Gardening, Tim Taylor Style

So it’s Memorial Day and the weather is cooperating. It’s beautiful outside.

Time for some gardening – power gardening.

Shovels, rakes and hoes? Girly gardening.

So I’m out there in the new bed created by losing a tree. There is still one huge root left – buried about six inches below the surface – that’s creating problems for the plantings.

Problem: Root.

Solution: Power tools!

I’m out there with a circular saw, Saws-All, drill with speed-bore bits and various other pieces of hardware. An hour later I call it quits, dripping wet with sweat. (Just got out of the shower; I feel almost human again.)

Who won? A draw. I got a bunch of the root out, but not as much as I would have liked to have removed. My kingdom for a chain saw…

Santa Fe – Impressions

As noted in the previous entry, I’ve been to Santa Fe (and back). And the Santa Fe gallery is starting to fill up. Fun to peruse the pics.

What follows are some thoughts on Santa Fe.

  • It wasn’t what I expected. While I really went into Santa Fe with no expections per se, I guess I had a feeling that the town would have spectacular scenery (it doesn’t) and the town would have an authentic flavor to it (it doesn’t). It’s almost like a faux town, a reconstruction (in the last 20 or so years) of what the town should look like.
  • This is not to say I was disappointed – after the initial WTF?, there was much to enjoy: Great food, great art (galleries galore…) and it’s a great base camp for day trips. (More on restaurants and travel to follow).
  • The trumpeted in-town tourist attractions are shit: St. Francis (brand new inside; but nice exterior); Loretto Chapel and the famous staircase…yeah, got a picture of it. Big whoop. Santa Fe is not a historic town in terms of what’s there now as other towns (Charleston, SC; New Orleans, LA) are. Not a ding; just reality.
  • Would I go back? I dunno. I’d love to do some more shooting around there, but maybe stay in Taos instead, to catch a different experience and be more in the mountains (I think Taos is higher than Santa Fe, but I could well be wrong).
  • This is not – like New Orleans – a party town. Virtually no live music, and the bars were – for the most part – pretty pedestrian. Somewhat surprising.
  • Very laid back Santa Fe is, as are its residents. And friendly. No snarky/bitchy waitresses, crazy drivers such as sometimes appear to be the norm in big cities. Civility rules.
  • Slower pace: I was able to (easily) run in the middle of a downtown street to take pics. In Chicago, I’d be dodging or road kill.

What is there to do in Santa Fe? Well – to me – there is not much of anything beyond shopping (think turquoise, Indian pottery and other arts) and eating. I like eating, but not shopping, so it’s a wash there. The city does have the outside opera house (which I did not attend) and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (small, kinda oddball but recommended).

The rest of the interest in Santa Fe – to me – are the places near the town: The day trips.

So, in no particular order or grouping, here are some of the places I was glad to have seen in the Santa Fe area.

Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu
To me, this was the highlight of the trip. While Ghost Ranch is embedded in my mind with Georgia O’Keeffe (which is the reason we checked it out), the scenery there is spectacular from the point of view of one who likes rocks and so on.

It was a beautiful day when we drove out there, big puffy clouds in the sky but full sun and a nice breeze to keep the 80-degree temps at bay. We did the easiest(!) hike, up Chimney Rocks. Three miles, going up 600 feet – and you’re starting at approximately 6500 ft – not what a Midwesterner is used to. You arrive on top of the mesa opposite the Chimney Rocks, and the view – the whole way up – is breathtaking. Soft rock, hard rock, red rock, yellow rock, white rock, layered rock, rounded rock….get the gist?

The odd thing – to me – was the lack of wildlife. I saw some crows and some ants, and that’s it. No other birds, no lizards (but it was noonish when we climbed; high sun, we are Midwestern idiots). Just different from the deciduous forest conditioning I’ve had.

And it was nice to see the formations Georgia O’Keeffe saw. I’m not a painter, but I would see the rock formations and see a painting. An incredible experience, about 50 miles north of Santa Fe.

We did the ranch on a whim, and there was no charge, no crowds. That works.

Bandelier National Monument
A huge chunk of real estate roughly 30 miles west of Santa Fe, Bandelier is most noted for a huge sweep of cliff where exist dozens (hundreds?) of former Indian cliff dwellings.

