An Experiment In Scotch

I write to discover what I believe

Month: April 2014

The Blood Moon and Inflation

Last night at around 3 AM I watched the blood moon eclipse from the backyard. It was a fascinating experience that felt primal as if I were living 400 years earlier when an occurrence of a total eclipse would have been something people revered or even feared. Watching the moon go dark would have been a form of entertainment, one seemingly simple in our environment of constant entertainment. It was a clear night last night, perfect for star gazing. The coyotes were prowling off in the distance and twice became quite vocal. The hunting was probably good for the predators last night even with the moon eclipsed as it was very bright. At about 2 AM, when the moon in three quarter eclipse, a night bird flew over my head at about 10 feet. He made no noise and was above me and gone almost before it registered. It reminded me of the scene in The Orchard Keeper when the owl claims the cat.

I thought about the interaction of the earth’s and moon’s movements last night. My mental model still isn’t right for the seasonal changes of the earth but I think I have a good idea how the earth’s rotation and revolution affect things like lunar eclipses. It’s quiet at 3 AM (at least when you view the eclipse alone, apparently some friends had their kids up and it was more like a slumber party) and easy to think. With the chill, there weren’t any bugs to worry about and it was a peaceful event.

Speaking of chill, Mother Nature again decided to mock global warming by sending a cold front with freezing temperatures into the area well past average freeze date. Lows were right at 32 though likely colder out in the more rural areas including our house beyond the concrete jungle. We covered all the sensitive veggies last night with an assortment of tools. They will remain covered into tomorrow as the temps are near 35 tomorrow night as well. The squash and tomatoes were just starting to really dig in and grow. Hopefully, this will not be a significant setback.

Prices of meats, poultry, fish and eggs rose 4 percent in February compared to a year earlier but of course, the government says there’s no inflation in the Consumer Price Index. Thankfully, chocolate chip cookies and sugar are both down over 7%, a sign of our misguided nutritional system. We don’t worry too much about those silly volatile items like food and energy even though those are the prices the poor and middle class are most affected by. It’s yet another way the oligarchy becomes more powerful. Prices are affected by the ongoing widespread drought along with a virus that is killing piglets on farms across the country. The drought isn’t something within our control but of course, our increasingly industrialized modern farming system easily could be exacerbating a swine epidemic. Pigs are raised on often inhumane environments and an outbreak could metastasize. Because it’s a virus, our normal procedures of throwing antibiotics at the problem will be ineffective. Just one more way modern agriculture weakens our food supply. Too much sameness and efficiency results in fragility and susceptibility to black swan events. Our confidence in our own ability to circumvent Mother Nature on a large scale leads to greater problems. Perhaps the blood moon will signify the return of the rain gods and lessen the drought in a meaningful way.

Trying Clojure Again

I first started trying Clojure 4 or 5 years ago with only moderate success and not much dedication. Recently, I purchased the 2nd edition of Programming Clojure and am working my way through it very slowly. The biggest change I’ve noticed is how different the ecosystem is now. Leiningen has drastically changed getting up and running with Clojure. It doesn’t hurt that I do all development on a Mac now whereas 5 years ago it was all Windows.

I’m working my way through the Clojure Koans as well as the book. I go back and forth between reading and writing code, trying to memorize as much of the clojure.core as I can. A comment I saw on Hacker News today was apropos: “I knew how clojure felt and behaved, but IMHO you still have to memorize most of the core library, or most code will look confusing.” The code is just foreign still to a guy coming from C#, Python, Ruby, etc. Though I will say that some of the more advanced Ruby I read is similar in nature, at least to my eyes. The syntax is very terse. The shorthand for anonymous functions alone makes my eyes hurt. I’m sure the more I stare at it, the less that will be.

Today, I started learning several of the predicates in clojure.core including subset?. Part of my strategy is to search the documentation for a new function and try to learn it by writing some code using it. Four years ago, it seemed like knowing the core library very well was key to success as I would write a bunch of lines of code only to later discover that functionality was built in.

One goal of learning Clojure is to finally get the functional mental shift to happen so that my Javascript becomes much stronger. I’m watching the Pluralsight course on Javascript The Good Parts by Crockford along with reading Javascript Allonge. It’s clear that until that functional mental shift happens, a lot of this will remain slightly foreign.

Consistency Is Hard

One thing I’ve learned from trying to write every day for 40 odd days is that it’s very hard to do. Even if you aren’t particularly worried about quality (and it’s clear I’m not), doing anything other than eating and breathing for 40 days in a row is difficult. Other things get in the way on a regular basis and the necessary commitment wanes over time leaving you wondering what in the hell you were thinking about when you made the commitment in the first place. Also, I could have sworn commitment had two t’s.

