The Detroit Free Press, is pretty good on the Kindle, but I am not happy with Atlantic Magazine on the Kindle since there are no graphics.  I keep finding free Atlantic articles on line that are more interesting than my paid Kindle subscription. The iPad version of Atlantic costs $5.99/copy, and hell if I am going to pay that when I can pay $1.99/copy for a paper subscription. 

The truth is that I really want a new Nook Color. It does pictures much better -- that is not needed for books, but what is a magazine without graphics?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Alcohol, Tea, Metabolism, and Fat Guys

Fat Guy from Feb 2011 Scientific American
Note the blobby folds of skin.
Recently Chemical and Engineering News ran a story about how cheese eaten with wine took twice as long to digest as cheese eaten with black tea.  It seems that the effect is not due to the alcohol, but rather to the tea's speeding up the digestion of the fatty fondue.

Strangely, black tea inhibits enzymes that digest starch. Tea drinking would help digest fat, but prevent starchy foods from hitting the bloodsteam too fast -- both good things in that fast starch digestion will cause an insulin spike, and rapid hunger later.  There are lots of websites that claim green tea causes weight loss, but I don't think the sources are very credible.

Alcohol does seem to cause weight-loss -- strange as that seems considering its high calorie density. First it seems the calories in alcohol are not as accessible as other foods, so some passes through the body undigested. Second alcohol prevents your body from digesting other food. Consider the skinny alcoholic who consumes enough calories in alcohol to live on that alone, but is skinny. The alcohol is empickling his organs preventing them from functioning.

The fat guy at right is here to illustrate fatness, and he is pretty gross -- specially gross is the size of his love handles. Who thought they could grow into little appendages?

The graph at left shows blood alcohol content versus time. It shows people sobering up after drinking.

Notice how the declining lines are parallel -- meaning alcohol is metabolized at a constant rate. Regardless of how much is in the blood. This is because the limiting step is the amount of alcohol dehydrogenase there. The absolute rate varies from person to person perhaps with a genetic component.

Alcohol is actually oxidized to an acetaldehyde and then to acetate. Acetate is a common molecule in the body and has many uses.

It is interesting to note that each drink takes two hours to clear the blood stream. In regard to getting drunk in the first place, the more you drink the faster it gets in the bloodstream.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Blackberry as a Music Player

Kingston 4GB Card
I keep all my music in iTunes on my computer.

I got upset this week when the taxi to the airport came early, and I left my iPod on my desk before I went on a trip.  

This left me listening to music on my Blackberry 8820-- something I never did.  Luckily I had my corded headset rather than my Bluetooth one, which does not work so well.

Happily I had put a few gigabytes of songs on it. This worked pretty well; the Blackberry model 8820 is a decent music player -- too big to exercise with, but it plays music out loud pretty well. 

My Blackberry and my company laptop are both locked down, so I had to pull the microSD card from the Blackberry, put it in a card reader to work with the files. No problem, since I keep a card reader in my bag. 

Blackberry Model 8820
MicroSD cards are not easy to work with. On the Model 8820, the SD card does not go in a slot, but you need to open the battery compartment and access it there. The mechanism is tricky and small -- it takes practice to change it quickly.

There is no good online help for changing the card.  Place your finger on the steel holder, and slide it down toward the keyboard end of the unit. It should slide a millimeter, and then lift the top end of the card up at an angle. Once it is unlocked, the MicroSD card slides out easily.

Soon the card lost its formatting, and the Blackberry would not recognize it, and naturally the company laptop's disk formatting utility is locked. It was a Kingston 4 GB card that got corrupted. 

When I got back, I reformatted the card on my Apple, and got the Blackberry working. When I reformatted the card the first time, I manually put all the MP3 files back on. This turned out to be the wrong idea. It is easier to use the Blackberry utility for Mac to do that. The Blackberry utility wants the microSD card to be completely blank.

