Friday, May 1, 2009

So Where HAVE I Been for the Past Month and a Half?

So a week or so ago I got this in my inbox:

It's been OVER a month, what's happened to the SML (TotPofHA)? I've been watching (we've ALL been watching). Don't tell me you've been busy, we're all busy. Don't tell me you're sick (Immortals don't get sick). Get busy you laggard!


Hoo, boy! That pretty much wipes out all the usual excuses, doesn't it? Not that I won't try.

Here's what I've been up to, in no particular order:

1) Facebook, an obvious tool of Satan or the Gummint, your choice, and a serious time-sucker obviously intended to distract me from my plans of World Domination. Oh, and since I don't like to take personal responsibility for, well, pretty much anything, let me add that it was JSam himself who lured me into that particular den of iniquity. "Here, G. W., try some nice, refreshing virtual crack. Nah, it's perfectly safe... feels good, huh? You get to reconnect with old friends, make all sorts of cute/clever/snide remarks, take some goofy quizzes, and post silly shit without placing any undue burdens upon your rapidly-aging neurons!"

Facebook--Now with MORE Baby Boomers Whiling Away Their Twilight Years!

2) New computer, new headphones*, new speakers.** My let's-rip-all-my-CDs-to-the-hard drive project went into overdrive last month.

Oh, you didn't know about that, did you? Well, see, here's the thing: over the past few years I've loaned out several CDs that have never come home and probably never will, one of them being a limited edition (as in privately distributed), out-of-production rarity that I really, really liked and really, really miss. Add in the fact that I'm a cheap bastard frugal consumer who detests having to buy The White Album yet again and is not particularly fond of storing CDs in the car (it gets hot in Richmond), you can see why I thought it handy to have backups available. But these things take time, and not just for the ripping process. No, being the big ol' geek that I am, I first had to research the subject to death so as to make the right decisions: what format? What bit rate? Does it matter? Should it matter? Is audiophile stuff worth the extra money? Or audiophile releases? And did you know Windows Media Player has a built-in graphic equalizer, which is nice, but manages to complicate things in that it forces me to fiddle with things until they're juuuuuust right?

And suddenly I'm spending hours listening to music I haven't listened to for years--and wondering how much Emerson, Lake, and Palmer one man needs.

3) The Veggie Garden. I like fresh vegetables, but the stuff I get at my local grocery store(s) is akin to turkey bacon--it promises much and delivers little--so this year I decided to grow my own in my first non-container garden ever!***

(of course, I dutifully noted this on Facebook, prompting Big-City Dweller Cathy to respond, "What is this garden without containers of which you speak?")

Problem: I know nothing about gardening.

Solution: enter Deep Geek mode and scour the Intarwebs and**** for hours on end gleaning all the information a human could possibly absorb about home vegetable gardening (because I never do anything halfway. Half-assedly, maybe, but not halfway), researching the tools o' the trade at the local Mega-Marts (e. g., Home Despot, Lowe's), and, finally, taking the plunge.

Ya know what? Starting a garden is a LOT of hot, nasty, grimy, sweaty, time-consuming work, especially with nothing more high-tech than a shovel, a rake, a trowel, and a spading fork. I won't bore you with the details (my friend Anne talks about her garden in a much more entertaining style) beyond saying I have a new-found appreciation for farming. P. S. I planted tomatoes, hot peppers, sweet peppers, corn, and straight-neck squash. So far, they're still alive.

4) The grill. Yep, bought myself just the cutest little Weber grill a couple of weeks ago and I'm trying my darnedest to master charcoal cooking, which is no where near as simple as I thought (light the charcoal, throw on the meat, cook, right? WRONG!). You know the drill: the hours of online research, reading the relevant blogs, and finding a decent reference manual (Weber's The Way To Grill by Jamie Purviance). makes for busy and smoky evenings.

5) And there's always my usual coterie of favorite blogs, random Wikipedia searches, a huge pile of books-to-be-read, that pesky working-for-a-living thing, amusing text messages to be read and sent, the cat (who's a full-time job himself, what with feeding, watering, litter box cleaning, and his penchant for knocking random important objects off tables and desks then hiding them)...

So, ya see, I really have been busy!

*In case you clicked the link, noted the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price, and started screaming "WHAT? Is he INSANE?", relax. I did NOT pay $200.00 for headphones; thanks to the good folks at Crutchfield I snagged a set for $99.99, which, believe it or not, is a damn good price for a decent-sounding set o' cans. When I start talking about the Sennheiser Orpheus, then you can call me insane ($27,999.00 worth of insanity).

**The speakers that came with my monitor are... not so good... bad, in fact--tinny and annoying--but I didn't want to spend a bundle on a set of speakers; however, since there are those times when I'd prefer to listen to things without headphones (DVDs, YouTube videos) I started reading reviews to see if there was such a thing as speakers that were both inexpensive and listenable. Bingo! The Cyber Acoustics 20 watt 3-piece system, $44.99 at Staples. They'll never satisfy an audiophile (but then, nothing does), but they're damn good-sounding speakers for under $50.00. Don't know yet about longevity, which is the major concern with cheap computer speakers, but if you're on a budget you might want to check these outs.

***Years ago I attempted to grow tomatoes, hot wax peppers, Habanero peppers, basil, and rosemary in 5-gallon buckets filled with (expensive) potting soil on my back porch. The results were... disappointing... although I did discover that Habaneros without the heat make a tasty, fruity salad accompaniment.

****In case you didn't know, there are tons of gardening books out there. They fall into several sometimes overlapping categories: craptastic, coffee table books full of pretty pictures but lacking in practical advice, post-hippie urban homesteading anecdotal tomes (to wit), gardening-as-a-political-statement/let's-strike-a-blow-against-the-Industrial-Agricultural-Conspiracy (1, 2), let's-make-your-McMansion-a-pretty-place, glossy one-volume advertisements for seed companies masquerading as advice, and so on and so forth.

I already had a copy of The Pepper Garden by Dave DeWitt & Paul W. Bosland, which is an okay book if you already know something about gardening but not great if you're a rank beginner. What I wanted was a single volume of simple, practical advice and technique. Enter The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith. Yeah, it's glossy and full of plant & garden porn, but it's useful!