Herman I. May

Herman I. May


29 May 2005


This week brings new bounty to the table. The first legumes have ripened to the point of harvest. A handful each of the purple hull and snap peas have matured. Today being our weekly day to eat a large home-cooked meal and grill animal flesh for the week, these fruits have been added to the evening fare.

Meanwhile, the balance of the garden continues to thrive. Spinach and lettuce production continues to meet or exceed our weekly needs as does the supply of squash. In fact, we have taken to giving quite a bit of the latter to friends. The carrots and second batch of radishes are progressing nicely as are the tomatoes. The latter are so abundant in their green stage that they threaten to topple the cages. All have been lashed together in the hope that the many will show greater strength than the individual. Thankfully, the cruciforms seem to have weathered their infestation of cabbage borers and are beginning to show early signs of floret and head production. Seed heads are beginning to erupt from the corn stalks and silk is showing at the leaf nodes. Flowers have set on both the cucumbers and the okra and fruit is expected within the next week to ten days. Finally, there are numerous peppers to be picked in the next day or two. Since I am taking off for the week, it will be easy to ensure they are picked at their prime.

The coming weeks promise to be quite bountiful.

22 May 2005

Mountain of squash

Nature has been furtive of late. When last surveyed on Thursday morning, around a half dozen yellow squash and zucchini appeared to be on their way to ripeness in the next few days. Had it not been for the vigilance of Elizabeth, we might have lost several mature fruits and possibly the vines to boot.

All four plants are beginning to put out fruit at regular intervals. However, seemingly overnight, a dozen or more specimens went from a diameter of two and a half to four centimeters and a length of ten to fifteen centimeters to well over ten centimeters in diameter and whopping thirty-plus centimeters in length. They were immediately cut from the vine and some made it to the dinner table tonight. Others will be shared with friends as there Aare too many for just us. Stepped up monitoring will, hopefully, prevent another occurrence like this.

The balance of the garden continues to do well. Some of the banana peppers have begun to reach the stage of harvest and there are dozens of tomatoes ripening on the vines. Spinach and lettuce continue to flood onto the table and negating the need to purchase any from the grocer. Most of the corn has surpassed the height of fourteen inches and is progressing well as are the legumes. Several flowers have set on the cucumber vines and the recent wave of heat has stimulated the okra to take off. All-in-all, the plot is meeting or exceeding our expectations.

21 May 2005

myView: "National Treasure"

In what may be among the last of our brick-and-mortar video rentals (more on that soon under a post of its own), we watched the Disney film National Treasure. Theatrical trailers for this movie did not really impress me when seen last fall; seeing it did not really change that impression, but for different reasons.

The minutia of the plot was quite plausible for the most part. However, it is the overall premise which lacked in its convincingness. Given the importance of a dicument such as the Declaration of Independence, one would have to assume that every conceivable method of analysis has been employed through the years to thoroughly survey the content and materials for any and all charcteristics. To entertain the notion that invisible secrets reside in or upon its surface is ludicrous. Furthermore, the idea that our founding fathers access to technologies to allow for the use of color-shifted, three-dimensional, holographic invisible ink stretches all reason to its limits.

Nevertheless, when all logic and common sense is suspended, one is left with a film that is both entertaining and ingenious in its structure and gripping in its intensity. Those who slept during their basic American History classes may wissh to consider brushing up on their facts beforehand as many of the more disparaging reviews seem to harp upon their inability to understand the historical context and personages. Disconcerting though that may sound, it is really not too surprising.

See it; enjoy it. Do not expect to be swayed by its plausibility.

19 May 2005

The Importance of Being Permanent

Backward tree navigation is sometimes a productive endeavor, which can lead to the discovery of interesting information. Such was the case recently with respect to my recent comments concerning the UX-1 experiment.

The University of Tennessee SunSite appears to have been all but abandoned of late. With no postings since January, it would seem to have fallen from the graces of its administrators. Taking a few moments to scan what little content does exist, though, can reveal quite a bit about the intent of the site and lead to some interesting articles.

Amongst a series of somewhat related posts on 10 January of this year, mention was made of a recent (at that time) guest contribution to PressThink by the Director of Digital Publishing for The Guardian, Simon Waldman. Entitled "The Importance of Being Permanent", the piece takes a look not only at the significance of perpetual content on the web, but also at the imperative that such information remain discoverable (i.e. capable of being parsed by search engines). Otherwise, knowledge on the web becomes transient and the promise of historical memory becomes a myth.