The Blackberry utility has the clever name "Blackberry Desktop Software," and it works pretty well. It reads the iTunes playlists and downloads them.  The utility also puts photos on the Blackberry quickly, but the Blackberry's processer can't show them quickly.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Christina Taylor Green, Part 2

Christina Taylor Green, born on September 11, 2001 and died January 15, 2010 in Tucson.

What events linked her birth and death?  Born on a day of monstrous foreign terrorism, and killed on a day of deadly domestic terrorism.

Determinism is the belief that our life is not our own to determine, but rather events, the universe, or God set it all up. We are just actors reading a script.

This is a little different from Fatalism, which is that Christina was going to die last Saturday regardless of chains of causality.

What were the elements of the determinism. Did hatred of Muslims get confused with hatred of Mexicans get confused with hatred of congresswomen?

I don't want to focus on Jared Lee Loughner. Anyone who would shoot up a shopping center on mid-day with kids and old folks milling about is not worth focus. Clearly deranged.

It is wrong that the deranged can steal the life from the innocent.

Monday, January 10, 2011

How Thin is the Veneer of Civilization?

Even though Americans act politely and democratically most of the time, aren't we still animals underneath?

How deep and how long does a recession need to be before democracy starts to crumble?

I am particularly taken with the shooting of nine year old Christina Taylor Green, born literally on 9/11. 

I am not sure what symbolic meaning someone who is born during the terror and hatred of 9/11 and dies in a politically motiviated assassination has, but there seems like there must be some meaning there somewhere.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Anti-Science Climate of our Times

This stylized image of the Virgin Mary is so great that I
needed to put it here despite that its only 
connection to this topic is the despondent mood that 
it puts me in. (Artist unknown to me.)
Wags and science journalists have been bemoaning the lack of respect Science is getting in political circles. Specifically, how human-caused global warming seems to have receded from being an observation to a politicized conspiracy theory.

My message to scientists is that the lack of respect for Science is the norm, and that relative respectability of the late Twentieth Century was an exception.

There was a period in the late twentieth century when the rapid advance of science and engineering pushed back the popular bias against it. Just ten years ago Einstein was the "Man of the Century." Even then, it was only journalists at Time that said so; others thought war-time politician Winston Churchill just as worthy.

While there is no inherent reason why science and religion need to conflict, partisans have always used scientific facts to batter religion -- just as religion has used scripture to batter science. Just after Darwin published On the Origin of Species, non-believers glommed onto the ideas immediately and used it to justify their pre-existing beliefs.

Aquinas and others have asserted that scientific truths and religious truths cannot contradicted each other. Augustine thought that scriptures should never be interpreted to mean something that is scientifically not so, as discussed by William Carroll:

Augustine observed that when discussing passages of the Bible that refer, or seem to refer, to natural phenomena one should defer to the authority of the sciences, when available, to show what the text cannot mean. In examining, for example whether the light spoken of in the opening of Genesis (before the creation of the Sun and the Moon) is physical light, Augustine says that if physicists show us that there cannot be physical light without a luminous source then we know that this particular passage does not refer to physical light. The Bible cannot authentically be understood as affirming as true what the natural sciences teach us is false.

A central part of the argument of the receding influence of science is that only 6% of scientists are Republican whereas 23% of the general populous are Republican -- Republicans are under-represented by 3-1 among Scientists.

It is not just Republican politicians who hate Science generally and evolution specifically. Recall that the Soviet government in the 1920's battled against Mendelian genetics in agriculture, and set it back four decades. They hated it because genetics emphasizes nature over nurture.

My daughter points out that Republican scientist Kerry Emmanuel is trying to persuade fellow conservatives to give global warming more credence, but he confesses that he may need to switch affiliation due to the opposition he faces.

I wonder why Global Warming has become politicized. I sincerely hope it is not because business interests have compromised politicians into ignoring the facts -- rather like the mercury toxicity analyses in GW Bush's EPA.

Finally, I bet that the bias against the Republican party does NOT extend to Engineers. I don't know why that is. Something about respect for authority.