Our 2011 harvest of peppers
Our 2011 harvest of peppers
Washing our pepper harvest

After Jackie broke her wrist, we quit going to the garden. She couldn’t do that sort of work at all, and I was so busy trying to do the bare minimum of my work plus the necessary fraction of the work she couldn’t do any more, anything extra had to be dropped. The garden was one thing we dropped.

Jackie’s nearly all better now. The splint has been off for several weeks. The hand therapist said she was doing well enough on her own and didn’t need formal physical therapy. (He gave her a bunch of exercises to do.) But we still didn’t go to the garden. It just seemed like it would be too depressing to see the remnants and imagine what our garden might have been.

And yet, we figured there’d probably be some stuff to harvest. We’d had a hot, dry summer, so we didn’t expect the tomatoes to have survived. And without us there to do the weeding, we figured the greens would have been overshadowed terribly by weeds. But the sage should have survived, and perhaps the peppers as well.

As it turns out, it wasn’t even quite that bad. Two of our cherry tomato plants did very well. And, as you see, the peppers produced in great profusion. We also got some sage, some swiss chard, and a some sunflowers.

Now I’m feeling a little silly that we didn’t get to the garden earlier. We’d certainly have gotten a lot more sunflowers—we could have had flowers steadily for all these weeks. We’d also have been able to eat the peppers steadily as they ripened, instead of getting a whole bunch at once that we’re going to have to preserve. But not very silly. We did about the best we could under the circumstances. To have gotten this much of a harvest despite doing no work since early July is kind of a bonus.

Jackie with book and tea, keeping her broken wrist elevated.

Dismounting her bike as we were arriving at taiji class on Thursday, Jackie got tangled up with the bike, fell, and broke her wrist. (“Are you okay?” I asked. “Evidently not,” Jackie replied, holding up her hand which was visibly displaced from where it was supposed to be.)

Our classmates sprang into action. One ran into the Savoy Rec Center and got an ice pack. Another gave us a ride the emergency room. (Several helped her into the car.)

After getting x-rays and a temporary cast, we saw the trauma surgeon. Because Jackie was not in severe distress, he suggested that we have her scheduled for surgery with the hand and wrist surgeon the following day.

Early Friday morning, the surgeon opened her wrist, attached a plate to her radius, shifted the hand back to where it was supposed to be, and attached the bottom of her hand to the plate as well. Then he put on a smaller cast to support the wrist while it begins to heal. In 10 to 14 days she’s supposed to get that cast off, the stitches removed, some wrist exercises, and a plastic wrist brace to wear for several more weeks (but that can be removed for bathing).

All things considered, Jackie has done really well. She’s not in much pain. (She’s already off the hydrocodone—modest doses of ibuprofen seem to control the pain adequately). The new shorter cast seems quite manageable. (The temporary splint came past her elbow. It was much more inconvenient.) She’s permitted to use her hand, except that she’s not supposed to “push, pull, or lift anything heavier than a coffee cup.”

She’s still coming up with an exercise plan. No bicycling for a while. She won’t be able to lift weights with that arm for a while, although she should still be able to lift with her other limbs. Taiji moves may need to be circumscribed for a while as well. We’ll swap in walking for the bicycling and carry on with the other exercises in modified form.

It’s always a little odd, dealing with health care providers. Except for having a broken wrist, Jackie is in great shape—and that’s unusual these days. They took a medical history from Jackie several times (part of making sure anything that might be an issue for surgery is known in advance). Responding to a long list of potential health problems by saying that she doesn’t have any of them let Jackie feel pretty healthy in spite of her broken wrist.

Refrigerator Interior

Refrigerator InteriorA former coworker, Brian Marick, complained about a lack of creative commons licensed photos of refrigerators. (He wanted an image to illustrate the concept of “code smell.”)

I happened to have a free moment, so I grabbed this quick snap of our refrigerator, and posted it it to flickr under an attribution license.

Now, first of all, it turns out that Brian was wrong. Apparently there’s a whole genre of refrigerator interior photos (see the pool “fridge fetish“) and mine is not the only one with a creative commons license.

But what’s struck me is that people seem drawn to the image. It’s already picked up 2 favorites.

It just goes to show that one is a poor judge of one’s own work. I have other photos that I spent a lot more time on—photos where I was trying to make a point or capture the beauty in a scene or document a moment in time—and how well I think I succeeded doesn’t really predict whether other people seem to find the image interesting or not.

It’s a lesson that I need to apply more to my writing. Just because I’m not sure a story is my best work is no reason to stick it in a drawer. That’s not to excuse slipshod work, but once I’ve done the best I can I need to be a little more willing to get the story out to editors. Maybe they’ll be drawn to it.

Chickens in chicken-wire enclosure
Chickens in chicken-wire enclosure
Sustainable chickens

There’s a letter to the editor in today’s News-Gazette from Clarence Surma advocating for legalizing backyard chickens in Champaign.

In addition, he’s announcing a public meeting on the topic at the Champaign County Farm Bureau on June 2nd at 6:30 PM.

I would have liked to provide some useful links, but the News-Gazette doesn’t seem to have letters to the editor available on-line, Clarence Surma doesn’t seem to have any web presence at all, and I couldn’t find any mention of the meeting on the Farm Bureau’s website. So, not much to link to. I’ve got email in to the Farm Bureau asking for details, and will update here I find learn any more.

If anybody has any links, I hope they’ll share in the comments or by email to me.

National Petascale Computing Facility

Jackie and I got a tour of the NCSA’s National Petascale Computing Facility at the University of Illinois today, where they’re getting ready to install the Blue Waters supercomputer.

This picture shows just the power stations—all the space between these units will, over the next few months, be filled with rack after rack of water-cooled POWER7 modules. (A big part of the building houses cooling towers to dissipate that heat).