I recommend that all denizens of the 'net read this article and take heed of its admonition. Whether or not one is a commercial purveyor of information or a humble individual with a voice to be heard, ensuring existence and access to information is of paramount concern to all.

18 May 2005

ID ignorance

In what appears to be a media practice of late, Excite only just yesterday polled its visitors' opinion on the recent (twelve days ago!) Intelligent Design (ID) issue in Kansas. Notable are the results.

Should I choose to participate in a particular poll, I usually do so first thing in the morning. At around 0800, I was quite discouraged to see that those proposing this fantacy theory be taught along side the substantiated concept of Evolution were actually leading by a slim margin of something on the order of forty-eight percent to forty-six percent. In visiting the site again this morning to survey today's poll, I checked on the final results of the ID question. Of 16248 participating respondents, 6827 (42#) were in favor of the proposal; 8021 (49#) were opposed; and 1400 (08#) had no opinion one way or the other.

The demographics of the respondents is a mystery, as is the margin of error. Nevertheless, the results are quite disturbing. Is this really an accurate snapshot of the intellectual competency of our nation? To hold a belief that an enigmatic, supernatural being had a hand in the creation of life, seeded its diversity and has any hand whatsoever on its fate is totally ludicrous. No wonder our conservative, puritanistic hypocrisy elicits scorn and animosity the world over.

17 May 2005

MOC reveals treasures

Our remote and robotic explorations of the "Red Planet" continue unabated and beyond all previous expectation. Recent press releases from the MGS team indicate that the onboard MOC has allowed investigators to confidently identify the landing sites for Viking Lander I, Viking Lander II and Pathfinder as well as a very likely site depicting the failed Mars Polar Lander. A read of the determination ofg a working hypothesis for the MPL failure is well worth the visit in and of itself. The amount of remote study accomplished by NASA, JPL and the various investigation teams is truly remarkable.

A running summary of all MOC surveys of manmade objects on the Martian surface can be tracked via this page.

16 May 2005

Flight of the UX-1

The Make: web site continues to amaze and intrigue. A submission late this evening highlights a project by members of the amateur radio club of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The UTARC Experimental - 1 was a homemade high altitude balloon designed and created by members of the club. It made a successful maiden voyage Saturday, instant, when it achieved an estimated ceiling of around 15850 meters; the limiting factor being that the balloon burst. A summary, video and payload derived still images are available at the project site. Information suggests future experiments are on the horizon.

15 May 2005

Lettuce and Tomatoes

The garden continues to do well. As hinted last week, we have reached a point of sustainability with respect to spinach production. That produced at home is able offset our salad and sandwich needs. Larger meals may require supplemental sourcing from the grocer, but that may only be a temporary. situation.

Joining the regular bounty this week are salad greens. The lettuce plot has begun to produce reliable yields for regular use. Six plants are currently providing several harvestable leaves every few days with another four to join during the coming week. Preliminary calculations suggest this will be enough to satisfy our immediate needs for sandwiches and salads within a few days.

An interesting phenomenon has begun to manifest itself. For the past fortnight, I have noticed errant tomato plants appearing hither and yon throughout the plot. At first the emerging plants threw me with respect to etiology. However, a little consideration revealed their origins.

Last season's plants were still producing modest yields as winter approached. So, I simply left them in place and let nature take its course with respect to letting the first frost kill them. When this event took place, there was still some fruit on the vines. As the season began to wane and preparations began for the new year of planting, I simply yanked the old plants and left them on the soil. A few weeks later, most of the vegetable matter had rotted sufficiently for tillage. All of the detritus from the previous year was turned under.

Apparently, the fruit which had been killed on the vine had matured sufficiently to produce viable seed. This seed then germinated naturally and has produced the plants which are now being seen. Most intriguing has been to note the location of these emergent plants — they are everywhere. Around a dozen have appeared and have stretched from one corner to the other and all points in between. I suppose this is a testament to the thoroughness of the preparation for the current year. Nevertheless, the vast majority have been removed as they had sprouted in the midst of other, preferred plants, which would have been crowded out or shaded had the tomatoes been to continue growth. It is an interesting fact to bear in mind for future incarmnations.

Homegrown squash will be making its appearance on our table later this week. A half dozen or more fruits from both the yellow and zucchini vines are approaching the stage for harvest. Monday or Tuesday — with, perhaps, more later in the week — look to be likely days to begin.

