geek – taking joy in human unreason Tue, 20 Mar 2018 17:06:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 2017 Gardening Round Up Tue, 20 Mar 2018 20:00:24 +0000 Continue reading 2017 Gardening Round Up ]]> Huh… How have I not posted on my recent gardening work at all? In fact, I haven’t posted about gardening since 2011, which is, like, forever ago and very different from what I’m doing now. Here’s a little insight into what I did last year, and I’ll do a follow-up on how I’m kicking off 2018.

Early spring 2017 Mammillaria zeilmanniana, flowering.
Early spring 2017 Mammillaria zeilmanniana, flowering.

Last year, I expanded from the single saguaro I mentioned in 2011 (who has been through some shit, I tell you) to a pretty sweet cactus/succulent garden for a newbie. Anything I bought directly was targeted to be able to handle USDA Zone 7 winter living at least–I have some great books to help with this–but I ended up with a bunch of stuff straight out of Mexico and Arizona that need much more coddling.

The season went well!

  • My first loss was a cactus that died to a fungus it probably had before I got it (the autopsy is graphically documented on cactiguide).
  • I had to perform surgery on my saguaro to remove some rot.
  • One of my pricklies suffered a bit of rot during hurricane season, but recovered.
  • I lost a little one, maybe due to rot? at the end of the season.
  • I lost one just a few weeks ago to mealy bugs or something that got in as a result of them (I haven’t autopsied it yet).

Out of 25 or so plants of interest, that ain’t bad.

It might sound strange, but the fact that my first loss was due to something that wasn’t my fault kept me from abandoning the garden. Everyone, everyone says that noobs will overwater their cacti and kill them. And yeah, I did eventually struggle with that.

But if my first death had been a cactus I carefully put in no organic soil whatsoever for moisture control and photographed meticulously to check for issues and did a ton of research on before even purchasing… I would have been really bummed. What else could I have done, if I had already done the best I could? With no experience to draw on yet, I wouldn’t have known what factors to change. The fungus was a good way for the first to go.

Opuntia phaeacantha "Dark Knight", early 2017 season.
Opuntia phaeacantha “Dark Knight”, early 2017 season.

I took a lot of pictures. With the slow-growing nature of cacti, the surprisingly fast growth of the succulents, and the uncertainty of whether any of these plants would live, I wanted to see how they were doing. That helped me catch a lot the above issues early (except for the mealy bugs).

I was sending a rude number of pictures over Google Hangouts, so I started an Instagram account for select photos. (You can now also see those if you follow me on Mastodon.) I have a ton more weekly photos just stored away, though, stored by plant and taken from the same angles so I can check growth.

With the right soil mixture, these plants generally don’t need any attention but once a week, which suits my schedule very well. I’ve churned through more conventional plants this season, too: rosemary, catnip, dill, a false cypress, a few other things probably… all lived and died due to my irregularity in care of them. The cacti and succulents suffered a bit at times, but that mostly meant I probably didn’t get maximum growth out them.

Summer 2017 cactus garden additions.
Summer 2017 cactus garden additions.

There were a few particularly tricky parts in the year, though:

In late May and June, Charlotte got a total of about 12 inches of rainfall. Phoenix, Arizona gets about 8 inches per year. Twelve inches felt like a deluge even as someone living here. Except for the prickly pears, my cacti are planted in pure pumice (no soil/organics) due to the quantity of rainfall we get here, but all that rain meant I wasn’t adding fertilizer (needed for pumice-only growing), so growth stagnated and I worried about rot constantly.

Early fall brought a hurricane pretty close to Charlotte, NC, and the winds were violent enough that I needed to bring all the little ones in, and the rain heavy enough that I needed to bring anything that could get waterlogged indoors. That was a mess.

My house, taken over by my garden.
Gollum Jade cutting
One of the original gollum jade cuttings I received in spring 2017.

As winter approached, I needed to get them all somewhere stable. My research suggests that all my cacti and many/most/all? of the succulents want to be dry in the winter. The cacti want no water.