It’s an impressive experience, one that I had not run across before. Both cliff dwellings (in massive, pourous sandstone cliffs) and village remnants. The area is also rich in Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine, and it would have been fun to hike a billion miles into the wilderness, but, hey, reality happens. Recommended, but not highly.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu Home
There is no picture for this, as photography is not permitted on the tour. Nor is recording, sketching, purses, backpacks…

Yeah, they are kinda anal about this. And very much a “Look but don’t touch/go there” tour. Understandable, but limiting.

Was worth visiting – for me, as I’m an O’Keeffe fan and know about the New Mexican photographers etc. mentioned during the tour. For most folks, I don’t recommend this tour beyond a “hey, we did the O’Keeffe tour!” boast.

I was surprised at how spartan the house was, and how close to the highway (but back in the 1940s the highway was a dirt road…)

It was a nice slice of life, and gave some insight to O’Keeffe: She live there 30/40 years yet it is still spartan (plywood kitchen and dining room tables) and looks locked into the 1950s style wise. Interesting.

Located up 84 about 40/50 miles north of Santa Fe. I think the tour (about 30-40 minutes) is $25 per person and requires well-in-advance payment. You’ve been warned.

Georgia O’Keeffe Musuem
Picture stolen from the museum site, as no photography allowed inside (I get that…)

Not too extensive, and the one part that I really enjoyed – the photographs of O’Keeffe – were too few. I recommend the Art Institute of Chicago, which boasts a rich selection of O’Keeffe paintings and Stieglitz’s photos. Why Chicago? Because that’s where O’Keeffe went to art school, at the Art Institute. I know a woman who was a classmate of O’Keeffe, and she remarked, “No one understood what Georgia was doing…”. It just wasn’t traditional. Interesting. And telling.

Downtown Santa Fe, takes about a half-hour to coast through, $8 or so per person

Eats: Coyote Cafe
A trio of restaurants, including the indoor Coyote Cafe, an upscale, high-ticket restaurant that is – to me – a little overpriced but worth the experience. (Meal, no soup or salad, two glasses of wine ~$60.)

I had a great meal there (I had lamb, which were like lamb medallions, let’s say, cooked perfectly for me [medium rare] ). Service was good, but we were early and we were the first customers for the evening, so it’s hard to judge.

Bottom line: Expect to drop at least $75/per person (including tip etc). Expect good service, very nice presentation – but not huge servings, and a pleasant (but not overly impressive) environment. This is a place to eat slowly, enjoy the wine, food and company. High-ticket, but I’d eat there again.

Eats: Cafe Pasqual
A small cafe at the corner of Water and Gaspar, Pasqual’s serves up incredible breakfasts for more like lunch prices, but I’ve no complaint.

This is a cafe that hustles. Yet the service is solid, informal and the food rocks. Different stuff to choose from, a lot homemade or organic. Look at the picture. You’re looking at – among other things – feta cheese, red chile sauce, bananas (bananas!? Yep, worked), peas, cilantro, black beans and eggs. I want more!!!

Small place; big impact. We at breakfast there both days we had breakfast in Santa Fe.

Eats: Dinner for Two
Out of the action area of downtown Santa Fe, Dinner for Two caught our eye because it was right across the street from our hotel (Hilton) and had an interesting hook: Two person dinner – including wine, appetizer and choice of entre is flat fee for (duh!) party of two.

White tablecloths; great service. Wine sucked (my bad; I should have upgraded), but we got (excellent!!!!!) soup, salad, appetizer, wine and entre (veal for each of us) for about $30/per person, with tip. We were too full for desert.

Interesting restaurant that one should check out, just to scope out the menu to see if there is any interest. Very romantic after dusk, as well. West Alameda and San Francisco.

Do You Know the Way to Santa Fe?

If you do know the way to Santa Fe, please let me know. Because I just got back from a too-short vacation (is there such a thing as a too-long vacation??) in Santa Fe and it was great.

Perfect weather, great food, off the grid.

I have begun a gallery of images the this trip, which I’m (slowwwwly…) populating as I process stuff. First trip with a digital camera! Whoo hooo! Worked well.

Now back to our regularly scheduled reality….

Happy Birthday Blog

It appears that it’s the fourth B-day of this blog. Fired up May 17, 2001.

Four years and almost 300 posts of unread drivel.

Let’s celebrate!

Actually, four years is a significant for a blog by a nobody; I was an early adopter, I guess.