Otherwise, the garden continues to progress nicely.

13 May 2005

myView: "Closer"


Elizabeth and I watched this film earlier this evening. I remember thinking when it was released that I might be interested in seeing it. The trailers I saw did not do it justice.

"Closer" is not a movie which will appeal to a great many people. It is somewhat cerebral in its frank treatment of the relationships comprising its plot. Infidelity seems to rule the character's lives. However, for those who count people watching amongst their favorite pasttimes, it will provide some interesting grist for the mill.

The film reminded me of "Sideways" in some respects...with better writing and more sympathetic, attractive characters. It is a study of contrasts and the lengths to which individuals will go to put their own self-interests above those nearest and dearest to them.

I recommend "Closer" to anyone with an open mind when it comes to relationships (at least with respect to tolerance of masochism in others) and the ability to weather salty language.

12 May 2005

"Bleeding Edge"

It never ceases to amaze me how ignorant people are and readiness with which they are willing to show it. Take, for instance, the phrase "bleeding edge". This term gest bandied about by those trying to be hip and trendy. In actuality they end up looking ignorant and uneducated.

The term traces its lineage to the concept of something being "cutting edge" or to be at the forefront of a given discipline. At some point a yahoo decided that being on the cutting edge was not advanced enough. So, they figured it would be better to be on the bleeding edge. However, the concept falls apart when subjected to critical analysis. Consider this thought exercise.

Place a piece of paper between the thumb and index finger of your left hand. Grab it in the upper, left-most corner with as much force as you can muster. Now, take your right hand and lay your fingers on the top edge, just to the right of your left hand. Sharply run your hand along the edge of the paper. YEOW! Smarts, does it not? Look at your right hand. Notice that there is now a nasty paper cut along your fingers. However, if you acted quickly enough, you would note that there is no blood. Wait just a minute... see how the blood begins to ooze into the gash in your finger(s). Still think it is trendy to be on the "bleeding edge"?


11 May 2005


O'Reilly has come out with a new journal for the tinkerer geek. Make is a new periodical from the leading publisher of technology books.

I came across a link (precisely where eludes me) to Make quite by accident around a week ago. Intrigued by the concept, I ordered a copy of the premiere issue from Amazon. It arrived yesterday and I have not put it down since it arrived.

The first issue comes packed with useful information, from hacking GMail to building a kite harness for snapping aerial images to a remembrance of a home-built Apple II. This journal is packed full of interesting articles, stories and HowTo's. Just what every geek needs.

I keep referring to this periodical as a journal for a reason. At fifteen dollars per quarterly issue, it rivals many professional, peer review publications on a cost-per-issue basis. In my opinion, however, it is worth it. An annual subscription is available from Amazon, which brings the per issue cost down to just under nine dollars each (a savings of 42%). The second Issue is due for release this Friday, 13 May, and I am looking forward to its arrival.

10 May 2005

Beer and Mixed Drinks

There were two alcohol-related proposals on the general ballot this past weekend. The City of Garland has posted a summary of the results and it appears that both measures passed with overwhelming support — roughly, an average of 65%#37; to 35%.

Briefly, Proposition #1 was to allow for off-premises (read: through stores) sales of beer and wine, while Proposition #2 was to allow for beer, wine and mixed drink sales at restaurants without the need for a "membership". The major backing organization is "Garland Citizens for Economic Enhancement" and the major opposing group is "Garland First". (Neither appears to have a web presence.)

As one might imagine in this part of the country, division has been largely along ecclesiastic lines. Religious leaders have been harping upon the sin aspects of alcohol, suggesting that passage of these propositions will lead to increased criminal activity and the influx of pornography. The proponents are led largely by area merchants who see dollar signs; approval would mean no more revenue losses to Dallas, Plano and Richardson.

Preliminary election counts indicate Saturday's turnout to be among the highest in recent history. Nevertheless, the results were not even close. An average of two-thirds of those who cast a ballot chose to leave prohibition in the 20th Century and move on to tolerant free-choice.

Thank you, Garland!