For the plants I bought directly that were Zone 3-7, I bought a cold frame, put some flat stones under it, and set all  those plants in there. The temperature wasn’t hugely raised by the cold frame except on sunny says, but they were kept dry.

The rest… came indoors. Gregory was a champ, because this was just a few weeks after the hysterectomy, so I couldn’t lift even the medium-sized pots. From early November until just this past weekend, I had about 15 plants inside on a coffee table right under one of the two windows in my apartment. All the succulents had to come indoors, and several cacti.

Gollum Jade Early Spring 2018
Gollum Jade, early spring 2018 after a loooong winter indoors.

Luckily, my cats were pretty disinterested in them, because they’re all poisonous to them.

Despite the fact that “Zone 7” doesn’t sound far off from “Zone 9” (e.g., Phoenix, AZ), our last frost is traditionally late March/early April, I think. Hell, we just got snow last week (mid-March), even though it didn’t stick. So my most fragile cacti are still indoors, even though I’ve finally kicked the succulents outside.

With those outside, my winter impulse buys incorporated, and some new stuff about to be shipped to me (some storefronts wait until your zone is ready for planting), it’s time to kick off 2018. Plans, details, and pictures up next.

If you want to see my day-to-day pictures, Instagram or Mastodon are the ways to go.

Remastering “The Majesty of Colors” Thu, 01 Sep 2016 14:00:51 +0000 Continue reading Remastering “The Majesty of Colors” ]]> Folks probably know that I make video games as part of Future Proof Games, but maybe not what we’re doing at the moment. Many, many (many) years ago, Gregory made “(I Fell in Love With) The Majesty of Colors”, a very sweet Flash game about balloons and drowning.

As the site stats geek for FPG, I can tell you “Majesty” remains pretty damned popular. (Hell, it just got linked by Buzzfeed a few days ago.) It’s an evocative game that continues to appeal to folks wanting to explore the soft feelings of a big, weird, sessile alien. Problem is, Flash is finally actually dying — no phone/tablet can run it, and some browser configurations require user action before it’ll run Flash.

So we’re bringing “Majesty” to modern devices: Android, iOS, and Windows/OSX/Linux. And holy crap, this game feels great on a phone; moving the tentacle with your finger just feels real in a way that the tiny, mouse-controlled Flash version doesn’t. I’m excited to test it on tablets.

It’ll be out later this year and is being developed in parallel with Exploit: Zero Day, which will also have some big news soon. (I could write a whole post on the thought processes around dividing time between two projects for a part-time team like ours!)

Something that would really help the game be successful is if the desktop versions can launch on Steam. For us to do that, we need to make it through Steam Greenlight. If you have a Steam account, take a moment and vote for “Majesty”.

Something that would put a smile on my face would be if you left a cheery comment on the Greenlight page. Y’all know how the internet can be.

Generosity Isn’t a Contest Tue, 03 Feb 2015 03:50:31 +0000 ]]> I had an… unforgettable dinner this past Saturday night with the local live-action roleplaying players that I’ve been gaming with for the last handful of years.

I took a break from gaming with them last summer after my surgery, initially due to the inconvenience (I couldn’t drive, and the sling was uncomfortable), and then due to the fact that when I weighed the fun vs. the toxic behaviors the group has, I found I’d rather be spending my time doing things like building Future Proof Games.

The dinner on Saturday was to get folks face-to-face to talk about a big issue in the group: they lost their regular gaming location at the end of 2014. Some games have had to be canceled, but folks have been very generous. People have opened their homes to host a game or two, and one person rented hotel rooms for us to game in.

That night, though, I heard something pretty disgusting — a denigration of people’s generosity, at times in the same breath as an exaltation of their own (the below is paraphrased, in part to remove names).

  • “Well I got late notice of the change in location,” one said. (I knew this to be untrue.) “I spent all this money to help host game at my house, and we’re happy to do it in perpetuity.” They were grinning, chest up in pride.
  • “Well, someone doesn’t like gaming at people’s houses,” another said, speaking of a player who had paid for a location out of pocket.

Wait… What?

Listening to these people criticize others’ help — especially knowing that the group will have trouble raising much money — was appalling. This is a attitude of ingratitude and one-upmanship I want no part in.