While I had no real expectations going into this grand experiment, I have accomplished the following blog-worthy events over the past 1000+ days:

  • Added on-the-fly skinning for the site (see the Theme links in side rail)
  • Built my own RSS feed (scrapes the site on regular interval via my home Linux box)
  • Built and incorporated a picture gallery, including a picture of the day (see side rail)
  • Built and incorporated a Top Ten list (hey, everyone loves lists…)
  • Built and incorporated a Reviews section
  • Built and incorporated a RSS aggregator on the site

Could I have done more? Sure.

Could I have done stuff better? Absolutely.

But this has all been a great learning experience; building all these tools in PHP/Perl/mySQL/cron and so on. This blog is a great platform to learn.

I even learn from myself – I’ve built these tools over the course of the last four years, and I’ll occasionally have to pry into the code to tweak this or that. When I do, I invariably think “Damn! I built this? Wow!” And I learn from what I’ve written in the past.

That works for me; that’s what I like.

Happy B-Day blog…

Missing Memes

One thing I’ve been noticing this weekend – as part of my weekend troll of web sites I just don’t have time to hit during the work week – is the … well, what is not there to notice.

In other words, items that used to get a lot of press/had a lot of promise and either have cooled off or become mainstream.

Examples? Sure, I gots examples!

  • Voice-recognition software: You know, computer dictaphones. Who were the players? ViaVoice, Dragon [something or other]? I just don’t read that much about this anymore. I never bought into it – both because of the technological hurdles and the concept of a cube farm full of people talking to their computers instead of typing – but I’ve been wrong many many times before. But I personally don’t know anyone who uses this type of software.
  • Writing-recognition software: Still pops up a bit, but basically has settled into the either MS-tablet software or Palm’s Graffiti (sp?). This seems to be a meme that has become mainstream (in Palm-enabled phones, for example) but not the paradigm shift many predicted in the past. Just another useful, yet limited, tool.
  • Tablet computers: While there are rumors that Apple is thinking tablet, there’s no real evidence that it is going to do so. I’ve only seen one person using a tablet over the last couple of years in my business contacts (vendors, clients, contractors and so on); that’s a tiny number. On the other hand, tablets seem to have caught on in the medical profession (which I have no exposure to beyond an annual physical). So there it’s become embedded; otherwise, sorta fizzled. Everyone has either a Palm or a laptop (or both); no one has a tablet.

And what’s hot now? (in no special order)

  • Blogs/podcasting
  • Music sites (iTunes et al)
  • Ajax (fancy name for DHTML with HTTPRequest JS; see Google Maps)
  • Games/gaming

Leading potentially disruptive technologies (memes that lead to actually paradigm shifts); again, in no particular order:

  • VoIP
  • Blogs/podcasting
  • Downloads/swapping (i.e. BitTorrent), music and video

This last batch of items is interesting in that each item is anything but new. Has computing reached an equilibrium of sorts, where nothing is currently new? No WWW, Java, GUI and so on?

Food for thought.

Just Say NO to XO

At the time of this entry, the host for this blog – and and all of – is XO Communications. Formerly Concentric Communications, a merger/bankruptcy threat/whatever turned Concentric into XO.

This was my first web host; (my first domain) has been parked on their servers for eight or so years. Long time, especially in Internet years.

As an early-adopter Web host, XO has not done the best job on keeping up on with the Jones: Lack of DB support, lack of SSH and PHP support (PHP has been supported for a couple of years, but only as a CGI, IN the CGI directory. Ug.). And this lack of functionality at a relatively high price. The only reason I didn’t leave them is that I didn’t have the time for all that domain transfers may entail. My bad.

Recently, however, they’ve tried to be competitive with other sites. OK.

The bad part is, they never notified existing members.

For example, I used to pay ~$25/mo for hosting, which was 100M storage, no subdomains or database access (can add for $x/mo).

The new plan – named EXACTLY the same – gives an XO hoster 250M, subdomains, free database (mySQL) hosting and so on. For $16/mo.

When I literally stumbled across this and called, the response was, “Well, if existing customers do notice this they can then transfer to this plan.” If I don’t notice? “You’ll be billed at the current rate [$25] and have that [old] plan’s features.” Even the upgraded plans – as embedded in the [logged in as XO user] admin – reflected the OLD plan upgrades/costs. So, if I really needed more this or that, I could upgrade from X-1 to X-2, and never be notitified that the “new” X-1 plan is more than the “old” X-2 plan and costs less. I don’t even know if this is legal (don’t much care); I do believe it’s incredibly unethical (I do much care).