09 may 2005

myView: "Friday Night Lights"

We watched "Friday Night Lights" yesterday evening. I recommend this film to anyone who wants to get an idea for why football is such a big deal in Texas. For the most part, it is right on the money — even though it does defy plausibility on more than one occasion. Watching this movie brought back all sorts of memories from my high school years. While, to my recollection, none of our fans and supporters

Billy Bob Thornton plays the hell out of a role as the high school football coach of the Permian High Panthers. Torn between the expectations of gomer wannabees living vicariously through their children and the realization that his team lacks any real depth, Coach Gaines does his best to inspire his players to strive for a win that will take them to state against a local (here, where I live) powerhouse, David W. Carter High School. Lucas Black (a favorite of mine from "American Gothic") plays the quarterback looking to lead the team following the loss of the star tailback. There is action plenty; there are also several production flaws. However, I will leave the latter to the viewer to discover. One hint: violent though the sport is, we never experienced near the level of blood letting shown in this film. It certainly makes for riveting viewing, though.

Overall, this is a good film that everyone should see.

08 May 2005

Die sucker

The garden continues to progress well. Rain and high humidity Friday and today have led to an explosion of growth. With respect to the tomatos this has included sucker sprouts — the eruption of new growth at the intersection of stem and stalk. These have the potential of stunting flower set in deference to continued plant growth. Therfore, an hour or so was spent pruning these errant offshoots in an effort to encourage fruit production.

Existing radish production is about to wane as the first round of harvesting has depleted existing plants. However, as mentioned last week, a second round of seed is in the ground and should start contributing to the harvest within the next few weeks.

We continue to enjoy a steady yield of spinach. In fact, this week marks the first time this season where production will just about equal need. Thus, we have not purchased spinach from the grocer during our weekly trip. Soon, lettuce can be added to the sustainable production list as those plants continue toward maturity and the ability to withstand regular pruning for consumption needs.

05 May 2005


The Board of Education for the State of Kansas is back to their tricks again. This group of ignorant, mid-western crackers will hold hearings today on the merits of requiring that competing theories on the beginning of life be taught alongside evolution an that emphasis be placed in the curriculum that the latter is a throry; not a fact.

It would appear that the religious conservatives feel empowered to return to their illogical and highly flawed premise that evolution and creationism are competing ideas. Their arguments rest on the hubristic principle that evolution is a theory, while creationism is a fact. It is their contention that record of the Judeo-Christian deity actively forming man from clay and in his "image" makes that idea a fact. On the other hand, these conservatives suggest that a theory is, by definition, an unproven idea created for lack of fact. Of course, this position is totally devoid of legitimacy and fails under critical analysis. First, a look at the more untenable argument.

Regarding the concept that either creationism or "intelligent design" have any greater claim to legitimacy than the Theory of Evolution, this is pure folly. Yes, evolution is a theory, because it is not possible, given our present level of understanding, to state conclusively the precise process by which life as we know it has come into existence. Nevertheless, an educated and plausible guess can be constructed using the facts and evidence of which we do have knowledge.enough is understood to allow mankind to speculate upon the probable means by which the planet upon which we dwell came to be infested with living beings — of all shapes and sizes.

Conservatives argue that a theory can never become a fact. That is incorrect, but fodder for a future argument. More importantly, they proffer that said descriptive somehow nullifies the legitimacy of the concept. This bespeaks volumes of their incomprehension of the scientific method and ability to think critically.

Creationists choose to ignore the fact that their alternative view does not even approach the level of acceptability and legitimacy enjoyed by the theory of evolution. Theirs is but a belief. Comparing the definitions of theory and belief will reveal one very important difference: a theory is a plausible and accepted explanation for a complex idea; a belief is something held to be true in the absence of any proof. Whereas evolution has many measurable parameters which support its plausible accuracy, the idea that a supreme being created the Earth and its inhabitants rests solely on the faith of its proponents. Conservatives will argue that The Bible represents their proof; ignoring the fact that this tome is merely a collection of oral history stories. Only the practitioners of its subordinate religious beliefs — Christianity and Judaism — endow its contents with any greater significance.

Sadly, this debate has no clear resolution. Today's arguments marks the return to a conflict which last reared its head in 1999. The scientific community has refused to participate in the hearings, in my opinion to their detriment. People in general (and this is especially true of U.S. citizens, unfortunately) lack the ability to engage in objective critical analysis. Someone will always feel the need to resort to play the religion card, utilizing the mysteries therein, to justify a position which is otherwise illogical and untenable. That large sections of evolution are still theory only adds fuel to the fire of their zeal. We as a race and the planet in general will continue to suffer as a result.

