Friday, January 25, 2013

Future Story: Alas Zion, Part II

(In part I, we are introduced to a father and son working in the field and discover that the father has met Adolf Hitler, the painter...)

The son continues.  "Yeah, we learned about him in Art History during winter break.  They called him the 'Premier Painter of the Third Reich', the 'Father of the Grotesque School'.  He's the one who painted all those mutilated bodies and stuff."

"Yeah, that's how the world knows him today.  But that's not how I knew him.  In a different time he was the most feared and hated man in the entire world. Although, when I met him he was about your age."

"Okay, Dad, now I know you're pulling my leg.  That was over a hundred years ago.  There's no way you could have met him when he was my age."

"This is a secret I haven't told anyone except your mother on her death bed.  I have actually traveled
through time.  I was born 45 years ago, but it was a different time.  In a way it all started with the destruction of Israel."

"What's Israel?"

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Future Story: Alas Zion, Part I

(I have had the idea for this story for over a decade.  Thanks to William Hunter Duncan and his Asima series, I now know how.  I don't know if I will ever do more with it, so if anyone wants to take this idea and expand on it, all I ask is that you let people know where you got the idea.)

A large field fills the river valley.  Small cart paths criss cross the field.  Row upon row of produce are being tended by people scattered throughout the field.  A late middle-aged man and a boy just coming into manhood work fairly close together.

"Son..." the man calls.

"Yes, Dad?"

"Come closer so we can talk."

The boy walks over to the next row from his dad and faces him.

"Have I ever told you about the time I met Adolf Hitler?"

"No, Dad... Why does that name sound familiar?  Oh, wait, was he a painter?"

The man laughed.  "Yes, son, he was a painter."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Biggest Thing

It's over 4 billion light-years long: "Scientists Discover Universe’s Largest Known Structure" on the Science World blog on Voice of America.  That's something like 8% of the diameter of the known universe.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Simple Biochar Experiment

My cat loves to eat grass.  When it's too cold for him to go out, I'll grow some catgrass for him.  This past spring I did a little experiment to see about optimizing what I grow for him.  I took a mix of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 compost (which if you do Square Foot Gardening you'll recognize as Mel's Mix) and a mix of 1/2 biochar and 1/2 compost and combined them in equal parts.  I took out one 3" round pot's worth of that mix, which I will call a 1/2 biochar-compost mix, and to the remainder I added an amount of Mel's Mix equal to what I had left, giving me a 1/4 biochar-compost mix.  I repeated this process down to 1/128 biochar-compost mix.  I then planted them all with 30 catgrass seeds, set them out on my patio table, and waited a couple weeks until it was time to harvest.  At that point there was visibly more catgrass in the containers in the 1/8 and 1/16 biochar-compost mixes than the ones with more or less.

The point of this wasn't to get quantifiable results but to have an idea of what range the biochar was most effective in.  If I repeat this experiment I will likely do more than one pot of each, and actually measure my results, but I will probably only try between 1% and 10% biochar.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Thank Obama...

Arthur Silbur from his latest entry in his Power of Narrative blog:
The only reason you aren't dead right now is because Obama hasn't decided to kill you -- yet. But he claims he has the power to do so -- and there are almost no voices of any prominence to dispute the contention.
So, have you thanked Obama today for allowing you to live?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Scary Thought

With the regard to the government, what if this is as good as it can get?  Or as George Mobus puts it on  Question Everything,
What If the People We Send to Congress ARE the Best We Can Find?
 This scary thought occurred to me as I watched the fiscal cliff negotiations proceed. I have been lamenting the brokeness of the political system and the federal government for a while now. And I am hardly the only one. But if my thesis about the lack of sapience is correct then we are not looking at a merely broken system. Maybe the system is working perfectly given the constraints on the capabilities of the component parts (we humans). We can't assume that somehow or another we keep sending incompetent or dishonest people to Washington and that one day that will change.