There are a couple of supercomputers already installed at the other end of the room, including the EcoG, designed and built by students to enter into a contest for energy-efficient supercomputers. (It took 3rd place overall , and was declared the “greenest self-built cluster.”)

It was build on ordinary commercial-grade racks, which turned out not to be quite strong enough to support all the hardware they were installing—you can see where they braced it with two-by-fours.

A week earlier, we’d attended a tour of the NCSA’s Data Visualization Lab, where we’d been treated to a bunch of 3D videos (shown on a very large, very high-res screen) produced on various supercomputers. It was pretty cool, but I didn’t get any photos worth sharing.

Because I’m a big geek about security and related topics, I was particularly interested in the facility’s secure entry. Employees need to swipe a proximity card and submit to an iris scan. Only after the cylinder closes behind them does it open in front—and it won’t do that if a weight sensor suggests that there’s more than one person in the cylinder.

Secure entry at the National Petascale Computing Facility

Those of us on the tour just walked in through a door next to the secure entryway.

Our new "water amenity."

Our new "water amenity."

I was trying to come up with a word to describe the degree of progress they’d made toward finishing the landscaping here. The dirt is there, so it isn’t landless-scaping, and the contours are in place so it isn’t land-scapelessing. With only one remaining word fragment to work with, all I could come up with is landscape-ingless.

(I blame English for using “landscaping” to refer to both the changes made to the land itself and to features like sculptures and plantings.)

Every since they first tried to sell the community on turning Scott Park into a detention pond by claiming that “anyplace else it would be considered a water amenity,” Jackie and I have been using the term “water amenity” for any feature constructed to deal with the runoff from development.

There’s nothing like calling your ditches, impoundments, detentions, and retention ponds “water amenities” to class up the joint.

After the thaw is over

A week of warm weather melted almost all the snow. But now it’s back below freezing. The puddles are just starting to freeze, beginning with little rings of frost on and around individual blades of grass.

We had two January thaws this year, one in December and one in February.

The December one was pleasant, and not very dangerous. We could enjoy a few days of mild weather without any risk of thinking that we didn’t have a full three months of winter ahead of us.

When you get your January thaw in February, though, you have to be careful. It’s easy to hope that you have seen the last of the winter weather. But that hope is a dangerous one—the sort that’s all too prone to be crushed under ice and snow and brutal cold.

Preferring to keep my hopes uncrushed, I’m trying to remember that it’s still a month until spring.

We keep our apartment cool, in the interest of minimizing our contributions to both resource depletion and global warming. Plus, Jackie likes to wear her woollies, which isn’t practical in a warm apartment. The only real downside is that, in a cool apartment, my hands get cold when I write. To address that problem, Jackie offered to knit me some fingerless gloves. (Click any of the pictures for a larger version.)

Fingerless gloves
My first fingerless gloves

My first pair of fingerless gloves were knitted to my precise specifications. It’s made of fairly course yarn, which I figured would be fine for my purposes, and it has the fingers truncated almost completely, which I figured would make it easier to type.

Unfortunately, even just the row or two of knitting that formed the finger holes turned out make them a little uncomfortable for typing.

Since those weren’t quite satisfactory, I came up with a new design—fingerless gloves that not only had no fingers, they didn’t even have finger holes.

My Rosebud Wristlets

Jackie made these most lovingly. She not only spun yarn by hand, she spun it by hand while attending a science fiction convention (WorldCon in Toronto). The main color was hand dyed as well (with brazilwood). The yarn is wonderfully soft and fine. I got to pick the colors, and I picked these colors so that I could call them Rosebud Wristlets.

My Rosebud Wristlets were a complete success, and they’ve been my main fingerless glove for seven years (they were a Christmas present in 2003).

I liked them so well, I got Jackie to make a second pair that we gave to Kelly Link.

My 2010 fingerless gloves

Not having fingers at all was great for leaving my fingers free for typing, but had a downside: My hands stayed warm, but my fingers sometimes got cold. So, I asked for yet another pair of fingerless gloves, this pair with fingers, but made from yarn so fine that it wouldn’t force my fingers uncomfortably far apart.

So, Jackie knit me this pair of fingerless gloves. Each glove finger extends out to the last knuckle of my finger. They’re made from machine-spun “fingering weight” yarn (perhaps called that because it’s the right weight to use when knitting glove fingers).

They’re wonderful. They’re not more wonderful than my Rosebud Wristlets, but they do keep my fingers warmer. So far I’ve been alternating between them, depending on whether just my hands are cold, or my fingers too.

For a while I’d imagined that I might design the ultimate fingerless glove, but it turns out, as usual, that the best tool for the job really depends not only on the precise details of what you’re trying to do, but also the precise circumstances under which you’re trying to do it.

Adoration of the Snowman, originally uploaded by bradipo. Photo by Philip Brewer. Snow sculpture by some neighbor kid, I assume.

I almost captured the posture in this picture—the snowman leaning back, face turned up, arms spread wide. He looks like there’s nothing in the world more interesting than the apartment building across the path.

Creative Commons License
Adoration of the Snowman by Philip Brewer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Slugs, originally uploaded by bradipo.

A couple years back, Steven expressed an interest in a slug stuffy, seeing as how its his totemic animal and all. Jackie knitted him a slug for his birthday. (Here’s a picture of Steven admiring his slug.)

The additional slugs she knitted sold pretty well, so she decided to knit some more this year. The three middle slugs (Pumpkin Slug, Blueberry Slug, and Quarry Slug) will be available for purchase at the Spinners and Weavers Guild Annual Show and Sale, coming up Friday and Saturday this week. (The first and last slugs are our household slugs.)

Creative Commons License
Slugs by Philip Brewer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.