And they admit they never sent out an e-mail about this, and to offer this to all existing customers would “be too expensive.” Huh?

So I, a never-late-paying for eight years client gets the shaft; new members get more functionality and a lower price.

Say NO to XO. Last year, I help host four sites directly; I recommended hosting to over triple that number (most who took my advice). I never recommended XO, as they were too expensive and offered few of the extras other sites did.

Even with the lower prices and better features, I will never recommend them. Because they shafted me and other existing members, and did not apologize for this (no offer for free month of hosting or whatever – which I was not looking for, but … still).

This seems odd to me in many different ways, and it’s not a dollar issue, per se (though I did pay more for less functionality over appox. four months). Their current offer does NOT say “For new members only” – I could understand (to a degree) that pitch.

But when not one but two CSRs tell me that they’ll give the new, low rate to existing customers “who notice it” is just not cricket.

X0 – Welcome to the Corporate Hall Shame!

Things I Just Don’t Understand

Yes, this should be a lengthy entry…[insert laugh track].

A few things that caught my mind the last day or so:

  • No receipt: I just purchased – online, as I’m wont to do – a new product. A well-over $100 item. I didn’t get an e-mail confirmation. Odd, and a little worrisome. First time with this company (online), but I’ve worked with them in the past offline, and I have a couple of personal commendations of this site’s online sales. I’ll see, but why not an auto-confirm?
  • PDF: Regarding above item: I did get a confirmation page as part of the order process; when I got not confirmation e-mail, I created a PDF out of the page (I have Acrobat installed). While this was a nice ability, I still don’t understand people slinging PDF’s back and forth around the world. Bloated, have to have the (free) Acrobat Reader installed, only test-searchable recently (with Google Desktop et al). This is a huge break from the standards of the Web. Can’t someone invent, say, a wget-like tool that’ll turn the page(s) into, say, a single HTML file or what have you? Hmm…
  • Bush and Democracy: Old peeve, but I just read something else about this. How can the Bush Administration keep pushing for world-wide democracy (a justification for the Iraq war) and turn away non-Republicans from events with President Bush? This bugged me during the election period last half of 2004, but at least it was Republican dollars paying for the events for the most part. Shame on the media for treating the events as true Town Hall meetings rather than a cognitive dissonance mind-meld. But during Bush’s recent tour to support his Social Security plan, well, shouldn’t that be open to everyone? Including those – Red or Blue – who agree/disagree with him? It’s going to affect us all, ja?
  • Bush and Democracy Deux: One (of many, to be honest) problem I have with Bush’s push for world-wide democracy is the tacit assumption that democracy is best for all countries. I don’t know if this is true. I just don’t. And I don’t believe anyone can really say this is/isn’t true. It’s like the religious fanatics who insist their god/gods/lack of god(s) is better/more correct than yours. There are not true yardsticks for these measures, and – if there were – they would probably change in units/size depending on who controls the measures, and when such is measured. And if democracy is so great, why won’t Bush – see preceding point – let the voices of all into a national debate?
  • Religious Wars: By this I don’t really mean the friction between various religious factions: Christain, Muslim, Jews and so on (thought they certainly fit) – the religious-like fervor that people, for some inexplicable reason – expend to defend their choice of [x] vs. [y]. More accurately, to dis’ folks who don’t use/believe in superiority/beliefs of [x] and so on. To silly, completely blindered lengths. Black/white. No one will seem to concede gray. Consider the religious wars:

    • Windows vs. Macs
    • Windows vs. Linux
    • vi vs. emacs
    • Republican vs. Democrat
    • mySql vs. Postgres
    • Pro-Gay [whatever- marriage/adoption/rights etc] vs. Con-Gay
    • Guns vs. not
    • MPAA/RIAA/DMCA vs. Free Use
    • Open Source Software vs. Proprietary Software

    Imagine what could be accomplished if the religious baggage was discarded and the merits (!) of each side weighted and acknowledged. On the other hand – there’s alway another hand – I fully understand the power of fanaticism and how it helps shape the world. If you focus all your energies to [x] – however good and possible [y] may be – there’s a better chance of you getting some fragment of [x] accepted than if you did spend some energy on such fluff as [y] and [z]. But, still, *sigh*.

And that’s a short list of stuff.

Because the sheer volume of stuff I don’t understand would crash the Internet.