Apparently Mother Nature is pissed and is sending a cold front this direction late in the season for the second year in a row. Last year we had a freeze in April. This year, it’s going to be close but looks like we’ll miss freezing temps on Tuesday morning though there is a frost alert. I’m going to have to get out tomorrow or Monday and cover everything with plastic. I guess the constant stress might be good for the plants, makes them stronger but I’d prefer to not have to deal with it.

One thing commitment teaches you is that in order to be committed (now it has two t’s), you have to give up other things. My reading list is growing and I keep adding books to my Amazon wishlist with the full intent but zero time to read them. On top of that, I have to get a Kentucky Derby pool built in The Sports Pool Hub before May. It’s the work thing that really takes up so much time. I need to just retire. Alas, that probably isn’t happening any time soon.

Falling Out of Rhythm

The days seem to be getting shorter and I don’t find time to write. Today there was plenty of time but I chose to spend it watching the Masters. I’m ok with that tradeoff. I wrote my grandmother a letter tonight so all in all, I figure it’s a net positive.

On Garage Sales

I find the intersection of human behavior and garage sales fascinating. I mention this only because I just had one this weekend where I made a whole $46 dollars before subtracting expenses. I watched 5 people open the lid on a washing machine as if what they saw inside told them the value of said used washing machine. None of them bought it. It makes me wonder what they needed to see inside in order to swing them over to the purchase side of the transaction. A leprechaun? Pot of gold? What exactly were they looking for?

There are a variety of people who come to garage sales. I particularly enjoy the people who buy nothing but thank me for the privilege of looking at crap I no longer want. I do this too so it’s hard to be too harsh but still, what is it that makes us thank people for that privilege? For me it’s the guilt of not buying any of their crap as if I had walked into Tiffany’s but chosen not to buy anything after wasting the sale people’s time. Then there are those that seem to keep the social wall up so that they don’t have to feel obligated to buy anything. A cheerful good morning is returned with a mumble and a quick stalk around the merchandise.

Late in the day, people drive up but don’t stop, doing a roll through and somehow making a decision about the quality of your good based on the quantity left at 1 PM. What did they expect? All the hoarders and pickers show up at 6:45 am before the garage even opens. Do the lazy people who come at 1 actually expect to find bargains or do they just like the idea of garage sale-ing?

Speaking of hoarders, the same family of them show up every time I have a garage sale and they always find something to buy. The old lady has switched from Virginia Slims to a fancy electronic cigarette and I can always count on her to buy candles if I have any. The old man bought a flag pole once and we still see it at times on their house. This time they brought their son and I’m pretty sure he bought something though I can’t remember what it was. Probably a Christmas plate.

Some day, I’m hoping Jerry Jones has a garage sale. Or maybe an estate sale. When he kicks over, will Stephen put everything out on the front lawn? What do rich people do when they decide they don’t want that ugly Christmas sweater anymore? I think of garage sales as a combination purge and donation to those less fortunate but perhaps I overestimate the value of my crap. Still, it makes me feel good when someone comes along and buys all my shirts for $.50 each and says that her son is small and she can never find good clothes at garage sales. I’m glad someone can get some more use out of them. Now if only someone would take that washing machine.

Rain

Today it rained all day which for this time of year shouldn’t be that out of the ordinary but we’ve been so dry for so long that it’s a welcome change. Won’t make a dent in the lake being 13 feet low but at least the sprinklers don’t have to run tomorrow. We saw the first hummingbird of the season tonight. I’m not sure what he’s eating right now but there must be something that’s starting the migration. I put out some snapdragons last week but according to Yahoo Answers, Oracle of the internet, those aren’t good for hummingbirds because the petals are fused shut. Agastache would be better. I need to get the feeder out and filled but that didn’t happen today.

NaNoWriMo is running a camp in April for writing a novel not that I’m going to do it. Though with 3 more weeks, if I used my Lent challenge as part of that, I might be able to make some serious progress. It would certainly be better than what’s going on here these days. Missed last night with a case of the lazy. That makes 3 nights this week. Not a good week. I’ve been thinking about what to do for a habit forming exercise after Lent is up. I’ve considered 40 days of coding at least something every day which would be helpful in a variety of ways. A blog post every day results in a bunch of really boring blog posts especially when I don’t write them until I’m exhausted at 10 PM. How does one get to be exhausted at 10 PM anyway when there was no labor done today? I did cook a lot and even wrote some code. I’m trying to create an application that will read data off scanned grocery story receipts. Using that data, users would be able to see how much particular meals cost or calculate their per ounce cost across the month for budgeting reasons. That’s what I want to do with it anyway. I got a gem hooked up that will read the text off the image but it’s not terribly accurate. Curly parsley became burly parsley, curly’s meaner gym going cousin. Of course, I bought Italian parsley, they just rang it up wrong. Regardless, there are some kinks to work out. Also started looking into Clojure again this weekend, that language is really interesting and I think has powerful promise for situations where state is problematic, which is to say almost everywhere.

