Monday, March 30, 2009

The Garden Grows

Forgive me Father for I have sinned.

It's been fifteen days since my last blog post...

Much has happened in the past fifteen days that I've thought of writing. I may indeed actually write it some time soon. Until then, I hope you will appreciate and enjoy the latest seedling pictures. The tomato plants have rapidly grown. Today, I spent a great deal of time transplanting them into individual cup-sized pots. I sort of lost track, but I think I have transplanted close to 250 so far with about another 75 to go.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Seedlings Begin to Grow

I've gathered a collection of photos here from my tomato and pepper seedling set-up. I've worked this weekend to refine my laboratory. In fact, in the hour or two since I took these shots, I've rearranged the lights on the shelves. Now, I have my lights strung vertically on the shelf instead of horizontally. I don't know why I hadn't thought of that configuration a couple of years ago. My newest addition is the incorporation of my AeroGarden as a light source for my earliest tomato flats. I plan to rotate all the flats under the high intensity lights as soon as all germination has taken place.

Saturday, I prepared a fourth flat. This flat was an even mixture of tomatoes and peppers utilizing mostly older seeds. We shall see if any reasonable amount of seeds germinate. In addition, I started Emerald Artichokes. This particular variety is supposed to be hardy into my hardiness zone; however, I don't expect to gain any artichokes this year.

There's something about these photos that I find poetic. The way the seedlings seem to wave in the breeze captured in a freeze-frame as they give way to the powers of phototropism is beautiful.

As usual, please click to enrage the photos.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Basketball Exorcism

It's a grief that needs to be exorcised. That's my message for this blog today.

Yesterday, Virginia Tech lost to The University of North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament 79-76. It was a spirited game with everything on the line for the Techmen. The game was decided with about ten seconds to go when an official blew his whistle as VT was making a play to take the lead in a one point game. The call was a held ball, thus awarding the ball to UNC and ending any realistic chance for VT to win. The call was, at the very least, contestable.

Here's how it went down. You can watch the video for yourself.

The fact is that The White Shadow (Tyler Hansbrough) and his (Ed)Davis bumped and hacked our (J.T.)Thompson with few seconds left in the game. Upon replaying the video on frame by frame setting, I noted that after our Thompson caught the ball and swung around, their Davis reached in and grabbed our Thompson's arm. Almost simultaneously, the White Shadow initiated physical contact much akin to the bumping and grinding lower body action seen on a Euro-Disco dance floor at 2:30am, although with less fluidity and grace. Immediately, he followed his initial pelvic thrust up with a clutching hand on our Thompson's back followed immediately by a raking left hand down our Thompson's face continuing down the front of his jersey on its way to the ball below. Along that path, the destructive left hand managed to visibly displace jersey fabric it encountered. As the hand momentarily became attached to our Thompson's hand and the ball, the White Shadow's continued thrusting action from his lower body forced our Thompson to move two feet closer to the sideline. At the exact moment of engagement with the ball, Coach Hess whistled a jump ball and immediately directed the action to move the other way.

That's what happened.

It was a moment that was fumbled on many accounts. Some say MD should have finished his drive and engaged his soft floater over stony still defenders. I think he was smart to try to pass away. Based on the same frame by frame replay, The White Shadow can be seen sliding into the traditional Duke position in the lane. At the very least, MD's shot would have been stressed. More likely, MD would have been fouled with Coach (the official) Hess waving off that call in favor of a charge.

Some say MD should have passed across the lane to a patient ADV, but I think that The White Shadow and his minions would have made such a pass too risky.

In my estimation, a pass back to the newly confident Hudson was a good move. MD's pass just needed to be more finely tuned.

Did that held ball cost us the game? Very possibly. VT was shooting at about a 50% clip for the game. Consistently throughout the game, the Techmen were able to exploit The Shadow's defenses and score.

How can you say that one call cost us the game when every player can most likely point to something they did during the course of the contest that cost us? Well, I can say it because basketball, like any other sport, is a reactive game. Things happen. Players must react and move forward. When disappointments occur during the course of the game, there's time to react and overcome. However, when the ball is in-bounded with 16.6 seconds left in the game and with the entire universe focused on that moment and that time, it is of paramount importance for proper calls to be made. For if not, there is little chance to react and overcome.

So what I'm saying is that Coach Hess' misguided held ball call robbed us of the opportunity to react and overcome....again.

Now I shall say three Hail Mary's (not shoot them like Duke and Xavier did) and light three candles; one for Coach Hess to bring him to our good graces, one for The White Shadow for strength to handle what will surely be the greatest challenge of his career-the NBA, and one for me to turn my darkened soul toward the light.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sing Only Songs

This post was originally generated from a Facebook note. I wanted to put it here because I have made it interactive. Oh yes, one more thing. Morphine should only be listened to with the understanding that there may be adult concepts and phraseology contained withing the songs.

SING ONLY SONG NAMES FROM ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions....

Pick Your Artist: Morphine

Are you male or female: Yes, A Head With Wings

Describe Yourself: Cure For Pain

How do you feel about yourself: Rope on Fire, Hanging on a Curtain

Describe where you currently live: Top Floor, Bottom Buzzer

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: All Your Way

Your best friend is: The Jury

Your favorite color is: Honey White

You know that: A Good Woman Is Hard to Find

What's the weather like: Radar, All Wrong

If your life was a TV show, what would it be called? French Fries With Pepper

What is life to you: Sharks

What is the best advice you have to give: Do Not Go Quietly Unto Your Grave

If you could change your name, what would it be: Scratch

Describe the person least likely to write this note: I Know You, Like a Mirror, Thursday, Eleven O'Clock, Early to Bed

Tomato and Pepper Time

(Click Photo to Enrage)

Last weekend I sneaked in my first wave of tomato and pepper seeds into their germination flats. I've become more and more scientific and particular in developing top-quality seedlings over the past couple of years. This year, I scoured seed catalogs and settled on seeds from Tomato Growers, Territorial Seed, and Totally Tomatoes. I also considered seeds from Seeds of Change, Johnny's Selected Seeds, Pintetree Garden, and others. One thing that I noticed this year is that the prices of tomato and pepper seeds have escalated this year. Generally, you get between 20 and 30 seeds per packet. Last year, I paid anywhere between $1.85-$3.00 per packet. This year my prices ranged from $1.95 (Red Cherry) to almost $4.00 (Momotaro).

In addition shopping for seeds, I did a lot of research on varieties utilizing the Cornell University interactive gardening website.

Initially, I've prepared three 72-cell flats of tomatoes and peppers. In each cell, I have at least two seeds. In some cases, I planted three seeds per cell. later, I will cull the seedlings and destroy the weakest seedlings. In many cases, I'll get two or three very strong seedlings. In those cases, I'll transplant the surplus seedlings to their private cells.

As I stated, my trays, were planted on Saturday of last week. I allowed the trays to sit in my dining room with no special care other than a thorough initial soaking. This was possible thanks to an unusually powerful warm spell that allowed inside house temperatures to hover in the mid-70s. Wednesday, I set up my grow lab and transferred my trays my specially, personally rigged lighted seedling cart. My cart has three generous shelves within a metal frame on rollers. On each level, I've hung florescent grow lights. In addition, I clamped an incandescent lamp inside the shelving unit. The whole cart is wrapped securely in plastic film (the wrapping from a new mattress) to help keep the warmth inside.

Much to my happy surprise, I noted that my tomatoes have begun to germinate... in only five days. Peppers usually take a few days longer.

If everything goes according to plan, I'll transfer all of these plants into their private cups in about a month. If all survive, I should have close to 400 plants from this first wave. If I feel motivated, I may start an addition flat or two. Usually, I like to start a few eggplant, celery, and broccoli in addition to experimenting with saved hot pepper seeds as well as old packaged seeds.

I usually end up using about 30 tomato plants and about 50 pepper plants. I usually sell or give away the rest.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Priming the Sled

Priming the Sled

In the winter, many a dare-devil child raced his runner sled through the tangled brush and completed a jump off the top of the cave onto the floor of the pasture ten feet below.

Whenever a snowstorm approached, my father would walk out to the “barn’ and unhook the sleds from their spots on the wall and carry them into the basement sled laboratory. I used to follow him watching his every move. First, he’d make his way to the back of the small shed past the rototiller and lawnmowers and carefully take down our three sleds. The small nameless ancient runner sled was the first to come out, and I usually got to carry it. Its wooden slats were discolored, aged, and primed with splinters. Next out was the super sleek Lightning Guider. What a beast. It stood against the wall with an air of cocky arrogance. It knew it was fast and had nothing to prove. The last sled on the hook was the long family sedan. It was the sled young kids rode with their father. It never traveled faster than a turtle thanks largely to the inwardly bent runners and shaky construction.

My father passed along all I ever needed to know about how to care for a sled properly. The runners were THE key to successful sledding he used to profess. My father taught me patience in the sled shop. First using medium grit sandpaper, we’d address the runners taking the crusty layer of rust off. After making a few passes with the paper, a clean towel buff and then it was on to step two. Next my father would go to a fine grit paper and work on smoothing any blemishes on the runner surface. He was especially keen to get corrosive bubbles that would erupt from time to time on the steel blades. After another quick buff, he’d move on the steel wool phase. I used to love this part. I’d get some steel wool and rub it back and forth along the runners. After a few passes, they would begin to glisten. After wiping them, I’d run my finger along the blade. My father taught me that if your finger coasts along the runner with no resistance, then the blade was ready for the final application. Finally, we’d get out the candles. Dad used regular broken candlesticks. He wasn’t too picky. We’d rub the candle along the runner, applying a thin coat of wax to each runner all along the course of the blade. When all steps had been completed, the sleds were ready for fun.

You knew you had a fast sled when you attached a rope to it and pulled it behind you to the sled run. If the sled followed effortlessly and passed you in a hurry on the way down hills, then you knew you were in for a fantastic evening.

Sledding was something that I lived for. Around my house, a multitude of runs had been developed. The Garst pasture near our Garstland Drive house was home to four solid runs. Many a dare-devil child raced his runner sled through the tangled brush and completed a jump off the top of the cave onto the floor of the pasture ten feet below. Our community mainstay, however, was the Garstland Drive hill. Every so often, a storm would lay down the perfect track and the neighborhood would come out at night to burn some tires and train down the hill. I spent many happy and thrilling hours sledding on and around Garstland Drive.

End of Part I

Part II: The Ultimate Plunge