Just earlier that day, I’d read this comment thread on Reddit regarding Codes of Conduct and when/how to remove someone from a group due to abuse. A portion relevant to this dilemma:

A significant slice of the internet seems to have a different agenda [than making peace] — conversation is a game to win, by making the other person surrender — and I try to avoid it because life is short and it’s actually a losing game for everyone involved.

One player has completely withdrawn from the local group courtesy of the remarks made at that dinner and the criticism of their help.

I… am on the fence. Part of me wants to talk to people, try to explain why what they’ve said and done is unhealthy for the dynamics of the group. But there are so many unhealthy behaviors in this group that it feels like I’d be taking on a Sisyphean task.

Generosity isn’t a damn contest. The people opening their homes are awesome. The people spending money are awesome. The people spending hours submitting applications to churches and community centers are awesome. The people keeping track of the conversation threads to ensure this effort is organized are awesome.

There’s no prize for being “most awesome while being an ass to others,” and aiming for one is a losing game for everyone involved.

Tons of Videos! Thu, 06 Jun 2013 22:15:14 +0000 Continue reading Tons of Videos! ]]> Actually, like 3 videos. But they’re good ones! Plus a few miscellaneous links.

First, a video:

My question: Why can’t he pull out a chair? Turns out, home skillet has a bad back.

To offset that, a bit of cuteness: Maximumble – comic #594 – Ship. Mew.

As is my tendency, some physical stuff:

  • Why Women Need Iron : Games and Trips – "We are trained by the world around us to have fucked up ideas about our bodies; iron unfucks them."
  • The Muscular Female Body Under Scrutiny : Games and Trips – "Embedded in these discussion is the assumption that fitness is something that women do to look good to men. Embedded in these discussion is that fitness is ultimately about vanity. Embedded in these discussion is the assumption that women’s bodies are public property and deserve to be judged."
  • Long, slow walks may beat shorter, higher intensity runs – TODAY Health – "[T]he intriguing finding was that the measurements were far better when the students spent six hours a day walking and standing than they were when volunteers vigorously exercised an hour a day. Triglycerides, for example, barely improved with vigorous exercise, but were 22 percent better when volunteers spent only 8 hours a day sitting."

And two more must-watch videos:

…Yeah. So that happened.

And finally, on a more heartbreaking and uplifting note:

Winkage! Mon, 29 Oct 2012 22:00:31 +0000 Continue reading Winkage! ]]> Winks, links, they’re all the same.

  • xkcd: Epsilon and Zeta – I don't link to XKCD much, in part because I don't read it much, and in part because everyone else in the world does. That said, this one uses real-deal National Hurricane Center advisories in it, and is really good.
  • Ann Aguirre’s Blog – Authors Against Bullying: Blog Hop – "Things were bad. People made fun of me daily. They picked on my appearance, my weight, my geeky interests. Sometimes I hid in the bathroom rather than face a cafeteria full of people who didn’t like me."
  • Utah Game Developer Jailed for Not Paying Wages – ABC News – "Hunter lasted two years before calling it quits, hanging onto promises of paychecks that appeared only erratically, with Rushton sometimes handing out checks selectively and demanding confidentiality while blaming companies that licensed games for being slow to pay for their development or royalties."
  • Beyond Minecraft: Notch On Fame, Pressure, Sequels | Rock, Paper, Shotgun – A bizarre thing for there to have been contention over: "Sometimes the fans are right, too. Like ladders. I did not want ladders in Minecraft at all. Ladders are never fun. They’re not fun in Minecraft either. But they’re a very good utility. It’s an easy way to get straight up without having stairs going back and forth."
  • On Labeling Women “Crazy” | Paging Dr. NerdLove – "I started realizing that when my friends and I would talk about our crazy exes or what-have-you, more often than not, we weren’t talking about ex girlfriends or random dates who exhibited signs of  genuine mental health issues. […] For the most part, crazy meant 'acting in a way I didn’t like.'"
Science Night in the Avery/Weir/Frisina Household Tue, 12 Apr 2011 12:52:47 +0000 Continue reading Science Night in the Avery/Weir/Frisina Household ]]> Given a large block of dry ice and the following substances, create an hour of fun for three people:

I was very late picking up the camera and had a hell of a time getting the 55-200mm lens to focus, but here are some shots:

Late-game, but most of the setup.
Late-game, but most of the setup. The tall narrow glass is the rubbing alcohol, the wine glass was warm water, the plastic cup was soda, the champagne bottle is the holder for the taper that we blew out repeatedly, the pitcher held warm water and dishwashing liquid, and the little container front-and-center is laundry detergent, alcohol, and warm water.