It’s incredible how effective one glass of wine is at making me tired. Truly amazing sleep aid.

I've Got Nothing

It’s been one of those weeks that involves 55 hour work weeks, a possessions purge that will involve most of Saturday and 5 days of allergy related misery. Today is the first day in 6 that I haven’t been a mouth breather. I think I have conclusively proven to myself that gluten, especially in the form of beer, causes me great distress allergy wise. Last Saturday, I played in the match play at Woodbridge and for the first time in 4 years, I advanced to the second round. So in celebration (and in celebration of the fact someone else was buying the beer), I had several beers. Then Sunday at about 2:30 am, the error of my ways was made clear to me by an angry allergy God who decided to start off with 24 hour of body aches and then follow that up with 5 days of snot nosed, mouth breathing misery. Combine that with hell at work and you have the recipe for not having much mental energy left on Friday night to produce literary greatness.

Tomorrow is garage sale day with the main hope of selling a washing machine and dryer that has been taking up room in the garage for 6 months. Most everything else will probably fit in the trashcan which is painful but frankly, also freeing. I’d like to have less stuff though reducing the stuff that one owns (or that owns you, either way) is difficult only because stuff seems to attract other stuff like static cling.

One of the benefits of not eating much (the mouth breathing seems to cut down on the ability or desire to actually taste things) is that two glasses of wine is enough to provide a solid buzz. I wonder if Hemingway ever had a garage sale. Probably not. I would imagine garage sales are an invention of the modern age where modern age is the last 40 years. Also, garage sales are likely a function of class, e.g. Jerry Jones does not have garage sales. Hemingway, never made of money, probably didn’t collect enough things (or dust) to have a garage sale. It’s the collecting of things that starts to restrict movement, both physical and mental, probably emotional too. We’d be better off always living with a blank slate but it’s difficult to do. Anyway, wish me luck on selling the washer and dryer. I’m listing it for $20 but I’ll take $10 if you’ll haul it off.

CrossFit Open Recap

Back in January, I signed up for the CrossFit Open. I wasn’t too sure I was going to be able to perform all the exercises after coming up against a snatch ladder in 2013 in the very first workout that I couldn’t do. Still, I was looking forward to the challenge and having a goal to train towards.

Fast forward 3 months and the 2014 Open is over. I finished in 4017th place out of 8055 putting me almost exactly at my goal of being in the 50th percentile in the country in my division which is old men but not the oldest men (40-44). In the South Central region, I finished at 315 out of 637, also in the 50th percentile. More importantly, none of the workouts ended up being too difficult to do. The very first workout cost me badly as I was unprepared in several ways not the least of which was providing my own rope for double unders. I finished in the 75th percentile in that workout so I really made up ground in the other four. The workout I felt like I did the worst in, 14.2, was actually my best.

Since January 1, I’ve done 55 workouts. That’s probably more in 3 months than I’ve done since leaving college and the preparation really showed. My back squat and deadlift both increased including an all time best in back squat. My shoulder press is near my all time max and I am able to do body weight exercises like burpees and pullups without too much strain. As part of 14.3, I lifted over 10,000 pounds in the deadlift portion in 8 minutes. I’m proud of the effort and results from this year’s Open.

I’m going to have to find a goal to keep the level of training up. Already this week, training has dropped off though that has more to do with 4 straight days with 12 hours at work plus suffering with some weird body aches all day Sunday. Still, having a goal provides motivation for increasing improvement. I loved running the Spartan Beast 2 years ago so maybe I can find one of those within range of a road trip.

In other news, the vegetable beds are all planted. There are 19 tomato plants, 8 pepper plants, 3 eggplants, beans, radishes, spinach, corn, beets, turnips, lettuce, onions and garlic. Now that the weather has turned warmer, it’s amazing how fast things start to grow. The cool season veggies are really taking off and we could probably have a spinach salad now if we wanted along with some baby onions to go in it.

Overtime Haiku

Working twelve hour days
Leaves little time to reflect
on Lenten challenge