04 May 2005


A new urban legend has apparently been crafted and is making its way through the inboxes of Texas' teachers. Earlier today I received the following missive from someone who should know bettter:

Subject: Retirement - Social Security/TRS
If you agree with the following information, please add your name to the petition and forward to 10 people. When there are 1000 names listed, please forward petition to the email address below and to childhood@qcisd.net . I will fax a copy of the petition to our Texas governor. He does not have an official email address to which the message can be forwarded.
THE 1000TH PERSON SEND IT ON TO THE E-MAIL BELOW: President@WhiteHouse.gov
President Bush,  
We need help to change the current laws regarding Social Security benefits for Texas teachers and support personnel who are eligible for or receiving retirement benefits through the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.
I understand that when I retire my social security benefits will be reduced based on the amount of retirement I will receive from the Teachers Retirement System. NO OTHER working group is penalized in this manner! A woman who has NEVER worked is entitled to full benefits under her husband's social security. Other people can draw their full retirement AND full social security benefits. It is wrong that one working group (teachers & support personnel) are penalized in this manner. No wonder it is difficult to find people who are willing to spend their lives teaching....only to be penalized upon retirement!!!
Something needs to be done to protect this special group of people. They work to teach the next generation of Americans, yet they are abused by the very system we are to teach our children to support. They are defenseless against this onslaught. As other minorities, they need the support and assistance of lawmakers to right this wrong.
As President of this great nation and a fellow Texan, your support of legislation to right this wrong perpetrated against Texas teachers and support personnel would be greatly appreciated.
<list of gullible idiots removed to protect their integrity>

Ordinarily, I would have referred the sender (and as many of the antecedents of the thread as possible) to the Snopes page covering this topic. Unfortunately, this is a nascent legend and no debunking yet exists. So, allow me to correct the provocative inaccuracies.

The President of the United States is not the individual to whose attention this subject should be brought. It is Congress which makes the laws, argues their merits, and debates applicability.
This message, whether by oversight of ignorance or design of reactivity, specifies the Texas Teacher Retirement System. As such, this is a Texas issue. The only executive to whom such please should be directed is the governor.

...to the meat of the issue

"I understand that when I retire my social security benefits will be reduced based on the amount of retirement I will receive from the Teachers Retirement System."
Then you misunderstand. There is a law upon the books which reduces the SSA benefits for eligible recipients under situations involving a competing pension system. However, said restriction applies to the survivors and spouses of individuals whose pension system involved no participation in the federal Social Security program.
"NO OTHER working group is penalized in this manner!"
Ummmm, yes, they are. According to the link referenced above, any "pension from a federal, state or local government based on work where you did not pay Social Security taxes" is eligible for an associated reduction is survivor benefit payment. This is not limited to teachers and it is not limited to Texas.

Another important point to bear in mind: This whole brouhaha seems to have sprouted from legislation signed into law by the Bush last year. House Resolution 743 was signed into law 02 March 2004 and affected teachers have only themselves to blame for the closure of this loophole. Prior to enacting this legislation, members of relevant GPO retirement programs could exploit an error in the law which would allow them to be hired for as little as one day in a non-SSA exempt position within the district in order to restore the enjoyment of full Social Security coverage. It seems that sour grapes on the part of a few unethical individuals is likely at the root of this latest urban legend.

01 May 2005

Round two

With just over half of the initial radish planting having been harvested, it is time to begin seeding the seccond round. Plenty of room has been freed and additional space is available in areas where density is sparse. Starting these seeds now will allow for a staggered harvest with little gap in availability.

On other garden news, the spinach continues to produce well. I have been cutting folliage of various vintages for use in salads and on sandiwiches for the past ten days or so. We have not reached the point where commercial options can be fully abandoned for homegrown, but that point is only a few days to a week in the distance.

The carrots and the lettuce greens continue to mature and it will only be a matter of days before we will be able to add these to our vegetable bounty. Over a dozen squash (yellow and zucchini) are currently ripening on the vine(s). I have made use of tomato cages and supplemental suspension techniques this year to prevent the vine rot experienced last season when the plants spent too much time on the ground. So far this seems to have been effective as the plants appear much more robust that last yeaar.

All other plants are progressing well. The tomatoes and various pepers have all set buds and will soon be producing fruit. The corn, cruciforms, cucumbers, legumes and okraall continue to gain height and fullness by the day. This is shaping up to be a productive season.


continue to the April 2005 archive

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last BBEdited: 2005.07.19