email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Another Fine Night

Well, I've been trying to play fewer games on line late at night, but I still do.  And I had a great night of Scrabble.  I started playing Hearts, Risk, and Backgammon online at Pogo.com many many months ago.  I'm "competitive" at all of those, but each has problems.  I can honestly say that "dice hate me", which makes Risk and Backgammon miserable sometimes.  And I can't keep track of cards well enough to break past the mid rank of Hearts.

So I've been playing Scrabble for a few months, about one night per week.  No dice, no cards.  There is still the luck of the draw of the letters in Scrabble, but it seems random enough with so many letters that I'm not having a problem with that.  Plus, you get to use the good letters the other player uses. And I have a good vocabulary from reading lots of books...

Still, I got killed at first.  Scrabble uses a lot of specialty words.  Short ones like ZA and QI, and 7 letter words are bonuses.  It helped that I did Sunday crossword puzzles in ink for a couple decades.  While no crossword puzzles use ZA or QI, few scrabble players come across "sten" and "nene", so it works out.

So I guess I finally learned most of the 2-letter scrabble words (after being beaten to death with them at first).  And I was forced to start thinking of 7-letter words after being killed by the 50 point bonuses for using them (by my opponents).

Last night, I broke through the learning curve.  I won 12 games in a row!  Most were against real players, a couple were against the computer when no real players were available.  It may seem odd to any of you who play online games, because  computer players are generally considered easy to beat.  They drive ME nuts!  I can't beat the simplest chess program.  The Risk bots kill me routinely.  I can only beat real people!!!

I have no idea why.

It may be that when people think left/right, I think up/down. 

In Scrabble, I find it easy to make multiple word combinations.  Think of "ME", "LETS, and "EGG"  in a square of words.

Anyway, I beat players with 100 times my score. I have 140,000 points.   I asked one player who has 8 million points how she got them (after I crushed her in 3 games in a row).  She said she had been playing for 12 years.

Um,OK...

I don't plan to play Scrabble for 12 years...

I think I might try Clue next...  Achieving compentency at Scrabble has rendered the game boring.  Time to move on...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Planting Again!

Well, the best day of seed planting has occurred!  I planted the heirloom tomatoes and the hybrid sweet bell peppers 2 days ago.  If I could grow only 2 crops, those would be it.

Fortunately, I can grow a lot of other stuff.

For veggies, my list is nearly as long as the index list in a catalog.  I've even grown celery.

Right now, I have cabbage, broccoli. pay choy, brussels sprouts. lettuces of various types, tomatoes, bell peppers, and leeks.  Soon, I will have spinach, parsnips, beets. carrots, snow peas,  flat italian pole beans, squash, melons, pumpkins, radishes etc.

I have some blue potatoes this year.  I found them in the organic section of the grocery store, and they are sending out small shoots from the eyes.  4 blue potatoes will turn into 40 when planted in my containers.  And with luck, I will get 2 harvests by planting a few eyes in July.

I have been planting a LOT of annual flowers this year.  I spent 10 years on perennials and the short blooms are just not worth it.  So I've going back to annuals that bloom all Late Spring, Summer and Fall.  Salvias, Forget-Me-Nots, Carnations, Wave Petunias, Impatiens, Coleus, Cardinal Vines,

That needs a lot of indoors growing space.  Fortunately, I adapted a large storage rack to a light stand last year.  It is paying off now!

Each shelf has 4 fluorescent bulbs hanging below.  Each shelf has 2 daylight bulbs and 2 grow-light bulbs.  I really can't give the plants better lighting than that!

I keep the trays of seedlings close to the lights.  But the shelves are fixed in place.  So I do the adjustments by having wood stands of various heights.

Mesclun in a window box
Top view to show color.
Chinese cabbage.
Salvia, rudbecckia, and forget-me-nots...
Carnations and celery.
Rescued plants from last year.  Stokesia, clumping blue fescue, and catnip.
Bell peppers.  Lipstick is the best sweet bell pepper for me!
The heirloom tomatoes:  Aunt Gerties Gold, Brandywine, Prudens Purple, Cherokee Purple, Tennessee Britches, and hybrid suncherry.
An example of the stands I built to raise the trays as close to the lights as possible.  And to lower them as needed.  Best results are 1" away from the lights.  As they grow, they get put on lower stand.
Two stands before assembly.  They are just glued.
Here is a stand glued and with a weight on top.  The container is full of clean kitty litter.
After an hour, I can add a new glued stand.  They aren't attached, just stacked.
This is the seedling soil I used this year.  It wasn't perfect sterile soil, but it was "good enough" and it was on sale.
I've learned that the more expensive "seed starter soil" isn't required.  I got almost 100% germination with this stuff.  I DID have to pick out a few bits of bark and hand-crush some clumps of topsoil, but it was worth the cost.

BTW, when planting flats of 6 pack cels, I trowel lots of soil on top, scrape the excess away and tp down the cells with other 6 packs.  Then I plant the seeds, cover them with soil  using a flour sifter and tsmp them down again with a 6 pack.

That is all working great so far.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Planting Seeds

I planted flower and veggie seeds today.  I love doing that.  It signals the start of a new gardening season.  And I got to start using the light stand I adapted from storage shelves last April.

I bought 4 large bags of potting soil last week.  They were on sale, and I have storage space for the extra for next year.  A single bag almost filled up a large trash can.  The stuff isn't perfect.  It is designed for large containers and established houseplants.  There are bits bark and some clumps that have to be hand crushed into fine soil.  But it works with a little effort.  Really fine starting soil costs 3 times as much, so I am willing to put a little labor into improving it.