Lettuce in alcohol and water
A piece of lettuce that was soaked in rubbing alcohol with dry ice. Even before it became embedded in the water I added (in this shot), it was frozen crisp.
Laundry detergent bubbles
It took some warm water added to get anything useful from the laundry detergent, but when we did, it was awesome to see the CO2-filled bubbles and burst them.
Several bubbles in the detergent
Another shot of the laundry detergent, with multiple bubbles.
Weekly linkage Thu, 30 Dec 2010 15:02:57 +0000 Continue reading Weekly linkage ]]> This week’s internet cruising:

  • APW Book Club: Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed, Round II « A Practical Wedding – Not all choices are empowering. "Because here is the thing: the more we talk about marriage here, the more I worry. I worry that we’re being given the illusion of lots of options, and the reality of really sh*tty options. I worry that the sh*ttiest of options (over-work, under-appreciation, enormous sacrifice) are being sold to us under the guise of 'independent womanhood,' instead of under the guise of 'life is hard sometimes, and you can make it through, but you should fight for things to be easier.'

    I worry when I hear about most of us* doing the bulk of the chores around the house. Not because we have to, but because we want to ('I just care more about cleanliness than he does, so I need to take responsibility for that.')"

  • Reproductive Writes: I Choose My Choice: An Interview with Elizabeth Kissling | Bitch Magazine – It's about a commercial that ran back in March of this year, but Kissling defines "post-feminism"–a term I've heard and never seen clearly described–and ties it into an enlightening analysis of this commercial and neo liberalism.  I don't know enough yet to analyze her comparison of post-feminism and neo liberalism, but I agree with her analysis of this "period-control" product: it's control over your body (yay, superficially), but not necessarily actually empowering.

    Her words on the neo liberalism dilemma with regards to menstruation: "A menstruating woman can't present herself as a rational, self-actualizing subject, she isn't able to participate in consumerism 24/7. A non-menstruating body is much better suited to market success in the consumer economy."

  • Elf M. Sternberg – Someday, Cognitive Dissonance will be Painful – "He got riled up to the point where he said, 'If I'm ever at a baseball game and the guy next to me doesn't take his hat off and stand up for the pledge, I'm going to knock his hat off, grab him by the collar and stand him up.'" I'll tell you, there'd be two cases of felony assault going on.
  • iPhone : Controversy pushes girl off coed hockey team – This is absolute bullshit. This young woman (the only girl on a coed hockey team) was singled out for lacking skill–a dubious claim, according to the coach–by the parent of another child on the team. She quit to spare herself the scrutiny.
  • Buying individual health insurance policies with pre-tax dollars – "The PPACA may make it possible for workers to get the same tax break for purchasing health insurance on the individual market (via an exchange or otherwise) as they would if they bought their employer-sponsored plan (if they’re offered one)."
  • MenTaLguY: Metroid: Other M – The Elephant in the Room – I don't play the Metroid Prime games, but this coverage of the Other M game is an awesome read. "For the last few releases, the games have been getting more and more story-based, with Sakamoto’s very strong emphasis on narrative in Other M turning Metroid into a series with a story that literally can’t be ignored except through well-timed bathroom breaks. This might be fine if the story were different."
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Weekly linkage Tue, 26 Oct 2010 16:46:21 +0000 Continue reading Weekly linkage ]]> This week’s internet cruising:

