I am a fan of nature-based observances/celebrations/holidays and made-up new and potentially silly ones like Pi Day and Discardia. I’ve baked and eaten my pie (half apple, half peach & blueberry to clean out last summer’s fruit from the freezer) and I’m eyeing the big pile o’ crap for what might be pruned during this season’s round of Discardia. And trying to pull together my thesis proposal, although it’s tempting to discard it, too…

I set up a meeting with my thesis committee so I’d have a deadline, but now that the deadline is here (well, a week away), I wish I could take it back. I’ll be glad after the fact but I can’t quite see how I’m going to pull it off from the vantage point of now. What kind of place is outer space? How to we (and who is this “we”, exactly?) imagine it, that is both what do we base our ideas upon, and what do we think it’s like, or will be like, because it’s also often conceptualized as far in the future or far in the past. Outer space isn’t always (or often) imagined or understood to be present the way other places are. Or can be. There are people (humans) orbiting the Earth right now. That shouldn’t be surprising; we (the species) have been in orbit continuously for over a decade. And yet it is remarkable when we take a moment to think about it, to imagine them there. At the same time, on the scale of the universe, orbital space is barely off-planet at all; I’m not sure we should consider that part of outer space. Extraterrestrial yes; in the same category as another galaxy? I’m not convinced that’s a useful way to think about the place. Either place.


mmm internets

When I moved here in August, I had done some research on local phone & internet options and was pleased to find an alternative that was not only not one of the major corporations monopolizing the market but was also actively working in support of net freedoms AND did not require a contract to sign up. The only downside was that they could not provide cable internet in my new neighbourhood but projected it would be available in October. They did have DSL, but I already owned a cable modem and didn’t want to buy another gadget I wouldn’t need in a few months. After some deliberation, I figured I’d rather wait and make use of connectivity on campus, at friends’, and as it turned out, a strong open wifi connection in my immediate vicinity.

Five months later I looked up and noticed that there’d been no word of progress on the cable internet front. When I checked in with the company, I was told there was no longer any ETA; they wanted to expand but didn’t know when it would happen here. (I didn’t ask why the new delay). Well, the free wifi I’d been enjoying was reliable and fast, and while I didn’t intend to borrow it indefinitely, there wasn’t any pressing need, and I still didn’t want to buy a DSL modem when I really hoped to have cable internet in the end.

And then last weekend happened, when I was suddenly unable to connect to my old pal “dlink”. The network showed up; there was no new password requirement; my computer just failed to connect. Over and over and over. Now, I’ve taken “digital sabbaticals” before. I generally try to turn off the internet around 8pm most days (although using my ipod touch for bedtime music and reading has made the temptation to take just a little peak uncomfortably easy, with disastrous results for my early-to-bed inclination). I have gone days or weekends without connection, and while there’s always that impulsive reach to plug in at first, it gradually passes and I learn not to miss it, mostly. This week has not been like that; there’s a huge difference between choosing not to have or knowing I won’t have an internet connection and facing the unknown. Suffice it to say productivity was not the result of being offline. Would it come back? Would I be able to connect this time? How about this time? Now? Now? NOW? NO?!

Nick in a boxThis morning A New Hope has appeared, the valiant “linksys”, showing up next to the disturbing void that is “dlink” in my internet connections list but letting me in, opening the door to the wide virtual world. I am simultaneously calmer knowing the door is open (just like my cat) and more distracted trying to figure out where to go first, and next, and next. And I am going to call the internet folks tomorrow and make arrangements for my very own DSL connection that will never ever leave me.

Tales of a novice gardener

seedlingsHere’s my tiny seed starting & indoor winter greens set-up. A high-tech combination of repurposed egg cartons, plastic cookie trays, and plastic containers originally filled with mixed salad greens (clearly they were destined to become counter-top salad planters). The light source is a table lamp balanced on its side with a bare fluorescent bulb. I’m hoping to upgrade and add a second lamp soon. From left to right, there’s the planter with some kale; the seed-starting tray with 7 cells of mixed organic greens (exact varieties sprouting here not yet determined), and a planter with an earlier set of the mixed greens. I’ve had one harvest from the planters so far. I’m trying to be better at seed starting so that I might be able to double my yield: two salads a month instead of one every two months.

ING Orange Key: get $25 for opening a new account

[No, my account has not been hijacked by a spammer.]

If you stumble across this entry in search of an Orange key to get your $25 bonus for opening a new account of at least $100, here’s mine:

for ingdirect.ca: 35644634S1

If you are USian, I can also give referrals to ingdirect.com for a $25 bonus, but they require me to fill out a form with your name, email address, and whether you will be opening a savings or checking account. I’m happy to do this (it’s free money for me, too): email to astherism on gmail. Minimum qualifying deposit is $250.

seed time again

I don’t know if this will remain my sporadic gardening blog or if geography talk will surface, but I am here again to discuss seeds. It’s much too early to do more than dream, given that there’s currently 6 inches of snow in the balmy Niagara region of Ontario. I do have two small planters (repurposed salad mix containers) of greens growing in the kitchen illuminated by a bare CFL bulb. Lettuces, mesclun, kales, that sort of thing. So far the yield has been about one salad in 2 months. I’ve just planted more seeds and I’m hoping to increase the harvest a little.

I bought several different packages of mixes from Fedco Seeds Coop last summer, which is great for variety but it also means I don’t actually know what I’m growing other than “winter lettuce mix”, “organic greens mix”, and “kale mix”. In another month, I will start seeds indoors from the “heirloom tomato mix” and I don’t know when, late May? plant the “rainbow carrots mix” outside. I don’t think carrots are good candidates for starting inside, but I should confirm that.

I’ve got a stash of egg cartons and toilet paper tubes ready to go as biodegradable seed starting planters. I’ve got more seeds than I can use and too much shade in the back yard to take full advantage of all the space. And I’m making lists of what other seeds to buy: spinach, beans, peas, herbs. I just hope my excitement carries over into implementation this time around. My previous record isn’t all that great.

seeds & seeds no more

I’ve had some good luck with seeds — the seeds I saved from heirloom tomatoes bought at People’s in 2007 have all sprouted, except for the orange one – so far only one seed out of six is up, but I only need one plant anyway, so that will be fine. None of the 1992 Seeds of Change tomatoes has sprouted, so I just dumped all the remaining seeds in some dirt and set the container on top of my Mac Mini, which acts as a heating pad for germination (tomatoes apparently like warm dirt). Maybe I’ll get lucky. The sprouts are doing well — not too leggy — in their egg cartons in clamshell containers perched on stacks of whatever I had lying around to get them within a few inches of my living room lamp light bulb. My camera is being repaired, but I’ll post a photo when I can.

Most of the sunflowers have sprouted, but those seeds were packed for 2010, so that’s to be expected. I now have two sprouts from the collection of ancient greens. Too soon to tell what kind of green they are. Not sure if I’ll try starting any of the 2010 mesclun seeds indoors or wait for planting outside.

In a triumph of rationalization, I justified buying some cookies so that I’d be able to use the plastic tray in the the package to hold the tomato egg cups when they’re too tall for the clamshell.

looking down

I finally resolved to plant some of the seeds I had collected and held on to over the years. They don’t take up much space, and you always get so many more seeds than can used in a year, so I kept them. And kept them. And kept them. This is the end of the line: I’m going to use up or compost my tiny stash this season and get all new seeds in 2011. Following good gardener practice, here’s my diary:

21 March: large indoor pot by south-side window: rouge d’hiver lettuce (packed for 1992!) and mesclun salad mix (circa 1999), both from Seeds of Change. My expectations are suitably low; after 6 days, one has sprouted. Tomorrow I’m going to scatter all the remaining seeds from these packs, add some more soil, and give them one more week before declaring failure.

26 March: DIY seed starter kit from egg cartons & plastic clamshell boxes. One dozen ornamental mix sunflowers brand new for 2010 (from VT-based High Mowing Seeds); 6 seeds each of Burbank slicing tomato (Seeds of Change 1992) and seeds I saved from some heirloom tomatoes I got at the food coop in 2007: yellow pear, orange, and red-green (no idea what the official names of the last two varieties were). Twenty-four tomato seeds planted in all, and I’m hoping for one or two surviving plants given the circumstances.

This weekend I also want to start some basil and marigolds, using up seeds ranging in years from toddler to voting-age. Not sure where I’ll put them, though, as I’ve got limited space for indoor cultivation. I’ve also got some geriatric peas to plant outside, but I think I’ll hold out one more week.

territory claimed

I keep getting emails reporting password change requests for this account. Sorry internet spam-bot, I haven’t forgotten about this site and don’t want to give it up yet. Happy Valentine’s Day.

it’s dark out there

so much for writing. has anything changed since the last/first entry? yes and no…

in the dusk

I don’t want to have another blog. I had more than one before and I merged them because it was too much work to keep things seggregated and decide what belonged where. I’m mostly happy with what it has become, and it’s paid for and I don’t want to give it up. But now I’m thinking about writing more, differently. And I’m not comfortable doing that on the other blog, where I’m more or less out as me. I’m not ready to have an audience for what I hope to express here. And yet I do want the possibility of an audience, it seems. I could just write these things on paper or in private entries on the main blog. But instead, I want to post them here, in the open, where the likelihood of anyone finding them is slim but not none.