So, I pulled out my planting trays and the 6-cell-packs that fit them from last year.  They are clean, of course.  Each Fall, I fill up the basement laundry tub and add ammonia and soap to the water.  I let the trays and 6-cells soak overnight and rinse them a few times.  So today was my first major scheduled planting (10 weeks before last likely frost date).

The light stand is GREAT!  Each shelf has a combination of "daylight" and "plant-grow" fluorescent bulbs, and I made supports of various heights so that I can easily keep the growing seedlings close to the lights.  And I built the stand so that the shelves are all 2" lower than the shelf above (i.e. shelves are 10", 12", 14" and 16" apart). 

Today (week minus 10 to last frost date here), I planted mostly annuals; 35 salvia, 6 wave petunias, 12 perennial ruddbeckia, 35 impatiens, 12 forget-me-nots, and 11 leeks.

Why the odd numbers on some?  Because I want to water the trays from the bottom and that requires an open spot..  Six 6-packs fit in each tray.  I cut one cell out to leave an easy watering spot.  You don't want to water from above.

My schedule has nothing to plant in week -9.  But week -8 is the BIG ONE!  Tomatoes, peppers. 4 flowers, cole crops.  I can hardly wait!!!

Pictures later when the seedlings start to grow...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Planting Seeds

I planted flower and veggie seeds today.  I love doing that.  It signals the start of a new gardening season.  And I got to start using the light stand I adapted from storage shelves last April.

I bought 4 large bags of potting soil last week.  They were on sale, and I have storage space for the extra for next year.  A single bag almost filled up a large trash can.  The stuff isn't perfect.  It is designed for large containers and established houseplants.  There are bits bark and some clumps that have to be hand crushed into fine soil.  But it works with a little effort.  Really fine starting soil costs 3 times as much, so I am willing to put a little labor into improving it.

So, I pulled out my planting trays and the 6-cell-packs that fit them from last year.  They are clean, of course.  Each Fall, I fill up the basement laundry tub and add ammonia and soap to the water.  I let the trays and 6-cells soak overnight and rinse them a few times.  So today was my first major scheduled planting (10 weeks before last likely frost date).

The light stand is GREAT!  Each shelf has a combination of "daylight" and "plant-grow" fluorescent bulbs, and I made supports of various heights so that I can easily keep the growing seedlings close to the lights.  And I built the stand so that the shelves are all 2" lower than the shelf above (i.e. shelves are 10", 12", 14" and 16" apart). 

Today (week minus 10 to last frost date here), I planted mostly annuals; 35 salvia, 6 wave petunias, 12 perennial ruddbeckia, 35 impatiens, 12 forget-me-nots, and 11 leeks.

Why the odd numbers on some?  Because I want to water the trays from the bottom and that requires an open spot..  Six 6-packs fit in each tray.  I cut one cell out to leave an easy watering spot.  You don't want to water from above.

My schedule has nothing to plant in week -9.  But week -8 is the BIG ONE!  Tomatoes, peppers. 4 flowers, cole crops.  I can hardly wait!!!

Pictures later when the seedlings start to grow...

Football

I don't care much for football, per se.  I don't really think violent contact should be a part of skilled sports.  OK, boxing, wrestling, you have to contact or there isn't the sport at all.  If you like that the game is to beat the opponent unconscious, boxing is well-designed for that purpose.  But I don't consider that "sport".

"Sports" started to go wrong for me when pro basketball changed from a skilled shooting game to a "flying elbows cage fight" gradually in the 70s and 80s.  Football was no better; at least it STARTED with the idea of violence tackles and such.  So I watched College basketball for a while, until the violence was taught there.  I don't watch any of those these days.  I expect to see a video clip of some Middle School basketball coach exhorting his players to "throw those elbows around" and"trip that guy" any day now.

I played high school soccer in the mid 60s.  Like baseball, it isn't inherently a contact sport.  Yes, injuries can happen.  Mine was when an opponent and I reached the ball at the same time to kick it.  I got there just first.  HIS attempted kick landed in the top of my ankle.  It separated the joint.  My forward momentum made me land on that foot and popped the joint back into place.  I couldn't run for a month.  But at least it wasn't an intentional part of the game.  And I've never had any problems with the ankle since.

Speaking of high school soccer, when I joined the team, it was the first year it had been offered.  I played tennis, golf, and was on the long distance running team.  Most of us had general athletic backgrounds.  But the funny part was all the football players who got cut from the varsity team.  They thought they would just take over.  Not a single one made the soccer team. 

We wore them out fast.  They couldn't keep up with the constant play.  No huddles, no bench time, no alternating between offense and defense, hardly any padding, no helmets, no lackeys to run out and squirt water in their mouths.  After 2 weeks, they didn't get "cut" from the team, they just QUIT!

But I digress...

I watch football sometimes when my local team (The Washington Redskins) plays, when they are playing well.  I'm no diehard fan.  But when the local team is exciting, I may as well watch a good team.  Unfortunately, it has been years since they were any good.  But leads me to mention why I started writing this post.  The Superbowl game this year was pretty good (and not overly violent).  I checked in on it a few times and watched the last 5 minutes.

I decided I was rooting for the Giants to win the game. 

Why?  Because "we" beat them both games this year.  LOLOLOL!