  • Living Like a Millionaire on Pennies a Day – "Now, I’m not talking about racking up thousands of dollars in consumer debt, or buying fancy cars and houses. I’m talking about something more valuable than that: having time. The only pre-requisite to living like a millionaire is being able to overcome your fear of uncertainty."
  • Google: Google Street View Cars Sniffed Wi-Fi Networks | News & Opinion | – "Google Inc said its fleet of cars responsible for photographing streets around the world have for several years accidentally collected personal information that consumers send over wireless networks." Good job, Google. I'd completely slept on this until I saw this article about Canada ripping Google a new one.
  • SEO for Bing Versus Google – Nice overview of differences. Unfortunately, of course, the differences are all described from an end-user perspective; I've love to see what's really under the hood of both Bing and Google.
  • Apple Mac App Store Review Guidelines Hints “No Java” In Lion’s – Oh, boy. The potential for wrong-doing here is immense, if not managed properly. I'd also seen something about non-app store apps not getting full OS access, although I can't find a source for that anymore, so it was possibly (hopefully) just a rumor.
  • The Keyboard Cult – For those who love their mechanical keyboards, here you go: an ode to keyboards. Plus, a good dig on developers who can't type (quickly). I know one full-day developer who doesn't type quickly or well. I take him "seriously", certainly, but I wonder at how much better and more productive he could be if he typed faster.
  • Hawthorne Cottage – Chunky Yarns – Pretty…
  • flash.utils.Proxy (ActionScript 3.0) – Um, this is really cool. Just sayin'.
Weekly linkage Tue, 05 Oct 2010 14:00:20 +0000 Continue reading Weekly linkage ]]> For some reason, I felt like I didn’t have a lot of links this week for all the cruising I did, but I was wrong. I plowed through 280 Google Reader posts and was caught up as of yesterday afternoon. It may never happen again.

  • The survey’s authors concluded that there was “widespread confusion” about “the line between teaching and preaching.” – I'd like to see the stats for people who had taken part in Unitarian Universalist religious education–my understanding is that that program spans multiple religions.
  • Earning Extra Income with a (Small) Blog – Another very awesome post on self-publishing. Am I gearing up to something? I dunno.
  • $72,000 in E-Books in a Week – 8 Lessons I Learned – Since Greg is considering releasing LORE as a physical book (and e-book/book self-publishing is of great interest to me as well), I've been reading up on book marketing and revenue numbers and what type of experience to expect. It's good reading.
  • Killa Appz By Dave Berzack : I Laughed, I Cried | 8bitrocket – I, too, enjoy getting jiggy with legacy apps. I also dance like that when I code or talk with clients. I find it makes everyone far more comfortable with the process.
  • Union of mothers create anti-gay ad because of drama “Life Is Beautiful” – This ridiculous ad stating, “If my son becomes gay and dies from AIDs after watching ‘Life Is Beautiful’, SBS [the broadcasting company] must take responsibility!” A gay Korean actor posted a nicely-written series of Twitter posts lambasting them. Go read.
  • Do not use Bible to attack homosexuality – A well-written opinion piece. I struggle with the idea of taking any holy text wholesale–so why not pick your passages?–but if you take as a premise that the whole thing is true, then this guy's got a point. I wish they allowed commenting; I'd love to see the discussion that article.
  • Could ‘Goldilocks’ planet be just right for life? – Yahoo! News – Look at this: "It's unknown whether water actually exists on the planet, and what kind of atmosphere it has. But because conditions are ideal for liquid water, and because there always seems to be life on Earth where there is water, Vogt believes 'that chances for life on this planet are 100 percent.'" …What? Water hasn't been seen yet, but there's a 100% chance of it being there and there being life? Erm.
  • Bollywood Gay film faces Censors – I very much want to see this film. "Kapil commented on the action taken for the submission and said: 'The Censor Board objected to the kissing and lovemaking. They asked us to delete those scenes. We refused. We aren’t trying to do any kind of sleazy stuff here. Ours is the first ever serious gay love story. The intimacy is essential. Our film is now with the revising committee.'"
Weekly linkage Wed, 08 Sep 2010 14:24:32 +0000 Continue reading Weekly linkage ]]> From my 2005 trip to California.Just a few: